December 2

2016: My Top 5 Scottish Books

As a Scottish blogger I am always keen to read crime/thriller books set in my native land or tales written by fellow Scots. I love to read stories which are set in the towns and cities I know so well. I like when the characters talk like me and I enjoy knowing that I am being entertained by someone who knows what is meant by “getting the messages.”

Before I share my choices for my Top Ten Reads of 2016 I am taking this chance to highlight my Top 5 Scottish Books for 2016.


The Dead Don't Boogie5. The Dead Don’t Boogie – Douglas Skelton

A missing teenage girl should be an easy job for Dominic Queste – after all, finding lost souls is what he does best. But sometimes it’s better if those souls stay lost. Jenny Deavers is trouble, especially for an ex-cokehead like Queste. Some truly nasty characters are very keen indeed to get to Jenny, and will stop at nothing…including murder. As the bodies pile up, Queste has to use all his street smarts both to protect Jenny and to find out just who wants her dead. The trail leads him to a vicious world of brutal gangsters, merciless hitmen, dark family secrets and an insatiable lust for power in the highest echelons of politics.

There are not many authors that can inject massive doses of humour into a thriller and get the balance of laughs and thrills right. Douglas Skelton manages to hit that combination perfectly as he introduces us to Dominic Queste in The Dead Don’t Boogie.

Order a copy here.



Willow Walk4.  Willow Walk – SJI Holliday

When the past catches up, do you run and hide or stand and fight?

When a woman is brutally attacked on a lonely country road by an escaped inmate from a nearby psychiatric hospital, Sergeant Davie Gray must track him down before he strikes again. But Gray is already facing a series of deaths connected to legal highs and a local fairground, as well as dealing with his girlfriend Marie’s bizarre behaviour. As Gray investigates the crimes, he suspects a horrifying link between Marie and the man on the run but how can he confront her when she’s pushing him away?


SJI Holliday returns to Banktoun in the follow-up novel to 2015’s Black Wood.  I loved this story as it was deliciously dark and creepy with some nasty twists thrown in for good measure.  As an added bonus we get Susi Holliday’s fantastic characterisation – she creates the most believable people in her books, I swear that I have actually met half the people she writes about.

Order a copy here.



In Place of Death3. In Place of Death – Craig Robertson

A young man enters the culverted remains of an ancient Glasgow stream, looking for thrills. Deep below the city, it is decaying and claustrophobic and gets more so with every step. As the ceiling lowers to no more than a couple of feet above the ground, the man finds his path blocked by another person. Someone with his throat cut.

As DS Rachel Narey leads the official investigation, photographer Tony Winter follows a lead of his own, through the shadowy world of urbexers, people who pursue a dangerous and illegal hobby, a world that Winter knows more about than he lets on. And it soon becomes clear that the murderer has killed before, and has no qualms about doing so again.


A brilliant murder mystery which makes the most incredible use of Glasgow and its landscape.  Craig Robertson brings back Narey and Winter and introduces us to urbexing. In Place of Death was a fabulous read but it also got me looking at Glasgow in a whole new light too. When a book educates as well as entertains then I am never going to be unhappy.

Order a copy here.



Killer Instincts2. Killer Instincts – Linden Chase

There’s darkness in the heart of Tranquility. Society has developed reliable tests to detect psychopathy in individuals. Those with the disorder are re-classified as victims rather than monsters. The question remains though, how does a liberal society deal with the inherently violent impulses of human predators who live among us. In response a government think tank is launching an experiment, Tranquility; an island where psychopaths will be isolated and left to form their own community.

Zane King, an investigative journalist, has been given a tip-off by a high-level government source that something big is happening on a remote island. After a heart-stopping journey Zane manages to infiltrate Tranquility by persuading the citizens that he’s a psychopath just like them. It doesn’t take Zane long to realise that something has gone very wrong with the experiment but by the time he fully understands what the island is really all about the community is already imploding in a wave of monstrous violence. “Not for the faint hearted…


If Lord of the Flies were a slasher movie then you have Killer Instincts.  Loved the idea of a sinister, shadowy agency that controlled Tranquility. Loved the idea of the Hunt. Loved the unpredictable characters.  It is dark read. Very, very dark. But it’s really, really good.

Order a copy here.



a-suitable-lie1 A Suitable Lie – Michael J Malone

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match… And she loves his son, too. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. He ignores it; a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.


A “wow” book. Michael J Malone tells a harrowing story of domestic violence in a book which is chilling, memorable and incredibly important. I don’t think I could claim to have “enjoyed” reading A Suitable Lie but I couldn’t put it down, I HAD to find out what was going to happen next.

This is a book which will stick with me for a long time to come. It was frequently too realistic for this reader and it tackled a significantly under-reported subject in a sensitive yet compelling voice.

One of the stand-out books of 2016.

Order a copy here.



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November 28

One To Watch: The Girl Before – JP Delaney

the-girl-beforeJane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before. As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma’s past and Jane’s present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.


Sneak peak thanks to Quercus!


I had the opportunity to read a sampler of JP Delaney’s The Girl Before and I wish I hadn’t picked it up.  Not because what I read was bad…quite the opposite!  I reached the end of the sample chapters and found I was not ready for the story to end. 


The extract I read from the final novel introduced us to two couples who were flat hunting. Their stories do not run concurrently, a “then” and “now” timeline, but both couples are looking at leasing the same flat. The flat in question has been designed by an award winning architect and it is minimalist to the extreme, however, there are a LOT of very unusual conditions attached to the lease and prospective tenants must agree to them all before they can even be considered. Mysterious.


Although it is couples who are flat hunting, the focus of the story appears to be on the women in each couple. Emma and Jane are both recovering from traumatic experiences and it is their vulnerability which looks to be a key element of the developing story. They are driving the house move and it is their determination to move into the peculiar (but gorgeous) house which we follow in the early stages of the book.


I seldom give an early warning of a book which I have not read in full, however, The Girl Before looks to be one to watch.  Out in January – more on this when I can read the full novel.

The Girl Before will be published by Quercus on 26 January 2017 and you can order a copy here:
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November 27

Zero – Matt Brolly

zeroNo crime will go unpunished

A zero tolerance policy results in the death penalty for all crimes, no matter how minor.

When a judge is kidnapped, and a ransom note demands the release of all prisoners awaiting execution, kleptomaniac Detective Inspector Kate Swanson is put on the case.

But soon her boss also disappears. Under increasing pressure from her superiors, and caught between the security services and the growing social unrest, Swanson must race to find a man whose murdered wife and daughter link the missing men.

Can she find him before it’s too late?


My thanks to Darran at Edpr for the chance to join the Zero Blog Tour


The Zero in the title is for the zero tolerance policy towards crime in this dystopian thriller from Matt Brolly. Society has moved to a stage where all crimes are punishable by death, those convicted of committing a crime are held in prison until they can be “podded”.  Those sentenced to death are  placed into a pod which then slowly travels through the land for a month so that everyone is able to see the fate that awaits law breakers. They are given no food, water is withdrawn after 5 days and the only way out is death.  Prisoners will die of dehydration, unless they elect to take their own life by the push of a button which will fill their pod with toxic gas.  If this option is selected then the pod fills with red gas (so those outside can see the prisoner elected to end their own life).  The pods continue to journey with the body inside until the month is over…it is a bleak concept!

As the pods are such a controversial punishment there are opposition groups who are campaigning to have the pods removed.  The judges will send most offenders to the pods, the police will place criminals in front of judges and this means many people will fear and distrust the judicial process.

At the opening of Zero a judge is kidnapped and the police are called in to investigate. We meet Detective Kate Swanson for the first time and soon come to realise how much of a role the politics of this society will play in police-work. There is a fine balance of investigating and keeping within the political constraints that are placed upon her for Swanson – to get things done she is going to have to reach beyond her authority and tread on a few toes.

Readers get to see who has kidnapped the judge and we learn that there is more than one target.  A bombing at a podding site will cause confusion for Swanson…are the events linked or is the bomb detonation just coincidence?

There is loads going on in Zero and it was not until I reached the end that I was able to fully to fully appreciate what a good job that Matt Brolly had done in balancing the different plot strands in the story.  I noticed that this was the first book in what appears to be a new series – while reading I did feel that some plot lines were being set up for future development (pleasing).

Swanson is an interesting lead character and I would love to read more about her. The society depicted in Zero is bleak and it will be interesting to see if (in future books) a political edge to the stories remains and the podding process is challenged or refined.

Zero is an intelligent and thought provoking thriller and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The “no spoilers” rule is fully applied here but the kidnapper’s motivation and how he executes his plan (including a nasty end-game) is really well depicted – I must admit that in a book of unsettling ideas the end-game was particularly grim.

Really, really enjoyed this (though the podding idea is so very bleak).


Zero was published on 21st November by Canelo price £3.99 as an ebook:

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November 2

Cathi Unsworth – First Monday Crime (November)

Monday 7th November sees Goldsboro Books bring another First Monday Crime night to London’s Library Club. This month events are sponsored by Headline and there are rumours of goodie bags – and who doesn’t love a goodie bag?

The guests for the latest evening will be Belinda Bauer, Cathi Unsworth, Jenny Blackhurst and Adam Hamdy and the event will be chaired by Barry Forshaw.

Details on how to get your tickets are below but first: Cathi Unsworth steps into the Author Spotlight.


cathi-unsworthCathi Unsworth is a novelist, writer and editor who lives and works in London. She began her career on the legendary music weekly Sounds at the age of 19 and has worked as a writer and editor for many other music, film and arts magazines since, including Bizarre, Melody Maker, Mojo, Uncut, Volume and Deadline.

Her first novel THE NOT KNOWING was published in 2005, followed the next year with the award-winning short story compendium LONDON NOIR, which she edited, and in 2007 with the punk noir novel THE SINGER. Her third novel, BAD PENNY BLUES, inspired by the unsolved ‘Jack the Stripper’ murders of 1959-65 was published in 2010 to great critical acclaim. Her 2012 book WEIRDO, a tale of teenage trauma and female transgression set on the Norfolk coast was shortlisted in many ‘best of the year’ lists including the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and named Book of the Year 2012 by Loud and Quiet Magazine and


Cathi’s new novel, Without The Moon, releases on 10th November


without-the-moonHush, hush, hush. Here comes the Bogeyman…

London during the long, dark days of the Blitz: a city outwardly in ruins, weakened by exhaustion and rationing. But behind the blackout, the old way of life continues: in the music halls, pubs and cafes, soldiers mix with petty crooks, stage magicians with lonely wives, scandal-hungry reporters with good-time girls – and DCI Edward Greenaway keeps a careful eye on everyone.

Out on the streets, something nastier is stirring: London’s prostitutes are being murdered, their bodies left mutilated to taunt the police. And in the shadows Greenaway’s old adversaries in organised crime are active again, lured in by rich pickings on the black market. As he follows a bloody trail through backstreets and boudoirs, Greenaway must use all his skill – and everything he knows about the city’s underworld – to stop the slaughter.



First Monday Crime is on 7th November at 6.30pm. The event is held at the Library, 112 St. Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4BD

Tickets are £5 per head and you can order tickets here:


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October 31

The Killing Game – JS Carol

the-killing-gameA woman walks into a restaurant. Will she come out alive?

JJ Johnson is Hollywood’s favourite publicist. Her word can launch careers – and break them.

But when lunch at exclusive restaurant Alfie’s turns into a fight for her life against a terrifying stranger, she quickly learns this is one situation she can’t talk her way out of.

The twisted individual knows everything about each of the wealthy diners. And soon, it becomes clear that he wants something more than money.

Can JJ find a way out, or risk becoming a victim to a man with nothing left to lose…?


My thanks to Bookouture for my review copy

JJ Johnson has built a career out of manipulating situations, putting the right people into the right place and gaining maximum exposure for her clients. She is the ringmaster. A Puppet Master. As one of the best publicists in Hollywood she understands the importance of being seen at all the right places.

Alfie’s restaurant is an exclusive destination for the great and good of Hollywood. It can take weeks to get table but it offers a haven away from snooping journalists and paparazzi camera lenses. JJ loves to eat at Alfie’s and she can arrange a table at short notice if she feels it would work to a client’s advantage.

But as we join JJ and the other diners at Alfie’s we will quickly find that being sheltered from public view is not always a good thing. When the Ringmaster has to cede control to someone else a dangerous game begins and there is no guarantee that there will be any survivors. In a story which unfolds over a very tight timeframe (and can virtually be read in real time) this is an absolute rush of a read.

I inhaled The Killing Game when I read it. The pages could not turn fast enough and I just did not want to put it down. JS Carol lets the story flow at a breakneck pace and, pleasingly, there was always the feeling that ANYTHING could happen next.

If you like your thrillers packed with action, unpredictable and with a high body-count then look no further than The Killing Game.



The Killing Game is published by Bookouture and is available in paperback and digital editions. You can order your copy by clicking here:


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October 20

A Suitable Lie – Michael J Malone

a-suitable-lieAndy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match… And she loves his son, too.

When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. He ignores it; a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.


My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy.


Domestic Noir has a new high bar and it is called A Suitable Lie.

This is Andy’s story, it is told in the first person and it makes for uncomfortable reading. Andy works in the local bank, he plays rugby, he is a single dad having tragically lost his wife who died during childbirth. His life is ticking along but his friends and family feel he needs to get out more so one evening he finds himself in a pub and he meets Anna.

Anna is a beauty, new to town and not happy that her “date” for the evening may have forgotten to mention his wife to her. Andy rescues Anna from a miserable evening and the two click. Before long they are a couple and then wedding bells beckon. On his wedding night Andy’s life will go from bliss to misery and he will find himself trapped in a living Hell.

Anna, petite and beautiful, is hiding a dark side – a violent and obsessive personality. She is controlling, vicious and yet loving and apologetic. Author, Michael J Malone, brings out Anna’s temper slowly and we see the violence and her control over Andy grow with each new chapter. I read A Suitable Lie with a knot of tension in my stomach – I feared for Andy and I hated everything that Anna put him through.

Yet Andy knows that he cannot (and will not) hit back. He endures beatings, humiliation and his confidence is undermined. We see him at work when he is struggling to hide his secret. His work life is also providing challenging as there are problems at the Bank and, with the distractions in his home-life, Andy is not as vigilant at work as he needs to be. His world is coming apart around him but who can he turn to?

A Suitable Lie is an intense read which is highlighting a topic which is a far bigger issue than most realise. It is a story that will stick with you for a long time to come and it is important that it does. Not to be missed.


A Suitable Lie is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format. You can get your copy by clicking through this link:



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October 18

The Mountain in my Shoe – Louise Beech

the-mountain-in-my-shoeA missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself.

On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she’s befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor’s foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all.

Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family … and just how far we’re willing to go for the people we love.


My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.


I’d seen so many glowing reviews for The Mountain in my Shoe that before I had even picked up my copy I had high expectations. I was not let down, this was a powerful read and a story which will stick with me for some time to come.

The Mountain in my Shoe was, for me, the story of watching a child grow up through the eyes of other people. It is all done through a lifebook, Conor’s lifebook. It is his story as told by the people responsible for him as he grows up.

Conor’s mother cannot look after him when he is born but she is not willing to put him up for adoption so Conor is placed into foster care.  His lifebook is his story, it is updated by social workers, foster parents, his mother, teachers and so on – everyone that plays a significant part in Conor’s life updates the book in some way and we chart how he grows.

Bernadette had Conor’s lifebook but she has lost it.  She has also lost her husband (misplaced may be more accurate, as when the story begins he hasn’t come home when she had expected) which is unfortunate as she had planned to tell him she was leaving him. Thus begins Bernadette’s trauma, by the time the book draws to a close a lost lifebook is going to be the least of her concerns.

Many reviews you will read of The Mountain in my Shoe will focus on the emotion, the character love and the relationships angles. I loved the mystery. The missing husband, the secrets, the shocking twist in the tale.  It is a wonderfully layered story – a great domestic thriller and a powerful tale of relationships and family.

Eye-opening, traumatic and totally engaging…The Mountain in my Shoe should be on your reading list.


The Mountain In My Shoe is published by Orenda Books and you can get your copy by clicking through this link:


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October 15

Dancers in the Wind – Anne Coates


Freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is commissioned by a national newspaper to write an investigative article on the notorious red light district in Kings Cross. There she meets prostitute Princess, and police inspector in the vice squad, Tom Jordan.

When Princess later arrives on her doorstep beaten up so badly she is barely recognisable, Hannah has to make some tough decisions and is drawn ever deeper into the world of deceit and violence. Three sex workers are murdered, their deaths covered up in a media blackout, and Hannah herself is under threat. As she comes to realise that the taste for vice reaches into the higher echelons of the great and the good, Hannah realises she must do everything in her power to expose the truth …. and stay alive.


My thanks to Urbane Publications for my review copy which I received through Netgalley

Journalist Hannah Weybridge is working for one of the national newspapers who are running a feature on the prostitutes of Kings Cross. The assignment appears to be a bit of an eye-opener for Hannah who finds that she is extremely uncomfortable learning about the lifestyle some of the girls are living.

What Hannah does not realise is that some of the working girls have been going missing – their battered bodies turn up a few days later but the nature of their occupation means that it has not been widely reported. One of the girls that Hannah interviews (Princess) seems to have had a particularly tough childhood – Hannah has paid for her story and they spend some time together while Princess tells the story of her path to prostitution.

When Princess turns up badly battered and bloody at Hannah’s door, Hannah finds she is compelled to get urgent help for Princess and also agrees to the girl’s request not to involve the police.  Hannah takes Princess into her home for a few days but these days stretch on as Princess recuperates and Hannah tries to encourage her to stay off the streets.

The pair have a somewhat troubled relationship, their very different backgrounds lead to some feisty clashes but both seem to realise that Hannah just has the best interests of Princess at her heart. Problems arise, however, when it becomes clear to Hannah that Princess has a few dark secrets and that some people will do whatever it takes to ensure Princess never gets a chance to share her knowledge with the “wrong” people.  Can Hannah keep her young friend safe?

Dancers in the Wind comes under the dark and gritty tag. The nastier side of London prostitution is laid out and we learn that Hannah simply cannot trust anyone. The police do not appear to be handling the prostitute murders with any sincerity, the newspaper Hannah works for is editing and spinning her stories and Princess is dropping mysterious hints about the past actions of several characters that Hannah encounters. The story keeps you on your toes, the only person you are reasonably sure is not keeping secrets is Hannah herself!

Take a great deal of suspicion, add in some cleverly edited story jumps which keep the reader off guard. Liberally apply some great end of chapter cliff-hangers (always guaranteed to keep me reading late into the night) and we have a nice wee thriller for readers to get their teeth into.


Dancers in the Wind is published by Urbane Publications and is available in paperback and digital format here:





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October 13

Angela Marsons and Caroline Mitchell

Last month’s visit to Bloody Scotland reminded me how much I enjoy having the opportunity to hear authors chatting about their books. Having grown up in the remote wilderness of the Scottish Highlands, I am very aware that not everyone has the opportunity to get to festivals or book launches – I hate the thought that readers may miss out on the chance to hear their favourite authors discussing their writing.

In a few short weeks Caroline Mitchell and Angela Marsons will both release their new novels. Caroline is introducing a new lead character, DS Ruby Preston, in Love You To Death.  Angela is bringing us the next instalment in the Kim Stone series: Blood Lines. It is fair to say that I am more than a little excited about having the chance to read both books.

I asked Angela and Caroline if they would be willing to let me listen in while they discussed their new books, I was thrilled that they agreed. I also had a burning question that I wanted to put to them both, I just had to find a way to get a word in edgeways….


C – I’m very curious to know if Kim is based on anyone in particular, or is she your alter-ego Angie?

A – Kim Stone isn’t based on anyone in particular but she had been in my ear for years.  I didn’t let her out because even in my own head she sounded rude and abrasive and I didn’t think anyone would like her.  Even I didn’t like her all that much.  But once I gave her control of the pencil I did realise she had some redeeming qualities.  I gave her free reign after trying to write about characters I thought publishers would like and after years of rejection just decided to write the book I wanted to write. Even after five books I still feel as though I’m getting to know her.

On that same note I absolutely adored Jennifer Knight.  I loved her dedication and strength but also her flaws and idiosyncrasies. I devoured all three Jennifer books and hope there might come a time when you bring her back. Is that a possibility and how long had she been living with you before you put her to paper?

C – Thanks Angie, I’m so glad that Kim Stone hung around for her story to be told. It’s amazing how our characters take on a life of their own. Jennifer had been living in my head since my own real life paranormal experiences while working in the police. I’d love to write another book one day, and I’ve left it open for her to return. At the moment I’m concentrating hard on my new DS Ruby Preston series. Brought up in the East End of London, she’s a real tough cookie. In a scene in book two, she learns how to shoot a gun. I’ve been itching to visit a firing range and try it out for real. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done in the name of research? And don’t worry about the gun, you’re safe for now! 

caroline-mitchell2A – Well, I must say that Ruby Preston already sounds like my kind of main character and imagining you with a gun makes me happy (for once) that we live so many miles away from each other. I’m not sure about the most interesting thing I’ve done but certainly one of the funniest was only the other day when Julie and I were standing out on the decking with a piece of plastic roughly the same size as a shotgun trying to see how practical it would be to shoot yourself in the back of the neck.  I must say that research is one of my favourite parts of the process as I love to learn about things that interest and intrigue me.  Some writers hate the research part. How do you feel about it and how long do you normally take to research each book?

C – Ha! That made me laugh out loud. My husband sleeps with one eye open as it is, without me throwing a gun into the mix! It’s no stretch of the imagination to picture you and Julie on the decking play acting with your plastic gun. 🙂  Yes, I love research too, it’s so much fun. As we write for digital publishers, time is of the essence, so I’m limited with the amount of time I can spend on research for each book. I do spend a lot of time thinking about my characters though, they practically move in to my head for the duration of the book. I think that’s what’s nice about series; I get to spend time with the same characters that I’ve invested in. With stand alones, it can be hard to get them to move out when I’m done. You’ve written two stand alones prior to Kim, would you like to write any more, and if so, what genre?

blood-linesA – My two published stand alone novels (and others that shall never see the light of day) were stories that burned inside me.  They were subjects that I wanted to explore to see where they went and what I could learn about the subject matter.  I really enjoy analysing the mechanics of human relationships and the psychology behind what makes us act in certain ways. With the Kim Stone schedule of two books per year it would have to be a subject matter that  I just couldn’t let go of or I might be tempted to introduce the odd crime scene where it would be totally inappropriate.  Talking of different genres I recently read your psychological thriller Witness to be released later this year and absolutely LOVED it. The crossover from your previous work appears seamless to me but did you experience any problems while writing it?

C – The thought of some of your manuscripts languishing under your bed never seeing the light of day is a travesty. I think we need to start a petition to have them freed! I’ve heard such great things about Dear Mother and The Forgotten Woman. Thank you for your lovely words about Witness. I loved writing it. It was meant to be a straight thriller but as I began writing, stories of domestic abuse just flowed onto the page. I used to safeguard high risk victims of domestic abuse in the police, helping victims leave their abusive partners and begin their lives again. As the story formed, it portrayed that domestic abuse is as much about coercive control as it is violence, and it takes enormous strength to break away from such a relationship when someone has control of every facet of your life. It’s set between Frinton where I live, and Wales – near where you live. I see that many of your readers love your Black Country setting. What inspired you to use it as a setting for your Kim Stone books, and do you get many messages from readers about particular places that you use?

A – Before I wrote Silent Scream I had always tried to use both characters and settings that I thought publishers and agents would like even though they weren’t too familiar to me.  It was in a post-rejection fit of rage that I wrote the character I wanted to and used the area I know well. Traditional publishers rejected Silent Scream and said the setting and main character would never work. I get so many messages from local people thrilled at seeing places they know in the books but I also get messages from people wanting to know more about the Black Country.  I think the dark, industrial past of the area works well with Kim Stone’s character.  She would not do well in the Cotswolds, I fear!! It sounds to me that Ruby Preston is well represented by the setting you have chosen too.  Was that deliberate?

 C – I love this response, I can’t imagine Kim Stone anywhere else either. The dark broodiness of the Black Country setting suits her perfectly. I’ve gobbled up every one of your thrillers and it’s been a pleasure to watch her character progress throughout the series. As for me, well London has always been a source of fascination. Every time I visit I’m like a child, eyes wide in wonderment as I take in the sounds and smells of this amazing city. Such a diverse place makes for rich pickings when it comes to describing characters and scenery. Like you, my character seems to fit in with the setting and I can’t imagine them being based anywhere else. Fair play to you for having the dogged determination to keep going with your manuscript and writing the setting that struck a chord with you. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to writers still trying to make it? 

 love-you-to-deathA – I also love visiting London but I find the roads around Covent Garden can be quite hazardous!! I think my one piece of advice above all else would be to trust your own instinct.  Once you enter the world of submissions there will be advice, comments, directions, improvements from a variety of sources and you have to know when to follow that advice.  There is no-one closer to the characters, story and journey than the writer and it can be easy to take everyone else’s opinions on board but you have to keep hold of the story that you wanted to tell in the first place.  Given your journey, what would you say to anyone following your path?

C – Ha! You wouldn’t be referring to the time we met in Covent Garden and I almost got you and Julie run over by a car would you? I blame Siri myself! I love your advice above and totally agree. It takes time to find your voice. I started off writing paranormal, then crime and now thrillers too. My advice is that it can be hard, so you’ll need to grow a thick hide, but just remember that this is meant to be fun too. Always try to keep your writing as an enjoyable process. It’s all about perspective. I count my blessings every day. Now Gordon I must apologise as we’ve not allowed you to get a word in edgeways! I hear you have a question for us …

G – There didn’t seem a good point to interrupt! But thanks Caroline…given that Jennifer’s investigations can take somewhat mysterious and supernatural twists, how do you think Jennifer and Kim would get on were their paths to cross on a case? 

C – That’s a really good question Gordon. Kim does not suffer fools gladly and I believe in past books she’s been skeptical when it comes to the paranormal. I think at first they would clash, but if they came together over the course of an investigation Jennifer would admire her investigative abilities and win her around. Things always seem to happen when Jennifer is near so if the evidence was right before Kim’s eyes, I think Kim would rub her hands together and say to Jennifer ‘right, what are we dealing with?’ Then crack on with the investigation as calm as you like. 

Tell me if I’m wrong Angie, what does Kim say? 

angela-marsonsA – I absolutely agree with Caroline’s assessment of how the two of them would respond to each other. Admittedly, Kim is definitely a ‘don’t believe it until I see it’ kind of girl but once someone has proven their ability or understanding of a subject about which she knows very little she would give them the benefit of the doubt and work with it. Like Jennifer she is all about moving forwards and doing everything necessary to solve a case so I think they would work it very well. I can even imagine Kim giving her a good-natured nickname like ‘mystic meg’ and Jennifer would probably do the same back.  Now, here’s a little secret – when I first wrote Silent Scream I wrote Kim with hint of unexplained intuition which I took out later as by that time I knew it didn’t fit with the rest of her sceptical character. 

Intuition is good and Kim has it in bucket loads. I think most good investigators have that initial gut feeling and put it to good use. It’s when the CPS is demanding evidence that it gets frustrating. I suppose it’s a matter of finding a balance. Here’s to a long a fruitful investigative career for our fictional characters. May they continue their crime busting efforts for long to come. *Raises glass. Cheers! 


I cannot thank Caroline and Angela enough for letting me eavesdrop on their conversation, I got the feeling that it had been running long before I joined them and will continue even longer.


 Love You to Death is published on 11 November and can be ordered here:

You can find all of Caroline’s books through this link:

 Blood Lines is published on 4 November and can be ordered here:

Angela’s books can be ordered on this link:

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Angela Marsons and Caroline Mitchell
October 12

I Know Your Secret – Graham Smith

i-know-your-secret-book-cover“What would you do if your most intimate secrets got into the wrong hands?”

Set in modern day Cumbria, I Know Your Secret is a police thriller in which a priest is found crucified to the stone floor of his church. Fearing more attacks on the clergy, DI John Campbell and his team of misfits race to find the killer before he strikes again.

Meanwhile, DI Harry Evans, spends his days attending the trial of his wife’s rapist and his nights interfering in the investigation.

Can they catch the killer before he strikes again?


My thanks to Caffeine Nights for my review copy

DI Harry Evans has featured in two previous Major Crimes books and also in Graham Smith’s Snatched From Home. He is very much master of his home patch in Carlisle but is facing the prospect of imminent retirement and with that he may well lose the last thing that is important to him.

As the description above mentions Harry is also having to contend with the trial of his wife’s rapist. Previous books outlined events leading up to this confrontation but you do not need to have actually read them to keep up with the events in I Know Your Secret, it stands up well as a jumping on point for new readers.

I Know Your Secret opens with a very powerful murder. A priest is crucified on the floor of his chapel. Cumbria’s finest are called to investigate and Harry’s replacement (DI John Campbell) is leading the team.  I like Campbell, he is battling against the demands of being a supportive new father, battling the influence of the outgoing Harry Evans who does not want to give up his patch and battling against the constant pressure of understaffing and minimal resources.

Graham Smith balances the central characters well. We switch between Campbell’s investigation, Harry’s interventions, the court case and….did I mention a Killer and Blackmailer? As you may have guessed from the title I Know Your Secret is a tale about secrets. With secrets comes knowledge and with knowledge comes power – or sometimes blackmail.

There is loads going on in I Know Your Secret and Harry Evans is determined to be at the centre of everything. It will take its toll, physically and mentally Graham Smith is putting DI Evans through a personal Hell – it makes for intense reading.

Dark in all the right places, I Know Your Secret is a nicely constructed police procedural with some clever twists that caught me off guard.


I Know Your Secret is published by Caffeine Nights and releases on 17 October and can be ordered by clicking here:

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Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on I Know Your Secret – Graham Smith