September 29

Cut Out – Fergus McNeill

Cut Out - DI Harland Book 3
Cut Out – DI Harland Book 3

Nigel never meant for it to happen. At first, he just wanted to be Matt’s friend. But when he discovers he can hear what is going on in the flat below him, his fascination with his new neighbour drifts into obsession.

Rearranging his furniture to recreate the layout of the rooms downstairs. Buying the same clothes, going through his post, his things. Becoming Matt without him ever knowing.

And it would have been all right, if Matt hadn’t brought the girl home.

When things spiral out of control, Detective Inspector Harland has to unravel the disturbing truth. But there’s far more to the case than meets the eye . . .


Thanks to Hodder and Bookbridgr for my review copy.



This is the third book in the series featuring DI Harland. I am afraid I have not read the first two books, however, on the strength of Cut Out I can confidently confirm that I will be picking up the earlier books. I did not feel that having missed books 1 & 2 that it impacted upon my enjoyment of Cut Out, however, Harland’s back story is already established and I suspect I gained something of an insight into what may have occurred in the books I skipped.

So to Cut Out and my first introduction to Fergus McNeill’s work. The story description from the dust jacket was a good start – I liked what I read in the teaser so Cut Out jumped to the top of my TBR pile. Fifty pages in and I turned back to the dust jacket just to make sure that I had picked up the book I had intended to read – the story seemed to hold no similarity to the cover description.

Reassured that I had the correct book I stuck with it and (just 5 minutes later) I was rewarded when the story narrative jumped back in time and started to set up the plotline I had been expecting. As I progressed through the story I felt that the author made good use of jumping around timelines to unfold different elements of the story.

As outlined in the description above, Nigel has an unhealthy obsession with his neighbour (Matt) and starts to become a bit too consumed with how Matt chooses to live his life. Nigel seems to have a lonely existence and when he gets a glimpse of a life he could have things begin to spiral out of control taking him in a direction he may never have imagined.

Initially I felt a degree of empathy with Nigel but as he began to mimic Matt (with shades of SWF) I became more uncomfortable with his fixation. McNeill did a good job of drawing the character further down a path of obsession and you knew that things were not going to end well for someone.

A solid police procedural story, plenty of unpleasant characters, a murder, a missing person, a predator and a stalker – plenty of intrigue to keep me reading.


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September 29

Festive In Death – JD Robb

Festive in Death
Festive in Death

Christmas came early when I found Festive In Death in the bookshop mid September. Having grudged the influx of Christmas books that seem to be appearing (far too early for my liking) I grabbed this particular title with not a qualm about the date.

Festive in Death is the 39th book in an ongoing series featuring New York cop Eve Dallas and her many time multi-millionaire husband, Roarke. Just dwell on that number one more time….book 39! The closest comparison I can find to an ongoing series that keeps on giving me such reading pleasure are the Amazing Spider-man comics.

Quick summary: JD Robb is the pseudonym of Nora Roberts. Robb/Roberts released the first book in the In Death series in 1995 (Naked in Death). This book introduced New York cop Lt Eve Dallas – stories are set around the year 2050 but the timeline progresses through the novels.

I would urge all new/potential readers not to be put off by the futuristic setting. These are fantastic crime novels, great police procedurals and for the long term reader provide a rich supporting cast that enhance the depth of the world that Robb has created. There are references to futuristic tech, fashion and transport but it never feels forced and you can accept the majority of the concepts without suspending too much belief.

Festive in Death is a proper ‘whodunnit’ with a killer revealed at the end of the book. Robb does like to vary the story style and will frequently reveal the murderer at the outset of a novel and let us watch Dallas close the net on the killer.

In this book, however, Dallas is asked to ‘stand’ for someone she does not like. A predator that took advantage of vulnerable women and abused their trust. But despite how he lived his life, solving the riddle of his death is with Dallas and she will get to the truth.

As the title suggests this tale plays out over the Holiday season, much of the focus is on Dallas, Roarke and their friends. The trade off for the cosy festive read is that Eve does not get exposed to the peril that arises in other stories and her investigation is methodical rather than dynamic. Not to say that this is not a good story, it just seems more aimed at the long term fan rather than attempting to draw in a new reader.

I suppose, however, that by book 39 Robb does not need to put her characters through the wringer every single outing and we can enjoy a character driven story. As a long term fan, who has read each book in the series more than once, I enjoyed Festive in Death for what it was: another great read from a master storyteller.


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September 28

Doctor Who: The Shakespeare Notebooks – Edited Justin Richards

Many people know about William Shakespeare’s famous encounter with the Doctor at the Globe

Shakespeare Notebooks
Shakespeare Notebooks

Theatre in 1599. But what few people know (though many have suspected) is that it was not the first time they met.

Drawn from recently-discovered archives, The Shakespeare Notebooks is the holy grail of Bard scholars: conclusive proof that the Doctor not only appeared throughout Shakespeare’s life, but had a significant impact on his writing. In these pages you’ll find early drafts of scenes and notes for characters that never appeared in the plays; discarded lines of dialogue and sonnets; never-before-seen journal entries; and much more.

From the original notes for Hamlet (with a very different appearance by the ghost) and revealing early versions of the faeries of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to strange stage directions revised to remove references to a mysterious blue box, The Shakespeare Notebooks is an astonishing document that offers a unique insight into the mind of one of history’s most respected and admired figures. And also, of course, William Shakespeare.



Thanks to Netgalley for providing a review copy.


While Doctor Who continues to show every Saturday night I am indulging my reading list with as many Who books as I can. The Shakespeare Notebooks is one of the more unusual Doctor Who books I have read and I found that I could only read it in short bursts rather than a prolonged sitting. This may be a limitation of the reader rather than the source material, however, I personally found the collection of short stories and excerpts from plays lent themselves more readily to quick reads.

There is no doubting that this is a clever collection. The Doctor and various companions pop up across a myriad of Shakespeare plays as do characters such as The Master and Shakespeare himself. Favourite plays are reworked and the Doctor will cameo and interact with the players injecting his unique solutions to their problems. Romeo and Juliet gets a novel ending, Hamlet and the Fendahl? Brilliant concepts are played out in true Shakespearean dramatic prose.

Personally I found the Macbeth reworking was my favourite contribution but this may be due to my familiarity with the source material. This may be where the success of this book will live or die – the better your knowledge of the Shakespeare plays and Sonnets the more you are going to get from The Shakespeare Notebooks.

I read a digital copy of the Notebook but have also seen the physical book. I would suggest that the actual physical copy of this book is the way to get the most from this collection, there are many illustrations and footnotes that come across best in an actual book – footnotes are not the Kindle’s friend.

In brief – one for the Doctor Who fans who will enjoy the random appearances of several favourite characters. Shakespeare fans may be slightly appalled, unless they also enjoy Gallifrey’s favourite son. One for the collectors or a good Christmas gift.

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September 23

The Skeleton Road – Val McDermid

The Skeleton Road
The Skeleton Road

When a skeleton is discovered hidden at the top of a crumbling, gothic building in Edinburgh, Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is faced with the unenviable task of identifying the bones. As Karen’s investigation gathers momentum, she is drawn deeper into a world of intrigue and betrayal, spanning the dark days of the Balkan Wars.

Karen’s search for answers brings her to a small village in Croatia, a place scarred by fear, where people have endured unspeakable acts of violence. Meanwhile, someone is taking the law into their own hands in the name of justice and revenge — but when present resentment collides with secrets of the past, the truth is more shocking than anyone could have imagined . . .


Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy for review.

Confession time first. I am a Scottish book blogger, I mainly read crime fiction and yet in my 40 years I have never read a Val McDermid novel. I put that wrong to right with every turn of the page and will be back for more soon.

The Skeleton Road was a tricky read for me for a variety of reasons and it stomped all over my emotions as the story progressed. A key focus is upon the Balkan Wars and we are given an insight into some of the atrocities of the conflict. The previously untold stories of horrific war crimes that are often hard to comprehend or rationalise are depicted in a necessary detail.

We read about the struggle and the pain that was endured by so many as the country formerly known as Yugoslavia broke into separate country states. Having visited Croatia, and driven through beautiful landscapes which (in some places) still show some signs of the conflict that occurred there just a few short years ago, I found it easy to immerse myself in the book.

I would also note that I read The Skeleton Road in the week it was published. A week that ended with the Scottish Indy Referendum – an event which is actually discussed during the story. Reading about the turmoil in a European country as they strove to become a country in their own right made my personal requirement to place a cross in one of two boxes extremely humbling.

The principle character of The Skeleton Road was DCI Karen Pirie, I got the impression this was a character that had been introduced in previous story but I found Pirie to be a strong voice and would like to read more books she appears in. Other supporting characters (specifically The Mint) added a lighter tone that lifted the dark tone of the story.

Pirie works cold cases so a skeleton atop an old Edinburgh building places the investigation firmly at her door; yet she soon crosses paths with a War Crimes investigation and politics come into play. I found that Val McDermid is rather good at ensuring Pirie wins the power-play conversations and the way Pirie out-manoeuvres those in the way of her investigation was a delight.

With a story crossing from Fife to Oxford and then to Croatia there was a good flow to the majority of story but I did feel that I lost my way slightly in the middle of the book as the back story of the Croatian characters were established. But the pace was quickly re-established and the finale played out very nicely for this reader.

A great introduction (for me) to Val McDermid and I recommend that you spend some time on The Skeleton Road too.


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September 23

Who is John Sandford?

I am constantly amazed that one of my favourite authors is relatively unknown in the UK. I am not talking about an up and coming star with a couple of titles behind them – I refer to the prolific crime writer John Sandford (pen name of Pulitzer Prize winner John Camp).

In the early 1990’s I got a weekend job in my local bookshop. The rep from Harper Collins visited one day and suggested that we take a few titles from John Sandford’s Prey series. At this stage there were 4 books in total – Rules of Prey, Shadow Prey, Eyes of Prey and Silent Prey. Using my much loved staff discount I took home Rules of Prey to try out. One week later I owned Shadow, Eyes and Silent too!

The Prey novels feature Minneapolis cop Lucas Davenport. Lucas is smart, charismatic and successful. He also has rugged good looks (scarred from playing ice hockey) that seems to ensure he attracts plenty of attention from the ladies in his life. He is a very likeable hero and the character has been well developed over the years.

Since 1989 Sandford has produced a Prey novel virtually every year. Field of Prey was released in May 2014 and is the 24th book in the series. For over 20 years John Sandford has provided me with hours of reading pleasure. Davenport has moved from investigative Detective to a more political role where he oversees his investigations and Sandford uses the supporting cast to do a lot of the more unpleasant leg-work.

Over the years the reader has seen Lucas become a father, get married and suffer the loss of close friends. Buying into the stories is an emotional rollercoaster at times. It is an added bonus when one or two of the more memorable adversaries crop up in more than one story – my particular favourite was the professional killer Clara Rinker (she debuts in Certain Prey).

Such was the success of the Davenport Prey novels that Sandford was able to take a minor supporting character and create an equally brilliant spin off series. Virgil Flowers (generally referred to by his colleagues as that F***ing Flowers) is also an unconventional investigator – many times married, a writer and thinker with an aversion to his own handgun. Virgil offers a different approach to crime fighting in Minneapolis and tends to be based in the more rural regions (Lucas works out of the Twin Cities in the heart of the State). Virgil will next appear in Deadline (October 2014) and this will be Sandford’s 8th Virgil Flowers book.

So with 24 Prey novels and 8 more books with Virgil we have a prolific writer with over 30 novels in the back catalogue why is there so little love for John Sandford in the UK? His dust jacket recommendation (front and centre) is a quote from a certain Mr Stephen King who believes that Sandford is a great summer holiday read.

Are shops and libraries too hung up on certain recognised names? I checked my local library and have scanned the shelves of Edinburgh bookshops. 12 books in total in my local library (including some duplicates) but not a single Sandford in Waterstones Edinburgh store today. Check for James Paterson and the shelves are jammed, same for John Grisham and Michael Connolly. I love Michael Connolly’s work and am pleased he is well represented but Sandford’s work is on a par (with less exposure).

A few years ago I visited a beautiful bookshop in Vermont, USA. I took the opportunity to check out the Sandford books. Pleasingly the shelves were full of Davenport novels – it is just a UK issue which is a real shame as these are books that everyone should have a chance to enjoy.

One final observation. HARPER COLLINS – The fifth book is called Winter Prey. In 1993 why the Hell did you feel you had to rename it The Iceman? It is now the only book in my Prey collection that does not have PREY in the title – do you know what this has done for my OCD over the last 20 years?

Read Sandford – you will thank me.

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September 12

Doctor Who: The Blood Cell – James Goss

An asteroid in the furthest reaches of space – the most secure prison for the most dangerous of

The Blood Cell
The Blood Cell

criminals. The Governor is responsible for the cruellest murderers so he’s not impressed by the arrival of the man they’re calling the most dangerous criminal in the quadrant. Or, as he prefers to be known, the Doctor.

But when the new prisoner immediately sets about trying to escape, and keeps trying, the Governor sets out to find out why.

Who is the Doctor and what’s he really doing here? And who is the young woman who comes every day to visit him, only to be turned away by the guards?

When the killing finally starts, the Governor begins to get his answers.


My thanks to Netgalley for providing a reading copy

With Doctor Who back on our screens every Saturday night it is great to see BBC are keeping the books going with brand new original adventures. Particularly pleasing is that the new books feature Peter Capaldi as The Doctor – show of good faith in the writers that their interpretations of the new Doctor will be consistent with the show.

As I write we are 3 shows into the Capaldi run and I am very pleased with what I have seen thus far. It also means that as I read Blood Cell I could easily imagine The Doctor and Clara playing out the story – major Kudos to James Goss on this front as I really enjoyed his depiction of Capaldi’s Doctor.

The story its-self takes a less conventional approach. The Doctor has been arrested and is imprisoned in a secure prison in deep space. He is Prisoner 428 in the eyes of the Prison Governor and it is through the eyes of the Governor that we see the whole story unfold. The book is told in the first person from the Governor’s perspective.

The Doctor is a mysterious character at the best of times but to the Governor he is a puzzle, an irritation and a liability. The reader gets to enjoy seeing The Doctor get one up on his captors at every opportunity. While the reader knows the Doctor is most likely in a prison because it suited his purposes, the Governor has no idea that his problem prisoner is actually working in everyone’s best interests.

The reasons for Prisoner 428’s incarceration are not immediately clear but are revealed as the story unfolds. The Doctor’s travelling companion, Clara, is more of a cameo than a featured character but her apparent squabbles with the TARDIS provide some light relief as the tension in the story starts to ramp up.

This is the first of the novels I have read featuring Capaldi’s Doctor. Blood Cell was a strong start and I want to read more.

Some unexpected items included in the 100 objects.
Some unexpected items included in the 100 objects.



As an aside I ran a quick check on the other books written by James Goss and I noticed he co-authored one of my favourite Doctor Who books Doctor Who History of the Universe in 100 Objects. That too is highly recommended for fans.

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September 6

Doctor Who (Time Trips) The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller – Joanne Harris

Struggling to get back to UNIT HQ, his body being destroyed by radiation, the Third Doctor arrives

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Time Traveller
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Time Traveller

in the most perfect English village, where everyone is happy. But is he really on Earth, or somewhere far more strange? As his body weakens, the Doctor and the Queen of the village begin to unravel the truth.


This is the latest book in the Time Trips series – a new range of novellas featuring The Doctor that are to be written by ‘high profile commercial and literary authors’. Joanne Harris more than meets these credentials with a series of successful novels on her CV (Blackberry Wine, Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes to name just a few).

Loneliness tells a story of The Doctor as he reaches the end of his third incarnation (as portrayed by Jon Pertwee). Fans may be keen to learn that the story fits into the last 5 minutes of Planet of The Spiders – just before The Doctor falls out of his TARDIS and regenerates.

Getting the essence of The Doctor can sometimes be elusive but Joanne Harris captured the ‘Dandy’ element of Pertwee’s Doctor perfectly and I had a great sense of nostalgia as I remembered how much I enjoyed the time when Pertwee was the dashing hero.

Travelling alone on his way back from Metabelis III the TARDIS is diverted to an idyllic English Village. He finds himself under the care of the Queen who is very keen that he ask no questions, tries to blend in and that he keeps his head down. Naturally The Doctor is not keen to take a passive role and trouble ensues.

I don’t want to share any more detail of this story as the impact of this book is in the reading. Joanne Harris seems to have written Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller with the intent of triggering a specific response – if my experience is replicated by others she has succeeded.

I was curious about the Time Trips stories as I have only read a couple of the books thus far. Jenny Colgan wrote Into The Nowhere which featured the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara – it is also very good! So how did Joanne Harris get Jon Pertwee? Through the wonder of Twitter I was able to pose that very question to Joanne Harris and she confirmed that she had a free choice of Doctor and she wanted the Third Doctor. Seeing how the story unfolded I now know why her selection was so perfect.

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller was released on 4th September and should be purchased immediately!

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September 5

Gin Glorious Gin – Olivia Williams

How Mother’s Ruin Became The Spirit of London.

A colourful and fascinating history of our favourite spirit told through the life and times of our

Gin Glorious Gin
Gin Glorious Gin

capital city.

Thank you to Bookbridgr for providing a copy for review. And to Olivia Williams who responded to some of my random Tweets while I read her book.

I found Gin Glorious Gin to be informative, educational, entertaining and often disturbing, Also, the cover should carry a warning about reading the book in public.

Gin Glorious Gin follows the development of the spirit from its early days in London through to the current resurgence in its popularity. Olivia Williams brings us a fascinating commentary of life in London as seen by many generations of Londoners (through the bottom of their gin glass).

From the backstreets of the poorest slums to Buckingham Palace we learn how Gin has played an important part in London’s history. It has risen in popularity only to fall from grace and rise again. We discover how the skill in preparing fine gin is a much sought after commodity. There are stories about how the London hotels treasure the best cocktail makers and how their skill can allow them to become famous around the word.

We learn that there are dozens of ways gin can be flavoured and the book explores many of these providing recipes, tips on concocting new cocktails as well as things to avoid!

The writing is informed and the style conversational at times so, despite the volume of anecdotes and information that is conveyed, you keep coming back for more.

What I did find as I read through Gin Glorious Gin was that I made new friends (cover warning time). The book is eye-catching and the subject matter seems dear to the hearts of many. Random strangers would spark up conversations with me on my train journeys as I read – they would share their stories of gin (mothers ruin always gets a mention) and I would smile and nod and resist telling them that I read the very story they were sharing in the book that I was holding. It seems to have an appeal that draws strangers together.

I can see this book being a much loved Christmas gift for the family gin lover. But, as a non gin drinker, I can assure you that it has an appeal to all readers.

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September 4

Taking Hollywood – Shari King

Taking Hollywood
Taking Hollywood

From Los Angeles based performer and presenter Ross King and bestselling author Shari Low, comes this dark tale of secrets, lies, and ruthless ambition, Taking Hollywood.


In front of a galaxy of stars, three young film makers accept their Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Davie Johnston, Zander Leith and Mirren McLean, childhood friends from a rough housing estate in Glasgow, have taken Hollywoodby storm.
Only they know what they did to get there. . .

Twenty years later Davie Johnston is the top host and reality show producer in town. Mirren McLean is a respected writer and movie director and Zander Leith is box office gold. But they haven’t spoken to each other in twenty years, their relationships devastated by one horrific secret.
Thousands of miles away, in a town where nothing is as it seems, a young ambitious journalist discovers a tantalizing story from the past. Tinsel Town beckons. She is determined to expose the kind of scandalous drama that usually only happens in the movies.


Thank you to Emma at Busy Bee PR for providing a copy for review. She thought I would enjoy this book and she was right!

Let me position this review. I have never read a Jackie Collins novel, I don’t follow celebrities or keep up with the Kardashians and the cover stars of the magazines I read are more likely to be Daleks or Lara Croft. But what I do like are stories that are about people, their lives, their hopes/fears and how they tackle problems. Taking Hollywood delivers this in abundance (likely by private jet with champagne on tap).

We meet Davie, Mirren and Zander at a time in their life when everything they hold dear is crumbling around them. Each face their personal demons, a failed marriage, drink and substance abuse or public rejection – all under the intense spotlight of the showbiz media in Hollywood.

The story swings between present day and twenty years back to 1993 when the three were children living a miserable existence in a Glasgow suburb. We know they make good and become international stars but we also know that they share a dark secret, one that drives them apart just as they have the world at their feet. As we follow the story we learn more about Zander, Davie and Mirren and their shared history.

The slow reveal of the childhood secrets is pushed on by the presence of a Scottish journalist who follows a story of a missing Glasgow Gangster to Hollywood and a hidden connection with the three stars. The journalist (Sarah) grounded the story for me and reeled in some of the excess and opulence – through her eyes we see the layperson’s view of just how far removed from reality the celebrity lifestyle seems to be.

The Hollywood portrayed is one of lavish decadence, excess and greed. Everyone is for sale, everyone is available and anything goes. Yet despite their public face showing success Taking Hollywood reveals the sham behind the glam and depicts a miserable life for our three heroes. I moved from disliking the Mirren, Davie and Zander to feeling sorry for them as their problems mounted. Anytime I find that I empathise with a character I know the author has drawn me in.

The story blends the fictional characters into real events and there are name checks for many famous stars (that even I recognised). It is a wonderfully bitchy story where everyone is trying to out-do everyone else and some of the stunts are great fun to read.

Taking Hollywood is pure escapism and as we got closer and closer to the finale I just could not put it down. The payoff of the revealed secret made it all worthwhile, thought I had it nailed – nope! Good job guys.

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September 2

Waiting For Doggo – Mark Mills

Thank you to Frances Gough (and Doggo) for providing a review copy

Waiting For Doggo
Waiting For Doggo

I really enjoyed this charming wee tale (tail)?

Dan has been dumped and he has been lumbered with the new addition to his (now broken) household: a small and seemingly unattractive canine named Doggo.  Doggo and Dan have not bonded thus far but now must forge a relationship for the sake of Doggo’s gentleman parts…the Dog Home will not take him back ‘intact’.And so we begin our entertaining journey into Dan and Doggo’s strange relationship.

Dan had a successful career in Advertising until his wingman had a breakdown. Now he has a chance at a new start with an upcoming advertising agency and through Waiting For Doggo we find how Dan rebuilds his life and his career while battling rejection, navigating office politics and dealing with unexpected family revelations.

The author, Mark Mills, writes with an easy flowing style. He creates fun characters and I found it easy to get caught up in the office squabbles and be frustrated by the missed opportunities for our hero, Dan, to find his one true love.

Waiting for Doggo is not my normal type of read. No murders, no suspenseful cliff-hangers and I cannot recall any times when Dan faced mortal peril. However, I found I enjoyed Doggo a lot more than I may have expected. A fun story – if a film were made it would be considered a Rom-Com (with emphasis on the ‘Com’ as I read it with a grin on my face).

Doggo will likely be one of the shorter novels I read this year and it came to an end quicker than I expected. I was slightly surprised to find that I was disappointed by this as I would have read more. Hurrah for Dan and Doggo – good luck to you both.

Very different from my normal choice of read but lots of fun!

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