December 31

The Last Days of Disco – David F Ross

Disco coverEarly in the decade that taste forgot, Fat Franny Duncan is on top of the world. He is the undoubted King of the Ayrshire Mobile Disco scene, controlling and ruling the competition with an iron fist. From birthdays to barn dances, Franny is the man to call. He has even played ‘My Boy Lollipop’ at a funeral and got away with it. But the future is uncertain. A new partnership is coming and is threatening to destroy the big man’s Empire … Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller have been best mates since primary school. Joey is an idealist; Bobby just wants to get laid and avoid following his brother Gary to the Falklands.

A partnership in their new mobile disco venture seems like the best way for Bobby to do both at the same time. With compensation from an accident at work, Bobby’s dad Harry invests in the fledgling business. His marriage to Ethel is coming apart at the seams and the disco has given him something to focus on. Tragic news from the other side of the world brings all three strands together in a way that no one could have predicted.

The Last Days of Disco is a eulogy to the beauty and power of the 45rpm vinyl record and the small but significant part it played in a small town Ayrshire community in 1982. Witty, energetic and entirely authentic, it’s also heartbreakingly honest, weaving tragedy together with comedy with uncanny and unsettling elegance. A simply stunning debut. ‘Full of comedy, pathos and great tunes’ Hardeep Singh Kohli ‘Warm, funny and evocative. If you grew up in the Eighties, you’re going to love this’ Chris Brookmyre.


The Last Days of Disco is the second book published by Orenda Books and it is another triumph – an absolute joy to read. It is worth noting that the two Orenda books that I have read have been very, very different. The Abrupt Physics of Dying was an action packed eco thriller set in far off Yemen (a country I would struggle to find on a map). The Last Days of Disco is a story about people, is totally driven by the characters and is set in Kilmarnock (where I started school).

The Last Days of Disco takes place in the early 1980’s. It is Thatcher’s Britain, unemployment is high, the Falklands War arrives mid-story and life is hard for the Cassidy family. Bobby Cassidy is struggling through his final year at school but with opportunities of future employment looking sparse he is keen to pursue a money-making opportunity and start his own mobile disco. Fortunately all does not go smoothly and there are laughs to be had as the best intentioned plans go disastrously wrong.

Humour is a key element to Last Days and there were dozens of scenes which had me in stiches. Ross uses the reader’s benefit of 30 years of hindsight to set up some fabulous gags. However, there are some very emotive moments to share too, Gary Cassidy is a serving solider and is deployed to the Falklands during the 1982 war with Argentina. These sections of the book and Gary’s letters home to his family, added an extra element of humanity to the characters. I need to avoid spoilers at this stage, however, Gary’s story is one that I suspect I will remember for some time to come.

All good stories have a nemesis for the central character and in Fat Franny Duncan we have a nasty and petty thug who wants to control the Kilmarnock disco scene. Bobby’s new enterprise is encroaching on his patch – for Franny this cannot be allowed to continue. Although Bobby is largely unaware that Franny Duncan is out to sabotage his new venture I loved the varying degrees of success (or lack of it) that Franny experiences in scuppering Bobby’s gigs. A particular highlight here was the Disco at the Conservative club.

One key element of the book is the language: it is realistic and accurate. This is to say that it is regional and it is crude. This may put some readers off, however, to tone down the language would rob the story of authenticity – this is how many people in the West of Scotland speak and you need to accept that to enjoy the book.

Language aside, the other joy to be had from The Last Days of Disco is the music. David Ross is clearly extremely knowledgeable about the soundtrack of his youth. The references to bands and the records of the time are gems. I grew up listening to the songs mentioned in this book yet there are countless tracks referenced which I had never heard of. A fact-finding trip to Spotify is going to happen in the near future for this reader. For any music fan this book is a glorious nostalgia trip.

The Last Days of Disco will be my final review of 2014 and it will ensure that I finish my reading year on a high. As I read I was reminded of Trainspotting…but with disco rather than drugs!

I loved everything about this book and have to award it a 5/5 review.

December 28

The Chase – Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

Internationally renowned thief and con artist Nicolas Fox is famous for running elaborate and daring scams. His greatest

The Chase
The Chase

con of all: convincing the FBI to team him up with the only person who has ever caught him, Special Agent Kate O’Hare. Together they’ll go undercover to swindle and catch the world’s most wanted – and untouchable – criminals.

Their newest target is Carter Grove, a former White House chief of staff and the ruthless leader of a private security agency. Grove has stolen a rare Chinese artefact from the Smithsonian, a crime that will torpedo U.S. relations with China if it ever becomes public. Nick and Kate must work under the radar – and against the clock – to devise a plan to steal the piece back. Confronting Grove’s elite assassins, Nick and Kate rely on the skills of their ragtag crew, including a flamboyant actor, a Geek Squad techie, and a band of AARP-card-carrying mercenaries led by none other than Kate’s dad.

A daring heist and a deadly chase lead Nick and Kate from Washington, D.C., to Shanghai, from the highlands of Scotland to the underbelly of Montreal. But it’ll take more than death threats, trained henchmen, sleepless nights, and the fate of a dynasty’s priceless heirloom to outsmart Fox and O’Hare.

Thanks to @bookywookydooda at Headline for my review copy!


The Chase captures everything I enjoy in a book. There are two lead characters with a great dynamic, a rich and powerful adversary with his own henchmen, FBI agents, outrageous robberies and loads of humour to keep me laughing as I read. What’s not to like?

The Chase is the second in a series of books by Evanovich and Goldberg which feature Special Agent Kate O’Hare and thief/con man Nicholas Fox. Confession time: I missed the first novel (The Heist) but on the strength of The Chase I am certainly going back and picking up The Heist. At no time while reading The Chase did I feel disadvantaged that I missed the first book in the series, it is not assumed you know the back story and the authors ensure you have all the information you need to enjoy the latest tale.

Fox and O’Hare are a fun double act. The sexual chemistry is there, though it is somewhat tempered by O’Hare’s distrust of Fox’s criminal background. There is lots of snappy, wise-cracking banter which goes a long way towards keeping the humour level high (if you grew up in the 80’s then think Moonlighting).

The actual story is great fun too. A valuable statue which was on loan from China to the USA has been stolen and replaced with a duplicate. Fox and O’Hare have to find the original (stolen) statue, steal it back and return it to the museum removing the duplicate before the original theft is discovered. Easy!

Fortunately it’s not that easy and soon the best laid plans need updated and adapted.

The Chase is a great fun read, the Evanovich/Goldberg team keep the thrills flowing – there is the comedy I expect from a Janet Evanovich story yet with a more action based focus which I am attributing to Mr Goldberg’s influence. I cannot wait to read more in the Fox/O’Hare series.

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December 23

2014 – My Magnificent Seven

Although I have only been actively blogging for six months it is time for my end of year round up. A quick check of my blog finds that I have reviewed around 50 books in the last 6 months of the year. To select a top 10 from 50 seemed too many so I was going to do a top five. Until I started my list and I discovered that I wanted to include one or two more: Grab This Book’s Magnificent Seven was born.

So in no particular order I present the seven books that I enjoyed reading most (and the reasons why) during 2014.


Stalkers – Paul Finch

I was late to the party on Paul Finch’s brilliant Mark Heckenburg novels. The good thing about this was: by the time I read Stalkers there were two sequels and two more on the way.

Stalkers is a compelling thriller which pulls no punches and delivers shocks and twists in equal measure. I have probably recommended Paul Finch’s books to more of my friends than any other author this year – thus far I have had nothing but positive feedback from those that took my advice.

Stalkers Review

Doctor Who: Engines of War – George Mann

Cast your eye over my blog and you will find that Doctor Who books crop up fairly frequently. I make no apology for this, I have been a fan of the show for 35 years and I have been reading Doctor Who novels since the 1980’s. Not counting the books I read more than once, or the many audio plays, I think I have read around 350 different Who novels (although it is probably more).

For me, George Mann’s Engines of War stands out as one of the best that I have read. Ever. It features the Daleks, a new companion (Scarlet) and even better – The War Doctor. The Doctor has been fighting in the Time War, the Daleks fear him and the Timelords still cannot control him. His weariness of the War is telling and this is not a Doctor that can solve all the problems and just disappear in his TARDIS waiting for the next adventure. Mann catches the fatigue and frustration of the Doctor brilliantly.

If you enjoy Doctor Who and have seen John Hurt’s War Doctor in action then this is a must read. If you like an exciting good guy/bad guy story this is also for you, there is a great adventure to share. If you hate all things Doctor Who, this may not be the book for you. But I loved it!

Engines of War Review


Vendetta – Dreda Say Mitchell

Some books are in my list for personal reasons and some are here as they are stand out reads. Vendetta falls into the latter category. It was (without any doubt) one of the most entertaining books that I have read in recent years.

I cannot say enough good things about Vendetta and was thrilled to be able to participate in the Blog Tour when it was published. Dreda Say Mitchell penned a fantastic article Heroes to Die For  which featured on my site. The combination of hosting the tour, having an exclusive article to feature and the book being one of my favourite reads of the year made this a memorable title for me.

Vendetta Review


Digital Circumstances – Brian Stewart

Summer 2014 was an amazing time to be in Scotland. We had the Edinburgh Festival (as we always do), the Book Festival (as we always do) but we also had Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games and the small matter of the Indy Ref – the world was watching.

Three out of the four events were spectacular successes – the fourth is subject to ongoing debate but 55% of the people were happy at the time!

During the height of all things Scottish I started reading Digital Circumstances, written and self-published by Brian Stewart. The story is (mainly) set in Glasgow and had a great mix of cybercrime and gangsters. As Glasgow is a city I know well and was very much in the public eye as I was reading Digital Circumstances – it just seemed a perfect read at the time.

A fun read and worth seeking out.

Digital Circumstances Review


Someone Else’s Skin – Sarah Hilary

A debut novel and the introduction of a principle character (Marnie Rome) which the author is planning on developing into an ongoing series. I have included this book in my top picks of the year mainly because it was a brilliant story which I got totally drawn into as I read.

However, Someone Else’s Skin holds the honour of being the book in 2014 with the best plot twist. It totally floored me and had me re-evaluating everything I had read up to that point in the story.

I read well over 100 novels this year, it would be very remiss of me to exclude the year’s ‘Jaw Drop’ moment from the list of my top books.

Someone Else’s Skin Review


An Evil Mind – Chris Carter

A fellow blogger contacted me asking if I could help him by reading a Chris Carter book (a task I felt reasonably comfortable accepting). He had been set a mission by the publishers: to find readers who had not read Chris Carter’s work and see if he could turn them into fans. I agreed to help and duly received a copy of An Evil Mind.

Click through to check my review for a more comprehensive summary, however, the addition of four new Chris Carter novels to my bookcase in the last few weeks should give a fairly big clue as to how much I enjoyed An Evil Mind. When drawing up a shortlist of possible titles to include in my Magnificent Seven, nothing came close to dislodging An Evil Mind from the list.

My thanks to Shaun on this one – take some time to visit his blog at:

An Evil Mind Review


Red Rising – Pierce Brown

The book that broke my rules. Don’t get drawn back into Fantasy novels. Don’t start a series of books if the last books are not published yet. Don’t lend out your copies of your favourite books to friends as you know they will love it. Three copies of Red Rising later I currently only have my digital copy left – I MAY get some of my paperbacks back (eventually)!

This book made me want to read Fantasy novels again – this is after an 8 year hiatus where I have only really read crime and thrillers. A must read novel and worthy for inclusion in ANY list of recommended reads.

Red Rising Review


So there we have it – my best reading memories from 2014 and a brief explanation as to why these books stood out for me.

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December 21

Time and Time Again – Ben Elton

Time and Time Again
Time and Time Again

It’s the 1st of June 1914 and Hugh Stanton, ex-soldier and celebrated adventurer is quite literally the loneliest man on earth. No one he has ever known or loved has been born yet. Perhaps now they never will be.

Stanton knows that a great and terrible war is coming. A collective suicidal madness that will destroy European civilization and bring misery to millions in the century to come. He knows this because, for him, that century is already history.

Somehow he must change that history. He must prevent the war. A war that will begin with a single bullet. But can a single bullet truly corrupt an entire century?

And, if so, could another single bullet save it?


Thanks to Transworld and Netgalley for my review copy.

In the late 1980’s I was a High School student studying history and learning for the first time about The Great War of 1914-1918. In the evenings I watched the popular television shows of the time and could not help but be aware of the very talented and highly entertaining Mr Ben Elton – I loved his stand-up routines and was (as we all were) a fan of Blackadder.

Fast forward an alarming number of years and I am holding a book written by Mr Elton about World War One – still the period of history I find most fascinating. A dream combination for this reader!

Time and Time Again has brilliant imaginative promise – if you could change one single event to make the world a better place what would you change? It is hard to argue with the logic of trying to stop the chain of events which led to the outbreak of war in August 1914.

That is the approach adopted by Elton. A soldier is offered the opportunity to travel back through time to change history by breaking the chain of events which lead to the outbreak of The Great War. An alternative solution is presented and our solider (Hugh Stanton) is trained to ensure he blends into early 20th Century society. He is given a comprehensive knowledge of people and places which are key to ensuring his mission is successful and then armed with very anachronistic laptop, body armour and i-phone he sets off to Europe with the aim of being at a specific time and place to jump back in time. As you may expect Stanton is skeptical as to whether or not he will actually time travel.

Making sure I avoid any spoilers on plot twists… I found the idea for being able to consider changing one event in the past cleverly reasoned and I liked the idea of ‘great minds’ being entrusted with a secret. There are some entertaining discussions into the ethical nature of taking one life to potentially save millions and you cannot help but feel that a Reading Group could spend some time debating whether the characters are taking an appropriate course of action.

So it is all good on concept, plot and subsequent analysis. However, I found some of the characters just a bit too over the top and it took me a while to warm to the key player (Stanton). Having established a brilliant premise I felt the story lost pace somewhat in the middle, perhaps with a bit too much treading water as the finale was established. That said, I really enjoyed how the story played out and the ending was quite unexpected, a good unexpected!

For a reader with some knowledge of the First World War this is a fun story where Ben Elton plays with figures and events we know and turns things on their head. If your awareness of 20th Century European history is a bit rusty you are in good hands as you are given all the information and detail needed to enjoy an engaging adventure story.

I enjoyed Time and Time Again and it had plenty of positive elements which would ensure a 3/5 score – lots of fun to be had and a thought provoking premise.

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December 17

Ghost Camera – Darcy Coates

Ghost CameraA small number of cameras have the ability to capture ghosts on film. This gift comes at a steep price; the ghosts are resentful and hungry, and the cameras offer them a rare chance to reach their favourite prey… humans.

Jenine doesn’t know any of this when she finds an abandoned Polaroid camera in a lighthouse. At first she assumes the ghostly shapes in the photos are a glitch or a prank – but then the spirits begin to hunt her down, and she’s forced into a deadly race to free herself from the camera’s curse.


Thanks to Patchwork Press and Netgalley for my review copy

At 118 pages long Ghost Camera by Darcy Coates is a short but engaging read. The story focuses on Jenine, she finds an old Polaroid camera in an abandoned lighthouse and is delighted to find that it still works. After snapping a few pictures Jenine is unsettled to find that there are ghostly figures appearing in the pictures she has taken.

Turning to her friend Bree for advice, together the pair try to make some sense out of what they may be seeing in the pictures. The more photographs they take, the more obvious (and hostile) the ghostly figures are in the resultant images.

With Jenine facing a constant threat the race is on to find someone who can help free her from the attentions of the ghosts, however, the only person who seems to understand the problem does not want to talk with her!

I really enjoyed how Darcy Coates managed to build up the sense of growing menace during Ghost Camera. Initially Jenine is unnerved by the images she sees, however, her anxiety soon grows and she starts to realise that she is constantly surrounded by ghostly figures and that they are beginning to be able to make their presence felt. The author conveyed Janine’s growing fear really well and as I read I got caught up in the building tension.

The logistics of how the titular Ghost Camera worked and how it exposed Janine to danger was excellent. I am a big fan of a simple idea being worked well and Darcy Coates nails it here. The explanation of the camera was introduced at exactly the right point in the story and incorporated in such a way that it did not feel that explanations were being forced upon us.

It has been a while since I read a ‘proper’ ghost story but I thoroughly enjoyed Ghost Camera and it whet my appetite for more supernatural thrills.

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December 16

The Abrupt Physics of Dying – Paul Hardisty

Claymore Straker is trying to forget a violent past. Working as an oil company engineer in the wilds of Yemen, he is

The Abrupt Physics of Dying
The Abrupt Physics of Dying

hijacked at gunpoint by Islamic terrorists. Clay has a choice: help uncover the cause of a mysterious sickness afflicting the village of Al Urush, close to the company’s oil-processing facility, or watch Abdulkader, his driver and close friend, die.

As the country descends into civil war and village children start dying, Clay finds himself caught up in a ruthless struggle between opposing armies, controllers of the country’s oil wealth, Yemen’s shadowy secret service, and rival terrorist factions. As Clay scrambles to keep his friend alive, he meets Rania, a troubled journalist. Together, they try to uncover the truth about Al Urush. But nothing in this ancient, unforgiving place is as it seems. Accused of a murder he did not commit, put on the CIA’s most-wanted list, Clay must come to terms with his past and confront the powerful forces that want him dead.

A stunning debut eco-thriller, The Abrupt Physics of Dying is largely based on true events – the horrific destruction of fresh water and lives by oil giants. Gritty, gripping and shocking, this book will not only open your eyes but keep them glued to the page until the final, stunning denouement is reached.


Many thanks to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for my review copy.


The Abrupt Physics of Dying is a phenomenal debut from Paul Hardisty, an action packed thriller which highlights the corruption that comes with corporate greed. The characters are brilliantly realised too as we see some very human flaws come to the fore.

The Abrupt Physics of Dying is primarily set in Yemen and follows ‘Clay’ Straker, he is an Environmental Contractor working for Petro-Tex who have established an extremely profitable oil plant in a remote part of the country. It is Clay’s job to monitor potential contamination around the plant, keep the local authorities amenable and ensure Petro-Tex can continue to drill while they seek corporate support to expand their enterprise.

However, Yemen is a troubled country and in the opening chapters we see Clay kidnapped by a terrorist group who hold Clay and his driver, Abdulkader, hostage. The leader of the terrorist group wants Clay to prove that the Petro-Tex plant is poisoning the area around their plant and endangering the villages nearby. Clay is released from his captivity to expose Petro-Tex and highlight the danger their operations are causing, Abdulkader is kept as a prisoner. Clay has 8 days to prove the contamination and alert the relevant authorities to the danger. If he succeeds he will save his friend.

From this point on we are taken on a frantic race against time as Clay struggles to establish if his employers are complicit in endangering hundreds of lives. Clay can trust no-one in his quest for the truth as Petro-Tex will do all they can to block his investigations. The press are sympathetic but will need evidence before they go public with any allegations against Petro-Tex. Rania is the journalist on scene (and she provides a love interest too) but it is not clear if Rania is being honest with Clay or if she is working to her own agenda. Added to the mix is a psychotic Security Agent looking to silence Clay – permanently.

We quickly learn that Clay is no desk-jockey, he has military training and is more than adept at fighting his way out of a tight corner. A very useful trait as Clay finds himself in more than one tight spot as he battles to unravel a web of corruption. It can be a tricky balance between exposing your hero to a constant threat and making him an invincible fighting machine. Clay faces many tough scrapes and does not necessarily come through each incident unscathed. However, I wonder if the level of peril that he encounters may be slightly too much for some readers to accept given the serious tone of the rest of the book. Personally I love an action packed read so I had no concerns – this one kept me gripped.

It is not a full on action ride every step of the way. As the story develops we see Clay start to consider how his actions in the past may have aided corruption to go unchallenged. Following the paycheck he has smoothed diplomatic channels, paid officials and had favourable reports returned and generally turned a blind eye to areas out with his remit. Now, as he faces the potential catastrophe of Petro-Tex creating an environmental disaster, Clay considers his own involvement in the process and realises that he may personally have failed the people he is now trying to save. This self-realisation added an extra dimension to Clay, giving depth to the character and seemingly steeling his motivation to put an end to the damage that is occurring.

Environmental crime is not a theme I have encountered often. The technical knowledge to make it convincing may be a limiting factor for some or perhaps the scale of the impact too great to take on? However, no such concerns here as Paul Hardisty has constructed a relevant and very believable thriller. Sadly it is too easy to accept that a corporation may put business interests ahead of lives if they believed they could cover it up. The message I took from this was that the love of power and money will overrule any feelings of morality and that, for some, human life becomes meaningless in the face of profit.

The Abrupt Physics of Dying is not only the debut novel from Paul Hardisty, it is also the first novel published by Orenda Books. It is pleasing to see both author and publisher getting off to such a strong start. The Abrupt Physics of Dying is compelling reading and tackles subject matter not often encountered: I urge you to grab this book, it is both dynamic and different and I enjoyed it immensely.

The Abrupt Physics of Dying was published by Orenda Books and is available now from the Kindle Store. A physical copy of the book will be in shops from March 2015.

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December 13

The Zig Zag Girl – Elly Griffiths

The Zig Zag Girl
The Zig Zag Girl

Brighton, 1950.

When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl.

The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar’s. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men.

Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind.

Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max become convinced that the answer to the murders lies in their army days. When Edgar receives a letter warning of another ‘trick’, the Wolf Trap, he knows that they are all in danger…



This review was originally prepared for @BookAddictShaun Many thanks to Shaun for providing me with the book – Quercus Books kindly provided the book for review.


Elly Griffiths is best known for her Ruth Galloway stories, however, The Zig Zag girl is a stand-alone novel which features a new lead character: Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens.

Stephens is an immediately likeable figure and I found his friendship with a collection of magicians to be entertainingly quirky. The unusual collaboration of policeman and entertainers stems from the time Stephens served as part of a specialist intelligence unit during the Second World War. He (and the magicians) were posted to Inverness and tasked with creating the illusion of increased British military strength which would distract and divert German attention.

The events of The Zig Zag Girl are set a few years after the end of WW2 Stephens has lost contact with the other members of his unit (dubbed The Magic Men). However, the murder of a young girl, who had performed as a magician’s assistant, brings Stephens back into contact with his friend Max Mephisto. Mephisto has been touring theatres headlining the bill everywhere he goes with his famed magic act – yet we share his frustration as he sees that the days of Cabaret are drawing to a close.

The partnership of Stephens and Mephisto works well. The conventional policeman and the unconventional magician play off each other to great effect. As they renew their friendship Griffiths gets to show how their lives beyond their jobs are sadly empty.

At the front of The Zig Zag Girl is a murder mystery. Someone has targeted the Magic Men and is bumping-off the former members of the old unit one by one. A dismembered body is delivered to the police station in a parcel addressed to Stephens. Other taunts and threats follow and Stephens and Max Mephisto find they are in a race against time to save their old colleagues – but they cannot be sure that they are not next to be targeted.

The killer uses a variety of magical tricks and illusions when committing murders which made the ‘magic’ element of the book more fun. Also, re-uniting a collection of magicians let the author set several scenes in clubs and theatres. The reader gets to see what life was like behind the curtains for the performers and added an extra dimension to the story which I really enjoyed.

I found The Zig Zag Girl to be a fun read, I loved the 1950’s setting and Elly Griffiths did a great job of catching the feel of the slower paced lifestyle of days gone by. My only concern was that I spotted the twist half-way through the story which meant that as the book drew to a close I didn’t get the level of excitement I had hoped to enjoy.

The Zig Zag Girl has a lot to offer and I am definitely going to pick up more books by Elly Griffiths as I enjoyed her writing style and the characters she created. I would award The Zig Zag Girl 3.5 out of 5.

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December 4

Doctor Who: The Anti-Hero – Stella Duffy

The Anti-Hero
The Anti-Hero

The latest in the Doctor Who Time Trips series sees Stella Duffy taking the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe to the Museum of Alexandria.

Many moons ago I read an article where one of the Doctor Who authors explained that he found the Second Doctor the hardest to write for. This stuck with me and is always at the back of my mind when I read a Second Doctor story – particularly as the comedy double act of the Second Doctor  Jamie are probably one of the highlights from the show’s rich history. I don’t know if Stella Duffy found it hard to write this Second Doctor story but I can confirm the finished article is top quality.

Despite my love of the comedy dynamic duo, The Doctor and Jamie never travelled alone* and (during a Twitter chat) Stella Duffy emphatically drew my attention to the fact Zoe also features in The Anti-Hero. Now that I have finished the story I find that not only did Zoe feature but she plays a key role. No spoilers though!

What I immediately enjoyed about The Anti-Hero is that we spend time with the TARDIS crew before the adventure kicks off in full. Classic Who, with its weekly 4 or 6 part stories, had time to linger in the TARDIS setting up a story before the action began – this is somewhat lost in today’s tightly scripted single-part productions. What a delight to have The Anti-Hero open in traditional style and give the reader the chance to see The Doctor, Zoe and Jamie passing time while the TARDIS is in flight.

Some wonderful writing from Stella Duffy reveals Zoe’s observations of The Doctor. Zoe nailing the core of his character as she watches him bustle around the Console Room. A nod to a subsequent regeneration also provided me with a laugh out loud moment.

The Anti-Hero brings all the fun I would want from a Second Doctor story and the secrets within the Museum of Alexandria provided enjoyable and unexpected plot twists. Stella Duffy has delivered a very accessible addition to the Time Trips range, perfect for younger fans that may not have much experience of Troughton’s Doctor.

This range goes from strength to strength and The Anti-Hero is definitely one of the better books in the series.


*It is not CERTAIN that Jamie and the Doctor did not travel alone. Give some thought to the 6th Doctor Story The Two Doctors where Jamie and the Doctor appear and pair up with Peri and the 6th Doctor. Next run ‘Doctor Who Season 6B’ through your favourite search engine!

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December 2

The Liar’s Chair – Rebecca Whitney

‘What if the thing you were most afraid of was your husband?’

The Liar's Chair
The Liar’s Chair

Rachel Teller and her husband David appear happy, prosperous and fulfilled. The big house, the successful business . . . They have everything.

However, control, not love, fuels their relationship and David has no idea his wife indulges in drunken indiscretions. When Rachel kills a man in a hit and run, the meticulously maintained veneer over their life begins to crack.

Destroying all evidence of the accident, David insists they continue as normal. Rachel though is racked with guilt and as her behaviour becomes increasingly self-destructive she not only inflames David’s darker side, but also uncovers her own long-suppressed memories of shame. Can Rachel confront her past and atone for her terrible crime? Not if her husband has anything to do with it . . .

A startling, dark and audacious novel set in and around the Brighton streets, The Liar’s Chair will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final page has been turned. A stunning psychological portrait of a woman in a toxic marriage, Rebecca Whitney’s debut will show that sometimes the darkest shadow holds the truth you have been hiding from . . .


Thanks to Sam Eades for my review copy.

When you read The Liar’s Chair you have to be prepared for a harrowing experience. This is no gentle fireside read, this is a tale of two unlikable people tearing each other apart. The Liar’s Chair pulls back the curtain on a loveless marriage and exposes the lengths that Rachel and David Teller are prepared to go to in their attempts to control and humiliate each other.

Rachel is having an affair. David is controlling, suspicious and dominating and Rachel is afraid of him. As the story begins we meet Rachel coming home from meeting her lover, she is half drunk and distracted by how she will cover her liaison from David. She is driving too fast and kills a homeless man in a hit and run accident. Only before she runs she hides his body.

From this point Rachel’s fragile defences start to crumble. She struggles to maintain the polished image of her perfect life and becomes an increasing liability to David as their business starts to become impacted.

Through several flashback chapters, Rebecca Whitney also takes us back into Rachel’s childhood where we see her troubled childhood and learn how she played second fiddle to her mother’s constant pursuit of sexual gratification.

As the story progresses the animosity between David and Rachel increases, violence and retribution escalate and you cannot help but think that at least one of them will not make it to the end of the story. Yet because they are both such unlikeable characters you are not sure that this is necessarily a bad thing.

As I reader I found my sympathies lay more with Rachel than David. Rachel is the lead character and it is easier to understand and follow her motivations and reasoning. However, her actions are far from saintly and I cannot honestly say that I was happy when she came out on top during one of the many spats that took place.

A puzzling one – is it possible to fully enjoy a story where you don’t like any of the cast and the book seems intent on showing everyone in their worst light? In the case of The Liar’s Chair I would suggest that Rebecca Whitney shows it can be done. While I am not sure I ‘enjoyed’ the book, I found it compelling reading and am recommending it to my book loving friends (with a warning of dark times ahead). If a book is compelling and recommended then it must be doing something right!

I give The Liar’s Chair 4 out of 5 and suggest that it suits readers that like a dark edge to their plots.


The Liar’s Chair is published on 15th January 2015.  You can follow Rebecca Whitney on Twitter : @RebeccaJWhitney

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December 1

Christmas Shopping Ideas 2014

The faint sound of sleigh bells is getting louder and it is around now that ‘present panic’ starts to set in. What to get a loved one at Christmas? Stuck for an idea for the office Secret Santa? As a book lover I always encourage people to give a book as a gift and I have a few suggestions which may help simplify your shopping.



I will start by recommending two thrillers, both of which I have seen on supermarket shelves in the last week. Vendetta by Dreda Say Mitchell is a brilliant, fast paced story which had me hooked all the way through. The story focuses on an undercover cop in London – in the opening chapter he wakes in a strange hotel room, he has been shot and there is a dead body in the bathroom beside him yet he has no recollection of how he got there. Fans of James Paterson will enjoy the writing style which uses short chapters and constant action points.


Second recommendation is Dead Man Walking by Paul Finch. Another policeman, however, this time the action takes place in the Lake District – it is winter and heavy fog has shrouded a Cumbrian village. Hidden in the fog is a murderer who likes to stalk his victims before he pounces – the only way they know he is nearby is that he whistles ‘Strangers in the Night’ as he closes in. With the villagers trapped and isolated- they are easy prey.

A Christmas To Remember
A Christmas To Remember

For those looking for something a bit more seasonal and don’t want half the cast killed off during the story then I suggest A Christmas To Remember by Jenny Hale. This story has been receiving fantastic praise since its release and is hitting the perfect balance of romance, humour and lashings of Christmas cheer. On a similar theme Snow Angels, Secrets and Christmas Cake by Sue Watson is equally charming Christmas fare.

If fiction is not your thing then I can highly recommend Our Zoo by June Mottershead. If you remember the BBC drama of the same name then you will likely recongise June’s name – she has lived and grown up around Chester Zoo, which was originally opened by her father. Our Zoo is June’s biography and gives her unique perspective of life with the animals.

For football fans there is one stand out stocking filler: Football Clichés by Adam Hurrey. If you have ever watched a football match on television this is for you…101 ways to describe a goal? Sorted. Diagrams of a player complete with Monkey on his Back and Wise Head on his Shoulders? Hurrey has it covered. Cleverly written and laugh out loud funny.

WTF Knits
WTF Knits

Finally for the craft lovers I have to give special mention to WTF Knits by Gabrielle Grillo and Lucy Sweet. A fun wee book full of the weirdest knitting and crochet efforts from around the world. Another stocking filler as this is a collection of photographs. Yet who knew that so many people would want to knit alien autopsies, a variety of poo shapes or the Bee Gees (complete with knitted chest hair)?


All books listed above are easily found online and the only one you MAY struggle to find in your local shops is the knitting one (which is a shame as it is such fun).

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