February 10

Holy Cow – David Duchovny

Holy CowElsie Bovary is a cow and a pretty happy one at that. Until one night, Elsie sneaks out of the pasture and finds herself drawn to the farmhouse. Through the window, she sees the farmer’s family gathered around a bright Box God – and what the Box God reveals about something called an ‘industrial meat farm’ shakes Elsie’s understanding of her world to its core.

The only solution? To escape to a better, safer world. And so a motley crew is formed: Elsie; Shalom, a grumpy pig who’s recently converted to Judaism; and Tom, a suave turkey who can’t fly, but can work an iPhone with his beak. Toting stolen passports and slapdash human disguises, they head for the airport …

Elsie is a wise-cracking, slyly witty narrator; Tom dispenses psychiatric advice in a fake German accent; and Shalom ends up unexpectedly uniting Israelis and Palestinians. David Duchovny’s charismatic creatures point the way toward a mutual understanding and acceptance the world desperately needs.

Thanks to Elizabeth Masters at Headline for my review copy – a Bookbridgr request.


Read the book description above? Thinking ‘That sounds bonkers’? You are pretty much there. This is not in any way a book to take seriously (obviously), nor is it going to take you long to work your way through. But what you will get is an entertaining and (probably) unique comedy adventure.

David Duchovny treats us to some wonderful one-liners, comedy set pieces and some astute observations on modern day life – all seen through the eyes of a cow, pig and turkey.

The book is short and the review will need to be too – seek this out if you like your comedy to be zany, offbeat and downright bizarre. I can see this being an ideal book to give to a friend or loved one as a gift as it looks distinctive and fun. However, if you DID decide to gift this book, treat yourself and read it first!


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February 8

The Invisible Library – Genevieve Cogman

Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently…Invisible Library 2

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.


Thanks to Tor books for my Netgalley copy for review.

I don’t know if Genevieve Cogman has plans to revisit The Invisible Library but I hope that she does! I loved the mysterious world that she has given us a glance into, a Library which spans space and dimensions and can open into any world to allow Librarians to collect rare and powerful books.

Anyone who has ever coveted a book will instantly connect with the concept of The Library. If you could step through a door to get an ARC of the first Harry Potter book, or visit Shakespeare and have your copy of Taming of the Shrew signed how could you resist?

Genevieve Cogman introduces Irene, an operative for the Library who is tasked with recovering specific titles from various dimensions and realities for the higher powers within the Library. Irene is resourceful, feisty and thoroughly delightful to accompany on an adventure. We first meet her at the conclusion of a mission and we get a glimpse of her skills and abilities as she escapes capture when her attempts to retrieve a rare volume do not go as smoothly as planned.

At the conclusion of her mission Irene returns to the Library and we first get a taste of this mysterious world. All too soon, however, a new mission is set and Irene travels to a version of London which is quite unlike our own world. Cogman does a fabulous job of merging the reality as we know it yet blending in Faery magic, vampires and Werewolves and also sets a new political power making the dynamics of the city we know so well appear in a very unnatural context.

Adding to the fun of the story is Irene’s partnership with her mysterious trainee, Kai. We have a nemesis for Irene too in the form of rival operative Brandamant – the scenes where they meet were high points in the story for me and the ‘catty’ tension was splendidly scripted. In addition to the personal nemesis was enemy of the Library: Alberich. His presence in the world Irene is operating is an unwelcome shock and adds a new element of danger. Alberich’s name is infamous within the Library and there is even doubt he actually exists – such is the extent of his nefarious reputation.

This is a fantastic fantasy story, and offers so much potential for further expansion. More books would be very welcome and (as I noted previously) I sincerely hope that Genevieve Cogman is going to revisit this world.

So in brief – great fun, humorous, frequently unexpected and leaves me wanting more. Definitely one for the lover of fantasy novels but a very strong 4/5 from this reviewer.

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February 6

The Vault Blog Tour – Karen Long Q&A

Karen Long was born and raised in the English midlands, educated at Bangor University and taught English and Drama for fifteen years. During her teaching years she studied biology and neurology with the Open University and this interest in medicine, forensics and forensic psychology is reflected in her writing. She is an enthusiastic traveller and has spent time in Toronto, which became the backdrop and inspiration for (debut novel) The Safe Word.

She is a keen amateur naturalist with a deep and abiding love for the crow family. She has dedicated time, love and several fingers in an effort to rehabilitate crows, magpies, rooks and ravens.

Karen is happy to correspond with readers and can be contacted through her website _DSC7396KarenLongWriter.com, where she posts regular blogs.


Karen has very kindly agreed to round off her blog tour for The Vault by taking part in a small Q&A session.  Having read the above author biography there were a couple of things mentioned that piqued my curiosity. I would not normally open a post with a biography, however, some of my questions will make a bit more sense if you are armed with the same facts that I had!

With this in mind my opening gambit was to ask if Karen could bring us up to speed:


Eleanor Raven is introduced in The Safe Word. While I was able to read and enjoy The Vault without having read The Safe Word, there are clearly elements of the first story still impacting upon Eleanor at the start of The Vault.  Can you briefly set the scene?

The Safe Word is set six months earlier. When murder victims begin to appear in the city, presented as macabre artistic installations, it’s Eleanor Raven’s job to get inside the killer’s head and understand his motivations and message. This journey takes her into the dark heart of Toronto’s BDSM scene; a world she is no stranger to. It’s her need for dangerous sexual encounters that lead her to the killer’s studio, where she is to become his final masterpiece. Surviving this encounter has left her with physical and mental scars, which are affecting her relationships, self-control and ultimately her ability to do her job.


I enjoyed the squad-room scenes in The Vault and there seems a good team dynamic between Eleanor and her colleagues (though relations are strained in one area). Do you consider Eleanor to be a rebellious element within the squad or is she misunderstood, perhaps due to her intellect and her ability to think ‘outside the box’?

Eleanor is less a rebel and more of a maverick. She’s not out to overthrow, rather her thoughts and actions keep her on the periphery of the establishment. Her colleagues see her as being uniquely able to see the hidden connections and truths behind events but like Cassandra, she lacks the social skills that would allow her to convince those she needs to. Everyone is very supportive and respectful of her insight and methods but she is her own worst enemy, on so many levels. I think all truly good fictional detectives are pariahs of some flavour.


Raven is pitting her wits against an adversary she dubs The Collector and through the book we follow the progress of her investigation. The reader gets to know who The Collector is and we follow his story as he tries to juggle his crimes with his day-to-day routine.  Which did you have most fun writing – the investigation or the criminal activities? And which was easier to write?

Constructing a criminal mind and letting their actions weave a story plot is fabulous fun. The psychopaths I write about in my novels have very clear ideas on love, integrity and, in particular, family. What they lack, but don’t recognise or acknowledge, is the ability to empathise with any other living being, other than themselves. For me that is a truly terrifying concept and just playing around with those sort of thought process, can make you feel very uncomfortable. But writing characters that lack moral structure can only entertain on a very superficial level. What I really enjoy is how the behaviour of one individual shapes the mind of another. Eleanor constantly battles the damage wrought on her psyche by the destruction created by the killers she hunts. It is that investigation which is the most satisfying to write. Creating and analysing the uniqueness of a character’s mind that ultimately sheds light on one’s own.


As I carefully try to avoid plot spoilers…there are detailed discussions on the decomposition of a corpse and ways that this process could be slowed. Do you enlist specialist advice when writing about technical processes or do you fall back on personal research?

I saw Gunther von Hagan’s ‘Bodyworlds’ exhibition twice and was bowled over by the beauty and complexity of the human form. Part of the pleasure was reading as much as I could on how it was achieved. I have always been fascinated by decomposition and autopsy and had been following the work at Dundee University being championed by a collective of crime writers, particularly Val McDermid, on developing a new form of post-mortem preservation that keeps the body soft and retains natural colours. I had long conversations with Practitioners and although I have seen postmortems I was not granted permission to witness an embalming. So, I would say that all the science I write about is researched as thoroughly as I can, however I’m not writing a scientific paper and do have to blur the edges and take artistic licence sometimes.


I have asked this question in the past of other crime authors but everyone has a different opinion: Why do you think that we all seem to enjoy reading about serial killers?

It is one of the defining aspects of the conscious mind that we seek to understand the mind of another. Have you not said to a loved one, “What are you thinking?”, “Penny for them?” or you see the personality and empathy in a pet? We look for the similarities and fear the differences. A great white shark is more terrifying than an orca, both are apex predators, roughly the same weight but we feel less threatened by the orca (count the ratio of shark to orca documentaries on the Discovery channel). It looks back at us with an intelligence and complexity of purpose that we believe we can understand. It’s more like than unlike us. The unconscious mind is terrifying; simple motor responses that can’t be tempered or reversed by logic, emotion or negotiation leave us vulnerable and afraid. Those atavistic fears, tamped down by collective intelligence and analysis need an airing if we are to survive. What better way to practise than from the safety of your own living room, protected by hearth, locks and a telephone. When we confront the serial killer in the safety of our imaginations, we look into the shark’s mind. It is a lesson in survival that dares us to look into a mind devoid of reason.


You are a resident of Shropshire, yet your novels are set in Toronto. May we assume that you have enjoyed spending some time in Canada?

I did spend some but not enough, time in Toronto. I loved it! It’s liberal, eclectic and full of contradictions and because I was on a film set at the time I had the opportunity to visit some of the less touristy area. All of the specific ‘event’ locations in my novels have been visited and investigated, including the seedy nightclubs! I live on the periphery of a very small rural village, lacking either a shop or pub, I don’t think we have enough residents here to inspire a ‘Miss Marple’


Does a Canadian setting allow greater flexibility for story lines and plot devices than you would have with an English based character?

Absolutely! I have a tendency to get bogged down by the details both logistical and scientific. It’s very liberating to take a flavour of a place and then mould it to accommodate your storyline. I would spend most of my writing hours driving around, seeing if a scene were possible, if I set my novels here. My productivity is poor to abysmal at best, so I’m grateful to be using my memories and Google maps to get it written.


We have Eleanor Raven and your author biography makes frequent references to crows: how do crows and ravens come to play such a significant part of your life?

I am obsessed with corvids. They are smart, deliciously mean and bad tempered. I think my first encounter was as a child listening to ‘Arabel’s Raven’ read by Bernard Cribbins on Jackanory. So, when I had an opportunity to save one, I jumped at it and on it. Mortimer filled my house with cunning plots, malicious intent and bird shit and I loved it. Since then I’ve kept ravens, rooks, magpies and crows. For me they are ‘other’, I can understand their motivations to an extent but have no comprehension of what it’s like to ‘be’ them. Perhaps that’s how I see Eleanor, an otherness, like a person but ultimately a construct of my own imagination.


Are you currently working on the next outing for Eleanor Raven or have you plans to change focus?

I’m working on book three called, ‘The Cold Room’ and hope to have a five book series before trying something different.


When do you find time for writing? Are you a night owl or do you need to put aside time through the day?

Unfortunately, due to a love of reading and wine consumption I am very much a daytime writer. My youngest daughter is at school during the day, which means I can think, write and not have to jump to the dulcet sound of ‘Mom!’ every ten minutes.


If we were to sneak a peek at your bookshelves what could we expect to see?

Forensics, science, novels (mainly crime fiction and classics no sci fi), text books and I love photography collections.

To prove this Karen has also sent me pictures of her bookcases (they are distressingly clutter free).



My most sincere thanks to Karen Long for her time and assistance making this leg of her Blog Tour possible. I would also like to extend my thanks to @crimebookclub for the behind the scenes magic.

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February 6

The Vault – Karen Long

The Vault coverVAULT: A large room or chamber used for storage of valuables, especially an underground one…

In the unrelenting heat of the Toronto summer, a fire at a land-fill site uncovers the remains of a local prostitute. But the post-mortem reveals disturbing details –the body has been preserved and is not who or what it seems.

DI Eleanor Raven is back on duty six months after barely surviving being kidnapped and tortured by a depraved serial killer. Work is her sanctuary but she’s carrying deep scars – mental as well as physical. Where do you go when the place you feel safest is also the place where you are most at risk?
As Eleanor battles her own demons, it looks as though a killer in the city is making a gruesome human collection. And Eleanor’s fight to save the last victim of the Collector becomes a battle to save herself.


My thanks to Karen and @crimebookclub for my review copy


If you seek out crime novels which are described as ‘dark and disturbing’ then you are in for a treat with Karen Long’s The Vault. Even for a seasoned crime reader, such as myself, there are some decidedly uncomfortable elements to this story which make it stand out as a memorable read.

The Vault features a second outing for DI Eleanor Raven following her debut in Long’s previous novel The Safe Word. Raven is returning to work after a prolonged leave of absence – she had been recuperating from an horrific attack (as depicted in The Safe Word). Her return to duties are seemingly arriving earlier than she may be ready for and there are signs that Raven is not yet fit to resume her role.

Having not read The Safe Word before starting The Vault I wondered if I may have missed key plot points which may explain Raven’s ‘awkward’ return to duties, however, everything I needed to know was addressed in full so I did not feel disadvantaged by skipping book 1. Karen Long does a great job of teasing out the underlying issues surrounding Raven’s fragile state and we are left in no doubt that Eleanor Raven is a wonderfully complex character.

The Vault opens in the less than glamorous setting of a Toronto landfill site. A fire has ravaged an area of the city dump and firefighters uncover skeletal human remains, however, the remains they found are positioned in a very unnatural pose and there can be no question that this is the body of someone who dead before the fire started. Raven is called to the scene to investigate.

Soon we are crossing paths with prostitutes, undertakers, morticians and an extremely disturbed killer that Raven dubs the Collector. The driving motivation behind the Collector is….not nice (and redacted due to spoilers). However, what I very much enjoyed was that the story follows the Collector as well as the investigating team. As a reader we get to see both sides of the story and get an insight into how the criminal conducts himself when he is trying to get on with everyday life and, more alarmingly, how he may identify a potential victim.

I am sure that The Vault will be one that sticks with me for some time. The crimes are morbidly memorable, the central character is damaged and has a dangerous penchant for deviant sexual encounters and I found the book kept me hooked – which is all I want from my crime novels.

My benchmark for shocking crime has always been the works of Michael Slade. Slade has described many nasty and unpleasant deaths yet within his stories the murders are usually sudden and shocking. Karen Long may just have laid down a new standard: a whole novel that made me uncomfortable as I read. (By odd coincidence both Michael Slade and Karen long base their stories in Canada – I may revise my list of potential holiday destinations).

I found The Vault compelling reading. The central characters are well defined and (as I discovered in my Q&A with the author) they will return and be developed further. I liked that Long will take characters and concepts into unfamiliar places picking up on areas which may be considered taboo for some.

Although I missed Eleanor Raven’s debut in The Safe Word I will be rectifying this oversight in the very near future. I want to read more from this author and, specifically, I want to read another Eleanor Raven book. The Vault was sufficiently entertaining, memorable and creepy that I have to award it a review score of 5/5 – I didn’t want it to end.




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February 3

Beyond The Rage – Michael J Malone

Beyond The RageEven though he’s a successful criminal, Glasgow villain Kenny O’Neill is angry. Not only has his high-class escort girlfriend just been attacked, but his father is reaching out to him from the past despite abandoning Kenny as a child after his mother’s suicide. Kenny is now on a dual mission to hunt down his girl’s attacker and find out the truth about his father… but instead he unravels disturbing family secrets and finds that revenge is not always sweet.

An intelligent, violent thriller shot through with dark humour, Beyond the Rage enthralls and disturbs in equal measure. With an intricate plot, all-too-believable characters and perfectly pitched dialogue, this is a masterclass in psychological crime fiction writing.


Thanks to Michael for giving me the chance to read his book (and for signing it too).

Some books are hard work to grind through: they are too self-indulgent or have lots of random characters that bog down the plot. Then there are the books which I put down and cannot even recall the lead character’s name – bland and unremarkable. However, there are also the diamonds – the books that are a joy to read. These are slick, they are entertaining and have a captivating story. I am happy to report that Beyond The Rage falls very much into the latter category, I was swallowed up in a great story while a web of lies, deception and danger was spun around me.

Despite being a successful criminal and dangerous bad guy our protagonist, Kenny O’Neill, generally comes across as a nice guy. He is an engaging character and his dubious occupation is easily overlooked as we empathise with the situations he finds himself in. As the story begins we dip back into the past to learn about Kenny’s parents, we hear that his mother died when he was just 12 and (almost immediately afterwards) his father walked out to leave Kenny in the care of his aunt and uncle.

Jump forward to present day and Kenny is a successful player in the Glasgow criminal sub-culture. So when someone attacks his girlfriend Kenny takes it very personally and sets out to uncover who may be responsible and vows to make them pay. His investigations bring him into contact with gangsters, politicians, thugs, the police and a fair few prostitutes yet Kenny takes it all in his stride.

Meanwhile Kenny’s aunt has some news regarding his long-lost father. She has been holding onto a letter that arrived on Kenny’s 18th birthday, could it be possible that his father was still around? Kenny is not sure yet, despite all the time that has passed, he decides he wants to find out more about his absent parent. Ignoring warnings about raking up the past, Kenny enlists the help of his best friend Detective Inspector Ray McBain to learn more about his father. (McBain is the star of two of Malone’s previous books and it is great to see him making a couple of cameo appearances).

Beyond The Rage puts Kenny through emotional and physical turmoil. He finds himself pitted against the adversarial Mason Budge. Budge is responsible for attacking Kenny’s girlfriend and clearly he enjoyed the experience as he is stalking her keen to get the chance to repeat the experience. Budge is a constant threat to Kenny (even if Kenny is not always aware of it) yet we know that Budge is acting under orders and Malone deftly keeps the real reasons that Kenny is being targeted just out of our reach.

The finale provided a few unexpected shocks and, with hand on heart, I can confess I was totally wrong in most of my assumptions as to where the story was heading. Beyond The Rage is a brilliant read…the characters are well realised, expertly utilised and the story is gripping. I have no qualms over scoring it 5/5, it’s an absolute gem.


Beyond The Rage is available now from Saraband books. Follow Michael J Malone on Twitter @michaelJmalone1

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February 1

COMPETITION You can become a character in Karen Long’s next book


As part of this week’s blog tour for Karen Long’s fantastic thriller THE VAULT – Karen has given me the opportunity to select one lucky competition winner to have their name used as a character within her next book.

I am thrilled to be able to offer a very unique prize and will try to make competition entry as simple and fair as possible by running entries through Rafflecopter.  Follow the simple steps below and GOOD LUCK.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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