June 29

Evil Games – Angela Marsons

Evil GamesThe greater the evil, the more deadly the game …

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim soon finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time – it’s personal.


Thanks to Bookouture for my review copy which I received through Netgalley


After a strong debut appearance in last year’s Silent Scream DI Kim Stone returns in Evil Games and it is a well named book!

There is a lot going on for DI Stone, a successful operation which her team worked hard to pull off is now under jeopardy. A violent rapist is attacked yards from his home, despite his previous crimes Kim and her team need to ensure he receives their best efforts in finding his attacker.

As investigations proceed Kim finds herself coming into contact with a dangerous sociopath. Her own personal traumas still haunt Kim so facing an adversary who has the skill (and the inclination) to undermine a person’s weaknesses for entertainment places her in a vulnerable position.

Kim tries to explain to her colleagues that the sociopath (no spoilers) is not all that they may appear, however, her suspicions seem so unlikely that she struggles to convince anyone that there is substance to her suspicions. It seems that Kim’s own lack of social skills make her an unlikely candidate to identify issues in someone else’s behaviour.

Two books into a series and Angela Marsons has established a lead character that you will fully get behind. Readers cannot fail to engage with DI Stone and, despite her obvious character flaws, you know why she behaves the way she does and it just makes you root for her more.

Evil Games are just that – Kim is facing an ‘Iago-esk’ opponent who can manipulate the weak and vulnerable. These victims are turned into weapons by the sociopath and set off back to their tormented lives to lash out and harm others – just to see what they do. It is quite troubling reading at times but Angela Marsons handles it brilliantly – my sense of injustice was roused many times during Evil Games.

Evil Games is highly recommended. I grudged any time that I had to stop reading it and was disappointed when it ended – if that is not a sign of a good book then I am not sure what is!


Evil Games is published by Bookouture and is available now.

Angela Marsons is on Twitter: @WriteAngie


Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Evil Games – Angela Marsons
June 28

The 3rd Woman – Jonathan Freedland

The 3rd Woman Jacket imageJournalist Madison Webb is obsessed with exposing lies and corruption. But she never thought she would be investigating her own sister’s murder.


Madison refuses to accept the official line that Abigail’s death was an isolated crime. She uncovers evidence that suggests Abi was the third victim in a series of killings hushed up as part of a major conspiracy.


In a United States that now bows to the People’s Republic of China, corruption is rife – the government dictates what the ‘truth’ is. With her life on the line, Madison must give up her quest for justice, or face the consequences…


Day Three of The Third Woman blog tour and we are getting ever closer to publication on 2nd July.


Sometimes you can read a book and you know from quite early on that you are going to enjoy it. You get caught up in the story from the off: the lead character is engaging, the drama unfolding is gripping and in the background there is a (seemingly) unconnected plot which you KNOW will become very relevant. That was my experience with The Third Woman…hooked, drawn in and captivated.

There was a real sense of scale in reading The 3rd Woman, it reads like a Hollywood blockbuster movie. The lead character works for one of the biggest newspapers in America, the LA Times. There is an international tension building between the United States and the all-powerful People’s Republic of China (who now maintain a presence on US soil). Also, the apparent suicide of a school teacher is catching the attention of the mayor of California, why is he feeding false information to the press about the dead girl?

Well the dead girl in question is the ‘baby’ sister of investigative journalist Maddison Webb. Maddison is not satisfied with the official explanation of suicide and seeks answers to help her deal with her grief. It should probably come as no surprise to learn that suicide is quickly ruled out and our story becomes a personal mission to track down a murderer.

There are different threads to The 3rd Woman which all interweave in a delightfully twisty way. Maddison’s investigations cross with the local election campaign that the mayor is contesting. Maddy uses her position at The LA Times to expose her suspicions but this leads to conflicts at the paper and when she starts to rely on her contacts within the police we see how the Authorities try to shut down her renegade investigations. The ominous presence hanging over the whole story is that of the Chinese. In The 3rd Woman the Chinese are very clearly the enemy of the American people who resent their presence on their territory.

Photo by Philippa Gedge
Photo by Philippa Gedge

Jonathan Freedland has created a believable environment in which to base this story. Maddison uses Social Media outlet ‘Weibo’ to communicate with her followers. The Americans have a tense diplomatic relationship with the People’s Republic of China who now seem to carry more authority/influence in California than the mayor. It adds a delightful political undercurrent to all the conflicts and actions of the press and politicians.

I am quite certain that The 3rd Woman is going to be big. It is a powerful story, well told and has a brilliant roller-coaster of thrills and twists. Definitely a book to look out for this summer – perfect airport pickup!




The 3rd Woman is published by Harper Collins on 2 July 2015. You can pre-order the book here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-3rd-Woman-Jonathan-Freedland/dp/0007413688/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1435242557&sr=8-1


Jonathan Freedland is on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Freedland

Follow the Tour join in on Twitter through #The3rdWoman


Category: Blog Tours | Comments Off on The 3rd Woman – Jonathan Freedland
June 26

Snow Blind (Dark Iceland) – Ragnar Jonasson

Snow BlindSiglufjorour: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel.

Ari Thor Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind.

When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by snow, and with a killer on the loose. Taut and terrifying, Snow Blind is a startling debut from an extraordinary new talent, taking Nordic Noir to soaring new heights.


My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy.

Snow Blind – a masterclass in scene setting and subtle tension building. Siglufjorour is brilliantly depicted, the town and its inhabitants are vividly recreated by Ragnar Jonasson and the hero, Ari Thor, is a likeable yet vulnerable lead character.

Nothing happens in sleepy Siglufjorour yet Ari Thor decides the opportunity to develop his career in this remote coastal town is too good an opportunity to pass up. He leaves his life (and girlfriend) in Reykjavik and we follow his attempts to adjust to the slower pace of life in Siglufjorour – any resident of a small town will be able to relate to Ari Thor’s new environment.

The good news for the reader is that the tranquility is soon to be shattered – a death in the community and before long secrets are unearthed. Suspicion shifts around the town and Ari Thor soon learns that his tranquil new home is not the idyllic haven he initially believed.

Investigations commence and soon Ari Thor finds that being an outsider in a small community will put him at a distinct disadvantage. Friends close ranks and his ‘big city’ approach is not going to work amongst neighbours who have lived in each other’s pockets all their life. Ari Thor does have an ally in the form of his piano teacher – a young woman who also sought out the solitude of Siglufjorour -but what secrets has she left behind from her past life?

I really enjoyed Snow Blind. The story unfolds at a pace consistent with life in Siglufjorour – there is plenty going on but you know there is no rush to the end. You are confident that everything will come good and all will become clear. Why hurry through when the journey is so pleasant?

Where Agatha Christie created a murder mystery with a small suspect pool on a fast moving train or within a large country house, Ragnar Jonasson creates the same feel in a whole town. I hope to have the chance to read more of Ari Thor in future. Snow Blind is a welcome and fresh addition to our book shelves.


Snow Blind is published by Orenda Books and is available now in both paperback and digital formats.

Ragnar Jonasson is on Twitter: @ragnarjo

And at ragnarjonasson.com

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Snow Blind (Dark Iceland) – Ragnar Jonasson
June 20

Devil’s Knock – Douglas Skelton Q&A

Today I am delighted to be able to welcome the Douglas Skelton to the blog. Douglas  has just released the third novel in the Davie McCall series, Devil’s Knock, and I was keen to discuss what we could expect from Davie this time around.


Devils Knock cover-1 case filesWhat I would like to discuss is the new book, Devil’s Knock. However, before we get there, would you like to set the scene and tell me about Davie McCall?

It’s the third in the series – the others being Blood City and Crow Bait – all set in Glasgow in the twenty years leading up to the new millennium. Davie’s a hard man with a heart but only a very few of his closest friends – and the readers – know that. To everyone else he’s a thug, a piece of muscle, working for his old pal Rab McClymont but underneath that there’s a haunted man who really doesn’t want to do what he’s doing but is trapped by the fact that he’s really quite good at it!


And how do events in Blood City and Crow Bait lead us to Devil’s Knock?

It’s now 1995 and Davie’s been scarred both physically and mentally by the events from the first two books. The Glasgow underworld has changed, become more vicious, thanks to drugs. Davie himself is colder, harder to reach. Big Rab is even more powerful but still open to being challenged by other factions, in this case the Jarvis Clan.

And to Devil’s Knock its-self – without asking for spoilers, what can we look out for in the new book?

The street war that the police have feared would come finally erupts. Davie’s caught in the middle. He’s colder but he still adheres to his code – don’t hurt women, children or animals, don’t involve civilians. He refuses to kill, still won’t use firearms. That makes him a target. He’s also helping an old pal whose grandson has been implicated in the bloody murder which kicks the whole thing off.

Does it become easier to write for characters by the third book in a series?

Davie’s always hard to write. I like writing dialogue but he’s so taciturn, everything with him is internal. As for the others, I don’t think it should ever become easy. In a series like this they have to change. They’re ageing in real-time, bad things are happening to them, so they must change. There are certain constants, of course, but I think you should always be looking to make your characters grow in some way. Not always for the better, though!

Davie seems to hold dear his personal moral code, despite moving in some nasty circles – is this fun to plot for him? I am almost envisaging you saying “right today he is going to encounter someone who has been beating his wife” then set Davie off on a course of retribution.

I’m dealing with a morally suspect world but I wanted to have my anti-hero as someone who has his own strict moral code, as I mentioned earlier. He may be a criminal and a violent man but I wanted the reader to root for him. These are not documentary accounts of Glasgow criminal life, they are thrillers, and you need characters the audience care about, if not wholly admire.

When looking through your previous publications I notice several volumes of true crime books. What prompted the switch to fiction?

I always wanted to write fiction – and some police officers say I’ve been doing it for some time. I’m also drawn to the dark side of life even though I’m of a naturally sunny disposition. That sound you hear are the people who know me guffawing. I’d done 11 true crime and Scottish criminal history books and by the time I reached Glasgow’s Black Heart, a history of the city’s crime, I felt I’d done everything I wanted to do. There are a couple of historical true crime cases I’d like to write about sometime, though. The true crime tag has never left me – I’ve been doing some short features for STV Glasgow on some older cases.


indian_peter-2When writing the true crime how did you choose your subject matter?

The first one I did was a casebook of fairly well-known Scottish murders but the next one landed in my lap. It was an investigation of a huge miscarriage of justice which eventually took up over ten years of my life. The others were either suggested by publishers or something I really wanted to tell, like Indian Peter, which I thought was a fascinating tale of true life adventure mixed with crime. As for the individual cases, there had to be a story to tell, something perhaps unusual or of legal or forensic interest.


While researching material for the true crime books did you uncover any incidents which have made the leap into the fiction titles?

Naturally what I’ve learned in my researches and the years I spent investigating cases for Glasgow solicitors have informed what I’m writing now but I don’t purposely use actual incidents in the fiction, although in Devil’s Knock there is one scene in a supermarket car park. However, that was born out of a character flourish rather than based on any real-life incident and apart from sharing a similar location it bears no similarity to actual events. None of the characters are based on real-life figures.

As a fiction reader I can tell myself that some of the ‘darker’ books I read are ‘just a story’ and that none of what I am reading actually happened. However, if you are researching true crime collections is it hard to accept that the horrors you are uncovering about DID occur and that the individuals concerned really did meet with a grim fate?

It can be fairly gruelling. While writing the first one, Blood on the Thistle, I did end up having nightmares. However, I was researching and writing much of that in a very tight timeframe. However, you have to retain a certain amount of journalistic detachment. Having said that, I stopped writing about more modern crimes because I didn’t want to upset relatives of the victims or the accused. That was when I turned to historical crimes.

I turn now to my recurring question which I ask most of my guests on the blog: why do the readers of crime fiction love a serial killer story?

I don’t do serial killers in fiction, although there was a hint in Crow Bait, but as to why they’re popular, I think it’s the bogey-man syndrome. We love to be scared and serial killers in fiction generally have that feeling of other wordliness that terrifies us so much. In classic crime fiction – the tea and scones school – the murderer is usually someone the victim knows. It’s safe in a way. But serial killer fiction taps into the stranger danger that we’re taught about from a young age. It’s the shadow in the dark, the face at the window, the footstep in the night.

On your Website you are promoting an upcoming event in Edinburgh: Assault n Battery vs Assault n Sauce – it is hailed as a rematch but what is it? For the record I will be Team Battery as I hail from the West!

It’s a panel of East Coast writers facing West Coasters in a fun game hosted by Craig Robertson. We did it last year in Glasgow and naturally the best coast won. Now the team from the East have the chance to restore their tattered honour! Seriously, it’s just a laugh. Craig makes the scoring up as he goes along and it’s mostly an excuse for us to slag each other off. Good to hear you’ll be supporting Team Battery, though. I think we’ll need it as we’re on foreign soil.

I had my first taste of a book festival last year when I got to visit Bloody Scotland. I see your name on the schedule this year, what are you showcasing and what other writers are you hoping to see (assuming you will have the opportunity)?

I’m on this year with Caro Ramsay and Michael J. Malone and it promises to be a lot of fun. Michael’s Beyond the Rage has a protagonist that is on the wrong side of the law, while most of my characters are crooks. Caro will be there to bring some semblance of law, if not order. I’ll see as many other authors as I can. I’ll catch Neil Broadfoot and Craig Robertson in whatever they’re doing. I may even watch the England v Scotland football match, although I’m not a fan of the game. The event on the Friday called Who’s Crime Is It Anyway? looks like an absolute belter.web

 What do you enjoy reading? If you were to take a picture of your bookcases which genre or authors would feature most frequently?

I’m afraid I’ve got to be predictable and say crime fiction. I’ve read it since I was a teenager. I’ve also got some true crime in there and some non-fiction. I’m a big fan of American authors – Lehane, Crais, Pelecanos – and I’m heavily influenced by Ed McBain. But there’s Agatha Christie in there, too, as well as Edmund Crispin, my favourite of the ‘traditional’ school. And John Mortimer – you can’t beat Rumpole.


Devil’s Knock is published by Luath Press and is available in paperback and digital format. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Devils-Knock-Mccall-Douglas-Skelton/dp/1910021814/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1434756916&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=devilsknock

Douglas is on Twitter : @DouglasSkelton1

And is online at http://www.douglasskelton.com



Category: Blog Tours | Comments Off on Devil’s Knock – Douglas Skelton Q&A
June 16

Hotel Arcadia – Sunny Singh

Hotel Arcadia 2Sam is a war photographer famous for her hauntingly beautiful pictures of the dead. After a particularly gruelling assignment, she checks into an expensive hotel. Unfortunately she has chosen the exact moment terrorists attack the hotel.

Abhi, the hotel manager, begs her to stay quiet and stay put. Abhi has never wanted to be a hero; a disappointment to his army father and brother. He thought he’d come to a safe haven at the hotel, a place where he could be himself. Now stuck inside the sealed-off manager’s office in the middle of a terrorist attack, he is desperately trying to keep those still alive safe. His lover Dieter is amongst the hostages in the bar and the photographer Sam, refusing to stay in her room, is roaming through the hotel taking pictures, potentially coming face to face with the terrorists at any moment.


My thanks to Sunny for a review copy of her beautiful book.

Hotel Arcadia is a tense read. From the outset the two key players, Sam and Abhi are in constant danger of being discovered and killed by the terrorists that have taken over the luxury Hotel Arcadia.

We read of guests gunned down in cold blood and explosives being rigged around the hotel to prevent the security forces storming the building. The guests that were fortunate to escape the initial attack have locked themselves in their rooms hiding from the terrorists that roam the corridors leaving carnage in their wake.

Sam is a war photographer who has experienced the worst of humanity, capturing images of the victims of atrocities around the world. She is relaxing at Hotel Arcadia when the attack hits. Using the skills learned in combat zones Sam will leave the confines of her room to capture the images of death within the luxurious slaughterhouse.

Abhi is a hotel employee. He has access to the security cameras within the hotel and can contact any of the guests hidden in the rooms to provide reassurance and keep them informed of the ongoing danger. Abhi can also communicate with the security forces assembling outside the hotel and keep them appraised of the makeshift defences the gunmen are building (and update them with news of further deaths).

Sam and Abhi are in contact with each other and Abhi can give Sam some guidance as to when it may be safe to leave her room, where the gunmen are within the building and also guide her towards food. However, Abhi also wants a favour from Sam and it is one which will cut him to the core to ask for.

This is an outstanding read, the juxtaposition of war zone and luxury hotel creates such powerful images. I loved the tension that Sunny Singh generated each time Sam left the safety of her room it had me frantically flicking the pages urging her to get her back to safety.

A gripping, thoughtful read and one that will remain long in my memory.


Hotel Arcadia is published by Quartet Books and is available now in Hardback and digital format

Sunny Singh is on Twitter: @sunnysingh_nw3

And online at http://www.sunnysingh.net/

Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Hotel Arcadia – Sunny Singh
June 13

The Major Crimes Team: Lines of Enquiry – Graham Smith

Lines of EnquiryThe Cumbria Major Crimes team is under immense pressure to get results. DCI Harry Evans and his subordinates, DS Neil Chisholm, DC Lauren Phillips and DC Amir Bhaki must juggle cases while tragedy stalks them. Up in Glasgow, DI John Campbell is preparing to replace Evans, whose renegade ways have brought enforced retirement.
Together they must investigate a man killed in his own home, a vigilante group chasing a suspected paedophile, a river dammed for no obvious reason and a woman whose cries of ‘wolf’ turn to ‘rape’. Meanwhile DC Phillips goes undercover off the books.


Thanks to Caffeine Nights for my review copy


Lines of Enquiry will not be the longest book I read this year, at 108 pages I managed to read it in two train journeys. This is not a criticism but if you were picking up a copy online you should probably be aware that this is a small (but perfectly formed) treat.

Lines of Enquiry introduced me to DCI Harry Evans and the Cumbria Major Crimes Team. Through 5 short stories (though there is a thread running through the whole book) the focus shifts between different personnel and a different crime/incident is covered. Although I not normally a fan of short stories, Graham Smith held my attention throughout and I felt I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen to Harry.

As an introduction to the various characters this was a fun read and I would be keen to read more as I liked the author’s pacing and style. One story in particular, Dealing With Drugs, was unexpected in the direction it began but it is nice to see something differing from the norm – too cryptic?

Graham Smith gets added to my TBR pile as I want to see what else is to come. One to watch out for as, based upon Lines of Enquiry, there are some interesting times ahead.


You can get a copy of Lines of Enquiry through the Caffeine Nights website: http://www.caffeinenightsbooks.com/store/p159/The_Major_Crimes_Team_Volume_1_-_Lines_Of_Enquiry.html




Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on The Major Crimes Team: Lines of Enquiry – Graham Smith
June 12

Hunted – Paul Finch

hunted2Heck needs to watch his back. Because someone’s watching him…

Across the south of England, a series of bizarre but fatal accidents are taking place. So when a local businessman survives a near-drowning but is found burnt alive in his car just weeks later, DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is brought in to investigate.

Soon it appears that other recent deaths might be linked: two thieves that were bitten to death by poisonous spiders, and a driver impaled through the chest with scaffolding.

Accidents do happen but as the body count rises it’s clear that something far more sinister is at play, and it’s coming for Heck too…


Thanks to Avon for my review copy which I received through Netgalley


If you follow me on Twitter (@grabthisbook) then you may have noticed me counting down the days to the release of the latest Paul Finch novel Hunted, the fifth book in the fantastic Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg series. There are lots of books I am looking forward to reading, there are few I will countdown to release. The Heckenburg novels are standout reads for me and each new release is highly anticipated – Paul Finch never fails to deliver the excitement and enjoyment I seek.

In Hunted we see Heck return to fold of the Serial Crimes Unit after his brief posting to the North (as depicted in his last full outing Dead Man Walking). A series of rather bizarre deaths across the south of England has captured Heck’s attention. The roving remit of the SCU gives him scope to relocate into a new environment to investigate further. The presence of an outsider does not sit well with the investigating officers and soon Heck finds that he is having to gain the trust of his temporary colleagues while also needing to rely upon their support to progress his investigations.

Heck tries to convince his cynical colleagues there are dark forces at work and that the seemingly unfortunate deaths he is investigating are more than just odd accidents. Meanwhile the reader is fully aware that Heck’s suspicions are right. We have had the opportunity to view the deaths from the viewpoint of the victims and we know that there are two killers at large, working as a team, and that their methods are somewhat unorthodox.

My ‘No Spoilers’ rule is fully in force here. Suffice to say that Paul Finch continues to deliver some of the most gruesome and inventive death scenes in British crime fiction. I love the warped ideas he comes up with and shudder to think what may follow.

I cannot say enough good things about Hunted. I waited patiently on it being released and I devoured it as soon as I possibly could – then immediately started to pine for the next book. If you have missed out on the Mark Heckenburg novels you have missed a real treat. Hunted is creepy, thrilling fun and I score it 5/5. This is what I read books for.


Hunted is available now in paperback and digital formats.

Paul Finch is on Twitter as: @paulfinchauthor
He also has a busy corner of the internet at : http://www.paulfinch-writer.blogspot.co.uk/



Category: 5* Reviews, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Hunted – Paul Finch
June 7

Interview With Aly Sidgwick – Lullaby Girl

lullabygirl blog tour

Today I am delighted to welcome Aly Sidgwick to the blog.  Aly has kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions about her debut novel Lullaby Girl:

To open, I believe that I have to ask the most obvious question: what prompted the idea of a story about a girl with amnesia?

There were two main inspirations for the book. One was my long standing fascination with people on the edge of sanity- specifically people who’ve lost their sense of self- and the second was my own history of anxiety. The fragility of the human soul fascinates me, as does that ‘no man’s land’ people enter after they’re pushed beyond their limits. The rule book goes out of the window, then, and people can make wild decisions. Kent’s ‘Piano Man’ had gone through that process, and so had the Japanese girl whose desperate pilgrimage to Fargo ended in her death by hypothermia. Their stories moved me, because I’ve always been afraid of tipping over that ‘edge’ myself. When I started writing LG I was in recovery from a nervous breakdown, and was still heavily medicated. In a way the book was my attempt to make sense of what had happened to me. I wanted to create a fragile character, who’d reverted to a simple state in order to survive.


In Katherine’s sanctuary while she recovers there are two central carers. Rhona (who struck me as a Guardian Angel) while Joyce was the Nurse Ratched figure. Was Joyce a bully or was she worn down and frustrated by Katherine’s behaviour during her ‘recovery’.

I’m so glad you picked up on the Nurse Ratched similarity! With Joyce, it wasn’t so much about her being a bully… Rather, I wanted her to be vain, brusque and impatient, in a way that jarred with Kathy’s frame of mind. She’s the sort of carer who follows a script without any real empathy with the patient. However, I did want to leave it quite open… Joyce isn’t just being unkind for the sake of unkindness. She’s short tempered, so Katherine’s difficult behaviour pushes her buttons.

As a supplemental to this – does a story benefit from the presence of a bully to get readers on the side of the central character?

Every story’s got to have an antagonist, hasn’t it? I liked creating a character who’d cause tension, but it wasn’t a direct attempt to gain the reader’s sympathy for Kathy. The tension between them was my only goal.


Lullaby Girl covers a fair bit of mileage as the story unfolds. Are many of the locations in the story places you have visited (and are perhaps special to you)? Or does the remoteness of Scotland’s Highlands just provide a convenient hideaway for Katherine?

The places in the story are based on places I’ve lived, but taken to the extreme. For instance, I actually did live in a little wooden house on a hill in the country near Oslo, and I did have a boyfriend who lived in Trondheim. I spent a lot of time in Trondheim and Oslo, so my own observations of those places made it into the book. But the northern town in LG is fictional, as are the people and story. I’ve also spent a lot of time in the north-western Scottish highlands, so that landscape is very dear to me. I’m drawn to the wilderness and to isolated, northern communities, both here and in Scandinavia, so I wanted to describe the places I love. But those landscapes also produce a certain mentality- gentle yet fierce, deep thinking, resourceful and just a wee bit dark. Those landscapes and those people create a good backdrop for a story, and it felt right to place a fragile character in such a barren, wild landscape.


Within the story there are numerous therapies and treatments described for Katherine – are these recounted with a degree of artistic licence or have you had to research how an amnesiac would be taken through a ‘recovery’ program?

Artistic Licence! Some of the treatment is based on my own experience, some is based on a close friend’s, who has stayed in an institution. The rest is how I imagined it would be. I also made space for the fact that Gille Dubh is not set in a metropolis! In the highlands, certain services are altered to accommodate the isolated setting. For example, some remote schools have less than twenty pupils, of all ages, and their lesson structure is rescheduled to accommodate this. I wanted to create the feeling that Gille Dubh is separated from the rest of the world, and kind of makes up its own rules.


lullaby girl coverAs I read Lullaby Girl I was telling friends (and Tweeting) how much I was enjoying the story but also that it was traumatic! I engaged with the plight of the Lullaby Girl and was often upset with how she was dealt blow after blow – was it hard to create a heroine then wake up each day with the aim of destroying her world around her?

I didn’t really think of it that way! Yeah, Katherine has a hard time! Her history was originally slightly lighter, but with the rewrites it became worse and worse. I lost myself in the planning really, so I became slightly detached. I wanted to create an event that was bad enough to send her into meltdown. It became like a mathematical equation!


You have set some of the more shocking scenes in Norway and Katherine encountered several very nasty people there – do you think you may now need to write a second book that portrays Norway in a more positive light? I am worried that you may be taken off the Norwegian Tourist Board’s Christmas Card List!

Haha! I think you’ll find nasty people no matter where you go in the world. I adore Norway and the Norwegian people… Kathy does have her little love affair with the place initially. I ended up using its ‘foreign-ness’ as a weapon against her. Her promised land ended up isolating her instead of nurturing her. I think a lot of people feel like an outsider when they emigrate, especially when there’s a change of language. Kathy’s situation was made worse by her isolation.


Sorry…back to the more serious questions: can you share your road to publication with us? Your profile on Amazon suggests you started writing in secret, at what point did you feel you had to share your work?

I’d been writing for about a year before I told anyone what I was doing. In the beginning it felt really special, and I didn’t want to detract from the ‘magic’ by blathering too soon. Then I truly had the bug, and knew I couldn’t stop writing. Telling people made it more real. It was a relief to finally explain what I was doing with all my spare time!


I believe that you have worked for some time as a tattoo artist? Over the years are there any stand-out designs or ideas that people have requested?  

Yes, I’ve been doing it for quite a while. There are certain ‘trends’ in tattooing that come and go. When I started out, tribal was all the rage. Now it’s gone full circle, and is considered ‘retro.’ I’m a custom artist, which means most of the designs are my own, and people come to me for my particular style. I do a lot of patternwork, plants and animals.


I would also love to know what the oddest tattoo you have provided was?

My pal Danne asked me for a skeletal Abraham Lincoln in a flaming wheelchair with a tommygun. That was pretty much the oddest one I’ve done.


If you were to describe what books are on your bookshelves what would you single out? Which authors or what types of book feature most prominently?

There’s a big old chunk of Haruki Murakami and Neil Gaiman, some vintage sci fi, some Crimethinc, Jon Ronson, Alasdair Gray, China Mieville, Mary Doria Russell, David Mitchell… The rest is a real mix. My absolute favourite writer is Shirley Jackson, and two books I’ve loved recently are ‘Dark Matter’ by Michelle Paver and ‘The Humans’ by Matt Haig. I also have some Norwegian books and comics.


Are you able to share if you are working on a new title?

Yes, I’m currently working on a new project. It’s too early to talk about really, but the story is set in the highlands, and part of it is set in the 1960s.


Aly, many thanks for your time. I absolutely adored Lullaby Girl and I hope many more people get to discover Katherine’s story.

Thank you! It’s been fun!


Lullaby Girl is published by Black & White Publishing and is available now in both paperback and digital format.

Aly Sidgwick is on Twitter: @Menacegrrl




Category: Blog Tours, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Interview With Aly Sidgwick – Lullaby Girl
June 7

Lullaby Girl – Aly Sidgwick

lullaby girl coverWho is the Lullaby Girl?

Found washed up on the banks of a remote loch, a mysterious girl is taken into the care of a psychiatric home in the Highlands of Scotland. Mute and covered in bruises, she has no memory of who she is or how she got there. The only clue to her identity is the Danish lullaby she sings…

Inside the care home, she should be safe. But, harassed by the media and treated as a nuisance by under-pressure staff, she finds the home is far from a haven. And as her memories slowly surface, the Lullaby Girl does her best to submerge them again. Some things are too terrible to remember… but unless she confronts her fear, how can she find out who she really is?

Taut, tense and mesmerizing, Lullaby Girl is a shining debut from an exciting and very talented new author.


Thanks to Black and White Publishing for my review copy and for the chance to join the Lullaby Girl Blog Tour. I had the pleasure of interviewing Aly Sigwick about her debut novel, you can read our conversation here: Q&A.


Lullaby Girl was a traumatic read. Aly Sigwick puts her heroine, Kathy, through the wringer and despite the fact the book should be about Kathy’s recovery from a life changing episode it is far from a smooth ride.

Kathy is found on a beach, she was on the brink of death yet is discovered just in time and ultimately finds herself in secluded convalescence home Gille Dubh in the remote Scottish Highlands. Kathy has amnesia, she cannot recall her name, her family or how she came to be washed up on a beach, however, in her dreams is the memory of a dark figure who Kathy knows she is terrified of and she is adamant that this figure must not find her.

When she is first brought to Gille Dubh Kathy will not speak but she does sing a mysterious song which is soon identified as a Scandinavian lullaby. The media are very interested in this mysterious girl and desperate for information they latch onto any morsels of gossip they can glean and, when word of Kathy’s singing leaks, the Press dub her the Lullaby Girl.

As Kathy begins the long road towards recovery we share her journey. She struggles to accept that the staff at Gille Dubh are working in her best interest. Kathy places her absolute trust in Rhona, one of the carers, and mistrusts almost everyone else. Unfortunately for Kathy, Rhona is facing issues in her personal life and she cannot devote the full time care to Kathy which both women would benefit from. This leaves Kathy also having to rely upon Rhona’s colleague Joyce. To say that Kathy and Joyce do not get on is something of an understatement and as a reader I was physically wincing at some of the scenes where the two clashed.

I am reluctant to discuss the story in too much detail as I am going to urge you to read Kathy’s story for yourself.

I loved Lullaby Girl as it evoked so many different responses and emotions as I read it. I feared for Kathy, anguished for her situation and then got frustrated with her when she fought those looking to help her – and that could all happen in just a single chapter. An intense and memorable book which I have to score 5/5. You have to read this – it is stunning.

Lullaby Girl is published by Black and White Publishing.  It is available now in digital format and in paperback.

Aly Sidgwick is on Twitter as: @Menacegrrl



Category: 5* Reviews, Blog Tours | Comments Off on Lullaby Girl – Aly Sidgwick
June 3

We Shall Inherit The Wind – Gunner Staalesen

We Shall Inherit the Wind BF AW.indd1998.  Varg Veum sits by the hospital bedside of his long-term girlfriend Karin, whose life-threatening injuries provide a deeply painful reminder of the mistakes he’s made. Investigating the seemingly innocent disappearance of a wind-farm inspector, Varg Veum is thrust into one of the most challenging cases of his career, riddled with conflicts, environmental terrorism, religious fanaticism, unsolved mysteries and dubious business ethics. Then, in one of the most heart-stopping scenes in crime fiction, the first body appears…

A chilling, timeless story of love, revenge and desire, We Shall Inherit the Wind deftly weaves contemporary issues with a stunning plot that will leave you gripped to the final page. This is Staalesen at his most thrilling, thought-provoking best.


I am delighted to have the opportunity to host the latest leg of the blog tour for the astonishing We Shall Inherit The Wind by Gunnar Staalesen. My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy.

Varg Veum is a long established and much loved character yet this was my first introduction to him. I would very much like the opportunity to read more of Staalesen’s books (and Veum will return in two more books from Orenda in 2016 and 2017). As a ‘jumping on point’ I can assure other new readers that the author provides more than enough background to allow you to pick up and enjoy We Shall Inherit The Earth without the need to have read previous tales.

Not just my introduction to Varg Veum but my first introduction to Nordic crime fiction: I was more than pleasantly surprised. We Shall Inherit The Wind is a gripping read, a story which is driven by the strength of the characters and the lies they will tell to protect their secrets.

Veum is a private investigator. He has been engaged to trace a missing man, Mons Mæland, who has vanished just as an important discussion on a proposed wind-farm was due to take place. Mæland owns land upon which the wind-farm may be built and his contribution to the development is vital. This is the late 1990’s and harnessing the environmental energies is a developing and controversial area. While there is potential for significant money to be made there are objections to the proposed development and rival factions are soon introduced to the story.

Veum is searching for Mæland on behalf of Mæland’s second wife. Over 20 years previously Mæland’s first wife, Lea, disappeared and was declared dead after she failed to return from her morning trip to the shore. Lea’s children do not appear to have accepted Mæland’s choice of a second wife and they seem reluctant to assist Veum’s investigations, seemingly believing their father will soon return. Veum finds his enquiries stonewalled at every turn and I began to feel some frustration on his behalf, however events were soon to take a sudden and dramatic twist.

Mæland has been murdered, his body left posed in a way that suggests that extreme religious fervour may be involved. Veum’s missing person investigation is now a murder enquiry and the stakes are significantly raised.

The discovery of Mæland’s body brings to question the lengths that individuals and corporations may go to when chasing financial gain. We are given to consider the justification of environmental terrorism and personal sacrifice to save a landscape and a way of life.

Gunnar photoVeum is a dogged investigator in pursuit of the truth and from the outset of the novel we know that his actions have consequences that will fall far too close to home. As he slowly unpicks the conflicting stories and unravels historic relationships, the reader is aware that his actions will result in the hospitalisation of Veum’s fiancée Karin. As much of We Shall Inherit The Wind is focused on Veum and Karin’s relationship it is a particularly bitter twist knowing that an innocent party will be caught up in the events we are reading about. By the time you reach the endgame you find yourself willing Veum to walk away…but if he had then we would have been robbed of a memorable finale!

We Shall Inherit The Wind is a story that needs to be read. Huge plaudits are due to Don Bartlett who translated the original novel from Norwegian and captured the beauty of Staalsen’s prose. Reading Inherit was a joy and (as my Norwegian is not too hot) I thank Don Bartlett for making it possible for me to enjoy this book.

If you have never read Nordic crime, or any translated fiction, then there are few better places to start.




Category: Blog Tours, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on We Shall Inherit The Wind – Gunner Staalesen