July 28

Blue Wicked – Alan Jones

Blue wicked 2Blue Wicked is Alan Jones’ second gritty Glasgow crime novel. The tortured corpses of young alcoholics and drug addicts are turning up in Glasgow and only unlikely investigator Eddie Henderson seems to know why. When he tries to tell the police, his information is ridiculed and he’s told to stop wasting their time. One officer, junior detective Catherine Douglas, believes him, and together they set out to discover why the dregs of Glasgow’s underbelly are being found, dead and mutilated.


My thanks to Alan for providing a review copy of Blue Wicked.


Blue Wicked is dark. It is graphic and it is a brilliant read.

The lead character, Eddie Henderson, is a vet – he is a bit awkward, very career focussed and on hand at the opening of the book as the corpse is discovered. The initial description of violence was graphic and it sets out the expectation for what is to follow.

Eddie is convinced he has found a link between a series of animal attacks and wants to raise his concerns with the police. Sadly for Eddie attacks on animals are not high on the list of priorities for his local police force. He is assigned to work alongside Catherine Douglas (a young detective) who notes his concerns and warms to Eddie’s passion to protect animals but with no solid leads to follow it does not appear that the police can be of much assistance. Frustrated with their lack of support Eddie’s frustration seems to be getting the better of him.

In Glasgow’s quieter areas someone is isolating drug users and feeding them Blue Wicked – a lethal concoction which will render them unconscious and vulnerable to attack. In their weakened state the debilitated users are tortured and put to a prolonged and painful death.

Eddie hears of the deaths and believes he sees a link between the animal attacks and the murders but can he make the police take him seriously.

Blue Wicked can be quite nasty reading in places – there are some not very nice people in this book and it made for compulsive reading. Alan Jones built up the mystery and kept me guessing as to how matters may resolve themselves. The dual narrative of the killer and the police investigation was well executed and the endgame played out brilliantly, an exhilarating race against time with a couple of unexpected twists.

At the back of the book was a glossary of Glaswegian slang – lovely touch as there is a lot of Glasgow’s colourful language in Blue Wicked.

I would urge all readers that enjoy gritty crime fiction to treat themselves to Blue Wicked – one of the best I have read for quite some time.


Blue Wicked is available in paperback from Ailsa Publishing and is also available in digital format.




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July 24

Guest Post: Neil White – The Domino Killer

25643638Today I am delighted to welcome Neil White to the blog. Neil’s new thriller, The Domino Killer, is released on 30th July and my review appears below.  

Regular visitors to the blog may know that I like to ask my guests to discuss why they feel readers like stories about serial killers.  Today I ask Neil White to step into the spotlight and share his thoughts on our serial killer fascination.


Over to Neil: Why are readers attracted to serial killers?

The answer is wider than that, because the question is really why are people attracted to serial killers. TV viewers devour factual shows that highlight the trail left behind by some maniac. Newspapers sell copies when a new mystery arises. The water cooler debates swell when there’s a new psychopath in town.

People are attracted to serial killers, so when readers turn to a book, it is no surprise that serial killer novels feature highly.

So why the attraction?

People are attracted to death. It’s why people peer over the edge of a cliff, even though they are scared of falling. They edge forward but the need to see over is compelling. But they don’t peer over the edge to see how nice the beach looks. They look to see how awful it would be to fall, to crash onto the rocks. Staring at death is life-affirming, re-assured by that quiet sigh of relief as you step back, safe again on the clifftop.

Then there’s the fascination with someone doing something they cannot comprehend doing, along with the vicarious tingle of fear.

People can understand some murders. The crime of passion, for example, or when violence goes too far when wearing the red mask of rage. But cold-blooded killings done just to satisfy an urge? Most people are not capable of that, cannot understand it, so it’s easy to be fascinated by someone who can plumb those dark depths.

Ian Brady described serial killers as the only brave ones in the world, because they are the ones who are fearless enough to give vent to their fantasies with no thought of the consequences. That’s complete nonsense, just grandiose boasting from a man who lives off scraps of infamy, but it’s an insight into his thinking, that it is all about the fantasy, about the lack of fear of the consequences, that the lack of empathy means that there is no thought for the victims. The victims are an irrelevance.

neilThat is so different from the usual human experience. On the whole, people empathise, couldn’t hurt someone just for the pleasure of it. There usually has to be a reason, like hiding behind a war or political cause or because their emotions got the better of them. We can understand those reasons. We cannot understand the selfishness of a serial killer, so we are fascinated by people who behave differently.

There is also the second reason, that tingle of fear.

We read thrillers to be thrilled, read horror to be horrified, read scary stories to be scared. We enjoy that fear, because we know it isn’t real. It’s some distant thing, a shiver to be relished, that we have been dragged into the dark world of the killer, are brushed by that madness.

But distance is the crucial thing. Ripper walks are an industry in London, where the crowd oohs and aahs as the guide describes how women were slaughtered, running his thumb up his body to show the track of the knife at the spots where they died. I confess that, even now, when I go to London, I find myself in Spitalfields at the end of the day, enjoying a pint in the Ten Bells, where Mary Kelly spent her last night, trying to evoke the feeling of how it must have been back then, looking for the shadows of the Ripper.

Imagine how you would fare if you tried to organise such a guided tour around Leeds and Bradford, where Peter Sutcliffe murdered his victims. It would evoke rage. It would be wrong. Too close. Too recent.

So distance is crucial. It has to be a remote fear, a view from afar, because we love the tingle of fear but we like to be safe, where no one really gets hurt. Crime thrillers do that. They allow a glimpse over the cliff edge, but fundamentally it’s for the relief when the killer is caught, when the book is closed and our own lives are untouched

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July 24

The Domino Killer – Neil White

25643638When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open and shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realises that the victim’s fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier.

Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Joe – a criminal defence lawyer in the city – comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents.

Before long, Joe and Sam are in way over their heads, both sucked into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to change their lives for ever…


My thanks to Little, Brown UK who provided a review copy through Netgalley


The Domino Killer was my first introduction to Neil White’s books. The two central characters, Sam and Joe Parker, had clearly featured in previous books so the first question I have to address is “Does not knowing the back-story create any problems?” The answer would seem to be NO. I suspect that there are several elements which will reward returning readers that (as a new reader) I totally failed to grasp the significance of. However, as an introduction to the Parker brothers I found The Domino Killer to be a great read – important events and incidents from previous novels were explained (or discussed in such a way that I never got confused with the latest developments.

The book opens with a particularly nasty murder. In a lonely park on a dark evening a man is beaten to death, he dies clutching a bunch of flowers. An illicit rendezvous gone wrong perhaps? The police investigate but not much progress is being made. However, all this will change when a second murder is committed and the two deaths are found to be linked in the most unexpected of ways.

Meanwhile lawyer, Joe Parker, is called out late to meet a new client, a man who is accused of stealing and then torching his own car. What seems a routine client call is about to send Joe’s world into chaos – although he has never previously met his client he knows who he is as the two men are bound by a single event, one which has shaped Joe’s whole life.

The Domino Killer is a captivating read and the villain of the piece is one of the nastier characters I have encountered in recent reads. I enjoyed the fact the two Parker brothers adopt very different approaches to counter the perceived threat they feel they face. Sam, the policeman, follows procedure and acts within the confines of the law. His brother, Joe, is a defence lawyer – however, Joe has a secret that has haunted him for many a year and the Domino Killer knows this. Joe finds himself confronting a demon from his past and he is prepared to sacrifice friendships and his career to put the ghosts of his past to rest.

Neil White writes with an easy, entertaining and very readable style. The action ticks along at a great pace and I found I wanted to keep reading long after I should have been setting the book down. Although I only finished The Domino Killer within the last week or so I have already picked up a couple of Neil’s earlier books to add to my TBR pile.


The Domino Killer is published by Little, Brown UK Ltd and is available from 30th July in both hardback and digital formats.

Neil White is on Twitter: @neilwhite1965

He also has a wee corner of the internet at: http://www.neilwhite.net/




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July 22

Secret Life & Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne – Andrew Nicoll

Secret Life Miss Jean MilneWhen the door opened and he came out, there came with him the stench of a dead thing, the sweet, sulphurous, warm, rotten chicken smell that only ever comes from unburied flesh.

A dead body is found in a locked house. It has been stabbed in a frenzy, the hands and feet bound, the skull smashed, false teeth knocked from its jaws. Blood pools around the corpse and drips from the staircase. Yet nothing is missing: money and valuables remain untouched. Who could have murdered an old woman in such a horrifying way? And why?

This is the mystery facing Sergeant John Fraser and Detective Lieutenant Trench when wealthy spinster Miss Jean Milne is murdered in the quiet seaside town of Broughty Ferry. Yet, despite an abundance of clues and apparent witnesses, the investigation proves troublesome: suspects are elusive and Miss Milne herself is found to be far from a model of propriety. And when sensational headlines put pressure on the police force to find a culprit, Fraser and Trench must work fast to prevent the wrong man from going to the gallows. But will they ever unravel the secret life and curious death of Miss Jean Milne?

I am delighted to have the opportunity to host the latest leg of the blog tour for The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne. My thanks to Black & White Publishing for my review copy.

My memories of visiting Broughty Ferry are of a nice wee town on sitting on the edge of Dundee. ‘Nice’ seems to damn it with faint praise but in Andrew Nicoll’s The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne (hereafter dubbed Secret Life) Broughty Ferry DOES seem nice. It is 1912 and in a small Scottish town life is calm, somewhat predictable and everyone knows everyone else. Not the sort of place you would expect to encounter a brutal murder – unfortunately for the titular Miss Milne a very brutal murder is exactly what we do find.

Secret Life is based upon a true (unsolved) murder. Andrew Nicoll has done a magnificent job of bringing the past to life and putting the reader into the heart of a murder investigation. We follow the developments with Sgt John Fraser of the Broughty Ferry police force. He was present when Miss Milne’s body is discovered and is responsible for assisting with much of the investigation that follows. It is an investigation which starts in Scotland but extends to London and even over the Channel to Belgium.

It is a complex and confusing case for Sgt Fraser; not helped by the fact it is not clear when Miss Milne actually died. In a small town the police are looking for strangers who may be responsible for committing such a foul deed. Unfortunately, Miss Milne has lead a somewhat unorthodox life and was fond of travelling. She seems to have received a number of gentlemen callers in the period leading up to her death which give the police a bit of a headache in tracking anyone down.

Or DID she? Witnesses seem somewhat unreliable and when faced with the intimidating policemen of 1912 the more genteel members of this quiet town may just tell the police what they believe the police want to hear.

I loved how Andrew Nicoll has captured the feel of the early 20th Century. The police expect (and receive) respect. The townspeople are scandalized but want a gossip. The servants and labourers are broadly ignored until it suggested that they may be able to help. Despite knowing you are reading a work of fiction everything feels very real, huge credit to the author for this.

Based on a true story but not actually a true story, Andrew Nicoll has provided a solution to the 100 year old mystery. A satisfying solution I felt and I enjoyed how matters were wrapped up. Secret Life is an enjoyable and highly entertaining read and I would urge to you to seek it out. As I write (22nd July 2015) you can purchase The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne for just 49p on Kindle: cheaper than a bar of chocolate and much more satisfying!

Jean Milne Blog Tour

The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne is published by Black & White Publishing and is available in paperback and (as noted above) in digital format.

Andrew Nicoll is on Twitter: @AndrewSNicoll


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July 21

Little Black Lies – Sharon Bolton

little black lies 2Admittedly, it wasn’t murder. A moment’s carelessness, a tragic accident – and two children are dead. Yours.

Living in a small island community, you can’t escape the woman who destroyed your life. Each chance encounter is an agonizing reminder of what you’ve lost – your family, your future, your sanity.

How long before revenge becomes irresistible?

With no reason to go on living, why shouldn’t you turn your darkest thoughts into deeds?

So now, what’s the worst thing you can do to your best friend?


My thanks to Alison at Transworld for my review copy.


It is three years since Catrin lost her two sons in a tragic accident which all but destroyed her life. Her childhood friend, Rachel, was responsible for the loss of the two young lives and Catrin has a burning hatred for her oldest friend that she cannot reconcile.

The story opens with Catrin’s narrative. We learn of her loss and the loneliness that she feels. Her empty house holds the memories/ghosts of her children and her ex-husband now starting a new life with his new wife and has a new young baby to care for. For Catrin her former friend and ex-husband are always nearby – living in a small Falklands community it is hard to escape their presence. You feel that Catrin is struggling to hold onto her sanity and every day is a challenge. We share her sleepless nights and mourn with her over the empty life she now leads.

When Catrin’s every waking moment is consumed with the loss of her sons it is further torment when a family visiting the island discover that their son has wandered off and cannot be found. An island-wide search party is formed to trace the missing boy. However, Catrin’s friends are concerned about how she may cope with the hunt for a missing child – particularly as this is not the first time a child has gone missing on the island.

The narrative follows Catrin to a critical point; she finally has an opportunity to extract revenge upon Rachel and the last of her mental defences appear to have been shattered as she has been forced to take an innocent life. Yet before we learn how Catrin reacts the narrative switches to a second player in the story.

Callum is an ex-soldier that fought in the Falklands conflict and now resides on the island. He suffers from PTSD and is prone to blackouts but he is resisting a return to Scotland and an escape from the memories of the fighting. We know that Callum is a friend of Catrin but as his narration picks up we also learn that Catrin has become a suspect over the disappearance of the missing child. Callum is convinced of Catrin’s innocence and through his viewpoint we are treated to a different view of Catrin and her unusual behaviour.

Callum’s perspective of Catrin and the events on the island leads the reader to question their understanding of what may be happening. Clever and twisty, however, not content with muddying the waters with Callum’s interpretation of events Sharon Bolton switches to a third narrator: Rachel.

Rachel is woman responsible for the death of Catrin’s children and the woman Catrin has vowed to kill. From the opening chapters we have seen Rachel painted as the villain of the piece so it is something of a shock to get her perspective of events too. Like Catrin and Callum, Rachel has some serious issues that she is struggling to contend with.   We realise that each of our narrators are deeply flawed, highly paranoid and that their recounting of events simply cannot be trusted.

I cannot reveal too much more than I have already as to do so robs the reader of the majestic and complex web of Little Black Lies that Sharon Bolton has spun. Suffice to say the story climax was exhilarating and left me lost for words.


Little Black Lies is published by Bantam Press and is available in Hardback and digital formats.



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July 17

Under Ground – S.L. Grey


The Sanctum is a luxurious, self-sustaining survival condominium situated underground. It’s a plush bolt-hole for the rich and paranoid – a place where they can wait out the apocalypse in style. When a devastating super-flu virus hits, several families race to reach The Sanctum. All have their own motivations for entering. All are hiding secrets.

But when the door locks and someone dies, they realize the greatest threat to their survival may not be above ground – it may already be inside . . .


Under Ground is a page-turning locked-room mystery from the combined talents of Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg, writing as S. L. Grey.


One of my favourite books is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None – which I first read in one of its ‘Ten Little’ variants.   If you are unfamiliar with this classic (for shame) then a group of strangers find themselves isolated on an island and (in best Christie tradition) start to be bumped off one by one.

Under Ground reminded me of And Then There Were None. In the same way Dame Agatha captivated me all those years ago, so too has S. L. Grey with Under Ground. The ‘island’ is replaced with an underground bunker. The characters in the book have each spent a small fortune to purchase residential space in an underground bunker that will keep them safe from the outside world in the event of chemical or viral outbreak.  They believe their luxury homes will be able to shelter them from harm while they still enjoy state of the art electronic communications, a fully equipped gym and swimming pool and all the food and water they require.

What could possibly go wrong? Well quite a lot as it happens.

The assembled cast are fleeing a killer virus which originated in Asia and is now threatening to wipe out the population of America. The families all make their way to their underground haven only to find it is not actually finished yet and that corners have been cut on the construction. The other problem they soon discover is that you cannot choose your neighbours and we have a very unusual mix of families.

What happens to the assembled ‘preppers’ when the hatch is shut is a claustrophobic read where bullies rule, paranoia takes a firm hold over everyone and violence is never far away.

Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg have brilliantly captured the tension and the fear which you would expect when the the whole cast fear for their lives.  Foul deeds lie ahead and the finger of suspicion will point at all of the characters before the reader can establish which of our players is up to no good.

Absorbing reading. Under Ground is a book I would strongly recommend you seek out.


Under Ground is published by Macmillan and is available now in Hardback and digital format.


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July 5

Beyond The Rage – Q&A Michael J Malone

I am delighted to be able to welcome Michael J Malone to the blog.  Michael is here to talk about his latest book, Beyond The Rage, but I could not resist asking about some of his other work too.


Beyond The RageShall we begin with a little shameless self-promotion? Who is Ray McBain and how does he know Kenny O’Neill?

Ray McBain is the detective whose story first came to light in my debut crime novel Blood Tears. He knows Kenny because they went to school together and became best mates. Life sent them in very different directions. Ray, as I said is a police detective. Kenny is a criminal.


Beyond the Rage saw a shift in focus away from McBain and you made Kenny (previously considered the ‘bad guy’) the hero of the story. What prompted this change?

About 4/5 years ago, while the first 2 books (both featuring Ray as the hero) were going the rounds of the publishers and receiving rave rejections, I hit upon this idea. I wanted to keep writing in the series, but the thought of writing a 3rd McBain book and it receiving the same reception as the first 2 was a bit of a worry. So I thought, why not change the focus of the series every now and then? Write about Kenny, then back to Ray, then over to Alessandra Rossi, then back to Ray etc etc etc. I thought this was highly original, but I’ve since found other authors who do this.


Beyond The Rage, recently sat at #1 spot in Scottish Crime over on Amazon. How much of a boost does that give you as you plot your next book?

It’s great to know that people are reading Rage – but in terms of a boost, not so much. I’m in THAT writing phase of the next book where I think every word I’m putting down is crap.


You are currently working on a new McBain novel. Are we allowed to ask for a progress report?

See above answer. Feels like I’m wading through treacle. I’m about two thirds of the way in, so I’m on the home strait. I still haven’t decided who the killer is, so that should be interesting.


Guilliotine 2Shifting focus to last year – you worked with Bashir Saoudi on a book called The Guillotine Choice. What is The Guillotine Choice and how did this collaboration come about?

The Guillotine Choice is a novel based on the true story of Bashir’s father. As a young man in Algeria during the late 1920’s, rather than send his cousin to the guillotine, he kept his mouth shut and was sentenced to 40 years hard labour in Devil’s Island. (The same prison that housed Papillon).

And the book came about after a random meeting in a coffee shop in Ayr, followed by a whole series of random meetings. (I think Bashir was stalking me. Only joking, Bash.)


You are very involved in writing workshops (even managing to get this blogger to a seminar in the past) is the support and encouragement of like-minded writers an invaluable part of the writing process for you?

Absolutely. This can be a lonely and difficult job. And the only people who really “get” it are other writers. I received a lot of help and encouragement from other writers when I was learning my craft, so I try to give back where I can.


You once told me that you are not the only Michael Malone that writes crime fiction. Do you know if readers ever get you confused with the other guy?

They do! I was invited to speak to a group of readers in Kansas recently. I should have pretended I was the other guy and asked for some generous expenses. And every now and again I get messages of FB from people who think I’m him. He’s a talented guy so I’m happy if some of that rubs off on me.


It is not all about gritty Glasgow crime though – I believe you also have a few poetry collections in the back catalogue?

This is true. Before the crime novels came out, I had about 200 poems published in small presses and literary magazines. I still write the odd poem, but I tend to keep my creative impulses for fiction these days. It is a demanding task.


You publish a daily newsletter (The Michael Malone Daily) which I receive through Twitter. How do you source material and is it principally articles which interest you?

This is all automatic. I had two minutes work setting it up a few years back and now I have no input whatsoever. I just goes on working. Might be tricky when I pop my clogs and this online newspaper thing carries on publishing and people are going, is he not dead?


bobmcd18You can often be found ‘in discussion’ with the great and good of Scottish writers. You assist at book launches, host quiz events or mediate writer panels – how do you land a gig like that and how hard is it to get a word in once the ‘shy and reclusive’ writers get into the spotlight?


How do I get involved? People ask me. I think it’s cos I smile a lot and I’m cheap. For cheap, read free. Well, a bottle of single malt actually.

When I do these things, my job is to get the “shy and reclusive” writers to talk. It’s about them, not me. So I’m happy if I can’t get a word in.


On a final note, Bloody Scotland is coming soon – are you involved again this year?

Yes, and I’m really looking forward to it. There’s a cracking line up of authors. SO much talent out there. I’m doing an event on the Sunday afternoon with the lovely Caro Ramsay and the equally lovely, but less blonde, Douglas Skelton. If I survive the 5-a-side football match, that is. It will be a blast. You should all come.


My thanks to Michael for taking time to chat.  I also need to thank him for encouraging me to write – my blogging is a direct result of Michael’s encouragement to attend a writers workshop many moons ago.


Michael is on Twitter at: @michaelJmalone1

At online here:  mjmink.wordpress.com

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July 4

Follow You Home – Mark Edwards

Follow You HomeIt was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, a final adventure before settling down. But after a perfect start, an encounter with a young couple on a night train forces Daniel and Laura to cut their dream trip short and flee home.

Back in London, Daniel and Laura vow never to talk about what happened that night. But as they try to fit into their old lives again, they realise they are in terrible danger—and that their nightmare is just beginning…


Thanks to Thomas & Mercer for the review copy which I received through Netgalley


Daniel and Laura are young and in love, they have been travelling and enjoying the trip of a lifetime. Everything is rosy and life is good. Until Daniel decides to save a little money by skipping on a private train cabin for their journey through Romania; opting instead for seats in the standard accommodation.

After an uncomfortable (and extended) conversation with a young Romanian couple Daniel and Laura try to catch some sleep in an empty sleeper carriage. They awake to find themselves confronted by an officious train official demanding their tickets – tickets which seem to have been stolen while they sleep. Unable to explain their predicament the couple are thrown from the train in the middle of nowhere.

Their attempts to get back to civilization lead them to an old farmhouse standing all alone in the Romanian countryside. They venture inside and then we read of them fleeing like the hounds of Hell are on their tails.

What Happened?

This is the question which will draw you in and keep you reading. The story picks up with Daniel and Laura when they are back in London, whatever happened in the house has had a profound impact upon both of their lives and their idyllic romance lies shattered and broken. They both agreed never to speak of the events which led to their breakup, however, friends keep pushing for answers and Daniel is determined to try and win Laura back.

As the story unfolds we are treated to more snippets of information regarding what occurred in Romania as Daniel tries to share his remarkable story with someone. Yet it seems that someone is determined Laura and Daniel’s story will remain untold and is determined to ensure that the events witnessed in the Romanian farmhouse remain a secret forever.

What struck me most about Follow You Home was that much of what occurred was very, very plausible and very, very sinister. I had a distinct feeling of unease reading of Laura and Daniel’s paranoia about being followed/watched. Despite all the horror books I have read over the years, Mark Edwards managed to unsettle me more than most of the ghouls and ghosts have ever achieved. There were a couple of nights where I slept with the covers all the way over my head, just to keep me safe through the night (that’s how it works).

Follow You Home is ‘delightfully’ twisty and creepy – a proper thriller which you should definitely seek out.


Mark Edwards is on Twitter: @mredwards

He is also online at http://vossandedwards.com

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