September 25

Rings of Smoke – Diane O’Toole

Rings of SmokeErin Fallon is the eldest daughter of an Irish immigrant who took his family to a small town on the Lancashire/Cumbria border for what he believed to be a better life. It was what her mother wanted, but once she got it, it wasn’t enough. She had to have more.

Leonard Fitch is an eminent neurosurgeon. His mother was never satisfied either, and her constant demands led to his father being killed in a motor accident. Leonard loved his father; he was the only person to treat him with kindness and affection. He hated his mother but could never stand up to her. Tormented and ridiculed throughout his childhood, Leonard swore to exact revenge on womankind in general, but mothers in particular.

At a secluded lodge in the depths of Bleazedale Forest, for four years he carries out the most abominable atrocities with impunity. He takes girls on their birthday and keeps them holed up for a full twelve months before killing them and sending their mothers a birthday card with a picture of their beloved little girl, dead and with their severed feet placed either side of their head.


My thanks to Louise of Crime Book Club for the chance to join the Tour.

I have noticed a few online interactions recently where people have not enjoyed books which they consider too graphic. While this is never something that has concerned me I feel it only fair to flag up that Rings of Smoke does contain some scenes which some readers may find disturbing.

Not me though so onwards to the story!

Leonard Fitch is quite a nasty piece of work – he is exacting revenge for a lifetime of torment by kidnapping girls, subjecting them to a year of torture and abuse. He then finally ends their suffering on their birthday and sends the distraught family pictures of their daughter’s mutilated corpse.

Having established Finch as a man to avoid the story switches to Erin Fallon. She is the eldest of four siblings and we are brought into the family home as her father secures a promotion and the chance to improve their lot in life with a little extra money each month. A move to a new town leaves Erin feeling lonely and unsettled. There are problems at home and soon Erin finds she is the one keeping the household together- however Finch has her in his sights.

I enjoyed how Diane O’Toole established Erin’s family at the heart of the story. Seeing how Erin is integral to her family’s wellbeing made the threat of Finch more acute. While you read you cannot help but feel that if Finch managed to trap Erin that her family would crumble apart.

As we know Finch for the monster that he is I particularly enjoyed that the author also elected to show Finch living his ‘normal’ life too. Finch’s revenge is a long term entertainment for him. Girls are held for 12 months at a time, therefore, he needs to have a house, a career, co-workers and a semblance of a normal existence. His role as a neurosurgeon places him into a busy hospital and I loved these scenes as the politics of the hospital play out, evolving around the important surgeons and their respective staffers. It gave the characters the depth that is not always established in the books I read.

As I read Rings of Smoke I realised that there was a possible outcome that I did not want to see happen. It kept me reading late into the night as I had to know if Finch was going to be foiled. The endgame was built up nicely and delivered more than one twist that I had not seen coming.

I had fun with Rings of Smoke, it took a slightly different approach to the serial killer story by concentrating on the killer and his next victim. Nicely done.



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September 24

Breathe: Meat Puppet Trilogy Book 1 – David Ince

breathe 2Sebastian suffers from acute asthma. He’s ex-military, but the asthma meant he never saw combat. It’s held him back his whole life, and now he has a chip on his shoulder and a lot to prove. Working as a courier, Sebastian arrives in town with a bag to deliver. He doesn’t know what it contains, he doesn’t want to know, but he’s pretty sure it isn’t drugs or money.

An hour before the hand over he hooks up with Isobel, a weary nurse in need of a ride. But Isobel is slave to a man she calls Mr Punch, the overlord of a criminal empire built upon manipulation, blackmail and fear.

Anonymous and terrifying, Mr Punch is almost legend, haunting the lives of ordinary people, forcing shopkeepers, office workers and nurses to become henchmen and assassins. Believing he is trapped between Mr Punch and his mysterious employer, Sebastian’s best chance of survival is to run. But running isn’t Sebastian’s style. It’s not an option for a man with acute asthma.

My thanks to Caffeine Nights for my review copy.

It is a wonderful thing when you start to read a book and get totally gripped from the first page. Breathe did just that for me and I was devastated when it finished. However, the over riding sensation was one of shock – David Ince is not into sugar coating and the characters in his book get a very rough ride.

Sebastian is our lead character, acting as a courier (of what he prefers not to know) he manages to lose a bag he was meant to deliver to some rather unpleasant ‘businessmen’. This is not the greatest of his immediate problems as someone has locked him into a room and two men are waiting outside to kill him – just as soon as his starring role in a traumatic home-movie has ended.

Falling back on his military training Sebastian manages to escape from the room and soon negotiates 24 hours to track down the lost bag he was due to deliver.  Thus begins a desperate race against time for Sebastian as the consequence of failure will almost certainly result in his death at the hands of the aforementioned ‘businessmen’.

Sebastian will have his work cut out. Although he does not know it, he is a pawn in the game of the notorious ‘Mr Punch’ – a sinister figure who blackmails everyday people turns them into killers and thugs. Mr Punch and his associates have decided that it is time for Sebastian to die and they are not interested in any 24 hour grace period to recover a lost bag.

Breathe is fast paced, action packed and often brutal and unforgiving. I want to rave about how good it was, share certain scenes with you and tell you how I was blindsided by some of the twists. But that would spoil your enjoyment – this is a book you simply have to read for yourself.

Breathe is the first part of the Meat Puppet Trilogy (which is quite possibly the best named trilogy I have encountered for many a long year!)  Having rushed through Breathe I cannot wait to see where David Ince takes us in the next book. I just hope I don’t have to wait too long to read it.

An outstanding 5* read – Breathe is  going top of September’s recommendations and it will take something pretty special to stop me thinking about some of those plot twists!  I cannot recommend this enough – a must read for crime fans.


Breathe is published by Caffeine Nights and is available in paperback and digital formats.

Caffeine Nights:

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September 21

The Defenceless – Kati Hiekkapelto

defenceless 2When an old man is found dead on the road – seemingly run over by a Hungarian au pair – police investigator Anna Fekete is certain that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. As she begins to unravel an increasingly complex case, she’s led on a deadly trail where illegal immigration, drugs and, ultimately, murder threaten not only her beliefs, but her life.

Anna’s partner Esko is entrenched in a separate but equally dangerous investigation into the activities of an immigrant gang, where deportation orders and raids cause increasing tension and result in desperate measures by gang members – and the police themselves. Then a bloody knife is found in the snow, and the two cases come together in ways that no one could have predicted. As pressure mounts, it becomes clear that having the law on their side may not be enough for Anna and Esko.


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

The Defenceless opens with two drug dealers enjoying some of their wares in suburban flat being confronted by an elderly neighbour. There is an argument and an accident and the first thread in the elegant tapestry of the story is sewn. Next we find lead character Anna Fekete has been called to investigate what appears to be a hit and run accident, however, the victim appears to be on a road in totally inappropriate clothing for a winter night.

More threads soon follow: gang wars are spilling into Finland from Denmark. We follow a boy in Finland who is (topically) an illegal alien trying to avoid the authorities and inevitable deportation. A Hungarian au pair who is a suspect in an investigation but also wants to be Anna’s new best friend as she feels a connection through their Eastern European heritage. All these elements, and more, are skillfully pulled together as the story unfolds and we are treated to a captivating thriller.

The Defenceless is the second book featuring Anna and her partner Esko, both were introduced in The Hummingbird (another must read title). Despite this being the second in the series I do not feel it is essential to have read The Hummingbird to enjoy The Defenceless.  Everything I needed to know about Anna was smoothly integrated into the story without feeling I was reading a recap.

One key observation I would make about The Defenceless (and this is also true other Orenda titles) there is that there is a magnificent sensation of location to be experienced when you read. Although I have never been to Finland Kati Hiekkapelto made dark woods and icy cold Finish towns come alive around me.  Despite reading The Defenceless by a Spanish swimming pool in the height of summer I felt the chill of a Finish winter – the creeping darkness in the cold Northern nights. The sensation of ‘being there’ lifts an already strong story and makes the reader feel they are part of the adventure.

The Defenceless is a terrific read, atmospheric with the great mix of twists and unexpected discoveries playing out with a strong and likeable lead character. I am very much looking forward to the next book from Kati Hiekkapelto.


The Defenceless is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format.


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September 18

Gary Russell Q&A – Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation

big bang generationToday I am delighted to be able to welcome Gary Russell. Gary is a former editor of the official Doctor Who Magazine, has written several Doctor Who novels and non-fiction books, and was producer for Big Finish Productions of the monthly New Doctor Who Adventures from 1998 to 2006. Gary is now a member of the script-editing team on Doctor Who and Torchwood.

My our chat took place before today’s official confirmation that Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald) was leaving Doctor Who sometime during Season 9…this makes the first question seem oddly phrased!



First (and I am not sure if I can ask this without some spoilers): no Clara but a return of an old friend?

The joy of the current TV show is that Clara comes and goes – some of her TV stories meld into the next, others have gaps you could drive a fleet of double decker buses through. So I reasoned it was perfectly feasible that while Clara is off having school trips to Stonehenge or Austria or seeing her Gran or whatever, the Doctor would be off having adventures by himself. But always the Doctor tends to find himself chums as he goes from place to place. So I thought a River Song story would be nice but when Steven Moffatt suggested Bernice, a whole different story popped up – a much more fun romp. I was delighted at the suggestion, truly over the moon. She’s one of my favourite characters in any fictional universe and I miss playing in her sandbox enormously, so I was so happy to write for her, Ruth, Jack and lovely Peter again.

The Glamour Chronicles spans all three books in this release window. Where does Big Bang Generation fit in the arc continuity?

I know Una’s book comes before Trevor’s. But mine goes wherever you choose.

I always imagine writing to be a very individual process, does writing a book which has overlap with other author’s work (in this case the story of The Glamour) create unique challenges?

Not for me – I’m a very selfish writer, The only person who has any input into my books is Justin as range editor.  I don’t let people read work-in-progress. I don’t ask advice or story suggestions from anyone. Writing prose is vastly different from writing, say a TV script, which is all about collaboration to ensure that everyone else in a production can do their job reasonably, practically and make them shine. A novel, to me at least, is an incredibly more personal labour. As a result, I established with Justin early on that other than seeding the Glamour into the story, it wouldn’t need to impact upon, or have impact from, either Una or Trevor’s stories.

LegacyYour author notes indicated that Steven Moffat asked you not to use a character you had wanted to include. Is it more tricky to have story ideas approved now than it was when you were writing New Adventure novels for the 7th Doctor back in the 1990’s? 

In the handful of post 2005 stuff I’ve done, I’ve not encountered any huge problems. This is probably because I spent much of 2006-2011 being the git that said “no” to people on behalf of either Russell or Steven whilst working at BBC Wales, as I know what can and can’t be done. Indeed, i suspect the powers that be in Cardiff now are probably slightly more relaxed about things than I ever was – we were still finding our feet, “additional-fiction” speaking back then. Now there are lots of templates to work from, so it’s chilled out more.  But I tended to adhere to my own guidelines from Russell’s days when doing BBG.

You have worked with Big Finish on a lot of projects and I loved that many Big Finish characters are named in Big Bang Generation. Are you seeing an increase in the number of fans of the tv show discovering the audio plays and finding their way to the back catalogue of New Adventures and 8th Doctor books?

Well I pretty much created Big Finish with Jason back in the day so I’m always happy to see BF ideas transferred to other mediums – god, I was so proud at the Eighth Doctor’s “Charley, C’rizz” etc speak in Night of the Doctor. So honoured too! If that one speech made just one person go and look at BF, look at the great stuff Nick Briggs is creating there these days, then the blood, sweat and tears that I put into BF’s first eight years is worth it.

You were Editor of Doctor Who Magazine in the early 1990’s – a time where the show was off the air. Do you think the current team have it easy now that there is so much new content to cover each month? 

I always said when I was at DWM that I wouldn’t want to do that magazine if the show was on air. I had it lucky – it was an era when the “death” of the TV show was still recent enough that we weren’t dying or drying up regarding content, we could still be positive but weren’t beholden to a production team looking over our shoulders. I would hate that, I would also hate that scrabble to be the first with news, photos etc. I left DWM about a year before the McGann TV Movie burst into life – and I was so glad I wasn’t there.  Today, poor Tom has it a billion times worse (although my predictions about interfering production teams never came into existence) but that mad effort to be, as the official magazine, the first, the biggest, the most prominent…nah, that’s not for me. I couldn’t hack that pressure. Tom Spilsbury and his team need sainthoods for what they have to go through. So do I think they have it easy? No, I think they have it a hundred times harder than I ever did.

During your time at DWM (and I read every issue through your run) were there any standout memories, interviews or even episode discoveries that you can share?

The day Marcus Hearn rang me up to say he’d discovered the telesnaps to all those missing Hartnell adventures was amazing. Tomb of the Cybermen turning up was fun. We did a nice run of female journalists interviewing female companions which I was rather proud of. We changed the comic strips to feature past Doctors, again I liked that. Adrian Salmon’s Cybermen strip was a highlight. Very proud to have done Colin Baker’s Age of Chaos comic, and putting all the Dalek Chronicles strips together in one place for the first time (hands up who spotted we got two pages the wrong way round? Luckily very few because most previous reprints of that particular story arc *also* made that mistake so fans were used to seeing it wrong! Phew!) I was lucky not just to have Marcus as my number two, but also designers like Peri Godbold and Paul Vyse doing amazing work on a four-week turnaround in an era before computers and DTP. I also had the 30th anniversary *and* DWM’s 200th issue in the same year.  My brief time at DWM is one of the happiest I’ve ever been. Loved it all.

business unusualOver the years you have written a significant number of Doctor Who adventures. Have you a favourite Doctor/Companion team to write for?

Loved the Tenth Doctor and Donna. *Always* love writing for the Sixth and Mel. Would love to do the Third and Jo one day. Have yet to do the Ninth, War or the First in a novel – and want to. Curiously I’ve never done a Fourth Doctor novel and more curiously have no desire to, but if I did I think it would need to be a Leela story because I love the character so much. A Leela solo book – now that appeals! Years ago I did for BBCi a web series called Real Time that deliberately set up a sequel that never happened.  I’d love to expand and finish that as a novel.

Are there any classic monsters that you would like to write into a future story?

I’ve done my personal biggies – Ice Warriors, Autons, Silurians and Sea Devils. Never done Davros or Daleks, that would be nice. But deep, deep down I have a passion for doing the Bandrils at war with the Taran Wood Beasts – surely that’s a winner? No? Oh okay then…

Finally, are you a collector? You have been such an active part within the world of Doctor Who for a good number of years – have you any souvenirs or memento’s which you cherish?

I collect action figures, comics, music and books.  I have (I believe) every edition of every foreign translation f the Target Books and the post 2005 books (I may have missed a couple of French or Hungarian editions since I’ve been here in Australia) – that’s always been my passion. Heaven knows why, I can’t read the blasted things. But they look pretty. I’m a pretty obsessive collector, I can’t have one in a series, it’s all or nothing! But I don’t collect autographs, I don’t collect props or things that have been in the show. I’m just a sucker for certain parts of mainstream merchandise. But I collect the same sorts of things outside Doctor Who too. I’m a massive lifelong Marvel Comics fan (one day I will write the Fantastic Four or die trying) and have more Marvel Legends action figures than my house can cope with!


My deepest thanks to Gary for taking time to answer my questions.



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September 17

Una McCormack Q&A – Doctor Who: Royal Blood

Royal BloodToday I am delighted to welcome Una McCormack. Una’s latest novel , Royal Blood, is one the three new Doctor Who titles from BBC Books. Featuring the 12th Doctor and Clara Oswald, Royal Blood forms part of the Glamour Chronicles trilogy.

Shall we start with an easy one? What can we expect The Doctor and Clara to encounter in Royal Blood?

The Doctor and Clara arrive in the mediaeval city of Varuz to discover that the technology is far more advanced than they would expect, and that the city is facing the threat of an invasion. They both try to prevent war breaking out – but things are complicated when a figure from Earth legend, Lancelot, arrives, in search of the Holy Grail.

The three new Doctor Who titles just released, your book and those by Trevor and Gary are all part of a story arc which brings The Doctor into contact with The Glamour.  What is the Glamour and does it pose a threat to the TARDIS crew?

The Glamour is very mysterious. It can take many forms, and look very different to different people, but its chief property is that people want to possess it. This makes it very dangerous, and very hard to fight.

How much co-ordination has to take place between three authors before you all begin writing to ensure that The Glamour is defined correctly and the plotlines all tie in?

Although they’re connected by the Glamour, and are best read in a particular order, the three books do stand alone quite well. The series consultant, Justin Richards, and the project editor, Steve Tribe, did the co-ordination of the projects. I’ve worked on other projects, such as the Star Trek series The Fall, where the five authors collaborated through a kind of email ‘writers’ room’. We had a lot of ideas and information flying to and fro!

How do you get to be one of the Doctor Who authors?  Do you approach the team and pitch an idea or are you invited to contribute?

For the first book, I approached the editorial team and asked to write. I had a long background in writing TV tie-in novels from the work I’d done on the Star Trek books, and this stood me in good stead. The turnaround can very tight on these kind of books, so they want to know that you can write them quickly while maintaining quality. I’ve been invited back for subsequent books.

kings dragon 2You have previously written two 11th Doctor Novels. Did it feel different writing for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor rather than Matt Smith?  The two actors clearly have different approaches to the character but ultimately it is still The Doctor who is the hero.

There were definitely differences. Matt Smith’s is a very physical performance, with lots of hand-flapping and jumping around – you have to find a way to convey that through the prose. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is very focused, quite grumpy – but often missing things around him that seem obvious. At the same time you have to convey something essentially ‘Doctorish’ about the character – never cowardly or cruel, always kind.

Are there any classic monsters that you would like to write into a future story?

The Kandyman.

Does the history of the show add an extra element of pressure when you write or do you find the backstory makes it much easier to position a situation and drop in the characters we know so well?

I try not to let the history of the show interfere with the story I’m telling. I don’t go out of my way to ignore it or contradict it, but I want the stories in books to have their own momentum rather than rely on knowledge of the series. The readership of these books can be quite young, 8-14, so you want to make sure that these readers are enjoying the books. They might not have seen Doctor Who before!

I am in my early 40’s and can just about remember watching K-9, scenes from the Leisure Hive, City of Death and State of Decay. But everything from Logopolis onward!  Can you pin down your earliest memories of Doctor Who?

I am also in my early 40s, but my earliest memory is of Jon Pertwee’s final story, ‘Planet of the Spiders’. I was very frightened by the Buddhist chanting. I’m still slightly frightened by Buddhists.

Finally, if you could pair any of the Doctor’s incarnations with any of his companions who would you like to write an adventure for?

What an interesting question! I’d like to write Tegan. I could imagine her being grumpy at most of the Doctor’s incarnations, but it might be fun to see if she could out-cross the Twelfth Doctor!

My profound thanks to Una for taking time to answer my questions.  If there is any way that 12th Doctor/Tegan meeting could happen I suspect it would make a lot of people very happy!



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September 16

Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation – Gary Russell

big bang generation“I’m an archaeologist, but probably not the one you were expecting.”

Christmas 2015, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Imagine everyone’s surprise when a time portal opens up in Sydney Cove. Imagine their shock as a massive pyramid now sits beside the Harbour Bridge, inconveniently blocking Port Jackson and glowing with energy. Imagine their fear as Cyrrus “the mobster” Globb, Professor Horace Jaanson and an alien assassin called Kik arrive to claim the glowing pyramid. Finally imagine everyone’s dismay when they are followed by a bunch of con artists out to spring their greatest grift yet.

This gang consists of Legs (the sexy comedian), Dog Boy (providing protection and firepower), Shortie (handling logistics), Da Trowel (in charge of excavation and history) and their leader, Doc (busy making sure the universe isn’t destroyed in an explosion that makes the Big Bang look like a damp squib).

And when someone accidentally reawakens The Ancients of the Universe – which, Doc reckons, wasn’t the wisest or best-judged of actions – things get a whole lot more complicated…


My thanks to BBC Books.

“I’m an archaeologist, but probably not the one you were expecting.” It is on the back of the book, in big bright white letters – if you recognise the origin of the line then you should know you are in for a treat. Gary Russell’s contribution to Doctor Who down the years is not insignificant. He knows what the fans like (in fact he created a lot of what the fans like) so you know that there will be fun times ahead when you start to read Big Bang Generation.

Now take a glance back to the cover of the book and you will see the Doctor, you will see the TARDIS but someone is missing…no Clara. Not a design choice, Ms Oswald is not a player in this story, instead the Doctor is reunited with a former travelling companion and (no spoilers) it works brilliantly. The TARDIS crew in Big Bang Generation is a treat for the long standing fans who have travelled with the Doctor beyond the tv shows through the many books and audio adventures.

Forming part of The Glamour Chronicles trilogy I feel that Big Bang Generation provides the reader with the most information about the mysterious Glamour it certainly features much more than it had in Royal Blood (which I had read before Big Bang Generation). The scale of Big Bang Generation is also much greater than the other books in the trilogy. Events unfold over long periods of time and there are several different destinations covered through the telling of the story.  This book felt (at the time) like the finale, however, the author did confirm that he felt Big Bang Generation could fit anywhere into the trilogy.

The Doctor finds himself pursuing the Glamour once again but not to own one of the most coveted treasures in the galaxies: as that way lies a dangerous path.  He needs to track it down to try to contain or supress its power and ensure it does not fall into the wrong hands. Should The Glamour be damaged or misused the effect upon the surrounding land could be catastrophic.

So when an archaeological dig threatens to uncover the Glamour from its hidden resting place it is somewhat surprising for the lead archaeologist to meet their future self and be warned that the dig should cease. Time travel does throw up some unusual conversations at times.

What follows is a hugely entertaining chase through space (and time) to gain control of The Glamour and ensure it always remains in the ‘right’ hands. The story is full of subtle jokes and observations which fans will spot and love (I am pretty sure I missed one or two along the way – so a re-read will be guaranteed).

Gary Russell is one of my favourite Doctor Who authors and Big Bang Generation did not disappoint. Many more of these please and the Doctor will continue to shine.




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September 15

Doctor Who: The Time Lord Letters – Justin Richards

Time Lord LettersNo one could travel through history – past present and future – as much as the Doctor does without leaving an impression. Much of what we know about this mysterious figure comes from what he does – the planets he saves and the monsters he defeats. But until now we’ve had little knowledge of his writings. The Time Lord Letters is a unique collection of over one hundred letters, notes, and jottings both by and to the Doctor – correspondence by turns entertaining and inspiring, funny and flippant, brilliant and incredible. From the Doctor’s plea to the Time Lords to help end the War Games to an extract from the written defence he submitted at his subsequent trial; from his application for the post of Caretaker at Coal Hill School to his apology to the Queen for missing dinner; from telepathic messages to the High Council on Gallifrey to his famous letter to Santa Claus – like the Doctor himself, the mood can change in an instant. The Time Lord Letters captures the best and most dramatic moments of an impossible life. You’ll never see the Doctor in quite the same way again.


My thanks to BBC Books


A collection of letters taken from over 50 years of Doctor Who history. Sourced from the corners of the galaxy by Justin Richards who has carefully collated these unique notes and documents and presents them in a beautiful hardback volume which will appeal to fans young and old.

The Time Lord Letters is a delight to read through. Each double page explains where the letter was found, sometimes adding the context in which the letter came to be written. Most readers will understand why the Doctor left a letter for Amy Pond in her house but an application to enrol a young girl called Susan Foreman into the local school will delight the fans of the ‘classic’ series.

The letters are often a light hearted read – 12th Doctor’s letters about Clara and Danny Pink provided many giggles, In contrast the letters to Sarah Jane Smith and (in particular) a letter to Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart nearly broke me: Justin Richards knowing exactly which letters will resonate with fans.

Not sure what you may find? I had the same thought when I first picked up my copy so I flicked through the pages. Pictures of Donna, Martha and Amy – Jo, Ace and Zoe were in there too.  I saw Daleks, Yeti, Cybermen and Ogron. River Song, K-9, Bessie and a Trojan Horse. How could I put it down?  What could the Doctor possibly have written to Shakespeare and Dickens?  Quite brilliant!

Extracted from Doctor Who Time Lord Letters, BBC Books, £20
Extracted from Doctor Who Time Lord Letters, BBC Books, £20

This is not a book you read once. There are letters I have revisited several times already, some make me laugh so I shared them with my son. Others are for a quiet moment when you just need to see how the Doctor really felt about the time he spent with friends and companions that have shared some of his adventures (or how they felt about him). Touching, poignant and evocative.

The Time Lord Letters would be a welcome addition to the bookshelves of any Doctor Who fan and must be given serious consideration when compiling ideas for Christmas gifts – it is a beautiful book.


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September 14

Doctor Who: Royal Blood – Una McCormack

Royal Blood“The Grail is a story, a myth! It didn’t exist on your world! It can’t exist here!”

The city-state of Varuz is failing. Duke Aurelian is the last of his line, his capital is crumbling, and the armies of his enemy, Duke Conrad, are poised beyond the mountains to invade. Aurelian is preparing to gamble everything on one last battle. So when a holy man, the Doctor, comes to Varuz from beyond the mountains, Aurelian asks for his blessing in the war.

But all is not what it seems in Varuz. The city-guard have lasers for swords, and the halls are lit by electric candlelight. Aurelian’s beloved wife, Guena, and his most trusted knight, Bernhardt, seem to be plotting to overthrow their Duke, and Clara finds herself drawn into their intrigue…

Will the Doctor stop Aurelian from going to war? Will Clara’s involvement in the plot against the Duke be discovered? Why is Conrad’s ambassador so nervous? And who are the ancient and weary knights who arrive in Varuz claiming to be on a quest for the Holy Grail…?


My thanks to BBC Books for a review copy of Royal Blood

The Doctor and Clara are back and, as we would expect, the TARDIS has landed them in uncomfortable surroundings once again. Varuz is a small city on the brink of ruin, a once-proud place it is falling into disrepair and the enemy forces are threatening, it seems one final conflict is coming and there is no escaping the fact that Varuz will fall.

The Duke (Aurelian) is trying to rally support for one last valiant push in a bid to save all that they hold dear, however, his wife and his closest allies are opposed to the idea.  Into this fraught situation lands the Doctor and Clara.  They are initially mistaken for the ambassadors from the opposing forces, however, the Duke appears convinced that the Doctor is actually a holy man who will bless his forthcoming attack – obviously the Doctor will provide no such blessing.

With the political wrangling in full swing a new element is thrown into the mix – the appearance of a number of ancient knights. They are on a long quest to find the Holy Grail and they believe their search will end in Varuz. The Doctor is far from convinced but how can he explain the appearance of the knights? These men are on a seemingly never-ending journey to find an item that the Doctor does not believe exists – why would they appear in Varuz at such a pivotal time in its history?

Royal Blood is a delight to read. There are many scenes ‘at court’ where Clara and the Doctor are caught up in the politics of Varuz. There are factions opposed to Auerlian’s planned war and Clara is asked to spy for one of the key players that oppose the Duke, something of a dilemma for Clara and Una McCormack brilliantly depicts Clara’s turmoil and her frustration at the Doctor’s apparent lack of concern about her predicament.

Royal Blood is one of three titles published by BBC Books this autumn. The stories are all linked and are described as a trilogy of adventures across time and space which follow the Doctor’s search for The Glamour.  Although I struggled to find a definitive reading order for the books I found Royal Blood the best place to start and the concept of The Glamour was well defined (and intriguing).

This was the first of the three Doctor Who releases I read and it started the trilogy brilliantly. Varuz is an enigma, the political manoeuvring kept me hooked and the Grail quest was unexpected yet a great addition. Another great addition to the Doctor Who range.


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September 12

Solomon Creed – Simon Toyne

solomon creed [30763]I am delighted to be able to host today’s leg of the Solomon Creed Blog Tour.

Solomon Creed is the magnificent book from Simon Toyne and I am delighted to be able to share the opening chapter with you:


In the beginning is the road – and me walking along it.

I have no memory of who I am, or where I have come from, or how I came to be here. There is only the road

and the desert stretching away to a burnt sky in every


and there is me.

Anxiety bubbles within me and my legs scissor, pushing me forward through hot air as if they know something I don’t. I feel like telling them to slow down, but even in my confused state I know you don’t talk to your legs, not unless you’re crazy, and I don’t think I’m crazy – I don’t think so.

I stare down the shimmering ribbon of tarmac, rising and falling over the undulating land, its straight edges made wavy by intense desert heat. It makes the road seem insubstantial and the way ahead uncertain and my anxiety burns bright because of it. I feel there’s something important to do here, and that I am here to do it, but I cannot remember what.

I try to breathe slowly, dredging a recollection from some deep place that this is meant to be calming, and catch different scents in the dry desert air – the coal-tar sap of a broken creosote bush branch, the sweet sugar rot of fallen saguaro fruit, the arid perfume of agave pollen – each thing so clear to me, so absolutely itself and correct and known. And from the solid seed of each named thing more information grows –  Latin names, medicinal properties, common names, whether each is edible or poisonous. The same happens when I glance to my left or right, each glimpsed thing sparking new names and fresh torrents of facts until my head hums with it all. I know the world entirely it seems and yet I know nothing of myself. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t even know my own name.

The wind gusts at my back, pushing me forward and bringing a new smell that makes my anxiety are into fear. It is smoke, oily and acrid, and a half-formed memory slides in with it that there is something awful lying on the road behind me, something I need to get away from.

I break into a run, staring forward, not daring to glance behind. The blacktop feels hard and hot against the soles of my feet. I look down to discover that I’m not wearing shoes. My feet ash as they pound the road, my skin pure white in the bright sunshine. I hold my hand up and it’s the same, so white I have to narrow my eyes against the glare of it. I can feel my skin starting to redden in the fierce sun and know that I need to get out of this desert, away from this sun and the thing on the road behind me. I fix on a rise in the road, feeling if I can reach it then I will be safe, that the way ahead will be clearer.

The wind blows hard, bringing the smell of smoke again and smothering all other scents like a poisonous blanket. Sweat starts to soak my shirt and the dark grey material of my jacket. I should take it off, cool myself down a little, but the thicker material is giving me protection from the burning sun so I turn the collar up instead and keep on running. One step then another – forward and away, forward and away – asking myself questions between each step – Who am I? Where am I? Why am I here? – repeating each one until something starts to take shape in the blankness of my empty mind. An answer. A name. ‘James Coronado.’ I say it aloud in a gasp of breath before it is lost again and pain sears into my left shoulder.

My voice comes as a surprise to me, soft and strange and unfamiliar, but the name does not. I recognize it and say it again – James Coronado, James Coronado – over and over, hoping the name might be mine and might drag more about who I am from my silent memory. But the more I say it, the more distant it becomes until I’m certain the name is not mine. It feels apart from me though still connected in some way, as if I have made a promise to this man, one that I am bound to keep.

I reach the crest of the road and a new section of desert comes into view. In the distance I see a road sign, and beyond that, a town, spreading like a dark stain across the lower slopes of a range of red mountains.

I raise my hand to shield my eyes so I might read the name on the sign, but it is too far away and heat blurs the words. There is movement on the road, way off at the edge of town.


Heading this way. Red and blue lights flashing on their roofs.

The wail of sirens mingles with the roar of the smoke-filled wind and I feel trapped between the two. I look to my right and consider leaving the road and heading out into the desert. A new smell reaches me, drifting from somewhere out in the wilderness, something that seems more familiar to me than all the other things. It is the smell of something dead and rotting, lying somewhere out of sight, sunbaked and fetid and caramel-sweet, like a premonition of what will befall me if I stray from the road.

Sirens in front of me, death either side, and behind me, what?

Simon Toyne by Toby Madden
Simon Toyne by Toby Madden

I have to know.

I turn to gaze upon what I have been running from and the whole world is on fire.

An aircraft lies broken and blazing in the centre of the road, its wings sticking up from the ground like the folded wings of some huge burning beast. A wide circle of flame surrounds it, spreading rapidly as flames leap from plant to plant and lick up the sides of giant saguaro, their burning arms raised in surrender, their flesh splitting and hissing as the water inside boils and explodes in puffs of steam.

It is magnificent. Majestic. Terrifying.

The sirens grow louder and the flames roar. One of the wings starts to fall, trailing flame as it topples and filling the air with the tortured sound of twisting metal. It lands with a whump, and a wave of fire rolls up into the air, curling like a tentacle that seems to reach down the road for me, reaching out, wanting me back.

I stagger backwards, turn on my heels. And I run.


Solomon Creed is published by Harper Collins and is available in Hardback and digital formats now.

Order via Amazon here:


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September 6

The Girl Who Broke The Rules – Marnie Riches

Girl Who Broke the Rules 2The pulse-pounding new thriller from Marnie Riches. For anyone who loves Jo Nesbo and Stieg Larsson, this book is for you!

When the mutilated bodies of two sex-workers are found in Amsterdam, Chief Inspector van den Bergen must find a brutal murderer before the red-light-district erupts into panic. Georgina McKenzie is conducting research into pornography among the UK’s most violent sex-offenders but once van den Bergen calls on her criminology expertise, she is only too happy to come running. The rising death toll forces George and van den Bergen to navigate the labyrinthine worlds of Soho strip-club sleaze and trans-national human trafficking. And with the case growing ever more complicated, George must walk the halls of Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, seeking advice from the brilliant serial murderer, Dr. Silas Holm…



My thanks to the team at Avon Books for a review copy which I received through Netgalley.


George McKenzie is back. Four years have passed since the events of The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die and we find George back in England where she is studying for her PhD. These studies bring her into contact with some of the UK’s worst sex offenders and, in particular into direct contact with serial killer Silas Holm.

Holm is a manipulative subject and throughout The Girl Who Broke The Rules he manages to extend his influence far beyond the walls of his secure prison. He is a powerful character and I liked how his presence seemed to be kept in the background, he is not overused within the telling of the story but when he does feature the intensity of the scene is cranked up.

In Amsterdam two horribly mutilated bodies have been found. Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen is struggling to make any significant headway in the investigation and reaches out to George to return to Amsterdam to work with his team. Yet there are more than professional reasons behind his request, van den Bergen is infatuated with George and is desperate for her to return to Amsterdam.

George does not appear to have made any effort to let van den Bergen slip out of her life despite her ongoing relationship with her seemingly hapless boyfriend, Ad.  You cannot help but feel that headstrong, independent George is playing with fire as she tries to keep her continued friendship with van den Bergen a secret from Ad.

I need to back track to the ‘horribly mutilated bodies’ at this stage…The Girl Who Broke The Rules can sometimes score quite highly on the ‘very graphic’ scale. I am absolutely fine with this! However, I cannot tell you why you may find some scenes make you squirm because SPOILERS.) Suffice to say that this is not a schlock/slasher story, Marnie Riches has delivered another clever and classy murder story.

The Girl Who series is becoming essential reading – high quality thrillers with a feisty heroine who is far from perfect and certainly not bulletproof. Another 5 star outing for Georgina McKenzie – do not miss out on these books.


The Girl Who Broke The Rules is published by Maze (Avon Books) and is available here:



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