October 31

Savage Lane – Jason Starr

Savage LaneWhen recently divorced Karen moves with her two kids into a nice suburb of New York she finds peace and joy for the first time in years. But unbeknown to Karen, her neighbour Mark, unhappy in his own marriage, has been living a fantasy life with her in the centre – a fantasy life that becomes a full-blown obsession.


My thanks to No Exit Press for my review copy

Savage Lane can almost be considered a peek behind the curtains into the lives of some of the families living in suburban New York. The focus is Karen, a divorcee with two kids – she is friendly with Mark but Mark is obsessed with Karen.  Mark mistakes Karen’s friendship for something more and seems to be under the impression that Karen is looking to begin a relationship with him, giving Mark the chance to be free from his often-drunk and unloving wife Debs.

Debs, meanwhile, is keeping her own secrets from Mark.  Yes she is drinking to excess – something causing her children concern (if not her husband), however Debs is having an affair of her own with a much younger man who will not take ‘no’ for an answer and is not happy when an increasingly guilty Debs suggests that their relationship should come to an end.

As you may guess, Savage Lane pitches these individuals together and focusses on their secrets and their fantasies and exploits the fragile nature of their relationships.  These are unhappy and vulnerable people and it is a compelling read seeing how their neurosis and naivety makes them act in the most unexpected of ways.  The supporting cast of characters are equally complex and unpredictable all of which makes for an entertaining read.  Without drawing on spoilers – one character’s obsessive nature leads to a shocking loss of control and the implications on the other families featured in Savage Lane is significant and life changing.  Jason Starr does a great job of making his dysfunctional families come to life and I genuinely felt that in some cases their irrational and obscure behaviours were leading to them getting the payback they deserved.

The strapline for the book is ‘Everyone has a secret’ in Savage Lane they certainly do and some are deadly.

I really enjoyed reading Savage Lane. It was quite dark in places and the characters all seem to be missing a degree of self control or the ability to rationalise their actions but this made for a great story so I was happy to accept they were all flawed.


When I was offered the opportunity to join the Savage Lane blog tour I was thrilled to be offered the chance to take part. Particularly as I knew Jason Starr is also a writer of comic books. Jason has worked on iconic titles such as Wolverine and Punisher. As I have been a fan of comic books for many years I was keen to ask Jason his thoughts on their place in the literary world – this is his response to my question:

Do comic books and Graphic Novels get the recognition they deserve?

Comics and graphic novels have a huge, growing audience around the world, so they certainly have the respect of readers. Some comics have crossed over and gained so-called “literary” respect, but I’m not sure if that has gone much beyond Maus, Watchmen, and Neil Gaiman’s work. I think there is a common misconception among readers who don’t read comics that comics are just for teenage boys. I think these people are missing out on sensational storytelling going on in comics right now–in mainstream superhero titles, and especially in indie comics. I think part of the challenge the comic industry has in reaching this readership is in how to overcome the “intimidation factor” of comics. If you’ve never read comics, or haven’t read them since you were kid, the comics section at bookstores can seem quite foreboding–I don’t think people know where to start. But I suggest asking for recommendations because there really is some great stuff out there.


My thanks to Jason and to Harriett at No Exit Press

Savage Lane is published by No Exit Press and is available in paperback and digital formats now.


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October 30

Golden Lion – Wilbur Smith

Golden LionEast African Coast, 1670.

In a time of brave and brutal adventure, one man will journey across land and sea to pursue his greatest enemy …

The Golden Bough, captained by Henry ‘Hal’ Courtney, is running south from Ethiopia to Zanzibar. Below deck, both his crew and his lover, the fearless warrior Judith Nazet, sleep. As the moon glints through clouds, Hal sights a ship passing close by. Although there is an uneasy truce between the warring English and Dutch, Hal scents danger. When the Bough is boarded, the crew must go hand to hand to defend their ship and their lives.

But soon Hal will face even graver danger, as he discovers his mortal enemy still lives and is hell-bent on revenge. he must pursue his nemesis across desert savannah, through the seedy underbelly of Zanzibar’s slave markets and shark-infested waters, imperilling his own life at every turn. But it will take more than a slave’s shackles to hold Hal Courtney…

A thrilling blend of extraordinary drama and epic storytelling, Golden Lion sees Wilbur Smith return in triumphant form to the adventures of his beloved and bestselling Courtney family.


My thanks to the team at Harper Collins for my review copy


I first discovered the books of Wilbur Smith in the mid 1990’s. By this time he had an extensive back catalogue of titles for me to work my way through and for one long summer I did just that, rolling from one title straight into the next until I had exhausted the collection.  I remember the thrill of the exciting adventures, the exotic locations or the historical swashbuckle heroes. My favourite books were those that followed the Courtney family which works out well for Golden Lion as we get the chance to join Hal Courtney again.

For new readers there is no issue with using Golden Lion as a jumping on point for Mr Smith’s books, although there are returning characters all you need to know to enjoy this book is covered in the story. For returning readers you get to enjoy the return of some friends (and some enemies) to ensure that Hal Courtney is kept on his toes.

Golden Lion serves up exactly what I had expected from Wilbur Smith – a grand adventure where characters are placed in peril and have to use their cunning and wiles to live to fight another day.  We have duels, battles, pirates and diplomats all coming together in a hugely satisfying adventure romp.

I would recommend Golden Lion to readers who enjoy a full hearted adventure story. There were less twists and shocks than I am used to but this is an expectation I have from reading crime fiction where deception is the key to a good tale.  In Golden Lion the good guy/bad guy lines are clearly drawn and you cannot do anything but root for the hero! If you have enjoyed Wilbur Smith’s books in the past you will love this new one too.


Golden Lion is published by Harper Collins and available now in Hardback and Digital Formats

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October 29

Depraved Heart – Patricia Cornwell

Depraved HeartDr. Kay Scarpetta is working a suspicious death scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts when an emergency alert sounds on her phone with a surveillance film of her genius niece Lucy taken almost twenty years ago. The film clip and then others sent soon after raise dangerous legal implications that increasingly isolate Scarpetta and leave her not knowing where to turn – not to her FBI husband Benton Wesley or her investigative partner Pete Marino. Not even Lucy.

Scarpetta is now launched into intensely psychological odyssey that includes the mysterious death of a Hollywood mogul’s daughter, aircraft wreckage on the bottom of the sea in the Bermuda Triangle, a grisly gift left in the back of a crime scene truck, and videos from the past that threaten to destroy Scarpetta’s entire world and everyone she loves.


My thanks to Hayley and the Harper Fiction team for my review copy and the chance to join the tour.


Depraved Heart is the 23rd Kay Scarpetta novel. I was there back in 1990 when the first book (Postmortem) was released and the first ever publishers ARC I received was for book 6 (From Potter’s Field). Doctor Scarpetta was one of my annual essential reads and I always made a point of picking up the latest release as soon as the hardback hit the shop shelves. But time moved on and for a period of time it became more important that I bought baby food and nappies rather than the books I wanted. My favourite reads suffered and as a result I fell behind on the lives of Dr Scarpetta, Lucas Davenport (from the wonderful John Sandford Prey series) and whichever oddity Mr Stephen King would serve up for our entertainment.

The bodies that consumed the baby food and then filled the nappies have grown somewhat and I am now able to pick up the books I have missed over the last few years and I am catching up on my favourite characters. It seems that while I have been distracted Doctor Scarpetta has been busy!

Author photograph - Patrick Ecclesine 2015
Author photograph – Patrick Ecclesine 2015

To Depraved Heart: it is to be expected that by book 23 in a series there will be a requirement to know something of the backstory. Depraved Heart is very much a story which draws upon previous events. The author does bring through sufficient information to allow readers to understand something of what has passed before but this is not a book I would consider an easy jumping on point.  There is a vast backstory for Kay Scarpetta and the joy for the reader is in reading through these events in the earlier books, not to try to piece together what has gone before through some of the salient facts in the latest title.

The good news for returning readers is that some significant elements from Kay’s past are returning to haunt her and a fascinating game of cat and mouse is about to unfold. The book opens with Scarpetta at a murder scene but she becomes distracted by call she receives from her niece’s emergency phone. However, it is not her niece, Lucy, that has contacted Kay – instead Kay watches a video clip of Lucy which was recorded some 20 years earlier. Lucy was clearly unaware the video was being recorded but Kay is sufficiently worried about her niece that she leaves the crime scene and drives directly to Lucy’s home to check on her safety.

On arriving at Lucy’s home Kay is shocked to learn that the FBI are searching the property and it seems that Lucy may be a person of interest to them. Kay has her suspicions regarding the person responsible for sending the video and believes that they may also be engineering a ploy to implicate Lucy in a criminal activity. But with no evidence to support her theory and facing an apparent attempt to discredit her own recollections of recent events (which that endangered her own life) Kay finds she is fighting a battle on more than one front.

Depraved Heart is a rewarding read for fans of the series. Scarpetta, Benton and Moreno are in fine form, their interchanges and point-scoring discussions are a joy to read – particularly as this is a conversation heavy story which much supposition and discussion between the characters.

The mystery and unpredictability of the unseen opponent in Depraved Heart made for interesting twists along the way. As I was reading I felt the story dropped pace a little in the middle but then rushed into an explosive ending which seemed to be over all too quickly, the final set piece was quite nasty though so perhaps drawing it out would have been unpleasant for some?

In summary – if you have read the 22 books leading into Depraved Heart you will love this.  For those on catch up (as I was) pay attention and stick with it as all becomes clear but there are spoilers for earlier books.


Track the Depraved Heart blog tour at the sites listed below:

Depraved Heart Blog Banner



Fans of Patricia Cornwell may be keen to know that there will be two opportunities to meet her during November – links below will provide more details on the events which are being held in London and Manchester.

http://www.goodhousekeeping.co.uk/lifestyle/gh-events-and-whats-on/patricia-cornwell – event in LONDON

https://www.waterstones.com/events/an-evening-with-patricia-cornwell/manchester-deansgate -event in MANCHESTER

Depraved Heart is available now in Hardback and Digital format.

Patricia Cornwell is on Twitter: @1pcornwell



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October 27

A Line of Blood – Ben McPherson

A line of bloodYou find your neighbour dead in his bath.
Your son is with you. He sees everything.

You discover your wife has been in the man’s house.
It seems she knew him.

Now the police need to speak to you.

One night turns Alex Mercer’s life upside down. He loves his family and he wants to protect them, but there is too much he doesn’t know.

He doesn’t know how the cracks in his and Millicent’s marriage have affected their son, Max. Or how Millicent’s bracelet came to be under the neighbour’s bed. He doesn’t know how to be a father to Max when his own world is shattering into pieces.

Then the murder investigation begins…


My thanks to the team at Harper for my review copy

This is an intense psychological thriller which will have you doubting and second guessing the motives of almost all of the characters you encounter throughout A Line Of Blood. Alex Mercer and his son Max find their neighbour dead in his bath. A traumatic experience which is significantly magnified when it comes to light that Alex’s wife Millicent had been in his neighbour’s house and may have known the dead man – perhaps intimately.

Following the discovery of the body we follow the Mercer family as their lives spiral into chaos. Alex struggles to understand why Millicent has been lying (and is she still lying to him). Millicent seems to be keeping secrets and her behaviour is incredibly unpredictable.  Max has questions – many, many questions and does not seem to be overly troubled by what he has seen. However, a visit to a psychologist reveals that there may be much more going on inside Max’s head than he is revealing and his parent’s increasingly unusual behaviour is not helping.

As a reader I was compelled to keep the pages turning – A Line of Blood wants to drag you in and keep you guessing as to which characters are believable and which are twisting the facts for their own gain. Keep reading to the end and the journey is a treat for those of us that enjoy a clever, well written thriller.

I did have a slight concern as I read though – the characters all seemed flawed and they acted in ways which seemed just too extreme at times for me to wholly get behind them. I could not empathise with Alex, Millicent or Max and this made it hard for me to care what happened to them. Having checked many other reviews and after discussing the book with friends and fellow bloggers I find that I am in a minority (of one) on this front but not being able to engage with the principle characters was a concern.

In summary – a clever story with some great twists along the way.


A Line of Blood is published by Harper and is available in paperback and digital format now.



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October 24

For Reasons Unknown – Michael Wood

For Reasons UnknownTwo murders. Twenty years. Now the killer is back for more…

A darkly compelling debut crime novel. The start of a brilliant series, perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid, and James Oswald.

DCI Matilda Darke has returned to work after a nine month absence. A shadow of her former self, she is tasked with re-opening a cold case: the terrifyingly brutal murders of Miranda and Stefan Harkness. The only witness was their eleven-year-old son, Jonathan, who was too deeply traumatized to speak a word.

Then a dead body is discovered, and the investigation leads back to Matilda’s case. Suddenly the past and present converge, and it seems a killer may have come back for more…


Thanks to the Killer Reads team for my review copy which I received through Netgalley


The first very pleasing thing I can say about For Reasons Unknown is that it will be the first in a series of novels which will feature DCI Matilda Darke. I find this pleasing as I really enjoyed For Reasons Unknown and am already looking forward to more from Michael Wood. 

We first encounter DCI Matilda Darke as she prepares to make her return to work after a prolonged absence, while we are not immediately made aware of the reasons for this absence the background is nicely teased out through the story.  Matilda has been through the wringer and you cannot help but empathise with her struggle.  

To ease her back into work she is assigned a cold case to work – one of Sheffield’s most notorious murders which occurred some 20 years earlier. Matilda is frustrated by being sidelined on her return, particularly as her former colleague (Ben Hales) has stepped up into her role and is not too keen on stepping back down again. I really enjoyed the workplace politics within For Reasons Unknown, it gave extra depth to the investigating team and watching two principle investigators, Matilda and Ben, battle it out for supremacy made for some excellent reading. 

Matilda’s cold case investigation concerns a brutal double murder, a husband and wife were killed in the family home as they prepared to go out for an evening. They had two sons, one was found in the family home traumatised and unable to talk after the incident, the other son went missing for days after the incident and is seemingly unable to provide clarification as to where he had been.   

Jumping forward to present day we learn the ‘murder house’ is due to be torn down and naturally it has brought the unsolved double murder back into the public attention. But when a murder in the city seems to link into Matilda’s cold case doubts arise as to whether either Matilda or Ben are capable of putting their personal issues to one side to investigate their respective cases.

For Reasons Unknown is a great read with some nice twists along the way. One of those books that I finish and immediately want to pick up the next title by the same author. So Mr Wood, it is over to you – more please!


For Reasons Unknown is available now in digital format.

Michael Wood is on Twitter: MichaelHWood




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October 21

The House on Cold Hill Q&A with Peter James

The House On Cold HillToday I am delighted to welcome Peter James to Grab This Book. I have been a fan of horror/ghost stories for many years and when I first discovered Peter’s books his chilling tales gave me many sleepless nights. Peter’s new book The House on Cold Hill marks a his return to the horror genre, I am grateful to Peter for taking time to answer a few of my questions.


Can you give us a quick summary of The House on Cold Hill? What can readers expect?

The book is about a couple of townies, Ollie and Caro Harcourt, who move from the heart of the city of Brighton and Hove to their dream home in the Sussex countryside, with their twelve year old daughter, Jade, who does not share their enthusiasm.  Jade is stroppy and unhappy about leaving Brighton where all her friends are. But Caro and Ollie both love the idea of a big restoration project, and despite the huge financial strain, and a number of warnings in the surveyors report, they buy Cold Hill House – a huge, dilapidated, Georgian mansion.  Within days of moving in with, it soon becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren’t the only residents in the house….. The first thing that happens is that Jade is up in her room a couple of days later, on Facetime, to her best friend in Brighton, when her friend suddenly says, ‘Jade, who is that lady standing behind you?’


As I was reading I was trying to work out if the House could possibly be considered the central character with Oliver and his family as supporting players. Do you consider this to be Ollie’s story or the story of the House?

Well, I love the strapline that my publishers came up with for ‘THE HOUSE ON COLD HILL’…. ‘Evil Isn’t Born, It’s Built’.   I’ll leave the context of that to your imagination!


Every town seems to have a house which the locals believe may be haunted – is the house in the book based on a real property?

The House On Cold Hill is very much inspired by – and modeled on – an isolated historic house in Sussex that my former wife and I bought in 1989, and lived in for a decade – and which turned out to be very seriously haunted.


Have you ever seen a ghost?

I have never actually seen a ghost, however, at the house I mention in the previous question there were many things that happened that I couldn’t explain. I saw on many occasions, tiny pinpricks of white light floating in the air.  A medium who I used a lot during my writing of Possession, visited my house and she told me I was slightly psychic, and that is why I saw these pinpricks, and that while I was not actually seeing the entire apparition, I was picking up on some of its energy.


Do you need to adopt a very different approach to building a horror story than you may need to write a crime novel?

It is a different approach for sure. With my series of crime novels I have to keep the consistency throughout the series and bring in continuity with characters, places, and my research with the police is as accurate as I can possibly make it. With the horror story which based on ghostly experiences I can go a little more free-form and let my imagination take over!


At the risk of spoilers – is there one scene in your book you are particularly happy with? Perhaps one that you had fun writing?

A key element of the story is a mysterious window in the dilapidated Georgian mansion that my couple buy.  A window that, they one day realize, is for a room that does not appear to exist.  A room that has no door…  I really enjoyed writing this part.   And there is a chilling postscript to my writing ‘THE HOUSE ON COLD HILL’.… In addition to my home in Sussex, I have an apartment on two floors in Notting Hill.   A month after finishing the book my wife, Lara, and I were walking along the street beneath, looking up, and talking about his particular part of the book.  Suddenly Lara asked, pointing up, ‘Which room is that window in?’ We stood there frozen for some moments, as it began to dawn on us that the window did not make sense.  We could not work out which room it was.  We ran in, raced up the six flights of stairs and into each of the two rooms which the “mystery” window seem to straddle.  But there was no window!  We finally did solve the mystery – the builders who had put a fitted wardrobe in the master bedroom had, for whatever reason, decided to lose the window in the process and, leaving the glass on the outside, had timbered over the inside.

Who says truth is not stranger than fiction???!


I first encountered your books around the time of Prophecy, Twilight and Host. Back then you were competing for my reading time with King, Herbert, Hutson and to some extent Dean Koontz. Although Mr King is still prolific do you feel there is less choice for horror readers these days or am I missing new talent?

For a long time horror went out of fashion, and many old horror writers that I knew found it increasingly hard to get published and to gain shelf space in bookstores, so I would strongly agree that there is less choice. It was one of the reasons my publishers asked me if I would like to return to the genre.


You spend months creating a terrifying story to chill your readers but what scares you?

Many things! I’m scared of heights, and I am deeply claustrophobic – although that claustrophobia helped a lot in writing my first Roy Grace novel, Dead Simple, in which one of the characters is buried alive in a coffin in remote woods after a stag night prank goes wrong, with everyone who knows where he is – bar one person – dead in a car wreck.  And that one person has a very good reason to keep quiet.  I had myself put into a coffin, and the lid screwed down, for thirty minutes, as part of my research.  It was the most terrifying thirty minutes of my life!


After concentrating on the Roy Grace novels for so long was it liberating to switch to something so very different?

Yes I really enjoyed writing this and many of my Roy Grace fans are excited to read it too. For my very long-term fans this book will be like returning to some of my earlier work… my first successful novel, back in 1988, was Possession, a supernatural thriller, and I wrote several in this vein before moving on to psychological thrillers and then crime.  Much though I love writing my Roy Grace books – I’m currently working on the 12th in the series, there are other areas I’m very keen to explore.  I wrote Perfect People, a thriller about “designer” babies, which was published four years ago, in which I look at the choices science will ultimately give parents on choosing the genetic make-up of their offspring.  I loved writing it and the book was highly successful.  My publishers thought it would be fun for me to have a return to the supernatural, and they were right.  I had a great time writing The House On Cold Hill, and certainly plan to write more in this field.  Possibly even a sequel!


Your books have enjoyed a great deal of success and you are a household name what advice would you offer to young aspiring writers?

There is only one way to penetrate the world of writing novels, and that is to write novels.  I don’t believe good writers can be taught, although I think their technique can be helped.  My most important recommendation to any young person who wants to write novels is to read, read and read.  Particularly the kind of novels they would like to write – and to deconstruct them, literally – and work out what made them like this or that particular book.  How did the writer get them hooked… how did the writer make them care for the characters….  It is impossible to stress this enough


What are you currently reading?Peter james

I read avidly and widely and my biggest regret is that being a writer ironically means I never get to read as much as I want.  The reason is I don’t like to read fiction while I am in the first draft writing process – which is around 7 months of each year – as it is too easy to pick up someone else’s style.  But then I read huge amounts of non-fiction, some for research and some for pleasure. I recently really enjoyed ‘I Let You Go’ by Claire Macintosh. I was first sent it as a proof, asking for a quote, and I was utterly gripped.  It is wonderfully written, with credible and interesting characters, and has one of the most astonishing twists I’ve ever read, turning the story completely on hits head halfway through.  It was one of those rare books I put down thinking, “Gosh, wish I’d written this!”


Are you able to give us any clues as to what you are currently working on?

I’m currently working hard to finish Roy Grace 12, it’s called ‘Love You Dead’.  I have the stage play of my novella, ‘The Perfect Murder’, coming back on tour early next year so we are casting for that. It will star Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace and has had two hugely successful nationwide tours already. I hope also to share some good news about Roy Grace on TV soon!


My most sincere thanks to Peter.

The House on Cold Hill is available now in Hardback and Digital format.  My 5 star review can be found here

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October 21

The House On Cold Hill – Peter James

The House On Cold HillThey said the dead can’t hurt you . . . They were wrong.

The House on Cold Hill is a chilling and suspenseful ghost story from the multi-million copy bestselling author of Dead Simple, Peter James.

Moving from the heart of Brighton and Hove to the Sussex countryside is a big undertaking for Ollie and Caro Harcourt and their twelve-year-old daughter Jade. But when they view Cold Hill House – a huge, dilapidated Georgian mansion – Ollie is filled with excitement. Despite the financial strain of the move, he has dreamed of living in the country since he was a child, and he sees Cold Hill House as a paradise for his animal-loving daughter, the perfect base for his web-design business and a terrific long-term investment. Caro is less certain, and Jade is grumpy about being separated from her friends.

Within days of moving in, it becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren’t the only residents of the house. A friend of Jade’s is the first to see the spectral woman, standing behind her as the girls talk on FaceTime. Then there are more sightings, as well as increasingly disturbing occurrences in the house. As the haunting becomes more malevolent and the house itself begins to turn on the Harcourts, the terrified family discover Cold Hill House’s dark history, and the horrible truth of what it could mean for them . . .

My thanks to Julia at Midas PR for my beautiful review copy.


The House on Cold Hill – a terrific ghost story and a perfectly timed release with Halloween just around the corner.

When I first read Peter James it was around the time he released Prophecy and Twilight. I was discovering books about ghosts and monsters and taking a break from my normal choice of reading (which was always crime fiction). Mr James was a writer of horror stories and he was bloody good at it too. Time passed and he introduced us to a character called Roy Grace and in doing so firmly established himself as a bit of a wizard at writing great crime stories too.

The House on Cold Hill sees Peter James take a break from the Grace novels and return to a stand-alone horror tale. As I had recently been lamenting the lack of horror tales in my TBR pile I could not wait to get my teeth into this one – and I was not to be disappointed!

As you may have guessed, The House on Cold Hill is a haunted house – the efficiency of the haunting is firmly cemented in the opening chapters with a shocking scene which caught me unawares. This was the perfect reminder for me that in a good horror story ANYTHING can happen.

The story follows Oliver and Caro Harcourt and their daughter Jade. They have bought Cold Hill House and are looking forward to a fresh start away from the city in their grand country home. But even as they are moving there are some unexplained occurrences, mysterious shadows crossing a room and one of the family may have seen a figure who should not have been in the house at the time.

As the story progresses Peter James does a brilliant job of building up the tension for the reader who can never quite be sure how much characters can be trusted, how accurate conversations are or who may escape the story unscathed. A special mention to one scene which made me glad I do not ever need to FaceTime!

I was totally drawn into The House on Cold Hill, I was compelled to keep reading long into the night and it made me realise how much I have missed reading a good horror story.  This book is an absolute treat for readers who enjoy a chilling tale in the dark winter evenings. A must read – a five star score.


The House on Cold Hill is published by Macmillan and is available in Hardback and digital format

Peter James is on Twitter: @peterjamesuk




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October 19

Doctor Who : Deep Time – Trevor Baxendale

Deep Time‘I do hope you’re all ready to be terrified!’

The Phaeron disappeared from the universe over a million years ago. They travelled among the stars using roads made from time and space, but left only relics behind. But what actually happened to the Phaeron? Some believe they were they eradicated by a superior force… Others claim they destroyed themselves.

Or were they in fact the victims of an even more hideous fate?

In the far future, humans discover the location of the last Phaeron road – and the Doctor and Clara join the mission to see where the road leads. Each member of the research team knows exactly what they’re looking for – but only the Doctor knows exactly what they’ll find. Because only the Doctor knows the true secret of the Phaeron: a monstrous secret so terrible and powerful that it must be buried in the deepest grave imaginable…


My thanks to BBC Doctor Who books for my review copy

This was the third of the Glamour Chronicles books I read and I felt that it brought the series to a nice conclusion.  I had struggled to find a ‘correct’ reading order, however in my chat with Gary Russell he indicated that Royal Blood should come before Deep Time and that Big Bang Generation could be read anytime. Thus my reading order of Royal Blood, Big Bang Generation then Deep Time left me feeling I had stumbled onto the best way to approach the Glamour Chronicles.

The Doctor and Clara find themselves on board a deep space exploration ship. It is a state of the art craft which is embarking on an archaeological exploration to find the last of the fabled Phaeron Roads – wormholes in space which the ancient Phaeron race once used to traverse the galaxies before they mysteriously disappeared and passed into legend.

The ship they are travelling on crosses into the wormhole they had been seeking but the journey is too much for their craft and they find themselves stuck in deep space. They are unable to pilot their way to safety and their ship is rapidly losing all life support functions. For the Doctor and Clara survival becomes paramount but someone within the crew is working to their own agenda and if that means the lives of others have to be sacrificed then this will not keep them from their goal.

On reflection I would say Deep Time was (for me) the most fun read of the three books from this release cycle. The story unfolded at a fast pace, there were plenty of action sequences and the small cast of characters are frequently exposed to peril and find their numbers dwindle at an alarming rate.  This is classic Doctor Who fare – Trevor Baxendale does a great job of creating characters you actually care about and provides the villain of the piece who you want to get their comeuppance.

Fans of The Doctor and Clara will not be disappointed with Deep Time and for those following the Glamour Chronicles this is the story where the Glamour is most prominent.



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October 15

The Girl Who: Q&A with Marnie Riches

the girl who wouldnt die 2Today I am delighted to be able to welcome Marnie Riches to Grab This Book. I  loved the first two books in The Girl Who series and have been dying for the chance to ask Marnie a few questions to get some insights into how these great stories came together.


First, could I ask you to introduce us to George?

Who is The Girl Who?

Georgina McKenzie – George, for short – is a South East London girl who hails from a very tough council estate in an impoverished, crime-ridden part of the city. Trapped between the tyranny of urban gangs and an unloving, disloyal mother, George uses her intellect to escape a future as a petty criminal. She learns her way to Cambridge University, where, in the course of the series, she blossoms from a social politics undergraduate into a fully-fledged criminologist. Her weaknesses are crisps, an often abrasive attitude and loving the wrong men. Her strengths include a keen analytical mind that can piece together the most perplexing of puzzles, razor-sharp instincts that cut through the densest of bullshit and a very low tolerance threshold for bullies.

How do you describe The Girl Who books to prospective readers?

The Girl Who books are fast-paced, gritty international crime thrillers that examine the dark side of sexuality and expose the shocking fallout from trans-national trafficking. If you’re looking for gentle, quiet reads, this series is not for you. The language is sometimes strong and the body counts are high – reflecting what goes on in Europe’s criminal underworld. All three books start with the hunt for a brutal multiple murderer but twist and turn into something else. The stories don’t shy away from tackling tricky subjects like racial intolerance, drug misuse, pornography or child abuse. In many ways, they are reminiscent of Scandi-noir blockbusters by Nesbo and Stieg Larsson, but with a strong flavour of the quirky serial-killer brutality and intellectual flourishes that you find in Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs – principally because these three authors represent my main influences in the genre, and George is an academic. Police procedural balance is supplied by George’s partner, Amsterdam’s Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen, who is a middle-aged misanthrope, suffering from crippling health anxiety. The series is very definitely character led, and readers tell me that they enjoy the quirky dynamic between George and Van den Bergen.

You recently won a Dead Good Readers award for The Most Exotic Location – why did you choose to have Amsterdam feature so heavily in your books?

My degree was in German and Dutch, so I had to spend a year living abroad as part of my studies. Despite having grand intentions of spending that year out in Aruba in the Dutch Antilles, I ended up living, studying and teaching in Utrecht, in the Netherlands. It’s a great city but small for a big-city-dweller like me. I always loved my visits to Amsterdam, so when I considered where to set my novels, Amsterdam was the obvious choice. It’s extremely beautiful, historic and sleazy as hell in parts. The world-famous red light district is one of the most fun places to visit – I’ve had many a misspent weekend there! Every red-lit booth and coffee shop seems to inspire a story in me…

Over the first two books George has a couple of men in her life and she seems to hold power over them both – she appears to be the Alpha. Does George need to be in control of this aspect of her life or does she just enthral the men she attracts?

It’s funny you should say that. It’s true that George doesn’t do demure at all. She’s sexually confident and, unless they are intimidated and turned off by a woman who knows her own mind, men become deeply attracted to her. She’s clever and vivacious, so why wouldn’t they? But she’s emotionally honest too. I think, for all she’s assertive and confident, George is actually deeply vulnerable in love – not really Alpha at all. She falls hard for her men and only gives consideration to protecting her heart when it’s too late. That’s the point at which the anger and righteous indignation start to pour out of her at speed and at volume! It’s a defence tactic. So, I don’t think George seeks control in her love life at all. I think she reels from one heartbreak situation to the next because deep down, she’s passionate, headstrong and soft as hell.

Marnie 2

How much of Marnie comes out in George?  Can you have her do and say things you would like to do yourself?

Absolutely! George does and says all the things I’d like to do and say but can’t. At 20, as she is in The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die, she has none of the responsibilities and problems with stiff joints that I have as a middle-aged woman! It’s true that some of George’s experiences are mine, however. I also grew up on a rough estate. My mother was a single parent and we struggled in impoverished circumstances. I also learned my way out of the ghetto and went to Cambridge. I am also an opinionated gobshite, but then, there’s a part of me in Van den Bergen too. I’ll leave it for the reader to decide how much is fiction and how much is fact!

Your books can be quite graphic in their depictions of violence, as a reader I like the edge that this gives the story.  Did you ever worry about excluding potential readers by giving the books a ‘darker’ tone?

The films and TV series that I enjoy contain graphic violence. I’m a big Tarantino fan. I adored The Wire and Breaking Bad. In many ways, my series is the literary equivalent of those small and big screen phenomena. Fast-paced, vivid plot. Big characters. Racially diverse cast. Big crime. Lots of blood. Similarly, my series contains some humour too, to lighten those grim moments, and the violence always has its place in adding depth to our understanding of the criminal perpetrators’ psyches. So, given my love of Scandi-noir fiction and that gold standard of crime novels – The Silence of the Lambs – I was never going to shy away from incorporating violence into my writing. We have far more gory stories to tell in the real world. The news is overflowing with war, genocide and murder, after all. And as a bit of a softy, violence serves as a form of escapism for me.

No doubt, the body count does exclude a minority of readers, but The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die got to #69 in Amazon’s kindle top 100 and won an award. The Girl Who Broke the Rules is riding high in the rankings only weeks after release and reviews are outstanding. So, I’m not entirely sure the series suffers as a result of my literary bloodshed!

George has encountered several killers through her research and also during the adventures she has experienced. I always like to ask this:  Why do readers love serial killer stories given how horrific the concept is in reality?

Serial killers form an intrinsic part of our collective oral history, like childhood tales of the bogeyman or urban myths. Every grown-up has heard of the Moors Murderers, Fred and Rose West, The Yorkshire Ripper… They’re gruesome anti-legends. Serial killers are so rare, that they always make headlines, and we read their stories with macabre fascination, precisely because they are such an anomaly in our otherwise ordered, safe and fairly predictable lives. Death is inevitable, but premature death at the hand of a violent killer is a primal fear, statistically founded on very little, but which we nevertheless experience with perverse relish and vicariously through the suffering of a few unfortunate individuals who do fall victim to society’s worst predators. Serial killers will always be fascinating.

Who do you enjoy reading (and does their work in any way shape your own writing style)?

I enjoy reading my fellow crime authors’ work, although with such a tight writing schedule, I struggle to make time for a concerted and sustained reading effort at the moment. I read out of genre too. Children’s, literary fiction, contemporary women’s, historical. Over the last year, I’ve read everything by Joshua Ferris, one or two by Lionel Shriver, one by Matt Haig, one by Tom Rob Smith, a Gill Paul, a C.L. Taylor, an Ava Marsh, Angela Marsons’ first, half of an Elizabeth Haynes, a chapter or two of one of Simon Toyne’s, half an Eva Dolan. I tend to read the books of people who are signed to my literary agency or people whom I know. None of it particularly influences me. I’ve had my own voice since day one and have a backlog of story ideas! I’ve been writing seriously for ten years, after all and was published as a children’s author before TheGirlWho series burst onto the crime scene!

Girl Who Broke the Rules 2Are you a meticulous plotter, do you sit down and prepare exactly how the story will unfold before you start to write?

I work to a two-six page synopsis that I write and agree with my agent in advance of embarking on the real graft. I’m fairly fastidious. I always replot my novels once my first drafts are finished, to ensure my high points and turning points are all in the correct places. Because I write in distinct scenes, it’s fairly easy to move things around, if necessary. I’m not one of those authors whose plot plans are longer than the actual book, but I’m not a pantser either. Nesbo is very tight on plotting and I always see Headhunters as a shining example of how to get it spot on.

If you had one chance to change the ending to ANY book what would you like to alter? My personal choice would be to undo a ‘significant’ event from the end of Agatha Christie’s Curtain.

I read Philip Pulman’s His Dark Materials and enjoyed it immensely. I thought the last page, after hundreds of pages of written joy, however, was a let-down. I can’t think how I might have changed it, but I remember thinking I’d have liked him to finish an otherwise utterly perfect trilogy in a more satisfying manner. I think even the very best authors are often not especially good at ending novels. It’s a subtle art.

Finally, can you give us any clues as to what we can hope to see in your next book?

Ah, I’ve just handed The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows in, so I know exactly what kind of a twisty pulse-pounder is in store for you. In the midst of an Arctic freeze, George – now a fully qualified criminologist – must help fathom the mystery behind a brutal killer called Jack Frost and the ongoing fallout from one of Van Den Bergen’s stone cold cases… The theme of trafficking continues in this third instalment, and some of our favourite characters – goodies and baddies – put in an appearance. It’s a tale of loss, longing and revenge. As ever, there are murders to be solved, but this story is so much more than initial appearances suggest!



The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die and The Girl Who Broke The Rules are published by Maze/HarperCollins.

Marnie is on Twitter: @Marnie_Riches

You can purchase The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00U1K18VY?keywords=the%20girl%20who%20wouldn’t%20die&qid=1444944722&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1


The Girl Who Broke The Rules here:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Who-Broke-Rules-ebook/dp/B00U5NU62E/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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October 14

The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett


Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

There will be a reckoning . . .



So much has already been written about The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett’s final Discworld novel, that it is hard to know where to take this review where I may cover new ground. So this review is a little different..you don’t need me to summarise the plot: it is a Pratchett Witches story. You don’t need me to introduce the characters (it is Tiffany and the Witches). You don’t even need me to tell you if it is a good story: it is the last ever Discworld book written by Terry Pratchett and – having read all the previous books – I am not going to be unhappy with it.

Except it did make me unhappy.

Well I should clarify…it made me sad. It made me so sad that I sat in a café with tears streaming down my face. Proper big wet dripping tears.

I loved the Discworld books.  I have invested many hours of my life reading, re-reading and taking about the characters from the Disc. I have my favourites…favourite characters, favourite books and even favourite jokes.  Other than my single read of The Shepherd’s Crown I have read each of the Discworld books at least 3/4 times.  In the case of Nightwatch that rises to over a dozen times. Let there be no doubt that since I was in High School (and I am now past my 40th birthday) I have been a fan of Terry Pratchett. Reading The Shepherd’s Crown and knowing there were no more titles to follow was harrowing.

My personal reading trauma should not take away from the fact that The Shepherd’s Crown is a GOOD Terry Pratchett story. While previous novels featuring Tiffany Aching have been more aligned to a slightly younger reader this is very much a read with a darker tone. The primary reason of the darker tone is death.  Not DEATH (the blue eyed, cat loving skeleton that Pratchett fans love so much) but actual end of life death – the final reckoning. Perhaps it is appropriate that in his final Discworld novel Mr Pratchett casts his attention to death in the way he has previously lampooned trains, the post office and Christmas.  Except death is not such a light-hearted topic and the story of The Shepherd’s Crown is more brutal at times than may have previously been the case in earlier books.

Had I considered it, I would not have wanted it to be a Tiffany story which was the last ever Discworld book, I felt that her tale reached a natural conclusion in I Shall Wear Midnight.  However, I will confess that Tiffany and the Witches give the series a great send off – the story seemed right as I read it and I feel it brought the Discworld to an acceptable place for us to leave it on its journey. I would have loved one last chance to see the Watch in action, travel with Death to his realm and see Albert and the Death of Rats, have the Luggage stamp through the background and see Rincewind running in the other direction…but it was not to be. But what we do get from The Shepherd’s Crown is a poignant send off from one of the nations most loved authors and a series finale that builds upon the legacy of all the books that came before it.

You would not start reading the Harry Potter books with the 7th title in the collection. Nor should you consider picking up The Shepherd’s Crown as your first introduction to Discworld, this is a story which has been years in the making – the sum of many parts – and for this reason it is a magnificent addition to the collection.

For this reader the Discworld has been a place of escape; a world of dragons and assassins, trolls, dwarves and wizards – it has been an ever present through my adult life and will continue to be my refuge when this world gets too much for me. Thank you Sir Terry.

Now if you will excuse me I think I must have some grit in my eyes….


The Shepherd’s Crown is published by Doubleday and is available in Hardback and digital formats.





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