April 27

The Evolution of Fear – Paul Hardisty

Evolution of Fear Vis 1 copyClaymore Straker is a fugitive with a price on his head. Wanted by the CIA for acts of terrorism he did not commit, his best friend has just been murdered and Rania, the woman he loves, has disappeared. Betrayed by those closest to him, he must flee the sanctuary of his safe house in Cornwall and track her down.

As his pursuers close in, Clay follows Rania to Istanbul and then to Cyprus, where he is drawn into a violent struggle between the Russian mafia, Greek Cypriot extremists, and Turkish developers cashing in on the tourism boom. As the island of love descends into chaos, and the horrific truth is unveiled, Clay must call on every ounce of skill and endurance to save Rania and put an end to the unimaginable destruction being wrought in the name of profit.

Gripping, exhilarating and, above all, frighteningly realistic, The Evolution of Fear is a startling, eye-opening read that demands the question: How much is truth, and how much is fiction?


My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy and for allowing me the chance to join the blog tour.

Claymore Straker, star of The Abrupt Physics of Dying, returns in a second outing from Paul Hardisty. My recollections of the first book was of an action packed environmental thriller which took the reader to exotic locations. So when The Evolution of Fear opened in the South of England I was slightly surprised!  No need for worry though as the action seemed to kick in from the first page and soon Mr Straker was off on his travels once again.

I always do the housekeeping when I cover a returning character…The Evolution of Fear can be read as a stand-alone thriller but there are several elements to the story which will be a little easier to follow if you have read The Abrupt Physics of Dying first (and in doing so you get to enjoy that great story too).

What I love about Paul Hardisty’s books is that you know you are in for an adventure. Straker is an action hero and is thrown from one confrontation to the next, he travels to exotic locations and has the beautiful Rania to keep safe from the various forces of evil. Not that Rania is not capable of looking after herself, a resourceful journalist who will stop at nothing to uncover corruption and feed the story to the media.

Straker has his work cut out this time out – there seem to be numerous factions keen to see the back of him. At times he cannot even be sure that he can trust his friends and this keeps the tension high as the story unfolds. At no point did I feel the story was slow paced, however, as I read deeper into the book I could feel momentum building. The action came thick and fast with everything building up towards a breathless finale.

I tend not to follow the ‘if you like x then you will love y’ recommendations. What I will suggest is that fans of high octane thrillers (Matthew Reilly and Scott Mariani sprang to mind) would be well advised to check out Paul Hardisty’s books.

Evolution of Fear Blog tour

The Evolution of Fear is available in paperback and digital formats and can be ordered here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paul-E.-Hardisty/e/B001K8KSBM/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1


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April 26

In Conversation: J.M. Hewitt and Alex Shaw

On the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl Disaster I get to welcome two guests to Grab This Book who are laying strong claim to owning the hashtag #UkrainianNoir.

J.M. Hewitt’s novel Exclusion Zone is based in Chernobyl and introduces us to Detective Alex Harvey. Joining her today is Alex Shaw, author of the Aiden Snow SAS thrillers and former resident of the Ukraine.

This is the 4th ‘Conversation’ I have had the privilege to share.  It is always my hope that these ‘chats’ will allow a full conversation to flow and avoid the inflexibility of a Q&A (where I ask questions but cannot respond to the replies). Not a problem here – before I could even ask my first question the conversation was well underway and kept going…


COLD EAST KINDLE COVER trimmedJMH: I didn’t know Alex Shaw until he read my article in the CWA’s ‘Red Herrings’ magazine and kindly messaged me via my Facebook page to say we share the same publisher and that his novels are based in Ukraine (as is my crime fiction debut, Exclusion Zone.) So with these things in common we’ve had some nice chats. Alex has branded us Ukrainian Noir, which I can see on a festival panel banner one day!

Although my next book is based in Scheveningen, Holland, so perhaps we’ll just have to call ourselves Euro Noir as we move onwards!

I guess the most obvious question to begin with is why Ukraine? Well, more specifically my novel is based in Chernobyl, abandoned land of wilderness which has been reclaimed by nature since the 1986 nuclear disaster. A place that is in Europe that cannot be lived in is endlessly fascinating to me.

And Alex, what about your Ukrainian connection?

AS: I went to Kyiv in 1996, at the time I knew nothing about the place at all, the funny thing was the contemporary literary world didn’t either. As I didn’t have a TV I read a lot and started to get annoyed that all spy fiction was ignoring Europe’s largest country. Moscow was always mentioned but Kyiv? One ‘SAS’ author mentioned the place but got a lot of aspects factually incorrect. That made me think, in my pompous youth, that I could do better. I wasn’t an expert on the SAS but I’d become an expert on Ukraine, so I started to write. With a lot of time wasted, twelve years later I finished ‘Hetman’ which was later commercially re-published by Endeavour Press as ‘Cold Blood’.

I feel a strong connection to Ukraine as I met my wife there (on my first day in Kyiv, we got married seven years later). I’m English but I feel like a seaside stick of rock, it may say ‘Worthing’ on the outside but if you cut me in half you’ll see ‘Ukraine’ printed within.

JMH: I love your ‘stick of rock’ analogy! I can identify with this, somewhat. My family (on my mother’s side) were born and raised in the district of Ternopol, Poland. With the outbreak of world war II, my grandfather went to fight in the Polish Airforce. While he was away, the borders were redrawn, Ternopol now belonged to Ukraine and his entire family were forcibly resettled 1000km away in Zielona Gora.

After the war, during which he was interned in an Italian P.O.W camp, he found himself in England and joined the British Airforce. He searched for the rest of his life for his lost family, but it would be fifty years until myself and my mother finally found them. He had long since passed away, in fact, I never even met my Grandfather, but the history was engrained so deeply within me.

In 2004, when we found our missing family members, it opened up a whole new chapter and those missing fifty years were filled in on both sides. My parents visited Poland for the first time in the winter of 2004 and presented my grandfather’s long lost sisters with the medals he had been awarded during his service.

I was speaking with one of my cousin’s in Poland the other week and I was telling him about my novel, Exclusion Zone. He had so much information for me, again, living only just over 1000km away. Interestingly, had the family been allowed to stay in Ternopol, they would have been closer by half!

My cousin had a childhood cancer, and he confided that they are certain it stemmed from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

I believe my Polish heritage kick-started my love of writing about locations and I adore my Polish family. They are very different to the majority of us Brits; far more politically motivated, very much ‘in the know’ about historical events, especially that of the Iron Curtain era and they are so very proud of where they come from. I can see myself writing a memoir style fiction about my grandfather’s adventures in the future.

How about you, Alex? Do you think you will continue setting your work in Ukraine, or will Aidan Snow relocate?

Exclusion ZoneAS: Wow, that’s quite an incredible story. It’s always interesting to hear of other authors’ links with Eastern Europe. I’ll most definitely re-visit Ukraine as a backdrop. When I started to write the second Aidan Snow novel ‘Cold Black’ I was trying to think how I could use Ukraine in it again. Luckily an idea came to me which made Ukraine an integral part of the narrative, book three ‘Cold East’ was much easier to set in Ukraine. Will Aidan Snow be in Ukraine again? Yes.

I’m not sure as yet where the next Aidan Snow novel will be set but I am writing another crime thriller set in Kyiv. It follows the joint investigation carried out by the Finnish police and the Ukrainian SBU as such one of my favourite characters – Director Dudka takes centre stage along with his department. Now that will be hopefully the next bit of #UkrainianNoir

Will you return to Ukraine as a setting again or will each novel be set in a new location?

JMH: Kyiv is certainly a place I’d love to visit, it looks absolutely gorgeous! I do think that I will return to Ukraine at some point in my novels, I’ve got a funny feeling that Alex Harvey and Elian Gould (my protagonists) have unfinished business there.

My next novel, of which I am 50,000 words in, is set in the Dutch seaside resort of Scheveningen. It is a place that I’ve been and that I love. As I like to feature actual events in my books I can tell you it was hard to find any dastardly deeds that occurred there. But I found one, just the one particularly gruesome murder which had shades of Jeffrey Dahmer about it, so that one should make for an interesting read.

So, Alex, your novels feature quite heavily the S.A.S along with police procedure, do you have personal experience with those authorities?

AS: I write about things that interest me and since being a small boy and seeing them storm the Iranian Embassy I’ve been a fan of the SAS. I don’t have any personal experience of the SAS or in fact UK police & security procedure but I do have a few contacts in the Ukrainian services and friend who is ex-MI6. I too like to use real events in my writing, or at least as a backdrop to my stories as it gives them more depth, more plausibility. I’m constantly getting ideas or part-ideas from news stories.

Did you start to write your new novel whilst you were on location Holland or did the idea of setting it there come to you later?

JMH: I totally identify with getting ideas from news stories and real life occurrences. Seeing them storm the Iranian Embassy must have been a real sight to see. Was it that event that led you to a ‘life of crime’? Speaking of which, have you read the Martin McGartland novels? He wasn’t in the S.A.S, I think it was MI5, but I read those for research when I wrote a novel about the Northern Ireland Troubles and they made for some pretty terrifying reading!

I guess we’re about the same age, so the I.R.A and the subsequent events was the war of my generation. I’m also interested in the Cuban Crisis and the Vietnam War. All are in living history and there are many movies and books that reflect many different sides to the stories. I read The Theseus Paradox by David Videcette recently and it was interesting to get an inside view of our most recent war, especially with regards to the weaponry and warfare used. I did get the idea of using Scheveningen as a location. My partner lived and worked there years ago, and it’s always held a special place in his heart. He took me there and I could immediately see why he loved it so. The Hague and the beachside area, the people, the bookstores, the museums, everything is quite captivating. As I mentioned before, it’s so beautiful I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a dark side to it to base my crime novel, but… if you look hard enough you will find! So I guess we owe our respective partner’s something in relation to the settings of our books. Although you were already in Ukraine, do you think your wife showed you parts that you might not have experienced had you not met her? What does she think of your novels – and do you use her as a reference guide?

ALEX SHAW headshot BW
Alex Shaw

AS: I’ve read Martin McGartland’s books and he’s a Facebook friend of mine, what he went through as an MI5 mole in the IRA was horrific. He part inspired me to write my short story Hetman Hard Kill which shows Aidan Snow in his SAS days before SIS (MI6). I do like a good story about someone on the run. In terms of writing about conflict I’ve got a lot of material to cover with Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and invasion of Eastern Ukraine, but I do like a good old fashioned action film.

‘Cold Black’ has some real life events in it, for example it referenced an al-Qaeda attack on an expat complex in Saudi Arabia, and I then wrote about further fictional attacks. I’d been to Saudi on several occasions with British Government Trade Missions when I worked in export sales for Siemens. The last time I was there I was looking in a shop window and remember feeling a sudden sense of unease. A week later a terrorist bomb ripped the place apart.

When I went to Ukraine I think I had a more ‘authentic’ experience than most expats. Because I was the youngest foreigner in the country at the time (i.e. I wasn’t a middle-aged man in a suit working for a multi-national company) I spent much more time with real Ukrainian people. I was often the only foreigner on the metro, in the market or at the Gastronom (general grocery store) but that’s not to say that I didn’t go to expat hang outs. Galia (my wife) and I used to explore a lot and I learned an awful lot about Kyiv, without her and her family – who accepted me instantly as one of them – I don’t think I would have loved my time in Ukraine as much as I did. I can honestly say that it is my favourite city. My wife does read my work but after it’s been published, I do ask her questions if I can’t find the specific information on the internet. Her cousin, who is my Ukrainian brother, is a former special anti-narcotics police officer, and also corrects me if any of my procedural facts are incorrect.

Do you feel any different as an author now that you are commercially published? What do you enjoy most about writing?

JMH: Hold on, you’re a friend of Martin McGartland on Facebook? I’m just having a fan moment here!

I read Hetman: Hard Kill in March of this year and really enjoyed it. It took me back to my days of research, and that’s an area I’ve not visited for many years so it was good to revisit it. And it definitely gave me an appetite for reading more Aidan Snow escapades.

I got shivers with your story about the terrorist bomb one week after you’d been there. With regards to writing, it is very much an addiction and I love every single part of it. The research is my favourite, I have slightly geeky tendencies and I want to know everything about what I’m writing, to ensure it is correct. In ‘Reckoning Point’, my work in progress, I performed my first autopsy and I gave myself a little online tutorial to make sure I was writing it as it would happen in real life.

JM Hewitt
JM Hewitt

And writing – especially a crime fiction novel – is like a puzzle. For the reader it’s a ‘who dunnit’ but this is the same for the author in a sense. It might be just me but I don’t sit down at chapter one knowing exactly what’s going to happen, and when that last piece of the jigsaw falls into place (invariably just as I’m about to drop off to sleep at night) it’s a thrilling moment!

Being commercially published has been such a different experience for me. When my novels were published by a small independent press in 2010 and 2013, I didn’t have many contacts or friends within the industry. I actually reference this in the acknowledgments of ‘Exclusion Zone’, I call it The Snowball Effect. In the last few years I’ve been so lucky to attend a lot of literary events and make a fair few genuine friends. So between the fact that I’m now commercially published coupled with the support I’ve had really has made a difference. And it seems that it was just the beginning, more people are being added all the time, like you and Grab This Book’s Gordon!

And I always loved writing and I always wanted to be a published author, but as I mentioned earlier, right now, it’s almost like a drug. I’ve got so many ideas and plans for future work that I can barely keep up. I had my first tentative venture into the horror genre recently, and found out just this week that my entry was among the fifty chosen short stories that will be published in the Twisted 50 anthology. I’m constantly thinking about my Detective Alex Harvey series, which was going to be a trilogy but I now see it going further than that, and a completed but as yet unpublished Holocaust novel is out on submission. Last but not least, my family memoir that I want to fictionalise, with a working title of ‘From Land to Air’.

Do you work the same, Alex? How far ahead are you planning, and what are you working on right now?

AS: I’ve got several ideas in various stages of development. In addition to my Aidan Snow series I wrote a vampire book a few years ago and every other week I get another email asking me when the next one is out. I’ve also got an idea for a historical thriller based in Ukraine using my character Dudka when he was a young KGB officer but that’s a long way off.

In my immediate future I’ve got to write my Finnish/Ukrainian crime thriller and then the next Aidan Snow. And, I almost forgot I’ve got the launch of Cold Black in German happening next month. The funny thing is that I actually sell more in Germany than any other market, the German edition of Cold East has been in the top 5 in its category now since December and hovers between 250 – 1000 overall on amazon.de. It’s funny, you never know who or where your work will be the most liked.

So tell me about this book launch of yours, I hear the mayor is going to be there?

JMH: My launch! Well, yes, the Mayor of Felixstowe is coming along, which is very exciting. It is my first ever book launch and it is being held in a wonderful independent bookstore in my home town of Felixstowe, called Stillwater Books. Stillwater are the ‘onsite’ book shop for the Felixstowe Book Festival which is held every June, and when I approached Will he was so enthusiastic about holding a little party for Exclusion Zone.

As you know, Exclusion Zone is based in Chernobyl, following two timelines; directly after the nuclear incident in 1986 and present day. It was always a kind of fantasy to hold my book launch on the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, and guess what – it is going to be!

So yes, the Mayor will be there, along with my good friend and fellow local author, Ruth Dugdall. Her presence will make the whole evening a lot less nerve racking, because she has such a great aura about her, especially in social situations.

I’ll be signing copies of Exclusion Zone and giving an interview to our local newspaper. Wish me luck! A vampire book! I am going to have to check that out, I went through a stage in my early twenties of becoming totally addicted to Anne Rice and her Vampire Chronicles. In fact I re-read them all again last year. Normally I read about 85% crime fiction, but I do like to re-visit old friends such as The Vampire Chronicles, or Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. Right now I’m reading the third instalment of Marnie Riches The Girl Who… series. Marnie and her protagonist were a great source of inspiration for Exclusion Zone, I’m not sure what it was really, but those books really resonated with me. Marnie has just signed a deal for four more crime fiction novels, which is great news.

What are you reading right now, Alex? And do you expand into reading other genres?

Meet Aidan Snow

AS: I met hordes of great crime writers at CrimeFest last year, including Lee Child and Maj Sjöwal – whom I had the privilege to share a table with at the Gala Awards Dinner along with Barry Forshaw, and since then have started to read more Crime Thrillers, I usually read espionage and action thrillers for me this is a change of genre. I’ve just finished reading ‘Ordeal’, the latest William Wisting crime thriller from Jorn Lier Horst, whom I also met and I’ve just pre-ordered the next Anna Fekete thriller by Kati Hiekkapelto. This last year has been the year when I have really felt part of a crime/thriller writing community and this will continue with my appearance at Newcastle Noir.

Chornobyl has always fascinated me too. Ukraine was lucky that the wind was blowing to the north when reactor number 4 exploded. I arrived in Kyiv in 96, so ten years after the event. I met one person who’d been a liquidator, cleaning up after the event and got to see her protective gas mask and coat which she kept in her house (I rented the ground floor). I don’t know how close she was to the actual reactor. Then I met a cameraman who’d been filming a parade in Pripyat when it was announced, a week after the event, that there had been an accident. Years later when I worked for Siemens I went to the town of ‘Slavutech’ which was built to house the evacuees from the exclusion zone. It had areas that were built to represent different parts of the Soviet Union i.e. Uzbekistan, Georgia etc. And each section was built by labourers from the corresponding part of the USSR. They built a new hospital but it was never used as one so they turned into a hotel. I was the first foreigner they’d had stay there. The Exclusion Zone features a little in ‘Cold Black’.

Good luck with the book launch. I’ve not had one as yet but if all goes well with a something I am working on at the moment I will by this time next year. I may even had a launch in Kyiv.

JMH: Those are some fine names to share a table with! I’ve just been looking at the programme for Newcastle Noir and I like the sound of your panel – Writing Elsewhere. I don’t know of any other ‘group’ that is as friendly and welcoming as the crime and thriller writing community. There seems to be an unwritten code of support and friendship, which is really wonderful.

I hope we catch up at an event this year or next, I can take notes on your Ukraine experiences, which sound endlessly fascinating.

So, I suppose we should wrap it up – although I could go on chatting forever, I’ve had enormous fun talking to you and hopefully I’ll get the chance to talk to both you and Gordon in person soon!

Thank you for your well wishes for the launch, and good luck with your projects, I’ll be looking forward to getting to know Aidan Shaw a bit better over the coming months.

And if you have a launch party in Kyiv, I’ll watch out for my invitation!

AS: Great chatting to you too. It’s funny, I find it easier to write than I do to talk about my work, all be in in a virtual chat!

I agree that the crime writing community are hugely supportive and I think that is one reason for my success thus far, that other authors have been selfless in reading and recommending my work.

Hopefully, we can meet up at some point but until then good luck, once more, with your launch – I’ll be there in spirit (especially if you have any Ukrainian Vodka)!!!


Exclusion Zone is J.M. Hewitt’s debut crime fiction novel. Set in the wilderness of Chernobyl the story follows two timelines, present day and immediately after the nuclear explosion in 1986. It is the first in the Detective Alex Harvey series.    You can order it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/J.-M.-Hewitt/e/B01BT1SJRY/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Alex Shaw is the author of the International Kindle Bestselling ‘Aidan Snow SAS thrillers’ Cold Blood, Cold Black and Cold East and also the Delta Force Vampire series. You can find order all Alex’s books here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alex-Shaw/e/B002EQ6R9G/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1461704661&sr=1-2-ent

Alex is featuring at Newcastle Noir 2016. The festival runs from Friday 29 April to Sunday 1 May and you can find out more here: http://newcastlenoir.blogspot.co.uk/p/blog-page_20.html

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April 25

Open Wounds – Douglas Skelton

Open WoundsDavie McCall is tired. Tired of violence, tired of the Life. He’s always managed to stay detached from the brutal nature of his line of work, but recently he has caught himself enjoying it.

In the final instalment in the Davie McCall series old friends clash and long buried secrets are unearthed as McCall investigates a brutal five-year-old crime. Davie wants out, but the underbelly of Glasgow is all he has ever known. Will what he learns about his old ally Big Rab McClymont be enough to get him out of the Life? And could the mysterious woman who just moved in upstairs be just what he needs?


My thanks to Luath Press for my review copy

Davie McCall is not a nice guy, he does bad things to bad people but I loved reading about him. In Open Wounds Davie is tiring of the Life (working as right hand man to one of Glasgow’s gangsters) and is thinking of getting out. But the Life is all Davie knows and walking away will not be easy.

McCall has had a tough life, people close to him have been hurt and have tried to hurt him.  He is weary and events in Open Wounds seem to be driving him towards ‘retirement’ from the vicious life he has led.  But what McCall cannot shake off is history and it seems events from the past are beginning to catch up with him. His nemesis, a corrupt policeman, is concerned about Davie sniffing around an old case and will take any steps necessary to prevent the truth from being uncovered.

House keeping – Open Wounds is the 4th Davie McCall book, it can definitely be read as a stand alone novel as everything you need to know is nicely explained in the narrative by Douglas Skelton. Returning fans will be rewarded through knowing the back story but if you are new to the series this is a brilliant story to get your teeth into.

Douglas Skelton has written a dark and gripping story. There are disturbing scenes which will put the characters through the emotional wringer and define the fate of others. McCall himself is a complex character, he knows he embraced the darkness yet continues to work with the criminals. He has a moral code which seems contradictory for the work he undertakes but to McCall there seem to be degrees of right and wrong and some thresholds have been crossed. As you see McCall settling on a course of action you know that someone will suffer for transgressions – how could you not keep reading?

Glasgow makes a great backdrop for a gangster story. The language and mood is perfect for a city which is frequently associated with a ‘hard’ reputation. Douglas Skelton gives life to these characters, they are completely believable (and this not necessarily a good thing) and you want to read about them. Yet despite the grim nature of their lifestyle, there are great comedy moments in the conversations between these hard men – Glaswegians also rather well known for their humour! Reading Open Wounds was a joy on so many levels and the moments of levity gave a nice balance against some of the more gritty scenes.

When Open Wounds was finished I was left somewhat traumatised with certain events. I had been hooked while I read it and even before I had reached the end I was already recommending it to friends. I seldom offer up a review score within my reviews unless I want to make it clear that a book merits a 5/5 score – Open Wounds is one such book.  Highly recommended, get a copy ordered today.



Open Wounds is published by Luath Press and is available in paperback and digital formats here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wounds-Davie-McCall-Douglas-Skelton/dp/1910745332/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461531340&sr=1-1

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April 22

A Fine House in Trinity – Lesley Kelly

Fine HouseI enjoyed my first day at primary school. Of course, I didn’t know then that this was the first day of a suffocating friendship with a psychopath, a friendship I’d still be trapped in thirty years later.’

Joseph Staines left town with a stolen tallybook, but two suspicious deaths and a surprise inheritance have lured him back home to Edinburgh. No-one is pleased to see him. The debtors want him gone. The Police have some questions for him. And a mysterious stranger has been asking about him in the pub.

To survive, Staines has to sober up, solve the murders, and stay one step ahead of the man who wants him dead.


My thanks to Keara at Sandstone Press for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

Joseph Staines is one of the most realistic lead characters I have encountered for ages. He is flawed, cowardly in the face of danger and generally not as well liked as he may like to believe. He is also strangely endearing, frequently amusing and has a really well developed back story which makes A Fine House in Trinity a really fun read.

‘Stainsie’ had left Edinburgh was a pocketful of money and the ‘tallybook’ of debtors names who owed money to one of Edinburgh’s more notorious debt collectors, Isa Stoddart. But now he has returned after just a short time away and finds himself bequeathed something rather unexpected. Unfortunately for Stainsie there are not many people pleased to see him return and those that are looking for him are people he would rather avoid.

A Fine House is a story which pans out over the course of a week (with frequent flashbacks to give us the wonderful backstory which allows us to see how Staines finds himself in his current predicament). The narrative is really well paced, I liked Staines, then I didn’t like him and then liked him again – flawed but a great ‘loveable rogue.’ There is loads of great dialogue to enjoy – Lesley Kelly does a fine job of allowing Edinburgh’s finest to shine through.

One of the strengths of A Fine House in Trinity is the supporting cast. Staines has a few allies to help him along the way and, through the flashbacks, we can get a glimpse of past acquaintances and how they shaped his life.

A Fine House in Trinity is a cracking debut from Lesley Kelly, it is definitely a book which merits your attention.

Fine House Blog Tour


A Fine House in Trinity is published by Sandstone Press and was released on 21st April. It is available in paperback and digital format.   You can order a copy of the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fine-House-Trinity-Lesley-Kelly/dp/1910124958/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461282636&sr=1-1&keywords=a+fine+house+in+trinity

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April 19

In Conversation: Marnie Riches & Sarah Hilary

This is the third Conversation guest post I have been able to share. I wish I could say that I had planned this wonderful symmetry, however, it is by sheer chance that my latest guests have both just released the third novel in their respective series.

Frequent visitors to Grab This Book will know that I am huge fan of The Girl Who series by Marnie Riches and also of Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome thrillers. I make no secret of the fact I enjoy the darker crime novels and Sarah and Marnie’s books have consistently scored my highest review scores as they write the books I love to read.

In my ongoing attempts to give my guests the best chance to discuss their books (away from an inflexible pre-prepared Q&A format) I was delighted when Sarah and Marnie agreed to join me to chat about their ‘kick ass’ heroines…and what-ever else that may crop up!


The Girl Who Walked in the ShadowsG: Marnie, we are starting our chat just a few days after the launch of The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows – the 3rd outing for George McKenzie. I have seen quite a few reviews suggesting that this is her darkest adventure thus far.  The first two books were no gentle stroll in the park for George, so did you feel that you raised the stakes this time around?

MR: Thanks for this. My publisher had suggested I continue a theme of sexuality and traffic into this third book. I guess you don’t notice common themes emerging in your work until you’ve written more than one novel. So, it seemed appropriate to explore the subject matter of child-trafficking and paedophile rings in The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows.  I felt I could do the topic justice. I still wanted the book to be a serial killer thriller, as I like to read that sort of thing myself, but I did have memories of the Madeleine McCann disappearance churning away in the back of my mind for years. It struck a chord with me as a parent – hence, a thriller with two mysteries at its heart emerged: Jack Frost with his lethal icicles, and the disappearance of the Deenen toddlers. So, yes. In a bid to avoid writing a samey, formulaic third installment in my series, I upped the ante and went darker and more complex. It seems to be going down well with readers.

What about you, Sarah? What demons did you face in coming up with a story-line for your third?


SH: Marnie, it’s interesting what you say about not noticing common themes until you’ve written a book or two. That really came home to me when I was writing book three. I knew I was affected by my family history – my mother was a child internee of the Japanese during WWII – but I hadn’t realised how strongly I felt about the twin themes of fear and captivity until I was writing Tastes Like Fear. It took a reader to point out that I often write about children who are trapped or taken, or both. Marnie’s backstory (love that you share a first name with my heroine, btw!) involves quite a lot of demon-facing, and at one level she’s trapped by her inability to let go of her past. So Tastes Like Fear works in terms of the standalone story, which is about lost teenagers thinking they’ve found a safe place, and the longer story that underpins the series. 

Tastes Like FearMarnie, how far ahead do you plan in terms of George’s story? Do you know where she’s headed, or do you like to be surprised, book by book?


MR: Wow, Sarah. You have such an interesting family history. That must have been very difficult for your mother to get over, as childhood events have such an impact on adult life. In a similar vein to your Mum and Marnie Rome and George McKenzie, I endured traumatic events when I was younger (nothing like your mother’s experience, of course) where I was subject to being terrorized on a very rough council estate over a period of many years. My mother and I acted as magnets for the feral kids who roamed the estate in gangs. The petrol-bombing scene in The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die actually happened to me, so that phenomenon of the fight or flight impulse never being far beneath the surface had to be a major characteristic in George, else she wouldn’t have been mine. Over the series, George works hard to subvert these destructive impulses that are a hangover from her earlier years.

I know George will follow an arc but I don’t know until I start to write exactly what shape that will take. She is not me, but her development is influenced by my own personal development to an extent. So, as she ages, she may have more control over her extremes of emotional and may be more stoic about the treacherous behaviour of family members, for example. I have to know what the standalone story will be for the next book – I have had to submit proposed outlines for The Girl Who Broke the Rules and The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows, to get my publisher’s prior approval – but George’s long game is mine to play…

You and I both have a toughie of a female protagonist, paired with somewhat beta males in Marnie & Noah and George & Van den Bergen. What made you choose that dynamic?


SH: Marnie, I may have some dark family history but how dreadful for you to have lived through such trauma as a child. By contrast I was fortunate enough to have an extremely secure and happy childhood. Which is perhaps why I gravitated towards horror stories and crime fiction as a way of expanding my emotional arsenal, vicariously as it were. I’ve not experienced even a little of what my Marnie has, but perhaps I’m channelling some creative demons into her? Hard to say, but I am wedded to her darkness. While I would like her to find peace from time to time, I have no end game in sight that would involve a ‘happily ever after’ scenario. Some people, I think, are born into the world to carry weight on their shoulders (I do know a little about this, personally) and Marnie is one of that breed. The world needs heroes like Marnie and George.

Someone Else's Skin (new)Do you love writing Van den Bergen as much as I love writing Noah? I’m not sure what drew me to the dynamic, but I find it fascinating (and useful, in terms of plot and character) to see Marnie through Noah’s eyes. Their relationship has changed a lot since Someone Else’s Skin. Marnie trusts Noah now, and she even confides in him. Has the dynamic between Van den Bergen and George changed as you’ve been writing the three (soon to be four) books? 


MR: Van den Bergen is one of those people who carries a burden. He suffers with anxiety disorder and the occasional slide into full-on depression. I enjoy writing him because he’s such a loveable, cantankerous bastard with such unimpeachable morals. I like exploring his masculinity – it’s fascinating to be able to inhabit a man’s body and a man’s take on the world through my writing.

George, on the other hand, is an optimist at heart, with an incredible capacity to love, tempered by her worldly-wise cynicism. She’s a heroine because she’s had a hard start and has had to become extremely tough and resilient to survive and flourish. She has inner steel and discipline, where her family life is chaotic to say the least. 

George and Van den Bergen were always attracted to one another – they respected each others’ grit, determination and attention to detail from the word go, as well as there being bonkers sexual chemistry. Their relationship has become more antagonistic over time, simply because of Van den Bergen’s anxiety about his age – there’s a twenty-year age gap. He drops the shutters on passionate George, who trusts him with her heart so readily. She wants to beat him to a pulp for it.  

My main characters both contain a healthy dose of me but are fundamentally different. George is Black and young. Noah is a gay man. Neither Black women nor gay men are particularly well represented in crime fiction. How much of you is in your characters and what made you want to write Noah as gay?


SH: I will confess to a little wish fulfilment when it comes to Marnie, but there is nothing of me in my characters. It’s pure imagination. I wish I had Marnie’s courage and her dry wit, and that I’d been a rebellious teenager, even just for a short while. But I was a very good girl; maybe I’m acting out a fantasy of a misspent youth …

When it comes to Noah, I’m not sure why I wanted to write him as gay, other than as you say, because of under-representation in the genre. I’ve written quite a lot of gay men, so I knew I could do it and I knew that I’d enjoy writing him. A half-Jamaican openly and happily gay man, who happens to also be a detective sergeant with the Met Police. The only conscious decision I made was that his race and sexuality wouldn’t define him. I didn’t want to write about a conflicted character who felt the lash of homophobia and racism every day, or struggled to find personal and professional happiness. Noah is extremely content in his own skin. He goes home to a happy, secure life. He’s armour-plated against the casual bullying in the workplace; nothing fazes him, or not for long. I love Noah.

Let’s talk about our supporting cast. Are there any characters in the standalone plots within each book which you’d like to see return in future books? Or any you’d consider for a spin-off series of their own?


Girl Who Broke the Rules 2MR: Similarly, it was a conscious choice for me to make George mixed race, as commercial crime fiction is a very white realm and I wanted to redress that balance somewhat in having a strong Black female lead – most importantly, a lead who isn’t a victim and whose strength does not lie in typically masculine characteristics. 

As far as reprising the roles of secondary characters goes, both family members and key figures in the criminal underworld crop up repeatedly in the standalone stories. They are essential to the overarching themes that span the series – George’s relationship to her parents and an examination of the rotten heart of trafficking. But George and Van den Bergen are very much the stars. At this stage, I can’t envisage spin-offs. I would, however, like to see more of Silas Holm. In The Girl Who Broke the Rules, he is one of George’s study subjects – an amputee convicted serial murderer and award-winning anaesthetist. He’s intelligent, charming and warped as hell. I think we might see him putting in another appearance. I’ll think on it…

What about you? Do you think you’ll tire of writing about Marnie and Noah? Are there subsidiary characters who would make interesting main protagonists themselves? I’ve worked hard to keep all three of my books familiar and yet, distinctly different from one another – especially The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows. What about you? Are you concerned about your writing becoming formulaic over time, as is often the problem with longer running series?


Photo by Linda Nylind.
Photo by Linda Nylind.

SH: Silas Holm is a great name as well. I can see a spin-off series for Silas. 

One reader did suggest that Noah’s reprobate kid brother, Sol, should have his own series, but I dunno. Someone else would have to write it, I think. I’m too busy – and happy – writing Marnie and Noah. I’m quite intrigued by the idea of some early (pre-series) stories, maybe about Marnie’s wild youth, or Noah’s adventures growing up. Although I do think most of my interest lies in unwrapping them further as the series progresses. Marnie, especially, is still keeping secrets from me (Marnie is made of secrets). In Tastes Like Fear, Noah surprised me with a big secret from his youth, so maybe he has a few tricks up his sleeve, also. As long as they can keep evolving as characters then I don’t need to worry about becoming formulaic. 

What long-running crime series do you most enjoy? I’ve just discovered Mick Herron’s stupendous spy thriller series that started with Slow Horses. And I’m a sucker for Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series.


MR: I’ve enjoyed Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series best, I guess. He’s been going for many, many books and the stories still work well as standalones. By Phantom, however, I did think it was time to wrap things up for Harry and I’m surprised that Police was released. Despite that, it was an enjoyable read. I read a lot of kids’ fiction too, as I used to write that. I enjoyed many of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books and also Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle. Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy was brill but I haven’t yet read Lagercrantz’s fourth offering, so my jury is out on that. 

Marnie 2I think the joy of a great series is knowing when to stop. Personally, I think George has a good few more stories in her, but I will have to make swingeing changes to the cast list to keep it fresh overall. As long as readers want her, I will write her. Heroines like her come once in a writer’s lifetime – she’s certainly too good to shelve after a mere handful of books. She still has plenty to say!

SH: Long live George and Marnie! Great chat, thanks for hosting, Gordon, and a big thank you to our readers who keep us motivated to write more stories with our series characters.


I would like to extend a massive ‘Thank You’ to Sarah and Marnie for giving me the opportunity to eavesdrop on their conversation. As you can see my involvement was minimal but I don’t have the words to describe how much I enjoyed seeing their chat come together.


You can order Sarah’s Marnie Rome novels through this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarah-Hilary/e/B00QETWXA6/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1461102062&sr=1-2-ent

Marnie’s George McKenzie novels can be ordered through this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Marnie-Riches/e/B00WBJZ364/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1461102237&sr=1-2-ent




Category: Guests | Comments Off on In Conversation: Marnie Riches & Sarah Hilary
April 19

Tenacity: Naval Toasts – Tuesday to “Our Men”

Tenacity PB jacket


Tenacity by J. S. Law was one of my top reads of 2015. It made the Top Three and in my review I said “I don’t remember being this captivated by a debut novel since Lee Child published Killing Floor” it is that good!

To celebrate the paperback release of Tenacity (Thursday 21st April) we are having a Naval Toasts Blog Tour.  Tuesday is the toast to “Our Men” so charge your glass while I pass this to Mr Law:


If you’ve followed my blog tour, you’ll already know that at mess dinners in the Royal Navy, immediately after the Loyal Toast of ‘The Queen’, the youngest officer present will normally offer the traditional drinking toast of that day. 

The toast for Tuesday is traditionally “Our Men”. This toast was changed in 2013 by the then Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral David Steel, to become “Our Sailors”, to rightly reflect the contribution of females at sea, though the traditional toast is still widely used. 

It takes a certain personality type to function on a submarine and there are those who can do it, and those who enjoy it. The one thing I still enjoy is the camaraderie with like-minded people. The vast majority of my friends are either Navy/submariners, or are connected to the Navy and the forces in some way, and that shows in their acceptance of very dark ‘gallows’ humour that the armed forces is well known for. 

But it also takes a certain type of person to leave their family for extended periods, bearing in mind that on submarines, there may be no, or very little contact at all for weeks and months on end. It tests relationships at home and on board, and submariners very quickly have to learn how to live in very close proximity to each other, but still to give each other space when needed – knowing when it’s time to have a joke and when it’s time to back away and leave someone alone. 

When Dan boards HMS Tenacity, she states to John that she thinks getting away from people will be her biggest problem, given the physical confines of the submarine, but she quickly realises that these men on Tenacity are tightly bonded by their experiences and that even when she is surrounded by a hundred men inside the ship’s hull, she can still be made to feel very, very alone…


Two hundred metres below the surface,
she will have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

A sailor hangs himself on board a naval submarine. Although ruled a suicide Lieutenant Danielle Lewis, the Navy’s finest Special Branch investigator, knows the sailor’s wife was found brutally murdered only days before.

Now Dan must enter the cramped confines of HMS Tenacity to interrogate the tight-knit, male crew and determine if there’s a link.

Standing alone in the face of extreme hostility and with a possible killer on board, Dan soon realises that she may have to choose between the truth and her own survival.

The pressure is rising and Dan’s time is running out…


You can order Tenacity here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tenacity-J-S-Law/dp/1472227913?ie=UTF8&keywords=tenacity&qid=1461015549&ref_=sr_1_2_twi_pap_5&sr=8-2


Category: 5* Reviews, Blog Tours | Comments Off on Tenacity: Naval Toasts – Tuesday to “Our Men”
April 18

Sleeping Giants – Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping GiantsDeadwood, USA. A girl sneaks out just before dark to ride her new bike. Suddenly, the ground disappears beneath her. Waking up at the bottom of a deep pit, she sees an emergency rescue team above her. The people looking down see something far stranger…

“We always look forward. We never look back.”

That girl grows up to be Dr. Rose Franklin, a brilliant scientist and the leading world expert on what she discovered. An enormous, ornate hand made of an exceptionally rare metal, which predates all human civilisation on the continent.

“But this thing … it’s different. It challenges us. It rewrites history.”

An object whose origins and purpose are perhaps the greatest mystery humanity has ever faced. Solving the secret of where it came from – and how many more parts may be out there – could change life as we know it.

“It dares us to question what we know about ourselves.”

But what if we were meant to find it? And what happens when this vast, global puzzle is complete…?

“About everything.”


My thanks to Michael Joseph for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.


This book is just WOW. Sleeping Giants was an absolute gem, it made me laugh, it kept me hooked, I had no idea where it was heading and some scenes actually made me stop reading and double back thinking “Wait! What just happened?”

Now that sounds like Sylvain Neuvel may not have explained events very clearly, not so!  The story unfolds as a series of interviews conducted between a shadowy political player and the various protagonists in the story.  The interviews are a fantastically scripted and (usually) they are recapping events which have occurred in the past. The interview subjects are being quizzed on the ramifications of these past events and how they feel about what has taken place. This is how the whole story unfolds.

The end result of this interview-style story telling is that you can find that a MAJOR incident has occurred between interviews and the Shadowy figure is casually asking how a traumatic incident may have made someone feel (in the same way that they may be asked if they were unhappy that they forgot their umbrella on a rainy day).

If it sounds slightly unusual then I am not doing Sleeping Giants justice.  It is a delight to read. The interview-style narrative is so cleverly used by the author that you cannot help but be entertained. The Shadowy figure is wonderfully deadpan and literal so the interviews always feel fresh and edgy.

The central characters are scientists, pilots, mathematicians – they operate on high intelligence levels yet are mere pawns in the game of the Shadowy character. He has out-thought them at each stage of the story, manipulated the team he assembled and has second guessed their actions months ahead of time.

But what of the titular Sleeping Giants?  A young girl in Deadwood USA accidentally falls into a newly formed hole in the ground. Her landing is not on hard ground but she finds herself in the palm of a giant hand. The hand is made of a compound never before found on Earth and is confounding scientists.  When the girl grows older she finds herself in charge of the team responsible for investigating the hand. However, now there is a will (or a Shadowy force, perhaps?) to find out if there are other parts to be found – what if the hand were a small part of a larger object?

Sleeping Giants tracks the progress of the quest to locate more ‘parts’ which will attach to the hand and then to establish the scope of power that they may harness. Sylvain Neuvel will take the story in directions you will not anticipate but you will enjoy every step of the journey.

Sleeping Giants gets one of the easiest 5/5 review scores I have awarded for some time. If this book does not feature in my Top Ten of 2016 it can only mean that the next 8 months have some stupendous books lurking in wait. I was gutted it ended, can we have the Shadowy figure back again please?


Sleeping Giants is published by Michael Joseph and releases on 21st April 2016.  You can order your copy here:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Giants-Sylvain-Neuvel/dp/0718181689/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461016047&sr=8-1&keywords=sleeping+giants



Category: 5* Reviews, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Sleeping Giants – Sylvain Neuvel
April 12

Conversation: Amanda Jennings & Tammy Cohen

Last year I invited James Law and Susi Holliday to join me for a chat at Grab This Book. My plan had been to try and recreate the feel of a festival event or a book launch conversation in a single blog post. It was great fun to do, but my plan to bring together two strangers who would share the experience of being published for the first time slightly missed the mark when I ‘introduced’ two good friends.

in her wakeI was keen to invite more guests to join me this year and, on finishing the astonishing In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings, I contacted Amanda to ask if she would be interested in chatting to a friend (with me listening in). Having clarified what I was hoping to achieve through the ‘chat’, Amanda suggested that Tammy Cohen may be willing to join in. I was beyond delighted when Tammy agreed.

This is what happened next:

GTB: Hi Tammy, Amanda thanks for joining me. Unlike the last time I had two guests here for a chat, I know in advance that you are good friends outwith the Social Media world.   Should I be worried about what I may have let myself in for?

Amanda: Well, Tammy is a terrible influence on me, to be honest. We bonded on Twitter over a shared envy of the black-edged pages of a hardback edition of Gone Girl. God, I really want black-edged pages one day. When you get black-edged pages you know you’ve made it.

I can’t remember when we first met in real life, probably because Cohen fed me too much wine. I speak to her quite regularly on the phone because she is one of the few people who understands the self-doubt that plagues me as a writer. Also, she is generally having a worse day than me, so we have a jolly good moan, then a bit of a laugh, and maybe a chat about the film script we will one day write together, which we’ve been talking about – but not writing – for ages. 

Tammy: I think saying I’m generally having a worse day than you is pretty fair actually, Amanda. I like to think of it as an extra service I offer my writer friends to convince them things aren’t going so badly for them after all. 

Seriously though, having close writer friends like Amanda is one of the unforeseen upsides of being published. There are so many neuroses tied up in spending the best part of a year holed up in your own head that only someone else who does the same thing can really understand that particular blend of agony, tedium, self-loathing mixed with the (very) occasional bolt of elation it induces. And then when you couple that with the other seemingly irreconcilable aspects of being published – having to stand up in front of lots of people and waffle on in a (hopefully) coherent way and being expected to go out and promote your own book, you can understand how vital it is to be able to offload to someone who knows what you’re going on about. 

Tammy-Cohen-1The thing is, writing is such a privilege, and I don’t think any of us ever forget that, but it can also be very socially isolating, so having writer mates is such a relief. When we’re trying to distract ourselves from having to work, there is no subject too minor for Amanda and I to discuss at ridiculous length. So, Gordon, the short answer to your question is yes, you should be afraid. Very afraid. 

GTB: I will consider myself suitably warned and am now drawing some small comfort from the fact I am in a different country from you both!

So, Amanda’s latest book has just released and Tammy you are rapidly approaching your next publication day.

Until now much of what you have been working on is shrouded in secrecy. Amanda, did unleashing In Her Wake bring new fears or was there an overwhelming feeling of relief that the edits and revisions were done?

Amanda: This book has been with me for such a long time, and has undergone quite a transformation through multiple rewrites and the gained experience of publishing two books between writing the first draft and publication, that by the time we neared publication I was actually quite pleased not to have to read it again.

But at the same time, there was great trepidation. At this stage the book is no longer mine. It’s under the control of my editor and publishing house, so even if I wanted to shout ‘no, I’m not ready, don’t publish it!’ I couldn’t. It’s a very surreal feeling to send that final, FINAL, version – edited, revised, and proofed –  knowing it’s heading out into the big bad world.

I always feel like I should crack open the Champagne to celebrate, but really I just want to hide beneath the duvet for six months! This is the moment when the real self-doubt sets in, but it coincides with the time when you have to shout about it and convince people they will love reading it! This is why authors love book bloggers so much. To have early support, and people who want to share your book, helps so much in these early days. 

Tammy: Amanda is being modest about her ‘early support’. In reality there was so much fanfaring about In Her Wake from the blogging and writing communities around publication day that we had to decree that day #InHerWake Day for ever more. But she’s absolutely right about that weird, seemingly neverending pre-publication limbo between signing off the final page proofs and waiting for the first independent, unbiased reviews to come in. And of course during that wait you (for which read ‘I’) convince yourself that the book is absolutely the worst thing ever written, and everybody is going to hate it and make you into a laughing stock when it eventually does come out.

At the moment I’m two and a half weeks away from publication of When She Was Bad, and luckily I’ve had some great feedback from bloggers and early reviewers on NetGalley and Lovereading, so I’m slightly less convinced that people will be openly pointing and jeering in the streets. Only slightly mind. 

I find the only way not to obsess about publication is to have started a new project, so my focus isn’t on the book that’s coming out but the book I’m writing next. Amanda, have you got any tricks up your sleeve to stop you refreshing your Amazon rankings every hour? 

Amanda: Every hour? *looks sheepish* You mean every ten minutes is too often? I think shifting focus on to another project is by far the most sensible thing to do. The trouble is there’s always something akin to a mourning period for me, when my brain seems locked on that last book, unable to fully dive into the next. I’m in that peculiar limbo now, my new project is there, emerging through the mist so that I can just make out the characters and have a glimpse of the story, but not quite been grabbed yet. It will come. Perhaps I need to cut down the checking of Amazon rankings to only once per hour…

While we’re talking about early reviews, I’m lucky enough to say I’ve read an early copy of When She Was Bad and loved it. It’s brilliant to see it getting reviewed so well. The book gives us a delicious window into the world of office politics with all the dark humour and piercing observation that we’ve come to expect from you. I’d love to know what drew you to the idea of exploring the realms of ‘Office Noir’? 

When She Was BadTammy: Thank you Amanda, for that seamless invitation to talk about MY NEW BOOK! And for saying such kind things about it too. The Office Noir (or Paperclip Lit if you prefer) aspect of ‘When She Was Bad’ came about really because I couldn’t face the idea of writing another thriller with a domestic setting. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading about dysfunctional marriages and dark family secrets, but I felt I needed a break from writing about that. And if you want to get right away from the domestic, the workplace is the obvious setting. 

Many of us spend more of our lives with our workmates than with our families, yet how much do we really know about them – what their background is, and what they’re capable of? In ‘When She Was Bad’, a group of people who’ve been working together more or less harmoniously for years find their relationships rapidly unravelling when a bullying boss is introduced into the department operating a divide-and-rule style of management . As the atmosphere becomes increasingly toxic, the one-time friends turn on each other, with catastrophic results. 

While I was writing the book, I wondered at points if it was too far fetched, yet almost everyone who has read it has come back with some experience of their own of working in a toxic work environment, and said how much they could relate, so Office Noir has clearly hit a nerve!

Having said that, my next project has nothing to do with offices or workplaces. I’m not saying exactly what it is, in case it doesn’t come off, but it’s a completely new direction for me, which is very exciting!

GTB: Tammy, I love the idea of Office Noir, I can relate to the idea of a dysfunctional office environment as I have worked in my fair share of those down the years!  It may surprise some readers to even think that writers would know what office life is like…have you not ALWAYS been authors?  I know it was something of a shock to me when (around 10 years ago) I was told that the guy sitting behind me at ‘The Bank’ was an author – what was he doing in a bank if he wrote books?

Tammy: Gordon, I love the idea that we ought to be somehow born fully formed as authors, maybe with a little pencil stub behind our ears. Like most of us I did lots of jobs when I first started out, including teaching English in Spain and secretarial work (at which I was agonisngly rubbish). Finally I got into journalism and worked in magazines and newspapers for many years, during which time I worked in numerous offices. The thing about offices is, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the local council refuse collection office or a supposedly swanky magazine office – the politics is exactly the same. In fact the bullying boss in When She Was Bad was directly inspired by a boss I once had on a magazine. And no, I’m not naming any names!

Author photo3Amanda: I’m certainly happy to have a career that involves my office being next door to my kitchen at home. Despite loving people and being very sociable, I adore working in solitary. I am such a chatterbox and love a bit of gossip and am far too distractible, so working in an office environment would wreak havoc on my output! I work in my slippers, with my dog at my feet and my cat on a chair next to me (or lying on the keyboard, depending on her state of mind and her need for attention) and my water-cooler moments are spent gazing out of the window. If I need interaction to distract me, I have Twitter, of course. That, and my address book full of writers to call…


Not wishing to distract Amanda or Tammy any further, this seems the perfect time to wrap up for now. I suspect I will get in trouble for not asking for more information on the Cohen/Jennings film script.  If someone wants to pick that one up at a later date then I can only suggest that you ask your question at a point when they both pause for breath.

I would like to thank Amanda and Tammy for agreeing to join me and for letting me ‘listen’ to their chat. They cannot know how much enjoyment each stage of their conversation brought me and they very kindly left me with hardly any editing to do – perfect guests!


When She Was Bad is released on 21st April in both paperback and digital formats. You can order a copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/When-She-Was-Tammy-Cohen/dp/1784160199/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460496470&sr=1-1&keywords=when+she+was+bad

In Her Wake is also available in paperback and digital formats. You can order a copy here:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Wake-Amanda-Jennings/dp/1910633291/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460496921&sr=1-1&keywords=in+her+wake




Category: From The Bookshelf, Guests | Comments Off on Conversation: Amanda Jennings & Tammy Cohen
April 11

The Silent Twin – Caroline Mitchell

The Silent TwinI’m alone in the dark, please can you find me …

Nine-year-old twins Abigail and Olivia vow never to be parted. But when Abigail goes missing from Blackwater Farm, DC Jennifer Knight must find her before it’s too late.

Twin sister Olivia has been mute since Abigail’s disappearance. But when she whispers in Jennifer’s ear, Jennifer realises it is Abigail’s voice pleading to be found.

A damp and decaying house set in acres of desolate scrubland, the farm is a place of secrets, old and new – and Jennifer must unravel them all in order to find the lost girl. But could Olivia’s bond with her twin hold the key to finding Abigail? And can Jennifer break through her silence in time to save her sister’s life?


My thanks to Bookouture for my review copy which I received through Netgalley

DC Jennifer Knight returns in her third outing in Caroline Mitchell’s The Silent Twin. I really enjoyed the first two books so had been looking forward to seeing what would come next for Jennifer – something rather different as it turns out.

A young girl, Abigail, has disappeared from her family home (a remote farm cottage), her glasses have been found seemingly dropped or discarded and her twin sister, Olivia, has not spoken a word since her sister vanished. The police were quick to respond but they have encountered a family dealing with their crisis in very different ways.

The father is a police officer and has mobilised family and neighbours to search the farm and surrounding areas. The mother is behaving extremely oddly as she is calm, collected and playing hostess to the police and searchers – she is not showing any apparent concern about her missing daughter. Olivia is moving around the house like a lost soul – she is not speaking and is seemingly keeping out of her parents way. But there is an added worry for the police that are assisting the family, strange events and disturbances in the family home (objects falling from stable positions and other unexplained phenomenon).

Jennifer is called into action in the unfamiliar role of Family Liaison Officer, this gives her constant access to the family and gets her into the house. Could her special talents and awareness of ghosts and spirits give her any insights into what happened when Abigail disappeared?

I loved this very different approach from Caroline Mitchell. The uncertainty over what had happened to Abigail keeps the reader engrossed in the story. Jennifer’s role felt very different in The Silent Twin too, admittedly she was performing a very different role for this investigation but it was fascinating following her attempts to engage with different family members who all required different approaches. Also the ‘haunted house’ element of the investigation gave the whole book a delightfully creepy edge which allows it to stand apart from the more standard police procedural stories.

The Silent Twin has a narrative from multiple viewpoints which worked really well as the story developed. The police investigation into a missing child had a very realistic feel and the constant frustration over lack of progress was brilliantly conveyed. The supernatural edge to the book was of particular appeal to me and I love the balance that Caroline Mitchell is working into the Jennifer Knight stories, the crime story the dominant element yet enough of the supernatural to make it distinctive.

I highly recommend The Silent Twin, it is a gripping story with more than its fair share of unexpected twists. Caroline Mitchell is putting the ‘super’ into supernatural, 5/5 from me.


The Silent Twin is published by Bookouture and will release on 14 April 2016.  You can order a copy here.


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April 5

A Time of Torment – John Connolly – The Travelling Man and beyond…Creating the Villains.

A Time of TormentThis is Day three of a week-long celebration of the world of Charlie Parker which has been brought to us by John Connolly. On 7th April 2016 the 14th Charlie Parker novel will be published by Hodder: A Time of Torment.

Readers are invited to take a journey with Liz of Liz Loves Books. On Monday Liz featured the Mythology of Charlie Parker.

Yesterday Christine of Northern Crime found Liz considering the Anti Heroes (Louis and Angel).

Today I am delighted to share the third leg of the journey as Liz discusses The Travelling Man and beyond…

Creating the Villains

The Charlie Parker series has one particularly strong hook to it – the villains. The villains are incredibly well drawn, scary as all hell every single time with the occasional tendency to make you love them.

Going all the way back to the start you had The Travelling Man. A killer beyond imagination (except obviously that of the author I am not sure I would like to spend TOO much time inside his head) he took from Charlie that which made him who he was – his family – and turned him into what he would become. He still echoes through the narrative today, a known yet unknowable quantity that haunts the narrative occasionally, a glance back into a darkness that only grew darker over time.

The Black AngelYou would not think that there could be worse waiting round the corner but each new novel brings new challenges to bear – and for the reader new nightmares to experience. The Killing Kind brought us Mr Pud and his spiders – whenever I reread this novel my skin does literally crawl, a true and real reason why these stories are so incredibly brilliant – you cannot help but be held in every horrific moment. When it comes to the crime element a good bad guy is everything – the well here is deep and you are forever looking into the abyss.

Black Angel which brought a beautiful historical flavour and finally threw us off a cliffs edge when it came to the mythology, also brought Brightman, an extreme yet highly intriguing figure and yes again scary as all hell! This novel had the added advantage of solidifying the relationship between Louis, Angel and Charlie – this was a very personal journey for all three of them and the villainous content for it had to be bang on and boy it absolutely was.

I cannot mention all, there are layers upon layers, the main villain of every piece inevitably draws other evil towards him (or her) and whilst I want to give a flavour to give all away would be unthinkable. But there is one more I simply must pay homage to – that would be The Collector.John Connolly B&W (new)

The Collector is absolutely my favourite character outside of our main core group – for reasons that may not make sense to anyone but me, he has a place in my heart, so many levels you cannot get an actual handle on him but there he is. The relationship that develops between him and Charlie is yin and yang, up and down – the power he yields within the narrative is atmospheric and fascinating. In the latest stories the upper hand held is changing – and to finish this off I’d like to say out of all the darkest, scariest and most fearful characters imaginable it is possible that in fact Charlie and his daughter will end up being the most terrifying of all.

We shall see. This series is unpredictable, it is enticing and will endure – where it is going I cannot say. All I can say is I’m in it to the bitter, beautiful end.


Article written by Liz of Liz Loves Books

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