August 31

A Death In The Family – Michael Stanley

A Death In The Family‘There’s no easy way to say this, Kubu. Your father’s dead. I’m afraid he’s been murdered.’

Faced with the violent death of his own father, even Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu, Botswana CID’s keenest mind, is baffled. Who would kill such a frail old man? The picture becomes even murkier with the apparent suicide of a government official. Are Chinese mine-owners involved? And what role does the US Embassy have to play?
Set amidst the dark beauty of modern Botswana, A Death in the Family is a thrilling insight into a world of riots, corruption and greed, as a complex series of murders presents the opera-loving, wine connoisseur detective with his most challenging case yet. When grief-stricken Kubu defies orders and sets out on the killers’ trail, startling and chilling links emerge, spanning the globe and setting a sequence of shocking events in motion. Will Kubu catch the killers in time … and find justice for his father?


My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy

The title and the opening line of the summary (as above) should make it quite obvious that A Death In The Family is not going to be an easy book for ‘Kubu’ Bengu to get through. I first encountered the Michael Stanley ‘Kubu’ books earlier this year when I read the marvellous Deadly Harvest.  You can read my review of Deadly Harvest here but I was totally hooked on the story of the “sturdy” good-natured Kubu hunting down a murderous Witch Doctor.

Now Kubu is back and he finds himself sidelined as all his colleagues are hunting a murderer. The victim is Kubu’s own father and, for obvious reasons, Kubu cannot be involved in the investigation.  Gone is the placid, sensible good-natured Kubu I remembered from Deadly Harvest, here we have a man battling grief and frustration who is determined to do whatever it takes to find a killer – even if it means conducting his own investigations away from the watchful eyes of his colleagues.

Unfortunately for Kubu he cannot keep his questioning a secret from his colleagues for long and a series of reprimands are coming his way. This only serves to frustrate our hero and we share his anguish over any apparent lack of progress in the investigation.  Full credit to the authors at this stage, I fully shared Kubu’s frustrations and I also felt myself irritated that he was not able to help find his father’s killer.

Despite the grief there are still many light moments to enjoy, a particular highlight is when Kubu is “punished” for over-stepping his imposed restrictions and is sent out of Botswana to present a paper at a very important conference. I am deliberately being vague to avoid spoilers, however, “tourist Kubu” was an absolute treat.

Keeping Kubu busy is a key element to A Death In The Family. He is assigned to investigate the fallout of a riot at a public meeting which took place in a remote Botswana town.  The locals were split over whether to allow their town to be relocated so that a multinational mining firm could dig for uranium deposits. Kubu’s investigations become very political and he will have to be at his brilliant best to get to the truth behind the riots and uncover the shady characters that are playing God with the lives of the townspeople.

Michael Stanley books are written with a delightful and charming style yet they deliver serious and powerful messages too. Domestic violence, corruption, murder and fraud on an international scale…there are a lot of nasty goings on in A Death In The Family. The story moves along at a nice pace, it is extremely accessible and readable (no requirement to have read any of the previous books) and Kubu remains great fun to read about. This was an absolute treat to read and I was sorry when I reached the end – more Kubu can only be a good thing I feel.


A Death in the Family is published in the UK by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order your copy through this handy link:

Category: Blog Tours | Comments Off on A Death In The Family – Michael Stanley
August 30

Book Chains – Steph Broadribb (Third Link)

Book Chains – my author Q&A with a twist.

DSC_2888 mediumAs I love a good mystery I have brought an element of unknown into my blogging – by putting my Book Chains feature into the hands of my guests. The last question in my Book Chains Q&A is to invite my guest to nominate the next author that I should approach to interview. Oh and they also have to provide one question that I should ask on their behalf.

Last time out Rod Reynolds nominated Steph Broadribb and he set her a question which I think was intended to make her squirm a little. Before we see how Steph tackles Rod’s question I had a few of my own first:


First Question is never actually a question. This is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give you the opportunity to plug your book (and your blog) 

Okay, so here goes … I’m Steph Broadribb aka Crime Thriller Girl, and my debut novel – an action thriller titled Deep Down Dead – is coming out in October (eBook) and January 2017 in (paperback).

Deep Down Dead tells the story of Lori Anderson, a tough-as-they-come Florida bounty hunter, who is trying to keep her career separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But with medical bills racking up, Lori has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. That’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to face justice is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows, and who knows the secrets of her murky past.

Lori quickly discovers her ‘fast buck’ job is a lot more complicated that she’d thought. Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest theme parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal …


We are in the countdown to your first publication day, some people (lucky, lucky people) have had the chance to read Deep Down Dead – how does it feel at this point? 

Gosh, you know it feels quite strange, surreal in a way. I’ve spent so long with these characters – Lori, JT and Dakota – in my mind, and just sharing the story with a few trusted friends, that to think of it ‘out there’ in the world is kind of crazy! I’m really lucky though, because Karen Sullivan and West Camel at Orenda Books are such fabulous people to have guide me – they make everything seem like fun! I’ve also been blown away by the kindness and generosity of the crime fiction world – the writers, bloggers and readers – who’ve picked up one of the samplers and had a read. People have been so lovely in their comments it’s made me blush!


DEEP DOWN DEAD VIS 3I have heard tell that you trained as a bounty hunter?  What does that involve and where on the spectrum from Boba Fett to Stephanie Plum do you think you sit?

I did train as a bounty hunter! I flew out to Sacramento, in California, and trained with a super experienced bounty hunter. It was an amazing experience. I learnt about everything from how to track a fugitive, how to safely catch the fugitive – it’s a dangerous business and bounty hunters get injured and killed in their line of work on an all too frequent basis – so knowing about restraint techniques and tools (guns, tasers and handcuff tricks) is important, to the tough legal stuff – what makes a bounty hunter pick-up lawful, and what makes it unlawful, and all the various legal aspects that it takes to get licensed for bailbond work. I also got to ride around in a massive truck and get the low down on what life is like being a bounty hunter with some very brave and skilled men and women. In terms of where I sit on the spectrum from Boba Fett to Stephanie Plum, I reckon I’m somewhere in the middle – not as hardcore as Boba for sure, but maybe a little more so than Ms Plum!


My chain thus far has been David Young, Rod Reynolds and now you. My Twitter feed goes crazy when the three of you start chatting so how do you all come to know each other?

Well, there was this one time, in this bourbon bar … no, seriously, we all did the City University MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) together. We did it the first year that City ran the (now very popular) programme. It’s a great MA, very practical – lots of writing and critique – so we got to know each other, and our work-in-progress, really well. In fact, even though we finished the MA two years ago, we still meet up as a group every month or so to share our WIPs and chat about books (and drink wine). The rest of the time we lark about on Twitter!


So – legendary crime blogger…how much of a help has the blog been while you wrote Deep Down Dead? Or did it possibly become a distraction for a while? 

Legendary crime blogger? *blushes* 

That’s a tricky one, because doing the CTG blog has been both a help and a hindrance! On the one side it’s been a great way to read more widely than I would otherwise have done (I’m a total action thriller addict!) and has helped me get to know a whole host of fabulous people within the crime fiction world – writers, bloggers, publishers, agents and readers. Some of the people I’ve met along the way are now my closest friends, and I feel really lucky to be part of the crime writing world. On the other side, blogging and tweeting can be a massive distraction when I’m writing, especially during the first draft stage. I have to switch the wireless off on my macbook for chunks of time so I can concentrate, and also leave my phone in another room – otherwise I’d never write a word!


As I am entrenched up here in Scotland I never get to meet many of my guests, however, last year we did meet – you were about to become a Slice Girl.  Do you want to explain what that was (and will you be back for the encore tour)?  

Haha! Indeed we did meet, and I was about to pop my Slice Girls cherry! The Slice Girls are a group of female crime writers who perform crime-related songs at open-mike style events. Our first appearance was at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival 2015 at the ‘Crime in the Coo’ event – where we sang the Cellblock Tango from the musical Chicago while sitting on the bar. It was both terrifying and super fun! The Slice Girls group is led by the fabulous Alexandra Sokoloff, and includes Susi Holliday, Alexandra Benedict, Kati Hiekkapelto, Louise Voss, Lucy Ribchester and me. In September we’ll be back (with a slightly revised line-up) singing at Crime in the Coo’ at Bloody Scotland (with some new songs) and also at the House of Jazz on Saturday night in Bouchercon, New Orleans!


Writing a novel. Maintaining a blog. Attending all the fun launch events. Do you have time to do anything non book related? 

Erm, not so much! That said, I love watching movies and going out to dinner with my mates for a good natter. I’ve also got two horses, and spending time with them out in the fields is a perfect way to relax.


Now Some Quick Fire Questions: 

  • What was the first book that contained one of your review quotes? I’m not sure it was used in the actual book – but it was very cool that Orion Books made a poster for The Killing Season by Mason Cross with my quote on it. 
  • You hit the pub after a book launch, who is most likely to beat you to the bar? Easy – Susi Holliday (closely followed by Mark Hill) every time
  • What is your Favourite film? It’s not crime, I hope that’s okay! It’s The Black Stallion (based on the book by Walter Farley) about a young boy and a wild horse shipwrecked on a remote island. It’s beautifully filmed and one hell of a story.
  • Pineapple should never be found on a pizza. True or False? False! I love Pineapple on pizza! 
  • Tell us one thing from your bucket list. You know what, I don’t actually have a bucket list! I tend to be a bit more let’s go with the flow and see where this takes me …
  • The last VHS video recorder will be manufactured this week but which one piece of tech that you have owned has been your favourite? Anything from Apple! My smartphone is the piece of tech I couldn’t live without (followed by my Macbook!)
  • Do you have a favourite book that you re-read over and over again? Just one?? Gosh. Okay, then it would have to be A State of Fear by the uber talented, late Michael Crichton – it gets a little crazy in places, but it’s awesome. If I can have a second one (please!!) I’d go with The House on The Strand by Daphne du Maurier – she could write tension and angst better than anyone! 


Finally, the Book Chain question – Mr Reynolds set me a question to ask you on his behalf: 

Who would you most like to use a taser on? 

Oh, that’s really tricky! I want to say Rod, but he probably doesn’t deserve the taser really. In fact, someone would have to be pretty badly behaved for me to resort to the taser. But, if it was for charity though … it’d be kinda fun to taser Rod!


And we are done!  Thank you.  But before you go can you suggest an author I should ask to join me next to keep my Q&A Chain going?  Once you have nominated someone I also need a question to ask them on your behalf.

I’m nominating Daniel Pembrey – my question for him is ***REDACTED***

Thanks Steph! Daniel can expect an email sometime very soon…


Steph’s blog should be an essential visit for any crime/thriller reader, you can find her here:

Also there’s a pre-order link for Deep Down Dead via

Steph and the all new Slice Girls line-up will be just one of the fabulous events you can see at Bloody Scotland 2016


Category: Guests | Comments Off on Book Chains – Steph Broadribb (Third Link)
August 24

Good Girl Bad Girl – Ann Girdharry

Good Girl Bad GirlA stalker. A pact. And a deadly secret.

How far must Kal go to face the truth and find her missing mother?

Kal is twenty-eight years old and she’s no fool, though sometimes she might pretend to be, because hiding her strengths is a great way to extract information.

An expert in psychology and skilled in reading other people and their behaviours, she first learnt her craft from her deceased father. He was a man with dark secrets.

When her journalist mother goes missing, Kal investigates. A shadow’s been stalking her family for three generations. Kal will uncover a child trafficking network and to find her mother, she must face her deepest suspicions and a dread she’s been avoiding all her life…


My thanks to Kate at Authoright for the chance to join the blog tour.


Kal Medi is a photo journalist. She has returned from assignment to find her mother has vanished.  Her mother’s home looks undisturbed, however, a threatening letter lies in plain sight. Kal is surprised by the letter (not that one exists but that her mother has left it where it could be found) it seems Kal, her mother and her grandmother before her, have been receiving threatening letters for years. This is the first of the curious plot threads that Ann Gridharry has left for us.

When she was young Kal was trained by her father to read people, their nervous ticks, their subtle “tells” and their involuntary gestures. It seems that Kal can almost see into the soul of people she is speaking with. Her father challenged her to “read” people to uncover their secrets – at a young age Kal could learn the worst of people’s vices and it steeled her for challenges to come.  Her father also ensured Kal was trained in martial arts, she can defend herself better than most and is a threat to those that may challenge her.  A real kick-ass heroine and a great lead character.

Good Girl Bad Girl sees Kal investigating her mother’s disappearance. Her only clue is a series of photographs that her mother hid on her computer – Kal needs to identify the people in the photo’s, track them down and then work out why her mother wanted her to look into these individuals. There is no guarantee that this will lead Kal to her mother, however it seems the only lead she has.

Her investigations will lead from London to India where a remote medical facility is aiding Indian street kids by providing badly injured children with replacement artificial limbs. The experiments that are being conducted in India are advancing medial technologies which will benefit thousands around the world. However, Kal has her suspicions over the facility and has to find a way to establish if the research is all legitimate.

I will confess that it took me a little time to get into Good Girl Bad Girl. Kal seemed a bit too good to be true initially, her ability to “read” people reminded me of Spider-man’s “spider sense” which would tingle when danger arose and it was a little overused through the book. I am being a tad churlish as Good Girl Bad Girl develops into a really strong thriller and I found that after my initial doubts over where the story may be heading I actually really enjoyed it.

There are some pretty dark topics addressed in Good Girl Bad Girl – naturally I cannot share what they are (SPOILERS) but I really liked the direction the story took.  Ann Girdharry does not shy away from the nasty side of the adventures and this was a definite bonus as I never like when the story is played too safe and all the characters are bulletproof. Kal and her allies will not have everything their own way and a few twisty shocks will ramp up the excitement and keep you reading.

So the acid test…did I enjoy it? Yes.

Would I recommend it?  Yes again.

And would I read more books from this author?  Absolutely.


Follow the blog tour

Good Girl Bad Girl_Banner


Good Girl Bad Girl is available in paperback and digital format and you can order a copy by clicking through the following link: 



Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Good Girl Bad Girl – Ann Girdharry
August 23

Holiday Reading: Volume 3 – Sarabrand

Sarabrand made the headlines this summer when Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016. As the announcement was made I had just finished reading a Sarabrand book – the third of their titles that I had read in a single month. Although I have not read His Bloody Project I need to shout a bit about three brilliant books from the Sarabrand collection which should also command a place on your bookshelves.


Bad Samaritan – Michael J Malone

Bad SamaritanDI Ray McBain returns and his past is catching up with him. He previously came up against a deranged Serial Killer called Stigmata, it seems that Stigmata may now be back and claiming more victims and this time it seems McBain may be a target himself.

McBain is aware of the danger he faces, however, he is investigating the murder of a student – her body found in a dark city centre alley. Cutting through the lies and fake bravado of the Glasgow student population will prove to be a challenge for McBain, particularly when many of his suspect pool interact via social media and are not very good at having a “real” conversation.

Bad Samaritan is a brilliant who-dunnit, a drama of cat and mouse and has an endgame which is equally shocking and thrilling. I love the dynamic between McBain and his partner Alessandra Rossi, the scenes with them both are frequently laugh out loud funny. Glasgow humour with cop humour – double win!

Ale is much more comfortable dealing with the students than McBain and much of this investigation is driven by her. This leaves McBain dealing with his small Stigmata problems, well that and the other issues that Mr Malone is throwing his way. McBain’s story does not always make for easy reading, he is facing some tough issues and you become fully caught up with his story. Anguish and despair are not words you like to associate with a loved character, however, McBain has to contend with this (and more).

You don’t need to have read any previous DI McBain novels to enjoy Bad Samaritan but you WILL enjoy Bad Samaritan it’s fabulous.


And When I Die – Russel D McLean

And When I DieWhat do you do when you are born into one of Glasgow’s most notorious crime families but you just want to live a normal life?  Well if you are Kat Scobie you adapt as best you can but it’s never going to be as simple as walking away.

Family ties are too strong and Kat returns to the city to attend a family funeral, her timing could not be worse as divisions in the family are threatening to tear the Scobie empire apart. Kat’s is trying to avoid coming into contact with John, her former lover, who now works for the Scobies. John is actually an undercover cop who has stepped too far over the line and is now caught up in the attempted murder of one of the Scobie family.

Kat and John are the main focus of And When I Die – they are pursuing different agenda but I desperately hoped everything would resolve in a way that meant they would both be okay at the end of the book.

Sigh. So much for that hope!

Everything is about to come to a head and Russel McLean is not going to give Kat or John an easy time of it, but that is okay as reading And When I Die is an absolute treat. Russel McLean has crafted an extraordinary story which I absolutely devoured in a single sitting it is one of the best stories I have read this summer.

I absolutely loved the depiction of the different characters within the Scobie family. Kat seems so out of place yet knows how to manipulate her family.  John is on the cusp of discovery and one wrong step could see him exposed and likely killed – the tension in his scenes was wonderfully handled.

You need to read this, it is as simple as that.


The Dead Don’t Boogie – Douglas Skelton

The Dead Don't BoogieA new lead character for Douglas Skelton, meet the smart-mouthed investigator Dominic Queste. Dominic is asked to track down a missing teenage girl – he is good at that. But what if finding the girl meant he also found a whole lot of trouble?  Well if he didn’t then The Dead Don’t Boogie would be a much shorter book!

Fortunately it seems Dominic Queste and trouble are old friends and it is not long before Queste finds himself pitted against gangsters, some busy hitmen and an irritated teenage runaway that would just like to be left alone please.

Queste has a delightfully colourful past, a former addict who has cleaned up his act (even if nobody will believe him). He has a sparring partner at the local police station who is just itching to lock him up. And his best friends are retired gangsters who now enjoy a spot of cooking in their downtime.

There is a constant stream of dark humour running through The Dead Don’t Boogie, few can handle the blend of thrills and funnies as well as Douglas Skelton can. You will find that Dominic Queste will have you laughing out loud one minute and then tensely gripping the edge of your book the next.

I enjoy many of the books that I read but The Dead Don’t Boogie had an extra level of enjoyment that many thrillers lack – it is FUN too.


Both Russel and Douglas are launching their books in Glasgow in early September – I am sure that they would love if you came along to ask them tricky questions about their books. Waterstones Argyle Street is the place:  And When I Die (Russel D McLean) on Friday 2nd September at 7pm.  The Dead Don’t Boogie (Douglas Skelton) on Thursday 8th September at 6.30(ish).

Sarabrand have a fabulous collection of books – view the range and order your copies here:

Category: 5* Reviews, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Holiday Reading: Volume 3 – Sarabrand
August 20

Holiday Reading: Volume 2

I am still in post holiday mode and doing some catch-up reviewing. My long break from my laptop means I have a good number of books to discuss and the only way that I will be able to cover them all is to do a number of shorter reviews…

The Time To Kill – Mason Cross

The Time To KillThe 3rd Carter Blake novel from Mason Cross (but the first I have read – sorry Mason). But I can safely say that I will be catching up with The Samaritan and The Killing Season as The Time To Kill was brilliant!

I was actually at the launch of The Time To Kill and had a spoiler free sneak preview of the story – what I heard made me rush the book to the top of the reading pile. An action adventure (and a chase story) across the USA which kept me gripped as I read.

There are links to the previous stories so reading the first two books would probably have helped – but this in no way reduced my enjoyment. Everything that you need to know is explained but it was clear to a new reader that Carter Blake has a fascinating back-story and that he is not keen to have his past catch-up with him. Unfortunately he may not have much say in this matter.

A five star thrill-fest.


Devil Take The Hindmost – Martin Cathcart Froden

Devil Take The HindmostCycling in the 1920’s was an unexpected backdrop to Martin Cathcart Froden’s Devil Take The Hindmost but this is an engaging and extremely entertaining story.

Devil Take The Hindmost follows the story of Paul MacAllister. Farmer’s son, cyclist and newly arrived in London having left the Scottish farm to come to the big city. He falls in with Silas Halkias, a Greek “businessman” who can see potential in Paul’s cycling to earn some money in the city velodromes.

Silas gives Paul a room, finds him a job and kits him out with a top of the range bike.  There are conditions to be met as Silas is not doing this out of the goodness of his heart but Paul is a well meaning and trusting chap so he goes along with all the tasks he is presented.

I am reluctant to share too much of the detail of this book as I found the joy was in not knowing what was coming. The author has captured the feeling of 20’s London wonderfully well. The cycling element is detailed (not excessively) but I got a real feel Paul’s enthusiasm for racing and it was fun to see innovative ideas from 100 years ago being explained and explored.

Beautifully written and with excellent characters this was an absolute gem to read.


Killer Instincts – Linden Chase

Killer InstinctsZane King is being shipped to an island to conduct an undercover investigation into what is happening on this remote isle and its very unique population. It is extremely hush-hush, he has been selected as he has no family ties and he can drop out of society for a few weeks with no-one to notice he is missing.

On arriving on the island the first thing King finds is the body of a woman. She has been brutally murdered and left abandoned in the woods. To avoid blame King tries to leave the scene of the murder but he is spotted.

The residents of the island are all prisoners/convicts.  The worst of society shipped to an isolated location where they will be expected to form a community, work the land and utilise the natural resources available to them.  Escaping from the island is not an option – death awaits at sea – and supplies will drop on a regular basis to ensure the residents have staple provisions.

Except things are not going smoothly. In fact things are going horribly wrong. King has to adapt quickly to survive, he cannot let his true mission for arriving on the island be known but who can he trust and how will he leave the island when his work is done?

Linden Chase has delivered a gritty, powerful thriller which left me demanding more. So many deaths, double crossing allies, attempts to seize power and all under the watchful eyes of the mysterious authority figures that are monitoring their experimental prison.  Think Lord of the Flies for slasher movie fans and you are not too far from Killer Instincts.

Bloody and Brilliant.  Or just Bloody Brilliant. Both work.


You can order all three books through these links.

The Time To Kill:

Devil Take The Hindmost:

Killer Instincts:


Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Holiday Reading: Volume 2
August 18

Holiday Reading: Volume 1

It has been quite some time since I posted a review here. Last week’s review of Black Night Rising by Rod Reynolds was actually penned around 3 weeks ago while I prepared for my holiday. The week before I left I had 5 days of guest posts so the last “real time” review I shared was The Ghost Hunters on 22nd July.

Why is this important?  Well it means that I have almost a month of reading to catch up on and if I tried to do a full (all singing and dancing) review for each book I would never catch up. So a personal challenge…can I cut out all the waffle and do a short and snappy review for a dozen or so books?

Here is what I read on my Summer Holidays (part 1).

ViralViral – Helen Fitzgerald

Finally got around to Viral, the book with THAT opening line. But it is so much more than a single line gimmick, there is a great story here about a family. The successful mother trying to control the fallout from a single shocking incident that was captured on film and is going viral on-line. The clever, sensible daughter who has gained an infamy she could never have expected. Then there is the popular, party-going sister, she hasn’t been looking out for her sibling and is suddenly having to deal with her irate mother and find her missing sister.

Can a family survive, rally round each other and all pull through safely?  Viral is a tense read and comes highly recommended.



Distress Signals – Catherine Ryan Howard

Distress SignalsIs there a serial killer operating on a cruise ship? That question hooked me on Distress Signals as Catherine Ryan Howard outlined how there *could* be. But it may never be discovered and if a killer were to be suspected the actual investigative responsibility seems unclear too!

Adam Dunne’s girlfriend, Sarah, has gone missing.  She left to attend a business trip but vanished without trace. After getting nowhere reporting his concerns to official channels Adam decides to conduct his own investigation – he is sick with worry and feels he is the only person looking for Sarah.

I really enjoyed Distress Signals, the unusual setting of the cruise ship gave it a claustrophobic feel at times. I shared Adam’s frustration over what may have happened to Sarah and the further into the story I got the more I feared for what may have happened to her.

There was also a somewhat disturbing side story in this book too about a young French boy who we see growing older through a series of flashbacks as the main plot developed. I found these cut-aways fascinating as I could not see how they were going to impact upon Adam’s predicament – kept me reading.

This a good one and I have been recommending it to friends and colleagues for a while.


The Stepmother – Claire Seeber

The Step MotherI read this in a single sitting on my flight to the sunshine. A wonderfully clever domestic thriller which showed the problems a stepmother faces trying to integrate with her husband’s family. There is an ex-wife on the scene, two teenage kids to win over and her new husband’s friends are not exactly welcoming to this new face in the family.

The book challenges the Snow White story – asks you to consider the tale from various viewpoints and asks if the classic fairy-tale princess is really as pure as the white snow she is named after.

The Stepmother was at times a creepy read and this added to my enjoyment. The family live in a huge but remote country house, it is said the house is haunted, when the lead character is home alone (and feeling very vulnerable) there are strange unexplained noises. A room in the house is kept locked – the key allegedly missing. What could be hidden behind the locked door?  I had guesses (they were all wrong).

Very readable and with some cracking twists along the way, The Stepmother is well worth looking out for.



My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix

My Best Friend's ExorcismYou know that I love the 1980’s?  Well My Best Friend’s Exorcism is 80’s-tastic!  The pop culture references, the background detail and the Chapter Names being song titles it was the book which just kept giving treat after treat.

The story was also a reading highlight.  Two best friends growing up and going through school together, they bond at a young age and are always there for each other. But on one girls night out someone challenges four friends to try acid. The group are separated deep in the woods and when they are finally reunited one of their number has changed and not in a good way!

Abby is convinced that something bad has happened to her friend Gretchen. She has turned evil, but nobody but Abby seems to be able to see it. As we watch Abby try to work out what has happened to her oldest friend we see just how nasty things are going to get.  I am not kidding when I say that some of the things that take place in My Best Friend’s Exorcism are more unsettling than most James Herbert and Stephen King novels.

Can friendship beat the Devil the cover blurb asks?  I cannot tell you as I want you to read this one and find out for yourself – but be warned, this ramps up the nasty!


By clicking this link: you can read Grady Hendrix explaining why the 80’s were the best decade ever.







Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Holiday Reading: Volume 1
August 11

Black Night Falling – Rod Reynolds

Black Night FallingHaving left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help.

This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late.


My thanks to Faber for my review copy


In Black Night Falling we are re-united with Charlie Yates, first encountered in last year’s brilliant The Dark Inside. This is a good start, Yates was a character I had really enjoyed reading about, his personal demons battling his dogged determination to chase down a story and uncover the truth.

The housekeeping – Black Night Falling is a stand alone novel and can be enjoyed as such, however, there are some threads which will follow on from The Dark Inside and you will get the best experience reading the books in order. This in its-self is not a problem as both are cracking reads.

Charlie Yates once again finds himself unpicking the lies as he tries to get to the bottom of the seemingly unconnected deaths of young women in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Charlie has come to town following a request for help from an old friend, however, Charlie arrives too late and learns his friend died in a tragic accident a few days earlier.  Picking up the investigation with only the cryptic notes left by his late friend, Charlie finds another small town is unwilling to spill the beans on the powerful men who are very much in control of their community. And powerful men can have a long reach – well beyond Hot Springs and all the way to Charlie’s home.

The pressure is on Charlie to turn tail and head home. Snooping is very much discouraged and exposing corruption and murder is not going to make life easy for Charlie Yates. But as we learned in The Dark Inside, Yates does not walk away from the corruption, he will root it out and expose the culprits.

Black Night Falling is a treat for readers that like their adventure stories grounded, gritty and gripping. Rod Reynolds knows how to spin a story and he can ramp up the tension and befuddle the reader with red herrings. His books are a delight to read.

So, should you read Black Night Falling?  Absolutely. And soon.


Black Night Falling released on 4 August 2016 and you can purchase a copy through this link:

Follow the Blog Tour

Black Night Falling_blog tour graphic

Category: Blog Tours | Comments Off on Black Night Falling – Rod Reynolds
August 3

In Conversation: Michael J Malone and SJI Holliday

It is festival season again.  Harrogate has been and gone, Bute Noir beckons and Bloody Scotland looms large. Exciting times if you can make it along to see some of your favourite authors chatting about their craft. However, if you cannot make it to a festival it can be damned frustrating knowing you are missing the fun.

I decided I would try to recreate a festival type conversation by inviting some of my favourite authors to chat about their books (with me lurking in the background).  The first Conversation I hosted was between SJI Holliday and JS Law, It cannot have been too traumatic for Susi as today I am delighted be able to welcome her back – this time to chat with Ayrshire’s own Michael J Malone.

We kicked off our chat just as Susi’s second book, Willow Walk, was released:


Willow WalkG – Susi, London launch for Willow Walk has been and gone, but as I write Edinburgh Launch is a few days away. Does Book 2 have a different feel to when you were promoting Black Wood?

S – Well, yes. It’s an odd one. In many ways, it’s just as exciting, especially when I really love this book and am getting so many fantastic reviews, but it IS different. I’m doing a lot more physical launch stuff this time – last week I had two library events as well as the London launch, this week I’m signing books all over the place, as well as having events in Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh. I feel like I am talking more about the book, rather than the many blog posts and Q&A type things I did with Black Wood. I hope it will always be exciting when a new book comes out – after all, it is the product of many months of hard work – but it definitely feels a bit different. I’m no longer a debut! Do readers expect more from me now? Do they have higher expectations? Possibly. What do you think, Michael – does each new book release feel different from the last?

M – Yeah, I’ve been impressed by how well organised you seem for this book, Susi. And you are spot on. Gone are the days when the writer could sit back in their garret – starving or otherwise – and wait for the reader to find them. There are SO many books and so many other diversions it really does help if you haul ass and get yourself in front of readers.

Bad SamaritanTo answer your question – does each book feel different? Kinda. I don’t think anything will match the excitement of that first book release. And family and friends rally round for the first one ‘cos this is new and exciting. For subsequent books? Not so much. Now I can sense the suppressed yawn – oh, you’ve got another book out? With the subtext, shit I have to fork out another £8.99. 

But like you, for subsequent books which have all gone through the hate it/ love it/ what the hell am I doing publishing this piece of crap, process – when it comes to the pub date I am mostly pleased with how it turned out and excited/ fearful to find out what readers will make of it.

Having gone the distance and completing your first novel, Susi did you feel more confident in the writing of Willow Walk?

S – Well, I don’t know if ‘more confident’ is how I felt. Certainly not initially! I think I started about six different books after Black Wood. All abandoned at about 20k. Some I may go back to, some not. I think I thought that writing the second book would be easier, and it was – eventually – once I’d worked out which book that was! I’m more confident with the final product though, more willing to take the praise (and more accepting of negative feedback, of which, thankfully, there has been very little!) The problem for me (if you can call it a problem) is too many ideas… is that the same for you Michael? Are you always writing the next book in your head?

M – Too many ideas? I wish that was a problem for me. I’ve now completed ten novels and after each one I’ve been left feeling certain that I will NEVER manage to do it again. The well is completely dry. I’m rung out and apart from the feeling I’m finished and about to be found out, I am completely devoid of ideas.

But my teeth are long (see what I did there?) and I now know that this feeling is temporary – writer’s block is for those who don’t have a mortgage after all – and a situation/ character/ idea will be thrown up from my sub-conscious eventually.

So, do you have a wee stash of ideas, Susi? I am SO envious. How does it start for you then? Situation/ character/ theme etc?

S – I’m thinking of selling some ideas. I’ll let you know once I’ve worked out a price. I’ll never be able to write them all. I always say I will write a book of prologues… I’m always really excited about the start of a book, the story all ready to come out. Then I realise it’s not ready at all, and it’s back to the drawing board!

SJI HollidayIt’s always a situation, I think. I very rarely think of a character first. I just seem to constantly absorb ideas. I love people watching and listening to people’s conversations. Sometimes a friend or a family member will say something completely random, and it sparks off a reaction in my head. I always seem to turn the most simple situations into something dark and mysterious. What’s that line in the Simon and Garfunkel song (America?) “She says the man in the gaberdine suit is a spy… he says be careful his bowtie is really a camera…” That’s me. Take the normal, and twist it! 

Problem with too many ideas though, is that they can stop you from focussing on your current project. I try to keep them in check by emailing myself “Idea: XXX” and then whenever I think of things for that idea, I reply to that email. I’ve got hundreds of these in my email folders now!

Do you find writing easy, Michael? Do you manage to stay focussed and on track?

M – The Book of Prologues – sounds like something from the Bible. I like how John Connolly describes it – the tyranny of new ideas. It could be easy to jump from one exciting new idea to another, like some excited jumpy thing. Thankfully, I managed to take my very first novel idea to completion. 

Do I find writing easy? To paraphrase (and distort) what King Kenny was reported to have said – sometimes aye, sometimes naw. There are LOTS of days when writing feels like wading through a mental treacle. And some days where hours pass in moments. 

But I do stay focused on an idea until I’ve carried it through to those two little words – The End. (Is there anything sweeter in the writers’ lexicon?) A benefit, perhaps, of not having very many new ideas.

G – What I am getting here is the feeling Michael sets out to tell a story and sticks with it until he works it into shape.

Susi, you seem to be the polar opposite. Loads of threads and possibilities but you need to find the one? Are the parked ideas ever salvaged to be merged into the story you are writing?

Am also keen to know if you can both keep your individual books ring-fenced in your head. I will need to explain that I think. As you both have recurring characters and locations can you promote and discuss one title and be confident you are not slipping into plot threads from a different book?

bw cover1 copyS – Well so far, I still have my ideas folder as it is. I haven’t revisited anything yet, but I think I will in time. 

With regards to the different characters and recurring characters and books – I find myself talking about Black Wood and Willow Walk simultaneously when I am doing appearances. Mainly because they are linked by certain things, the setting, the policeman. But they are very separate books and I want people to see them that way. You don’t have to read them in order – it’s not a ‘proper’ series like that, but writing the third is challenging as I am feeling the pressure to tie up a few things and make references to things that have happened in books 1 and 2. 

To be honest, I am very excited about book 4, which is a standalone, with a very different setting, new characters and a different style. I feel I need that big change after writing 3 set in a small town. I’m excited about Michael’s next one, which is a big departure from his (brilliant) series.

How does that feel, Michael? Was it difficult to move on from your series characters? (Not saying that there won’t be another in the series, as I have a sneaking suspicion that there is). What do you prefer? Same world, or something new?

M – A Suitable Lie (thanks for the chance to throw in a wee plug, Susi) comes out in September and as you say, that’s a departure from my usual crime stuff. There’s no cops and no robbers – but a dark situation within a family.

It wasn’t difficult to move away from the series, in fact it was quite liberating. (I also did this between books 2 and 3 when I went off and wrote The Guillotine Choice) I have plans to come back to it but I also need a break. I’m full of admiration for writers like Rankin who can stay with the same characters and keep it fresh after all these years. I’m not sure I could manage that. And it is great to examine new characters and new situations and feel your way into another, very different world.

Guilliotine 2Having said that, when I have a break and come back to McBain and O’Neill, there’s something pleasing, almost comforting about it. It’s like putting your favourite slippers on, having a drink of your favourite tipple and meeting up with a close friend you haven’t seen for ages – all at the same time. I KNOW these people. I know what makes them tick and the fresh challenge is to come up with a situation that has them hanging over the edge all over again. (Laughs like a maniac).

What for you is the challenge of writing connected books, Susi? (See how I resisted called it a series?)

S – The challenge is remembering all the things you’re supposed to remember… Lee Child has got this sussed – he puts Reacher’s vital statistics on the opening page of every single book. I struggle to remember what colour of eyes I’ve given people, or hair, or what they wear… I get round this by being deliberately vague, so that the reader can see the character how they want to see them, thus avoiding that tricky issue of using the vertically challenged Tom Cruise to play your 6ft 5″ hero for the on-screen adaptation! I’ve heard of people saying they keep notebooks on various things that have happened in previous books in their series. I’m not organised enough to do that (mainly because I don’t really see my series as a series!) but I’m just finishing off book 3, and I’ve got a big note next to my compute saying REMEMBER THE CAT!!!! I nearly forgot him, despite that. Poor old Cadbury has a very minor role in this one (but no, I’m not going to kill him!) I’ve got other random notes stuck around the place too, like QUINN SMELLS OF CHIPS and CHANGE ALL THE NAMES!! But that’s another story…

So here’s my next question for you, Michael… what do you do when you finish writing a book? Do you have any celebratory rituals? Do you take a break, or dive right into the next one?

MjMM – Good call, Susi.

Yeah – I’m not that organised either. In my very first book (as yet unpublished) my main character had a dog. Said dog had completely disappeared by the end of the book.

And back to your question – do I have a ritual? Not officially. Maybe I should start one, cos that would be better than the emotional mix I tend to inhabit. It’s one part relief, a dash of excitement, a large pinch of worry that what I’ve written is crap, and all of that is liberally sprinkled with the certainty that I will never ever ever manage to write another book again.

I then have a break, catch up on my reading and when doing so fall into that trap of comparison (don’t do it, writers) convince myself that EVERYONE is much better than me and I’m wasting my time. But then imperceptibly the itch starts up again. And I’m off.

What about you?

S – Well, mine is a simple ritual, really. Finish book, email to agent and publisher, check sent box to make sure it’s sent, go to pub (in pub, check email to see if agent and/or publisher has acknowledged receipt, check sent box again, just in case…), drink beer. Drink more beer. 

The End.


The End indeed. My most sincere thanks to Susi and Michael.

SJI Holliday is the author of Black Wood and Willow Walk (the Banktoun series).  You can order both titles by clicking through this link:

You can follow Susi Holliday on Twitter: @SJIHolliday

Or visit her website at


Michael J Malone, author and poet, has a considerable back catalogue of books which you should peruse and purchase by clicking through to this link:

Michael can be found on Twitter as: @michaelJmalone1


Category: Guests | Comments Off on In Conversation: Michael J Malone and SJI Holliday
August 1

Ava Marsh – Untouchable and Exposure Q&A

ExposureI recently had the chance to chat with Ava Marsh and Marnie Riches about the darker side to writing and researching their books.  Today I am thrilled to welcome back Ava so that I can chat a bit more about Untouchable and Exposure and ask what the reader feedback has been like.


The Untouchable Response and Igniting New Exposure

How did you find the reader reaction to Untouchable?

Actually I was pleasantly surprised. Not just because the reviews were generally positive, but also because I’d been rather worried about how some of the more hardcore sex scenes would go down. I felt they were integral to the story, but I was concerned people might find them over-the-top. I was very relieved when that proved not to be the case. Although explicit content is not for everyone, readers seem unanimous that the sex wasn’t gratuitous.

Did the responses to Untouchable influence how Exposure developed?

Publishing timescales being what they are, I’d finished the first draft of Exposure months before Untouchable came out. But the fact that Untouchable had been picked up by an agent and two publishers – Transworld in the UK and Berkley Penguin in the US – gave me some confidence that I was on the right track. I’d always had in mind a blend of thriller with a more explicit side – sort of Gone Girl meets 50 Shades – but was concerned it wouldn’t work as a blend of genres. So it was a relief to know at least some people had enjoyed it!

I did worry quite a lot about Exposure. I didn’t want to repeat the same kind of narrative pull through the story so tried for something different. Psychologically, Kitty and Grace are poles apart.

UntouchableI noticed the ‘party’ scene created something of a stir in the reviews I read.  Did that surprise you or did you know as you wrote it that this would be a much discussed element of the story?

I guess I always knew that Untouchable scene was a bit ‘out there’, though I also knew that these things do occur in real life – those kinds of escort parties, I mean – rather than all the ‘bad guys’ thrillery stuff! It was a tremendously fun scene to write – I googled pictures of the girls’ outfits, and the apartment where it was held, and amused myself by thinking up all the little accoutrements they’d offer the guests. And I loved writing any scene with Alex in it.

Is there any way that Grace and Kitty could have crossed paths (or ever do so in future)?  I have my fanboy hat on here and thinking kindle novella/bonus additional extract in book 3?

You know, I did consider this when I was writing Exposure. Grace, as you’re aware, once worked as a psychologist, and I was very tempted to have her play the part of Yvonne in Exposure. But it wouldn’t work in terms of timings, and I felt it was a bit of a stretch. But I love it when writers play those kinds of games, having characters from previous novels turn up in their next. But I like your idea of a bonus novella or extract. I might give that some serious thought!


Ava Marsh SilhouetteThanks Ava

You can order a copy of Exposure by clicking through on this link.

Untouchable (which I placed top of my Top Ten Books of 2015) can be ordered by clicking here:


Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Ava Marsh – Untouchable and Exposure Q&A