October 12

I Know Your Secret – Graham Smith

i-know-your-secret-book-cover“What would you do if your most intimate secrets got into the wrong hands?”

Set in modern day Cumbria, I Know Your Secret is a police thriller in which a priest is found crucified to the stone floor of his church. Fearing more attacks on the clergy, DI John Campbell and his team of misfits race to find the killer before he strikes again.

Meanwhile, DI Harry Evans, spends his days attending the trial of his wife’s rapist and his nights interfering in the investigation.

Can they catch the killer before he strikes again?


My thanks to Caffeine Nights for my review copy

DI Harry Evans has featured in two previous Major Crimes books and also in Graham Smith’s Snatched From Home. He is very much master of his home patch in Carlisle but is facing the prospect of imminent retirement and with that he may well lose the last thing that is important to him.

As the description above mentions Harry is also having to contend with the trial of his wife’s rapist. Previous books outlined events leading up to this confrontation but you do not need to have actually read them to keep up with the events in I Know Your Secret, it stands up well as a jumping on point for new readers.

I Know Your Secret opens with a very powerful murder. A priest is crucified on the floor of his chapel. Cumbria’s finest are called to investigate and Harry’s replacement (DI John Campbell) is leading the team.  I like Campbell, he is battling against the demands of being a supportive new father, battling the influence of the outgoing Harry Evans who does not want to give up his patch and battling against the constant pressure of understaffing and minimal resources.

Graham Smith balances the central characters well. We switch between Campbell’s investigation, Harry’s interventions, the court case and….did I mention a Killer and Blackmailer? As you may have guessed from the title I Know Your Secret is a tale about secrets. With secrets comes knowledge and with knowledge comes power – or sometimes blackmail.

There is loads going on in I Know Your Secret and Harry Evans is determined to be at the centre of everything. It will take its toll, physically and mentally Graham Smith is putting DI Evans through a personal Hell – it makes for intense reading.

Dark in all the right places, I Know Your Secret is a nicely constructed police procedural with some clever twists that caught me off guard.


I Know Your Secret is published by Caffeine Nights and releases on 17 October and can be ordered by clicking here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Know-Your-Secret-intimate-secrets-ebook/dp/B01LSVRL5G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476224783&sr=8-1&keywords=i+know+your+secret

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October 10

Cut-Throat Defence – Olly Jarvis

cut-throat-defence-2There is no man richer than a man without a price

Jack Kowalski is a young and newly qualified barrister, who finds himself working on the biggest drugs importation trial ever played out on English soil. With the assistance of his equally inexperienced instructing solicitor, Lara Panassai, Jack argues a savage ‘cut-throat’ defence – a risky tactic where the defendants blame each other – and quickly embroils some of the most eminent QCs in the land.

As the son of Polish immigrants, the sensitive Kowalski has always found it hard to fit in, with a sense of inferiority and constant nervousness in Court. Now he must face his demons and fight not only for his clients, but for his very future at the Bar.

But when the defendant then unexpectedly absconds, Jack and Lara must fight on regardless, following a tip that leads them out of the courtroom and into Manchester’s seedy underworld – crime bosses, strip clubs, corrupt lawyers and all manner of hidden sins.

As the case grows darker with each new discovery, who in this viper pit of deception can Jack and Lara trust?


My thanks to Heloise at EDPR for my review copy


There was a time (back when I was a student) when I only wanted to read legal thrillers and courtroom dramas, I could not get enough of them. But then I exhausted the titles published by the “big name” authors and my local village library didn’t have a vast selection to choose from.  It is only now that I have started Grab This Book that I realise I have not read very many courtroom dramas over the last couple of decades – shockingly few considering how much I used to enjoy them.

Cut-Throat Defence has made me want to read more courtroom thrillers, re-sparking my fascination with the clever interplay between the lawyers and the judges. I was particularly delighted to learn that Cut-Throat Defence is not just a sinister sounding name but an actual legal situation and one which Olly Jarvis has positioned brilliantly.

Central to my enjoyment of any book is the need to like the principle character and I more than liked Jack Kowalski. His Polish roots are mocked by his peers, he finds himself put down by the pompous establishment figures Couple this with his crippling lack of self confidence and it made him an immediately endearing character that I was willing to succeed (I do love rooting for the underdog).

Without giving away too much detail of the story, Jack finds himself at last chance saloon – a promising career is under threat as he cannot contain his nerves when he gets into court.  As it looks like his last chance to save his career is slipping by he accidentally lands a new client, one who is caught up in one of the biggest drugs busts in the NW. However, Jack’s client has a story so remarkable and unlikely that it is going to be virtually impossible to prove in a court of law.

Fighting against the clock, and impossible odds, Jack’s story in Cut-Throat Defence was a really fun read – I found I read longer and later than I should have done in the evenings as I didn’t want to stop reading. If you are a fan of legal thrillers then I strongly recommend adding Cut-Throat Defence to your library.


Cut-Throat Defence is published by Canelo and is available in digital download here.

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October 9

The Bird Tribunal – Agnes Ravatn

bird-tribunalTV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough.


My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy

The Bird Tribunal is a remarkable read and at no point in the story did I know where it was heading, I just knew that I wanted to keep reading to learn more.

There is mystery around Allis. She has left a successful career to take up a housekeeping and gardener role. She has no previous experience but is prepared to learn as she goes.  Her employer, Sigurd Bagge, is a strange man who hides himself away through the day and only initially comes out to speak with Allis at mealtimes. He will not let her eat with him and he is extremely secretive, choosing not to share any personal information with Allis. It seems he is married, however, his wife is absent and there is no sign she will return.

Allis is determined to make a success of her new role despite the peculiarity of her employer but she is facing her own personal demons. As The Bird Tribunal developed I became transfixed upon how Allis may overcome her personal angst. I also wanted to get to understand Bagge better, his character and behaviour were so odd that I had to know what had led him to that state.

The Bird Tribunal is beautifully written. Yet it is tense, chilling and at times disconcerting. Think Misery (different tension and no axes) but two people living in a remote location with a strained/artificial/complicated relationship.

A special mention has to be made for Rosie Hedger who has done a wonderful job of ensuring the translation of the author’s original text reflects the haunting atmosphere of the remote isolation that Allis has sought.


The Bird Tribunal is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital editions here.

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October 7

Deep Down Dead: Steph Broadribb – Countdown


If you want to write then you should read…oft quoted words of wisdom. So imagine what may happen if one of the most respected crime fiction bloggers turned her hand to writing a thriller.

Now imagine a publisher with a phenomenal drive, an uncanny eye for spotting amazing stories and the desire to ensure these wonderful stories find their way into the hands of readers.

Now imagine what may happen if these two ever got together!



DEEP DOWN DEAD by Steph Broadribb  (published by Orenda Books) will release on October 15th and I cannot wait!


Here is today’s teaser extract from Deep Down Dead…

Too close to punch, I hooked my right leg around his left, and pulled hard to bring him down. He was too quick. One solid punch to my ribs pushed the breath right out of me. I gasped, doubled over, gulping for air. I clawed at my pocket for the pepper spray. Got a hold of it and pulled it out. The can felt cold, slippery. I couldn’t grip it. Heard it hit the ground.


Deep Down Dead is published by Orenda Books on 15 October 2016 and you can order a copy here.

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October 7

Shadow of the Beast – Michael Fowler

shadow-of-the-beast-jpgThe discovery of a skeleton buried beneath the altar of an old chapel should not have raised an eyebrow, but this one was different. This one had been savagely murdered, and all the evidence points to the blood-thirsty killer the press have dubbed ‘The Beast of Barnwell’; a killer who has already served time for the brutal murder of a young girl and is now free.

Is this his handiwork?

In the midst of the enquiry, a 22 year old woman is abducted on her way home from work. Is there a link?

To add to Hunter’s workload his former boss, Michael Robshaw, is deliberately mown down and left for dead.


In his search for the truth Hunter returns to his undercover roots – with deadly consequences

My thanks to Darren at Caffeine Nights for my review copy. Also to Noelle the Crime Book Junkie who invited me to join the Shadow of the Beast Blog Tour.


Shadow of the Beast is the 5th Hunter Kerr novel which means I join a series without knowing the backstory. This did not have the slightest impact upon my enjoyment of the story but there were references to events gone by – always a reward for a returning reader!  Michael Fowler has done a great job of ensuring new readers have enough information to keep up with new developments, important info is conveyed with a simple, quick efficiency and the story keeps a good pace.

In Shadow of the Beast we have a bit of a gruesome opening – construction workers have uncovered a skull during the excavation of an old abandoned building. The police are called and further (more careful) digging uncovers the rest of a skeleton. It is clothed in garments from the 1980’s and alarmingly the police find that a cow’s head has been substituted for the original skull.

The narrative jumps to another part of the city where the reader gets to witness a hit and run accident take place. Only this is no accident, the driver reverses over the fallen body of the victim before speeding off into the night. The consequences of this deed will shake Kerr’s team to its foundations and stretch the department resources to their limits both physically and mentally.

A cold case from 30 years ago and an active investigation with no obvious motivation, the narrative is nicely split and I was totally hooked. Then came the best treat of all – the dawning realisation that Michael Fowler must have served as a police officer – as this was one of the finest police procedurals I have read for some time and had an authenticity in many scenes which not every crime novel can capture.

Despite not having had the advantage of reading the books that preceded Shadow of the Beast I really warmed to Hunter Kerr and the rest of his squad, the interaction between the team and their obvious friendship and mutual trust made me want to keep reading – if the characters engage me then I know I am reading a strong story.

As with many of the books that I have read from publishers Caffeine Nights there are some delightfully dark twists in Shadow (did I mention that skull thing?)The best way to hold my attention and keep those pages turning is to ensure the twists and surprises keep coming, Shadow of the Beast did just that and I will be adding more of Mr Fowler’s books to my reading list – he can tell a great story.


Shadow of the Beast is published by Caffeine Nights and is available to download by clicking through on this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadow-Beast-Hunter-Kerr-Novel-ebook/dp/B01LYIGKMX/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1475793360&sr=8-3&keywords=shadow+of+the+beast



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October 3

Doctor Who Cookbook – Joanna Farrow

doctor-who-cookbookWhether you’re planning a party to watch the latest episode, need a showstopping cake that’s bigger on the inside, or want a taste of the TARDIS at teatime, this is the ultimate collection of dishes from across space and time.

Keep the munchies at bay with a fleet of Atraxi Snax, and serve an Ood Head Bread with your dinner. Create your very own Picnic at Asgard, or invite the Zygon Pie into your house. And say ‘Hello, Sweetie’ to a deadly-delicious Dalektable Army, a Peek-a-Boo Pandorica cake, or some simple jelly babies.


My thanks to Tess Henderson at BBC Books for my review copy


Some reviews are harder to write than others, however, the Official Doctor Who Cookbook did present some new challenges as it required practical skills. It also meant I couldn’t just read it on my commute to work – Scotrail frown upon using the luggage racks on their trains as cooling shelves for cookies.

20160924_160836Some background on my household will help here… I make a mean key lime pie but my baking skills end there. My wife is a talented baker and has a cake making business. My eldest son is a Doctor Who fan (which pleases me) but my younger son is just a bit too young to get hooked on my favourite show. So guess who ended up being creative in the kitchen?  Yup unskilled yours-truly and the child that doesn’t watch the show…not quite what I had planned BUT WE HAD FUN.

pipingAnd The Official Doctor Who Cookbook is great fun for those prepared to don their aprons and get the ovens turned on.  There are recipes for all skill levels, there are numerous sweet and savoury offerings. Cakes, cookies and biscuits sit alongside bread and pizza and they all have a Who theme.

Recipes can be a fickle thing and everyone has their own variation on a classic so my attempts at making a pavlova were not helped by my wife appearing beside the baking team to tell us that “that’s not how I make pavlova”.  Noted.  We continued to follow the recipe in the book and I was pretty damned pleased with how it turned out.  NB don’t judge me on the visual appearance, the 6yo shaped the Adipose!



On a day where time was more of a luxury (and the children didn’t need entertained to the same degree) I turned my hand to a bread recipe, not going to share how that one turned out (“spoilers Sweetie”) but the work in progress was captured before I split my dough and flavoured some of it.  The end result was delicious and was devoured – sadly the finer details of the artwork which look amazing in the book did not quite meet my practical skills so it was a bit “rough” round the edges but I was making it to eat not to display so the key test was passed!


The Official Doctor Who Cookbook is a lovely collection and would make a great acquisition for the fan that also likes to tinker in the kitchen.  With half an eye towards the festive season it would be a great gift to give/receive (assuming cookbooks are your thing).  The recipe’s are clearly laid out, not jargon filled and give clear instruction.  As I indicated above there is a range of sweet and savoury and there are quick fun things to attempt and these are countered with a couple of more complex and time-consuming dishes (as with ANY cookbook).  Some dishes will not suit the younger chef and the book does try to scale a range of age appeal and technical ability but be mindful that not every page will be a sure-fire hit…but it is a fun collection and that has to be an important factor when considering a purchase.


The Official Doctor Who Cookbook is published by BBC books and is available now.

You can order through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Who-Official-Joanna-Farrow/dp/178594052X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475527630&sr=1-1&keywords=doctor+who+recipe+book





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