December 20

Books for Gifts

As the final few days to Christmas slip by I have a couple of fun titles to suggest as possible gifts.

I love to gift books, trying to match the perfect book to the recipient. This year (thanks to Good Housekeeping Magazine) I discovered how much that meant to one member of my family! So I am going to keep advocating that everyone should consider giving books as presents, you may never fully appreciate how much of an impact it could be having.

As I have recently named my Top Ten reads of 2016 I would, naturally, encourage you to consider any of those titles as possible Christmas gifts. My selections can be found HERE.

However, away from crime, thriller and horror tales (not very festive) I have a couple of other suggestions…



Doctor Who: Whographica (O’Brien, Guerrier and Morris)

doctor-who-whographicaPublished by BBC Books this is a stunning visual guide to over 50 years of Doctor Who history depicted in graphs, charts, tables and many, many illustrations.

I have been collecting Doctor Who reference books for more years than I care to remember and I can honestly say that I have not come across anything quite like this before. Never has so much factual information been presented in so few words.

I think that this is a book which will very much appeal to the younger generations of fans. Information is gathered in a quick glance, visually and colourfully and avoids the need to wade through paragraphs of narrative to establish which Doctor was the tallest, when the Cybermen appeared in the tv timeline or which companions travelled with the different incarnations of the Doctor.

Whographica was not a book I could sit down with for any length of time, however, there was so much information contained within that I have returned to it on many occasions, just to flick through and savour.

For Doctor Who fans this is a very pretty gift to receive at Christmas, less considered reading but no less fun.

Order a copy here.

Animalcolm (David Baddiel)

animalcolmMy 10 year old son read this recently and he could not put it down. As a parent who is keen to try to ensure his kids are not permanently glued to electronic gadgets I am always keen to find books which will engage my children and ideally have them seeking a book rather than an xbox controller.

David Baddiel’s latest, Animalcolm, seems to have done exactly that.  My son proclaimed it “his favourite David Baddiel story so far”. I overheard him trying to explain the plot to his wee brother and the pair of them were giggling away to themselves at some of the funny bits he had read.

Books for kids can be tricky purchases but for competent readers in the 9-12 age range this should be a good fit.

Order a copy here.


The 80’s Annual (Sarah Lewis)

80s-annualNow this book I utterly loved. It captured my formative years in a single gloriously glossy retro volume and is presented with the perfect balance of nostalgia, humour and fun.

Presented as a Christmas annual this is the memory lane I loved to stroll along. Page after page of memories as names like Big Area, Johnny Hates Jazz, Spitting Image, Blockbusters and The Tube danced in front of my eyes. Each year of the decade gets a feature, there are interviews with names from the past, picture diaries, crosswords and  puzzles.

I have returned to The 80’s Annual several times over the last few weeks. It is a book you can dip into or sit and pour over.  We have had fun in the house discussing some of the faces it cast up, so many cries of “do you remember….?”, a possible Christmas Day favourite for when the board games have divided family and friends – this book could get everyone talking again!

Order a copy here.




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December 18

Dark Matter – Blake Crouch

dark-matter‘Are you happy in your life?’

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he wakes to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before the man he’s never met smiles down at him and says, ‘Welcome back, my friend.’

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined – one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.


My thanks to Macmillan for my review copy

We will all be aware of the concept that each of our decisions can form our lives and that somewhere there is another version of “you” who lives the life you would have led had you followed the path/choice that you declined.  (Doctor Who does it fantastically in the episode Turn Left – one of Catherine Tate’s best performances).

In Dark Matter we meet Jason Dessen. He is a science teacher who had been on the cusp of scientific greatness when he met a girl and put his heart before his career. Jason is happy but when he goes to meet an old college friend to celebrate his friend’s success at winning a top science prize Jason does wonder what may have been had life turned out differently.

In Dark Matter we meet Jason Dessen…so does Jason Dessen. It turns out that the Jason we meet is the Jason that chose the “best” life and other Jason’s from other alternative realities have found a way to enter our Jason’s world and they want to live his life too.

Jason (our Jason) will find himself plucked from his reality and totally alone in a world where the things he treasures most just are not his any longer. His struggle to get his own life back will take him on a journey quite unlike anything we have seen.

I enjoyed the concept behind this one and warmed to the characters, however, it just slipped a wee bit too far into pure science-fiction fantasy towards the end.  I don’t read much of this type of novel so I either have to accept it is pure other world fantasy with dragons and elves etc or it needs to be a semi plausible earth-based yarn.
Dark Matter started brilliantly in the latter category but by the end the twists became too far removed from the grounded reality that I struggled to fully embrace it. By the time I reached the end there were just too many Jason’s in one place that I couldn’t go along with the story any longer.
That said I DID like the idea of taking the alternative realities and twisting them.
Fun to be had and some nice twists but a little out my normal comfort zone.
Dark Matter is published by Macmillan and is available in hardback now:
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December 15

Lone Wolf – Sara Driscoll

lone-wolf-2Meg and Hawk are part of the FBI s elite K-9 unit. Hawk can sniff out bodies anywhere living or dead whether it s tracking a criminal or finding a missing person. When a bomb rips apart a government building on the National Mall in Washington D.C., it takes all of the team s extensive search-and-rescue training to locate and save the workers and visitors buried beneath the rubble.
But even as the duo are hailed as heroes, a mad bomber remains at large, striking terror across the Eastern seaboard in a ruthless pursuit of retribution. As more bombs are detonated and the body count escalates, Meg and Hawk are brought in to a task force dedicated to stopping the unseen killer. But when the attacks spiral wide and any number of locations could be the next target, it will come down to a battle of wits and survival skills between Meg, Hawk, and the bomber they re tracking to rescue a nation from the brink of chaos.


My thanks Kensington Books for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.


A serial bomber is a terrifying notion and Sara Driscoll paints a terrifying picture of how simple it could be to place a bomb in our midst. In Lone Wolf Government buildings are being targeted by a killer who is holding a long standing grudge.

When a bomb explodes in a busy Government building the FBI K-9 team are called into action – they are to enter the ruins of the building and search for survivors.  It is a harrowing scene and it really highlighted the importance of the work that a K-9 unit undertakes. Sara Driscoll does a fantastic job of describing the chaos and the carnage of the working conditions that the dog and its handler have to operate, the relationship between the two and the ability of the dogs to obey every command.  I was totally engrossed.

Away from the bomb sites we see how Meg and her dog, Hawk, are an inseparable unit. We learn a little of Meg’s background in law enforcement, how quit her job when an arrest went wrong and what finally brought her to the FBI. The relationship and the bond between Hawk and Meg is something rather special and their partnership one of the strongest I have read for a long time. I loved discovering their story and really hope that Lone Wolf will be the first of many FBI K-9 stories.

Sara Driscoll has brought us a chilling thriller with wonderful lead characters and a bad guy that we will all want to see brought to justice.  The story flows at a fast and exciting pace and has that important “just one more chapter” feel about it as you read.

Dog lovers will adore it. Thriller fans should grab it. Lone Wolf is highly recommended.


Lone Wolf was published on 29 November by Kensington Books.  You can order a copy here:

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December 12

Guest Post – Marnie Riches (The Girl Who Had No Fear and Born Bad)

the-girl-who-had-no-fearI am delighted to welcome Marnie Riches back to Grab This Book.

The 4th George McKenzie novel, The Girl Who had no Fear, released a couple of weeks ago and plunges George into a whole new level of peril. But not content with putting our favourite criminologist through the emotional ringer, Marnie has also been working on a new series which will kick off next year when Born Bad releases.

I caught up with Marnie to chat about her busy year and what we can hope to see in 2017…


It’s been a busy 2016 for me. In addition to writing The Girl Who Had No Fear, I have also penned the first book in my brand new Manchester series, entitled Born Bad. I’m extremely excited about it. Not only am I playing god over a killer cast of new characters, but this is my first foray into print as well as e-book. As digital-first acquisitions by Avon’s imprint, Maze, the George McKenzie series (aka The Girl Who series) is not yet in print, though it has been both award-winning and best-selling. I do think we will see George in print at some point, but not yet, which makes the release of Born Bad on 9th March 2017 a real milestone for my career as a crime writer. I’m hoping it’s going to be, like, EVERYWHERE (as my teenaged daughter would say).

Born Bad is set in my home town – Manchester: the most violent city in the UK. Though I’ve lived in London, Cambridge, Huddersfield and Utrecht, I’ve spent most of my life in Manchester – my formative years until the age of 18, and also the last nine years. I have great civic pride in this melting pot of a city, with its world class music and culture. Anyone born in Manchester has a little bit of grit running through their bloodstream, and of course, a little webbing between the old fingers! It being the most violent city in the UK, of course, means that Manchester is constantly abuzz with criminal activity. What better place therefore to set a series all about the (fictitious) villains that run Manchester’s criminal underworld – a story about north vs south and men vs women? I can reveal that the series has some incredible, surprising anti-heroes, feisty heroines and an entertaining army of quirky, mentally unstable muscle. I’m told readers of Martina Cole and Kimberley Chambers will love it but I think anyone who likes a good yarn about bad guys in a gritty setting will love it too.

I wasn’t in any way ready to take a break from the George McKenzie series, and in fact, I’m contracted to write a fifth book, which will be released in early 2018. While readers still clamour to read George stories, I’m clamouring the write them. There’s always more for George to say and do, and The Girl Who Had No Fear opens the door to a whole new dynamic in George’s extended family. It was my publisher that suggested I might like to write something set in Manchester. I jumped at the chance to have two series running concurrently. What fun to write! And long may the two series run…

Juggling the editing of one novel in a series at the same time as writing another novel in another series was a bit of a challenge logistically, but I got there in the end, thanks to some good time management and long hours. Fortunately, the manuscripts I deliver are, in the main, in pretty clean shape already (Solid graft. Nothing more), so the work wasn’t too extensive. It does require some mental agility to leap from one world and set of characters to another and then back again, however! It’s my pleasure to be kept on my toes in this way.

Thinking about it, writing about Manchester and Amsterdam makes perfect sense. Both are rainy, cold cities, roughly on a par geographically. The Dutch are very forthright. Mancunians are very forthright. Both cities have a big club and drug scene. I guess many readers of the George series will find something to love in the new Manchester series, if only it’s the bad weather and trafficking theme.


The Girl Who Had No Fear is available on this link:

You can read my review here:

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December 11

Top Ten Reads of 2016

Time to wrap up another year. Before I get to my selections I need to thank the authors and publishers who have entrusted me with their books, invited me to join blog tours and shared my reviews. Their ongoing support keeps this blog running and I am eternally grateful. I would also like to thank my fellow bloggers who help my reviews reach a wider audience, provide guidance and helpful encouragement (seemingly at any time of the day or night) and who understand my overwhelming need to talk about amazing books.

20161211_202549The books I have selected are the titles which had the most memorable impact. They had a punch or a twist which stood out. They are the stories I still think about months after returning the book to the shelf or they are the books I put into the hands of friends who ask me to recommend something to read. My first “short list” had over 30 titles and I had to narrow that down, I feel bad for leaving some out and I hope that my reviews through the year have reflected how many brilliant books I have had the opportunity to read this year.


Sleeping Giants10 – Sleeping Giants – Sylvain Neuvel

“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’?”

My original review:   and you can order the book here.




Killer Instincts9 – Killer Instincts – Linden Chase


Drop a journalist onto a prison island inhabited only by murderers and task him with finding out who runs the facility and how it operates.

He is more concerned about surviving.


My original review:  and you can order the book here.




My Best Friend's Exorcism8 – My Best Friends Exorcism – Grady Hendrix

It’s an 80’s horror tale. I was not prepared for how dark this tale of two high-school friends would become but it totally captivated me and had some really nasty twists.

My original review:  and you can order the book here.







7 -A Suitable Lie – Michael J Malone

A Suitable Lie is an intense read which is highlighting a topic which is a far bigger issue than most realise. It is a story that will stick with you for a long time to come and it is important that it does. Not to be missed.”


My original review: and you can order the book here.



Stasi Child6 – Stasi Child – David Young

Delightfully different. David Young takes us into 1970’s East Berlin, a time I normally associated with spy novels.  But this is a gripping police thriller and shows how life may have been “behind the Wall.”  Karen Muller is tasked with investigating a murder but may have her work cut-out as there is political pressure on her to find the “right” outcome.

My original review and you can order the book here.




Exposure5 – Exposure – Ava Marsh

I loved Exposure. It’s not going to be for everyone as there are frank and graphic descriptions of porn shoots. But if you go into the story knowing it tackles real life issues and avoids sensationalising porn or making it seem that Kitty is living a 24/7 glamourous existence then you will get the best of Exposure.

This is a “must read” book


My original review and you can order the book here.



Hex4 – Hex – Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Another horror tale and this one is a belter. The town of Black Spring are hiding a secret – a Witch lives in their midst.  A 17th century woman, her eyes and mouth are sewn shut and she can appear in the middle of the night by your bedside. Disaster will befall the town should someone open her eyes – you can guess what happens next!

Terrifying reading.

My original review and you can order the book here.



Jonathan Dark



3 – Jonathan Dark and the Evidence of Ghosts – A K Benedict

A crime thriller and a clever ghost story too.  I loved AK Benedict’s approach to this story and I long to read more Jonathan Dark stories. When I first reviewed it I said: I wish that every book I read was as enjoyable as Jonathan Dark and the Evidence of Ghosts

My original review and you can order the book here.


Streets of Darkness

2  – Streets of Darkness – A A Dhand

Back in June I got the chance to read Streets of Darkness and it blew me away. I couldn’t put it down and I am desperate to read more from AA Dhand.

In my original review I said: it is a debut of some note.  An absolute cert for a 5/5 review score, I tore through it and felt drained at the end.

My original review: and you can order the book here.



Epiphany Jones A/W.indd1 – Epiphany Jones – Michael Grothaus


Disturbing, hilarious, tragic and utterly compelling. I never quite knew where Michael Grothaus was taking us next when I read Epiphany Jones but I loved every step of the journey.

My original review: and you can order the book here.








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December 7

The Mine – Antti Toumainen

the-mineA hitman. A journalist. A family torn apart. Can he uncover the truth before it’s too late?

In the dead of winter, investigative reporter Janne Vuori sets out to uncover the truth about a mining company, whose illegal activities have created an environmental disaster in a small town in Northern Finland. When the company’s executives begin to die in a string of mysterious accidents, and Janne’s personal life starts to unravel, past meets present in a catastrophic series of events that could cost him his life.

A traumatic story of family, a study in corruption, and a shocking reminder that secrets from the past can return to haunt us, with deadly result.


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


An investigative reporter, Janne Vuori, is digging into the background behind the 2 Euro sale of a large mine in Northern Finland. The story becomes his sole focus and the distraction is having a detrimental impact on an already strained home life. As Janne uncovers more detail on the mine and the personnel behind the scenes the bigger the story becomes.

I really enjoyed how Toumainen depicted Janne’s dogged pursuit of his story, we could see how Janne was chasing down leads, quizzing involved parties whilst hoping for a nugget of information which would open a new line of questioning. You can’t help but get caught up in his quest for the truth – something decidedly wrong has happened at Finn Mining Ltd and you want to know what.

As if the whiff of corruption and scandal was not enough to keep me reading I was (disturbingly) delighted when the directors of the mining company started to die…a hitman had entered the mix. The killer will cross paths with Janne and with a totally unexpected outcome.

I read The Mine over a couple of days (it was my commute book) and I found myself wholly absorbed by the story. Big shout to David Hackston who has done a phenomenal job with the translation of the original work as I was completely sucked in by the telling of the tale. The locations felt real and I could easily visualise the bleak Northern landscapes. The tension between Janne and his partner Pauliina made me feel uncomfortable and the awkwardness when Janne meets an unexpected face from his past was handled superbly. There are so many layers of story and characterisation to The Mine which give the story that extra edge.

I was disappointed when The Mine ended as I wanted more – that can only be a good sign! One to watch out for.


The Mine is published by Orenda Books in paperback and digital format and you can get a copy here:


And YES there is a bad pun in the first sentence of my review but I’m not going to apologise for it.

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December 7



Today I am delighted to welcome Leigh Russell to Grab This Book.

This is publication week for Leigh’s new DI Geraldine Steel novel: Deadly Alibi. As we enter the last 24 hours before Deadly Alibi finds its way into the hands of the readers Leigh has shared her thoughts on my favourite question: “Why Do We Love A Serial Killer Story?” 

The Appeal of the Serial Killer

After my debut novel featuring a serial killer, I introduced a different kind of murderer in my second novel, Road Closed. ‘I can’t have a serial killer in every book,’ I explained to my agent. ‘Oh yes, you can,’ came the prompt reply. ‘Readers love serial killers.’ Of course that wasn’t meant to be taken literally, although it’s an interest that crosses over from fiction into real life, with many women wanting to marry killers on death row in America.

So how can we explain this fascination we have with serial killers?

I have to confess that serial killers are good news for crime writers. They offer the perfect means to ramp up tension. Anyone who has seen the film Jaws will remember the first shark attack, all the more shocking because it was unexpected. After that first attack, the director can intensify the suspense any time he chooses. All he needs to do is put a woman in the water on her own, or have a child splashing happily in the sea, and the audience are on the edge of their seats, wondering whether this will be the next victim of a shark attack.

Crime writers have been exploiting this technique for a long time. First the writer establishes that a serial killer is prowling the streets. Then a potential victim – stereotypically a young woman – is placed out alone on the street after dark, and the reader is immediately afraid that another murder is about to take place. This expectation can be fulfilled or confounded. The reader never knows when the killer will strike again.

leigh-russell-photo           As well as the tension introduced by a serial killer, there is psychological interest in the character. What is it that causes someone to kill multiple victims? Perhaps if we are honest we can all understand how someone could be driven to kill once. Take the case of a wife who has been persistently abused only to see her husband start to abuse their child. While no one would condone or excuse killing an abuser, we could understand how a victim might lose control and lash out. But repeated deliberate killing is a different matter, and one that is intriguing.

Of course, there are many patterns of behaviour with which I can’t naturally identify. Recently I was invited to appear at a literary festival where I chatted to another speaker who has written a book based on his experience climbing Everest. That is something I could no more imagine doing than I could envisage committing a murder. So it becomes an intriguing challenge to explore what might motivate a serial killer.


Deadly Alibi by Leigh Russell is published by No Exit Press and is available to buy as an ebook:

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December 5

Jackie Baldwin – Dead Man’s Prayer Q&A

dead-mans-prayerI am delighted to welcome Jackie Baldwin to Grab This Book. After successfully managing to hide from me for the full weekend at Bloody Scotland I was finally able to catch up with Jackie and we had a chat about her debut novel, Dead Man’s Prayer.


I always like to start by asking my guests to introduce themselves and to get an early plug in for their book – the floor is yours.

Hello, everyone,

My name is Jackie Baldwin. For most of my working life I have been a solicitor, specialising in family and criminal law. Latterly, I trained as a hypnotherapist and now work from home.  I live in Dumfries, SW Scotland. My novel, Dead Man’s Prayer was published by Killer Reads, Harper Collins on 2nd September this year. The Paperback was released on 1st December and can be ordered here.

For those that have not yet read Dead Man’s Prayer what can we expect?

It is a police procedural set in Dumfries and featuring DI Frank Farrell and DC Mhairi McLeod. It opens with the murder of an elderly priest which is soon followed by the abduction of toddler boys from nursery. In a small force with limited manpower these investigations put Farrell and his team under unprecedented pressure. He becomes concerned that his mental health may be unravelling but must push himself to the limit and beyond to bring the investigations to a conclusion before someone else winds up dead.

Tell me about Frank Farrell, I know he is a DI but it seems he has followed an unusual career path to get to where he is in Dead Man’s Prayer.

You could say that! He entered a seminary straight from school and became a Roman Catholic priest. He subsequently suffered a complete mental breakdown for reasons that become apparent and felt forced out of the priesthood. He fully recovered and applied to join the police.

I make no secret of the fact I love Scottish crime fiction but I will confess to not having read many books set in Dumfries. Did you feel a pressure to represent your hometown in a good light or do you know the area so well it made it easier to capture the locational feel?

Ijackie-baldwin did worry about that a bit so I took the decision to make up a few streets and names if I was implying something negative. I will have had the original in mind when writing but only someone who lives here would be able to guess exactly where I am referring to. I feel I portrayed Dumfries in a positive light overall. I have lived here for all but about seven years so I know the town and the wider region of Galloway like the back of my hand. It has everything you could possibly wish for and the terrain offers up lots of challenges as well as myriad places to dump a body.

Dead Man’s Prayer is your debut novel, how long had it been a work in progress before you were signed up by your publisher?

Eleven years! Isn’t that awful? I wrote the first draft in around two years, edited it for another year then sent it out to a few agents. A couple of really good ones asked to see the whole MS but ultimately didn’t take me on. I put it away for several years as life was busy with work and kids.  I then attended the first annual ‘Crime and Publishment’ weekend of masterclasses at Gretna which really ignited my passion for writing again. I came home, blew away the cobwebs and embarked on a massive rewrite which took the best part of two years. I was planning to send it out to agents again when someone posted on Facebook in March of this year that Killer Reads, Harper Collins was open for submissions. It had never occurred to me to submit to a publisher direct. I fired it off with zero expectations and was shocked to receive an offer of publication two weeks later. They have a really quick publishing model. My feet barely touched the ground.

There must be a long build up waiting for publication date to roll around. Now that Dead Man’s Prayer has been released and has been available for a few weeks how have you found the experience?

Thrilling and terrifying in equal measure! The fun side is hearing from readers who have loved your book. The scary part for me was having to promote the book and become more visible. I set up a Twitter account and, at first, would jump a foot in the air when my phone pinged but I’m really enjoying it now and have connected with lots of lovely people on there. I had no clue that this whole blogosphere even existed. It was like stepping through a portal into a parallel universe. A steep learning curve!

We were both at Bloody Scotland this year and, although we kept missing each other, I did see you on the main stage in the Albert Hall. Can I ask how your weekend went and can you explain what your official role was?

I had a great time! It’s such a friendly festival. I came up with a few friends from my crime writing group. I was one of twelve debut Spotlight authors which meant I had to appear before the panel, ‘Into The Dark,’ which featured authors, James Oswald, Craig Robertson and Malcolm Mackay, and read for three minutes from my debut novel. I also had my first experience of being miked up with what bore a passing resemblance to an endoscopy tube. My novel had only been out for a matter of days at the time so it was something of a baptism of fire but a wonderful opportunity!

Can I ask if there is a new project underway?

Yes, I am writing a second DI Farrell novel at the moment. I also have plans for an American serial killer novel and an American Sci-Fi crime novel.

Are you a bookworm? If I were to see your bookcases what sort of books could I expect to see?

Totally! I had to drastically prune my book collection when we decided to move to a smaller house once the kids were grown. I was ruthless and boy did I regret it. Afterwards, I felt quite bereft as if part of me was missing. Like a plant that has been savagely chopped, books are now creeping back into my house and making themselves at home. In fact, I need another new bookcase… I read quite widely, Crime, Sci-fi, Literary, Jane Austen. Whatever takes my fancy, really. I don’t do Romance or chick lit though. Too many years as a divorce lawyer!


Dead Man’s Prayer is published by Killer Reads and the paperback and digital book is available now:

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December 3

The Exiled – Kati Hiekkapelto

the-exiledAnna Fekete returns to the Balkan village of her birth for a relaxing summer holiday. But when her purse is stolen and the thief is found dead on the banks of the river, Anna is pulled into a murder case. Her investigation leads straight to her own family, to closely guarded secrets concealing a horrendous travesty of justice that threatens them all. As layer after layer of corruption, deceit and guilt are revealed, Anna is caught up in the refugee crisis spreading like wildfire across Europe. How long will it take before everything explodes?


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

The Exiled sees the return of Anna Fekete (first encountered in The Hummingbird and then The Defenceless). Ordinarily Anna is found in Finland where she is a member of the police force, however, in The Exiled Anna has returned to her homeland in the Balkans to enjoy a summer holiday in the company of her family.

Soon after her arrival, Anna is attending a party in the town square of her hometown and her purse and passport are stolen.  But Anna has realised something is amiss and gives chase.  Her pursuit takes her out of town where she loses sight of the thief (and the young girl who accompanied him). Anna finds herself at a Romany settlement where she asks if anyone has seen the suspected thief.  There are denials and Anna is uncomfortably aware that she is guilty of appearing to believe a stereotypical view that the Romany are thieves.

The Exiled is a wonderfully well timed story, released at a time where racial tensions are at a level higher than we have seen for many a long year but Kati Hiekkapelto is challenging these. Anna denounces the prejudices and the author also ensures she highlights the plight that refugees face, it is done with simple elegant prose and the story benefits from the compassion displayed.

Anna’s hunt for her thief takes an unexpected development when his body is found the next day. The local police do not seem keen to investigate and declare the death accidental.  Anna has doubts and begins her own investigation but someone is not happy with this decision and soon Anna will find herself in danger.

Despite being the third book in the series it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel and for new readers this is a great introduction to Kati Hiekkapelto’s books. I enjoyed The Exiled (as I did The Defenceless when I read it last year) and would encourage everyone to seek out these books.


The Exiled is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy by clicking HERE.

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December 2

2016: My Top 5 Scottish Books

As a Scottish blogger I am always keen to read crime/thriller books set in my native land or tales written by fellow Scots. I love to read stories which are set in the towns and cities I know so well. I like when the characters talk like me and I enjoy knowing that I am being entertained by someone who knows what is meant by “getting the messages.”

Before I share my choices for my Top Ten Reads of 2016 I am taking this chance to highlight my Top 5 Scottish Books for 2016.


The Dead Don't Boogie5. The Dead Don’t Boogie – Douglas Skelton

A missing teenage girl should be an easy job for Dominic Queste – after all, finding lost souls is what he does best. But sometimes it’s better if those souls stay lost. Jenny Deavers is trouble, especially for an ex-cokehead like Queste. Some truly nasty characters are very keen indeed to get to Jenny, and will stop at nothing…including murder. As the bodies pile up, Queste has to use all his street smarts both to protect Jenny and to find out just who wants her dead. The trail leads him to a vicious world of brutal gangsters, merciless hitmen, dark family secrets and an insatiable lust for power in the highest echelons of politics.

There are not many authors that can inject massive doses of humour into a thriller and get the balance of laughs and thrills right. Douglas Skelton manages to hit that combination perfectly as he introduces us to Dominic Queste in The Dead Don’t Boogie.

Order a copy here.



Willow Walk4.  Willow Walk – SJI Holliday

When the past catches up, do you run and hide or stand and fight?

When a woman is brutally attacked on a lonely country road by an escaped inmate from a nearby psychiatric hospital, Sergeant Davie Gray must track him down before he strikes again. But Gray is already facing a series of deaths connected to legal highs and a local fairground, as well as dealing with his girlfriend Marie’s bizarre behaviour. As Gray investigates the crimes, he suspects a horrifying link between Marie and the man on the run but how can he confront her when she’s pushing him away?


SJI Holliday returns to Banktoun in the follow-up novel to 2015’s Black Wood.  I loved this story as it was deliciously dark and creepy with some nasty twists thrown in for good measure.  As an added bonus we get Susi Holliday’s fantastic characterisation – she creates the most believable people in her books, I swear that I have actually met half the people she writes about.

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In Place of Death3. In Place of Death – Craig Robertson

A young man enters the culverted remains of an ancient Glasgow stream, looking for thrills. Deep below the city, it is decaying and claustrophobic and gets more so with every step. As the ceiling lowers to no more than a couple of feet above the ground, the man finds his path blocked by another person. Someone with his throat cut.

As DS Rachel Narey leads the official investigation, photographer Tony Winter follows a lead of his own, through the shadowy world of urbexers, people who pursue a dangerous and illegal hobby, a world that Winter knows more about than he lets on. And it soon becomes clear that the murderer has killed before, and has no qualms about doing so again.


A brilliant murder mystery which makes the most incredible use of Glasgow and its landscape.  Craig Robertson brings back Narey and Winter and introduces us to urbexing. In Place of Death was a fabulous read but it also got me looking at Glasgow in a whole new light too. When a book educates as well as entertains then I am never going to be unhappy.

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Killer Instincts2. Killer Instincts – Linden Chase

There’s darkness in the heart of Tranquility. Society has developed reliable tests to detect psychopathy in individuals. Those with the disorder are re-classified as victims rather than monsters. The question remains though, how does a liberal society deal with the inherently violent impulses of human predators who live among us. In response a government think tank is launching an experiment, Tranquility; an island where psychopaths will be isolated and left to form their own community.

Zane King, an investigative journalist, has been given a tip-off by a high-level government source that something big is happening on a remote island. After a heart-stopping journey Zane manages to infiltrate Tranquility by persuading the citizens that he’s a psychopath just like them. It doesn’t take Zane long to realise that something has gone very wrong with the experiment but by the time he fully understands what the island is really all about the community is already imploding in a wave of monstrous violence. “Not for the faint hearted…


If Lord of the Flies were a slasher movie then you have Killer Instincts.  Loved the idea of a sinister, shadowy agency that controlled Tranquility. Loved the idea of the Hunt. Loved the unpredictable characters.  It is dark read. Very, very dark. But it’s really, really good.

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a-suitable-lie1 A Suitable Lie – Michael J Malone

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match… And she loves his son, too. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. He ignores it; a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.


A “wow” book. Michael J Malone tells a harrowing story of domestic violence in a book which is chilling, memorable and incredibly important. I don’t think I could claim to have “enjoyed” reading A Suitable Lie but I couldn’t put it down, I HAD to find out what was going to happen next.

This is a book which will stick with me for a long time to come. It was frequently too realistic for this reader and it tackled a significantly under-reported subject in a sensitive yet compelling voice.

One of the stand-out books of 2016.

Order a copy here.



Category: From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on 2016: My Top 5 Scottish Books