April 14

The Contract – JM Gulvin

The ContractIn New Orleans, Texas Ranger John Q is out of his jurisdiction, and possibly out of his depth. It seems everyone in Louisiana wants to send him home, and every time he asks questions there’s trouble: from the pharmacist to the detective running scared to the pimp who turned to him as a last resort. Before John Q knows it, he looks the only link between a series of murders.

So who could be trying to set him up, and why, and who can he turn to in a city where Southern tradition and family ties rule?

Infused with the rhythms of its iconic setting, The Contract is a thriller to keep even the most seasoned crime readers gripped and guessing all the way to its endgame.


My thanks to Lauren at Faber for my review copy and the chance to join the tour


America in the latter half of the 1960’s is the setting for JM Gulvin’s second John Q thriller. Texas Ranger, John Quarrie, is a great lead character – cool under pressure, a sharp shooter and displays a logical and rational intelligence where we see him puzzling out the evidence he finds to unveil the bigger mysteries.

Evidence?  Well, The Contract opens with an armed robber.  John Q is not far from where the incident takes place and gives chase. Being a Texas Ranger, John Q knows the area well and he manages to pin down the robbers – a confrontation is inevitable and the reader gets to see early-on the unflappable nature of John Q as a gun fight ensues.

In the aftermath of the chase (and the subsequent arrest) John Q tries to uncover the motive behind the robbery and his investigations take him to New Orleans. I love reading about New Orleans, a seemingly sleepy town where old families run things behind the scenes and there is always the feeling that there is sinister undertone to every conversation.

Quarrie tracks down Gigi, a singer who is oblivious to the events back in Texas but is unwittingly linked to the death of a man. If Gigi is to be of any help to Quarrie in his investigations he needs to keep her safe but in a town where John Q is a stranger who does he trust?

The Contract is written with perfect pacing and tone for the deep South setting and the author has perfectly captured that feeling of 1960’s life. Reading The Contract it is so very easy to slip into the story and ignore everything else which is going on around you. JM Gulvin has penned a wonderful tale with conspiracy, murder and corruption and I heartily recommend it.


The Contract is published by Faber and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/cka/Contract-John-Q-Mystery-JM-Gulvin/0571323812/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492158749&sr=1-1&keywords=the+contract+jm+gulvin

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April 12

Dog Fight – Michael J Malone

dog fightKenny O Neill, a villain with a conscience, returns in a hard-hitting thriller of exploitation, corruption and criminal gangs. When Kenny s cousin, Ian, comes to the aid of a fellow ex-squaddie in a heap of trouble, he gets caught up in the vicious underground fight scene, where callous criminals prey on the vulnerable, damaged and homeless.

With Ian in too deep to escape, Kenny has no option other than to infiltrate the gang for the sake of his family. Kenny is an experienced MMA fighter, as tough as they come, but has he found himself in the one fight he can never win?


My thanks to Sara at Contraband for my review copy


Dog Fight…even the title makes Michael J Malone’s new novel sound dark and dangerous. It’s not misleading. Dog Fight is a Kenny O’Neill story and it doesn’t matter how big-hearted Kenny can be – he is still one of Glasgow’s gangsters and dark and dangerous goes with the territory.

A homeless ex-soldier is given the opportunity to make a few quid if he will take part in an underground fight club. Though not as fit as he once was, the former soldier fancies his chances and sees the opportunity to get some much needed cash. It soon becomes clear that this offer may not have been made with his best intentions at heart. 

Although I said this was a Kenny story, his cousin Ian also features heavily. Ian is ex-military and has accumulated a few demons in the past – most notably a drug habit which he has managed to vanquish. Ian is still in touch with some of his former squad mates and it is while visiting one of his pals that the path of the story is set.  Ian’s mate is suffering, injured and disabled in action and with anger issues that he struggles to control. He has borrowed lots of money to fund a drug habit and to buy gifts for his son. But when the loan needs repaid and the enforcers are sent to collect Ian is going to get in the way. After a confrontation with the ‘wrong people’ Ian receives an offer which will give him the chance to earn a few quid.

Meanwhile Kenny has his own problems to contend with. He is dealing with the aftermath of events in Bad Samaritan (no spoilers from me) and an unexpected domestic drama will shake up his family. When his cousin Ian suddenly vanishes Kenny needs to call on his contacts to track him down, however, information comes at a price and Kenny will need to pay the price to find his cousin.

Dog Fight does give the reader much to contemplate. The underground fight club gives us some brutal scenes to read through and the morality of exploiting vulnerable former soldiers was unsettling. Malone is highlighting how poorly retuning soldiers are treated when they try to resume a “normal” life. PTSD and lack of a support network is a real problem and the vulnerabilities are brought to the fore by the author who is almost challenging the reader to help tackle this issue.

Kenny’s story is nicely developed too and it is easy to see why he is a firm favourite with returning readers. You don’t have to have read any of the previous novels to pick up and enjoy Dog Fight, the book stands well on its own, but knowing the backstory will enhance enjoyment.

Dog Fight can be dark, gritty and unflinching but there is humour energy and there are uplifting scenes too. Michael J Malone can’t half tell a good story – this is a beauty.

Dog Fight is published by Contraband and is available now in both paperback and digital format. Order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dog-Fight-Kenny-ONeill-2/dp/1910192775/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491427752&sr=1-1&keywords=michael+j+malone


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April 10

Faithless – Kjell Ola Dahl

FaithlessOslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back … and this time, it’s personal… When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her … and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he ponders the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda investigates a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again.

Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, Faithless is a breath-taking and atmospheric page-turner that marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.


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

I have been on a nice wee reading run of police procedural stories recently, Faithless keeps that run going whilst transporting me to Oslo at the same time. Good start!

The principle focus was on Inspector Frank Frølich and as the story opens he is parked up in his car, watching a suspect’s house. A woman passes and Frølich risks being spotted yet the woman continues into the suspects house only to leave a few hours later.  Frølich picks her up for questioning and she is discovered to be carrying a small amount of drugs.  Charges are pressed and Frølich is no further on in gaining evidence against his suspect.

Away from work Frølich has been invited to re-unite with an old friend who is celebrating his engagement. Frølich has lost contact with his friend over the years and realises it has been over 20 years since they last met.  Wary of the passage of time he decides to attend the engagement party. However, when he meets his friend’s fiancée he realises that this is not the first time that he has met this  woman – he charged her with drug possession some hours earlier.

From this awkward opening I was drawn in to Frølich’s difficult investigation. The woman (Veronika) remains a potential lead which will give Frølich an opportunity to gather intel on his chief suspect.  However, his unexpected personal association with Veronika will create a problem – and it is a problem which is destined to become more complicated.

Concurrent to the problems he will face with Veronika, Frølich and his colleagues are also investigating the disappearance of a student from Uganda who has been studying at the university. He will need to juggle time and resources and we get to see the benefit of having a great supporting cast who can assist Frølich.

Faithless marked my introduction to the works of Kjell Ola Dahl. Frølich has appeared in previous novels but I didn’t feel that I needed to have read the earlier books to keep up with events in Faithless – it stands well on its own. Given how much I enjoyed this book I am keen to try others in the series, especially if there is a book which follows Faithless because THAT ENDING totally shocked me. Clearly I am not going to say why, but I was left wanting more after a breath-taking finale to the story.

The original novel has been translated by Don Bartlett and I’d like to acknowledge what a splendid job has been done. Faithless flows really well, is very accessible (which is to say the language is not stilted or fussy) and I raced through the book keeping up with Frølich et all.

Cracking stuff. If I enjoyed all my books this much I’d be a very happy reader.


Faithless is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format from 15 April 2017. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Faithless-Oslo-Detectives-Kjell-Dahl/dp/1910633275/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491862043&sr=1-1&keywords=faithless+kjell+ola+dahl

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April 9

The Man Who Loved Islands – David F Ross

The Man Who Loved IslandsThe Disco Boys and THE Band are BACK …In the early ’80s, Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller were inseparable; childhood friends and fledgling business associates. Now, both are depressed and lonely, and they haven’t spoken to each other in more than ten years. A bizarre opportunity to honour the memory of someone close to both of them presents itself, if only they can forgive … and forget.

Absurdly funny, deeply moving and utterly human, The Man Who Loved Islands is an unforgettable finale to the Disco Days trilogy.


My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy


If you were here for The Last Days of Disco and then The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Vespas then The Man Who Loved Islands is an absolute treat. We have returning characters, you will know how David Ross can tear at your heartstrings then have you howling with laughter and, of course, we have the best soundtrack and musical references that you will find in any book on the fiction shelves.

If you have not read the first two books (and you really should) then fear not…The Man Who Loved Islands can stand alone and be thoroughly enjoyed. Where the earlier stories were very much tales of Ayrshire, this time we have a much more international feel. The first third of the book sees the narrative jump back and forward in time and events mainly take place between the Far East and Ibiza. The changing timeline and the locational switches give Islands a very different feel to the first two novels (albeit the conversational language is 100% Scottish).

Bobby and Joey are old friends who have drifted apart. Though both have achieved a degree of success in their lives, they have both reached a stage where they are largely unhappy with where they find themselves now. The chance of a reunion arises – the opportunity to build bridges and re-establish that old friendship and both men find themselves drawn together again.

The Man Who Loved Islands splits the pacing. The first half of the book is slower, reflecting the unhappy position that the boys have found themselves in.  We spend time with Bobby in Ibiza during the off season, he scrimping and slaving to try to make that elusive breakthrough on the club scene. The long quiet days will frustrate and leave him almost fatigued with lethargy, sleeping late, watching tv re-runs he is in a spiral of waste. Joey is an architect but is being edged out of his firm by younger and more hungry colleagues. He is listless and travelling from hotel to hotel in an unfulfilling existence.

Into the latter stages of the story the pace dramatically lifts, the fun is back and the hijinks return. It is funny, fresh and damned entertaining. Plus there is the music – always the music and the forgotten songs, the trivia and the sheer depth of knowledge which infuse David Ross brings to his books make reading them so very enjoyable.

Fabulous, funny and frequently foul mouthed.


The Man Who Loved Islands is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Man-Loved-Islands-Disco-Days/dp/1910633151/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491683160&sr=8-1&keywords=the+man+who+loved+islands



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April 8

The Stolen Child – Sanjida Kay


Zoe and Ollie Morley tried for years to have a baby and couldn’t. They turned to adoption and their dreams came true when they were approved to adopt a little girl from birth. They named her Evie.

Seven years later, the family has moved to Yorkshire and grown in number: a wonderful surprise in the form of baby Ben. As a working mum it’s not easy for Zoe, but life is good.

But then Evie begins to receive letters and gifts.

The Stolen ChildThe sender claims to be her birth father.

He has been looking for his daughter.

And now he is coming to take her


My thanks to Kirsty at Atlantic Books for my review copy


Last year I read Sanjida Kay’s debut novel, Bone By Bone, and it messed with my head. Bone By Bone tells an intense story which focusses heavily on bullying and the impact that it can have. Despite all the terrible things I read about in the many dozens of crime thrillers I read each year, I find it hardest to read about bullies. Sanjida Kay did an amazing job of crafting a story around bullying which drew me in and kept me reading – I had to see how the story would be resolved.

Spin forward to yesterday morning and I don’t mind admitting that I was more than a little wary of picking up Sanjida Kay’s new novel: The Stolen Child.  Yup that DID say “yesterday morning”  I poured through The Stolen Child in superfast time as Sanjida has written another nail-biting emotional rollercoaster of a novel.

Zoe and Ollie adopted Evie 7 years ago. The story actually opens when Evie’s mother goes into labour – early. A tricky birth and a spell in intensive care for a baby, could this have had some impact upon Evie’s behaviour as when we meet her (aged 7) she appears a flighty, distracted girl?  Zoe is struggling to cope with the demands of young children, managing a home, trying to find time to work on her painting and she has, in Ollie, a husband who appears more focussed on work than his family. It is not an uncommon situation but Sanjida Kay brings the reader into the family home and exposes all their insecurities and weak moments.

As is indicated in the book description, Evie is receiving notes which appear to come from her father. Zoe finds the notes and the family face the challenge of explaining to a headstrong child that she was adopted. Evie’s reaction is initially one of acceptance, however, when her temper is raised she starts to lash out at Zoe and indicates that she want’s her “real” family.  Once again Sanjida Kay has a story which unsettles and I can honestly say that during the course of the book I was empathising with almost all of the characters at some point (and wanting to give them a stern talking to at others).

There are loads of discussion points which could arise from The Stolen Child and after this review I have some possible topics for consideration – this book is a dream for reading groups.


The Stolen Child is published by Corvus, is available now in paperback and digital format and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stolen-Child-Sanjida-Kay/dp/1782396918/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491607094&sr=1-1&keywords=sanjida+kay


Book Club Questions:

  • What do you think about the attraction between Zoe and Harris?
  • Sanjida KayWho do you think is the best person for Zoe to be with – Ollie or Harris?
  • How does Ollie and Zoe’s marriage and their relationship change as the
    novel progresses?
  • Zoe says she feels almost like a single mum at times. Do you think this
    is true for many modern-day families?
  • Zoe is trying to be an artist. How hard to you think it is for her, and
    women like her, to juggle creativity and motherhood?
  • The novel is set in Ilkley, with some of the key scenes taking place on
    Ilkley Moor. Do you think such a large expanse of wilderness can be
    strange and frightening?
  • What do you think of the relationship between Jack and Evie?
    How do you feel Zoe and Ollie handled Evie’s adoption? Do you think
    she’s simply a ‘quirky child’ as Ollie does, or has she been damaged by
    her biological mother?
  • Zoe initially thinks that Harris is not from Ilkley. Later she and the police
    make some key assumptions about him based on what they believe
    about his religion and ethnicity. What role does race play in this novel?
    The title of the novel comes from a poem by WB Yeats, also called, The
    Stolen Child. How much of an influence do you think fairy tales, like the
    one described in Yeat’s poem, play in the novel?
  • Sanjida Kay has said that one of her favourite books is Emily Brontë’s
    Wuthering Heights. Can you see the novel’s influence on The Stolen
  • Were you surprised by the ending?


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April 7

Night is Watching – Lucy Cameron

Night is WatchingCan You Feel Your Blood Drain…

Couples are being slaughtered in their homes; women drained of blood, men violently beaten.  There are no clues to track the killer, no explanation as to why an increasing amount of blood is being removed from the crime scenes.

Detective Sergeant Rhys Morgan is seconded to the ‘Couples Killer’ investigation. Tormented by vivid nightmares, he hasn’t slept soundly for weeks becoming convinced a creature from these nightmares poses a threat to him and his family. His behaviour becomes increasingly erratic causing his bosses to wonder if he’s the right man for the job.

As clues to the killer’s identity are uncovered, the line between what is real and what cannot be starts to blur and Rhys discovers the answer to catching the killer and exorcizing his own demons, may be as irrational as he fears.


My thanks to Lucy and Noelle (CrimeBookJunkie) who provided my review copy and the opportunity to join the blog tour.


A serial killer (dubbed the “Couples Killer”) and a police investigation which seems to be going nowhere – a very promising start to Night is Watching. Then it just got better as Lucy Cameron is not holding back.

The killer’s female victims are strung up and (eventually) their bodies drained of blood. The victim’s husband will also be found at the scene of the crime…battered, beaten and stuffed into a cupboard away from their spouse. This is not a story for the faint of heart and I need to highlight that the story will take a turn into horror territory – it is not by chance that the description (above) makes reference to Rhys Morgan’s demons.

Morgan is the detective brought into the murder squad to assist with the hunt for the Couples Killer.  His home life is not in a good place, he and his wife are walking on eggshells around each other and the memory of Morgan’s sister (who vanished from his life when he was a child) hangs heavy over the household.  Morgan is obsessive over the memory of his sister and despite the patience and tolerance of his wife it is clear that his inability to move on is creating real problems for his marriage.

Readers are treated to an early sense of creepy tension when a strange man moves into a house on Morgan’s street. Lucy Cameron unsettles us early with the feeling that something odd has arrived in our midst.  Morgan learns that the detective that was leading the investigation has had a breakdown, leads all need rechecked as the police find their colleague had become fixated on supernatural angles to the killings However, as Rhys starts to become involved within the case he also finds that there are some very unusual incidents occurring and he becomes fixated upon his new neighbour.

Night Is Watching TourLucy Cameron does a great job of balancing a story about a murder investigation while phasing in elements of dark horror. What I felt was done particularly well was how we see the impact of the horrific and unsettling events that Rhys Morgan has to face when it begins to impact upon his mental health.  When Morgan is adamant he is on the track of a killer his colleagues are questioning his ability to remain part of the investigative team.

Night is Watching is a brilliant read for those that like their crime stories with a horror or supernatural twist. If you have read and enjoyed James Oswald or Caroline Mitchell’s books (and you really should) then Night is Watching is one for you.


Night is Watching is published by Caffeine Nights and is available in digital format here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XCBKFS6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491509946&sr=8-1&keywords=night+is+watching


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April 3

Will to Live – Rachel Amphlett

Will to Live Cover MEDIUM WEB(1)Reputation is everything.

When a packed commuter train runs over a body on a stretch of track known to locals as ‘Suicide Mile’, it soon transpires that the man was a victim of a calculated murder.

As the investigation evolves and a pattern of murders is uncovered, Detective Sergeant Kay Hunter realises the railway’s recent reputation may be the work of a brutal serial killer.

With a backlog of cold cases to investigate and attempting to uncover who is behind a professional vendetta against her, Kay must keep one step ahead of both the killer and her own adversaries.

When a second murder takes place within a week of the first, she realises the killer’s timetable has changed, and she’s running out of time to stop him…

Will to Live is the second book in a new crime thriller series featuring Kay Hunter – a detective with a hidden past and an uncertain future…


My thanks to Rachel and Emma (Emma Mitchell, Publicity Manager) for a review copy and the chance to join the tour.


It has been a while since I read a serial killer story. There have been a few books with multiple victims; but a serial killer story where a murderer stalks his victims, has a “style” which the police can use to identify a single killer and a team of detectives chasing down the clues…well it has been far too long since the last one!

Thank goodness, therefore, for Will to Live. Rachel Amphlett’s 2nd book to feature DS Kay Hunter was a very welcome companion on my daily commute as this was a serial killer story that I could really get my teeth into. As I hadn’t read Hunter’s introduction in Scared to Death I was slightly apprehensive that I may miss some important back story. If I did then it didn’t impact in any way upon my enjoyment of Will to Live, I was wholly consumed by the story and never felt that I had missed something vital through not (yet) reading the first book.

Hunter was immediately likeable as a lead character and her ongoing feud with one of her bosses gave an edge to the scenes in the department. For me, a good police procedural story will feature the squadroom discussions so we get a real feel of the investigation which is ongoing. No solo copper solving all the problems on their own but a team effort to track down a killer. Will to Live delivers this in fine style!  I loved the dynamic which the author has established between Hunter and her team and the mutual respect that the characters show each other really helps ground the characters and gives them authenticity.

What particularly drew me to Will to Live was the way the killer was dispatching his victims. Death by train is particularly gruesome and some of the scenes which take place by railway lines made for chilling and harrowing reading (exactly what I want in a crime thriller).

Away from the murders there is a backdrop of characters who have suffered, or are suffering from, depression or who are dealing with post trauma shock. These aspects of the story were handled with a great deal of sensitivity by Rachel Amphlett, highlighting a very real and often overlooked problem which impacts not just the individual but their family and friends too.

Will to Live – loved it, snatched every possible reading opportunity to keep the pages turning and I got through it in a day. I would be happy if I got into all my books in the way I was absorbed by this one.


Will to Live is available in digital format and can be ordered through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Will-Live-Detective-Hunter-thriller-ebook/dp/B06XZHB17C/ref=sr_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491255620&sr=1-13&keywords=rachel+amphlett


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April 2

Deadly Game – Matt Johnson

Deadly GameReeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed. Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered.

Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK.


My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy


After the events in Matt Johnson’s Wicked Game we welcome the return of Robert Finlay who this time is facing a Deadly Game.

Early housekeeping first: I hadn’t read Wicked Game before starting Deadly Game.  I don’t believe it is necessary to have read the first novel, however, the opening chapters do provide a summary of how events at the end of book 1 ended (ie spoilers). If you read the two out of sequence then you will potentially spoil some plot twists.

After the events of Wicked Game we find that Finlay is not going to find it easy to return to his former job, a change of scene will be required and fortunately there are some influential people keen to utilise his special talents. Finlay is posted to Eastern Europe where he finds himself learning to dive and is by chance also placed in close proximity to a young Romanian woman (and her bodyguard). With fate receiving a few helping hands Finlay and the girl end up diving together and a friendship is formed.

I found the opening sequences held my attention really effectively. The short chapter lengths and Johnson’s easy flowing writing style made for prime “one more chapter” material and before I knew it I had been drawn into the story. Finlay is a fine lead character, more human than the average international jet-setting adventurer. He is not bulletproof, he tires, he displays emotion and is someone you want to read about.

There is too much going on within Deadly Game for me to spill the beans on many of the plot twists suffice to say this is a cracking adventure tale and one which should grace the shelves of thriller fans. I’d welcome many more Finlay books, he is a character going places.


Deadly Game is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format. Copies can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Deadly-Game-Robert-Finlay-Matt-Johnson/1910633666/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491161541&sr=8-1&keywords=deadly+game

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