July 31

Holiday Reading 2017

I went on holiday with a few carefully selected books I had really wanted to read and a Kindle which I knew to be loaded with drama. I got through a decent number of books and didn’t entirely ignore my family so everyone was happy.

But then I got back from holiday and I found I had a wee change to my day job (ie a whole new gig for 3 months) and suddenly I am driving 3 or 4 hours per day and I will not have much time to write up comprehensive reviews for the holiday reads. 

The solution: A Holiday Roundup Post. I shall forsake my usual attempt to summarise the story and aim for brevity…this may get messy!

 

Echoes in Death – JD Robb

First up is the latest Eve Dallas thriller from JD Robb. I have been reading these stories for 6 or 7 years and there are over 50 books and novellas out there – this makes me very happy.  With so many books in the series I do tend to classify them as either A: Pivotal Story or B: Progressive Story.

The Pivotal books are the big impact tales which have huge implications for the ongoing continuity. The Progressive titles are the books which are fun to read and can generally be read out of sequence as they just move everyone along a little.  Echoes in Death is a Progressive read so one that you can pickup and enjoy – which is exactly what I was able to do.  I love these books and Echoes did not let me down.  Fun, thrills and characters I know better than some members of my own family – long may Eve and Roarke continue to kick ass.

 Order a copy here

 

Witness – Caroline Mitchell

As I was reading Witness I took to Twitter – mainly to give myself a little break from the words rushing past my eyes.  I had to share that Caroline Mitchell’s writing had totally freaked me out and made me uncomfortable and nervous as I sat reading in a dimly lit room somewhere in the wilds of The Netherlands.

Brilliant – you can’t ask for anything more from a book if you get so caught up in a story that you start to get apprehensive over what may (or may not) be in the room alongside you.  Checking over my shoulder every few minutes really slowed down my reading pace too!

A stalker drama with some very dark and unexpected twists – creepy is good.

 Order a copy here

 

Did You See Melody? – Sophie Hannah

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one and it didn’t grip me quite as much as some of the other books I read. What it IS, however, is a cleverly plotted drama with some larger than life characters but a lead character that I never really warmed to.

What Did You See Melody? Would be IDEAL for is a reading group.  There are elements of the story which I felt required total buy-in from the reader, without that buy-in it I can’t see it wowing everyone. I would love to see a book group discuss their thoughts on this book as I think it may be one which would spark debate.

Order a copy here 

 

Doctor Who: Plague City – Jonathan Morris

The Doctor (with his Capaldi face), Bill and Nardole. The trio find themselves in Edinburgh and they have broken curfew – imposed as a plague is laying waste to the city. As a Scottish type person I loved this story. As a Glasgow Scottish type person I liked that the plague was in Edinburgh 😊

Jonathan Morris has done a great job with the latest residents of the TARDIS. The story is well thought out and I wish the image of a doctor (not THE Doctor) in their plague masks could make the jump to a tv story.

Exactly what I want from a Doctor Who novel and Mr Morris always tells a good tale.

Order a copy here  

 

The Marriage Pact – Michelle Richmond

I have seen this getting a big push via online adverts.  It is another story which requires a big buy-in from the reader.  If you just go along with the assumption that the husband/wife lead characters are wholly embracing The Marriage Pact then this is a solid thriller which is ideal for a holiday read.  Again book groups on standby – not everyone is going to be happy with the concept that two successful professionals would accept The Pact without question and debate should ensue.

Some surprising twists and Michelle Richmond has some nasty ideas when it comes to ensuring her characters are compelled to obey their promises. 

Order a copy here 

 

 

 

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October 13

Angela Marsons and Caroline Mitchell

Last month’s visit to Bloody Scotland reminded me how much I enjoy having the opportunity to hear authors chatting about their books. Having grown up in the remote wilderness of the Scottish Highlands, I am very aware that not everyone has the opportunity to get to festivals or book launches – I hate the thought that readers may miss out on the chance to hear their favourite authors discussing their writing.

In a few short weeks Caroline Mitchell and Angela Marsons will both release their new novels. Caroline is introducing a new lead character, DS Ruby Preston, in Love You To Death.  Angela is bringing us the next instalment in the Kim Stone series: Blood Lines. It is fair to say that I am more than a little excited about having the chance to read both books.

I asked Angela and Caroline if they would be willing to let me listen in while they discussed their new books, I was thrilled that they agreed. I also had a burning question that I wanted to put to them both, I just had to find a way to get a word in edgeways….

 

C – I’m very curious to know if Kim is based on anyone in particular, or is she your alter-ego Angie?

A – Kim Stone isn’t based on anyone in particular but she had been in my ear for years.  I didn’t let her out because even in my own head she sounded rude and abrasive and I didn’t think anyone would like her.  Even I didn’t like her all that much.  But once I gave her control of the pencil I did realise she had some redeeming qualities.  I gave her free reign after trying to write about characters I thought publishers would like and after years of rejection just decided to write the book I wanted to write. Even after five books I still feel as though I’m getting to know her.

On that same note I absolutely adored Jennifer Knight.  I loved her dedication and strength but also her flaws and idiosyncrasies. I devoured all three Jennifer books and hope there might come a time when you bring her back. Is that a possibility and how long had she been living with you before you put her to paper?

C – Thanks Angie, I’m so glad that Kim Stone hung around for her story to be told. It’s amazing how our characters take on a life of their own. Jennifer had been living in my head since my own real life paranormal experiences while working in the police. I’d love to write another book one day, and I’ve left it open for her to return. At the moment I’m concentrating hard on my new DS Ruby Preston series. Brought up in the East End of London, she’s a real tough cookie. In a scene in book two, she learns how to shoot a gun. I’ve been itching to visit a firing range and try it out for real. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve done in the name of research? And don’t worry about the gun, you’re safe for now! 

caroline-mitchell2A – Well, I must say that Ruby Preston already sounds like my kind of main character and imagining you with a gun makes me happy (for once) that we live so many miles away from each other. I’m not sure about the most interesting thing I’ve done but certainly one of the funniest was only the other day when Julie and I were standing out on the decking with a piece of plastic roughly the same size as a shotgun trying to see how practical it would be to shoot yourself in the back of the neck.  I must say that research is one of my favourite parts of the process as I love to learn about things that interest and intrigue me.  Some writers hate the research part. How do you feel about it and how long do you normally take to research each book?

C – Ha! That made me laugh out loud. My husband sleeps with one eye open as it is, without me throwing a gun into the mix! It’s no stretch of the imagination to picture you and Julie on the decking play acting with your plastic gun. 🙂  Yes, I love research too, it’s so much fun. As we write for digital publishers, time is of the essence, so I’m limited with the amount of time I can spend on research for each book. I do spend a lot of time thinking about my characters though, they practically move in to my head for the duration of the book. I think that’s what’s nice about series; I get to spend time with the same characters that I’ve invested in. With stand alones, it can be hard to get them to move out when I’m done. You’ve written two stand alones prior to Kim, would you like to write any more, and if so, what genre?

blood-linesA – My two published stand alone novels (and others that shall never see the light of day) were stories that burned inside me.  They were subjects that I wanted to explore to see where they went and what I could learn about the subject matter.  I really enjoy analysing the mechanics of human relationships and the psychology behind what makes us act in certain ways. With the Kim Stone schedule of two books per year it would have to be a subject matter that  I just couldn’t let go of or I might be tempted to introduce the odd crime scene where it would be totally inappropriate.  Talking of different genres I recently read your psychological thriller Witness to be released later this year and absolutely LOVED it. The crossover from your previous work appears seamless to me but did you experience any problems while writing it?

C – The thought of some of your manuscripts languishing under your bed never seeing the light of day is a travesty. I think we need to start a petition to have them freed! I’ve heard such great things about Dear Mother and The Forgotten Woman. Thank you for your lovely words about Witness. I loved writing it. It was meant to be a straight thriller but as I began writing, stories of domestic abuse just flowed onto the page. I used to safeguard high risk victims of domestic abuse in the police, helping victims leave their abusive partners and begin their lives again. As the story formed, it portrayed that domestic abuse is as much about coercive control as it is violence, and it takes enormous strength to break away from such a relationship when someone has control of every facet of your life. It’s set between Frinton where I live, and Wales – near where you live. I see that many of your readers love your Black Country setting. What inspired you to use it as a setting for your Kim Stone books, and do you get many messages from readers about particular places that you use?

A – Before I wrote Silent Scream I had always tried to use both characters and settings that I thought publishers and agents would like even though they weren’t too familiar to me.  It was in a post-rejection fit of rage that I wrote the character I wanted to and used the area I know well. Traditional publishers rejected Silent Scream and said the setting and main character would never work. I get so many messages from local people thrilled at seeing places they know in the books but I also get messages from people wanting to know more about the Black Country.  I think the dark, industrial past of the area works well with Kim Stone’s character.  She would not do well in the Cotswolds, I fear!! It sounds to me that Ruby Preston is well represented by the setting you have chosen too.  Was that deliberate?

 C – I love this response, I can’t imagine Kim Stone anywhere else either. The dark broodiness of the Black Country setting suits her perfectly. I’ve gobbled up every one of your thrillers and it’s been a pleasure to watch her character progress throughout the series. As for me, well London has always been a source of fascination. Every time I visit I’m like a child, eyes wide in wonderment as I take in the sounds and smells of this amazing city. Such a diverse place makes for rich pickings when it comes to describing characters and scenery. Like you, my character seems to fit in with the setting and I can’t imagine them being based anywhere else. Fair play to you for having the dogged determination to keep going with your manuscript and writing the setting that struck a chord with you. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to writers still trying to make it? 

 love-you-to-deathA – I also love visiting London but I find the roads around Covent Garden can be quite hazardous!! I think my one piece of advice above all else would be to trust your own instinct.  Once you enter the world of submissions there will be advice, comments, directions, improvements from a variety of sources and you have to know when to follow that advice.  There is no-one closer to the characters, story and journey than the writer and it can be easy to take everyone else’s opinions on board but you have to keep hold of the story that you wanted to tell in the first place.  Given your journey, what would you say to anyone following your path?

C – Ha! You wouldn’t be referring to the time we met in Covent Garden and I almost got you and Julie run over by a car would you? I blame Siri myself! I love your advice above and totally agree. It takes time to find your voice. I started off writing paranormal, then crime and now thrillers too. My advice is that it can be hard, so you’ll need to grow a thick hide, but just remember that this is meant to be fun too. Always try to keep your writing as an enjoyable process. It’s all about perspective. I count my blessings every day. Now Gordon I must apologise as we’ve not allowed you to get a word in edgeways! I hear you have a question for us …

G – There didn’t seem a good point to interrupt! But thanks Caroline…given that Jennifer’s investigations can take somewhat mysterious and supernatural twists, how do you think Jennifer and Kim would get on were their paths to cross on a case? 

C – That’s a really good question Gordon. Kim does not suffer fools gladly and I believe in past books she’s been skeptical when it comes to the paranormal. I think at first they would clash, but if they came together over the course of an investigation Jennifer would admire her investigative abilities and win her around. Things always seem to happen when Jennifer is near so if the evidence was right before Kim’s eyes, I think Kim would rub her hands together and say to Jennifer ‘right, what are we dealing with?’ Then crack on with the investigation as calm as you like. 

Tell me if I’m wrong Angie, what does Kim say? 

angela-marsonsA – I absolutely agree with Caroline’s assessment of how the two of them would respond to each other. Admittedly, Kim is definitely a ‘don’t believe it until I see it’ kind of girl but once someone has proven their ability or understanding of a subject about which she knows very little she would give them the benefit of the doubt and work with it. Like Jennifer she is all about moving forwards and doing everything necessary to solve a case so I think they would work it very well. I can even imagine Kim giving her a good-natured nickname like ‘mystic meg’ and Jennifer would probably do the same back.  Now, here’s a little secret – when I first wrote Silent Scream I wrote Kim with hint of unexplained intuition which I took out later as by that time I knew it didn’t fit with the rest of her sceptical character. 

Intuition is good and Kim has it in bucket loads. I think most good investigators have that initial gut feeling and put it to good use. It’s when the CPS is demanding evidence that it gets frustrating. I suppose it’s a matter of finding a balance. Here’s to a long a fruitful investigative career for our fictional characters. May they continue their crime busting efforts for long to come. *Raises glass. Cheers! 

 

I cannot thank Caroline and Angela enough for letting me eavesdrop on their conversation, I got the feeling that it had been running long before I joined them and will continue even longer.

 

 Love You to Death is published on 11 November and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-You-Death-Absolutely-Detective-ebook/dp/B01LYPU1MW/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1476308879&sr=8-3&keywords=caroline+mitchell

You can find all of Caroline’s books through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Caroline-Mitchell/e/B00GUUATPU/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

 Blood Lines is published on 4 November and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Lines-Angela-Marsons/dp/1786810999/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1476309070&sr=1-1&keywords=angela+marsons

Angela’s books can be ordered on this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Angela-Marsons/e/B00J6D3914/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

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May 2

Guest Post – Caroline Mitchell: Serial Heroes

In a feature I have named Serial Heroes have been asking authors to join me to talk about the books they love to read. I have been looking to learn which books my favourite authors turn to, the characters they love to follow or the series of books that they revisit time and time again.

Yesterday Steven Dunne kicked off this week of guest features and discussed serial killers (one of my favourite topics) and gave special mention to Thomas Harris and Hannibal.

Today I am joined by Caroline Mitchell who has picked out books by the undisputed King of fiction writing:

 

Mr MercedesIt may sound like an unusual thing for a crime writer to say, but crime thrillers aren’t my favourite books in the world. Why? Because as a serving police officer, working, writing and reading crime is a bit of a busman’s holiday – so I turn to an author who takes me far away from my everyday life into a world of escapism. I adore Stephen King. He is the master of his craft, and when I reach the end of his novels, I’m quite dazed for a day or two, feeling as if a very good friend has walked out of my life.

I was thrilled to discover one of my favourite books, ‘Mr Mercedes’ is proposed to be a trilogy, and after finishing the second in the series, ‘Finders Keepers,’ I cannot wait for the third.

I was immediately captivated by this series, which is as near as you can come to a crime thriller, without any of the usual supernatural / horror I’ve come to expect from King. But it’s so much more than your normal crime thriller. From his idiosyncrasies to convincing dialogue, King’s characterisations are the best I’ve ever read.

In Mr Mercedes, retired cop Bill Hodges has lost all purpose in life, and contemplates ending his life, until he receives a letter from someone purporting to be the driver of a Mercedes, which has taken the lives of eight people as it ploughed through them as they queued at a job fair. It is a crime that was never solved, and Hodges takes it upon himself (with a little help from his friends) to catch the killer, who taunts him in a cat and mouse game.

Finders KeepersWe are introduced to villain Brady Hartsfield from the start; a psychotic young man with a very troubled past. King offers us glimpses into his life, and the strange relationship he has with his alcoholic mother. Hodges must race to catch Hartsfield, but in true King style, it is an adrenalin fuelled race to stop the killer determined to take more innocent lives before he is finished.

The next book in the series features Bill Hodges investigating another case, with Holly Gibney and Jerome Robinson, characters we became invested in while reading book one. It was great spending time with them again, although we are focused on an entirely different crime, it is every bit as dangerous, featuring Morris Bellamy, a man fresh from prison, with nothing to lose. It’s a great novel, which I couldn’t put down.

As a writer myself, I sometimes shake my head in awe at King’s work, as he draws me into his stories. He captures humanity like an art form, leaving me completely engrossed. Stephen King has something for everyone, and there’s no better place to start than hopping on board with Mr Mercedes.

 

Caroline Mitchell

 

Caroline Mitchell’s Amazon page is here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Caroline-Mitchell/e/B00GUUATPU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1462226394&sr=8-2-ent   where you can order copies of all her books. The Silent Twin

 

Caroline’s latest book is The Silent Twin (which I scored 5/5 in my recent review), you can order a copy here:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Silent-Twin-gripping-detective-Detective-ebook/dp/B01BLU0U6G/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

You can find Caroline on Twitter @Caroline_writes or at her own website: caroline-writes.com

 

 

 

 

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April 11

The Silent Twin – Caroline Mitchell

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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October 6

Time To Die – Caroline Mitchell

Time To Die 2He will predict your life… and your death.

Don’t ever cross his palm with silver. He will reveal your most shameful secrets. He will predict your death. He is hiding a secret. He is hiding a monster. And all his predictions come true.

Investigating a series of chilling murders, Detective Jennifer Knight finds herself tracking a mysterious tarot card reader known only as The Raven.

As the death toll rises, Jennifer and her team build a picture of a serial killer on the edge of sanity, driven by dark forces. But these are not random killings. And the method behind the madness could be the most terrifying thing of all …

Especially when it seems the death of one of their own is on the cards.

 

My thanks to Bookouture for my review copy.

 

After enjoying the debut appearance of Jennifer Knight in Don’t Turn Around I was keen to find what lay in store for  Jennifer in Caroline Mitchell’s new thriller Time To Die. Fortunately for returning fans there is another cracking thriller to enjoy.

What I find particularly appealing about these books is the fact that Knight and her colleagues are police officers but are also tasked with investigating issues which have a supernatural element. This opens up so much more potential for Caroline Mitchell to take her stories to the darker side of human (and inhuman) nature and she uses this freedom to great effect.

In Time To Die we encounter Raven, he has the ability to read your life in his tarot cards. He can see your darkest secrets and can also see your death. But sometimes Raven may need to give these premonitions of death a little helping hand…just to make sure the cards are correct.

Tarot has always held a dark fascination and the startling accuracy of the readings that Raven offers to his victims causes them (and the reader) a deeply unsettling feeling. I find that a chiller which is closely grounded in a believable situation is more unsettling than a ‘zombie apocalypse’ horror tale. Caroline Mitchell has delivered the chill factor I love – Raven is a disturbing character, his motives are unsettling and his need to satisfy the tarot cards and ensure his predictions remain true made for compelling reading.

The investigation into Raven’s suspicious behaviour ensures there is a strong police procedural element to Time To Die which appealed to my love of crime fiction. There is a real feel of a criminal investigation being conducted into the violent deaths depicted in the book. We follow the investigation and (as we know the Raven is a murderer) we get to see the police closing in on their suspect. However, the Raven knows they are coming and is taking his own steps to avoid capture.

On a final thought, I also enjoyed the further development of Jennifer Knight’s character: her obsession with cleanliness, the fractious relationship she has with her family and we learn more about her colleagues. All these elements help build a more complete story and give the depth to the book that not all authors accomplish. I look forward to another return to Haven and to see more investigations for Knight and her colleagues. My kind of book – thoroughly recommended.

 

 

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May 14

Don’t Turn Around – Caroline Mitchell

Don't turn Around 2You don’t know him. But he knows you.

Soon he would be able to touch her, to feel the warmth of her blood. And when the time came, nothing would stop him.

As D.C. Jennifer Knight investigates a routine stabbing in the quiet town of Haven, she is shocked at what seems like a personal message from beyond the grave.

When more bodies are found, Jennifer is convinced the killings are somehow linked.

What she discovers is more chilling than she could possibly imagine. The murders mirror those of the notorious Grim Reaper – from over twenty years ago. A killer her mother helped convict.

Jennifer can no longer ignore the personal connection. Is there a copycat killer at work? Was the wrong man convicted? Or is there something more sinister at play …

With her mother’s terrifying legacy spiralling out of control, Jennifer must look into her own dark past in a fight not only to stop a killer – but to save herself and those she loves.

 

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

 

In the dim and distant past I went through a phase of reading many ghost stories/supernatural thrillers. My recollections of those books were that there were some outstanding stand-alone novels, they frequently took place in rural locations and the emphasis was on chills. I don’t remember any of them being police procedurals where the focus was on the police rather than the unseen menace. To this end Don’t Turn Around was a welcome surprise.

The focus is on DC Jennifer Knight – she becomes embroiled in an investigation which seems to be mirroring the crimes committed some 20 years earlier by a vicious murderer that called himself Grim Reaper.

Very quickly it becomes clear that clear that all may not be as it seems as Jennifer as suspects begin to act in the most unnatural manner – almost as if they were taking on a new personality during their interviews.

Mysterious occurrences start to come thick and fast and it soon becomes apparent that DC Knight is facing an unearthly opponent. I really enjoyed the change to the more conventional crime thriller as when paranormal foes are introduced it does feel that ‘anything goes’ and I was intrigued to see where the story may head.

Suffice to say that Caroline Mitchell delivered an entertaining thriller which certainly played out in the most unexpected way. Don’t Turn Around is positioned as the start of an ongoing series featuring DS Knight and promises more supernatural chills – I am certainly in favour of that and will be keen to see what else may come forward for Jennifer Knight to face.

One slight niggle (very slight) was that initially I felt Jennifer’s relationship with her colleague Will was too jokey and that it distracted from the development of the characters. Stick with it as this settles down but as the characters were being introduced I found them slightly irritating – by the end of the book I was more comfortable with their partnership, ride it out as it is worth sticking with this one.

There is a suggestion that this will appeal to fans of James Oswald – have to agree with that and it is nice to see new voices making something different work so well.

Am looking forward to seeing what comes next for DS Knight but well worth picking up Don’t Turn Around to see how the journey begins.

 

Caroline Mitchell is on Twitter: @Caroline_writes

And can be found at www.caroline-writes.com

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