November 30

The Deaths of December – Susi Holliday

The hunt is on for a serial killer in this thrilling festive crime novel

It looks like a regular advent calendar.

Until DC Becky Greene starts opening doors…and discovers a crime scene behind almost every one.

The police hope it’s a prank. Because if it isn’t, a murderer has just surfaced – someone who’s been killing for twenty years.

But why now? And why has he sent it to this police station?

As the country relaxes into festive cheer, Greene and DS Eddie Carmine must race against time to catch the killer. Because there are four doors left, and four murders will fill them…

It’s shaping up to be a deadly little Christmas.

 

My thanks to Mulholland Books for the chance to join the Blog Tour

As we drew ever closer to the end of 2017 I have seen dozens and dozens of Christmas novels being discussed and reviewed. None appealed to me. Crime thrillers tend not to be seasonal affairs and I don’t enjoy books like The Cozy Gingerbread-Latte Cafe on Mistletoe Lane (in Cornwall).

You do get plenty of crime books set in the winter months, the dark wet conditions seem perfect for masking foul deeds. However, there are not many crime novels which focus the plot around Christmas.

My Christmas book apathy soon changed when I first heard about Susi Holliday’s The Deaths of December.  Once I had read the outline (as above) I could not wait for the chance to read TDoD. The police receive a homemade advent calendar. Behind the doors is a photograph of a murder scene – some are immediately identifiable to DS Eddie Carmine as they are investigations he as been working on.  Is he being pranked by his colleagues? How would a stranger access what seem to be crime scene photographs? Only the police should have pictures of multiple murders no individual could assemble such a macabre collection of images – unless that individual was present at each murder. Could there be a serial killer at work?

Caramine and his colleague DC Becky Green must first try to establish the authenticity of the pictures, then identify where and when they were taken. As they start to pull together more information it becomes obvious they are facing a challenge quite unlike anything they have encountered before.  It makes for totally engrossing reading!

I have enjoyed each of Susi’s previous novels and in 4 years of blogging she has consistently retained my vote for the best author at capturing the essence of characters. In her Banktoun Trilogy each character was wonderfully realised and that remains the case in The Deaths of December. Every person in TDoD feels important to the plot, their contributions seem natural and the dialogue between characters has an authenticity that many writes do not seem to be able to capture. These believable/realistic characters make it so much easier to fall into the story and be taken along with events – nothing seems forced or jarred.

Narration is handled by multiple characters and each contributor seemed to have a personal voice. The story flows really well and the moving viewpoint kept me turning pages. I do love a serial killer story and this one is a cracker (no Christmas pun intended).

With Christmas looming The Deaths of December should be required reading for the cold winter evenings. Loved this a lot and I am sure you will too.

 

The Deaths of December is published by Mulholland Books and is available in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deaths-December-cracking-Christmas-thriller/dp/1473659361/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1511988244&sr=8-1&keywords=susi+holliday

Category: Blog Tours | Comments Off on The Deaths of December – Susi Holliday
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.

 

 

 

Category: From The Bookshelf, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Books for Gifts
December 22

The Chimes of Midnight – Robert Shearman

Chimes of MidnightHallowe’en 1938. ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring… But something must be stirring. Something hidden in the shadows. Something which kills the servants of an old Edwardian mansion in the most brutal and macabre manner possible. Exactly on the chiming of the hour, every hour, as the grandfather clock ticks on towards midnight. Trapped and afraid, the Doctor and Charley are forced to play detective to murders with no motive, where even the victims don’t stay dead. Time is running out. And time itself might well be the killer..

 

Last month I was invited to take part in the Booktrail Advent tour. I had to select a Christmas book and confirm the location which would then be plotted onto a map.  It was great fun to be involved in the Advent Tour and even I was surprised that I opted for Wisconsin rather than Scotland for my location (I managed to stop waving the saltire for a day). https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/booktrailadvent

The problem I initially faced when considering which book to use as my Christmas themed story was that I just do not read Christmassy stories. I read crime and thrillers and they tend not to be seasonal as a rule.  There are dozens of stories set over winter and at Christmas time but very few actually have a festive feel.  In the end I opted for the brilliant Winter Prey by John Sandford as it captured the bleakness of a dark winter (seasonal if not festive).

To the point though – the story I WANTED to use was actually The Chimes of Midnight.  A Doctor Who audio play first released in 2002 by Big Finish productions.  It starred the 8th Doctor (Paul McGann) and his companion Charley Pollard (India Fisher).

Why did I not use The Chimes of Midnight?  Because there is no actual location specified in the story that The Booktrail could have plotted on the Advent Map!

Why did I want to use The Chimes of Midnight?  It is a fabulous murder mystery set on Halloween when it was the Night Before Christmas…Doctor Who can do these things and it makes sense!

The Doctor and Charley find themselves ‘under the stairs’ in a large stately home.  The Butler, The Cook, the Maid and the Chauffeur are all present and initially do not seem too perturbed by the arrival of two strangers in their midst. Preparations are well underway for Christmas and Mrs Baddeley is making her plum pudding. “Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without plum pudding”

But each time the clock strikes the hour someone dies and the Doctor and Charley realise that they must get to the bottom of the mysterious murders (and the even more mysterious behaviour of the survivors) if they are to survive past midnight.

Chimes of Midnight is a full cast audio drama produced by Big Finish. Each month for well over 10 years Big Finish have released a brand new audio adventure featuring Docto Who. The plays feature past Doctors (Paul McGann, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy) and their companions too.

New companions have been introduced to the audio plays and the stories are deemed canon thanks to recent intervention by Stephen Moffatt! Charley Pollard is the companion for this story. She travelled with Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor for many audio adventures and is a favourite amongst the fans. She is voiced by India Fisher who is possibly better known as the voice of Masterchef on the BBC. To me she will only ever be the Edwardian Adventuress travelling through space and time!

So The Chimes of Midnight – THE best Christmas murder mystery (in space and time).

 

You can buy The Chimes of Midnight on Download here: http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-chimes-of-midnight-653

 

 

 

Category: Doctor Who | Comments Off on The Chimes of Midnight – Robert Shearman
December 2

Winter Prey – John Sandford

Winter PreyThe Iceman crept into the house on the edge of the lake. He killed the father first. Then the mother and child. And when his work was done, he set the house on fire.

Lucas Davenport has tracked killers in cities across America. But the woods of rural Wisconsin are as dark and primal as evil itself. The winters are harsher and colder. And in the heart of every mother and father, there is fear . . .

Because tonight, the Iceman cometh.

 

I am delighted to have the chance to join The Booktrail Advent tour – many thanks for the opportunity to take everyone to snowy Wisconsin and meet up with one of my favourite characters: Lucas Davenport.

You can follow the full advent tour by clicking through on this link:  https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/booktrailadvent

 

advent-full

I know this is an Advent tour and that this should suggest Christmas themes but I read crime and thrillers and they tend not to lend themselves to the warm and happy glow that I feel Christmas should ideally bring. I did consider revisiting Agatha Christie’s The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding as I am a huge fan of the Hercule Poirot novels but I had another plan!

Let me do some mental mapping here – Christmas makes me think of White Christmas…snow…and cold dark nights…bleak winters (I grew up in the Scottish Highlands where they have bleak winters nailed down!)…whiteouts…a killer hiding in the snow…stalking his victims and escaping into the black night.  When I think killers in the snow the first book that comes to mind is Winter Prey by John Sandford.  I first read this back in the 1990’s and all these years later it remains one of my favourite books in the Davenport series (now totalling over 20 titles and boasting an established spin off series too).

Winter Prey is a cracking murder mystery.  Davenport is the focus, as you would expect, his investigation into the murder of a family in their remote rural Wisconsin cabin is hampered from the outset by the fact the murderer has set fire to the house in a bid to destroy the bodies. But we also get to view events unfolding through the eyes of the killer: The Iceman.  The identity of the killer remains shrouded in mystery throughout the book, but the reader can see that he/she is monitoring the investigation from afar. We see the paranoia and learn that there are risks threatening their exposure when a 3rd party makes an innocent comment leading the killer to realise that there is hidden incriminating evidence that must be found.  More deaths are bound to follow as the killer looks to cover their tracks.

Most at risk is the local doctor and surgeon – Weather Karkinnen. She will know the identity of the killer if she gets to see the hidden evidence and the killer knows this.  Unfortunately for Weather she is unaware that she can identify a killer and as such she has no idea that her life is at risk. When her job requires her to travel alone through many remote locations on a daily basis you cannot help but fear for her safety.  Weather does have one thing in her favour, a certain police officer is more than a little fascinated by this unusually named surgeon. Any killer trying to get to Weather will have to go through Lucas Davenport first.

A deadly game of cat and mouse will unfold – pursuits will be hampered by snowstorms, tracks will be covered and evidence destroyed. Can a City Cop overcome the wilderness and hunt down an increasingly desperate murderer? Sandford captures the feel of the location and the bitter chill of the winter. After more than 20 years I still remember that initial feeling of being completely absorbed in the story and believing I was also chilled to the bone as I trekked through the Wisconsin woods with my fictional hero as he hunted down The Iceman.

It is atmospheric, it is compelling reading and it sets a scene which few crime novels that I have read since have rivalled.

 

 

 

Category: Blog Tours, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Winter Prey – John Sandford