January 25

Perfect Death – Helen Fields

There’s no easy way to die….

Unknown to DI Luc Callanach and the newly promoted DCI Ava Turner, a serial killer has Edinburgh firmly in his grip. The killer is taking his victims in the coldest, most calculating way possible – engineering slow and painful deaths by poison, with his victims entirely unaware of the drugs flooding their bloodstream until it’s too late.

But how do you catch a killer who hides in the shadows? A killer whose pleasure comes from watching pain from afar? Faced with their most difficult case yet, Callanach and Turner soon realise they face a seemingly impossible task….


My thanks to Sabah at Avon for my review copy and for the opportunity to launch the Perfect Death blog tour.


By the time I hit “publish” on this review Perfect Death will be in shops and available to download. Buy a copy now…this is a brilliant book.

Luc Callanach and Ava Turner are back for a third outing. Happy Days.

Perfect Death feels much more like an Ava story. Luc is still very much present so panic not! Events early in the story (no spoilers) lead to a shock revelation. Ava wants to investigate and find answers to questions she never imagined she would be asking yet she cannot let anyone else know what she is looking into. This dilemma means Ava will work solo and cannot rely upon Luc’s council or support. What she has to face (alone) is bigger and more dangerous than she could have imagined.

Luc is tasked with investigating the death of a young woman who died as a result of a drug overdose. Her naked body was found on a grassy hillside in the heart of the Edinburgh but her family are adamant she would never have taken drugs.

A second suspicious death gives a suspicion that foul play is involved. However, with virtually no similarities in the cases the connection between the two deaths so tenuous Ava’s boss will not entertain the notion that there is a calculating serial killer working in Edinburgh.

Following events in Perfect Prey Ava is now Luc’s boss and the shift in dynamic of their relationship is fun. Still friends, but with Luc being deferential to Ava’s rank, the pair seem almost seem less assured in each other’s company. I have really enjoyed the “Moonlighting-esk” relationship between the two lead characters and Perfect Death only adds to the intrigue.

Moonlighting…it was a big deal in the 80’s – just go with it.

I cannot say enough good things about the Luc Callanach books.  If you love crime fiction and are not reading Helen Fields then you are missing out on one of the best new voices in your favourite genre.


Perfect Death is published by Avon books and is avaialbe in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfect-Death-bestseller-Callanach-Thriller-ebook/dp/B077MNKFTL/ref=la_B006M3SPSS_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1516824675&sr=1-3


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December 19

The Deathwatch Journal – Ian Rankin

A gripping original story for BBC Radio 4 by award-winning crime writer Ian Rankin, written for the landmark Radio 4 Book at Bedtime.

Saughton Prison, Edinburgh, 1962.

Prison guard Thomas Scott watches over a condemned man sentenced to hang for the murder of his wife.

His prisoner is a guilty man, that’s for sure. William Telfer has done enough bad things in his life. And Scott has been in his job long enough to know that guilty men often proclaimed their innocence right up until the moment the noose was placed around their necks. But as they wait out the days until his execution, Scott begins to suspect that Telfer is innocent of this murder.

An innocent man could be hanged by the neck until dead. And his jailer doesn’t know what to do about it….

To find out the truth, Scott must explore Edinburgh’s darkest corners. And he is running out of time.


My thanks to Helena at Penguin Random House for a review copy of the audiobook.


The Deathwatch Journal was written for BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime and it is perfectly pitched – both for the audience and also for the intended hour of listening.

The story of a condemned man, William Telfer, who has been found guilty of murdering his wife and is sentenced to hang in 1960’s Edinburgh. The story is also that of his guard, Thomas Scott, who spends time with Telfer and begins to question whether his prisoner is really guilty of the crime for which he is due to hang.

Despite being a murder tale there is no graphic violence and not explosive set pieces. We follow Thomas Scott to his work where he will chat with Telfer (who tries to elicit information from Scott to learn more about his guard) and Scott records Telfer’s disposition, activities and diet in a Deathwatch Journal.

As the two men chat Scott becomes less inclined to believe Telfer may be guilty of murder. He starts a private investigation, looking into some elements of Telfer’s trial which left unanswered questions. His digging will cause ripples and it is not too long before awkward conversations will take place with individuals who are quite happy to see Telfer hang.

The story plays out in very enjoyable fashion and the 1.25 hour running time slipped away all too quickly. Away from the prison we get a look at Scott’s personal life and a nostalgic nod to the 1960’s lifesyles and the exciting prospect of a “new town” being built to the West of Edinburgh.

The Deathwatch Journal is narrated by Jimmy Chisholm and his voice lends its-self perfectly to the tale. The tough guys from Edinburgh’s harder days are suitably intimidating.  Thomas Scott comes across as an amiable likeable character and Mr Chisholm comfortably manages  (where other narrators have not fared so well) to give all the characters their own “voice”.

I listened to the Deathwatch Journal without reading the blurb beforehand and enjoyed the mystery of the tale – the afterward was also an unexpected surprise which made me appreciate the story even more (cryptic – but sorry…no spoilers).

Ideal late night listening and well worth setting aside a couple of evenings to enjoy The Deathwatch Journal.


The Deathwatch Journal is published by Penguin Random House and Licensed by BBC Worldwide Ltd.  It is available on CD or as an Audible download here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deathwatch-Journal-Original-Story-Radio/dp/B0759Z6L3G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513640372&sr=8-1&keywords=deathwatch+journal

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November 25

Perfect Remains – Helen Fields

On a remote Highland mountain, the body of Elaine Buxton is burning. All that will be left to identify the respected lawyer are her teeth and a fragment of clothing.

In the concealed back room of a house in Edinburgh, the real Elaine Buxton screams into the darkness…

Detective Inspector Luc Callanach has barely set foot in his new office when Elaine’s missing persons case is escalated to a murder investigation. Having left behind a promising career at Interpol, he’s eager to prove himself to his new team. But Edinburgh, he discovers, is a long way from Lyon, and Elaine’s killer has covered his tracks with meticulous care.

It’s not long before another successful woman is abducted from her doorstep, and Callanach finds himself in a race against the clock. Or so he believes … The real fate of the women will prove more twisted than he could have ever imagined.


My thanks to Avon Books for my review copy

Earlier this year I reviewed Perfect Prey by Helen Fields.  I liked that book (a lot) and gave it a five star review.  Before I read Perfect Prey I had read Perfect Remains, the book which introduced Luc Callanach, but as I read it while I was on vacation I did not get a chance to write up a review.  Time to catch up…

I Love, Love, Love Perfect Remains.

Helen Fields introduces Luc Callanach to Edinburgh – he is trying to rebuild a career after a scandal at work has forced him to leave France and settle in Scotland.  Callanach is half French and half Scottish and seemingly 100% drop-dead gorgeous – he will fit right in at Police Scotland.

Watching Callanach settle into his new surroundings and face down the battles against new colleagues (who are trying to exert their own claim to be the station’s Alpha Male) was great fun. He needs to prove his ability to a hostile crowd and can only rely upon the support of his fellow DI – Ava Turner.

Luc is thrown in at the deep end when a missing persons investigation becomes a murder case. The body of Elaine Buxton has been found in the hills, dental records confirming the charred remains are that of the missing woman.  However, the reader knows that Elaine Buxton is not dead – she has been hidden in a deep, dark backroom of a house in Edinburgh. If nobody is looking for Elaine then what hope does she have for rescue?

This is a phenomenal introduction to a new character and one of the stand-out reads of 2017. I raced through Perfect Remains, rolled immediately into Perfect Prey and I cannot wait until Luc Callanach returns in Perfect Death.  So, so good.


Perfect Remains is published by Avon Books and is available in digital and paperback format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfect-Remains-gripping-breathless-Callanach-ebook/dp/B01D4WRF9O/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511637645&sr=1-1&keywords=perfect+remains

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August 3

Perfect Prey – Helen Fields

Welcome to Edinburgh. Murder capital of Europe.

In the middle of a rock festival, a charity worker is sliced across the stomach. He dies minutes later. In a crowd of thousands, no one saw his attacker.

The following week, the body of a primary school teacher is found in a dumpster in an Edinburgh alley, strangled with her own woollen scarf.

D.I. Ava Turner and D.I. Luc Callanach have no leads and no motive – until around the city, graffitied on buildings, words appear describing each victim.

It’s only when they realise the words are being written before rather than after the murders, that they understand the killer is announcing his next victim…and the more innocent the better.


My thanks to Sabah at Avon for a review copy of Perfect Prey and the chance to join the tour.


One day.

A single day.

I started Perfect Prey at 8.30am this morning in a Starbucks coffee shop and at 11.58pm this evening (well now yesterday evening) I finished the last chapter. It was fantastic. I am enjoying a summer where I seem to be only choosing great books to read but Perfect Prey has been a wonderful high point.

Luc Callanach was first introduced in Perfect Remains – he arrived in Edinburgh from France where he had worked for Interpol. Luc now works for Police Scotland, his arrival and the problems which forced his move to Scotland are covered in Perfect Remains – reading the books in order is recommended but not essential.

If you are a fan of crime fiction then reading both books IS essential. Helen Fields is making Edinburgh a very nasty place to be and I am loving her work. Her tales are dark, the crimes that Callanach is called to investigate are both graphic and disturbing and I found both Perfect books utterly gripping.

In Perfect Prey Edinburgh is rocked by a series of high profile brutal killings. Over a very short space of time 3 vicious deaths have shocked the residents of the capital and the reputation of the city world-wide is suffering. Pressure is placed on Callanach and his colleague, Ava Turner, to come up with results (and fast). What is not helping is the presence of an old flame of Ava’s. He is also a cop – up from London to work on a high profile tech/internet operation, his presence unsettles Callanach as the two do not hit it off. It also disrupts the effective working relationship that Callanach and Turner had established.  With the two at loggerheads the investigations stutter – they are reliant upon their colleagues to keep communications flowing.

With little progress being made and more lives in danger, Callanach reaches out to two contacts from outwith the Police. By going off radar and involving civilians he risks his career but who can he really trust when vital information from the investigations is leaking to the press?

I want to tell you about evil murderers. I want to discuss Luc and Ava. I want to share all the great twists and that terrible thing that happened….but they would all be spoilers and you really need to find them out for yourself. What I really need is for it to be January 2018 so I can read the next book.

Perfect Prey is a must read. The Callanach books are already firmly established as a series I want to follow. Don’t let these books pass you by – brilliant, brilliant stories.


Perfect Prey is published by Avon and is available now in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Perfect-Prey-DI-Callanach-Thriller/dp/0008181586/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501715565&sr=8-1&keywords=helen+fields

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June 17

The Health of Strangers – Lesley Kelly

The Health of StrangersNobody likes the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team, least of all the people who work for it. An uneasy mix of seconded Police and health service staff, Mona, Bernard and their colleagues stem the spread of the Virus, a mutant strain of influenza, by tracking down people who have missed their monthly health check. Now two young female students are missing, raising question after question for the HET. Why were they drinking in a biker’s bar? Who are the mysterious Children of Camus cult? And why is the German government interfering in the investigation? Mona and Bernard need to fight their way through lies and intrigue, and find the missing girls – before anyone else does.

My thanks to Keara at Sandstone for my review copy


Meet the North Edinburgh HET.

The HET?

Well that would be the Health Enforcement Team, an agency set up in the aftermath of a viral outbreak which has caused the loss of millions of lives around the world. More on that in a second…

The Health Enforcement Team are our focus in The Health of Strangers and they are an endearing dysfunctional lot. Mona was a cop who was offered the opportunity to move to HET to make a name for herself but was she perhaps shunted off to keep her out the road?  Her colleagues Bernard and Maitland also have secrets in their background or their home life so collectively they may not come across as a well-oiled unit.  The conflicts and insecurities in the team does give Lesley Kelly plenty of opportunity to get some great dialogue going between her characters – love a bit of bickering between colleagues to lighten the mood!

So the virus – a flu strain which mutated. The first wave contaminated many of the population but lots of people recovered (albeit after much discomfort). But the virus mutated and the next wave claimed many lives – those that had contracted flu in the first viral wave developed an immunity but it also meant they saw friends and loved ones die when  the virus returned in its mutated form.

Society changed, some people turned to religion (new Chapters within the churches were formed), pregnancy increased the risk of dying from the virus, different countries adapted better to controlling and containing the spread of the disease. But everyone is now required to attend regular health screenings to ensure they are not unknowingly carrying the virus – miss a screening and you are reported to the HET who are expected to find you and take appropriate action to minimize any potential contamination risks.

I really enjoyed The Health of Strangers. The dystopian setting is nicely balanced not too bleak but Edinburgh is clearly a changed city. There has been an horrific event but life still continues – but it continues differently for the survivors.  People are adaptable and the human resilience shines through but they will be suffering and their grief will channel rage and distrust – characterization will make or break a story like this and Lesley Kelly has absolutely nailed it.

I realise that I haven’t even mentioned the missing girls – the ones that have missed their Health Check, the girls that the HET are tasked with finding. The missing girls will the team busy (and frustrated) and this is the crime story at the core of the book, the investigation is well constructed and there are all the distractions and unreliable witnesses to challenge the team.

So The Health of Strangers is a crime thriller in a dystopian and ravaged Edinburgh with a great cast and the pages which virtually turned themselves.  I bloody loved it.


The Health of Strangers is published by Sandstone Press and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Health-Strangers-Plague-Lesley-Kelly/191098566X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497565274&sr=8-1&keywords=lesley+kelly

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March 20

Written in Bones – James Oswald

Written in BonesWhen a body is found in a tree in The Meadows, Edinburgh’s scenic parkland, the forensics suggest the corpse has fallen from a great height.

Detective Inspector Tony McLean wonders whether it was an accident, or a murder designed to send a chilling message?

The dead man had led quite a life: a disgraced ex-cop turned criminal kingpin who reinvented himself as a celebrated philanthropist.

As McLean traces the victim’s journey, it takes him back to Edinburgh’s past, and through its underworld – crossing paths with some of its most dangerous and most vulnerable people.

And waiting at the end of it all, is the truth behind a crime that cuts to the very heart of the city…


My thanks to Laura at Penguin for my review copy

A new Tony McLean novel from James Oswald is always met with great anticipation here at Grab This Book. I am a big fan of this series and love the balance that the author finds between cracking police procedural but with a dark, and sometimes supernatural, edge to the stories.

Written in Bones is the 7th title to feature Tony McLean, knowing the back story helps but is not essential – new readers can easily pick up the series without worry of too many spoilers and will not be overwhelmed with confusing links to past events. One of the things I enjoy most about James Oswald’s books is how accessible they are, the stories all flow really well and are nicely paced.

From the very first pages of Written in Bones I was hooked. A body is discovered in The Meadows, a pleasant park in Edinburgh city centre. However, the body is stuck high in a tree and it appears to have fallen out of the sky.  The only possible witness to the crime is a young boy who was walking his dog around The Meadows early in the morning. Unfortunately for McLean and his colleagues he does not appear to be the most reliable source for information as he maintains that he saw a dragon flying over the park at the time the body would have fallen into the tree.

Further investigation will reveal the young witness is the son of one of Edinburgh’s more notorious characters  – someone very well known to the police. Could this simply be a coincidence or does the child’s presence link to crimes committed by his father?  This element of an investigation could prove potentially tricky to some of McLean’s colleagues and Tony will be required to play politics around the station.

Although McLean can be a bit of a loose cannon at times, in Written in Bones there are new colleagues in the station and McLean will have to spend some of his time managing a team. The interaction between McLean and the younger, less experienced officers added a fun new angle to the story and I hope that we get to see a bit more of Tony in “mentor” mode.

Away from the mysterious body in a tree, Tony is also finding himself at a number of properties which have been subject to a break-in. He is pulled around the city and his investigations will leave someone unhappy – powerful people will not want the police sniffing around their operations. Back to that political pressure – Tony’s bosses will try to clip his wings and restrict his resources…can he find a way to make his already stretched team focus on more than one investigation?

I had great fun reading Written in Bones, it’s nice to be able to pick up a book which I know will entertain me and it did not fail to deliver the thrills and excitement that I look forward to in James Oswald’s writing. This has been a richly rewarding series thus far and Written in Bones only enhances the Tony McLean collection.


Written  in Bones is published by Michael Joseph and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Written-Bones-Inspector-McLean-7/dp/0718183673/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489962099&sr=8-1&keywords=james+oswald


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February 24

Prayer For The Dead – James Oswald

prayer for the dead 2The fifth novel in the bestselling Inspector McLean series by Sunday Times bestselling author James Oswald.

‘Are you ready to be reborn?’

The search for a missing journalist is called off as a body is found at the scene of a carefully staged murder.

In a sealed chamber, deep in the heart of Gilmerton Cove, a mysterious network of caves and passages sprawling beneath Edinburgh, the victim has undergone a macabre ritual of purification.

Inspector Tony McLean knew the dead man, and can’t shake off the suspicion that there is far more to this case than meets the eye. The baffling lack of forensics at the crime scene seems impossible. But it is not the only thing about this case that McLean will find beyond belief.

Teamed with the most unlikely and unwelcome of allies, he must track down a killer driven by the darkest compulsions, who will answer only to a higher power…

‘Are you ready for the mysteries to be revealed?’

My thanks to Penguin/Michael Joseph and Netgalley for my review copy


Jump back 11 months to 24th March 2014 when, after a bit of hesitation, I bit the bullet and posted my first review on my blog. I had been toying with the idea of blogging for some time so decided to write a review of the book I had finished earlier that day – it had been a great story from an author I’d not read before. Natural Causes by James Oswald.

7 months later, it’s October 2014. I am officially a ‘fan’ of Mr Oswald’s Tony McLean series and I am sat in Coatbridge Library where, as part of the North Lanarkshire Encounters series, James Oswald is visiting to discuss his books. The evening opened with a reading from the opening chapter of Prayer For The Dead – a debut read as the final edit had only just been confirmed. It was a treat and a pleasure to hear an extract from an unpublished novel and just 4 months later I finally found out what followed! Added bonus from that night was that James Oswald was fabulous and had us hanging on his every word for well over an hour of uninterrupted anecdotes and readings.

But to the book…

Prayer for the Dead is the 5th outing for Tony McLean and this is another stellar read in a series that has maintained a high standard of entertainment and thrills throughout all the books.

I am always pleased to revisit recurring characters in the books I read and I very much enjoy the team that assemble alongside McLean. Grumpy Bob returns as does Jane Macintyre, Stuart MacBride and even Madam Rose is back. The relationships between the characters is a key element to my enjoyment and there is a genuine feel of a ‘team among the police characters. McLean is supportive of MacBride, tolerant of Grumpy Bob and collectively they grumble over the senior officers who frequently appear to be inept.

More unusual is the ongoing relationship between Madam Rose and Mclean, particularly given how events unfold during Prayer For The Dead. Their friendship is taken in a very unexpected direction and we get to see Rose in a very different light – another nice touch.

The most important element of a crime thriller is that there is an engaging crime to be solved. Very much so I am pleased to report. A few unnatural deaths have occurred around Edinburgh, there does not appear to be any obvious connection yet the cruel manner of the deaths and the short intervals between the murders leads McLean to believe they are the work of one individual.

With no clues to pursue the police are very much in the dark as to how they may track down the culprit (assuming they ARE just looking for one person). With no meaningful progress being made, McLean finds himself distracted by other cases: particularly when the property developers who are trying to get him to sell his home turn up dead and their connection to McLean is investigated by London’s Serious Crime team.

I very much enjoyed Prayer For The Dead, it is a cracking murder mystery with some nasty deaths to squirm over and a sinister murderer who keeps several steps ahead of McLean et al. Fans of James Oswald will not be disappointed with the latest novel…except when it ends and you realise that the next book is ages away!


Prayer For The Dead is available now from Penguin/Michael Joseph and is in all good bookshops, online and in many a supermarket too.

On a final note – I am constantly amused that there is a character called Stuart MacBride in James Oswald’s books. This amusement increased tenfold when I read the apology that Mr Oswald offered to the real Mr MacBride in the author notes at the end of the book. Perhaps I am just easily amused?

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