January 19

City Without Stars – Tim Baker

The only thing more dangerous than the cartels is the truth…

In Ciudad Real, Mexico, a deadly war between rival cartels is erupting, and hundreds of female sweat-shop workers are being murdered. As his police superiors start shutting down his investigation, Fuentes suspects most of his colleagues are on the payroll of narco kingpin, El Santo.

Meanwhile, despairing union activist, Pilar, decides to take social justice into her own hands. But if she wants to stop the killings, she’s going to have to ignore all her instincts and accept the help of Fuentes. When the name of Mexico’s saintly orphan rescuer, Padre Márcio, keeps resurfacing, Pilar and Fuentes begin to realise how deep the cover-up goes.


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

I am not sure I have the language to do City Without Stars justice. If I were to say: Powerful, Magnificent, Majestic, Breathtaking then it would sound like I was describing a racehorse rather than Tim Baker’s novel. Yet City Without Stars is all those things, it is an incredible piece of story telling written with a brutal beauty and an incredible intensity.

The first word I used was “powerful” and City Without Stars is all about power. In Mexico there seem to be many battles to be fought and through the story we shall follow some of the fighters.  The drug Kingpin – El Santo – casts the longest shadow, he has the money, the men and the merchandise and he will do whatever he wants (and he does).  It is not often that I will flinch at something I read but one scene in particular brought out a full body wince/jolt, the unexpected sudden brutality was shocking.

Faith has a strong grip over Mexican life too and it was no surprise to see that Padre Márcio was influential throughout the book. The link between church and corruption has been made in the past but Tim Baker shines the Mexican sun fully onto the worst behaviours of the church and its representatives. Padre Márcio gets the most detailed backstory, his position in the community explained by his path to adulthood and the trials he endured.

Where there are drugs there will also be police. Fuentes is the cop who wants to bring some justice to proceedings. Yet he knows the challenge he faces is enormous and he can have no faith in the integrity of his colleagues, many are in the pockets of the cartel and few will stand up and be seen to challenge the corruption.

The character who faced the biggest challenge is a young union actvist (Pilar).  In the opening pages we see she has been targeted as a potential threat to someone in power and action is being taken to quash that threat. Pilar is seeking a fairer deal and better treatment for the women working in the manufacturing plants, the women who work for a pittance, have no respect from the men that run the plants and who meekly accept their lot in life. She is an extraordinary force but knows that changing the accepted way will not be simple. Her struggle to be heard and to make an impact which cannot be ignored was an important balance to the violence and intensity of the rival drug dealers.

There is so much depth and detail in City Without Stars that I cannot even begin to scratch the surface in a short review. It is a dark, dark read. The violence is brutal, the corruption is rife and the people are generally untrustworthy and unlikeable. But it all makes for utterly compelling reading.

Gobsmackingly Good.


City Without Stars is published by Faber & Faber and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/City-Without-Stars-Tim-Baker-ebook/dp/B075RSLG2B/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1516314849&sr=1-1&keywords=city+without+stars


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October 2

Sleep No More – P.D. James

The acknowledged ‘Queen of Crime’, P. D. James, was a past master of the short story, weaving together motifs of the Golden Age of crime-writing with deep psychological insight to create gripping, suspenseful tales. The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories contained four of these perfectly formed stories, and this companion volume contains a further six, published here together for the first time.

As the six murderous tales unfold, the dark motive of revenge is revealed at the heart of each. Bullying schoolmasters receive their comeuppance, unhappy marriages and childhoods are avenged, a murder in the small hours of Christmas Day puts an end to the vicious new lord of the manor, and, from the safety of his nursing home, an octogenarian exerts exquisite retribution.

The punishments inflicted on the guilty are fittingly severe, but here they are meted out by the unseen forces of natural justice rather than the institutions of the law. Once again, P. D. James shows her expert control of the short-story form, conjuring motives and scenarios with complete conviction, and each with a satisfying twist in the tail.


My thanks to Sophie at Faber for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.


One of my earliest memories of crime drama was watching Shroud for a Nightingale on tv with my mum. Shroud was a PD James story and I still remember being gripped by the story and being particularly disappointed when it ended.

I picked up all the PD James novels I could find once Shroud had finished and I spent many happy hours catching up on the stories of Adam Dalgliesh. I was a firm fan by then and over the next three decades I would always seek out a new PD James novel on release.

Now, many months after her death I get to read a new collection of stories – six in all – gathered in a new book from Faber & Faber: Sleep No More. As soon as I started on the first story I was caught up in her world once again. Her writing style feels so formal against modern books yet the tales she tells seem timeless.

The six stories collected in Sleep No More are:
The Yo-Yo
The Victim
The Murder of Santa Claus
The Girl Who Loved Graveyards
A Very Desirable Residence and
Mr Millcroft’s Birthday

My favourites were most certainly the 3rd and 4th in the above list. The Murder of Santa Claus a very nicely worked murder tale which was almost certainly mirroring the style of an Agatha Christie tale.

The Girl Who Loved Graveyards was the darkest of the collection. While each story has a murder to consider Graveyards was the “unfiltered” tale and the author did not shy away from the crime, it was vividly described to shocking effect.

Short stories are exactly that – short. This collection comes in at around 170 pages in length and if I were ordering the book online I’d like to have known that ahead of time. It is a cracking collection of cleverly written tales, which I read in a couple of hours.

But the treat in Sleep No More is the class of the author’s storytelling. I loved reading this one and the variety of approaches was a treat. A twist, a clever narrative, that shocking ending and the clever reveals which have you flicking back to see where you missed the clue.

She was one of the best at what she did, her work lives on and Sleep No More only enhances my appreciation of her skills.


Sleep No More is published by Faber & Faber and is available in Hardback and Digital formats – you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleep-No-More-Murderous-Tales-ebook/dp/B0721NSJZW/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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July 17

The Last Place You Look – Kristen Lepionka

Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton – black and from the wrong side of the tracks – was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case.

Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she thinks she’s linked Sarah’s disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad’s life and her own.

With echoes of Sue Grafton, Dennis Lehane and the hit podcast Serial, The Last Place You Look is the gripping debut of both a bold new voice and character.


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


I feel bad when I devour a book in just two sittings.  I know how much time and effort goes into the writing and editing and publication of a novel so to sit down and race through The Last Place You Look in just 4/5 hours of reading – I get a bit guilty. But when I read a book I am enjoying I just want to keep going so The Last Place You Look is a victim of its own success – it was too good to not read.

Roxane Weary is a Private Investigator.  As the book opens she is still reeling from the death of her father, a cop killed in the line of duty. Roxane has a fondness for whisky, a diminishing bank balance and a potential client who wants Roxane to find a missing girl.

But the “missing girl” (Sarah) has been assumed dead for 15 years – her boyfriend of the time (Brad) is on death row, guilty of the murder of his Sarah’s parents and, despite no body being found, of killing Sarah too.  Roxane’s client is Brad’s sister. She believes that she has spotted Sarah and that if Roxanne could find Sarah then it may be possible that Sarah could provide an alibi for Brad which would save him from his impending execution.

Realising that the chances of success are slim Roxane begins her investigation. Happily for readers it is not long before Roxane realises that she has taken on a challenge more complex than just finding a missing person.  Her investigations will overlap with a case her father had been looking into prior to his death and looking back into events which occurred more than 10 years ago will give Roxane the benefit of seeing other, seemingly unconnected, events which may actually have an impact on her case.

At the risk of spoilers I cannot give much more detail, however, I will confirm that Roxane is a fun lead character and she carries the story brilliantly. The investigation is really well structured and kept me guessing where it may lead next. The initial missing person search is never forgotten, however, Roxane’s digging will result in her search branching into unexpected areas and I got hooked.

The Last Place You Look is highly recommended, fun, thrilling and some nasty twists to keep a reader enthralled.  Go get this one!


The Last Place You Look is published by Faber & Faber and is available in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Place-You-Look-ebook/dp/B06XCRC4W6/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8


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May 2

The Quiet Man – James Carol

The Quiet ManIn Vancouver, the wife of a millionaire is dead following an explosion in her own home.

Everyone thinks her husband is responsible, but former FBI profiler Jefferson Winter isn’t so sure. The method is too perfect; the lack of mistakes, uncanny. He’s seen a series of carefully orchestrated murders – once a year, on exactly the same day, a woman dies in a situation just like this one.

That date is fast approaching and Winter knows another victim has been selected. Can he identify the quiet man before he strikes again?


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


There is nothing better for a reader to pick up a book and immediately become lost in the story. The Quiet Man did that for me – I absolutely loved it.

Jefferson Winter is a former FBI profiler who is called to Vancouver to assist a former cop to solve a series of murders which have taken place over a number of years.  On August 5th someone will be killed. They will be tied to a chair in their kitchen and a bomb placed in the room with them and each year the bomb is triggered in the same way (but no spoiler on that dark detail).  It is approaching August 5th again and Winter has been engaged by the spouse of one of the victims to help find the killer.

The Vancouver police have made no progress, the lead investigator has been replaced but Winter will need to prove his credentials and show he can make a valued contribution to the investigation if he is to receive any formal co-operation from the police. The political aspect of the story in that regard made for fun reading – Winter doesn’t have too much respect for the police and they are wary of his involvement. The verbal sparring was entertaining and it was fun to see Winter puzzling out the past crimes and looking for threads whilst keeping one step ahead of everyone else.

The Quiet Man is absorbing, cleverly plotted thriller. Although this is not the first outing for Jefferson Winter you don’t need to have read any of the previous books to enjoy the new adventure. The prolonged gap between each of the killer’s victims made for an interesting twist and the bombing element was nasty – great combo for readers.

I said at the start that I loved The Quiet Man – I really, really did and it gets a 5* review score. Plus I have now bought all the other books in the series – that’s almost like an extra star.


The Quiet Man is published by Faber on 4th May and is available in paperback and digital format. A copy can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Quiet-Man-James-Carol-ebook/dp/B01MR5L174/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1493758543&sr=1-1

The Quiet Man_blog tour graphic


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January 29

Her Every Fear – Peter Swanson

Her Every FearFollowing a brutal attack by her ex-boyfriend, Kate Priddy makes an uncharacteristically bold decision after her cousin, Corbin Dell, suggests a temporary apartment swap – and she moves from London to Boston.

But soon after her arrival Kate makes a shocking discovery: Corbin’s next-door neighbour, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police begin asking questions about Corbin’s relationship with Audrey, and his neighbours come forward with their own suspicions, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own.

Jetlagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination playing out her every fear, Kate can barely trust herself. so how can she trust any of the strangers she’s just met?


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

Kate Priddy is not having the best of times. Recovering from a traumatic incident involving her ex-boyfriend she has agreed to swap homes with an American cousin. On arriving at his apartment (much nicer than her flat) Kate is disturbed to find that one of her new neighbours may be missing.

Kate’s initial concerns escalate when we learn that her neighbour, Audrey, has actually been murdered in the apartment next to her new residence. The police come to question Kate and ask about her cousin (Corbin) but Kate and Corbin never met – is it possible her cousin could be a killer?

Narrative switches and we learn that Audrey had actually been under observation for many months. In the opposite wing of the apartment block we learn that one of the other residents could see straight into the victims house and had developed an unhealthy fascination with her. With Audrey dead it now seems that the voyeuristic neighbour may now be turning his attentions towards Kate.

Her Every Fear will focus on several different characters. At various stages of the story we may revisit some scenes more than once. Our initial impression of a conversation will be challenged when the second narrative outlines a totally different explanation for what originally seemed to be a straightforward situation. It is very cleverly worked and once you realise that all the characters have a very specific reason for acting in a certain way it leads to question who may have the most to lose if their secrets were to come out into the open.

This book was everything that I had hoped it would be. The twists were twisty, the shocks shocking and the nastiness was ramped up to the max. Peter Swanson can spin a damn good yarn and Her Every Fear was an absolute treat to read.  Highly recommended if you enjoy a suspenseful thriller.


Her Every Fear is published in Hardback and digital format by Faber and you can order a copy through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/cka/Her-Every-Fear-Peter-Swanson/0571327109/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485726879&sr=1-1&keywords=her+every+fear


Catch up with the tour:




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August 11

Black Night Falling – Rod Reynolds

Black Night FallingHaving left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help.

This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late.


My thanks to Faber for my review copy


In Black Night Falling we are re-united with Charlie Yates, first encountered in last year’s brilliant The Dark Inside. This is a good start, Yates was a character I had really enjoyed reading about, his personal demons battling his dogged determination to chase down a story and uncover the truth.

The housekeeping – Black Night Falling is a stand alone novel and can be enjoyed as such, however, there are some threads which will follow on from The Dark Inside and you will get the best experience reading the books in order. This in its-self is not a problem as both are cracking reads.

Charlie Yates once again finds himself unpicking the lies as he tries to get to the bottom of the seemingly unconnected deaths of young women in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Charlie has come to town following a request for help from an old friend, however, Charlie arrives too late and learns his friend died in a tragic accident a few days earlier.  Picking up the investigation with only the cryptic notes left by his late friend, Charlie finds another small town is unwilling to spill the beans on the powerful men who are very much in control of their community. And powerful men can have a long reach – well beyond Hot Springs and all the way to Charlie’s home.

The pressure is on Charlie to turn tail and head home. Snooping is very much discouraged and exposing corruption and murder is not going to make life easy for Charlie Yates. But as we learned in The Dark Inside, Yates does not walk away from the corruption, he will root it out and expose the culprits.

Black Night Falling is a treat for readers that like their adventure stories grounded, gritty and gripping. Rod Reynolds knows how to spin a story and he can ramp up the tension and befuddle the reader with red herrings. His books are a delight to read.

So, should you read Black Night Falling?  Absolutely. And soon.


Black Night Falling released on 4 August 2016 and you can purchase a copy through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Night-Falling-Charlie-mystery/dp/0571323219/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1469832190&sr=8-1&keywords=black+night+falling

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July 21

Book Chains – Rod Reynolds (Second Link)

Book Chains – my author Q&A with a twist.

A few weeks back I asked Stasi Child author, David Young to join me and I asked him a few questions. You can see how that turned out here.

David’s Q&A ended with me asking him to nominate my next guest (and to provide a question I should ask)…which is why I call this Book Chains.  David nominated “My fellow City University Crime Thriller MA graduate Rod Reynolds” and fortunately (for this feature) Rod kindly agreed to keep my chain going.  This is what happened…


The Dark InsideFirst Question is not actually a question. This is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give you the chance to plug your books.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog. I’m a 36 year old Londoner who writes books set in the USA – predominantly the south (so far). My debut, The Dark Inside, was published by Faber in September 2015, and is based on the real life serial killings known as The Texarkana Moonlight Murders. The novel follows washed-up New York reporter Charlie Yates as he’s sent to Texarkana, on the Texas-Arkansas border, to cover a pair of brutal attacks on young couples. The gig is a punishment and Charlie is a mess professionally and personally – but he finds worse horrors waiting for him there than he ever imagined, and before long, he sees his last chance at redemption is finding the killer before it’s too late.

The sequel, Black Night Falling, is published in August 2016 and sees Charlie reluctantly compelled to return to Arkansas, to a town called Hot Springs, when an old acquaintance begs for his help. Charlie knows he has to do the right thing before it’s too late, but he finds himself in a town rife with violence, corruption and lies – and realises that the past he’s been trying to outrun is catching up with him again…


Why did you choose post World War 2 USA for your setting? Does it give you a degree of artistic leeway which you would not get with a story set in the present day?

The Dark Inside is based on a real life case, so although my book is a work of fiction, I wanted to ground it in reality as much as possible – hence setting it in the time and place where the real murders occurred. In terms of artistic leeway, it’s a blessing as much as a curse; at times it’s helpful not to have technology like mobile phones or computers to worry about, but it can make things harder – such as having to be able to credibly get your character to a payphone at any time. A 1940s USA setting also presents its own challenges; the details have to be just right in order to evoke the period and place, but it’s obviously harder to get those details right than if you’re setting your story in the present day. I’ve always been fascinated by America and Americana, though, as well as history, so the research was part of the fun for me.


It is almost a year since The Dark Inside was published, how have the last 12 months been?

Amazing. Publication day was incredibly exhilarating, and just the start of the rollercoaster. I’ve been lucky enough to do a number of events and panels, which I really enjoy, and had great feedback to the book, which is humbling and gratifying. Best of all was the opportunity to meet so many amazing authors, bloggers and readers – the crime community is genuinely packed with lovely and interesting people. I even managed to squeeze in a bit of writing, too…


Both The Dark Inside and Black Night Falling feature Charlie Yates in the lead role. Was it the plan from the outset to write an ongoing series and have Charlie returning?

Black Night FallingNo. My original plan for book two was two have different characters who were grappling with the aftermath and fallout from the events of The Dark Inside. However, my publisher was keen on a series, and once I gave it some thought, I really warmed to the idea, as I enjoy writing Charlie and feel like he’s got a lot of mileage left in him. It’s worked out well as the reader response to Charlie has been overwhelmingly positive.


Like David Young, who started this Chain, you were spotted burning the midnight oil at Crimefest. Was it as insane an experience as the pictures made it seem?

David was tucked up in bed by about 7pm every night! (Just kidding, DY)

In a word, yes. It was my first time at CrimeFest (or any writing festival) so I was determined to enjoy every minute of it – and I had an amazing time. At times it felt like a cross between a jolly and a stag-do. I did promise a certain well-known blogger beforehand – who shall go nameless – that we wouldn’t go to bed for four days while we were there, and that was pretty much the case. I got to meet a lot of people I’d only ever spoken to on social media, which was great, and also went to loads of fascinating panels, where I heard about a whole bunch of books that I subsequently added to my TBR. It’s great to hear about a book that piques your interest, and then be able to go chat to the author half an hour later.

But it was definitely the people that made it so cool and insane – so a special shout out to all my partners in crime that incredible weekend, not least: Crime Thriller Girl, Liz Barnsley, Vicki Goldman, Christine (@Northernlass), Karen Sullivan, Mick Herron, Michael Grothaus, Tim Baker Alex Caan, David Young, Anna Mazzola, the City Uni crew and, of course, the Indian-wine-wielding Lisa Hall!


What does Rod Reynolds do when he is not writing?  What’s a typical day and how do you spend “you” time?

I’m lucky enough to be a full time writer, but I also have two very young children who I look after full time too. So my average day involves nursery runs, playgrounds, Topsy-Turvy World, nappy changes and more episodes of Paw Patrol than I could have thought possible. I have to be quite disciplined as I mainly get to write in nap times and evenings.

If I’m not doing any of the above, I’m normally reading – I’ve always got a book on the go, but also read a lot of non-fiction and current affairs. I also like to run, although I’ve not had much time for that of late. So, as you can see, I’m really boring.

Rod ReynoldsSome Quick Fire Questions:

What was the last book you read? The Constant Soldier by William Ryan

o Which one book (not your own) would you recommend? LA Confidential by James Ellroy. My all time favourite.

Favourite film? Heat.

o Drink of choice? Mojito or caipirinha.

o You can put one holiday on your Bucket List. Where do you go? Texarkana. No, just kidding (and I’ve been there already). I’d love to walk the Pacific Crest Trail which runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, through California, Washington and Oregon.

o Star Trek or Star Wars? Star Wars

o Who was the best Doctor Who? No idea – never watched it.

o If you had to appear on one reality tv show which would it be? I couldn’t name any reality shows apart from Big Brother, but maybe something set on a tropical island paradise?


Finally, as you know it was David Young that nominated you to keep my Q&A chain going.  I asked David to set you a question and this how that unfolded:

Can you suggest an author I should ask to join me next to keep my Q&A Chain going?  Once you have nominated someone I also need a question to ask them on your behalf.

My fellow City University Crime Thriller MA graduate Rod Reynolds, who’s with Faber. His 1940s set series features a journalist. So often, in my view, crime writers get journalists completely wrong – making them caricatures of vile human beings. Yet – having spent most of my career as a journalist – I felt Rod got his main character, Charlie Yates, spot on. How did he manage that, never having worked as journo himself?

That’s very kind of David to say so, and I appreciate the compliment. I’ve always been interested in newspapers, and I spent many years in advertising, working with the commercial departments of all the big national press titles; that gave me some understanding of how the business works, as did chatting to the various journalists I met over the years (David and some of my other City University course mates included). In addition to that, I’ve obviously consumed a lot of fiction over the years – books, films, TV – that show journalistic characters, so you build a picture of what you think works (or doesn’t).

And I guess the rest is just imagination at work. Just like all writers, sometimes you just have to make stuff up!


Rod, thank you for agreeing to join me and to keep this chain progressing. Now I put myself at your mercy and ask you to nominate the next person I should approach to keep this chain running. I also need you to come up with a question that I will ask them on your behalf.

It’s absolutely my pleasure, and thanks again for having me! For my nomination, I’d like to keep it in the City University family and nominate my fellow graduate and author and blogger extraordinaire, Steph Broadribb (also known as Crime Thirller Girl). My question for Steph is ***REDACTED***


My thanks to Rod.  I am always a tad worried about what question I am to ask my next guest as I don’t want to land myself in trouble.  Rod is a star and has kept me safe, if anyone gets into hot water next time out it is likely to be Steph 🙂


You can read my review of The Dark Inside here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=1711

and in August I shall have a review to share of Black Night Falling (my bookmark is currently around page 150 at the moment).


The Amazon Rod Reynolds page is easily reached by this link and you can pick up his excellent books in a matter of clicks. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rod-Reynolds/e/B01BHZGQ5E/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1


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