December 19

Christmas With Susi Holliday

Earlier this month I shared my favourite reads of 2017 (which you can see by clicking…here.

When I first read The Damselfly I knew it was a strong contender for one of my favourite reads. Closing out the Banktoun Trilogy I loved returning to the fictional town which I felt I knew oh so well.  Add in a cracking murder mystery tale and some cameo appearances from characters I never expected to see again and I was a happy reader.

You can read my review of The Damselflyhere.

Spinning forward to the end of the year, Susi’s second book of the year The Deaths of December was a gripping serial killer thriller which ripped up the idea of a cozy Christmas tale. THAT review is…here.


As we are rushing towards Christmas Susi has been giving some thought to presents and has come up with this handy shopping guide:

Top 5 Best Christmas Presents for a Bookworm

5. A Reading Journal

Lots of people are keeping track of what they read now, whether it’s by writing reviews or creating virtual bookshelves online, but there’s something nice about keeping a handwritten record – and there are some lovely journals out there too. Or, if you can’t see what you like, you could buy a fancy notebook instead and write a nice inscription on the inside cover to tell them what it’s for (most bookworms are fans of stationery too, so you can’t lose with this). Thrown in a funky pen, and you’re sorted.


4. A fluffy blanket

So that they can curl up on the sofa, surrounded by books, of course!


3. Personalised accessories

Mugs, bookmarks, t-shirts, tea towels, eReader cases, posters, cushions, candles, tote bags – there is so much available now, in high street shops as well as online. Pick something with a book that you know your friend is a huge fan of (or maybe a quote from one of their favourite authors), and you’ll be on to a winner.


2. Tickets to an author event

Most readers love to hear authors speak about their work, so if you have a friend who has never been to an event like this, have a look at the events programme at your local bookshop or library – maybe go and see an author whose work you’ve never read . . . and if you buy a ticket for your friend, you have to buy one for yourself too, so you can go with them. Result!


1. Books

Honestly. You can’t really go wrong with a book. Well, except when you buy a romance novel for a hard-core sci-fi fan. You could play it safe with a voucher from your favourite book shop instead – preferably one with a café, then you can make a day of it with books, coffee and cake 🙂


Before she goes we also have a little time for some Christmas themed questions from Susi:

Favourite Christmas Song

Possibly a toss-up between Stop the Cavalry and Wombling Merry Christmas.

Favourite Christmas Drink

Mulled wine or Bailey’s Hot Chocolate.

Favourite Christmas Happy Movie

Home Alone.

Favourite Christmas Scary Movie


Favourite Christmas Movie-that-is-always-on-at-Christmas

Clash of The Titans.

Favourite Christmas Book

I really loved Tammy Cohen’s “Dying for Christmas”.

Favourite Christmas Memory

Having a quiet one in a tiny fishing village in Madeira, just me and my husband, waking up and looking out at the sea, having no one around and enjoying complete relaxation.

Favourite Christmas TV Moment

Anything that happens in Eastenders is bound to be hilarious and horrific. I don’t think anyone in Albert Square has ever had a Merry Christmas.

Favourite Christmas Tradition

Leaving out sherry for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph.

Favourite Christmas Cracker Joke

What lies at the bottom of the sea and shivers?

A nervous wreck.




So there you have it – Wombles, happily watching a child left alone by his family at Christmas and misery for the people of East London.  Throw in a flying horse being captured by one of the lawyers from LA Law and we are just one terrible cracker joke away from the perfect Christmas at Chez Holliday.  Thanks Susi x





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January 28

Guest Post – David Mark: Villains

Why are we obsessed with murder? What is it that make the act of killing so intriguing? Best-selling novelist DAVID MARK asks why it is that terrible acts are lethally compelling. 

Go on, admit it – when you hear there’s a serial killer on the loose, you’re more excited than scared. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a human being. We can’t help it. We’re thrilled by that which terrifies us; we’re invigorated by the idea of a little extra peril in our day-to-day. If you discovered there was a dragon on the loose in Chipping Norton you’d be hooked, and a part of you would be hoping that the next bulletin involved a politician or a tabloid executive being roasted alive. Serial killers are our dragons. They add some danger. They add some colour. They brighten up the drive home. Me? I love ‘em.

These aren’t my actual opinions, by the way. They’re what I like to think of as loaded contentions. They might strike a chord with some, but please don’t think any of the above represents my actual view. I don’t really have a view. It comes with voting Lib Dem. It’s fun to wonder, though. I’ve never actually been to university but I’d imagine this is what it feels like at some of the more elite seats of learning. Right now I feel like I should be in my philosophy master’s private rooms, drinking some obscure liqueur and positing obscenely inflammatory hypotheses in the hope of impressing some overseas student who reads Kierkegaard for pleasure.

David MarkWhere was I? Oh yes, death. Murder. Villainy. Hmm. Well, crime fiction is my stock in trade. If it weren’t for people’s continued interest in the act of murder then I would probably be writing romance novels and indulging in self-harm. But do I understand the allure? Do I actually have any real ideas about why pretty much every crime novel has the act of murder at its heart? Do I know why millions of readers around the world expect at least one corpse per novel and hope for plenty more? Why for example, do readers gladly overdose on serial killer novels but turn our noses up at the idea of an investigation into other types of crime? Why doesn’t Jack Reacher go after corrupt hedge fund managers? Why isn’t Rebus bringing down corporate price-fixers? And why isn’t my own Detective Sergeant McAvoy spending 400 pages a year chasing after trawler owners who deliberately break EU quota agreements?

Well, for me personally, it’s because there is something unique about murder. When you take a life, you don’t just take the victim’s life. You take their future. You take all they will ever be. There is no opportunity for revenge, redemption or redress. You stop a heart and you are making a decision from which there is no return. It’s the crime that most fascinates and terrifies us and it sells newspapers at an impressive rate of knots.

It’s the same in the entertainment business. Murder mysteries are the true kingpin of the TV schedules. Whether it be cosy poisonings in St Mary Mead or psychopaths cutting people’s feet off in Whitechapel, any show that promises a body, a culprit, an investigation and a resolution, can expect big ratings.

So am I being mercenary? Am I writing about murder because I know people are attracted to it? Or am I writing about murder because I’m capable of looking out at the world through eyes that sometimes scare me and that I’d rather channel that gift into planning murders than committing them? That’s certainly a theory. People do ask me where I get my ideas from and they don’t always think of it as a compliment when they say that the murderers in my books seem terrifying believable. But I’d like to take this opportunity to let readers know they are safe in my company. I don’t see myself going on the rampage any time soon. I suffer with bronchial problems and the idea of a hammer attack sounds awfully tiring.

David Mark 2What was I talking about? Villains, that’s right. Murderers. Killers. Why do they fascinate? Why do they sell? Could it be that they are simply the most interesting characters? If you can think of anybody in your social circle who is more interesting than Hannibal Lecter, you should probably ask them some searching questions and stop letting them babysit.

I’ve been asked several times whether I believe that everybody is capable of murder. My answer is ‘yes’. Given the right motivation and enough opportunity, I believe that everybody on earth could take a life. That’s not based on innate bleakness. That’s based on many years spent covering murder trials as a journalist. For every hundred murderers who stood in the dock, perhaps only one or two seemed to be cut from a different cloth to those in the public gallery. They were just people: men and women who had lost their temper, or their reason, or whose greed had overcome their sense of right and wrong. Most felt remorse for their crimes and those who didn’t seemed reconciled to the fact that there would be a punishment for their crime. They had killed for what they saw as a good reason and they had been caught accordingly.

Dead PrettyThose handful of ‘different’ killers were the ones that fascinated me. Those men and women who had a little bit missing in their make-up, or perhaps, an extra little bit in their brain. They were the ones who killed because they wanted to know what the inside of somebody’s head looked like. They were the ones who took a life because they enjoyed the sound of screams. They were the ones who gave me the chills. Perhaps I write about such people because it is a way of keeping them contained; I put the monsters on the page so they don’t escape. But then again, I’m not sure I write about monsters. I write about people who could exist. People who kill, for good or for bad. I write about the different notions of justice and how good and evil are just a double yoke in the same cracked egg. I write about a good man chasing bad people and the toll that takes upon his soul.

Was there a point to this? I’m caught up in it now. I’m thinking about killers. I‘m wondering about goodness and badness and what it all says about me and my species. Perhaps that suggests that we haven’t resolved anything. It certainly suggests that murder remains fascinating. Perhaps that’s why I write about it. Hmm.


DAVID MARK’S new novel featuring DS Aector McAvoy, DEAD PRETTY, is out now, published by Mulholland Books.



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January 28

Dead Pretty – David Mark

Dead PrettyHannah Kelly has been missing for nine months. Ava Delaney has been dead for five days.

One girl to find. One girl to avenge. And DS Aector McAvoy won’t let either of them go until justice can be done.

But some people have their own ideas of what justice means…


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


DS Aector McAvoy returns for a fifth outing in David Mark’s new novel Dead Pretty. I will ‘fess up from the start, I have not read the first four books so I come to the series with no awareness of what has gone before. In turn this lets me consider Dead Pretty entirely on its own merit (and I like when I can do that).

My initial impression was that Aector McAvoy is nice. Really, really nice – everyone seems to like him, he gets emotionally involved in his cases, blushes easily and wants to do the right thing. An interesting and welcome change from the ‘flawed’ characters I expect to read about in crime stories.

Contrasting McAvoy is his boss Detective Superintendent Trish Pharaoh. She struck me as much more rough and ready, willing to do whatever was required to get the task in hand completed and more…flawed. I don’t know how the dynamic between the two normally plays out but I did feel that for large parts of Dead Pretty Pharaoh was much more in the limelight than McAvoy.

Pharaoh’s prominence is very much integral to the investigations underway in Dead Pretty.  To explain why would require plot spoilers (and you do not get those here) but suffice to say I enjoyed Pharaoh’s fights, dilemmas and crisis moments as they sprang up through the book.

Central to the story is the investigation into Ava Delaney’s murder and McAvoy’s ongoing obsession with tracking down missing girl Hannah Kelly. Pharaoh has her own problems, a man that was integral in imprisoning has had his conviction overturned and is back on the streets and their paths are going to cross – Pharaoh will make sure of that!

David Mark sets a scene in magnificent detail, he has a very descriptive style and I did feel myself drawn into the story – easily imagining a cottage in the woods, a horse walking down a county lane, a family home under threat from <Spoilers>.  When the surroundings are jumping off the page so vividly I cannot help but love that reading experience.

What I really liked about Dead Pretty is that is very dark in places and this is slightly disconcerting when the author is so good at describing a scene! I always favour a crime thriller that is not afraid to shirk from the gritty details and Dead Pretty ensured McAvoy and Pharaoh faced down the horrors as I hoped they would.

David Mark


Dead Pretty is published by Mulholland Books and is available in Hardback and digital format from 28 January 2016.  You can get a copy here

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