Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Marah Chase and The Conqueror's Tomb by Jay Stringer

I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of this book, but unfortunately didn't get the chance to read it for a while. And I'm sorry to admit it then took me a ridiculously long time to write up my thoughts. But finally I've got myself together and done it, after decoding my chaotic notes! Huge apologies to Jay for the delay.

The Blurb:

Rogue archaeologist Marah Chase is approached by MI6 with an impossible mission: to help them recover a dangerous treasure lost after the death of Alexander the Great.

Once a rising star in the field of archaeology, Marah Chase is now a black-market treasure hunter, her services available to the highest bidder. But when she’s caught “rescuing” relics in Syria before they’re destroyed by war, an MI6 officer named Joanna Mason approaches her with an offer she can’t refuse: help save the world or rot in prison.

All Chase has to do is find Alexander the Great’s lost tomb, recover an ancient weapon of mass destruction he may have used to conquer the earth, and destroy it before the bad guys can get it. Among those adversaries are a powerful church that believes in a forgotten epoch of advanced alien technology, the white supremacist thugs in its employ, and the rival archaeologist who recently left Chase for dead.

Chase can’t resist a challenge - or the British spy recruiting her. There’s just one problem. If Chase has any hope of unearthing Alexander’s tomb before the forces hot on her heels do, she’ll need the help of the one person she’s been afraid to see since her fall from grace: Zoe Forrester, the heir to a hidden journal that holds the key - and Chase’s ex-girlfriend.

A contemporary homage to the best adventure stories of literature, television, and film, Marah Chase and the Conqueror’s Tomb is an action-packed, globe-trotting quest, perfect for anyone who’s ever thought Indy really ought to be Jewish, female, and gay.

Marah Chase and the Conqueror's Tomb was published by Pegasus Books on 2nd July 2019 and you can buy it from Waterstones, Amazon UK, Amazon US and other good bookshops.

My Review:

This was my first book by Jay Stringer, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew it was going to be different from my usual read, but the blurb really appealed to me. And I'm so pleased I went for it, because I loved it.

This was a complicated story line (for me, anyway 😀), which I needed to focus on. But that was easily done, because this is a fun action packed tale full of colourful characters. And it is absolutely begging to be made into a movie - the references to Indiana Jones (with an added dash of National Treasure, I reckon) in the blurb are justified, but Marah has her own kick ass way of doing things!

The story begins in Syria, where relic hunter Chase is separated from her colleague and friend Ryan whilst trying to outrun the mercenaries chasing them. And from there, things just get crazier!

Marah is tasked by MI6 to find an ancient weapon with an immense power. A weapon from stories and myth - Hitler and Ian Fleming both get a mention - that it seems actually exists. And The Church of Ancient Science has plans for the weapon that need to be stopped...

I loved Marah. She's very much her own woman, confident, capable and sassy. And whilst she doesn't quite have a girl in every port, she certainly has an interesting love life! I also really liked her pilot pal Chuy Guerrero. He's a charmer with the ladies, and full of tall tales. He's very fond of Marah and their relationship is great.

I can't tell you much about the plot without spoiling it for you! It's full of Egyptian and Greek mythology, some real (if you know what I mean!) and some that the author has made up. All the major characters, and there are a fair few of them, are well drawn and, in the main, really interesting. Some of the MI6 guys are (deliberately) a bit grey though, lol. It's an adrenaline filled story from beginning to end, with moments of genuine peril, when my heart was in my mouth. And there are some epic, and varied, chase scenes!

I loved every minute of this read - it's loads of action packed fun. A great, imaginative story, brilliantly written. I'm not sure if there are any plans for it, but I would love to see more of Marah. Whether that happens or not, I'm very much looking forward to reading more of Stringer's work.

The Author:

Jay Stringer was born in 1980, and he's not dead yet.

He was raised in the Black Country, in England, but has lived in Glasgow for a decade now, and his loyalties are divided.

Jay is dyslexic, and came to the written word as a second language, via comic books, music, and comedy.

As a child, he spent his time dreaming of living in the New York of Daredevil comics and crime fiction, but as an adult he's channelled those dreams into fiction of his own.

Jay writes hard boiled crime stories, dark comedies, and social fiction. His heart beats for the outsider, and for people without a voice. He's coined the term "social pulp fiction" to describe his style.

You can find out more by visiting Jay's website or following him on Twitter.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Orentober - Spotlight on Matt Johnson

Whilst I attempt to catch up with my reviews (it's a losing battle!), I'm visiting the archives (although not that far back) for today's Orentober focus on author Matt Johnson and his Robert Finlay trilogy. I read the first two instalments before I started the blog, but I am sharing my Amazon review of the first book, and my blog review for the third one.


The Author:

Matt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for twenty-five years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1993, and one of the first police officers on the scene of the 1982 Regent's Park bombing, Matt was also at the Libyan People's Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital. Hidden wounds took their toll. In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism. One evening, Matt sat at his computer and started to weave these notes into a work of fiction that he described as having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition.

Wicked Game:

2001. Age is catching up with Robert Finlay, a police officer on the Royalty Protection team based in London. He's looking forward to returning to uniform policing and a less stressful life with his new family. But fate has other plans. Finlay's deeply traumatic, carefully concealed past is about to return to haunt him. A policeman is killed by a bomb blast, and a second is gunned down in his own driveway. Both of the murdered men were former Army colleagues from Finlay's own SAS regiment, and in a series of explosive events, it becomes clear that he is not the ordinary man that his colleagues, friends and new family think he is. And so begins a game of cat and mouse "a wicked game" in which Finlay is the target, forced to test his long-buried skills in a fight against a determined and unidentified enemy. Wicked Game is a taut, action-packed, emotive thriller about a man who might be your neighbor, a man who is forced to confront his past in order to face a threat that may wipe out his future, a man who is willing to do anything to protect the people he loves. But is it too late?

My Thoughts on Wicked Game:

I love crime novels and thrillers, and was made aware of this book on Twitter. I am so pleased I bought it - I loved spending my nights with Matt Johnson and Robert Finlay! Brilliantly written, this book is thrilling and tense, right from the start. In Robert Finlay, Matt has created a totally believable hero - ex SAS, now police and looking forward to a less stressful life in uniform for the sake of his young family. But fate has other ideas, and Finlay's secret past is slowly revealed, and he has to reawaken old memories and skills to protect himself and those he loves. The story moves at a great pace, and there is no time to get bored. There is plenty of 'technical' speak, both army and police, but it is never cumbersome and is presented so the layperson can understand it.

It is clear that the author has personal knowledge of his subject, and I know that Matt has experience in both these areas, and began writing to help deal his PTSD (details on his website). I think this level of personal knowledge is of huge benefit to the book, and helps present events in a very real way. There are very raw moments in the book, where Finlay struggles with how he feels, and the actions he must take, and I thinks this gives us a tiny insight into the minds of the amazing people who work in law enforcement, and the decisions and actions that they must make every day.

I think this is a fantastic well written debut novel and I can't wait to read more from Matt.

Deadly Game:

Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed.
Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered. Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK. On the home front, Finlay’s efforts to protect his wife and child may have been in vain, as an MI5 protection officer uncovers a covert secret service operation that threatens them all…

Aided by new allies, he must not only protect his family but save a colleague from an unseen enemy … and a shocking fate.

Deadly Game is a stunning, terrifying and eye-opening thriller from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

End Game:

The final instalment in the critically acclaimed Robert Finlay series, as his past continues to haunt him...

Robert Finlay seems to have finally left his SAS past behind him and is settled into his new career as a detective. But when the girlfriend of his former SAS colleague and close friend Kevin Jones is murdered, it's clear that Finlay's troubles are far from over. Jones is arrested for the killing, but soon escapes from jail, and Finlay is held responsible for the breakout. Suspended from duty and sure he's being framed too, our hero teams up with MI5 agent Toni Fellowes to find out who's behind the conspiracy. Their quest soon reveals a plot that goes to the very heart of the UK's security services. End Game, the final part in the critically acclaimed Robert Finlay trilogy, sees our hero in an intricately plotted and terrifyingly fast-paced race to uncover the truth and escape those who'd sooner have him dead than be exposed.

My Thoughts on End Game:

I was super excited about this book, because I'm in it! Well, my (other) name is! In 2017, I was lucky enough be the winner of Matt's lot in a huge author auction to raise money for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. Part of the prize was to have my name used in Matt's forthcoming book.

I had been looking forward to this book for ages, having loved the first two in the series, Wicked Game and Deadly Game. And I wasn't disappointed. Time has moved on a bit from the second book, Robert Finlay has a second daughter, and has settled in at work. But then his friend Kevin's girlfriend is murdered and everything goes haywire! Once the action gets going, it doesn't let up.

It can easily be read as a standalone, although there are references back to previous events, but you would enjoy it if you came to it fresh. However, if you get the chance to read the first two then do, because they are well worth it.

I love Finlay. He is such a well written, well rounded character. His love for his wife and daughters shines through, as does his commitment to the job. And his relationship with Kevin is brilliant - complete trust both ways. It was good to see Toni Fellowes back with her no nonsense approach. One of my favourite characters in this series has been Toni's assistant, Nell - a very bright, focused young woman, possibly with autistic tendencies who is incredibly good at her job of researching pretty much anyone or anything. She's a really interesting character.

I don't want to say too much about the story itself for fear of spoiling it. Suffice to say, we meet some slimy individuals and some downright nasty ones, as Findlay fights to help his friend, and himself. And the action doesn't stop til the end.

What makes this series stand out is that it oozes authenticity. Matt Johnson is an ex policeman and has drawn on his own experiences when writing. His story is a really interesting one, and you can find out more at his website.

I am sad that this is the last in the trilogy, and hope this doesn't mean we've heard the last of Bob Finlay. But whatever comes next from Matt, I can't wait to read it.

And my character? Well, that would be telling... You'll need to read it to find out.

You can see my original post here.


All three books are available from Orenda Books and all usual suppliers.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Orentober - Spotlight on Matt Wesolowski

So, October is here which means #Orentober is too! Orentober is a month long celebration of all things Orenda. It's the brainchild of Danielle at The Reading Closet (@book_obsessed1) and Kelly at From Belgium with Book Love (@kellyvandamme), who were themselves inspired by #Fahrenbury, brought to us by Mart at The Beardy Book Blogger (@LaughingGravy71) and Matt at It's An Indie Book Blog (@ThatMattKeyes). I will be sharing reviews, old and new, of books published by Orenda throughout the month.

Orenda Books is a British-based independent publishing house that publishes literary and crime fiction, half of which is in translation. The London-based publisher was established in 2014 by the powerhouse that is Karen Sullivan.

For my first #Orentober post, I'm going back to the beginning of the year when I read the amazing Six Stories series by Matt  Wesolowski and it was like nothing I'd ever read before. 

The Author:

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK and US based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror story set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WH Smith Fresh Talent pick, and TV rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. 

Six Stories:

One body. Six stories. Which one is true?

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame…

As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth.

A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

My Thoughts on Six Stories

"It's well paced, intelligent, absorbing, beautifully written, atmospheric, dark and creepy as anything. And I did not see that ending coming - blew me away!"

You can read my full review here.


A family massacre. A deluded murderess. Five witnesses. Six stories. Which one is true?

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the north west of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, father and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.

King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was a diminished as her legal team made out.

As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess…

Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller, that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.

My Thoughts on Hydra:

 "Suffice to say, in my opinion, it's another triumph for a fabulous new voice in crime fiction. Inventive, creepy, disturbing and authentic. A must read!"

You can read my full review here


On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the dark Wentshire Forest Pass, when his father, Sorrel, stopped the car to investigate a mysterious knocking sound. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.

Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. Journeying through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there, he talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know what happened to the little boy…

Intensely dark, deeply chilling and searingly thought provoking, Changeling is the latest in the critically acclaimed, international bestselling Six Stories series, written as six Serial-style podcasts, and which are being adapted for TV by a major US studio.

My Thoughts on Changeling:

 "It's original, dark, atmospheric, immersive, chilling and authentic. Phenomenal - yes, I know I've used it before... Matt is a huge talent..."

You can read my full review here

So there you have it. Please do check out the reviews - I actually ran out of wonderful things to say about these books (and Matt's writing), and raved about them to everyone. You can buy them directly from Orenda and all usual outlets (some links are provided in the original reviews).

And the REALLY EXCITING news is that a fourth instalment in the series is coming in February, and it sounds AMAZING! Take a look below:


Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the legendary local ‘vampire tower’, in another explosive episode of Six Stories…

In the wake of the 'Beast from the East' cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as 'The Vampire Tower', where she was later found frozen to death.

Three young men, part of an alleged 'cult', were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a 'prank gone wrong'
However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton's death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.

Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses – people who knew both the victim and the three killers – to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, the tragic and chilling legend of the ‘Ergarth Vampire…

Both a compulsive, taut and terrifying thriller, and a bleak and distressing look at modern society's desperation for attention, Beast will unveil a darkness from which you may never return…

See, I told you - it sounds amazing! It's available to pre order now, and I can't wait. Why don't you catch up with the others so you'll be ready for Beast? 

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

The Man in the Dark by Jonathan Whitelaw

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Man in the Dark. I signed up to it months ago, but the timing is perfect as I had the pleasure of meeting author Jonathan Whitelaw just two days ago at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival, which was brilliant. Huge thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my review copy.

The Blurb:

The Devil's back - and he's STILL not had a holiday.

There's another mystery to solve - a woman kidnapped by terrorists and the world trying to find her. While he hates doing God's bidding, The Devil can't resist trying to put one over on Him. But nothing is EVER that simple.

While the Devil helps the London cops crack the case, there's trouble in the Underworld. And two of humanity's greatest backstabbers - Brutus and Cassius - are sharpening their knives with an eye on stealing his crown.

It's a race against time to find the girl, be the bad guy and maybe stop the apocalypse.

The Man in the Dark will be published by Urbane Publications Ltd on 26th September 2019. You can pre order it from Waterstones and Amazon.

My Review:

Like the first book in the series, this has a stylish cover. Bold and blocky, the red from Hellcorp has been replaced by a bright
blue. Love it.

This is the second book in the series, but you can easily read it as a standalone. However, Hellcorp is a lot of fun so you might want to pick that up first - check out my review here.

The Devil is back in The Man in the Dark. He still hasn't had the holiday he desperately wants, and he's not best pleased about that. But before he can get it, Him Upstairs needs another favour done on earth - to solve a crime. The Devil isn't that inclined to help out, until Brutus and Cassius point out it might do his public image the world of good.

Courtesy of Him Upstairs, The Devil arrives on earth, London to be more precise, naked in an airing cupboard. Moments before a police raid on the property, where he is arrested on suspicion of kidnapping.  It's not an auspicious start for him. Fortunately, he gains an ally, although somewhat begrudgingly, in no nonsense Detective Sergeant Laurie.

But things in London are getting a bit odd. Hell isn't faring too well either and even Upstairs things are slightly askew at the celestial club house. And it's distinctly possible that Brutus and Cassius might have something to do with it...

The Man in the Dark is, appropriately, darker than Hellcorp. Much darker. But this is still a very humorous book designed to make you laugh. As you might expect, the Lord of Darkness doesn't have any social graces, and is refreshingly rude, obnoxious and impatient - I couldn't help but like him! He has a brilliant foil in Laurie, who doesn't have any problem standing up to him. And he in turn learns her more about humanity.

The action and danger have been ramped up significantly since Hellcorp and I really enjoyed that. This is end of the world chaos, and there is still a crime to solve...

Whitelaw clearly has a brilliant imagination and has pulled the different threads of the story together really well. He's had fun with his characterisation of both the Devil and God, who plays a bigger role than previously.  And Him Upstairs doesn't often look like we might expect Him too - I loved the surprises. Again, whilst irreverent, this is never offensive.

I found this book a bit of a treat - the same with Hellcorp. When you read as much crime as I do, it's nice to read something a bit lighter. As I said, this is dark, but it's also a fun romp of a story that had me smiling frequently. I'm definitely developing a soft spot for the Lord of the Underworld!

The Author:

With lovely author Jonathan Whitelaw at Bloody Scotland 2019. 
Jonathan Whitelaw is an author, journalist and broadcaster. After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture and sport to fashion, music and even radioactive waste with everything in between. He's also a regular reviewer and talking head on shows for the BBC and STV. The Man in the Dark is his third novel.

Author Social Media Links:

Website: https://urbanepublications.com/authors/jonathan-whitelaw/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JDWhitelaw13
FB Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/JonathanWhitelawAuthor/

Remember to check out all the stops on the tour!

Monday, 23 September 2019

Hellcorp by Jonathan Whitelaw

I bought this book a good while ago but hadn't got around to reading it. So when the invitation came to join the blog tour for the follow up, The Man in the Dark (review here), it seemed like the perfect time to read both.

The Blurb:

"Hellcorp sparkles like a blood-black diamond. Satan's got his work cut out in this darkly comic crime tale. A cracking read!" - Mark Leggatt

"Hellcorp combines suspense, humour, and philosophy in a startlingly unique novel. Whitelaw delights and entertains while leaving readers contemplating life's important issues. Don't miss this razor-sharp book.'' - International bestseller K.J. Howe, author of The Freedom Broker and Skyjack

Life is hard for The Devil and he desperately wants to take a holiday. Growing weary from playing the cosmic bad guy, he resolves to set up a company that will do his job for him so the sins of the world will tick over while he takes a vacation. God tells him he can have his vacation just as soon as he solves an ancient crime.

But nothing is ever easy and before long he is up to his pitchfork in solving murders, desperate to crack the case so he can finally take the holiday he so badly needs...

This is a perfectly-pitched darkly comic crime novel that is ideal for fans of Christopher Fowler and Ben Aaranovitch.

Hellcorp was published by Urbane Publications Limited on 5th July 2018. You can purchase it from Waterstones, Amazon UK, Amazon US and other good bookshops.

My Review:

As always for me, I was attracted to this book by the blurb. But in this case, it was also the cover that did it. To be honest, I'm not often particularly influenced by a cover, unless in a negative way where it puts me off completely. However, I love Hellcorp's bold, bright, blocky look.

I knew I had made a good decision by the end of the prologue. At the end of a long, tiring day, the Pope lets out a huge, satisfying fart... just before the Devil arrives to tell him that he's legitimising Hell as a business, with its headquarters in Edinburgh. Obviously.

The author has clearly had some fun writing this. The Devil is fed up - his days seem to be full of paperwork and bureaucratic nonsense, which sounds Hellish, and he wants a holiday, so is setting up a business to take care of the work for him. But God, or Him as He is referred to here, is still The Boss and He has something to say about it all. Before the Devil can take his holiday, God wants him to solve the mystery of an attack on a human man forty years previously. We don't see much of Heaven - all the meetings between God and the Devil take place on a celestial golf course, which  would actually be my idea of Hell, but that's a personal thing.

The Devil wakes up injured on earth, in hospital in Glasgow, in a male human body with none of his spiritual powers but a whole lot of attitude. Dr Jill Gideon is strangely drawn to him, and intrigued by a message on a bouquet of flowers by his bed. She agrees to help him in his quest, and chaos ensues.

The Devil is brilliant. He's rude, unthinking, obnoxious and generally horrible, but I couldn't help liking him. And he likes big bottoms, which is always a good thing.  Gideon is whisked along in the madness, generally trying to smooth over the mess the Devil makes, but is not afraid to stand up him or share a piece of her mind. She teaches the Devil a little bit about humanity, and in turn learns a little bit about the afterlife. And who knew that Beethoven loves nothing better than a good game of darts?! And back in Hell, The Devil's secretary Alice is a woman to be reckoned with. Large, sassy and sexy, she rocks!

There's lots of action, lots of awkward social situations, lots of laughs and a few poignant moments in this original and fun book. It's certainly irreverent, but never offensive, and both God and the Devil come out of it rather well, I thought. It was slightly let down by some poor proofreading/copy editing, but overall I loved it and am looking forward to reading the follow up, The Man in the Dark.

The Author:

Thanks to Mrs W for the photo. 

Jonathan Whitelaw is an author, journalist and broadcaster.

After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture and sport to fashion, music and even radioactive waste - with everything in between.

He's also a regular reviewer and talking head on shows for the BBC and STV.

HellCorp is his second novel following his debut, Morbid Relations.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Morecambe & Vice Crime Writing Festival - Spotlight on Paul Burston

I am really delighted to be one of the bloggers opening the tour for Morecambe & Vice, which takes place at The Midland Hotel in  Morecambe on 28th & 29th September 2019.  You can find out more about the festival and book tickets here: https://www.morecambecrimefest.co.uk/  And I'm thrilled to be showcasing fabulous author Paul Burston, a man who knows how to carry off a natty hat!

I was lucky enough to read Paul's latest book, psychological thriller The Closer I Get, a couple of months ago and absolutely loved it. Before I re share my review of it, let's find out a bit more about Paul. 

Paul Burston is the author of six novels and the editor of two short story collections. The Black Path, was a WHSmith bestseller. His first novel, Shameless, was shortlisted for the State of Britain Award. His third novel, Lovers & Losers was shortlisted for a Stonewall Award. His fourth, The Gay Divorcee, was optioned for television. He was a founding editor of Attitude magazine and has written for many publications including Guardian, Independent, Time Out, The Times and  Sunday Times. In March 2016, he was featured in the British Council’s #FiveFilms4Freedom Global List 2016, celebrating “33 visionary people who are promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights around the world”. He is the founder and host of London’s award-winning LGBT+ literary salon Polari and founder and chair of The Polari First Book Prize for new writing and the newly announced Polari Prize.

I asked Paul a few, rather random, questions - he came back really quickly with some great, interesting answers. Thanks Paul! 

Did you always want to be a writer, or was there a particular point, or person, that set you on that road? 
I’ve always written stories, since I was at junior school. I had an English teacher, Mrs Price, who encouraged me to write. So I wrote adventure stories about a boy named Jim and would read them out in class. I was bullied as a result - but they didn’t beat it out of me. 

You had personal experience of a stalker. Did you find writing The Closer I Get to be a cathartic experience, or was it emotionally difficult because of memories it brought back? 
It was a bit of both, at least to begin with. Reliving the impact of the stalking was essential because I wanted the book to be emotionally truthful. But what I found was that, as I wrote it, the process of fictionalising the story gave me control and that in turn gave me closure. I used to harbour a lot resentment towards the person who stalked me. Now I just pity them. 

If The Closer I Get was made into a film, what three songs or pieces of music would be on the soundtrack? 
- Morrissey - The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get
- Blondie - The Tide Is High
- Kate Bush - Aerial 
All three are referenced in the book.

Who would be your ideal dinner party guests? Please name four people, alive or dead, and tell us why.
- David Bowie - I met him, briefly in 2003. I’d love to continue our conversation - only this time I’d be sober.
- Marlon Brando - because he was a fascinating man who changed the face of film acting.
- Kate Bush - because she’s one of the few musicians I grew up worshiping who I haven’t met or interviewed. And I’m told she’s great fun. 
- Joan Crawford - because she was a fighter who overcame huge odds and had a strong work ethic. She was a gay ally long before it became fashionable - and she loved a party. 

What one book so you recommend to everyone and why?
Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s the book I turn to whenever I think I’m losing the plot or convinced I’ll never be able to finish my latest work in progress. He’s an inspiration. 

In case you aren't familiar with Paul's book The Closer I Get, here's the information:

Tom is a successful author, but for the first time in  his life, he has writer’s block. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone. Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her sick father and her social media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has. When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world collapses, whilst Tom is free to live his life again, and to concentrate on writing.

But things aren’t adding up. For Tom is also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he’s powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on.

A compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological thriller, The Closer I Get is also a searing commentary on the fragility and insincerity of online  relationships, and the danger that can lurk on the other side of a screen…

The Closer I Get is published by Orenda Books, and was released as an eBook on 11th May 2019 and as a paperback on 11th July 2019. You can purchase it from the publisher, Waterstones, Amazon UK, Amazon US and other good bookshops.

And to wrap up my wee spotlight on Paul, here's my review of the book:

Oh. My. Goodness. This is some book. It's dark and disturbing. And it's relevant. We all know about internet trolls, people who say vicious things about others on social media, often having never even met their target. And then there are some folk who take things a step further. To stalking online and maybe in real life too.

The story is told by both Evie and Tom, so we hear from the stalker and her victim. Each character gets their own chapters, and we switch backwards and forwards between them, which kept me both on my toes, and interested. But Evie's version of events is very different from Tom's. In fact, just about the only thing they agree on is that Evie came to one of Tom's book signings.

Everything seems obvious. Tom is a victim, and Evie is delusional, twisting the truth to fit her version of reality. But is everything as clear cut as it initially seems?

I warmed to Tom pretty much from the get go.. He is an author after all, and authors are my rock stars! But he is struggling because of all this nonsense with Evie - he can't write anything, and has become anxious and paranoid. The only person he trusts is his best friend Emma. He has pages and pages of printouts showing Evie Stokes' vicious, bullying tweets and Facebook shares. He's an innocent victim. Tom is easily relatable - I felt sorry for him, although I didn't always like the way he treated other people, but other than that, he was OK. BUT my opinion of him changed as I progressed through the book and learned a wee bit more about him.

And Evie? Evie is hard to like. She is clearly obsessed with Tom - pretty much her every thought and action is related to him, and she . She seems to be deluded, but is at as clear cut as that? There have been difficulties in her life, but it was hard to be sympathetic towards her - she's not a very nice person - and there was one huge OMG moment for me with her!

But both characters are so beautifully written. I felt I really knew them, was utterly absorbed and invested in what happened to them. I also have to mention Colin, a small player in the story but, for me at least, one who really stands out.

I found the whole story claustrophobic, chilling and compelling - my heart was in my mouth more than once. I didn't see where it was going, at all, which made the denouement all the better! There is twist upon twist in this book, so The ending was such a surprise. I still don't think I knew the entire truth, I still have questions, but that's OK. It means I'm still thinking about it now and may well revisit it.

Overall, I loved it. Dark, powerful and relevant, The Closer I Get might be a piece of fiction, but it shows the very real potential danger of online relationships, how they can be toxic, and how we all need to be vigilant in what we share on social media.

Huge thanks to Sarah Hardy at Book on the Bright Side Publicity for inviting me to take part in this tour, and to Paul for answering my questions!

Be sure to check out the other bloggers on the tour - there will be a different author highlighted each time!

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Moorings by David Blake

Today I'm delighted to be one of the bloggers opening the tour for the latest in the DI Tanner series from David Blake. My thanks to Sarah Hardy at Book on the Bright Side Publicity & Promo for inviting me and to the author for my review copy.

The Blurb:


A war veteran murdered in his home, a property developer with links to organised crime, and an old family secret that seems unwilling to stay dead.

When Harry Falcon, a wealthy boatyard owner and highly decorated World War Two veteran, is found drowned in his bath, DI John Tanner and DC Jenny Evans start by questioning his two sons, each with a motive for wanting him dead.

But when the elder son is found with his head smashed in under a toppled yacht, and the younger son has been talking to a local property developer, one who’d spent months trying to buy the yard from his father, the investigation soon leads them towards a dark and dangerous secret, one which nobody can quite believe.

Set within the mysterious beauty of the Norfolk Broads, this fast-paced British detective series is a dark cozy murder mystery with a slice of humour and a touch of romance, one that will have you guessing until the very end, when the last shocking twist is finally revealed.

Moorings is a totally addictive gripping crime thriller, the third in a chilling series of serial killer books, ones which will rapidly convert followers of L J Ross, Faith Martin, Joy Ellis, Damien Boyd and Helen H. Durrant into David Blake devotees.

Moorings is published today by Black Oak Publishing Ltd.

My Review:

I really enjoyed Broadland and St Benet's (reviews via links), the first two books in this series set in and around the Norfolk Broads so was keen to get my hands on this new one. Before I tell you my thoughts, can I just say that I love this cover. I've liked them all, but think this is my favourite - maybe because it has a lot of purply blue in it and purple is my fave. 💜 Anyway, it's eye catching.

The first thing to say is although this is the third book in a series, it can easily be read as a standalone - background information is supplied as and when needed - enough for someone new to the series, but not so much that those who've read the previous books would be bored or irritated.

A bit of time has passed since the events at the end of St Benet's, and John and Jenny's relationship has moved on too. So much so, they've bought a boat together and live in it, moored up on the Norfolk Broads. They are still working together too, but things have been so quiet lately that they're given a box of old missing person files to work through. They've barely had time to glance at the first one when they are needed for a much more recent case. A brand new one, in fact.

An elderly boatyard owner is murdered in his bath, and Tanner is instructed to lead the investigation. As he, Jenny and the rest of the team begin to investigate the man, his children and grandchildren, they find there's not a lot of love, but instead a fair amount of animosity and the possibility of some money worries. There's also a bullish property developer on the scene who had wanted to buy the boatyard...

It was great to see Tanner and Jenny back - they have an easy relationship and great rapport. The various members of the Falcon family were well described - James Falcon was particularly unlikeable. I love that this series is set on the Norfolk Broads - it's not an area I know well, but I've been there a few times and have even been out on the Broads in a boat. I found it to be a still, eerie place, and there are moments in the book like that. And much of the jeopardy in this book takes place on the water.

The early part of the story is taken up with a lot of investigative work, making this a slow burner. But it heats up as the tale moves on. Things take a really quite dark turn towards the end, and I didn't see what was coming until about  ten seconds before it was revealed. There was also added depth and interest with a second plotline relating to something from Tanner's past.

This series is described as cosy (sorry, I know the term is 'cozy', but I'm sticking with the British spelling) crime. It's not a label I'm particularly fond of, and I discussed this in my review of St Benet's. I guess this is a little 'cosier' than that book, but it's still pretty chilling towards the end.

This was an easy, enjoyable read, and a good addition to the series.

The Author:

David is a full-time author living in North London. To date he has written sixteen books along with a collection of short stories. Moorings is the next in his series of crime fiction thrillers, after Broadland and St. Benet’s.

When not writing, David likes to spend his time mucking about in boats, often in the Norfolk Broads, where his crime fiction books are based.

Author Social Media Links:

Website: www.david-blake.com
Amazon Profile: viewAuthor.at/DavidBlake
Facebook Readers’ Group: www.facebook.com/groups/DavidBlakeAuthor
Facebook Site: www.facebook.com/DavidBlakeAuthor
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/15104629.David_Blake

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