Monday, 31 December 2018

Goodbye 2018 - Looking back

So, 2018 was a bit of an up and down year for me.

On the up side, I went to loads of book events, including three festivals, met lots of awesome people and started this here little blog. That in turn introduced me to a fabulous community of book bloggers, who have been supportive and encouraging. I did my first paid editing work, started using Instagram, did my first blog tours and was a character in a book!

But on the down side, I've had a couple of health issues, both mental and physical. Nothing too serious, but there were some difficult periods during the year, including the last two months, where my reading and the blog suffered. But with some counselling, sleep, medication and self care, I'm much improved in all areas, and feeling positive going into the new year.

I didn't meet my Goodreads target of 100 books, which surprised me, so next year I'm aiming to keep better records, in case that had something to do with it. And I'm hanging my head in shame as I 'be read none of the twelve books in my TBC (THE Book Club on Facebook) 2018 challenge! None. Not one. Pathetic. Maybe I'll get a wooden spoon or something! So I'm carrying those forward to read in 2019, along with those for the new challenge, when it's set.

As a result of all that, I'm not going to do a Top 10 or Best Of list. Instead I'm going to share some of the books I have enjoyed this year, just in the order they appeared on the blog. You can find my original posts, including reviews, by clicking on the titles.

1. The Pursuit of Ordinary by Nigel Jay Cooper

2. End Game by Matt Johnson

3. Presumed Dead by Mason Cross

4. Unbroken by Madeleine Black

5. Savage Lies by Peter Boland

6. The After Wife by Cass Hunter

 7. The Janus Run by Douglas Skelton

There are only seven standout books listed here but there were so many. I couldn't pick a favourite Keith Nixon book - I think I've read seven this year. Same with David Blake and Sarah Dahl (although the numbers are smaller here). Another fab thing was that I discovered loads of new (to me) authors - three of the seven highlighted above fall into that category. I also loved Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh and The Suffering of Strangers by Caro Ramsay, but as these are still  to be reviewed, they will feature in next year's selection. There wasn't enough time to read even a fraction of what I wanted to read, so some of this year's crackers are on next year's list - more on that tomorrow - so I 'm hoping my reading mojo keeps up!

I was lucky enough to go to heaps of fabulous book related events and cosy up to some gorgeous, talented people. One big highlight of my year is the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival, held in Stirling in September. You can find my post about it here, and a selection of my pictures are below.

The Sunday after Bloody Scotland, I spent a lovely afternoon at the four events which closed the Tidelines Book Festival in Irvine. My wee photo montage is below and the review is here.

My final festival of the year was The Wee Crime Festival in Grantown-On-Spey in November. Organised by Majory (who is a wee dynamite) of The Bookmark bookshop, this is a smaller scale, more intimate festival. This was my first year there and I will definitely be back. Unfortunately, as my health took a bit of a nosedive on my return, there isn't a post about it, but I do have a montage of pics.

You might notice some pics of the same folks dressed up in all three montages. This is because one of the Carry On Sleuthing plays by Douglas Skelton was performed at each festival! So much fun.

I also went to a couple of sessions at the Aye Write festival in Glasgow in March (in the days before the blog), and several book launches and different events, and basically just had the best time! Looking forward to more of the same in 2019!

Thank you so much for supporting my wee blog, it means loads to me - especially as it's so new and I 'm still finding my feet with it. . And be sure to sign up to follow it, so you don't miss anything. 

Tomorrow, I 'll be looking ahead to the forthcoming year. See you then.

Friday, 21 December 2018

The Songbird Girls by Richard Parker

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Songbird Girls by Richard Parker. I was delighted to have the opportunity to read this, as I loved Richard's previous Tom Fabian book, Never Say Goodbye. My thanks to Noelle Holten at Bookoutre for inviting me to take part and for providing my review copy. The Songbird Girls was published on 19th December 2018.

The Blurb:

Her eyes were closed. From a distance the blood around her neck might have looked like a necklace, but up close her body told a different tale. She had been murdered. A tiny songbird lay beside her, its neck broken…

Detective Tom Fabian's past is catching up with him. It has been years since the most high-profile case of his career – when his evidence put infamous serial killer Christopher Wisher behind bars forever. But when Wisher summons a reluctant Fabian to his prison cell to hand over a diary, he realises that Wisher’s twisted games are far from over.

Fabian is desperate to find the killer before another innocent life is taken. But as more bodies turn up, Fabian begins to realise that Wisher may have handed him the clues before he died. Is the twisted serial killer still pulling the strings from beyond the grave…?

Buying Links:


My Review:

This is the second book in the Tom Fabian series, but can easily be read as a standalone. However, if you are going to read the first one, Never Say Goodbye (see my review here) too, and you should because it's great, I suggest you read the two in order. 

Fabian is called to a murder scene, and a dead bird has been left next to the body. It is reminiscent of the crimes of Christopher Wisher, who Tom helped put in jail several years earlier, but not before he has murdered nine people. But the songbird detail of his crimes was never released to the public, so how can the new perpetrator know about the birds?

Wisher calls Fabian to the prison and passes him a cryptic diary, with entries for future dates. Can Tom make sense of it? A few days later, Wisher takes his own life. And whilst all this is going on, Tom's daughter Tilly has a new boyfriend she really likes...

Phew! There is lots going on in this story! It's one of those where I can't say too much without giving spoilers. As Tom and his team investigate the murders and Wisher's death, they come across a big cast of characters, many of whom have secrets of their own to hide, and are led up one or two blind alleys.

Tom Fabian is beautifully written. He's an ordinary man, doing an extraordinary job. He's principled, loyal and determined to find the truth. But he's not without his flaws, which just make him easier to identify with. Wisher, although not featured much himself, is a huge part of the story, and I found him fascinating and intriguing, in a creepy way.

The pace is fabulous, the suspense ramps up to a great finale and maybe a wee hint of more to come? I sure hope so. I read this almost in one sitting as I was so keen to find out what happened next. It's another winner from Richard Parker.

The Author:

Richard Parker was formerly a TV script writer, script editor and producer before turning his hand to penning twisted stand-alone thrillers.

Author Social Media Links:


Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Start by Graham Morgan

I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for this important and brave book. My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group Tours for inviting me to take part, and to the author and publisher for my review copy and author content.

Before I share an excerpt, here's a little bit about the book.

The Blurb:

Graham Morgan has an MBE for services to mental health, and helped to write the Scottish Mental Health (2003) Care and Treatment Act. This is the Act under which he is now detained.

Graham’s story addresses key issues around mental illness, a topic which is very much in the public sphere at the moment. However, it addresses mental illness from a perspective that is not heard frequently: that of those whose illness is so severe that they are subject to the Mental Health Act.

Graham’s is a positive story rooted in the natural world that Graham values greatly, which shows that, even with considerable barriers, people can work and lead responsible and independent lives; albeit with support from friends and mental health professionals. Graham does not gloss over or glamourise mental illness, instead he tries to show, despite the devastating impact mental illness can have both on those with the illness and those that are close to them, that people can live full and positive lives. A final chapter, bringing the reader up to date some years after Graham has been detained again, shows him living a fulfilling and productive life with his new family, coping with the symptoms that he still struggles to accept are an illness, and preparing to address the United Nations later in the year in his new role working with the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.

Start was published by Fledgling Press on 10th October 2018 and is available from Waterstones, Amazon UK and Amazon US.

And here's a short extract from the book:


I have never sat by someone I love with all my heart and wondered whether the next day that person will have killed themself. 

I have never been laughing with someone I love, taking a rare break by the shore in Leith, having a drink on the quayside while our son sleeps peacefully in the car, only to have to hear that love suddenly reveal that the beautiful sparkles on the water are spirits staring at him, warping his thoughts, that he needs to go back to the house, that he needs to be with the sacredness of the wood and the soil. That he will live under the floorboards of the house and fight a battle with the evil spirits, that there is nothing wrong with him but this fight and that he needs no help and no medication and that it will be all alright.

As I write this I am aghast at how blind I am at what I did. 

I have spent a page or so saying that my wife was abusive in some ways and so, if she was that, what was I?

What was I when I would sit blankly, sullenly in the chair at home, on those rare occasions when I agreed to come up out of the dirt and the dark, dressed up in oilies and hats because they were protecting me from the thoughts that were being altered by the spirits? And she would sit and try to persuade me to eat. 

What was I doing when I would try to stub cigarettes out on my hands only to be stopped by the sobs of my wife begging me not to?

What was I when I refused medication, refused to go to hospital and then decided to go to hospital after all, only to be held back by my wife who said she would love me, look after me, keep me safe, keep me from the horrors I went into when I was in hospital?  

And she did keep me safe, did stop me from descending, full flood into terror. And she looked after our son when he would toddle up to the trapdoor I used and point down and say, 'Daddy.’ 

She would hold our son when I would look at him and burst out crying, and she would hold me later when I would allow myself to be held, and is it any wonder that she was exhausted and tired and angry?

Is it any wonder that as those years went by she found herself with someone she loved but thought of as alien, as a stranger? Someone, who, now he was on medication, and who, when she cuddled up to him at night, she found even smelled different?

Is it any wonder that she became more distant when I was held back in the hospital after attending the day clinic, having been found with a razor blade, about to cut my wrist; speaking to them, convincing them that she had the strength, the ability to look after me at home. That being away from family, being confined to a ward would only make me worse, make my existence all that more terribly risky, that much more a matter of life and death. That she would be strong again and in between caring for and loving my son, bringing laughter into his life, she would be there for me. The person she no longer knew but who she loved and treasured and who she so much wanted to come back to her, to come back to her as the gentle, skinny, smiley, passionate person she once knew.

Wow! Such honest, raw, powerful words. And a book well worth reading.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Keep Her Close by Erik Therme

I am delighted to be sharing my review of Keep Her Close by Erik Therme as part of the blog tour. My thanks to Erik, and to Noelle at Bookoutre for inviting me to take part and providing my review copy. 

The Blurb:

Someone took your daughter. And nobody believes you…

Three-year-old Ally was found alone in a parking lot.
She was barefoot and dressed only in a yellow sundress. In the middle of winter.
What kind of person would abandon their daughter?

Fifteen years later and Ally has a new family.
But her real father has sent her a letter.
And now Ally is missing. 

A gripping twist-filled thriller that will have you looking over your shoulder. Perfect for fans of Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and Teresa Driscoll. 

Keep Her Close was published by Bookoutre on 5th December 2018. 

Buying Links:


My Review:

Well, this is a twisty turny one! It's my first taste of Therme's work, but it certainly won't be my last.

The opening scene is desperately sad. A little girl, barefoot and all alone in a multi storey car park. Standing on a dirty piece of cardboard marked with the words 'Free to a good home.' My heart broke.

We then jump years into the future, or rather the present as the opening was in the past. Does that make sense? Anyway, that wee girl is called Ally, is now eighteen and has just moved away from home to go to college. Although now divorced, Ally's adoptive parents Dan and Holly clearly have a very strong love for their daughter. Dan is particularly protective of her.

When she received a letter which seems to be from her birth father, Ally is naturally curious, and keen to meet him. But things very definitely don't go to plan. Dan and Holly can't find their daughter, but they do meet Cal, who tells them he is Ally's boyfriend, and has been encouraging her to find out more about her birth father. Dan is not impressed!

I have read a few books recently featuring teenagers or young adults, and as the mother of two teenagers - boys in my case - there has frequently been a feeling of 'There but by the grace of God go I.' This book was no exception. It was easy to write Ally off as being naive, and her lack of street smarts are referenced a number of times in the book. But imagine you are only eighteen, and although you love your parents fiercely, you have no real sense of who you are or where you come from. I think many of us would react as Ally did when she received a letter from someone claiming to be her real father. Of course she was desperate to find out more.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you much about what happens as it would contain spoilers, but clearly things don't go as Ally imagined they would. Her search for the truth takes her into a series of difficult situations with a seriously disturbed person. In the meantime, father Dan is following boyfriend Cal, determined that he knows more than he's telling. Dan tends to act without thinking, and automatically thinks the worst about everyone he meets in the search for his daughter. So he is also getting himself  into some sticky situations. That frustrated me about him - I really got quite cross with him - but I admired his powerful love for his daughter and their strong father/daughter bond, despite there being no blood ties.

One of the things I loved about this book is that many of characters we meet aren't who we necessarily think they are when we first come across them. These are complex, multi layered folk, and I didn't feel that the 'baddies' were necessarily all bad. There tended to be reasons, however skewed these might be, for their actions. These characters are all so well written, it was easy to feel their anger, grief, loss and joy.

Ally is described perfectly - an intelligent young woman taking her first steps into womanhood, but who also retains her youthful innocence, and tendency to see/look for the best in everyone. I like to think I do that too (but without the youthful innocence, sadly!), but as Ally discovers it can lead to trouble. But I found myself rooting for her all the way through.

In short, I really enjoyed this book. It's well written, certainly tense, and takes us down some blind allies before the really quite messy (action, not writing!) climax . I kept turning the pages because I was desperate to know what happened to Ally. It's a fabulous psychological thriller which intrigues all the way through. But hug your teenagers extra tight tonight, if they'll let you.  

The Author

Erik Therme has thrashed in garage bands, inadvertently harboured runaways, and met Darth Vader. When he’s not at his computer, he can be found cheering for his youngest daughter’s volleyball team, or watching horror movies with his seventeen-year-old. He currently resides in Iowa City, Iowa - one of only twenty places in the world UNESCO has certified as a City of Literature.

Author Social Media Links:

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

The Silk Road by Mark Leggatt

I was so excited to have the chance to read and review The Silk Road, the latest book by Mark Leggatt. Big thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group Tours for inviting me to take part, and to Mark and Fledgling Press for my review copy.

The Blurb:

Third in the Connor Montrose series by Mark Leggatt, following on from the success of Names of the Dead and The London Cage.

Ex-CIA technician Connor Montrose tracks two suspected terrorists to a deserted mountain village in Tuscany, where he witnesses an attack on a US Air Force troop plane, using a ground-breaking portable Surface to Air (SAM) missile. Unaware that the CIA were also monitoring the suspects, Montrose is blamed for the attack and narrowly escapes. The CIA receive orders from Washington to shoot him on sight, and a shadowy organisation begins to track his every move.

Then a spate of terror attacks threatens the fabric of NATO and the entire Western alliance. Civilian airlines are the new target, and the overwhelming evidence points to a CIA false flag plan to bring down aircraft and blame it on Moscow-backed terrorists. Montrose’s investigations lead him to underground arms sales on The Silk Road, the secret marketplace of the internet, hidden deep in the Dark Web. Montrose must assimilate himself into the society of the European aristocracy and the ultra-rich fascists, assisted by Kirsty Rhys, to pose as a middleman for the purchase of arms on The Silk Road and find the remaining cache of missiles. Montrose uncovers the layers of duplicity between governments and arms dealers, leading first to the CIA in Rome, and eventually to the palaces of the last Russia Tsar and the new oligarchs. Montrose must discover the remaining cache of missiles before the CIA catch up with him, and before carnage is unleashed over the skies of Europe.

The Silk Road was published by Fledgling Press on 1st October 2018. You can buy it from Waterstones and Amazon UK and US.

My Review:

The Silk Road is the third in the Connor Montrose series, but my first. The other two, signed copies no less, are on my ever expanding TBR pile. Sorry Mark! Whilst there is clearly a back story of how Montrose came to be working with the mysterious Mr Pilgrim and why the CIA, and just about every other agency, really don't like him, but I didn't feel too disadvantaged. That said, I will definitely be reading Names of the Dead and The London Cage.

We are thrust straight into the action and it doesn't let up. It's bullet ridden, explosive, razor sharp. We follow Connor, and Kirsty, across Europe, and all the places they visit are gloriously described. I could almost feel the dust in the opening scenes in Tuscany.

I love that there are a couple of strong women featured in a cast of mainly men. Kirsty is just fantastic - tough, ballsy, shameless, clever, fearless - basically she's a total kick ass. And she gives the best comebacks. Much of the humour in the book comes from her - I caught myself smiling more than once. I loved the references to James Bond and The Blues Brothers - a personal favourite. And I learned a new word in 'hochmagandy' - I will be dropping it into future conversations at every opportunity!

The plot is nicely complex - kept me turning page after page, desperate to know what happens, but it was never too confusing. The shadowy organisation, that we never learn much about, was well creepy, particularly it's  deeply unpleasant leader. But also unpleasant was Campbell, from the CIA at Langley. He really made me quite cross, and when Napier says '... and shove it straight up that shiny-faced bastard's ass!' (I won't tell you what he wants to shove...), I am right with him!

This is intelligent, exciting and taut - not a word is wasted. Full of flying bullets and explosions, it's action packed. And beautifully written. I loved it. Montrose is an engaging hero, but his team are just as interesting. I can't wait to see what they get up to next but, in the meantime, I'm going back to where it all started.

The Author:

Mark Leggatt was born in Lochee, Dundee and lives in Edinburgh. A former specialist in Disaster Recovery for oil companies and global banks, his career has taken him around Europe, especially Paris, where he lived for a number of years. History and modern global conspiracy lie at the heart of his work, and are the backdrop for the adventures of CIA technician Connor Montrose. Leggatt is a member of the Crime Writers Association in the UK, and the International Thriller Writers in the USA.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Bury the Bodies by Keith Nixon

I was delighted to get an early review copy of this book, the fourth in the Solomon Gray series, having loved the previous three. Huge thanks to Keith for my copy.

The Blurb:

A missing son, a web of lies, a murder covered up.

Detective Inspector Solomon Gray is getting closer to finding his son, missing now for over a decade. He’s on the trail of a bent cop, Lewis Strang, who appears connected to the disappearance, all those years ago. But Strang is untouchable, a star of the Metropolitan police force. Once more, Gray must blur the line between right and wrong.

When the body of a young black man turns up on a Margate back street it seems to be yet another drug related crime. Margate is currently the focus of a special operation, codenamed Pivot, to take down local suppliers. But Gray discovers there’s more to the case than initially meets the eye.

And Gray has his own problems to deal with. First there’s the public investigation into the death of Gray’s ex-boss, DCI Jeff Carslake and then Gray’s estranged daughter, Hope, turns up on his doorstep – she’s pregnant and left the child’s father.

As Gray investigates he discovers the truth about Tom and who took him. A truth that is even more shocking than Gray ever expected…

Set in the once grand town of Margate in the south of England, the now broken and depressed seaside resort becomes its own character in this dark detective thriller, perfect for fans of Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, and Peter James.

Bury The Bodies is the fourth book in the series featuring Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray. Buy it now to discover if, in this, the final chapter, Gray will finally find out what happened to his long missing son.

Bury the Bodies was published by Gladius Press on 27th November, and You can buy it from Amazon UK and US.

My Review:

I'm a big fan of Solomon Gray as I'm always drawn to troubled men (if only this wasn't the truth)! Having followed Sol's adventures through the three previous books (click on the links to read my reviews) - Dig Two Graves, Burn The Evidence, and Beg For Mercy, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one! And happily, I wasn't disappointed.

Gray is still searching for his missing son, Tom. He's closer than he's ever been to knowing the truth, but it's still just out of reach. And then, like it does, life gets in the way - he's working on a new case, his daughter's pregnant and he has to testify at the inquest into the death of his late boss, and former friend. One good thing is that Sol has a new love interest. Well, maybe not love exactly, but certainly a lovely distraction!

The story is written mainly in the present, but with flashbacks to around the time Tom was abducted. The first chapter is full of OMG moments, and my heart was in my mouth! I was hooked immediately. And kept turning the pages until the end. And what an ending - I didn't know whether to smile or cry.

It was great to be back in Margate again. Having read several of Keith's books, although I've never been there, Margate feels like an old friend that I know well. It's almost a character in itself.

I can't really say much more without giving away spoilers. Yes, this is a crime story, and it's full of action, but ultimately this is a tale of a man searching for the truth. It's about betrayal. And it's about love. It's beautifully written, and for those of us who've followed Sol's journey, it answers some questions. And uncovers some nasty stuff. It's a brilliant, satisfying read, but I would suggest it's best enjoyed if you've read the previous books in the series which are also great). This could be the last we hear of Gray, but I have a feeling (and a hope) that it won't be!

The Author:

Keith Nixon has been writing since he was a child. In fact his wife and friends say he's never really grown up. He is currently gainfully employed in a senior sales role meaning he gets to use his one skill, talking too much. He also drinks beer and is a coffee snob.

Keith writes crime and historical fiction novels. Keith also reviews for Crime Fiction Lover and Big Al's Books & Pals.

You can find out more on his website.

The Silent Dead by Graham Smith

Having had the pleasure of meeting Graham Smith a few times, I know he's a thoroughly decent chap. He might even have bought me a drink. Or maybe it was me that bought him one? Anyway, I digress. Since then, before actually, I have been keen to read something of his. I actually have the Jack Boulder series on my teetering TBR pile. So when I saw that he was starting a new series with an intriguing central character, I jumped at the chance to read it! 

The Blurb:

He’d found an angel for his collection. But one angel at a time was never enough...

Detective Beth Young has just joined the Cumbrian major crimes team when a body is found posed in a ritualistic manner – arms spread and graceful wings attached – at a crumbling castle in the hills of the Lake District. 

The entire police force are on red alert. But Beth begins to feel she’s the only one who can follow the disturbing clues left by the twisted killer. Because she doesn't think like everyone else. To Beth, crimes are puzzles she can solve. Even if real life is a little harder.

As more bodies are discovered in derelict stately homes across the Lake District, she knows she’s in a race against time.
But the killer is looking for another victim to add to his collection… Will Beth be able to save her? Or will he get there first?

A tenacious young detective with scars both physical and emotional, Beth Young will stop at nothing in her fight for justice for the innocent. The Silent Dead is the first book in the series. Set in the Lake District, it is perfect for fans of Joy Ellis, LJ Ross, and Peter James. 

The Silent Dead was published yesterday by Bookoutre, and you can use the links below to buy it:

My Review:

Oh my goodness! Where to start? Well, this is my first Graham Smith book, but it definitely won't be my last! The Silent Dead is twisted and gruesome. And brilliant.

We are thrust straight into the case, along with Beth Young, the newest recruit to the Cumbrian Force Major Investigation Team. A bride 's special day is ruined when she discovers a dead body - a man who has died in a grotesque, ritualistic manner. Beth is young, enthusiastic and as she investigates the death, she is keen to show her new colleagues that she deserves her place on the team.

The book is interspersed with chapters told from the viewpoints of two unnamed, unknown men, and they are suitably creepy. This is a stroke of genius by the writer as we see both men fix their sights on the same woman. But why, and for what purpose?

I adored Beth. She's dedicated, determined and keen to learn. And she looks at things differently from her colleagues, enabling her to see things they don't. Her determination to see justice done is due to her own experiences following an assault. I loved seeing her relationships build with her colleagues, particularly her boss Zoe O'Dowd. I also enjoyed her dynamic with Hewson, the pathologist.

This is a hugely atmospheric book full of countryside and crumbling old buildings. The action is full on, and the story is full of tension - my nerves were shredded! The crimes are gruesome (not overly so), but highly original, and I found myself fascinated by the detail. It's a fabulous beginning to what promises to be an awesome series. I can't wait for Beth's next case! And in the meantime, those Jake Boulder books will be making their way up my TBR pile!

The Author:

Graham Smith is the bestselling author of four explosive crime thrillers in the Jake Boulder series, Watching the Bodies, The Kindred Killers, Past Echoes and Die Cold. Watching the Bodies spent over two weeks at number one in the Amazon UK chart and Amazon CA charts. Graham is also the author of the popular DI Harry Evans series and has collections of short stories and novellas. His latest novel - The Silent Dead is published by Bookouture and set in Cumbria / the Lake District, featuring DC Beth Young.

He is the proud father of a young son. As a time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland. 

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer for the well-respected review site since 2010.

When not working, his time is spent reading, writing and playing games with his son. He enjoys socialising and spending time with friends and family.

Author Social Media Links:

These Lost & Broken Things by Helen Fields

I am thrilled to be on the blog tour for this historical thriller from Helen Fields. This isn't a genre I go to very often but I knew He...