Tuesday, 26 March 2019

The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl (translated by Don Bartlett)

It's an absolute pleasure to be taking part in this blog tour. I have not read any of the previous books by this author, and I don't usually read books set in the past. However, the blurb intrigued me, and I know the quality of books which come out of the Orenda stable, so decided to give this one a go. And I 'm so glad I did! Huge thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me to take part and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda for my review copy.

The Blurb

In Oslo in 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly 
avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In great haste, she escapes to Sweden whilst the rest of her family is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, Ester’s childhood best friend. A relationship develops between them, but ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire.

And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He 
wants to reconnect with his daughter Turid. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive… 

Written with Dahl’s trademark characterisation and clever 
plotting, The Courier sees one of Norway’s most critically acclaimed authors at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrifying periods of modern history. With its sophisticated 
storytelling and elegant prose, this stunning and compelling 
wartime thriller is reminiscent of the writing of John Le Carré and William Boyd.

The Courier was published by Orenda Books on 21st March 2019. You can purchase it from Orenda, Waterstones and Amazon

My Review: 

I really didn't know anything about Norway's involvement in the Second World War or the persecution of Norwegian Jews, so this book was fascinating. Whilst it is fiction, it has clearly been well researched. 

The story opens and closes in 2015, but the main part jumps between 1942 and 1967, and primarily features the same three characters - Ester, Gerhard and Sverre. I liked the switches between the two different times, as we meet these people twenty-five years apart, and I read the book pretty much in one sitting. 

Ester was a fantastic character. A young woman who obviously believes passionately in doing what is right, and is active in the Resistance, putting herself in danger. She sees her father arrested and their house taken by the Germans, and is already apart from the rest of her family. Shortly afterwards, she herself is almost caught but manages to escape to Sweden, with no news of her family. This obviously has a profound effect on her, but she continues to work with the Resistance. She is strong, passionate and determined, and easy for the reader to like. 

Gerhard and Sverre were different. I was never entirely sure about either of them - my thoughts changed as the story progressed. But all three characters, and the supporting cast are all exquisitely drawn - the characterisation is superb. 

This brings me on to the scene setting. I was a little thrown initially when the story was written in the present tense, but soon got used to it. Dahl writes incredibly descriptive scenes, often using short staccato sentences to include the smallest details. The result is a rich, character driven text, and it felt like I was there, watching - I could picture everything and everyone in my mind. It's screaming out to be made into a film.

The Courier was not my normal kind of read - it's a historical slow burner. But it's so beautifully written, well paced with wonderful characters and with an ending I didn't see coming. I'm so pleased I took the opportunity to read it, and look forward to reading more by this author. 

The Author:

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo. 

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Heartlands by Kerry Watts

Having enjoyed a previous standalone book, The Reckoning (see my review here), by Kerry Watts, I was excited to see this, the beginning of a new series featuring Jessie Blake. Huge thanks to Noelle Holten for inviting me to join the tour and to Bookoutre for my review copy which I received via Netgalley.

The Blurb:

Call it mother’s intuition, but I knew she was dead the moment she was late home. As I listened to her phone ring and ring, that’s when I knew for sure. My little girl was gone. 

Twenty years ago, Sophie Nicoll never came home from school. Days later her body was found in a shallow grave on a remote farm a few miles from her hometown. Two boys from her school were found guilty. The press called the boys evil. Sophie’s family wanted them dead. The judge promised they’d never walk free.

Two decades later and schoolgirl Shannon Ross has vanished from a small town in the Scottish Highlands.

It’s Detective Jessie Blake’s first big case since she joined Perthshire Police. Having recently arrived from London, Jessie lives in fear of people finding out about her past and her reasons for moving north.

When Shannon’s body is found in the river on the outskirts of Inverlochty, Jessie discovers she’s not the only one with something to hide. As the small community begins to crack under pressure, people begin to point fingers. And soon, the big secrets hidden within the small town are revealed – with devastating consequences.

This shocking crime thriller set in the dramatic Scottish Highlands will have you reading well into the night. If you like LJ Ross, Cara Hunter or Robert Bryndza, you will absolutely love this.

Heartlands was published by Bookoutre on 21st March 2019 and you can purchase it here

My Review:

This is the second book I've read by this author, and is the beginning of a new series featuring Detective Jessie Blake. It's a very promising start.

There is a shocking opener in the prologue set in the past before we jump forward to the present day in Inverlochty. From then on, the story flips between now, and the older timeline, which begins in 1996 and moves steadily forwards until it crosses the newer story. That was such an OMG moment for me, I actually exclaimed out loud! A genuine shock that I absolutely didn't see coming.

There are lots of characters and I really had to pay attention early on to get to know everyone, and where they fitted in.

Obviously, Jessie is the standout character here. Recently promoted, this is her first case as senior office. A man with mental health difficulties harms himself, but the blood of a teenage girl is also found in his house. And she hasn't been seen since entering his house. When the police speak to him, he says the 'voices made him do it'. But what have they made him do?
Jessie is dogged and determined. And resolute about doing the right thing. But she has her own demons in a dark back story, which is starting to be teased out and looks to have legs to run and run. Her sidekick Dylan is a great guy - solid and dependable and just perfect for Jessie to bounce her ideas off.

There is a large cast of supporting characters, some more likeable than others. Standouts for me were Jason, the missing girl's father, and her young uncle, Ben. The anxiety and anguish that everyone, but especially these two, suffers exquisitely described.

The pacing is fabulous. We learn little bits of the story as we go, building up to the shocking ending. And a wee hint that there might be more to come about Jessie's personal story. A brilliant beginning to a new series, with a great protagonist. I'm already looking forward to the next book! 

The Author

Kerry Watts was born and grew up in a small town in the East of Scotland where she still lives today. She is always writing and carries a little notebook and pen with her wherever she goes because at her age ideas need to be captured before they disappear. 

Kerry specialises in crime fiction because she enjoys pushing the boundaries of what it is to be human. The nature versus nurture debate.

Author Social Media Links:

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

A Body in the Lakes by Graham Smith

Having loved the first Beth Young book The Silent Dead, now retitled as Death in the Lakes, from Graham Smith (see my review here), I was excited to see where this new book took Beth, so jumped at the chance to join the blog tour. My thanks to Noelle Holton and Bookoutre for providing my review copy, which I received via Netgalley.

The Blurb:

The woman’s limbs were so thin; the skin on her arms as translucent as tracing paper. Around her neck lay a faint string of purple bruises. In one so frail, darker, angrier marks might be expected but Beth knew the bruising would have stopped the moment her heart stopped beating.The

When a walker finds the body of a woman by the shores of Lake Ullswater, the police are put on high alert. Felicia Evans was known to be a tough character, but who would have strangled her?

Detective Beth Young quickly spots the links to three cold cases. Three women strangled and discarded in the stunning, wild hills of the Lake District.

As Beth begins tracking down witnesses, the team receives an anonymous letter claiming the charming mayor of Carlisle is behind the murders. There’s pressure from the top to clear his name. But Beth is determined to find the truth no matter whose feathers she ruffles in the process.

Beth knows the clock is ticking. The killer is hunting again. And it’s down to her to find who’s responsible before another woman becomes his prey…

A gripping edge-of-your-seat thriller from bestselling author Graham Smith, perfect for fans of Joy Ellis, LJ Ross, and J.R. Ellis. 

A Body in the Lakes was published by Bookoutre on 15th March 2019, and you can buy it here

My Review

Following the discovery of the naked body of an elderly woman Beth finds links to three other murders in the last few years. Following the clues and with dogged determination, Beth and her colleagues in the FMIT dig through clues and evidence in the hope of tracking the killer. And Carlisle's handsome mayor looks like he might not be as squeaky clean as everyone thought....

Throughout the book are occasional diary entries from an unknown author and I loved the mystery behind that - trying to guess each time whose diary it was. I failed miserably!

I love Beth, she's a marvel. I just love how her brain works - the way she seems to see things differently from her colleagues, often enabling the team to move forward with the case. And she is so determined and dedicated - her sense of justice and desire to do the right thing mean she just keeps going. And she often feels guilty when she does take a break. That said, I was delighted to see a nice wee storyline develop for her, and look forward to seeing where that goes.

The rest of the FMIT are brilliant characters too. I love that the boss O'Dowd is another strong woman. The small moments of light relief with Unthank are welcome in a dark story like this one, but I thought my heart might break for Thompson.

As with The Silent Dead, The Lake District itself plays a huge part in the story, almost a character in itself. Beautiful  scenery but often desolate places proving ideal for body dumps. I occasionally found myself shivering when reading.

The descriptions of the murders themselves don't necessarily make for easy reading, but are handled with delicacy. There are many suspects and lots of dead ends, and I was kept guessing right to the end.

The pacing and tension was just right - we're thrown head first into the investigation, and I enjoyed uncovering the truth along with the team. It's an original and beautifully written story. And it left me wanting more.

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 with Bookouture is set in Cumbria and 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 Crimesquad.com 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:

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton - Edinburgh launch, 13th March 2019

So on Wednesday evening I ventured east to Edinburgh for the launch of Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton. Regular visitors to the blog will know that I am a big fan of Douglas and his work, and I think this might well be his best book yet. Released by his new publishers Polygon (who get a shout out for providing wine at the launch!) on 7th March, you can see my review here.

Anyway, Wednesday's event was hosted by Blackwell's Bookshop in Edinburgh, and Douglas was quizzed by friend and fellow crime author Neil Broadfoot. And when these two get together, you know it's going to be a fun night!

This is Douglas' eighth novel (he has also written 11 non fiction true crime books) The four Davie McCall books and the two Dominic Queste ones, all set in Glasgow and last year's The Janus Run which was set  in America. All of these are action packed, full of guns and fights, with black humour running through them (particularly the Dominic Queste books). Thunder Bay is very different from all other these. Neil asked about the change in direction. Douglas replied that he'd wanted to push himself. He had never had a female protagonist before, so wanted to do that. Thunder Bay introduces us to Rebecca Connolly, a twenty something journalist. And having moved away from Glasgow with The Janus Run, he wanted to invent a place which he has now done with the Scottish island of Stoirm (Gaelic for 'storm').

Neil asked Douglas about what research he did for this book. As a former journalist, Douglas didn't need to do much work on that, but did have to update his knowledge on current procedures. He explained that whilst Stoirm is fictional, he has visited many of the Scottish islands and all of them influenced him in the creation of Stoirm. And he moved Schiehallion (meaning 'hill of the fairies) from Perthshire to the island. He researched island vegetation, sought help with the Gaelic language and looked at legends and folklore from all over Scotland and used some of it in the story. And he moved something that actually happened on a group of Scottish islands onto Stoirm.

He talked about how it was for him writing something so different.  He has always followed the Raymond Chandler suggestion of two men with guns kicking down a door. Things here are very different. Things that happen in Thunder Bay are more introspective, claustrophobic and sinister. The story starts dark and gets darker, and he did worry it would be too dark in places. At one point, he walked away from it for a while. His usual response to darkness is to inject some humour, but that has also been toned down here. He said he looks at it now and wonders who wrote it, which raised a laugh from the audience because Neil had been joking all along that someone else must have written it!

Neil asked Douglas about planning. From hearing these guys speak before, I knew neither were big planners, but Douglas surprised everybody by explaining that there was literally no planning for him! He just had an idea about a guy coming back after a long time to an uproar. He didn't know the story, the ending or who was involved. There were times he finished up for the day with no idea where it was going next. He can't jump around the story either, and there's alot going on here, he just has to keep going.

As it is so tonally different from his other work, Neil was interested if he had done anything different from usual when writing this. Douglas always listens to music when he is writing, often film scores. But he changes what he's listening to depending on what he's writing. In this case, he listened to  Rachmaninov's Isle of the Dead & work by Sibelius.

The audience was interested to hear how he found writing a female protagonist because, as Douglas himself pointed out (to much laughter), he is not a twenty something woman! He found that it came organically as he wrote. He didn't want her to get into trouble where she would need the help of a man. Mainly she's a conduit and the jeopardy happens to other people around her. He was careful not to sexualise her, or get clumsy when writing about her, as many lesser male writers do when writing female characters. For the record, he's very successful in this.

Finally, Neil asked Douglas if he had written this as the start of a series. That hadn't necessarily been the plan, but Douglas realised when writing that it could be a series. The next one won't be set on the island, but will have recurring characters and a mention of Scottish folklore and history.

Of course, there was lots more discussion than is covered above, together with great questions from the audience, lots of jokes and loads of laughter. Amongst all the fun Douglas talked at length about the book and the work that went into writing it, without giving away any spoilers, obviously!

The audience all enjoyed it, and Douglas chatted to many of them and signed books.

If you missed Wednesday's event but would like to hear Douglas speak about Thunder Bay, it's not too late to reserve a space at tomorrow's Glasgow launch in the Mitchell Library. The link is here. Straight after that, he will be joining C L Taylor and Anna Mazzola for an Aye Write panel featuring books set on Scottish islands. You can buy your ticket for that here.

And if you would like to purchase Thunder Bay, and I heartily recommend you do, you can do so here.

Finally, the copy of Thunder Bay at the top of the pile above, which is signed, could be yours if you enter my forthcoming giveaway to celebrate my first blog birthday! Details to follow soon so watch this space.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

A Gift For Dying by MJ Arlidge

I'm delighted to be taking part in the tour for this great standalone thriller from MJ Arlidge. Huge thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me and to the publishers for my early review copy.

The Blurb:

From The Sunday Times bestselling author of the Helen Grace series comes the gripping new thriller perfect for fans of James Patterson, Angela Marsons and Karin Slaughter.

'Strikingly well-told, and with a compelling central character' Daily Mail

With just one look, she knows how and when you will die . . .

Nothing surprises Adam Brandt anymore. As a forensic psychologist, he's seen and heard everything.

That is, until he meets Kassie.

Because she claims to have a terrible gift - with one look into your eyes, she can see when and how you will die.

Adam doesn't believe her, obviously.

But then a serial killer starts wreaking havoc across the city, and only Kassie seems to know where he'll strike next.

Against all his intuition, Adam starts to believe her.

He just doesn't realise how dangerous this trust might be . . .

A Gift For Dying was published by Penguin Random House on 7th March 2019. You can purchase it from Waterstones, Amazon and other good bookshops.

My Review:

A Gift For Dying is my first MJ Arlidge book, but it won't be my last!  Based on this, I will be seeking out the Helen Grace books.

Adam is an experienced psychologist used to dealing with the worst in society. Kassie is a teenager with a terrible gift, or maybe she's just delusional. Adam needs to find out. But she does seem to have a link to some terrible crimes...

The characterisation in this book is great. Kassie is a hugely relatable, sympathetic character, especially. I connected with her early on, and really cared about her. She tries so hard to do the right thing, but is so often thwarted. I was sad for her from the beginning, with her difficult relationship with her mum, and the huge burden and carried, and that sympathy lasted until the end of the book. She's a fantastic character.

My feelings towards Adam changed depending on where I was in the book. Sometimes I was cheering him on, at other times he made me sad and occasionally I got cross at him! His fortunes change dramatically during the course of the story, along with his capacity to deal with things. But that I was so invested in the characters is testament to the quality of writing. And we see the changing relationship, between Adam and Kassie.

The tension builds perfectly from the beginning to the shattering ending. I loved the police investigation into the murders, and the description of the killings themselves, which are just graphic enough, without being too much. The police personnel are pretty unsympathetic, and for me this increased Kassie's vulnerability.

I really enjoyed this book. It's long, but with short snappy chapters. It completely kept my attention, as I was desperate to find out what happened next. As well as keeping me on the edge of my seat, it also broke my heart. Would heartily recommend.

The Author:

M. J. Arlidge is the international bestselling author of the Detective Helen Grace Thrillers, including Hide and Seek, Little Boy Blue, Liar Liar, The Doll’s House, Pop Goes the Weasel, and his debut, Eeny Meeny, which has been sold in twenty-nine countries. He has worked in television for the past fifteen years.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

***COVER REVEAL*** The Nudge Man by Keith Nixon

Ooooh, I do love a good cover reveal! Particularly when it's for the forthcoming standalone novel from one of my fave people. The Nudge Man by Keith Nixon is coming soon, and I can't wait!

But before I show you the cover, here's a bit about the book:

A washed up reporter, an escaped convict, a sociopathic gangster. All are hunting The Nudge Man…

“There’s only one of me. I’m not a hitman. I’m unique, one of a kind. I’m The Nudge Man.”

Wheelchair bound, born again, ex-gangster, Eric Hennessey offers down on his luck reporter, Harrison Vaughan, a job. Find The Nudge Man, a mysterious vigilante who’s stolen most of Hennessey’s money, ill-gotten gains which now Hennessey wants to use to do God’s work. Trouble is, Harry has no desire to work for a sociopathic murderer, even if he is an apparently changed man.

Harry is estranged from his family, he hasn’t seen or heard from them in over five years, since a fabricated scandal destroyed his career. Harry believes his wife walked out on him and took the children. However, Hennessey tells Vaughan it was The Nudge Man who set him up for the fall. Find The Nudge Man and Harry has the chance for redemption and maybe even his family back.

However, Hennessey has another objective in mind. Unknown to Harry his family were taken into witness protection and had to cut ties with everyone after Harry’s son saw a murder – carried out by Eric Hennessey. But the witness protection programme was compromised and the Vaughans had to go off the grid, they couldn’t contact anybody. Hennessey has been looking for them ever since and now may have a way in – Harry himself.

Harry’s search begins in prison, visiting violent criminal Pomfrey Lavender – apparently Lavender has information which will help. But Lavender is suffering various medical problems, including a psychological condition whereby he believes he’s already dead. Harry’s mention of The Nudge Man sends Lavender into a rage and he threatens to kill Harry should he pursue his objective. Harry is relieved Lavender is behind bars. Trouble is, two days later Lavender breaks out.

And others are on the trail of The Nudge Man, including the British government and an American secret service agent. Then there’s the lawyer who offers Harry £1m. All Harry has to do is stay away from The Nudge Man...

With more questions than answers and hapless guard dog, Bonzo at his side who’s bark is definitely worse than his bite, Harry begins his search.

Can Harry find The Nudge Man and save his family? Or will Hennessey exact his revenge?

"Packed with the author’s trademark wit, The Nudge Man is a seriously good, mind-bendingly twisty novel, and cements Nixon’s place among the upper echelon of British crime writers."
M.W. Craven, author of the Washington Poe Novels.

Sounds pretty exciting, doesn't it?

Now, the cover......

Actually, I think I should tell you about the author first! 😀

Keith Nixon is a British born writer of crime and historical fiction novels. Originally, he trained as a chemist, but Keith is now in a senior sales role for a high-tech business. Keith currently lives with his family in the North West of England.

Readers can connect with Keith on various social media platforms:
Web: http://www.keithnixon.co.uk
Twitter: @knntom
Facebook: Keithnixonauthor
Blog: www.keithnixon.co.uk/blog

OK, I think you've waited long enough now,  so drum roll please! 
Ta da! 

So, what do you think? I reckon it's really cool. And moody. Loving the limited colour palette - think it works really well. 

The Nudge Man will be published on 2nd April 2019. The blog tour kicks off on the same day, and my review will be up on Friday 5th. 

See you back here then! 

Sunday, 10 March 2019

The Girl Across the Street by Vikki Patis

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Girl Across the Street by Vikki Patis.

The Blurb:

You’re hiding a secret that only she can see.

Her name is Beth. She came into my life when I needed her the most. We lead very different lives, but she’s the only person who understands me.

She was the only other witness to the terrible accident on the street between our homes. The only person who saw the cracks in my perfect life before I had the chance to cover them up.

It’s been so long since I’ve had a friend. Someone to talk to, to listen to, to laugh and dream with.

Beth would never do anything to hurt me.

She only wants what’s best for me, for my marriage.

Doesn’t she?

An unputdownable psychological suspense thriller that will grip you until the very last page. Perfect for fans of Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and The Couple Next Door.

The Girl Across the Street was published by Bookoutre on 8th March 2019 and you can buy it here

My Review

This was the first book by Vikki Patis that I'd read, and I enjoyed it very much.

Brought together by their involvement in the aftermath of a terrible hit and run, Isla and Beth are unlikely friends. Isla, with her perfect hair, perfect nails, nice clothes, big house and attractive husband. And Beth, with her old clothes, cheap make up, crappy flat in a horrible block and waste of space boyfriend. But become friends they do, and grow fond of each other.

However, they both have secrets. We know Isla's fairly quickly, but Beth's isn't so obvious, and is teased at throughout, until the explosive finale. Both women are sympathetically drawn, particularly Isla, for me anyway, trapped and unhappy in her seemingly perfect life.  But the story also has its unlikeable characters - Jake and his mother Judith are both vile. And I wanted to slap Judith every time she said 'Jakey'! 

The pacing is spot on, as the action and tension both increase as the story moves on, and I found this book an easy, quick read. All the characters are well described and I cared about them, what happened to them. It does include a couple of difficult issues, particularly domestic abuse, so might not be such an easy read for everybody.

This is a book about love and hate, and the strong bond that develops through friendship, sometimes very quickly. It's a tale of two women who find each other at the right time. And it's a story of secrets and lies. It was great to read about two women, defeated by life, find the strength to break free, although I wouldn't suggest following their example in your own life!

A thoroughly enjoyable read.

The Author:

Vikki Patis is an author and blogger, as well as an avid reader and book reviewer. When she isn’t working as a Regulatory Affairs Manager, she can usually be found drinking tea, baking cakes, or taking walks in the Hertfordshire countryside. She lives with her partner and two cats.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton

This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I have read several previous books by Douglas Skelton, and know him to be a very talented writer, often underrated in my opinion. But I knew this was a bit of a change in direction for him so couldn't wait to read it. And I wasn't disappointed - it was well worth the wait. Huge thanks to Polygon for sending me an early review copy.

The Blurb:

When reporter Rebecca Connolly is told of Roddie Drummond’s return to the island of Stoirm she senses a story. Fifteen years before he was charged with the murder of his lover, Mhairi. When he was found Not Proven, Roddie left the island and no one, apart from his sister, knew where he was or what he was doing. Now he has returned for his mother’s funeral – and it will spark an explosion of hatred, bitterness and violence.

Defying her editor's wishes, Rebecca joins forces with local photographer Chaz Wymark to dig into the secrets surrounding Mhairi's death, and her mysterious last words of Thunder Bay, the secluded spot on the west coast of the island where, according to local lore, the souls of the dead set off into the after life. When another murder takes place, and the severe weather that gives the island its name hits, she is ideally placed to uncover the truth about what happened that night fifteen years before.

Thunder Bay is published by Polygon tomorrow, and you can pre order it from Waterstones, Amazon UK and Amazon US.

My Review:

Before I share my thoughts on the  book, can we just talk about the cover? Isn't it fabulous? Anyone who knows me will tell you that I adore anything purple, but that aside, it's so atmospheric. Love it.

Anyway, moving on. Roddie is returning to Stoirm for his mother's funeral. He left fifteen years earlier after being found Not Proven for the murder of his girlfriend Mhairi. For those of you not familiar with Not Proven, it's a uniquely Scottish verdict,  technically a form of acquittal, but often associated with guilt. Consequently, Roddie's return to the island is far from popular, and opens up some old wounds.

Journalist Rebecca wants to cover the story,  but she also has her own reasons for going to the island - a different story that she wants to uncover. And through her eyes, we see island life.

As always, I don't want to say too much because I really don't want to give anything away. This is a delight you will want to uncover for yourself. There are many story strands running through the book, and a whole cast of characters involved. They are so wonderfully described that you will warm to some of them immediately whilst others you really won't like. And some you wonder about. The characterisation is spot on - I could picture these folk in my mind. Rebecca and Chaz were standouts for me, but I also found Roddie to be oddly affecting. But really, every single person is brilliantly described.

Just as important is the setting. The island of Stoirm seems to me to be beautiful but quite brutal. And claustrophobic, but that's as also to do with the small island community where everyone knows everyone else. Thunder Bay itself is breathtaking. Isolated, dangerous and steeped in legend. And the last words that Mhairi spoke before she died. We hear the wind howling, the waves crashing and the gulls crying - it made me shiver.

This is a story of secrets and lies, and the danger that both can bring. It's about finding the truth, whatever consequences that might bring. It's beautifully written, descriptive and atmospheric. The pacing is perfect, and the conclusion unexpected. Douglas Skelton has delivered possibly his best work yet, and that really is saying something! It's a triumph. Go read it. Oh, and it's absolutely crying out to be made into a film! 

The Author:

Douglas Skelton has published 12 books on true crime and history. He has been a bank clerk, tax officer, shelf stacker, meat porter, taxi driver (for two days), wine waiter (for two hours), reporter, investigator and editor.

His first novel, BLOOD CITY, was published in 2013. The gritty thriller was the first in a quartet set on the tough streets of Glasgow from 1980 onwards. It was followed by CROW BAIT, DEVIL'S KNOCK and finally OPEN WOUNDS, which was longlisted for the first McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year in 2016.

His two Dominic Queste thrillers, THE DEAD DON'T BOOGIE and TAG - YOU'RE DEAD lightened the tone but didn't skimp on thrills.

He followed this with his New York-set chase thriller THE JANUS RUN in 2018.

His new book, THUNDER BAY,  is a dark and atmospheric tale of secrets, lies and murder on a Scottish island.

Douglas is often recruited by documentary makers to contribute to true crime shows on TV and radio and is a regular on the crime writing festival circuit.

He also takes part in comedy shows with other crime writers. To date he has written three Carry on Sleuthing plays in which he also appears along with Caro Ramsay, Michael J. Malone, Theresa Talbot, Pat Young and Lucy Cameron, with occasional guests Alex Gray, Lin Anderson and Neil Broadfoot.

He is also one quarter of Four Blokes in search of a Plot, along with Gordon Brown, Mark Leggatt and Neil Broadfoot. This is a fun show in which they invite the audience to give them a murder weapon and a protagonist. They then take it in turns to create a crime story (usually developing into something wild and wacky) while also answering audience queries about the craft.

You can find Douglas' website here, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Are You The F**king Doctor? by Dr Liam Farrell

So I thought I'd have a complete change from my usual reads with this one! Delighted to be on the blog tour - huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me, and to the publisher for providing my review copy.

The Blurb:

‘General practice is the great unknown. We stand on the cusp of the beyond. Science takes us only so far, then the maps stop in the grey areas of intuition, imagination and feelings: here be dragons. Lurching from heart-breaking tragedy to high farce, we are the Renaissance men and women of medicine; our art is intangible. Anything can walk through our door…’ 

Family doctor, Irishman, musician, award-winning author, anarchist and recovering morphine addict, Liam became a columnist for the BMJ in 1994. He went on to write for many major publications, winning a series of prestigious awards; in 2005, he was the first doctor to win Columnist of the Year in the Periodical Publishers Association awards. 

The book contains a selection of Liam’s best work, from his columns, blogs and short stories. Brilliantly funny, glittering with literary allusion and darkly wicked humour, this book is much more than a collection of stand-alone anecdotes and whimsical reflections, rather a compelling chronicle of the daily struggles – and personal costs – of a doctor at the coalface.

Are You The F**king Doctor? was published by Dalzell Press on 8th November 2018. You can buy it from Waterstones, Amazon UK and Amazon US.

My Review:

This is an unusual book for me to be reading as it is non fiction, based on the author's real life experiences as a GP, although often with a certain degree of embellishment added!

The book is presented as a collection of articles and short stories Dr Farrell has written for various medical journals. I think the earliest one is 1994, whilst the most recent pieces were written last year. The articles are loosely grouped together by subject and these form the chapters. If you don't have time to read this straight through, it's an ideal book to pick up for a wee while and then come back to later, as the articles are short.

The articles tell stories from Dr Farrell's GP consulting room. But with embellishments! He adds humour, a healthy dose of cynicism and often complete surrealism to each encounter. I smiled lots, laughed often and occasionally (possibly more than occasionally but don't tell anyone 😂) had a puzzled look on my face.

Some of the titles of the pieces are genius. My favourite example is a very funny article about a turd, entitled 'Deeply Moving'. The same short piece mentions PG Wodehouse, JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, and quotes from Shakespeare. You can maybe see why I said things can get a bit surreal. Another piece, about the blood thinning drug Warfarin, consists of a conversation between the good doctor and Count Dracula.

We meet some of the patients who regularly visit the practice with various ailments. My favourite was Joe, a hypochondriac who thinks he has everything going, is easily led by other people and the media and confused by information on the internet. He is a very frequent visitor to the surgery and his exchanges with the doctor are hilarious. But I suspect Joe is an amalgamation of characters who've crossed the GP's path - especially as he seems to appear in articles after the one which mentions his death!

But the humour and craziness hide serious points. I was really struck about the variety of complaints, and how knowledgeable a practice doctor needs to be - it's in the name, of course, "General" Practictioner.  But each patient comes in expecting the doctor to be an expert in there particular problem, and then feeling let down when he's not. I also noted the ridiculous time constraints GPs work with, having just 7 to 15 minutes per patient.

It would seem that GPs also have to act as friend, counsellor, relationship mediator, shoulder to cry on. And this, along with increased administration, has a cost. For the author , it was a morphine dependency and this is one of the few sections in the book with no humour, but with searing honesty. He also talks plainly about the Troubles and also the abortion laws in Ireland.

This was a really good read. I think GPs are underrated and often complained about, so it was great to read accounts of how it is for them. The humour makes it an easier read, and the majority of medical terms are explained. But it's also serious, touching and affecting in places. It's well worth a read, it'll make you laugh, although I should mention that bodily fluids feature heavily - you have been warned! 😂 Entertaining, interesting, well worth a read, and I hope Dr Farrell writes more in the future. 

The Author:

Dr Liam Farrell is from Rostrevor, Co Down, Ireland. He was a family doctor in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, for 20 years, and is an award-winning writer and a seasoned broadcaster. He is married to Brid, and has three children Jack, Katie, and Grace.

He was a columnist for the British Medical Journal for 20 years and currently writes for GP, the leading newspaper for general practitioners in the UK. He has also been a columnist for the Lancet, the Journal of General Practice, the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish News. He wrote the entry on ‘Sex’ for The Oxford Companion to the Body. 

On Twitter he curates #Irishmed, a weekly tweetchat on all things medical, which has a global following. He also co-curates #WritersWise, a regular tweetchat for writers, with novelist Sharon Thompson.  He was the medical columnist for the BBC Radio Ulster Evening Extra 1996-98; presented the series Health-Check for Ulster TV in 2002, and was medical consultant for both series of Country Practice in 2000 and 2002 for BBC Northern Ireland.

His awards include Columnist of the Year at Irish Medical Media Awards 2003, Periodical Publishers Association of Great Britain 2006 and Medical Journalist’s Society, London 2011, and Advancing Health through Media at the Zenith Global Healthcare Awards 2018.He was shortlisted for the Michael McLaverty Short Story Competition in 2008.

You can find Liam's website here, or follow him on Twitter using the handle @DrLFarrell.

Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham

I loved the Tattoo Thief, the previous book in this series, so was super excited to read this Her Last Breath. And it didn't disappoint....