Thursday, 28 November 2019

Fairy Rock by Stephen Watt

Regular visitors to this blog will know that whilst I love crime fiction, I'm also partial to a bit of poetry. So I jumped at the chance to read Fairy Rock, the first crime novel written entirely in verse! My thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Tours for inviting me and to the publisher for my review copy.

The Background:

"In 2017 Andrew Smith, then Director, now Chair of the Scottish Writers’ Centre, came up with a dynamic idea to run a Twitter campaign inviting poets to pitch an idea and the winner would have a poetry pamphlet published by the SWC’s publisher partner, Red Squirrel Press. Poet, critic, essayist, editor, designer and typesetter Gerry Cambridge, poet Sheila Templeton, writer, musician and Editor of both Postbox Press (the literary fiction imprint of Red Squirrel Press) and Postbox International Short Story Magazine, Colin Will, and myself took part in a panel at the SWC, ‘How to get published’ in October 2017. Andrew received many entries, a shortlist was drawn up, Stephen Watt subsequently won and persuaded me to publish a full-length collection."
— Sheila Wakefield, Founding Editor, Red Squirrel Press

The Blurb:

Glasgow is correctly lauded for its wonderful characters and hospitality but at the turn of the Millennium it was dubbed the ‘Murder Capital of Europe’ with sectarian divisions and organised crime rife in the city. Four of its natives have been raised around the city’s Bridgeton area, cultivated by its ill-omened beliefs, and now have to separately find a way to subsist. But one crime family firmly believes in the tradition of torture and a novel way of disposing of its detractors. Who will emerge smelling of roses -or end up pushing the roses up from the earth below?

Fairy Rock was published on 21st September 2019 by Red Squirrel Press and you can purchase it here.

My Review:

Whilst I have read many collections of poems which are linked by the subject or theme, I was intrigued to see if a  collection which told a story would work. And it absolutely does.

Fairy Rock focuses on the Bridgeton area of Glasgow which is ruled by a crime family with a novel and unique murder technique. The opening poem sets the scene and tone with a flashback to the late 70s, and then the rest of the story is set in the recent past and present day. We see Danny, Deek, Seamus and Claire as they grow up in this hostile environment, each carrying their own baggage and looking at a none too bright future.

These poems are raw and dark. So dark. They feature incest, sexual abuse, drug taking, sectarianism, knife and gun crime, murder and ruthless, brutal violence. But there is such a beauty to the writing that they are a joy to read. I've picked a couple of (non gruesome) examples to illustrate my point:

'Merchant City girls clad in shimmering Diana Ross silver coats
pulled over their bleached-blonde heads
to protect them from the downpour giggled and hallowed
between flashing, sparky bars
like shooting stars gliding in the dark.'

'Her child dissolves into the small digital window
which is his world, lit by the crude bare bulbs
framing a lapsed Swimming World poster on the glass.'

There are so many more examples I could have chosen but I want you to discover them for yourselves by reading the book. It's hard to pick a favourite poem as they are all so good, but I was drawn to a couple of the early, dark poems - CANDLES and ORPHANAGE. TABLOID HAIKU also deserves a mention - as the name suggests, it is a newspaper headline in the form of a haiku. Genius.

For all the grimness there is an element of, admittedly dark, humour in some of the poems. And the characters and scenes are so vividly described, you can't not enjoy the writing. I love just outside of Glasgow and know some of the areas mentioned, and I just loved the whole Glasgow vibe that runs throughout.

This is poetry at its most raw, visceral and beautiful. The whole concept of a novel entirely in verse is original and brilliant, and Stephen Watt totally delivers. The man can write. A triumph. 

The Author:

Stephen Watt was born in the Vale of Leven in 1979. His awards include first prize in the Poetry Rivals Slam, the StAnza International Digital Poetry Slam, and the Tartan Treasures award. Notable collections which he has curated include the Joe Strummer Foundation collection Ashes To Activists (2018) and the James Watt bicentenary booklet Horsepower (2019). He is Dumbarton Football Club’s Poet-in-Residence and was appointed the Makar for the Federation of Writers (Scotland) in 2019. He lives in Dumbarton with his wife Keriann and pug Beanz.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

What She Saw Last Night by MJ Cross

MJ (Mason) Cross is one of my absolute favourite authors and so I'm delighted to re share my review of What She Saw Last Night as part of the blog tour. Many thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me to take part. I read and reviewed from my own copy of the book. Elsewhere on the blog I have a guest post from Mason, an edited extract from the book, and a Q&A with the author.

The Blurb:

No one will believe ... WHAT SHE SAW LAST NIGHT.

Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten hour journey through the night.

In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a packed woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.

Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin ... but there's no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.

The police don't believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.

But deep down, she knows that isn't the truth.

What She Saw Last Night was published by Orion Publishing in eBook and trade paperback formats on 18th April 2019 and will be realised in paperback on 28th November 2019, and can be purchased from Waterstones, Amazon UK and other good booksellers.

My Review:

I have long been a fan of MJ Cross, and his Carter Blake series which he wrote as Mason Cross. You can click through to read my reviews of The Killing Season and Presumed Dead, books 1 and 5 in the series. The others have all been read, but not yet reviewed. In fact, it was an appearance of his at Bloody Scotland, and my subsequent reading of The Killing Season and The Samaritan that reignited my passion for books, and particularly crime and psychological thrillers. So I owe Mason a big thank you!

I was excited, and a little bit nervous, to hear he was going to be writing a standalone book, far away from the world of Carter Blake, and set back in the UK. I needn't have worried. What She Saw Last Night is very different from the Carter Blake books, but just as good.

Jenny Bowen is travelling back to Scotland from London on the Caledonian Sleeper, following the recent death of her father. Waking in the night to use the bathroom, she finds the young woman two compartments along lying dead, but can't see the little girl who had been with her when Jenny boarded. It turns out there is no record or CCTV coverage of the little girl, who just seemed to have vanished into thin air. Neither the railway staff nor the police believe Jenny, and think she must be mistaken.

She tries to believe them, tries to forget about the little girl and get on with things in Scotland. But she can't. Just can't. She has to know what happened. So, with very little information, she begins to investigate on her own. But it turns out that she might have an ally in the police after all. Which might just come in handy...

Jenny is brilliant. She's just an ordinary woman who ends up in an extraordinary position. It could be you or I. I've spent a lot of time thinking about that since I read this. What would I have done in Jenny's position? Would I have chased after the truth? I'd like to think so, but I'm really not sure... But Jenny is determined, tenacious and thorough. Brave too. She's a great protagonist, and beautifully written.

From the other key players, Mike Fletcher deserves a mention. A straight up, dependable guy with a nightmare of a boss, he can sense when something's not quite right. And Klenmore is an enigma that we know little about. Both are well written characters, as are all of the cast.

Scene setting is, of course, very important, and Cross does it very well. He has clearly researched the Caledonian Sleeper and it was easy to picture in my mind. As was the busyness of London (a place I don't know well) and the isolation of the house up in Inverkiln.

The book is beautifully paced. It's a bit like riding a train, which sets off at a steady rate, before speeding up and hurtling towards it's final destination. Well, not quite like that, but I'm trying to stick with the train thing! Certainly the ending is full of tension and action, but there are also a couple of heart stopping moments along the way, as Jenny's questions open up a whole can of worms.

So, What She Saw Last Night isn't necessarily action filled in a traditional way, ie. guns blazing, doors being kicked in, etc, there is plenty going on, and I raced through it in a day. It's a  character driven thriller, with a hugely believable and relatable protagonist and strong supporting players. An unusual and cracking story line. An absolute winner from MJ Cross (who will always be Mason to me, I'm afraid)! And it needs to be made into a movie!

The Author:

MJ Cross is a British novelist. Writing as Mason Cross his debut novel The Killing Season was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Book of the Year 2015. His second novel, The Samaritan, also featuring his inimitable lead character Carter Blake, was selected as a Richard & Judy Book Club pick. Mason has written a number of short stories, including A Living, which was shortlisted for the Quick Reads 'Get Britain Reading' Award and 'Expiry Date', published in Ellery Queen. He lives near Glasgow with his wife and three children.

Mason’s most recent Carter Blake novel, Presumed Dead, was longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize 2018.

To sign up for the Mason Cross Readers Club for updates and exclusive giveaways, go to

Find out more at

Had a look through my pics and think this is my fave - it makes me smile! 

Monday, 25 November 2019

Oi by Snowball

I was fully booked for blog tours for this month when I heard about Oi. But as soon as I read the information about the book I knew it was one I needed to read and talk about. You'll see why below. Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me onto the tour and to the author for my review copy.

The Blurb:

This is a harrowing personal voyage into the 1960-80s childcare system as experienced first-hand by the author and many like him.

It was a brutally horrific system that made countless victims of the very children it was designed to protect. These brutally horrific regimes, founded upon extraordinary levels of inhumanity, cruelty, violence, fear, and intimidation brought children to their knees, brutalised, cowed and often in fear for their very existence. It was a stark, depressive, and oppressively dysfunctional system, that imposed perpetual physical suffering and mental hardship, upon its most vulnerable charges. It was a pernicious cycle of ritualised systematic abuse, inflicted on some of the most vulnerable children society could offer up.This was the environment that the ‘Unfortunates’ found themselves embedded in during the 1960s.

It was a system that lacked care, thought, and all things humane. A system where the imposition of brutal physical and sexual abuse had become normalised, legitimised, embraced and ultimately, forcefully accepted. This was life in a local authority home. These were the homes of ‘the Damned’, where a catalogue of daily horrors were inflicted for the personal pleasure of those charged with the care of this hidden, and often forgotten, sub-culture of children who, through no fault of their own, were forced to embrace these traumas, and endure a fight for their very survival.

Oi was published on 18th November 2018 and you can by it from Waterstones and Amazon.

My Review:

Oh my goodness. I'm really not sure I can do this incredible book justice. I am fortunate to have no experience of the British childcare system past or present, and so Oi was a real eye opener for me. It has stuck with me, and tears fill my eyes every time I talk to someone about it.

Oi tells the true story of one young boy's journey through the childcare system from the end of the 60s through to the 80s. And it's absolutely heartbreaking. And harrowing. But it's also a tale of that young man's resilience in the face of the most awful circumstances. There are so many things I want to say about this book - the picture below will give you an idea - but I will try to keep it focused.

The story opens when Snowball is about six years old. He is part of a large foster family and feels secure, happy and loved. His walk home from school is described so vividly. He's the only black face in the community, but experiences no hostility because of it, just a kindly curiosity. This happy existence follows his hugely traumatic first year of life when he was abused, burned and scalded by his drunken mother. He was lucky to survive and I think this was an early show of the resilience and strength that would mark his survival in later years.

Everything changes when he is suddenly ripped from his foster home and taken to a care home, never to see any of his foster family again. On his first night in his new home he needs the loo, and ignoring the warnings from the boys in his room, heads off to the toilet. On the way back, a cuff across the head from the home manager sends him flying into the wall opposite. And that's just the beginning.

Oi catalogues abuse upon abuse - mental, physical and sexual. This abuse was carried out by those tasked with caring for these kids, who had all arrived damaged. One young boy walking around with blood dripping from his arms from self harming. A bright young girl whose light is dimmed by systematic sexual abuse. Care workers using food deprivation as a punishment. There is story after story, and they are all heartbreaking. I cried so much reading this book.

These children were let down, and let down repeatedly by everybody who should have been caring for them - the staff in the homes, social workers, teachers, police, pretty much everyone. Traumatised kids pushed into a brutalized regime.

In one of the homes in which Snowball lived 'everything and anything was either controlled, abused or simply broken. Property and children alike.' The same home 'operated on the core principle of institutionalised abuse. Whether it was mental, physical or sexual, the entire operation was predicated on the belief that control could be maintained by violating children.' Snowball refers to it as a home for 'the unwanted and the wretched.' And this home was in no way unique.

There are exceptions, but they are few and far between. The occasional kindly care worker, who wouldn't beat the kids, a nice policeman and the one decent home where Snowball lived, and had possessions he could call his own. Tears filled my eyes as Snowball is completely overwhelmed at the thought of writing a letter to Santa, hardly daring to hope that he might actually get a gift.

But these moments of kindness are far too few in a very bleak landscape. The abuse continued and I was horrified to read about it being ignored by everyone, even when evidence is presented.

Oi is a difficult read that took me a while to finish but it's a book that should be widely read. It talks about all kinds of abuse in detail so it might not be for everyone, but it is a story that needs to be heard. It has been written with an adult take on childhood memories of hugely traumatic events, but what shines through is Snowball's  refusal to bow down or be silenced, and his strong sense of right and wrong. It will stay with me for a long time.

I have no idea how Snowball survived those first sixteen years but I'm delighted that he did and made a success of his life. I can't help but wonder about the other children mentioned in the book. Of course, such abuse should never ever have happened, and the awful thing is that it still goes on in our care system. We need to be aware, we need to talk about this. We need to be shocked, we need to be angry. Those responsible must be held accountable.

There is so much more I could say, but I'm going to finish here. Thank you David for telling your story. It was a privilege to read it.

The Author:

The author, David Lee Jackson (1964 – Present) was born in Withington, Manchester in England, into an impoverished black family.  Within months of being born, he found himself on the wrong end of abusive parenting, being hospitalised and close to death.

Eventually recovering and well enough to be treated as an out-patient, he was placed into foster care, where he was loved and he began to thrive. Unforeseen circumstances forced him from this loving home, and he found himself at the brutal and often criminal mercies of an abusive and violent childcare system.

The 1960s and 1970s British Childcare System cared little for the children under its control.  It was a brutal, degrading, violent and occasionally deadly environment, into which children were not only thrown like lambs to the slaughter, but were then expected to emerge as competent, capable, contributing members of the society that had so shamelessly failed them at every juncture.

He survived by navigating his course through one violent and abusive encounter after another. Living on his wits, and his fists where necessary, and longing for the day he would finally be freed from this physical and psychological turmoil. David survived, educated himself, obtaining an Honours Degree in Psychology and a Master's Degree in International Business. He has been an elected public official, served on a number of charity boards and forums, and is an active campaigner on social justice and equality issues. David has worked in the criminal justice system, working with drug-addicted offenders, many with shared or similar backgrounds to his own, and he is a well-travelled and widely respected project management consultant.

In 2018, David (under the name Snowball) published the widely praised and much talked about book, 'Oi' through the Amazon network, in which he detailed in all its brutally cold and horrifically ignoble glory, the horrifying levels of abuse, brutality and criminality that he encountered, while being raised in the British Childcare System throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The book itself is a testament to the enduring resilience of all children living through adversity and both physical and psychological hardship, and an indictment of the casually brutal and often criminal systems, that inflict relentless brutality upon children it has been charged with caring for.

Reviews included:
…..Harrowing, brutal and truthful!  Buckle up and read Snowball's heart wrenching account of a life that no child should ever experience- prepare to be shocked to the core, be ready to feel every emotion…..(Brenda Lee)
……one of the most emotional journeys you will ever take with a child who survives unbelievable childhood adversity. At times it is almost too painful to witness, it truly is a tribute to the child and the man who wrote it……Amanda Knowles (MBE)
…..this book is as epic as it is painful read at times and extremely sad!  It illustrates a time when Victorian child care was still in evidence even in the 60s, 70s & 80s and children were definitely to be seen and not heard……...this book will educate……Anon

David is currently resident in the United Kingdom, where amongst other professional endeavours, he has embarked on a blossoming career as a Keynote Speaker and Motivational Presenter. He has an adult son and enjoys the comfort of a vast extended family, that is spread across the entirety of the United kingdom.

To quote David in words he would choose himself:
………….Life has been a tough ride at times. It would have been easy, and acceptable to simply give up, to shrink, to fade away as expected.  However, there is an irrepressible force inside all of us called the Human Spirit, and it constantly screams at me, 'David, you may not be responsible for being down, but you are responsible for getting back up again' …………………and so I get up.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Violet by SJI Holliday

I'm delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour (which happily doesn't involve travelling on a train!) for Violet by SJI (Susi) Holliday. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to get involved and to Orenda for my review copy.

The Blurb:

Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.

Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.

When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.

Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel - because one of these women is not who she claims to be…

Violet was published by Orenda Books as an eBook on 14th September 2019 and on 14th November 2019 in paperback. You can purchase it from the publisher, Waterstones, Amazon UK and Amazon US.

My Review:

I am not much of a traveller, but now I seriously have the fear about it after reading this! I am never talking to anyone when I'm travelling ever again! Headphones and a book for me  from now on.

Violet is travelling on her own in Beijing, having been dumped by her boyfriend. And half her luggage has gone missing. She is desperate to get a ticket for the Trans-Siberian Express to Moscow, but is told that all the tickets have gone. Retiring to the bar to drown her sorrows she meets Carrie who is also travelling alone after her best pal had an accident. Carrie has her pal's ticket for the train which she can't be refunded for but she can transfer. After the two girls get drunk and have fun together, Carrie offers Violet her spare ticket, making no mention of payment. And thus their journey, and ours, begins.

It's hard to talk too much about the story itself without spoilers. But it gets harder to trust either girl as the journey progresses and their memories of events that take place are fractured and hazy. Violet is an unreliable narrator but it's mainly her voice we hear. She is desperate for a new friend, a really good new friend, and wants to impress Carrie. However, her behaviour isn't always appropriate and is frequently erratic. But Carrie's occasional emails to her best friend and family members are very telling. She is clearly not all she seems either.

Susi Holliday has created two great characters here and she teases us by revealing them very slowly. Initially we only know what each girl tells us about herself, and we don't always know what of that is true, but as the story unfolds we learn more about them bit by bit and can form our own opinions. Although mine changed frequently as the tale twisted and turned.

The setting on the train is claustrophobic and stifling, and certainly adds to the dangerous environment. As I mentioned earlier I'm not particularly well travelled, so I loved visiting the places in the book. They are so beautifully described, very evocative. I got really cross with Violet and Carrie for not making the most of them!

This was my first book by Susi Holliday but I look forward to reading more. I read Violet in two days. It is a detailed, intimate look at an obsessive and toxic relationship between two unreliable, possibly dangerous people and the damage done to them and those around them. The characters, whilst not particularly likeable, are really well crafted and the locations are so brilliantly described I could have been there. I really enjoyed it but will look at train journeys differently now!

The Author:

SJI (Susi) Holliday is a scientist, writing coach and the bestselling author of five crime novels, including the Banktoun Trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly), the festive chiller The Deaths of December and her creepy Gothic psychological thriller The Lingering. Her short story ‘Home From Home’ was published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize.

Encapsulating her love of travel and  claustrophobic settings, her latest novel, Violet, explores toxic friendships and the perils of talking to strangers, as well as drawing on her own journey on the Trans-Siberian  Express over 10  years ago.  All of her novels have been UK ebook number-one bestsellers. Susi was born and raised  in  Scotland and now divides her time between Edinburgh, London and as many other exciting places that she can fit in.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Highest Lives by Gordon Brown

Today is my stop on the Highest Lives tour and I'm delighted to be offering a giveaway - more details later on how you can win a copy of the book. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for providing the prize.

The Blurb:

In cities across North America people are dying in seemingly impossible ways. Is history s most outrageous serial killer on the loose? When LAPD Detective Sarah Tracy is secretly instructed to recruit Craig McIntyre to help her investigate the deaths, she is unaware that his mere presence can transform people s darkest thoughts into action. As Sarah and Craig hunt the murky underbelly of LA for the malevolent figure responsible for the bizarre deaths, they stumble upon the most expensive narcotic ever to hit the streets - a substance that promises something so unbelievable that users are willing to risk death to experience it. With government black ops agency head Senator Tampoline always lurking in the shadows, Craig is used to being hunted. Now he is the hunter. And thousands could die if he fails to track down the killer.

Highest Lives was published by Strident Publishing on 8th October 2019 and you can buy it from Waterstones, Amazon UK, Amazon US and other good booksellers.

The Author:

Gordon Brown has seven crime and thriller books published to date, along with a number of short stories (including a story in an Anthony Winning anthology). His latest novel, Highest Lives,  is the fourth in the Craig McIntyre series. He also helped found Bloody Scotland, Scotland's International Crime Writing Festival (, is a DJ on local radio ( and runs a strategic planning consultancy. Gordon lives in Scotland and is married with two children. In a former life he delivered pizzas in Toronto, sold non-alcoholic beer in the Middle East, launched a creativity training business, floated a high-tech company on the London Stock Exchange, compered the main stage at a two-day music festival and was once booed by 49,000 people while on the pitch at a major football Cup Final.

You can find out more about Gordon by visiting his website or following him on Twitter @GoJaBrown.


I'm delighted to be able to offer a paperback copy of Highest Lives to one lucky person via my Twitter account @SuzeCM. Just head over there and follow the instructions on my pinned tweet to be in with a chance to win. The giveaway will close at 8pm on Sunday 24th November and the winner will be notified on Twitter. UK entries only, sorry. Good luck!

Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver

I'm thrilled to be taking part today in the blog tour for the unique piece of work that is Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver. Huge thanks, as always, to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my review copy.

The Blurb:

A shocking, mesmerisingly original, pitch-black thriller, which, following the critically acclaimed Good Samaritans, confirms Will Carver as one of the most imaginative, innovative and exciting authors in crime fiction.

Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But, at the same time, they leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.

That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of The People of Choice: a mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.

Thirty-two people on a train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People of Choice are appearing around the globe. It becomes a movement. A social-media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers.

The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader who does not seem to exist...

Nothing Important Happened Today was published by Orenda Books as an eBook on 14th September 2019 and in paperback on 14th November 2019. You can purchase it from the publisher, Waterstones, Amazon UK, Amazon US and other good booksellers.

My Review:

Oh gosh, where to start! I didn't read any full reviews of Nothing Important Happened Today before I read it, but I had seen lots of comments along the lines of 'OMG!' 'WTF have I just read?' and 'I can't review that!', so I knew I was in for quite a ride.

And guess what? They were all right. Nothing Important Happened Today is pretty impossible to describe. If this was a vlog post (worry not, dear reader, face for radio here) it would just be me exclaiming "Whaaaaaaattt?!", pacing the floor and throwing my hands up in despair.

This is my first Will Carver read, although I have Good Samaritans waiting patiently for me, but I'm already thinking he might be some kind of evil genius. This was unlike any other book I've ever read (and I've read a few) and I'm fairly sure you probably won't have read anything similar either.

It begins with nine people, all strangers, jumping off a bridge at the same time, having received a letter that morning staying simply 'Nothing important happened today'. They are The People of Choice. The passengers in one carriage of a passing train get the best view of this mass suicide - two of them will soon be getting a letter.

The narrator is impersonal and anonymous. The writing style is aggressive. It's blunt and directed at the reader. Short sharp chapters that just grab you. Very few of the characters are named, rather they are simply referred to by a number and a title - Poet, Lover, Nobody. We see snapshots of their lives but don't get the chance to learn too much about them before they are gone. But they are you. And they are me. I think I'm a Nobody. In between these wee glimpses we learn about cults and mass murderers, a fascinating (and well researched) history lesson.

The subject matter will mean this isn't for everyone. It's not an easy book to read but it is totally worth it when it all comes together. It makes you uncomfortable, and it's hard to say it was enjoyable as such. But it is absolutely unforgettable. It gets your head in a spin. It challenges you. It challenges your apathy. How you relate to the world around you and how much you miss. It has harsh, but relevant, things to say about social media. It's also really, really clever. And unique.

I think Will Carver's mind must be a dark disturbing place to be. But going by this, I will happily read anything he comes up with. Nothing Important Happened Today is easily one of my books of the year.

The Author:

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Retriever of Souls by Lorraine Mace

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Retriever of Souls, the first book in the DI Paolo Sterling series from Lorraine Mace. Thanks to Emma at damppebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my review copy.

The Blurb:

The first title in a dark and gritty crime series.

Brought up believing that sex is the devil's work, a killer only finds release once he has saved his victim's souls. Abiding by his vision, he marks them as his. A gift to guide his chosen ones on the rightful path to redemption.

Detective Inspector Paolo Sterling is out to stop him, but Paolo has problems of his own. Hunting down the killer as the death toll rises, the lines soon blur between Paolo's personal and professional lives.

Retriever of Souls was published by Accent Press on 13th December 2018 and is available from BlackwellsWaterstonesAmazon UK, Amazon US, Google Books and other good booksellers.

My Review:

DI Paolo Sterling and his team have a nightmare of a case on their hands. Prostitutes in the fictional town of Bradchester are dying, murdered by a seemingly sadistic killer who is confident enough to leave DNA at the scenes.

The killer believes he is doing God's work. Having had a deeply unhealthy relationship with his strict Catholic mother, he thinks he is saving the souls of these women. In fact he knows he is, because God is guiding him in what he does. He is excited by his work and finds relief after he has killed, leaving his evidence on each victim.

The story point of view alternates between Paolo and the killer, and we learn more about both men. Paolo was instantly likeable. Also Catholic, he's a stand up guy with a strong sense of right and wrong. He has a good team around him but struggles to bond with his new DS Dave Johnson. Outside of work though, Paolo's having a tough time. Separated from his wife and not seeing much of his daughter, he is desperate to get his family back together. But I loved that he is a Terry Pratchett fan - the man has good taste!

We learn about the killer's background, his childhood and parents' relationship, the things that started to shape him into the man he has become. And we see him out on the hunt for victims and what he does for them. And we see his conflict with the gift he gives them and the guilt he feels for doing it.

The story is detailed and fast paced, full of great characters and throws up some red herrings. Swapping between Paolo and the killer's viewpoints kept things interesting and I read this quickly, wanting to know what happened next.

I've found that religion tends to feature in a fair few crime thrillers and it's not always easy to keep things fresh. But for me, Lorraine Mace has done that. Yes, religion features heavily, in the main storyline and beyond, but this is balanced out by a healthy dose of logical reasoning and some really clever and interesting science stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Author:

Born and raised in South East London, Lorraine lived and worked in South Africa, on the Island of Gozo and in France before settling on the Costa del Sol in Spain. She lives with her partner in a traditional Spanish village inland from the coast and enjoys sampling the regional dishes and ever-changing tapas in the local bars. Her knowledge of Spanish is expanding. To stop her waistline from doing the same, she runs five times a week.

When not working on the DI Sterling series of crime novels, Lorraine is engaged in many writing-related activities. She is a columnist for both Writing Magazine and Writers’ Forum and is head judge for Writers’ Forum monthly fiction competitions.

A tutor for Writers Bureau, she also runs her own private critique and author mentoring service.

Author Social Media Links:


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