Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Keep Her Sweet by Helen Fitzgerald

Hello everyone! Today is my stop on the blog tour for Keep Her Sweet by Helen Fitzgerald. I had read and enjoyed a couple of Helen's previous novels so was keen to get stuck into this one. But thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me and to the publisher for my review copy.

The Blurb

When a middle-aged couple downsizes to the countryside for an easier life, their two daughters become isolated, argumentative and violent … A chilling, vicious and darkly funny psychological thriller from bestselling author Helen FitzGerald.

Desperate to enjoy their empty nest, Penny and Andeep downsize to the countryside, to forage, upcycle and fall in love again, only to be joined by their two twenty-something daughters, Asha and Camille.

Living on top of each other in a tiny house, with no way to make money, tensions simmer, and as Penny and Andeep focus increasingly on themselves, the girls become isolated, argumentative and violent.

When Asha injures Camille, a family therapist is called in, but she shrugs off the escalating violence between the sisters as a classic case of sibling rivalry … and the stress of the family move.

But this is not sibling rivalry. The sisters are in far too deep for that.

This is a murder, just waiting to happen …

Chilling, vicious and darkly funny, Keep Her Sweet is not just a tense, sinister psychological thriller, but a startling look at sister relationships and they bonds they share … or shatter.

Keep Her Sweet is published by Orenda Books. The eBook is out now, the paperback on 26th May.

My Review

I'd previously read a couple of Helen's books before (Ash Mountain review here) so knew I was in for a treat. 

Penny and Andeep have downsized to focus on themselves, their relationship and their creative outlets - Andeep on his stand up comedy, Penny her upcycling and various groups. But circumstances mean their two  adult daughters have come to live with them. In the smaller space sisters Asha and Camille are at each other's throats and things quickly escalate to the point where a family therapist is called in. Joy, however, has worries of her own. 

Well, talk about a dysfunctional family! The Maloney-Singhs have it all going on. Every one of them has issues, but the relationship between Asha and Camille seems to have completely broken down. The story is told from three different points of view: Penny's, Joy's and particularly Camille's. But, actually, it's hard to know how reliable our three narrators are. And I love an unreliable narrator. 

All the characters are beautifully described and their relationships - good bits and bad - laid out in intimate detail. I particularly loved Asha, or, I guess, Camille's (and ultimately, of course, the author's) presentation of her sister. Asha has certainly had her issues and these are teased out through the story. Poor Joy! The most sympathetic of the characters, she comes across as a very nice woman, if a little distracted, but Fitzgerald puts her right through the ringer. And as for Richard and Rowena, don't get me started!

There is a lot of humour in the book, of the darkest kind. Although drug misuse, of course, is no laughing matter the description of Spock's meth high is very funny. My favourite line, though, refers to Richard - I won't repeat it here but it made me laugh out loud. It's fair to say religion doesn't come out very well here. 

As we're reading there is a rising tension, a sense of inevitability, that we might not be heading for a happy ending. Certainly not a happy family. The strained relationship between the sisters, already violent, just gets worse and worse. Therapy doesn't help. But I loved the relationship that develops between Joy and Camille and the unexpected direction it takes. 

There is so much to unpick in this novel I could go on and on. But here's what you need to know: Keep Her Sweet is shocking, tense, violent, dark and funny. It's a warning tale of bad parenting, toxic sisterly bonds and dysfunctional families. And it makes this blogger very glad she has a brother! Loved it. 

The Author

Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and adapted for a major BBC drama. Her 2019 dark-comedy thriller Worst Case Scenario was a Book of the Year in the Literary Review, Herald Scotland, Guardian and Daily Telegraph, shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and won the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award. Her most recent title Ash Mountain was published in 2020. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia, and now lives in Glasgow with her husband. Follow Helen on Twitter @FitzHelen.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

See No Evil by David Fennell

Today we're moving over to the darker side of crime (which is just how I like it!) with my blog tour review of See No Evil, the second DI Grace Archer novel, by David Fennell. Huge thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for the invitation and to the publishers for my review copy.

The Blurb

For this killer, it’s death at first sight…

Two men are found dead in London's Battersea Park. One of the bodies has been laid out like a crucifix - with his eyes removed and placed on his open palms.

Detective Inspector Grace Archer and her caustic DS, Harry Quinn, lead the investigation. But when more bodies turn up in a similar fashion, they find themselves in a race against time to find the sadistic killer.

The hunt leads them to Ladywell Playtower in Southeast London, the home to a religious commune lead by the enigmatic Aaron Cronin. Archer and Quinn suspect Cronin's involvement but his alibis are watertight, and the truth seemingly buried. If Archer is to find the killer, she must first battle her way through religious fanatics, London gangsters - and her own demons...

My Review

I absolutely adored David Fennell's debut, The Art of Death, where we first met DI Grace Archer. It was quite a ride, and a dark one at that. So I was super excited to read this one and jumped at the chance to review it. And, as with the previous novel, I raced through it, couldn't turn the pages fast enough. 

Two men are found dead in Battersea Park. One body has been left untouched. The other, however, has been horribly mutilated and left laid out in a ritualistic fashion for anyone to find. Archer and partner DS Harry Quinn are stumped, particularly as there seems to be no connection between the two men, not any obvious explanation for why their bodies have been treated differently. More mutilated bodies appear and it's a race against time for Archer and her team. But Grace also hears some personal news that knocks her sideways and she struggles not to let that impact the investigation.

Grace is brilliant. She's not always popular at work because she stands up for what's right and is willing to expose colleagues who aren't so bothered with doing the right thing. There's an incident early on in the book which is a fantastic example of this and I was cheering her on. She has her demons, dark, scary ones, that come to visit often, and she is clearly affected by events in the past. But she is always focused and determined. She's a beautifully written character and I particularly love her relationship with her grandad. We really see her caring side then, especially here when their relationship is put to the test to a certain extent. Talking about Grandad, I adored his friendship with Cosmo. 

Whilst Grace might be unpopular with some colleagues, she is always supported by Harry and analyst Klara. There's such an interesting dynamic, particularly between Grace and Harry as they're people who we might not expect to get along. But they are a rock solid team and Klara is a welcome addition. Aaron Cronin is so well written, charming and creepy all in one. Well, he certainly gave me the creeps anyway! But the standout character for me was Kain - he has really stayed with me. I guess what I'm trying to say is all the characters are really well drawn, very three dimensional, and I was interested and invested in them all.

The story is disturbing with discussions on some sensitive subjects. It's a book that grabs you from the very beginning and keeps hold of you until the explosive denouement. It's difficult to talk about the plot without giving anything away, but it's a delight you should discover for yourself. The subplot, such a strong storyline in itself, is weaved through beautifully, the pacing is spot on and there is an overriding sense of tension and general creepiness. There were plenty of times I thought I knew where things were going only to be proved wrong. It's one of this books and I loved that about it. And the ending hints at more to come for Grace, which would be wonderful, so I'm crossing my fingers and toes for that.

See No Evil is a fast paced, tense and gripping race against time. It's a tale of hate and revenge. It's beautifully written, well plotted and populated by a wide ranging, colourful cast of characters. There wasn't anything I didn't like about it and I would highly recommend it if you like your crime on the dark side.

The Author

David Fennell was born and raised in Belfast before leaving for London at the age of eighteen with £50 in one pocket and a dog-eared copy of Stephen King's The Stand in the other. He jobbed as a chef, waiter and bartender for several years before starting a career in writing for the software industry. He has been working in CyberSecurity for fourteen years and is a fierce advocate for information privacy. David has played rugby for Brighton and has studied Creative Writing at the University of Sussex. He is married and he and his partner split their time between Central London and Brighton.To find out more, visit his website: www.davidfennell.co.uk. Follow him on Twitter: @davyfennell

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Six Wounds by Morgan Cry

I'm returning to crime with today's review, opening the blog tour for Six Wounds by Morgan Cry, the second Danielle Coulstoun novel. Set in the Spanish sunshine, it's entertaining from beginning to end. Huge thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me and to the publisher for my review copy.

The Blurb

To make the perfect Spanish whodunnit cocktail, take one dead gangster, mix in six shifty expats, add one ruthless baddie and garnish with a suspicious police officer . . .

Daniella Coulstoun has recently moved to the Costa Blanca. When the dead body of a prominent London gangster is discovered in the cellar of her bar she quickly becomes the number one suspect.

With the police closing in, the local expats turning on her and a psychotic rival to the dead gangster in the background, Daniella knows she needs to nail the real killer, and fast.

Six Wounds is out today from Polygon.

My Review

We first met Daniella in 2020's Thirty-One Bones when she inherited Se Busca, a run down bar on the Costa Blanca, from her estranged mother. The bar came with its own patrons, a ragtag bunch of expats with some colourful histories. Things have been ticking over for a wee while but get a while lot worse when a body turns up in the pub cellar. On top of that, with Daniella not up to speed with her Spanish, business accounts, local feuds and, generally, just how things work, she feels the expats, including her lover, are trying to edge her out. And there are others who are trying harder and with far less subtlety. She's in for a rough ride...

Six Wounds opens with a crash, bang, wallop and doesn't really let up until the end. For those new to this particular slice of Spanish heaven the scene setting is wonderful. The sunshine, fiestas, holidaymakers... And the gaudy, tacky seediness of Se Busca (and one of two other places), Daniella's mother's fusty apartment - it's so easy to visualise all of it. And the characters, well... The expats are a colourful bunch - an ex pop star,  a racing driver, models, an ex accountant and a businessman whose lives in El Descaro have been equally colourful. The jury is still out for me on some of them but I'm not George's biggest fan and I generally like Zia, most of the time anyway! A big shoutout for Saucy's sober moment! There are some fresh characters too, most notably Carl Stoker, not a man I'd like to offend in any way. Daniella is a brilliant character - whilst she doesn't hold the sway her mother did, she doesn't stand for any nonsense and will fight to hold her own. She's fiery, though, and that does get her into some bother. 

Morgan Cry has given us some great local rivalries and customs - I loved the idea of The Steal, although I sympathised with poor Danielle about it. And there is the parade and the planned race - I loved all the wee details adding to our picture of Daniella's new life. 

Six Wounds is a sun-soaked, action-packed thriller which grabs you at the get go and pulls you along for the ride. The storyline is spot on, the pacing is perfect, the rising tension occasionally lightened by sunshine and humour. Throw in a smart, sassy protagonist and a colourful supporting cast and you have a fabulous romp of a book. I said the same about the last one but this one too is far more fun than it has any right to be! Highly recommended. 

The Author

Here, Gordon Brown is writing as Morgan Cry. Gordon has written six crime thrillers to date, along with a number of short stories. He also helped found Bloody Scotland, Scotland's International Crime Writing Festival, is a DJ on local radio (www.pulseonair.co.uk) and runs a strategic planning consultancy. In a former life Gordon 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, and compered the main stage at a two-day music festival. He lives in Scotland and is married with two children.

Be sure to check out the rest of the tour over the coming days!  

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Riding Pillion with George Clooney and Other Stories by Geraldine Ryan

I'm back with fiction today, but still not crime. For a change, I've come over to the lighter side of fiction and I'm reviewing Riding Pillion with George Clooney and other stories, a collection of heartwarming short stories with women at the centre, by Geraldine Ryan. Thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me and to the publisher for my review copy.

The Blurb

Twelve moving short stories inspired by the everyday lives of women

- A single woman on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Italian lakes still dreams of adventure. Can she find it closer to home?

- A grieving widow finds comfort in the company of a stray cat that bears striking similarities to her dead husband.

- An estranged daughter confronts an unspeakable tragedy from her past as she attempts to reconcile with her long-lost family.

Geraldine Ryan is a prolific short-story writer whose work has appeared in Woman’s Weekly and Take a Break’s Fiction Feast magazines. The women in this, her first published anthology, may be at different stages of life but all of them are experiencing the ground shifting beneath their feet. Their tales of love, longing and redemption will touch your heart and bring a smile to your face.

Riding Pillion with George Clooney and Other Stories was published by  Wrate's Publishing on 29th March 2022. ,

Purchase Links


My Review

This is not my usual read but just occasionally I like to step away from crime and psychological thrillers to something lighter. And I do like a cheeky wee short story! And here I got 12 of them! All with women and girls, at various stages of life, at their centre. All the stories have been previously published over the last 20 years or so, in women's magazines

In a short story there is so much less time for character development and scene setting but I felt the author for a great job with that. The stories are quick and easy to read, and written with a light touch. So I was surprised how many gave me the feels. 

As someone with a son hopefully heading to university in the autumn, Stirred and Shaken, a quick story about a mother teaching her son how to make macaroni cheese before he heads away, got to me the most. Whilst I'm super excited for my son I will miss him like crazy. I'm not sure it'll be when he's making macaroni cheese (must check he knows how to...) But I hope he thinks of his mum occasionally! This story summed up that mix of feeling  pride that he's going, but also sadness because he'll be leaving, and disbelief that a baby boy could suddenly be a young man ready to head out into the world. Yep, that. 

I also liked Danny Run Home, another story with a mother and son dynamic. Danny has had his difficulties in the past and caused trouble at home but he says he's changed and wants to see his parents, start a new chapter in his life. His mum can't wait to see him. But Dad? He's really not sure. A story about second chances. And my final favourite is mentioned in the blurb above. In After Harriet, a woman, who hasn't seen her family for years following an awful tragedy, returns home to try to build bridges with her mother. Quite a powerful wee read about how events that happened and comments that were made years ago can still have an effect now. 

I've realised that the stories I picked as highlights are all about parents, particularly mothers, and children which figures, I guess, as I am a parent of young adults. But Riding Pillion with George Clooney and Other Stories offers something for everyone. A quick and easy read, the uplifting stories will make you smile. But they might also give you an unexpected lump in the throat. A lovely change from my usual, darker fare.  

The Author

Geraldine Ryan is a proud Northerner who has spent most of her life in Cambridge – the one with the punts. She holds a degree in Scandinavian Studies but these days the only use she puts it to is to identify which language is being spoken among the characters of whatever Scandi drama is currently showing on TV. She worked as a teacher of English and of English as a second or foreign language for many years, in combination with rearing her four children, all of whom are now grown up responsible citizens. Her first published story appeared in My Weekly in 1993. Since then her stories have appeared in Take-a-Break, Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly as well as in women’s magazines abroad. She has also written 2 young adult novels- ‘Model Behaviour’ (published by Scholastic) and ‘The Lies and Loves of Finn’ (Channel 4 Books.) This anthology of previously published short stories will be, she hopes, only the first of several.

Author Social Media Links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GeraldineRyan

Monday, 2 May 2022

Pushing Through The Cracks by Emily J Johnson

Taking a wee break from crime fiction, from fiction altogether, in fact, for today's entry on the blog. Published last year, Pushing Through The Cracks is an incredibly open and honest account of the worst four years of Emily J Johnson's life. Thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Tours for inviting me and to the publisher for my review copy.

The Blurb 

Four years ago, Emily, a divorced mother of two, was living her best life with a new partner and blended family of six. But then addiction and mental illness entered her home uninvited, threatening to tear the whole family apart.

With an alcoholic husband and two teenage sons – one a depressed gambler and the other with chronic obsessive-compulsive disorder – Emily is left to cope alone. And when the Covid pandemic hits, Emily, a serial people-pleaser, enabler and born rescuer, almost breaks too.

This true story delves into the darkest sides of mental illness and addiction with raw, often harrowing honesty. It shines a light on taboo subjects including self-harm, suicidal feelings, gambling, alcoholism, depression, severe OCD and eating disorders, all exacerbated by an unprecedented global pandemic and dwindling support services.

This is a story of remarkable strength, self-realisation and reclamation of a lost identity. This is a story of finding hope, pushing through the cracks in the darkness.

My Review

At her wits end, crying in an alleyway behind her house in the darkest of moments, Emily saw a dandelion that had pushed through the cracks in the paving stones - it gave her hope. 

Wow, what a story! Pushing Through The Cracks is a memoir of a four year period in the life of Emily, her sons Thomas and Jack, and second husband Paul. In that time, mental illness has affected the whole family. Paul develops alcoholism, Thomas begins online gambling, Jack develops severe OCD and Emily who, as mothers - and women generally - do, tries to keep everything going, fix everyone and hold the family together, inevitably develops mental health difficulties of her own. It's a rough ride, and that's putting it VERY mildly, for the whole family, including Paul's two sons who are often present. 

As someone who struggles with her own mental health, Emily's story really resonated with me. Much was familiar, too - school refusals, attendance officers, school meetings, CAMHS, knife risk, social services, multi disciplinary meetings, frustration at the lack of support, wanting to fix everything but not knowing what to do, feeling like a terrible mum. My experiences were nothing like Emily's, nowhere near as extreme, but have me some understanding and empathy. 

Emily's account is so honest, so raw, it makes for difficult reading at some points. The whole family was in such a fire situation and I admire the strength of all of them for coming as far as they have. It was sad to read of the difficulties in Paul and Emily's marriage, how they stopped being affectionate and intimate, became just like housemates. No one's fault, but Paul had his own difficulties and Emily focused herself on the boys. I felt so deeply for this family but young Jack just broke my heart. Emily's vivid description of Jack's OCD, how it affected him, her and the rest of the family are both horrifying and enlightening. I had a basic understanding of OCD but this really helped me see if more clearly. How Emily kept herself together over these years is beyond me - such strength. I know it has affected her, of course, but she made it. 

They all made it. But this is not a finished story. Healing for the family continues. But  the love, strength and resilience of all of them is incredible, even if the fight is ongoing. I am in awe of of them and of how far they have come and wish them the very best in the future. 

Pushing Through The Cracks is an intimate, raw look at mental illness, the effect on the individual and those around them. And for Emily's family that was multiplied. It's about trying to keep it together, about trying your best but making mistakes, about realising that it's not your job to fix it. And it's about finding a little hope and hanging on to it and about rediscovering yourself. Of course, due to the subject matter this might be a book that is too difficult for some to read. But, whilst Emily is unflinching in her descriptions of living with mental illness, this is ultimately a positive book - of hope, (ongoing) healing and looking forward. A very powerful read. 

The Author

Emily is a mother, author and advocate for raising awareness and improving access to mental health services. Having spent fifteen years living in Western Australia, Emily returned to the UK in 2010 and now lives on the south coast of England with her two sons and Billy - the family dog. Real and relatable, Emily continues to live and work around her family's ongoing mental illness whilst splitting her time between part-time work, full-time caring and any-time writing, whenever possible.

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Life Sentence by AK Turner

I really enjoyed Cassie Raven's first outing in Body Language so was excited to read this new one. Life Sentence was published by Jaffre on 14th April 2022. Many thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me onto the tour and to the publisher for my review copy.

The Blurb

Following her first outing in Body Language (published 2019), Camden mortuary technician Cassie Raven returns to solve another ingenious forensic mystery.

Mortuary technician Cassie Raven believes the last thoughts of the dead linger like static in the air...

Cassie has always had a strange affinity with death, ever since her parents were killed in a car crash when she was four. At least that's what she grew up believing...

But that was a lie. Cassie's father is alive. He was convicted of murdering her mother and spent years behind bars. Now he's out - and he's looking for her.

He swears he didn't do it. And Cassie wants to believe him.

To find the truth, she must turn detective. As she seeks answers, help is to be found in inexplicable places - for the dead are ready to talk.

My Review

Cassie has recently discovered that what she thought she knew about her parents is all a lie and that her father is in prison for murdering her mother. Until she discovers that he's out and determined to convince her that he's innocent. She so wants to believe him but isn't willing just to take him at his word. So, whilst she also looks into the death of a young man who comes across her table much of this book is taken up with her own story as she seeks to find the truth. 

I really like Cassie. She sports an alternative, goth style that you maybe wouldn't expect from a mortuary worker but she shows such deep care and respect to the bodies that she prepares, it's quite touching. And, occasionally, they 'speak to her. A sensitive soul, she is rocked by what she's finding out about her family and we see how it affects her relationship with her beloved grandmother. This is a beautifully written relationship with the love between grandmother and granddaughter radiating from the pages. 

Also interesting are Cassie's relays with young pathologist Archie and policewoman Phyllida. Archie is posh, well spoken, always well dressed in smart, expensive clothes. The opposite of Cassie, they shouldn't really get on but they do. They've formed a firm friendship and Turner teases of more. And Phyllida, uptight and by the book, is both irritated by and fascinated with Cassie, and vice versa. It's quite an odd dynamic, but one that really works, and it's a relationship I'm totally invested in.  

The main storyline is emotive, sad, shocking and heartbreaking. It's told with sensitivity, with a growing understanding for Cassie but with an increasing sense of threat. It's very atmospheric as Cassie immerses herself in the musical world in which her father used to be long, and I loved seeing her joy in the progress her friend was making following homelessness and addiction. The sub plot involving the death of a young man, a boy really, is also heartbreaking but, again, sensitively told. 

In Cassie Raven, AK Turner has given us an engaging protagonist, one the reader is rooting for throughout, and one with an unusual gift. Life Sentence is a story about death, life, love, family, jealousy, heartache and making up. About how events of the past can have a profound impact years later. Brilliantly and sensitively told, it never drags and is a really enjoyable read. 

The Author

AK Turner's first foray into crime fiction was a detective thriller trilogy, written under the pen name Anya Lipska, following the adventures of Janusz Kiszka, a fixer to London's Polish community. All three books won critical acclaim and were twice optioned as a possible TV series. In her other life as a TV producer and writer, AK makes documentaries and drama-docs on subjects as diverse as the Mutiny on the Bounty, the sex lives of Neanderthals, and Monty Don's Italian Gardens.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Quicksand of Memory by Michael J Malone

Delighted today to be sharing my review of the new book from one of my fave peeps. Quicksand of Memory by Michael J Malone came out in paperback on 14th April 2022, from Orenda Books. Many thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me into the blog tour and to the publisher for my review copy.

The Blurb

Scarred by their pasts, Jenna and Luke fall in love, brimming with hope for a rosy future. But someone has been watching, with chilling plans for revenge … An emotive, twisty, disturbing new psychological thriller by the critically acclaimed author of A Suitable Lie and In the Absence of Miracles.

Jenna is trying to rebuild her life after a series of disastrous relationships.

Luke is struggling to provide a safe, loving home for his deceased partner’s young son, following a devastating tragedy. 

When Jenna and Luke meet and fall in love, they are certain they can achieve the stability and happiness they both desperately need. 

And yet, someone is watching. 

Someone who has been scarred by past events. 

Someone who will stop at nothing to get revenge… 

Dark, unsettling and immensely moving, Quicksand of Memory is a chilling reminder that we are not only punished for our sins, but by them, and that memories left to blacken and sharpen over time are the perfect breeding ground for obsession, and murder…

My Review

I look forward to a new book from Michael Malone because I know I'm in for a treat and Quicksand of Memory absolutely delivers. 

Luke is setting himself up as a therapist, working from home as he brings up Nathan, the young son of his late partner, helped by her mother. He is only just starting out on this road and to supplement his income he works part time as a doorman. He is clearly a good man but we are given hints of a past, one that might not have been so rosy. The full picture is teased out tantalisingly throughout the book. 

Jenna is struggling with her mental health. She's trying to juggle part time work with the care of a demanding and  ungrateful mother after illness changed her. And the death of a former partner has affected Jenna more than she realised. She turns to Luke for help but as soon as the questions get difficult she leaves the session. However, that brief meeting was enough to ignite a spark between them and they hesitantly begin a relationship. 

Whilst the story is about Luke and Jenna's budding relationship, the main character has to be Danny. He's been dead for many years but he had such an impact on those around him, his influence is still felt in the present day.  

Luke and Jenna are both easy to like and you can't help but cheer them on. One of Malone's strengths is his characterisation. Luke and Jenna come fully formed and fleshed out with pasts, problems, hopes, fears and dreams. They are flawed. And they feel very real. Their tentative but burgeoning relationship makes us smile. But the shadow of Danny is never far away and there are other threats to their happiness. 

We learn about Danny through flashback scenes with him and Luke. In Danny, Michael Malone has created a truly toxic, controlling character, a man who strikes fear in many around him but who can present a completely different face to others. He's duplicitous and he really provoked some quite strong feelings in me. We feel his presence throughout the book. 

I must also mention Jamie, a young man with a difficult childhood. He comes to Alex for help and they develop a loose friendship. But Jamie is troubled and easily influenced by those around him. For me, he was a standout character, just heartbreaking, beautifully written. 

As well as writing novels, Michael Malone is also a poet and that shows in his beautiful writing. I noted a couple of examples but there are many others. 

'Jenna's smile was small, timid. A mouse peeking out from behind a wall'. My favourite couple of lines from the book. 

'...set off the tears. A silent slide of emotion down her cheek...'

'The wind lifted, signed in her ear...'

Quicksand of Memory is a study of memory, how it affects us, how we all view and remember things differently. Realising that not everything we believed was true. It's a story of love, friendships - healthy and toxic, heartache, revenge, pain and hope. How one person can still be affecting the lives of those close long after he's gone, the ripples of his actions still being felt. It's about breaking free. There are some real shocks in this book, and some uncomfortable moments for the reader, but it is so beautifully written and full of flawed, human characters that you will care about, root for and cry over, written with care and compassion. Just a gorgeous book. 

The Author

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines, After He Died, In the Absence of Miracles and A Song of Isolation soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

Be sure to check out the rest of the tour

Keep Her Sweet by Helen Fitzgerald

Hello everyone! Today is my stop on the blog tour for Keep Her Sweet by Helen Fitzgerald. I had read and enjoyed a couple of Helen's pre...