Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet

Historical Crime Fiction 5*s
Historical Crime Fiction

I couldn’t resist taking a closer look at this book which has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016 when I realised that it made a neat fit with my recent historical crime reads, both factual and fictionalised.

I have to admit I was slightly confused when I opened the first page to a realistic looking statements from the residents of Culduie, I was sure this was a work of fiction but apart from the smattering of Scottish dialect this could have been lifted from my recent non-fiction read, The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane by Jane Housham, which was set only three years prior to His Bloody Project. So we are in August 1869 and the residents of Culduie are giving their views of Roderick Macrae, who is accused of three murders.

The book is structured as if it were a work of non-fiction with the longest section given over to Roderick’s only statement, written at the behest of his advocate Mr Andrew Sinclair while he was awaiting trial at Inverness Castle, having been swiftly detained after the bodies had been found. The account of Roderick Macrae is surprisingly well crafted considering the boy was just seventeen, a crofter who had grown up in a small village and one whose boundaries he had rarely crossed. This discrepancy however had already been covered within Graeme Macrae Burnet’s foreword to the book, if you are going to pick up this book, don’t skip this section!

This was a book that kept my interest on so many different levels. I didn’t know much about the life of a crofter, I know far more now. Life in a small Scottish village was tough, ruled by the Laird through his minions, the crofters pretty much lived from hand to mouth, hoping for a good harvest to keep them in food throughout the black months. Roddy was one of four children living with their father following the death of their mother a year earlier. Jette, Rodderick’s sister acting as mother to the two youngest children, kept house and looked after their strict, morose father. In short a grim life that is hard to imagine. When a new Constable is elected to look after the Laird’s interest in Culduie, life takes a turn for the worse.The most I will say about the section containing Roderick’s account is that it raises a few questions and I’m sure each reader will have a slightly different take on the information. It also introduces us to a range of characters, some of which we naturally met within the statements, others only appear through Rodderick’s eyes.

I loved the structure of the books, I was continually reminding myself that this was a work of fiction, and following the preface, the statements and Roderick’s account we finally get to the trial itself. Here, if you didn’t already have enough questions, you will have plenty more to add to the pile! What is brilliant is that I still have questions, I still want to know more about a few of the characters – yes this is a book I want to read again, knowing what I now know to see what else the pages will give me in the way of certainty. For me the mark of a cracking good read.

Although this book isn’t a crime thriller read in the normal sense of the word, there is very little doubt who committed the murders, it more than makes up for it with the whys. For those readers who enjoy something that challenges the norm, and definitely one that makes you think, you really don’t want to miss out!

First Published UK: 6 November 2015
Publisher: Contraband
No of Pages: 288
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Pariah – David Jackson

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction

NYPD detective Callum Doyle is the star of this book set in, yes you guessed it New York! He’s in a bit of a pickle though as the other detectives are already worried about working with him following the death of his partner in the corner of a car park complete with a hooker… but it only gets worse.

This fast-paced thriller puts us in the shoes of a man who is forced to cut himself off from those closest to him when their lives appear to be in danger just by being associated with him. Unable to go to work and investigate the murder of his partner he decides to go it alone and try to track down the killer not an easy task when everyone he talks to is in danger. Who is watching Callum Doyle and what do they want from him?

With tension oozing off every page I read this with my heart in my mouth. How could the killer be found when those Callum turns to are either threatened or die a terrible death? This book is not for the faint-hearted, there is a fair amount of violence as the killer goes on the rampage, seemingly unstoppable. Fortunately Callum’s well-timed humour, just stopped this book from becoming too grim for words and he seems a genuine kind of guy although understandably confused by the situation he has found himself in. In many ways I think we learnt a lot about the man behind the badge as much from his interactions in his personal life, as those in what seems like a team with issues! I certainly don’t think this book would have worked so well without the many facets of the man’s character.
There are a wealth of other intriguing characters with as many great ones from the edges of society as well as his colleagues from the NYPD. As Callum becomes increasingly desperate he walks into lion’s dens of varying descriptions as he tracks pimps and heavies to try to find out who is behind the explosion of violence so close to home.

Although the plot itself isn’t complicated, and is told in a straightforward linear time-frame, it is well-structured and underpinned by some terrific action. If you like fast and furious then Pariah is probably a book you’d enjoy. The clues to the killer’s identity are released at a good rate although that didn’t have me any closer to guessing who was behind the mayhem until pages before the final reveal.

The writing style is confident, especially for a debut novel, and I was drawn into the storyline immediately and this is despite the fact that crime fiction involving gangsters isn’t high on my list of reading favourites. The interplay between the characters was pitch-perfect and didn’t rely on endless clichés, something that is tough to pull-off when there is danger around every corner as far as Callum is concerned.

This is also a book with a backstory, which doesn’t really fully come out in this book, so I’m going to have to keep reading the other books in the series to find out more! This really is a talented start to a new crime fiction series.

First Published UK: 20 August 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
No of Pages: 304
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (October 19)

This Week In Books

Lypsyy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

I’ve just started reading The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths, the third in the DI Stephens and Max Mephisto series.



On the eve of the Queen’s coronation, DI Stephens and Max Mephisto uncover an anarchist plot and a ticking bomb at the same time as solving the murder of a man close to them – from the author of the bestselling Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries.
Elizabeth II’s coronation is looming, but the murder of their wartime commander, Colonel Cartwright, spoils the happy mood for DI Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto. A playbill featuring another deceased comrade is found in Colonel Cartwright’s possession, and a playing card, the ace of hearts: the blood card. The wartime connection and the suggestion of magic are for Stephens and Mephisto to be summoned to the case.
Edgar’s ongoing investigation into the death of Brighton fortune-teller Madame Zabini is put on hold. Max is busy rehearsing for a spectacular Coronation Day variety show – and his television debut – so it’s Edgar who is sent to New York, a land of plenty worlds away from still-rationed England. He’s on the trail of a small-town mesmerist who may provide the key, but someone silences him first. It’s Edgar’s colleague, DS Emma Holmes, who finds the clue, buried in the files of the Zabini case, that leads them to an anarchist group intent on providing an explosive finale to Coronation Day.

Now it’s up to Edgar, Max and Emma to foil the plot, and find out who it is who’s been dealing the cards . . .NetGalley

I’ve recently finished the fifth book in the DI Kim Stone series. Blood Lines by Angela Marsons. Another cracking good read from this author!


See yesterday’s post for an excerpt and the synopsis

Next up will be Cut to the Bone by Alex Caan which is due for paperback release on 3 November 2016

Cut to the Bone


Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls. And she’s missing. She’s an adult – nothing to worry about, surely? Until the video’s uploaded. Ruby, in the dirt and pleading for her life.

Who better to head up the investigation than the Met’s rising star, Detective Inspector Kate Riley? She’s leading a shiny new team, high-powered, mostly female and with the best resources money can buy. It’s time for them to prove what they can do. Alongside her, Detective Superintendent Zain Harris – poster boy for multiracial policing and the team’s newest member – has his own unique contribution to make.

But can Kate wholly trust him and when he’s around, can she trust herself? Ruby’s millions of fans are hysterical about what may have happened to her. The press is having a field day and as the investigation hurtles out of control in the glare of publicity, it becomes clear that the world of YouTube vloggers and social media is much, much darker than anyone could have imagined in their worst nightmares. And the videos keep coming . . . NetGalley

Have you read any of these? Do you want to?
Let me know what you are reading this week by adding your comments or leaving your link below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (October 18)

First Chapter
Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

This week my opening paragraph comes from the fifth in the Detective Kim Stone series, Blood Lines by Angela Marsons.



How do you catch a killer who leaves no trace?
A victim killed with a single, precise stab to the heart appears at first glance to be a robbery gone wrong. A caring, upstanding social worker lost to a senseless act of violence. But for Detective Kim Stone, something doesn’t add up.

When a local drug addict is found murdered with an identical wound, Kim knows instinctively that she is dealing with the same killer. But with nothing to link the two victims except the cold, calculated nature of their death, this could be her most difficult case yet.

Desperate to catch the twisted individual, Kim’s focus on the case is threatened when she receives a chilling letter from Dr Alex Thorne, the sociopath who Kim put behind bars. And this time, Alex is determined to hit where it hurts most, bringing Kim face-to-face with the woman responsible for the death of Kim’s little brother – her own mother.

As the body count increases, Kim and her team unravel a web of dark secrets, bringing them closer to the killer. But one of their own could be in mortal danger. Only this time, Kim might not be strong enough to save them… NetGalley

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro


Doctor Alexandra Thorne sat at the square writing table that separated the two single beds.
She had claimed the second-hand piece of furniture for herself.
Cassie, her cellmate, barely possessed the ability to read or write and had no use for the makeshift desk.
The stupid woman had once placed a pile of clothing on the right-hand side of the table. One look from Alex and he pile had been swiftly transferred to the bottom of the bed.


Kim Stone heard the footsteps behind her. She didn’t turn. Her pace quickened in time with her heartbeat. The proximity she couldn’t determine. His steps had fallen in sync with her own.
She stumbled.
He paused.
An ordinary pedestrian would have continued normally and passed her or quickened their pace to assist her.
He did neither.
She righted herself and continued. The footsteps resumed but were now closer. She didn’t dare look back.

I have loved each of the previous books in this series and the prologue has me wondering what Doctor Alexandra Thorne has planned, apart from being condescending that is. And then the construct of the sentences in chapter one really sets the tension right from the start; who is following DI Stone?

As always your thoughts and comments are extremely welcome – Would you keep reading?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Apprentice of Split Crow Lane – Jane Housham

Non-Fiction Crime 5*s
Non-Fiction Crime

When I saw that this book was going to be published on 3 November 2016 way back in August my interest was piqued and I took the bold step of telling the publishers riverrun so, they in turn kindly supplied me with copy.

On 13 April 1866 on Carr’s Hill, Gateshead five year old Sarah Melvin disappeared, only for her body to be discovered later by a couple going to the local public house. The crime was a brutal one, the facts horrifying, even at a distance of 150 years but Jane Housham, having come across the case in the course of tracing her family history decided to use it as a springboard to examine not only the crime itself, but the psyche of the accused, the justice system and how the insane were treated in the mid-Victorian age.

The book opens with the background to the case, the journey that young Sarah Melvin is known to have taken on the day of her murder travelling to visit her father who was out seeking work. We are treated to the work of the police following the discovery of the body, its removal to the local inn, as was the custom in those days, and later to her mother’s house where an autopsy was held on the table. The rudiments of forensics were just being employed but this was as far removed from the strict chain of evidence used these days as you can get.

Unlike some historical true crime books, Jane Housham doesn’t re-examine the evidence to put forward a theory of another killer than that tried for the crime, instead she has carried out extensive research into what the make-up of the killer was. Why did he commit such a terrible crime? Was he insane? What she finds isn’t necessarily what we would expect from Victorian justice, a revelation indeed.

Jane Housham uses the contemporary media from that time, she looks at other crimes that were committed on and around Carr’s Hill within a similar time period. She also gives us a flavour of the population of the time, of the haves and the have-nots and really conjures up details of the place where the crime was committed in astonishing detail especially as the area has changed beyond recognition in the intervening years. The log books detailing the prisoner’s incarceration are also provided as well as the few remaining letters surviving from that time which indicate the level of his education as well as the workings of his mind.

Books of this nature which have to be so rigorously researched can often be quite dry as the author seeks to educate the reader, not this one, the prose is lively the tone even without a hint of condescension, the facts are displayed, the author unafraid to pose an opinion and when she is unsure of a statement she’s made, says so. Why the doubts? Because she accepts that at such a distance in time, it is impossible to really know what happened. She has a number of documents, a huge amount of knowledge, but of course there are gaps, the author wasn’t stood in the courtroom listening to the evidence although she has done a good job of spotting the discrepancies in the newspaper reporting, and rectifying some of the minor confusion caused all these years later.

This was a fascinating read, particularly for those readers who like me, are interested in Victorian provision of the criminally insane. To have the words written by those doctors who had not quite relinquished the hold of phrenology but are doing their best to embrace the new liberal ideas surrounding psychiatry at this time, and then in turn reading this  in relation to a real case, shows the practical application of thinking in a way the theory espoused at the time never can.

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to read this book, it was enlightening and despite the inevitable feeling of voyeurism in revisiting such a crime, no matter how long ago it occurred. The sheer amount of information to be gleaned from this book on a number of different related subjects was enormous but done in such a clear-sighted manner that made these facts easy to absorb and build upon. I definitely think the author hit her brief of examining the shift in ideas about insanity at this time, illustrating justice in action and sadly the life of a killer, his family and of course poor little Sarah Melvin whose life was cut short.

First Published UK: 3 November 2016
Publisher: Riverrun
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Historical True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (October 16)

Weekly Wrap Up

Thank you for those of you who sent lovely messages due to my absence, unfortunately I had a rather nasty bug followed by a business trip to Stockholm where internet access was an issue! I did however manage to make a trip to see my friend before flying back to Jersey. We talked about everything as best friends of too many years to count are wont to do but books got a mention, and as I’d lent her my copy of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (she really is a very good friend and can be trusted with my books) we decided that we’d watch the film at the cinema. It was a little disconcerting to see palatial homes backing onto train lines in the opening sequence instead of those I’d imagined from the UK scenery however all in all it was faithful to the book and far better than I’d feared. Plus it allowed us to rest our voices for a while so that a quick G&T soon had us chatting long into the night.

On my return to ordinary life I was delighted to see a quote from my review in the paperback edition of My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor which appeared alongside a number of other blogger’s wise words.


Picture courtesy by Abbie of Bloomin Brilliant Books

You can read the entire review here if you should so wish

This week I posted my review of Ward Zero by Linda Huber, a psychological thriller set in a hospital which kept me guessing. Sadly I think by the time I got to this one I’d overdosed yet again on the genre and have made a deliberate decision to step away for a while and have promptly fallen into a string of historical crime books, both fiction and non-fiction, so expect a different flavour on the blog while I review them all.

On Tuesday’s Post I featured an excerpt from The Two O’clock Boy by Mark Hill, a former book blogger and now a fully-fledged writer, which I’ve just started reading, and I have to say early impressions are very favourable indeed.

Wednesday’s post also had the addition of the Man Booker shortlist book His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet which I’ve now finished, a review will follow shortly.

I have also written and published my review for The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett which was excellently executed crime fiction, and the beginning of a series featuring David Hunter – I can see that I will be adding more books by this author to the TBR before too long.

This was followed on Friday with a review for a brilliant historical crime book, this one loosely based on an actual crime known as The Edgeware Road Murder in 1837. Debut novelist Anna Mazzola has added layers to the known facts creating an incredibly engrossing book, The Unseeing. I gave this one the full five stars with no reservations at all.

I then moved to the 1920s with a woman Private Investigator and my review of Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody reveals how well the author not only created a book that is set in such a good era but also has a cracking plot and a strong woman as the protagonist.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Girl With No Past by Kathryn Croft an accomplished psychological thriller that had me captivated – it was one of those books where from the first page, there was no doubt that something awful is going to happen.


The Girl With No Past


Years spent running from your past. Today it catches up.
A gripping psychological thriller for fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.
Leah Mills lives a life of a fugitive – kept on the run by one terrible day from her past. It is a lonely life, without a social life or friends until – longing for a connection – she meets Julian. For the first time she dares to believe she can live a normal life.
Then, on the fourteenth anniversary of that day, she receives a card. Someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed the life Leah has created.
But is Leah all she seems? Or does she deserve everything she gets?
Everyone has secrets. But some are deadly. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

maths-theoremSomehow despite not having read anywhere near as much as normal, see paragraph one, I am still acquiring books at a fair old rate – here is what’s appeared since by last wrap-up and I have an inkling there are a few more on the way with the postman. Discussing this in brief with fellow blogger Fiction Fan, we have decided that this is due to Cleopatra’s Theorem – the number of books that are acquired are always more than the reading rate, the slower you go the more that appear, it’s probably worked out using the picture to the right but since it’s a mathematical fact there is nothing to be done!

From NetGalley I had to request a copy of Tattletale by Sarah J Naughton because Liz of Liz Loves Books wrote such a tantalising review. I’m presuming I will be in the right frame of mind for some psychological thrillers by the time this is published in January 2017.



The perfect brother. The perfect fiance. The perfect lie.
One day changes Jody’s life forever.
She has shut herself down, haunted by her memories and unable to trust anyone. But then she meets Abe, the perfect stranger next door and suddenly life seems full of possibility and hope.
One day changes Mags’s life forever.
After years of estrangement from her family, Mags receives a shocking phone call. Her brother Abe is in hospital and no-one knows what happened to him. She meets his fiancé Jody, and gradually pieces together the ruins of the life she left behind. But the pieces don’t quite seem to fit… NetGalley

In the post I received a copy of The Devils Feast by M.J. Carver from Penguin books, they couldn’t have known my genre of the month is historical crime – could they?



London, 1842. There has been a mysterious and horrible death at the Reform, London’s newest and grandest gentleman’s club. A death the club is desperate to hush up.
Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate, and soon discovers a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club’s handsome façade-and in particular concerning its resident genius, Alexis Soyer, ‘the Napoleon of food’, a chef whose culinary brilliance is matched only by his talent for self-publicity.
But Avery is distracted, for where his mentor and partner-in-crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death was only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister? Amazon

And Harper Collins’ Carina offered me an exciting new debut, For All Our Sins by T.M.E. Walsh which is to be published later this month. This was original self-published by the author for the kindle so some of you may have read it.


Years ago there was a silent witness to an act of evil. Now, a twisted killer is on the loose fuelled by revenge.
Called to the brutal murder of a priest, it is immediately clear to DCI Claire Winters that the victim’s death was prolonged, agonising…and motivated by a lust for revenge.
The killer has been clever, there are no clues, no leads. But Claire Winters has never let a killer remain on the streets. Looking for an answer at any cost Claire begins to get closer to the victim’s family, but what it reveals turns her murder case into something far more sinister…
When one body becomes two, and then three, Claire finds herself in a race against time to connect the dots between a host of devastating secrets, before the killer strikes again. Amazon

Lastly I have a copy of Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel, a series of five novellas which is available for reading now.



Five stories – Five Lives. Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Next, there is Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself and finally Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret.
All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth. Amazon

PicMonkey Collage TBR


Since my last post I have read 4 books, and gained 4 and so my TBR remains steady at 181 books!

91 physical books
69 e-books
21 books on NetGalley

What have you found to read this week?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Death at the Seaside – Frances Brody

Historical Crime Fiction 4*s
Historical Crime Fiction

Well I came a little bit late to this party as this is the eighth of Frances Brody’s novels set in the 1920s featuring private investigator Kate Shackleton. I’m delighted to say it didn’t matter and I thoroughly enjoyed the character without needing the background from the previous books.

In this book Kate Shackleton is on holiday. She’s travelled to Whitby to visit an old school friend Alma, a woman she hasn’t seen for some time although she has met up with her daughter Felicity who is Kate’s god-daughter. The holiday begins well with Kate co-ordinating her plans with her assistant Jim Sykes and housekeeper Mrs Sugdon staying close by. Oh for the days when everyone was on holiday together and life was so much simpler!

Sadly Kate’s visit takes her past the jeweller’s shop where her husband proposed to her, sadly he lost his life during the war and there is a moment of poignancy before Kate decides to enter the shop to buy Felicity a present. What she finds instead of a gift is a dead body. In the 1920s phones were rare so Kate is forced to leave the jeweller’s shop and raise the alarm, this action, plus her being an outsider leads her to being suspected of committing the murder. Added to that Felicity has gone missing and Alma is frantic.

This is a solid mystery novel, in a wonderful setting at one of my favourite times in recent history, a time that lends itself to secrets required to maintain respectability to others, and we all know where secrets lead, especially in crime fiction! When Kate catches up with her friend Alma she finds her living in the most peculiar of houses, a grand place which is literally disintegrating around her and the man who owns the other half of the house! She also finds out that Alma rents a space on the pier and acts as the local fortune-teller, abiding by strict regulations about hours of occupancy to keep this position while a more genuine spiritualist can be found. All of which lends itself to a varied and colourful mystery, where any violence is ‘off-page’ and yet the strong character of Kate gives the book real structure and stops it slipping into fluff.

For the most part the book is narrated by Kate herself, she is a practical woman, but a ‘real’ woman, she misses her husband but doesn’t dwell too much on her loss, she is also open it would appear to another husband, but only if the right man makes the offer, she isn’t going to accept a life that won’t make her happy. And it appears that being a private investigator does make her happy, we get the feeling that she is better able to carry out her sleuthing when she is part of the community rather than in Whitby where she is an outsider but I’d need to read the other books to be certain. Because Kate is a practical woman, and one loyal to her friends, some of which lead to mini-adventures such as tracking down Alma who is busy ‘communing with the moon’ leading the local police to wonder if Kate knows about the local smuggling of whisky that they are trying to clamp down on but at least we have a woman who will climb a steep and unfamiliar hill in the dark with no wailing for a man to come and rescue her. The remaining parts of the book are narrated by Alma with very short sections by Felicity whose entries are much darker and more mysterious tone.

A very enjoyable read which despite the title made the perfect autumnal read. I was given my copy of this book by Little Brown Books, and I reciprocate with this honest review.

First Published UK: 6 October 2016
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Unseeing – Anna Mazzola

Historical Crime Fiction 5*s
Historical Crime Fiction

Using the bare bones of a real historical crime, Anna Mazzola has filled in the gaps to present a gripping story, one that feels entirely authentic.

The year is 1837 and Queen Victoria is on the throne, London is a bustling array of work while a woman’s life is dependent on class and money and being married. Meet Sarah Gale who has been sentenced to hang for being an accomplice to the murder of Hannah Brown, a woman cut down on the eve of her wedding. Sarah sits in an impeccably described cell in Newgate awaiting her fate. With the public clamouring for her sentence to be reduced, a lawyer young Edmund Fleetwood is asked by the attorney general to review the evidence and produce a report for him. Edmund goes about his task diligently, but it’s not easy, Sarah has given no real defence and with her former lover about to be hung for murder Edmund has his work cut out for him.

Sarah was a seamstress in London at the time the murder took place with a young son in tow she was ripe for being taken advantage of so when her lover James Greenacre takes up with someone else, that someone being the future victim, Hannah Brown, Sarah shuffles off to a local boarding house wondering how she was going to keep herself and her son out of the ever looming fear of the workhouse.

Anna Mazzola really conjures up the time period for us in this pitch-perfect historical thriller with the details of the time period delicately placed so that never once did it feel like that her obviously meticulous research had been indiscriminately scattered across the pages. And then there is the plot, the most obvious and troubling question being why won’t Sarah defend herself? Edmund is fearful that if he can’t get her to talk she will hang for a crime she has not committed. But this talented debut author doesn’t just follow that question around bends, there are other side-plots to explore with a whole cast of characters that may be not all they first appear to be. Put simply, this is a book which has undertone of dark and disturbing matters, some of which have stayed hidden for quite some time. It is these undertones which add the real feeling of layering to the story this is far from a bit of imagination being added to the real story of The Edgeware Road Murders, with a complex tale that the author has spiced up with additional characters and these are delivered with a real emotional context given to their actions. With these multiple layers so pleasingly presented I was completely immersed in the tale as it unfolded; I could imagine Sarah sat in her small cell, the lawyer beside her coaxing a defence from her tight lips and despite her reluctance we learn a little bit more and this kept me turning those pages until the fitting finale.

If you haven’t already guessed, I loved this book, there was nothing that felt the tiniest bit out of place and the author subtlety manipulates the reader’s emotions by the drip-feed of bits of information. I also rarely mention titles in my reviews but this is a good one in part it relates to Hannah Brown who had an eye removed in the course of the murder but it also applies to other characters too which pleases my love of continuity between a title and a novel. This really is an exceptional debut, and I’m looking forward to finding out what else this talented author will produce for my enjoyment.

I was exceptionally grateful to be provided this book by the publisher Tinder Press and this honest review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 14 July 2016
Publisher: Tinder Press
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US


Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Chemistry of Death – Simon Beckett

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction

Whilst reading the last few books I realised that I’d overdosed on the psychological thriller genre (again) and decided to pick a straightforward crime fiction novel instead. Surprisingly, I had just the one on the TBR with The Chemistry of Death having been one of the 20 Books of Summer that I didn’t quite get to.

Following the tragic death of his wife and daughter David Hunter lands in a remote village of Manham in Norfolk as a partner to the resident doctor. The villagers are, as those in tight-knit communities tend to be, slow to take to him and still prefer Doctor Henry Maitland to tend to their ills, despite the fact that he has been badly disabled by a car accident. The two doctors initially share the house as well as the surgery but as David Hunter is slowly tolerated, if not accepted, he decides to put down roots and moves to a nearby house. All is going tolerably well, he drinks in the local pub and makes light conversation with some of the locals and is even invited to a barbeque until the body of a woman is found in the woods. The outsiders are under suspicion!

What the locals don’t know is that Dr David Hunter is a forensic anthropologist who has actually visited the body farm in the US – something I learnt about in for the first time through another crime fiction novel. When the police talk to him regarding their suspicions about his past he is forced to reveal that he is one of the few in the country. It isn’t long before he is asked to carry out his specialism on the crime committed, something our protagonist is keen to avoid having shunned the limelight and the associated dead bodies following the tragedy in his personal life.

Soon more bodies are found but The Chemistry of Death somehow raises the bar beyond the horrors of the crimes committed, although I don’t recommend this for the squeamish, because of the exceptional quality of the writing by the author. Not only is this superbly plotted with a classic whodunit at the heart of the novel, the prose seems to effortlessly conjure up the village, its inhabitants and their interactions. It is soon clear everything is not as it first appeared and not only does Simon Beckett throw in enough red herrings to keep the reader on their toes, he keeps it real and no major revelations made that don’t have the clues to back them up. A must in my opinion for a successful and more importantly satisfactory crime novel.

With David Hunter providing the narration in his calm manner, by which I mean he fully captures the horror of the murders but still carries out his duties both as a doctor and a forensic anthropologist with exceptional care, we get his pitch perfect tone to walk us through the events as they unfold. What a joy to have a tale told in such a straightforward way with no writer’s ‘tricks’ to keep us on the edge of our seats, there is no need when the quality of the prose is as good as this is.

I have read one of Simon Beckett’s standalone novels, Stone Bruises, which I also thoroughly enjoyed and I will definitely be catching up with the next book in the David Hunter series Written in Bone, before too long.

First Published UK: 1 March 2006
Publisher: Bantam Press
No of Pages: 336
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (October 12)

This Week In Books

Lypsyy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

At the moment I am reading one of the nominees on the The Man Booker Prize shortlist, a book I’m advised has outsold all the other shortlisted books so of course the cynic in me says that’s reduced the author’s chance of winning, but perhaps I’ll be proved wrong. So which book am I reading? Well it’s His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet, a historical crime novel which is confusingly convincing.



A brutal triple murder in a remote Scottish farming community in 1869 leads to the arrest of seventeen-year-old Roderick Macrae. There is no question that Macrae committed this terrible act. What would lead such a shy and intelligent boy down this bloody path? And will he hang for his crime?

Presented as a collection of documents discovered by the author, His Bloody Project opens with a series of police statements taken from the villagers of Culdie, Ross-shire. They offer conflicting impressions of the accused; one interviewee recalls Macrae as a gentle and quiet child, while another details him as evil and wicked. Chief among the papers is Roderick Macrae’s own memoirs where he outlines the series of events leading up to the murder in eloquent and affectless prose. There follow medical reports, psychological evaluations, a courtroom transcript from the trial, and other documents that throw both Macrae’s motive and his sanity into question.

Graeme Macrae Burnet’s multilayered narrative—centered around an unreliable narrator—will keep the reader guessing to the very end. His Bloody Project is a deeply imagined crime novel that is both thrilling and luridly entertaining from an exceptional new voice. Amazon

The last book I read was Pariah by David Jackson, a tale concentrated around Detective Callum Doyle who is based in New York where Doyle is a member of the NYPD. He has a problem though, those close to him keep dying…



Where can you turn when your very presence brings death to those around you?
That’s the question Detective Callum Doyle is about to face. It begins with the calculated murder of his partner on a vacant lot. But more death is to follow, and when the chilling anonymous messages arrive, Doyle is left in no doubt that this is about him.
You cannot go near your friends, your colleagues, or even your family. Because if you do… they will be killed.
To save others, Doyle is forced to cut himself off from society. But with the investigation getting nowhere and his isolation becoming unbearable, Doyle has to ask himself how much he’s willing to sacrifice to get his life back. Amazon

Next up is Mark Hill’s The Two O’clock Boy which judging by the opening which I shared in yesterday’s post, this is going to be a gripping read!


To read the synopsis and an excerpt, please visit yesterday’s post.

Have you read any of these? Do you want to?
Let me know what you are reading this week by adding your comments or leaving your link below.