Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (September 24)

Last Sunday we had a family trip to the cinema to watch Victoria and Abdul, a fascinating film but one that turned my stomach early on in the scenes of Dame Judi Dench wolfing the food down at a banquet.

On Monday I managed to take part in the Book Fairies and Goodreads #hideabookday and left four books at key places in St Helier at 9 am. When I went to check at lunchtime all had been picked up so I’m hoping the finders enjoyed them.

This Week on the Blog

My week started with a Question and Answer session with Ray Britain the pen name for a former Police Officer who has turned his hand to writing crime fiction. His first book The Last Thread was published last Sunday, 17 September 2017.

On Tuesday She Did It by Mel Sherratt was published and my review was posted the same day to mark publication of this psychological thriller.

My This Week in Books featured the authors Helen FitzGerald, Dee Gordon and Kate Moretti 

I was delighted to finally publish my review of fellow blogger, Margot Kinberg’s book Past Tense which I actually read in June. Margot’s incredible knowledge of crime fiction translates into being able to write a fine mystery too.

My review of My Last Confession by Helen FitzGerald was posted on Friday taking my Mount TBR up to 24 books read and reviewed that were bought prior to 1 January 2017.

It was a huge honour to be asked to contribute to the blog tour to celebrate the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards with my review of David Hastings non-fiction book The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie, a true-crime book that also examines the politics between the Maori tribes and the settles in 1880 New Zealand.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading the second in Sarah Ward’s Francis Sadler series, A Deadly Thaw, set in the fictional town of Bampton in Derbyshire. Her trademark easy to read yet fiendishly complex plots are a delight and this book has us meeting a woman convicted of the murder of her husband, in the marital bed no less, only for him to turn up alive following her release from prison twelve years later! The author isn’t content to provide a brilliant plot, she also creates realistic characters no matter whether they are a main mover and shaker or provide a supporting role. As I write this short summary, I’m getting more impatient to read my copy of the third in the series, A Patient Fury which was recently published.

You can read my full review of A Deadly Thaw here or click on the book cover.

Blurb

Autumn 2004
In Bampton, Derbyshire, Lena Fisher is arrested for suffocating her husband, Andrew.

Spring 2016

A year after Lena’s release from prison, Andrew is found dead in a disused mortuary.
Who was the man Lena killed twelve years ago, and who committed the second murder? When Lena disappears, her sister, Kat, sets out to follow a trail of clues delivered by a mysterious teenage boy. Kat must uncover the truth – before there’s another death . . . Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell has been on my wishlist since I fell in love with The Other Typist earlier this year and so when it was offered at a bargain price my resolve melted away like the ice in a nice martini!

Blurb

Back in those days My Old Man was king of what they called the three-martini lunch. This meant that in dimly lit steakhouses all over Manhattan my father made bold, impetuous deals over gin and oysters. That was how it was done.

Cliff Nelson, the privileged son of a New York publishing house editor, is slumming it around Greenwich village in 1958, enjoying the booze, drugs and the idea that he’s the next Kerouac.

Fresh-faced Eden Katz arrives in New York with the ultimate ambition to become an editor, but she’s shocked at the stumbling blocks she encounters.

Miles Tillman, a black publishing house messenger boy, is an aspiring writer who feels he straddles various worlds and belongs to none.

Their choices, concealments and betrayals ripple outwards leaving none of them unchanged. Amazon

NetGalley provided temptation with the proven skills of Elly Griffiths and her latest in the Stephens and Mephisto mystery series – The Vanishing Box



Blurb

What do a murdered Brighton flowerseller, the death of Cleopatra and a nude tableau show have in common? One thing’s for sure – it could be the most dangerous case yet for Stephens and Mephisto.

Christmas 1953. Max Mephisto and his daughter Ruby are headlining Brighton Hippodrome, an achievement only slightly marred by the less-than-savoury support act: a tableau show of naked ‘living statues’. This might appear to have nothing in common with DI Edgar Stephens’ investigation into the death of a quiet flowerseller, but if there’s one thing the old comrades have learned it’s that, in Brighton, the line between art and life – and death – is all too easily blurred…

The fourth book in the Stephens and Mephisto mystery from the author of the bestselling Dr Ruth Galloway series. NetGalley

I was also lucky to be approved for Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate, A British Library Crime Classic published by Poisoned Pen Press. which I have been eying up ever since seeing it feature on other blogs – what can my willpower is weak!

Blurb

A woman is on trial for her life, accused of murder. The twelve members of the jury each carry their own secret burden of guilt and prejudice which could affect the outcome.

In this extraordinary crime novel, we follow the trial through the eyes of the jurors as they hear the evidence and try to reach a unanimous verdict. Will they find the defendant guilty, or not guilty? And will the jurors’ decision be the correct one?

Since its first publication in 1940, Verdict of Twelve has been widely hailed as a classic of British crime writing. This edition offers a new generation of readers the chance to find out why so many leading commentators have admired the novel for so long. NetGalley

What have you found to read this week? Any of these take your fancy?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read 2 books, and gained 3
So I now have a total of 180
Physical Books – 100
Kindle Books – 60
NetGalley Books – 20

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read

The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie – David Hastings – Ngaio Marsh Awards 2017

Non-Ficiton
4*s

I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour to celebrate the Ngaio Marsh Awards 2017 and even more excited when the book I was asked to review was one in the true crime genre, one that I have been exploring with a passion over the last few months.

David Hastings takes us back to 1880 New Zealand when a young woman, Mary Dobie was found lying dead under a flax bush near where she had been walking, possibly finding a place to sketch, as she was a talented artist one who had provided some illustrations for her brother’s book about ferns.

As I have found in so many books in this genre, the book doesn’t just focus on the investigation into the murder itself but explores the life of the victim, and her family who were on a three-year trip to New Zealand from England, and puts the death into the context of the social history and politics of the time and place, the latter I knew very little about.

Mary had travelled to New Zealand on a boat with her sister Bertha and her mother Ellen and we hear about the trip in part from the notebook that the two sisters wrote and drew in on the long trip. These entries are fascinating as neither sister behaves in quite the way we expect young Englishwomen to behave in the Victorian age. They were curious women, eager to learn about life and so on the ship they learnt about the sails and navigation from the crew crossing the social barriers normally in place. This was important in the context of the crime itself, not for the purpose of stating that Mary had put herself in the face of danger but more to give a real feel of the woman she was, outgoing and confident with a range of experiences that rival what most women of her generation would have experienced.

By the time of the murder Ellen and Mary were in Opunake on the Taranaki coast area to say goodbye to Bertha who had married during their extensive trip which also took in Samoa and Fiji. The Taranaki area was in a state of tension by this time, facts that David Hastings explains in detail and far more clearly than I can summarise here, between the settlers and the Maoris. The settlers had staked a claim to the land some twenty years previously but only more recently had started building roads carving up the area causing the Maoris to retaliate with their own non-violent protests. Both sides feared the next move the other may make and it was against this background that Mary was murdered. The timing of the murder was key and for a while it wasn’t clear whether the crime was committed by a Maori or a Pakeha let alone whether the motive was robbery, rape or a political act.

The author does a fabulous job of explaining all of the details of the political background, the characters of those involved and in the end taking us through the trial and the (mis)use that was made of Mary Dobie’s death after the event by those in power.

I read my copy of The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie in eBook format and would advise those of you who like the sound of this book to buy the physical copy as there are many wonderful pictures, those drawn by the Dobie sisters as well as some photographs which would be better seen alongside the text as unfortunately I have yet to master the flicking backwards and forwards to a satisfactory degree on my kindle.

I applaud the author for making the politics of the area so easily understood, and for bringing to life an unfamiliar region to his readers. This book held my attention throughout the voyage, the social history explored during the family’s travels and the trial itself. A very welcome addition to my true crime reading indeed.

First Published UK: 30 October 2015
Publisher: Auckland University Press
No of Pages:  240
Genre: Non-Fiction – True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Don’t miss out on the rest of the blog tour – there are some fantastic books, and blogs, to discover!

2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards Finalists

BEST CRIME NOVEL
• Pancake Money by Finn Bell
• Spare Me The Truth by CJ Carver (Zaffre)
• Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
• Marshall’s Law by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)
• The Last Time We Spoke by Fiona Sussman (Allison & Busby)

BEST FIRST NOVEL
• Dead Lemons by Finn Bell
• Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
• The Ice Shroud by Gordon Ell (Bush Press)
• The Student Body by Simon Wyatt (Mary Egan Publishing)
• Days are Like Grass by Sue Younger (Eunoia Publishing)

BEST NON FICTION
• In Dark Places by Michael Bennett (Paul Little Books)
• The Scene of the Crime by Steve Braunias (HarperCollins)
• Double-Edged Sword by Simonne Butler with Andra Jenkin (Mary Egan Publishing)
• The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie by David Hastings (AUP)
• Blockbuster! by Lucy Sussex (Text Publishing)

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

My Last Confession – Helen FitzGerald

Psychological Thriller
3*s

I love the way Helen FitzGerald tackles widely different subjects within her writing of psychological thrillers and in My Last Confession, we have a newly appointed Probation Officer and one of her ‘clients’, a murderer.

Krissie is a single mum and she’s moved in with Robbie – I believe these two characters appeared in the author’s debut novel Dead Lovely, which I haven’t read but may explain why some of the details about how they came to be together seemed a little illusive. She uses her previous skills working with child protection and move into supervising adult offenders.

Jeremy is one of Krissie’s cases, in prison for murder, although a conviction which Krissie begins to doubt whether he has been wrongly convicted and so she turns detective. Of course Jeremy is only one prisoner who makes up Krissie’s workload and so we have a number of characters to get to know while Krissie battles with her job and her son who steals the show more than once.

Krissie is a mass of contradictions, on the one hard a caring woman, one who is trying to build a family but she also does some incredibly stupid things over the course of the book. There were times when I just wanted to shake some sense into her, after all this is supposed to be an educated woman but obviously one whose heart rules her head. At times, despite playing detective with gusto, I had to despair at Krissie’s inability to read the clues given to her – maybe she needs to read a few more crime fiction novels to give her some pointers.

The book really does beg you to sit up and take notice with some attention grabbing scenes. For those of a nervous disposition, there are some racy scenes too. Having read four other books by this author I think perhaps the more subtle look at modern life worked slightly better for me. Those themes are ever-present in this book, particularly the Glasgow setting which is terrifically well created. Although I’ve not worked in a prison or in any type of related position, the work-place scenes are easily transposed to anyone who has colleagues and they had me chuckling away frequently.

There were some bizarre scenes though which I didn’t really quite work for me but it really was worth persevering because the second half of the book is exceptionally gripping with an ending which was perfectly fitting.

This is an ideal book if you want to read something a little bit different, a bit of crime, a little bit of women’s fiction, a few racy scenes and a whole dollop of fun. This is the ideal lighter type of reading, one that should be approached with a sense of irony which would iron out the earlier scenes that had me slightly confused.

My Last Confession
was my twenty-fourth read in my Mount TBR Challenge having been purchased in November 2016.

mount-tbr-2017

 

 

 

First Published UK: 25 April 2011
Publisher: Faber & Faber
No of Pages:  275
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Great Reads by Helen FitzGerald

Bloody Woman
The Cry
The Exit
Viral

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

Past Tense – Margot Kinberg

Crime Fiction
4*s

Tiltton University is not the quiet place of learning all the staff and students could hope for when the construction workers move in to build a new performing arts centre. And then work stops because there is something buried in the site that ruined everyone’s day.

Kramer walked slowly in the direction Stephens had indicated. Then he stopped short. His face drained of colour and he gulped twice. He could see it clearly — a bone sticking up out of the dirt he’d been preparing to move.

Tilton police detectives Donna Crandall and her partner Ron Zuniga are called to the scene and it isn’t long before the bones are sent off to be dated. The result is that the skeleton is that of a young man, and he died some forty years ago but he didn’t bury himself so it must be murder but how on earth do you go about investigating a crime that old?

Never fear because the detectives have Joel Williams, The Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Tilton University, a former detective now academic, is only too willing to use his skills to assist. Before long the Police and the campus sleuth have a name; Bryan Roades a twenty year old who went missing in the 70s. Could his determination to emulate his heroes in the investigative journalism world on the campus newspaper have led to someone wanting him out of the way?

This is my first Joel Williams story although this is actually Margot Kinberg’s third book in the series featuring the academic detective and I’m pleased to report Past Tense reads perfectly as a stand-alone novel. The crime aspect was one of my favourite tropes; I love it when those who commit a crime think they are home and dry only for them to be caught years after the fact. This is particularly true in this novel as the article Brian Roades was working on was about women’s lib and of course attitudes have changed dramatically in the past forty years, so I suspect if anything the uncovering of the truth had far more impact than it may have done if he’d been allowed to write his story back then, but that of course is mere speculation on my part!

Margot Kinberg structures the novel well always keeping the mystery in clear line of sight and thankfully her investigative professor is a normal man, without angst and is somewhat self-effacing which gives the book a less aggressive feel than some modern crime novels, not that life as part of the campus staff is without its petty rivalries, this is no cosy mystery! I always imagine life in academia to be somewhat rarefied, however with this book written by someone living that life, I’ve been totally disabused of that opinion but it is an illusion shattered by some great characters and some fabulous dialogue that helped establish the setting, and opinions, for the modern angle of the crime and its discovery as well as giving enough references to take us back twenty years to the heart of the crime.

I have been a long-time reader, and admirer of Margot’s blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist… and I have to admit to being slightly apprehensive about read this book – what if I didn’t like it? But not to fear, I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery, the plotting and the writing style, a book without gratuitous violence but not so sanitised that it felt too sugary for this crime loving reader. I will definitely be keeping up with Joel in the future and I’m looking forward to my next visit to Tilton University.

Past Tense was my seventeenth read in the Mount TBR challenge and I’m pleased to announce is my last review of the backlog dating from June!

mount-tbr-2017

 

 

 

First Published UK: 1 November 2016
Publisher: Grey Cells Press
No of Pages:  428
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (September 20)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy 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

My current read is The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti, a tale which starts with birds falling from the sky, this along with the feathers that accompanied the book makes me incredibly glad that I don’t have this particular phobia.

Blurb

Where did they come from? Why did they fall?

In a ​quie​t​ town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community. Beloved coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the​ ​reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a student, Lucia Hamm. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are ​having an affair, throwing the town into an uproar and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life. And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only have one suspect: Nate.

Nate​’​s coworker, Bridget Harris, is determined to prove his innocence. Bridget knows the key to Nate​’​s exoneration and the truth of Lucia​’​s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of ​t​h​e missing girl’s journal.

The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti​’​s signature chillingly satisfying twists and turns.Where did they come from? Why did they fall?

In a ​quie​t​ town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community. Beloved coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the​ ​reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a student, Lucia Hamm. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are ​having an affair, throwing the town into an uproar and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life. And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only have one suspect: Nate.

Nate​’​s coworker, Bridget Harris, is determined to prove his innocence. Bridget knows the key to Nate​’​s exoneration and the truth of Lucia​’​s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of ​t​h​e missing girl’s journal.

The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti​’​s signature chillingly satisfying twists and turns. Amazon

The last book I read was Helen FitzGerald’s My Last Confession – a psychological thriller with a Probation Officer and a murder as the two main protagonists.

Blurb

When she starts her new job as a parole officer, Krissie is happy and in love. Then she meets convicted murderer Jeremy, and begins to believe he may be innocent. Her growing obsession with his case threatens to jeopardise everything – her job, her relationship and her life.

Perfect for fans of Julia Crouch, Sophie Hannah and Laura Lippman, My Last Confession is a dark and compelling psychological thriller that traces a young parole officer and her dangerous obsession with a convicted murderer. Amazon

Next I will be reading Bad Girls from History: Wicked or Misunderstood? by Dee Gordon.

Blurb

You wont be familiar with every one of the huge array of women featured in these pages, but all, familiar or not, leave unanswered questions behind them. The range is extensive, as was the research, with its insight into the lives and minds of women in different centuries, different countries, with diverse cultures and backgrounds, from the poverty stricken to royalty. Mistresses, murderers, smugglers, pirates, prostitutes and fanatics with hearts and souls that feature every shade of black (and grey!).

From Cleopatra to Ruth Ellis, from Boudicca to Bonnie Parker, from Lady Caroline Lamb to Moll Cutpurse, from Jezebel to Ava Gardner. Less familiar names include Mary Jeffries, the Victorian brothel-keeper, Belle Starr, the American gambler and horse thief, La Voisin, the seventeenth-century Queen of all Witches in France but these are random names, to illustrate the variety of the content in store for all those interested in women who defy law and order, for whatever reason. The risque, the adventurous and the outrageous, the downright nasty and the downright desperate all human (female!) life is here. From the lower stratas of society to the aristocracy, class is not a common denominator.

Wicked? Misunderstood? Nave? Foolish? Predatory? Manipulative? Or just out of their time?

Read and decide. Amazon

What do you think? Any of these take your fancy? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

She Did It – Mel Sherratt

Psychological Thriller
4*s

Hello book lovers Mel Sherratt has delivered her latest book, She Did It, which is not only a brilliant psychological thriller but also is also set in the world of book publicity, and yes the trusty book blogger gets more than one mention!

Tamara is the classic poor little rich girl. Despite on the surface having all the connections and the family money she feels a bit of a failure especially as her three siblings have done what was expected of them, settled down to a good career or motherhood. Not Tamara, she has just launched her own PR firm and is knuckling down to win a contract to deliver the PR for a new debut novelist. But she has too many tasks to complete and advertises for an assistant.

Esther’s moment is here, she attends the interview and gets the job. She’s soon ensconced in Tamara’s dining room helping her pull together her presentation to win the contract. A contract that is badly needed as Tamara, despite her nice clothes, is living a pretty much hand to mouth existence unwilling to go to her parents and beg for money.
Both of the main characters have secrets and neither are quite what they appear but at the beginning they forge a relationship albeit with an obvious power imbalance and a more shadowy version which tips the power in the other direction. Mel Sherratt has really got a feel for her characters and even though it is obvious quite soon who we should be wary of, there is just enough detail to stop this developing into full-blown dislike. Instead I spent much of this book hoping that the journey I feared we were on would be re-routed.

With a very British outing to the races, expensive dresses and a book launch mixed in with dangerous weapons and drugs, this really was a story of two very different lives brought together to produce a thrilling read.

I have to admit I’ve drawn back from overly dramatic psychological thrillers lately but this is up there with the best in the ‘ooh I just can’t put this down’ so mesmerised by the power-struggle disguised as friendship and awaiting the awful events that were obviously on route to the devastating train-wreck which was going to occur. Quite what twists and turns we would hurtle around on the way was impossible to predict (I had to squint through one eye to read most of them).

The narrative of the book does shift backwards and forwards with both main characters detailing not only their plans but their past to reveal more about them. As I said earlier, this isn’t a book where the reader looks on with amazement while fundamentally dislikeable characters wreak destruction, there was far more subtlety to She Did It which added a layer of integrity to the storyline. I’m just hoping that Mel’s publication day, today, doesn’t have the same hazards particularly as I was one of the very lucky readers chosen to read the book before release day.

If you want one of those compulsive reads that so many of us are addicted to, I suggest you pick up a copy of this book and enjoy the journey!

First Published UK: 19 September 2017
Publisher: Blood Red Books
No. of Pages: 255
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Author Interview

The Last Thread by Ray Britain #AuthorPost

I’m starting the week with something special this week. Ray Britain a former Police Officer published his first book in the DCI Doug Stirling series yesterday, The Last Thread arriving a little ahead of the original schedule. I will of course be reviewing the book very soon, but in the meantime I will hand over to Ray to tell you more. I’m sure I won’t be the only crime fiction lover who will be excited to read a book from someone in the know!

Blurb

Accused of pushing a boy to his death in a failed suicide intervention, DCI Doug Stirling is suspended from duty. Attacked in the media and haunted by the boy’s smile as he let go of Stirling’s hand, he must look on helplessly as an incompetent colleague intent on destroying him investigates the boy’s death, supported by the vindictive Deputy Chief Constable, McDonald.

Weeks later, an anonymous call leads the police to a remote location and the discovery of a burnt out car containing the body of an unidentified man who has been savagely murdered. Short of experienced senior investigators, ACC Steph Tanner has no choice but to take a professional risk. Throwing Stirling the lifeline he needs to restore his reputation, Tanner appoints him as SIO to lead the investigation.

But with no witnesses, no forensic evidence and more theories than investigators, Stirling’s investigation has far too many ‘loose threads’ as he uncovers a complex, interwoven history of deception, betrayal and sadistic relationships. Was the victim connected to the crime scene? Is the murder as complex as it appears? Or is there a simpler explanation?
Still traumatised by the boy’s death and with time the enemy, does Stirling still have what it takes to bring the killer, or killers, to justice before McDonald intervenes?

Things are already difficult enough when DC Helen Williams joins the investigation, a determined woman who seems intent on rekindling their past relationship. And is Ayesha, the beautiful lawyer Stirling has grown fond of, connected to the murder somehow? Amazon

 

Interview with Ray Britain

Author of ‘The Last Thread’
ISBN: 978-1-9998122-0-1 (Amazon)

So, who is Ray Britain?

A fair question. I was a police officer in the United Kingdom with a varied career in uniform and detective roles and completed my career in a high rank, but the investigation of crime and the camaraderie amongst detectives remained my preference. As a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) I led complex crime investigations, some of which engaged discreet national capabilities. For many years I was also a police Negotiator.

Okay, so why the pen name?

For reasons of personal and family security I use the pen name of Ray Britain because, over the years, I locked up many criminals but not all of them seemed to understand it was their actions that led to their imprisonment. Also, as my career progressed I was increasingly involved in discreet, national law enforcement capabilities which I cannot discuss. (The Official Secrets Act still applies!)

You were a police negotiator?

Yes. The full title is Hostage & Crisis Intervention Negotiator. In the UK it’s a voluntary role, over and above the ‘day job’ – one’s day to day responsibilities – and often meant being ‘called out’ of a warm bed to support police colleagues faced with a variety of difficult situations.

Such as?

That’s one of the attractions of the role, you never knew what your next deployment might be. Often, it was negotiating with someone to surrender to armed officers and avoid being killed. More frequently, it was negotiating with people intent on taking their own lives. Less often it was to negotiate the release of hostages being held at gunpoint or other weapons. In the UK, except for a relatively small number of highly trained specialist firearms officers, police officers perform their duties unarmed. One of the few countries in the world still to do so, and long may it continue.

Tell us about your principle character, DCI Douglas Stirling?

Doug Stirling is a thoughtful, reflective character, notoriously private with an intriguing, untold back story. He expects his people to work hard but works harder still. Stirling is easily drawn to intelligent, interesting women which can cause complications if his private life conflicts with the demands of his professional responsibilities. Women find Stirling attractive and interesting but can be frustrated by his reserve and his avoidance of emotional commitment.

And the lead female characters?

There are four prominent female characters, all with strong personalities. The book contains adult themes but to say more would spoil the story.

Why did you write ‘The Last Thread’?

I’ve always wanted to write a book and the common advice is to stick with what you know. There were other reasons too. As a professional investigator, I’m often frustrated by the inaccurate and improbable representation of crime investigation in the many television dramas that enter our homes each evening. Whatever the complexity of the crime, they are solved within impossible time frames with the most sophisticated technology seemingly always available. It provides entertainment, of course, but frequently misleads and raises public expectation beyond what is always achievable, in reality. Like all aspects of the public sector, the police service is cash strapped and must operate within tight, and tightening budgets.

How accurate is your story to real investigations?

Very! From the need to work with limited resources, often with dated equipment and in accommodation that’s often inadequate or well past it’s ‘best by’ date, right down to aspects of internal and external political pressures that any SIO can expect to work with in leading his or her investigation.

What’s the story behind your latest book?

Everything is drawn from my professional experiences, or as observed through the investigations of colleagues. Apart from drawing on memories of my Father, my characters are fictitious but they are informed by some of the people I’ve had the privilege to work alongside.

So where can I buy The Last Thread?

It’s available as an eBook at both Amazon and Smashwords.

What was the best and worst part of writing?

The best part is getting the story out of my head and onto the page, plotting its twists and turns and the red herrings to make it interesting for the reader. The worst bit is editing and proof reading! However, it allowed me to strip out irrelevant stuff and, hopefully, made it a better read.

How did you approach the cover design?

I wanted something that was moody, hinted at the sinister theme of the story line and made the reader curious to find out more. I found a local photographer I could work with and, together, we constructed the image you see. I hope you like it as much as I do.

What do you read for pleasure?

I like good crime fiction that reflects real world and is grounded in reality. Some plots are so fantastical that I don’t complete the book. I like biographies too as other people’s lives interest me.

What is your e-reading device of choice?
A Kindle.

What are you working on next?

I have several story lines and plots already mind-mapped out and will resume writing once I’ve got ‘The Last Thread’ out to market. As an Indie author, I’ve found there’s a lot of work involved in getting your work published to market and in marketing your brand. Having said that, I’m finding it a fascinating and stimulating experience.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

The ease of getting your work out there, rather than writing endlessly to mainstream publishers which seems to be the experience of many. But, there’s a hell of a lot of work after that in getting yourself noticed.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

I really enjoy walking, the higher, the better. My first love is the Lake District with the French Alps a close second. In the winter, I try to get away skiing with some friends. And reading, of course, is a wonderful pastime.

How long were you in the police for, and where?

For over thirty years in a police service in the Midlands region of the UK. Police services in the UK are typically based on traditional county lines.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Only to say thank you. I hope your readers will try the book and do please leave a review.

Thank you so much for taking the time out to visit Cleopatra Loves Books.

To find out more here are all the links you need!

Amazon UK
Smashwords
Website
Facebook

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (September 17)

I decided to treat myself to something that wasn’t books this week, an unusual occurrence indeed but I simply couldn’t resist this box of postcards featuring the original Puffin covers.

The idea was that I would use these as cards when I post gifts to friends but the ones below hold such fond memories for me that I doubt whether I will ever part with them, or quite a few of the others in the box.

These are an illustration of my childhood, indeed to this day I can’t iron without thinking about Lily Rose and the day she damaged the silk petticoat in The Family From One End Street.  I received The Hundred and One Dalmatians after going to the cinema to watch the film and I remember my copy (which must have been my mother’s) was old and had yellowing pages but it stayed on my bookshelf until the day I left home. Charlotte’s Web was a big hit although it didn’t cure me of my phobia of spiders as much as I loved Charlotte’s story  and I had the whole set of the C.S. Lewis books all in a slip-case, sadly the postcards don’t include my favourite The Magician’s Nephew but through these I travelled to strange lands in my imagination and was caught climbing into my Grandfather’s wardrobe to see if I could find Narnia; I didn’t but I did get a sound telling off!

Each of the postcards has the date of the cover on them although I dispute that James and the Giant Peach only was given this cover in 1980 as I distinctly remember reading it through some childhood illness before we moved at the end of 1979, but I won’t quibble.

A brilliant gift for someone you love – as you can see I chose myself but with covers spanning from the original Worzel Gummidge in 1941 to the more recent ones I’m sure most booklovers will find a Puffin cover that has a fond memory attached to it.

This Week on the Blog

The week on the blog started with a review of Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner, her second book in the Manon Bradshaw series.

My excerpt post this week was taken from Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves, a book that has sat on my kindle for an astonishing five plus years.

This Week in Books had me featuring the authors Mel Sherratt, Jane Robins and David Hastings.

My second review of the week was for a book I read back in June – my reviews are a little out of order still(!) – the psychological thriller, Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes

On Friday I was delighted to feature an author post from Caimh McDonnell to celebrate the publication of Angels in the Moonlight, the prequel to the Dublin series, a brilliant mixture of humour and crime. Caimh’s posts are always well received, he really is a very funny man, unsurprisingly as he has made his living as a stand-up comedian. I wrote a review for the book too (even if it was overshadowed by Caimh)

And I finished up yesterday with my review of White Bodies by Jane Robins. This psychological thriller is being published in the US on 19 September 2017 – UK readers have a little longer to wait for this book which I awarded the full five stars to.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Murder at the Vicarage to celebrate Agatha Christie’s birthday which is on 15 September. As a recognition of this special day I chose to try Miss Marple after falling in love with Hercule Poirot in my youth, and deciding that she simply wasn’t my cup of tea. Well guess what, now I am a little more mature, I discovered I loved her and this review is amongst one of the favourite of all that I’ve written.

You can read my thoughts on Murder at the Vicarage here or click on the book cover

Blurb

Agatha Christie’s first ever Miss Marple mystery, reissued with a striking cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers.

’Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,’ declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, ‘would be doing the world at large a service!’

It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later. From seven potential murderers, Miss Marple must seek out the suspect who has both motive and opportunity. Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

I started this post by saying I hadn’t treated myself to any books this week, and that is true but it appears my finger did request, and gratefully received, a couple of books from NetGalley.

The first book I needed as we are already in September and I haven’t yet got around to reading any short stories and then I saw The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth by William Boyd which took my fancy. The collection, some of which have been published elsewhere, will be published on 2 November 2017.

Blurb

A philandering art dealer tries to give up casual love affairs – seeking only passionate kisses as a substitute.
A man recounts his personal history through the things he has stolen from others throughout his life.
A couple chart the journey of their five year relationship backwards, from awkward reunion to lovelorn first encounter.

And, at the heart of the book, a 24-year old young woman, Bethany Mellmoth, embarks on a year-long journey of wishful and tentative self-discovery.

The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth depicts the random encounters that bring the past bubbling to the surface; the impulsive decisions that irrevocably shape a life; and the endless hesitations and loss-of-nerve that wickedly complicate it. These funny, surprising and moving stories are a resounding confirmation of Boyd’s powers as one of our most original and compelling storytellers. NetGalley

I’ve also received a copy of The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans which was published in the UK back in April but is due out in the US on 21 September 2017.

A mysterious keepsake, a murdered bride, a legacy of secrets…

One balmy June evening in 1881, Phoebe Stanbury stands before the guests at her engagement party: this is her moment, when she will join the renowned Raycraft family and ascend to polite society.

As she takes her fiancé’s hand, a stranger brandishing a knife steps forward and ends the poor girl’s life. Amid the tumult, he turns to her aristocratic groom and mouths: ‘I promised I would save you.’

The following morning, just a few miles away, timid young legal clerk William Lamb meets a reclusive client, whom he was never meant to meet. He finds the old man terrified and in desperate need of aid: William must keep safe a small casket of yellowing papers, and deliver an enigmatic message: The Finder knows. NetGalley

And unbidden, but hugely welcome, Death in the Stars by Frances Brody arrived on my doormat. I loved getting to know Kate Shackleton in Death at the Seaside last year so I’m looking forward to an update from 1927. Death in the Stars will be published on 5 October 2017.

Blurb

Yorkshire, 1927. Eclipse fever grips the nation, and when beloved theatre star Selina Fellini approaches trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton to accompany her to a viewing party at Giggleswick School Chapel, Kate suspects an ulterior motive.

During the eclipse, Selina’s friend and co-star Billy Moffatt disappears and is later found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate can’t help but dig deeper and soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. With the help of Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden, Kate sets about investigating the deaths – and whether there is a murderer in the company.

When Selina’s elusive husband Jarrod, injured in the war and subject to violent mood swings, comes back on the scene, Kate begins to imagine something far deadlier at play, and wonders just who will be next to pay the ultimate price for fame . . Amazon

What have you found to read this week? Any of these take your fancy?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read 3 books, and gained 3
So basically I’m standing still with the total of 179
Physical Books – 101
Kindle Books – 60
NetGalley Books – 18

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

White Bodies – Jane Robins

Psychological Thriller
5*s

I can’t deny I was excited to hear that Jane Robins whose non-fiction books The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of The Brides In The Bath and The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams  I thoroughly enjoyed and which sit proudly on my bookshelf, was writing a psychological thriller. I also can’t deny that I am reading far fewer books in this genre, because many fail to delight me in the way that they once did. But boy did this one work. The plot was tight, the writing engaging and the characters were weird enough to be chilling but normal enough to be believable.

Callie and Tilda are twenty-seven year old twins with Tilda being the more outgoing and outwardly successful of the two, Callie somewhat hampered by an obsessive nature who dwells on every conversation, every look and every perceived slight to the nth degree. It is Callie that waits for invitations for movie nights with her sister but rarely meets up with Tilda’s fun-loving friends. So imagine her excitement when Tilda introduces her to her new man, Felix. But Callie’s overwhelming need to make sure her twin is safe means that she is on her guard.

It isn’t long before Callie hears and sees things that convince her that Tilda is in an abusive relationship and she trawls an on-line forum, obsessively, for confirmation and advice.

This is one of the creepiest psychological thrillers I have ever read. The premise is similar to many others in the genre – these are not people on the whole that you’d want to spend any length of time with, but there are so many aspects of their behaviour that you will have come across in your friends, family or colleagues that all the way through, I had a feeling that this could be true. This genre really does work best when you believe – a bit like fairies – and because it feels so real, as Callie goes searching for clues, it is impossible to separate the truth from the fiction. Added to that the bizarre but sadly only too believable on-line tales that draw Callie into endless discussions about abusive men, the story becomes not only claustrophobic but has a hue of ghastly inevitability.

White Bodies was absolutely compelling, it was one of those wonderful books which from the moment I read the first page I was sure I would enjoy. I don’t know what it is that makes some books far more ‘readable’ than others but this was one of them. What I do know is that this book is solidly underpinned with brilliant writing. Since childhood, I have been drawn to stories about twins, although I sincerely hope that some aspects of twin behaviour, mentioned in this book were dreamt up in Jane Robins’ imagination! Of course there are twists, that is what the genre is all about, but the author hasn’t gone all out to do a complete about face, the book hanging solidly together from the first to the last page and the book doesn’t rely on the twists for a great reading experience, there is much more to enjoy!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Touchstone who granted my wish to read White Bodies which will be published in the US on 19 September 2017. UK readers apparently have to wait until after Christmas to read this book, which is somewhat bizarre as the author is British and the book is firmly set in the UK. Anyway despite the wait, if you enjoy a good psychological thriller, and live in the UK, mark this one down as To Be Read and if you are in the US please note your cover is different to the one above – enjoy!

First Published UK: 28 December 2017
Publisher: HQ
No. of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

 

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read

Angels in the Moonlight – Caimh McDonnell #authorpost #review

I’ve got a real treat for you today because Caimh McDonnell is visiting to entertain us all with his guest post. I first hosted Caimh when he published his first novel, A Man With One of Those Faces and his very funny post won him many fans. Since then I’ve also read The Day That Never Comes, the second in the Dublin Trilogy and I was delighted to hear we were turning back the clock to 1999 in Angels in the Moonlight (the prequel) to meet Bunny as a younger man. Without any more ado, I well let Caimh entertain you…

The slacker’s guide to not looking like an idiot

 I’ve a terrible confession to make; I am an absolute sucker for a blooper. It is to my eternal shame that I will sit through one of those awful shows entirely dedicated to pointing out things that are wrong in famous films. You know the ones, they spend an hour picking out continuity errors and historical inaccuracies that nobody in their right mind actually notices while watching in the cinema. Still, there’s something satisfying abo

ut seeing other people’s mistakes, whether it be Star Wars (stormtrooper walloping his head on a doorway), Braveheart (Scots wearing tartan 300 years before its conception) or Transformers (somebody actually making that god-awful cacophony of pointless metal punching mayhem).

 

Thing is though, when you become an author, you quickly realise that you’re the poor fool who has to make sure you’re not dropping clangers left, right and center. With that in mind, I humbly present to you my slacker’s guide to not making yourself look like an idiot:

 

1/ Avoid reality entirely           

It’s not an option open to all of us, but where possible, try and find your version of ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’ – that way, nobody can come back at you with unhelpful facts like how their Auntie Marge lives on the forest moon of Endor and according to her Ewoks are in fact tall, hairless creatures and not cute and cuddly teddy-bears that will sell really well as merchandise.

 

2/ Where possible, make your characters idiots          

They always say to write what you know, so if you don’t know anything – write that. Where authors get into big trouble is giving their characters a level of expertise that they themselves do not possess. Don’t make your central character a forensic scientist just because you’ve watched two and a half episodes of CSI. Side note: I have actually met a bona fide forensic scientist and apparently, they do not solve all their cases through the use of musical montages. Turns out, you can’t believe everything you see on TV.

 

3/ Take the path less travelled:

The thing about setting your novel in 19th Century London is that absolutely loads of really clever people have done a ton of research into the minutiae of the life of an every day Londoner at that time. On one hand, that means that gives you a near limitless supply of source material to use for research. On the other hand, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to read a near limitless supply of source material, but it takes absolutely ages.  My advice is to seek out the unpopular and undocumented; the dark ages are a cracking time, Belgium is an excellent place. Nobody knows or cares about either so you can get away with pretty much anything.

 

4/ The Future:

The great thing about the future, is that it hasn’t happened yet, which makes it very hard to get wrong. It should go without saying though, avoid that tricky beast known as ‘the near future’. The problem with that is, before you know it, it’s ‘now’ and then not long after, it’s ‘back then’. People get really angry when they don’t get the future that you promised them – I speak as a member of the ‘where the hell is my jetpack?!’ generation.

 

5/ Use your own past:

If you absolutely have to use the past, use a bit you lived through. I set my latest book in Dublin with the action taking place in 1999. The clever trick there is that I left Dublin in 2000. That way, all I have to do is remember what life was like before I moved abroad and I’ve got a reasonable chance of not screwing up. For example – mobile phones. I know back in 1999 we had them but they were fairly rare. That fact is burned into my memory as my boss gave me his so that I could be on-call while he and the wife went away for a ‘dirty weekend’(people still had dirty weekends in 1999 – even with people they were married to). I still vividly remember how I dropped his prized Nokia while running for a bus and then stood there helplessly as it spun on the ground, the bus hurtling towards it. Miraculously, both the phone and I survived this. Side note: his wife is a bona fide forensic scientist, small world.

 

So, while you can’t avoid being wrong entirely, you can at least try and make your mistakes look like deliberate artistic flourishes. Failing that, just have really big robots endlessly punch each other and readers will be far to engrossed in waiting for the sweet kiss of death, to notice how you’ve put airbags in a car that doesn’t have them. I hope this helped, although if it did, I think you might be in big trouble.

My Review

Crime Fiction
4*s

Caimh’s books are marketed as crime fiction combined with humour and this prequel to the first two books in the Dublin Trilogy is no different although I’d say that the humour element is targeted which suited the sadder elements of this book far better. Fear not though, I still laughed plenty of times at the brilliant scenarios and one-liners, even if a tear also managed to escape my beady eye once or twice.

Back in 1999 that comparatively near past, life was different. There were mobile phones but there were bigger worries about planes falling from the skies when the date clicked over into the millennium and Bunny is squeezing his too large body into his too small Porshe.  In 1999 Bunny was working with his partner Gringo when they were tasked by DI Fintan O’ Rourke to stake out the local Mr Big who was in charge of the local estate. Bunny and Mr Big had history, in a good way, because Mr Big was rescued from a burning building as a child by Bunny, but times are a changing and with a number of raids on security vans and intelligence indicating a big diamond robbery is in the offing something has to be done.

The crime fiction element of this book felt tighter than in the other two books, perhaps because despite the fact that we have plenty of laughs from Bunny’s one-liners, there seemed to be less reliance on the humour with both elements truly complementing each other and Caimh’s skill as a writer becoming ever more apparent. The background of Dublin is ever-present with the scenes moving from the housing estate to rural outskirts of Dublin with just enough details to paint a picture.

In particular I loved the scenes with Bunny on the pitch with his hurling team who are based at St Judes – little Deccie stealing my heart with his adoration of his coach, if a little off-beam in his efforts to help

“You heard me, Deccie, didn’t I say to him before the match, just stay in the goal? How hard is that?”
“He has no understanding of the nuances of the game boss.”
“You’re not wrong, Deccie, you’re not wrong”
“D’ye want me to tie his leg to one of the posts again, boss?”
Bunny gave the child a look. “No, Deccie, remember we talked about this. Ye can’t do that.”
“Yes, boss. Sorry, boss.”

With Gringo not only being Bunny’s working partner but also his best friend, we have the sad situation of his marriage falling apart and Gringo himself letting things slip just at the time when Bunny is making headway in his own personal life with a lovely girl called Simone. But this is crime fiction and it may be a while before we can skip to the happy ever after part.

So with a tight plot, a wide range of human emotions and some brilliant secondary characters which include nuns who you really want to meet – this book is, if anything even better than the previous two. By the end you’ll understand a little more about who Bunny really is and if you had doubted it before, that he’s a top bloke!

I’d like to say a big thank you to McFori Ink and Caimh McDonnell for allowing me to take part in this blog tour and for allowing me to read Angels in the Moonlight which made me both laugh and cry, this review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 26 August 2017
Publisher: McFori Ink
No. of Pages: 320
Genre: Crime Fiction Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US


About the Author

Caimh McDonnell is an award-winning stand-up comedian, author and writer of televisual treats. Born in Limerick and raised in Dublin, he has taken the hop across the water and now calls Manchester his home.

He is a man who wears many hats. As well as being an author, he is an award-winning writer for TV, a stand-up comedian and ‘the voice’ of London Irish rugby club. His debut novel, A Man with One of Those Faces was released in 2016 and it is the first book of the Dublin Trilogy series. The follow-up, The Day That Never Come was published in 2017. Both books are fast-paced crime thrillers set in Caimh’s home town of Dublin and they are laced with distinctly Irish acerbic wit.
Caimh’s TV writing credits include The Sarah Millican Television Programme, A League of Their Own, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. He also works as a children’s TV writer and was BAFTA nominated for the animated series ‘Pet Squad’ which he created.

During his time on the British stand-up circuit, Caimh has firmly established himself as the white-haired Irishman whose name nobody can pronounce. He has brought the funny worldwide, doing stand-up tours of the Far East, the Middle East and Near East (Norwich).

Follow Caimh’s witterings on @Caimh
Facebook: @CaimhMcD