Posted in Uncategorized

Reading Bingo 2017 edition

reading-bingo-small

This is one of my favourite posts of the year so there was no question of me repeating this following my relative success in filling in the squares in both 2014, 2015 and 2016

I purposely don’t treat this like a challenge by finding books to fit the squares throughout the year, oh no! I prefer to see which of my (mostly) favourite books will fit from the set I’ve read.  As you can imagine this becomes a bit like one of those moving puzzles where one book is suitable for a number of squares… and then I’m left with empty squares which I have to trawl through the 137 books I’ve read and reviewed to see if any book at all will fit! This keeps me amused for many, many hours so I do hope you all enjoy the result.

Click on the book covers to read my reviews

A Book With More Than 500 Pages

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood clocks in at 560 pages beautifully and tantalising revealing a story of Grace Marks an Irish servant who in 1843 was accused of Thomas Kimner and Nancy Montgomery in Ontario, Canada. We meet her some years later when Dr Jordan becomes interested in studying her case and we hear what she has to tell him whilst she stiches quilts for the Governor’s household. This fictional story is one of a number of books I’ve read this year which are inspired by true-crime and Margaret Atwood’s skill with her pen did not disappoint at all. I have also watched the Netflix series which stays remarkably true to the book

 

A Forgotten Classic

I only have one title under classics this year so I present another Beryl Bainbridge novel this year.  one of the author’s later novels published in 1981. The story is set in Moscow and I’m reliably informed is supposed to illustrate the Kafkaesque nature of the country at that time, but sadly I just ended up being mightily confused by this novel although I was very much taken with the description of air travel at this time, far less regimented than the flights we take these days.

 

A Book That Became a Movie

I haven’t watched the film of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas which was released in 2008 but I was very taken with the book written by John Boyne which tells the story of Bruno, a young German boy whose father is posted as a Commander to Auschwitz. Young Bruno begins talking to a boy of a similar age to him through the fence separating and segregating the Jews in the camp from the outside world. Through a child’s eyes we are exposed to the horror of the camp something that is made much worse because of the innocence of our narrator.

 

A Book Published This Year

As a book reviewer I have read lots of books published this year but decided to feature one from a debut author Ray Britain, this author having been a member of the Police Force in the midlands until his retirement when he decided to turn his hand to crime fiction. The Last Thread is the first in the DCI Stirling series and despite being a realistic glimpse into policing is still a mighty fine story too. The opening scenes bring home the realities of policing when despite an effort by our protagonist to intervene, a teenager plunges from a motorway bridge onto the road below.

 

A Book With A Number In The Title

The Verdict of Twelve by Raymond Postgate was originally published in 1940 and bought to a whole new generation of readers by the British Library Crime Classics series. As might be expected the twelve is in relation to the number of men and women that sit on the jury in this courtroom drama. With the book split into three distinct acts, the background to the jury, the charges and the deliberations all brilliantly and engagingly executed. This is backed up by brilliant postscript.

 

A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty

Always one of the hardest spaces to fill, I have no-one that falls into this category this year.

A Book With Non Human Characters

The Good People by Hannah Kent is set in south-west of Ireland in 1825 and 1826 and is full of fairies, not of the Disney variety though, these are the fairy folk, that Irish folklore had walking amongst them. These fairies were as wont to carry out evil acts as they ever were good. With Nóra Lehay having the misfortune to lose her husband at the same time it becomes clear that her child is mute opens her up to gossip and isolation amongst the locals. A beautifully written story which despite being moving is quite a bleak tale.

 

A Funny Book

I don’t read many funny books so this year’s entry comes from Caimh McDonnell who nabbed this spot on the reading bingo last year. Angels in the Moonlight combines laughs with Crime Fiction in the most perfect mix, especially in this book, the prequel set in 1999. The crimes are not minimalised or overshadowed by inappropriate humour but the strong element that runs through the book allows the reader to feel a wide range of emotions as we follow our intrepid hero Bunny.

 

A Book By A Female Author

The story of a Singer sewing machine might sound pretty dull, but The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie is anything but. We first meet our machine at the factory in Clydebank where in 1911 ten thousand workers went on strike, Jean being one of them although her loyalties are divided between her boyfriend and her family. We later meet the sewing machine in the hands of Connie who we learn about in part through the records she keeps of what she’s made on it. Lastly it is found by Fred in his recently deceased Grandfather’s flat. A story of all those big emotions across three separate lives. Brilliantly presented and executed with precision.

A Book With A Mystery

This box always makes me smile because pretty much all the books I read have a mystery of some description in them. Before the Poison is a standalone novel by Peter Robinson featuring a historical murder trial which examines the roles of a woman’s morals in the likelihood of her being accused of murder, this time in the 1950s. In the modern tale of this story a recently bereaved composer becomes wrapped up in the story of Grace Fox who was accused of murdering her husband one snowy winter’s day. Aided by a diary Chris examines the story closely which has a personal link to the school he attended as a child. Fascinating and disconcerting as I couldn’t quite believe this was pure fiction.

 

A Book With A One Word Title

This year I have just one book which is a one word title, perhaps they are falling out of fashion? Fortunately it is a book that I loved. Shelter by Sarah Franklin is set in 1944 in the Forest of Dean which is where I lived before leaving home to make my way in the big wide world. The author shapes her story around the Lumberjills posted to the Forest to aid the war along with the Italian Prisoners of War who worked alongside them. The story was realistic and heart-warming and despite a difficult relationship with the area as a teenager, Shelter, made me appreciate some of its better qualities.

 

 A Book of Short Stories

CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards is a fabulous collection of short stories from a wide range of popular crime fiction writers. I loved exploring the different styles and places that are featured within this collection which well and truly bought home to me all the possibilities this form has to offer the reader. My copy now has a firm place on my bookshelf as it will be invaluable when seeking out some of the longer novels of those who appear in this brilliant book.

 

 Free Square

I’ve chosen The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell for my free square for the simple reason this would have easily been featured in my top ten post of the year, except it wasn’t published this year. I love an unpredictable story and Rose who works in the Police Precinct in 1920s Brooklyn is the protagonist for just such a tale. Through her eyes we see what happens when Odile enters the typing pool, elegant sophisticated Odile is the star of the show but does Rose know her secrets? The journey back to early scenes is all in this book, and what a wonderful journey the author took me on.

 

 

A Book Set On A Different Continent

Regular readers of this blog won’t be in the slightest bit surprised that this book has made it onto the Reading Bingo. A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys was my First Book of the Year for a very special reason. Although the book opens as Lilian Shepard boards the Orentes from Tilbury Docks she is travelling to start a new life as a servant in Australia. Through her eyes we see the world as she makes the journey across the seas, meeting her fellow passengers including many that the social mores of England would have stopped her from socialising with, but life is different on an Ocean Liner. The brilliant period details of a world on the brink of war alongside fabulous characters and a mystery made this one of my favourite books of the year.

 

A Book of Non-Fiction

I’ve had a bumper year for excellent non-fiction reads but as many of them are crime related I’ve chosen The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler which is crying out to be on the bookshelf of booklovers up and down the land. The style of writing is often as irreverent as it is succinct with the author puts his own spin on why an author has been forgotten but interspersed between the 99 authors are longer chapters looking at subjects as diverse as The Forgotten Disney Connection and The Forgotten Booker Winners.

 

The First Book By A Favourite Author

In March I read the debut novel Everything But the Truth by Gillian McAllister and having really enjoyed being sucked into the moral dilemma she posed,I have also read her second novel Anything You Do Say later in the year – so yes, she is a favourite author. Starting with a glimpse of a text on her partner’s phone Rachel Anderson starts to dig, and once she’s started all manner of fall-out commences. This book packed a real emotional punch because not only was it cleverly presented but it also was jam-packed full of realistic characters who behave like ‘real people’

 

A Book I Heard About Online

Since blogging I find most of my new author finds on-line and to be honest, it is fairly easy to persuade me I must read all types of crime fiction but one blogger had a special reason for recommending this novel, Sewing the Shadows Together by Alison Baillie to me, because she lived in the place of the fictional scene of the murder Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh. Thirty years later the case is reopened and the wounds that never really healed split apart once more. With convincing characters and a solid sense of place this was one recommendation I’m glad I didn’t pass by on.

 

A Best Selling Book

Lisa Jewell is the master of drawing me into a story from the very first page and Then She Was Gone lived up to that early promise. This is the darkest of the author’s novels yet and on the one-hand seems to be a fantastical tale but it is so underlined by truths that this aspect only becomes apparent when you examine the story closely, yet move the prism to one side and all seems to be completely believable. Ellie Mack disappeared on her way to the library. She was just fifteen years old and her disappearance blew the remaining four Mack’s apart. Several years later her mother Laurel, meets a man in the local café and everything changes once more.

 

A Book Based Upon A True Story


Ah so you thought I’d come unstuck by using Alias Grace earlier on in my Reading Bingo but fortunately this year has been the year when I sought out books inspired by true crimes and Little Deaths by Emma Flint was the first one of the year. This book is based upon the life of Alice Crimmins who was tried for the murder of her two children in New York in 1965. The thrust of the story is that Alice was tried for her morals rather than being based on evidence. I became so immersed in Alice’s tale that I was simply unable to put this well-researched book aside.

 

A Book At the Bottom Of Your To Be Read Pile

2017 was the year I made a concerted effort to read some of my earlier purchases that have been languishing on my kindle. Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves was purchased way back in 2012 and is the fourth in the brilliant Vera series. In this outing a body is found in a sauna at a health club Vera visits in a short-lived attempt to tackle her lifestyle. What more can I say, fab characters, a proper mystery with clues to be solved and the best non clichéd detective to walk the beat.

 

 A Book Your Friend Loves

I went on holiday to Crete in 2016 and visited the island of Spinalonga, a former leper colony. On my return I told my friend all about it and she urged me to read The Island by Victoria Hislop which she’d already read. Well eventually the book made it to the top of the TBR and I fell in love with the story, bought even more alive because I’d trod in the footsteps of the fictional characters that I read about. This is almost a saga story following one family from the nearby town of Plakka and the realities of life on a leper colony in the relatively recent past. A book that I won’t forget in a hurry and a delight to read.

 

 

A Book That Scares You

I rarely get scared by a book but the cover of Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham was enough to give me the willies. This is another true crime read, the brutal murder of a mother by a daughter and her friend in New Zealand in 1954 and perhaps because of the senselessness of the crime this book got to me far more than many of my reads in this genre. The girls lived in a land of make-believe, and had an intense friendship which was about to be halted due to Anne Perry’s move to England. The author investigates the girl’s earlier lives and comes up with some theories but none quite explain why this rare act of matricide was perpetrated. The fact that one of the girls became a mystery writer just adds another level of intrigue.

 

A Book That Is More Than 10 Years Old

2017 has been a year where I have explored a selection of books written about  true crime and so it would have been remiss of me not to include what is widely considered to be the first in this genre. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, published in 1966 tells the story of the murder of The Clutter family in Kansas. We learn about the victims in the lead up to the murders and afterwards the characters of the murderers are revealed. The amount of research that must have gone into this book is immense and this was carried out by the author and his close friend at the time, Harper Lee who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.

 

The Second Book In A Series

I loved Mary-Jane Riley’s first book, The Bad Things which I read towards the end of 2016 so it was no surprise that After She Fell was purchased so I could find out more about Alex Devlin in this, the second book in the series. Alex Devlin returns to North Norfolk to investigate the death of a friend’s daughter. What she uncovers at the excusive boarding school that Elena Devonshire attended undermines the coroner’s original finding of suicide. There are multiple viewpoints, a whole heap of well-defined characters and a set of events that will have the readers longing for Alex to reveal the truth.

 

A Book With A Blue Cover

So last year I had a wealth of blue covers to choose from and even commented how they were becoming more popular; not so this year! Fortunately The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich is an excellent choice because not ofound was from a mixed genre form of Memoir combined with true crime. This was engaging and interesting in equal parts telling the story of a true-crime as well as showing the legal files alongside the memoir section that examines the consequences of crime on its victims. Fascinating although far from an easy read.

 

 

Well sadly I’m a square short, I really do need to start picking up some younger author’s works but on the whole a pretty impressive year, if I do say so myself.

How about you? How much of the card could you fill in? Please share!

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

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (September 6)

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

I am currently reading Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell which is a prequel to A Man With One of Those Faces and The Day that Never Comes which was published on 26 August 2017.



Blurb

For Detective Bunny McGarry, life is complicated, and it is about to get more so.

It’s 1999 and his hard won reputation amongst Dublin’s criminal fraternity, for being a massive pain in the backside, is unfortunately shared by his bosses. His partner has a career-threatening gambling problem and, oh yeah, Bunny’s finally been given a crack at the big time. He’s set the task of bringing down the most skilled and ruthless armed robbery gang in Irish history. So the last thing he needs in his life is yet another complication.

Her name is Simone. She is smart, funny, talented and, well, complicated. When her shocking past turns up to threaten her and Bunny’s chance at a future, things get very complicated indeed. If the choice is upholding the law or protecting those he loves, which way will the big fella turn? Amazon

I recently finished Her Deadly Secret by Chris Curran which had something fresh to offer in the missing child scenario.

Blurb

THE SECRET YOU CAN’T FORGET

A young girl has been taken. Abducted, never to be seen again.

Joe and Hannah, her traumatized parents, are consumed by grief. But all is not as it seems behind the curtains of their suburban home.

Loretta, the Family Liaison Officer, is sure Hannah is hiding something – a dark and twisted secret from deep in her past.

This terrible memory could be the key to the murder of another girl fifteen years ago. And as links between the two victims emerge, Joe and Hannah learn that in a family built on lies, the truth can destroy everything… NetGalley

Next up I will be reading Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner, the following up to Missing, Presumed, both featuring Manon Bradshaw.

 

Blurb

Manon Bradshaw is back.

As dusk falls a young man staggers through a park, far from home, bleeding from a stab wound. He dies where he falls; cradled by a stranger, a woman’s name on his lips in his last seconds of life.

DI Manon Bradshaw can’t help taking an interest – these days she only handles cold cases, but the man died just yards from the police station where she works.

She’s horrified to discover that both victim and prime suspect are more closely linked to her than she could have imagined. And as the Cambridgeshire police force closes ranks against her, she is forced to contemplate the unthinkable.

How well does she know her loved ones, and are they capable of murder? Amazon

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

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (August 13)

Weekly Wrap Up

No domestic goddess this week I’m afraid – in fact not a great deal of anything by way of other news so I’ll crack on with the book news.

This Week on the Blog

The week started with my review of The House by Simon Lelic which was awarded the full five stars and is one of my favourite books of the year so far.

My excerpt post came from The Lying Game by Ruth Ware, one of the many books that I’ve failed to get to yet!

This Week in Books featured the authors Sophie Hannah, John Boyne and Margaret Atwood.

My second review of the week was for The Island by Victoria Hislop which is mainly set on the island of Spinalonga, a former leper colony.

On Friday I celebrated my fourth blog birthday which just served to remind me how fast time can pass by when you’re having fun!

I finished off the week with my review of Broken Heart by Tim Weaver which should be read with the understanding that I read this book when times were really tough but that didn’t stop the author’s fine writing shining through.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Did She Kill Him? by Kate Colquhoun which recreates the story of Florence Maybrick, a Liverpool lady who in 1889 who was suspected of poisoning her husband. The first portion of the book gives a sympathetic portrait of Florence Maybrick backed up with historical documents but it was the switch at the end when the evidence is examined from another perspective which most impressed me. Did Florence murder her husband? Well you need to read this book and see what you think.

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover

Blurb

In the summer of 1889, young Southern belle Florence Maybrick stood trial for the alleged arsenic poisoning of her much older husband, Liverpool cotton merchant James Maybrick.

‘The Maybrick Mystery’ had all the makings of a sensation: a pretty, flirtatious young girl; resentful, gossiping servants; rumours of gambling and debt; and torrid mutual infidelity. The case cracked the varnish of Victorian respectability, shocking and exciting the public in equal measure as they clambered to read the latest revelations of Florence’s past and glimpse her likeness in Madame Tussaud’s.

Florence’s fate was fiercely debated in the courtroom, on the front pages of the newspapers and in parlours and backyards across the country. Did she poison her husband? Was her previous infidelity proof of murderous intentions? Was James’ own habit of self-medicating to blame for his demise?

Historian Kate Colquhoun recounts an utterly absorbing tale of addiction, deception and adultery that keeps you asking to the very last page, did she kill him? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

I’m very excited to have been given a copy of Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell which will be published on 30 August 2017. This is the prequel to the trilogy the author’s Dublin trilogy.

Blurb

For Detective Bunny McGarry, life is complicated, and it is about to get more so.

It’s 1999 and his hard won reputation amongst Dublin’s criminal fraternity, for being a massive pain the backside, is unfortunately shared by his bosses. His partner has a career-threatening gambling problem and, oh yeah, Bunny’s finally been given a crack at the big time. He’s set the task of bringing down the most skilled and ruthless armed robbery gang in Irish history. So the last thing he needs in his life is yet another complication.

Her name is Simone. She is smart, funny, talented and, well, complicated. When her shocking past turns up to threaten her and Bunny’s chance at a future, things get very complicated indeed. If the choice is upholding the law or protecting those he loves, which way will the big fella turn? http://whitehairedirishman.com

I have a copy of Give Me the Child by Mel McGrath which was published on 27 July 2017 and the reviews I’ve read are great.

Blurb

An unexpected visitor.

Dr Cat Lupo aches for another child, despite the psychosis which marked her first pregnancy. So when Ruby Winter, a small girl in need of help, arrives in the middle of the night, it seems like fate.

A devastating secret.

But as the events behind Ruby’s arrival emerge – her mother’s death, her connection to Cat – Cat questions whether her decision to help Ruby has put her own daughter at risk.

Do we get the children we deserve?

Cat’s research tells her there’s no such thing as evil. Her history tells her she’s paranoid. But her instincts tell her different. And as the police fight to control a sudden spate of riots raging across the capital, Cat faces a race against time of her own… NetGalley

And as a huge surprise I have been granted my wish to receive a copy of Bad Girls from History by Dee Gordon which will be published on 30 September 2017.

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. NetGalley

And I have bought a copy of Trial of Passion by William Deverell after reading the fantastic Spotlight Post by one of my trusted book advisors, Margot of Confessions of a Mystery Novelist… If you haven’t visited Margot’s blog I highly recommend it.

Blurb

Arthur Beauchamp, one of Vancouver’s most heralded criminal lawyers, has moved to a quiet island off the British Columbia coast. He’s trying to recover from a marriage gone sour, but his retirement is interrupted by his former law partners — they want Arthur to take charge of the defence trial of Jonathan O’Donnell, the acting dean of the law school.

O’Donnell has been accused of rape by one of his students, Kimberley Martin, a smart but arrogant woman who is engaged to a rich businessman. If convicted, O’Donnell understands that his career will implode; he believes that only Arthur Beauchamp can save his professional life. After much pleading, Beauchamp agrees to handle the case. He is drawn into a complex legal situation dealing with gender and sex, while his personal life takes a provocative turn as well.

A courtroom drama ensues, with unpredictable twists and bizarre events. Amazon

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What have you added to your shelves this week? What do you think of my finds?

Since my last post I’ve read 3 books and gained 4!
The current total is therefore 179
Physical Books – 101
Kindle Books – 61
NetGalley Books – 17

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Day That Never Comes – Caimh McDonnell

Crime Fiction 3*s
Crime Fiction
3*s

This is the second in the Dublin Trilogy written by stand-up comedian Caimh McDonnell and carries on his unique brand of crime fiction and humour from A Man With One of Those Faces onto the next part of Paul, Brigit and Bunny’s journey to see what happens after they form a private detective agency together.

The story doesn’t begin well though as Bunny is missing, Brigit and Paul have had a massive falling out and aren’t speaking and it looks as if their new venture is going to fail before it has even started. Due to the split with Brigit, Paul is holed up in their new office with Maggie, a German Shepherd dog for company. Despite appearances though there is plenty to laugh about from the start, in that ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’ kind of way. And then a woman in a red dress makes an appointment requesting information on one of the men who has made money in a building venture, to the detriment of taxpayers and investors alike. What she wants to know is who he is seeing behind her back and has chosen the MCM Agency to help her. Paul has to rely on his friend Phil to act as driver as he trails the man while Brigit is busy looking for Bunny who has gone completely to ground.

Once again we have multiple story-lines to follow and plenty of intrigue with absolutely brilliant characters this book has a far more political feel to it. Even those of us who don’t live in Ireland know about the Celtic Tiger and the rapid downturn during the crash in 2007 where the money that had been pumped into Ireland, most specifically Dublin, which left the country with debts and empty offices. In The Day That Never Comes, one such fancy building has become home to political campaigners and the homeless making a stand against those few who made millions through dodgy dealings leaving their investors with nothing, but it all turns particularly nasty when the fraud trial of Hartigan, Blake and Maloney, the three big names in this venture, collapses.

Despite the introduction of some new characters, especially those in the Gardaí I missed the rapport created when the three characters worked together. In this book although they all appear and so  we see their individual investigations moving at a pace, the humour has a slightly different feel to it, so while it’s still very much in evidence, it has a slightly more sardonic comedy – not so much slapstick and far more blackness.

As for the plot well that’s fast and furious and very well executed with the different strands of story winding closer together. If you haven’t read A Man With One of Those Faces you might equate the mentions of humour within this story with a cosy mystery; please don’t. There are some brutal killings in this book which have no place in that genre. This is not a book for those with delicate sensibilities at all.

In many ways this book could serve as a warning to politicians and police forces alike as to what happens when the community you serve gets really fed-up with the decisions made on their behalf.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers McFori Ink for allowing me to enjoy another outing with these brilliant, and funny characters. The Day That Never Comes was published on 23 January 2017

First Published UK: 23 January 2017
Publisher: McFori Ink
No of Pages:  344
Genre: Crime Fiction – Humour
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Blog Tour

The Day That Never Comes – Author Post – Caimh McDonnell

the-day-that-never-comes-blog-tour

 

I’m delighted to welcome Caimh McDonnell back to my blog to celebrate the publication of his second book in the Dublin Trilogy; The Day That Never Comes which was published on 23 January 2017.

For those of you who haven’t yet read the first, A Man With One of Those Faces, it is currently on offer on Amazon for just 99p or 99c, an absolute bargain for this very funny crime novel!

Without further ado I will hand over to Caimh and his author post.

 

Life Imitating Art

 

In the middle of December I went home to Dublin for a ‘working holiday’ when something very peculiar happened. It was a ‘working holiday’ because I was going over the final, final, final proofs of my latest book The Day That Never Comes that my editor had sent over. This meant sitting in my mother’s backroom while she nipped in every fifteen or so minutes to make sure I wasn’t being disturbed. She’d occasionally mix this with standing outside the door loudly telling my dad to eat his toast more quietly.

 

To give you some background, my book is a crime thriller set in Dublin. One of the things that happens in it is that a group of homeless people take over an office building in central Dublin that the Irish government have left unoccupied. I awoke one morning to an excited email from my friend Brendan in Ghana, who was one of the few people bar my editor who had read the book up until this point. The reason for his excitement was he had been reading the Irish Times online and a group of homeless people had just taken over an office building in central Dublin that the Irish government had left unoccupied.

 

The name of the real building in question is Apollo House and it has been big news in Ireland and has even gained some coverage internationally. Of all the many, many coincidences between Apollo House and the Ark, the real building stands about a four-minute walk across the River Liffey from where I imagined the fake one would be.

 

I currently live in Manchester, which is actually a lot alike Dublin in many ways; sadly one of those is that in the last decade there has been a shocking explosion in homelessness in both cities. It is normally hard in hindsight to recall exactly what inspired the ideas that end up in your book, but I’d be pretty certain that the shanty town that existed on Oxford Road in Manchester that I walked by most days, at least until the authorities ripped it down, was a large part of the inspiration for the fictional ‘Ark’ building that appears in my book.

 

Now, I should point out, the Ark is merely a small part of my novel and it is not a book about homelessness. Really, where its core inspiration comes from is the anger I think most people feel, in Ireland and elsewhere, where they suffered and continue to suffer the effects of an economic collapse that was caused by the reckless actions of a few people. Certainly in Ireland, with the enormous bank bailout that occurred, it feels like there is a well of anger that has never really been dealt with. The driving engine behind my novel is the idea of what would happen if someone decided to extract their revenge by killing the people they hold responsible for the collapse.

 

Still though, the similarities between my fictional Ark and the real Apollo House are frankly a bit freaky. It is very odd as an author to see something you had hypothesized played out in reality. I think I got both the Irish public’s reaction (almost total support) and the Irish government’s response (almost total embarrassment) pretty much bang on. The thing which most caught me by surprise was that I never in a million years thought someone in authority would make the case that these poor people should be evicted from the building and put back on the freezing mid-winter streets ‘for their own safety’. Even in fiction, that seemed like to bizarre and cruel an argument.

 

In reality, the occupants of Apollo House have now been evicted by order of the High Court, once temporary accommodation had been found for them elsewhere.  Their actions have also done an awful lot to raise awareness of an issue that for too long went ignored.

 

Let’s just say, in the fictional version of events in my book, things don’t end quite so peacefully. The Irish government should take note!

Flourish.jpg

The Day That Never Comes

 

the-day-that-never-came

Caimh McDonnell
Published 23 January 2017
McFori Ink
340 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9955075-2-4 Paperback
978-0-9955075-3-1 eBook (Kindle)

#DayNeverComes

 

Blurb

Remember those people that destroyed the economy and then cruised off on their yachts? Well guess what – someone is killing them.

Dublin is in the middle of a heat wave and tempers are running high. The Celtic Tiger is well and truly dead, activists have taken over the headquarters of a failed bank, the trial of three unscrupulous property developers teeters on the brink of collapse, and in the midst of all this, along comes a mysterious organisation hell-bent on exacting bloody vengeance in the name of the little guy.

Paul Mulchrone doesn’t care about any of this; he has problems of his own. His newly established detective agency is about to be DOA. One of his partners won’t talk to him for very good reasons and the other has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth for no reason at all. Can he hold it together long enough to figure out what Bunny McGarry’s colourful past has to do with his present absence?

When the law and justice no longer mean the same thing, on which side will you stand?

The Day That Never Comes is the second book in Caimh McDonnell’s Dublin trilogy, which melds fast-paced action with a distinctly Irish acerbic wit.

Flourish.jpg

If you haven’t read the A Man with One of Those Faces what are you waiting for? Don’t hang about, it is very funny and currently available for 99p/99c from 23 – 30 January 2017!

If you should need any persuasion to click the buy button, you can read my review here

Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

I will be reviewing The Day That Never Comes very soon, but if you can skip that and buy the book now, here are the links

Amazon UK
Amazon US

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Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (January 25)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lipsyy 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 Good People by Hannah Kent which will be published on 9 February 2017. This is a much anticipated read following the brilliance which was Burial Rites.Burial Rites

the-good-people

Blurb

County Kerry, Ireland, 1825.
NÓRA, bereft after the sudden death of her beloved husband, finds herself alone and caring for her young grandson Micheál. Micheál cannot speak and cannot walk and Nóra is desperate to know what is wrong with him. What happened to the healthy, happy grandson she met when her daughter was still alive?
MARY arrives in the valley to help Nóra just as the whispers are spreading: the stories of unexplained misfortunes, of illnesses, and the rumours that Micheál is a changeling child who is bringing bad luck to the valley.
NANCE’s knowledge keeps her apart. To the new priest, she is a threat, but to the valley people she is a wanderer, a healer. Nance knows how to use the plants and berries of the woodland; she understands the magic in the old ways. And she might be able to help Micheál.
As these three women are drawn together in the hope of restoring Micheál, their world of folklore and belief, of ritual and stories, tightens around them. It will lead them down a dangerous path, and force them to question everything they have ever known.

My latest read is The Day That Never Comes by Caimh McDonnell the second in the second in the very funny Dublin Trilogy. If you haven’t yet read the first, A Man With One of Those Faces, it is just 99p or 99c until 30 January 2017 on Amazon.

the-day-that-never-came

Blurb

Remember those people that destroyed the economy and then cruised off on their yachts? Well guess what – someone is killing them.

Dublin is in the middle of a heat wave and tempers are running high. The Celtic Tiger is well and truly dead, activists have taken over the headquarters of a failed bank, the trial of three unscrupulous property developers teeters on the brink of collapse, and in the midst of all this, along comes a mysterious organisation hell-bent on exacting bloody vengeance in the name of the little guy.

Paul Mulchrone doesn’t care about any of this; he has problems of his own. His newly established detective agency is about to be DOA. One of his partners won’t talk to him for very good reasons and the other has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth for no reason at all. Can he hold it together long enough to figure out what Bunny McGarry’s colourful past has to do with his present absence?

When the law and justice no longer mean the same thing, on which side will you stand? Amazon

Next up is The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman which has been on the TBR since September 2015.

The Yellow Wallpaper

Blurb

THE YELLOW WALLPAPER is a story by the American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published in January 1892 in The New England Magazine. It is regarded as an important early work of American feminist literature, illustrating attitudes in the 19th century toward women’s health, both physical and mental.

Presented in the first person, the story is a collection of journal entries written by a woman whose physician husband (John) has rented an old mansion for the summer. Foregoing other rooms in the house, the couple moves into the upstairs nursery. As a form of treatment she is forbidden from working, and is encouraged to eat well and get plenty of exercise and air, so she can recuperate from what he calls a “temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency”, a diagnosis common to women in that period. She hides her journal from her husband and his sister the housekeeper, fearful of being reproached for overworking herself. The room’s windows are barred to prevent children from climbing through them, and there is a gate across the top of the stairs, though she and her husband have access to the rest of the house and its adjoining estate. Amazon

I think that has to be the widest spread of genres I’ve ever managed in one of these posts!

So what are you reading this week? Go on you know you want to share!

Posted in Uncategorized

Reading Bingo 2016

reading-bingo-small

This is one of my favourite posts of the year so there was no question of me repeating this following my relative success in filling in the squares in both 2014 and 2015

I purposely don’t treat this like a challenge by finding books to fit the squares throughout the year, oh no! I prefer to see which of my (mostly) favourite books will fit from the set I’ve read.  As you can imagine this becomes a bit like one of those moving puzzles where one book is suitable for a number of squares… and then I’m left with empty squares which I have to trawl through the 136 books I’ve read and reviewed to see if any book at all will fit! This keeps me amused for many, many hours so I do hope you all enjoy the result.

Click on the book covers to read my reviews

A Book With More Than 500 Pages

Small Great Things

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult clocks in at 512 pages covering the injustice of a Ruth Jefferson, the only African-American nurse on duty when a baby gets into difficulty. With the parents white supremacists who want to blame someone Ruth is charged with murder. Not a comfortable read and I applaud the author for wanting to address racism and using an absorbing tale to do so.

A Forgotten Classic

Harriet Said

I came late to Beryl Bainbridge so I’m going to count this as a modern classic. I’ve read three of this author’s books so far, my favourite being Harriet Said. The story is based upon a murder case involving two teenaged girls in New Zealand, a case that was also the inspiration for the film Heavenly Creatures. The author creates two young teenage girls using them to reveal the push and pull of their relationship which is ultimately their undoing.

A Book That Became a Movie

Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain has lots to recommend it although I admit some of the politics towards the end, went over my head, but the tale of a young woman nursing through World War I, having put her hard one academic ambitions on hold, was incredibly poignant. With the inevitable loss of friends and family her grief for herself and her generation is palpable The film was released in 2014 to great acclaim.

A Book Published This Year

The Ballroom

As a book reviewer I have read lots of books published this year but decided to feature one from my historical fiction selection. The Ballroom by Anna Hope tells the tale of life in an asylum in West Riding, the year being 1911. With a mixture of men and women housed in the asylum the author not only writes us a great story, but has accurately researched what life was like from the perspective of inmates and attendants.

A Book With A Number In The Title

The One in a Million Boy

I give you not one but two numbers in this title: The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood is a book I denoted  ‘quirky’ but I’m so glad I read it. The story concerns the relationship between Ona Vitkus, a Lithuanian immigrant who has lived in the US since she was just four, and a boy Scout with a passion for the Guinness World Records. Touching without ever being overly sentimental this is one that will linger in my mind for quite some time.

A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty

Fiver Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain

Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain was written by Barney Norris who was born in 1987. This book not only touches on the history of Salisbury but weaves stories of five fictional characters in a literary, but oh so readable way. An accomplished novel that doesn’t let an obvious love of language interfere with a great story.

A Book With Non Human Characters

Little Stranger

Well I’m giving you double for your money with this book, not only is there a ghost in The Little Stanger by the fabulous Sarah Waters, there is also a Labrador that plays a key role in the subsequent downfall of the Ayres family. This spooky story is narrated by a country doctor in 1940’s Warwickshire and has plenty of other themes to enjoy even if you, like me, are not a fan of ghostly goings-on.

A Funny Book

A Man With One of those Faces

A Man With One Of Those Faces is a crime fiction novel written by stand-up comedian Caimh McDonnell. I know crime mixed with humour doesn’t sound as if it should work, but it does! A Man With One of Those Faces is full of observational humour with some truly entertaining characters without sacrificing a great plot with a whole heap of action to keep you on the edge of your seat.

A Book By A Female Author

My Husband's Wife

So many great books by so many fab women – in the end I chose My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry which falls into one of my favourite genres, psychological thrillers of the domestic variety. This tale mixes past and present with a whole heap of flawed characters and is told by two separate narrators Lily and Carla and they reveal more and more about themselves, and those around them. An extremely tense read which was utterly satisfying.

A Book With A Mystery

Pictures of perfection.jxr

What better mystery can there be than that of a missing policeman on Dalziel’s patch? Pictures of Perfection is the fourteenth in the Dalziel & Pascoe series written by the outstandingly talented Reginald Hill and this book was an absolute delight to read. With a horrific opening scene, the book then switches to the more genteel setting of a country fair in 1980s rural Yorkshire. Fear not though this isn’t window dressing, the plot is superb with a proper mystery to be solved.

A Book With A One Word Title

Viral

Like last year I have read six books that have a single word as their title but I have chosen Viral by Helen Fitzgerald because of the very contemporary storyline. Viral examines what happens when a sex act carried out in Magaluf ends up online for all Su Oliphant-Brotheridge’s friends and family to see but despite that taster, this story didn’t go in the direction I expected it to.

 A Book of Short Stories

manipulated-lives

Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel is a collection of five novellas all looking at manipulators and the effect on the lives of those they choose to manipulate. The author picked five different characters and settings to explore this theme and I have to admit, not being a huge fan of short stories, the common thread was far more appealing to me than some other collections.

 Free Square

Lying in wait

For my free square this year I have decided to go with the book with the best opening sentence; Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent:
My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’
With the rest of this book more than living up to the first line there was so much to love not only does the author keep the tension stretched as taut as could be, despite that opening revelation we have a wonderful Irish setting as background.

A Book Set On A Different Continent

The Woman on the Orient Express

The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford is a novel that ends up in Baghdad recreating a trip to an archaeology dig that Agatha Christie made following the divorce from her first husband. This wasn’t so much of a mystery rather a historical novel using Agatha Christie herself as the centre of the story of three woman all making this trip for very different reasons. An unusual and rewarding read with an exotic setting along with a fantastic mode of transport.

A Book of Non-Fiction

Did She Kill Him

I have read some brilliant non-fiction books, mostly about murders, and a fair proportion about poisoners, my interest (or obsession) of the year, so I am going with Did She Kill Him? by Kate Colquhoun. Florence Maybrick is the subject of this book, a middle-class woman living in Liverpool in 1889 when she stood trial for the murder, by arsenic, of her husband. While the majority of the book is relatively sympathetic to Florence, the author cleverly takes apart the arguments in the last section leaving the reader to make up their own mind if she was guilty or not.

The First Book By A Favourite Author

In Bitter Chill

I enjoyed In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward so much earlier in the year that I had to buy the second in the series, A Deadly Thaw. The setting in Bampton Derbyshire was stunning which made the awful tale of the disappearance of two girls back in 1978 all the more shocking, especially as only one of those girls returned home. Rachel Jones went  home but now an adult a suicide prompts her to find out what really happened all those years ago.

A Book I Heard About Online

The Versions of Us

Since blogging I find most of my new author finds on-line and to be honest, it is fairly easy to persuade me I must read crime fiction or psychological thrillers, I’m more resistant to other genres. But all the rave reviews about The Versions of Us by Laura Bennett, a sliding-doors novel had me intrigued – and what a great find this was. The incident that kicks off the three different lives in The Versions of Us is a student falling off her bike whilst studying at Cambridge University in October 1958 and the three tales that follow are all equally brilliant. This was an absorbing read especially taking into consideration the complicated structure.

A Best Selling Book

Love You Dead

Peter James’ Roy Grace series consistently makes the best seller list, and also happens to be my favourite police procedural series so it is only right and fitting that Love You Dead is featured for this square. For those of you who also enjoy not only the mystery but also reading about Roy Grace (and his beautiful wife, Cleo), some key story arcs are cleared up in this, the twelfth book in the series. Mystery fans don’t need to worry either, the key plot is a good one featuring a pretty woman at its heart.

A Book Based Upon A True Story

Buriel Rites

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent turned out to be one of my favourite reads of the year! With the Icelandic landscape as a backdrop to Agnes Magnúsdóttir’s final months awaiting trial for the murder of two men, we see the family she had been sent to stay with learning to adjust to the stranger in their midst. Be warned if you haven’t read this book, it is devastating, I had grown to love Agnes and yet her fate was sealed and no amount of wishing can change the course of history.

A Book At the Bottom Of Your To Be Read Pile

The Mistake

The Mistake by Wendy James is a book inspired by a true event rather than based upon it and one that had been on my TBR for a couple of years.  In The Mistake we meet Jodi Garrow whose comfortable life as the wife of a lawyer unravels when a nurse in a small town hospital remembers her from years before when she gave birth to a little girl, there is no sign of that baby and Jodi does her best to cover up the truth but the media are determined to find the truth.

 A Book Your Friend Loves

blood-lines

I introduced a friend to the wonders of DI Kim Stone this year and she loved the series, in fact, despite not being a book blogger, she told me about the upcoming release of Blood Lines by Angela Marsons before I knew it was happening!  This series goes from strength to strength and her characterisation underpins a fantastic multi-stranded mystery as our protagonist tries to find the link between the stabbing of a compassionate, well-loved woman and a prostitute.

A Book That Scares You

A Tapping at my Door

I rarely get scared by a book but from the opening excerpt of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe this book had me well and truly spooked by A Tapping At My Door by David Jackson. With opening scenes of a woman hearing a tapping sound, I was glad I wasn’t reading this on a dark night on my own. But this isn’t just a spooky police procedural, it is incredibly clever – I can’t tell you exactly how as that would spoil it but this was a book with a superb plot, probably one of the best I’ve read this year. That with a lively and interesting character in DS Nathan Cody, a Liverpool setting and more than a dash of humour, means it was an all-round great read.

A Book That Is More Than 10 Years Old

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

I decided to pick the oldest book that I’ve read this year and this one was first published in 1926 so in fact 90 years old; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is considered by many to be one of the best written by Agatha Christie and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book narrated by a doctor and one of my very favourite detectives, Monsieur Poirot leading the search for the murderer of Roger Ackroyd, killed in his very own study if you please – oh and of course the door was locked!

The Second Book In A Series

the-kill-fee

I have a love of 1920s London and Fiona Veitch Smith’s creation Poppy Denby, journalist at The Daily Globe had her second outing in The Kill Fee, this year. The mystery had its roots in Russia and the revolution and Poppy romps her way around extricating herself from ever more tricky circumstances made for a delightful and informative read.

A Book With A Blue Cover

The Museum of You

I can’t let this square go without asking has anyone else noticed the increase in blue covers? The one I’ve chosen was my surprise hit of the year; The Museum of You by Carys Bray – a story about a twelve-year-old girl putting together an exhibition about her mother wouldn’t normally make it onto the TBR, let alone be loved so much… but the lack of overt sentimentality in this book along with an exceptional array of characters made it a firm favourite for 2016.

Well look at that, for the first time ever I have completed every square!

How about you? How much of the card could you fill in? Please share!

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

A Man With One of Those Faces – Caimh McDonnell

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

Paul Muchrone is a ‘granny whisperer’ – a what? I hear you say? What he does is visit the elderly in hospital and sits with them as if he is a relative. This all came about when he was visiting an old lady on the ward and he discovered his talent.

“While I was there, another lady on the ward – late stages of Alzheimer’s amongst other things – mistook me for her brother. They knew he wasn’t coming back from America and she had some things she needed to say, so – ”
“You did your trick,” she finished.

Paul goes onto explain that he helps out where needed, aided by just having one of those faces:

He had nothing that came close to qualifying as a distinguishing anything. His every facial attribute was a masterpiece of bloody-minded unoriginality, an aesthetic tribute to the forgettably average. Collectively they formed an orchestra designed to produce the facial muzak of the gods.

which is what brings him to St Kilda’s hospice where nurse Brigit Conroy asking him to visit one last patient – this time for some grandpa whispering for a change, but things don’t turn out quite as expected and Paul ends up in hospital. From here on in, things just get worse as the pair realise that they have somehow blundered into something neither had bargained for, and it soon looks like Paul’s life might be at stake.

I get that this all sounds rather farcical but the crime element of the story soon develops complete with a true-crime writer, the police and some terrifying gangsters making up the fantastic assortment of characters.

Much of the humour originates from Paul with his observational humour adding a cutting edge rather than detracting from the crime spree spreading across the pages of this surprisingly action packed thriller. Not only that we are treated to Paul’s backstory from a life in care to his stint on the hurling squad under the watchful eye of Detective Sergeant Bunny McGarry to his Great-Aunt Fidelma who was now controlling his life from beyond the grave. All of that sounds quite sedate compared to the situation he finds himself in where the only person he can trust is Brigit, and she’s a bit of a character too!

Her mam had often said that Brigit’s problem was she thought she was too good for an ordinary life, but she didn’t think that was fair. Brigit just felt that an ordinary life wasn’t good enough for anybody. It felt like she had been born in the safest and most boring time in human history. Everywhere the world had been discovered. Even outer space, it seemed, was full of, well just boring old space. There had to be more. There had to be some adventure, some magic, left in the world.

And then we have Detective Inspector Jimmy Stewart is just about to retire and he’s showing the ropes to and simultaneously trying to increase Detective Wilson’s film knowledge, to no avail. While on duty charged with Paul’s protection they come across something dodgy…

It surely wasn’t some kind of coincidence What were the odds that he and Wilson had stumbled upon an unrelated ambush? This was Dublin: assassination wasn’t that common a pastime.

With such a bunch of enterprising and entertaining characters this book was an exceptionally good read. The plot was well-thought out with the links to a past crime woven seamlessly into the present while the novel moves at a real pace, flipping easily between humour and terror so that I spent most of the book sat on the edge of my seat while chuckling. All the while there was an authentic (in my head anyway) Irish accent narrating the book to me. I really appreciated this lighter style of crime fiction which made a refreshing change. For those of you who read Caimh’s entertaining post  on my blog yesterday, only you can decide if this is too Irish and too funny – I say when is the next book going to be published?

I’d like to thank McFori Ink who gave me the opportunity to read this book. This unbiased review is my thanks to them for a riotous read.

Published UK: 30 August 2016
Publisher: McFori Ink
No of Pages 328
Genre: Humorous Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Author Interview

Being Very Brave – Author Post by Caimh McDonnell

A Man With One of those Faces

‘You must be very brave.’

I’ve been a stand-up comedian now for about 15 years and I’ve long since lost track of how many times somebody has said that to me. It’s one of the four responses that comics get when people find out what you do for a living. It’s by no means the worst; for example, my heart sinks when a sentence starts with ‘I’ve got one for ye…’ – not least because invariably what follows is tremendously offensive to someone’s race/gender/disability/sexuality or occasionally, all of the above. You’re more often than not left with the choice of fake laughing along and dying a little inside or sticking to your morals and risking a slap in the chops.

That risk aside, there really isn’t much bravery involved. It’s just talking nonsense to people and, with the noticeably exception of one gig I did in the Philippines, those people aren’t armed.

Doctors, nurses, soldiers, firepersons, police – basically anyone who has a job whose uniform can also be used by a stripper, they all have to be considerably more brave than we do on a daily basis. So do strippers come to that. (side-note: I once did a gig in which there were male strippers in the dressing room beside ours, those poor boys had the soul-crushed thousand-yard-stares of Vietnam vets. Forget Magic Mike, the reality is a lot more Tragic Terry.)

Another one on that list is ‘have you been on TV?’ People then do this face when you explain that you haven’t been. I then have to explain to that face my other job. You see ‘I’ haven’t been on TV but I’ve got rounds of applause on Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week. As well as being a stand-up, I’m one of those even rarer beasts; a TV comedy writer. Odder still – I’ve also written a whole load of kid’s television. If you look closely, you’ll notice my name on about an hour of CBBC output most days. I get a kick out of all writing, whether it’s sweating over a one-line zinger that sums up Brexit or figuring out how a tiny blue bear with a limited vocab can cope with an apartment flooding with custard.

The only downside of TV writing is that you’re never in control of it. Even when I’ve worked on sitcoms, producers, broadcasters, and once – and I wish I was making this up – the guy who answers the phones, they all get to have a say. In hindsight, maybe this was what pushed me to write a novel. Who doesn’t like the idea of having total control? Even the phone-answering guy likes that and he didn’t like much.

So I wrote a novel. Actually what I did was I wrote lots of short stories as logically, I figured that’d be a sensible place to start. Rome wasn’t built in a day and presumably the novel of the same name wasn’t either. One of those short stories was about a guy who visited elderly residents in hospital and just played along with whoever they thought he was in an effort to keep the patient happy. It was a nice idea that lacked an inciting incident. I was about to give it up when a thought struck me – what if one of the patients attempted to kill whoever they thought that fella was? This sparked a whole load of questions and in an effort to answer them, A Man with One of Those Faces was born. I’m proud of it. In fact, I’m more proud of it than anything I’ve ever done.

I didn’t know it at the time but I’d made a terrible mistake. I’d written a crime thriller set in my hometown of Dublin that, seeing as it was written by me, has a fair bit of comedy in it. Comedy and crime do not go together. Never, ever. No way, no how. Upon reading that blanket statement, names like Christopher Brookmyre, Carl Hiassen and Colin Bateman might pop into your head to refute it – well shush, you’re wrong. How I know this is, I did what I was supposed to, and wrote letters to every literary agency in Britain, which is where I live. Most of them came back with a hard and fast no as soon as they’d spied the words crime and comedy appearing within three paragraphs of each other. I even tried taking the word comedy out of everything but they could clearly smell it off me. As far as I could tell, none of these agents had actually read any of the novel. They were that certain. A couple of agents had it recommended to them by a well-respected author and they read it. The first agent absolutely loved the sample. I mean so much so that when he had to pass on it because it contained comedy and crime, he did it with as much discomfort as if he’d been passing a kidney stone. Honestly, I felt sorry for the poor fella by the end.

The other agent rejected it with more ease. This time, because it was “too funny and too Irish”. Now that was a new twist. I knew people hated comedy with a passion but the Irish now too? Surely not everyone in those big parades they hold all around the world in March is doing it ironically?

It was at this point, I was getting disheartened and my English wife was getting really annoyed. Refreshingly, it wasn’t me she was annoyed at.
‘Right, what was it exactly that guy said again?’
‘Too funny and too Irish.’
‘Brilliant. We’re going to take that sentence, replace the word “too” with the word “very” and we’ve got our sales pitch. We’re publishing this book ourselves.’
‘Ah hon, I don’t want to self-publish.’
‘We’re not self-publishing, for a start – there’s two of us.’
And she was right. Publishing is just one of the many activities I’ve discovered are much more fun to do with the wife than on my own. Don’t get me wrong, people still do the face. The ‘you’re self-publishing?’ face is the exact same as the ‘you’ve not been on TV face’.

Here’s a couple of facts. My book has been edited by one of the best editors in British publishing, a gent called Scott Pack. He’s a lovely man who has also started cheerleading for the book in a manner I’m pretty sure isn’t in the job description. An award-winning designer has done the book’s cover; I know that as the award was won for our book’s cover. If I come across as a tad defensive pointing this stuff out, it is because I am. Being written off from the get-go does kind of get your back up. Remember that whole pride thing? I did warn you.

So, to bring you back to where all this started, being ‘very brave’. On August 30th, I turned 41, which isn’t relevant, and I did a stand-up gig in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, which is. You might well wonder how I could fill that room. The answer is I didn’t, Sarah Millican did. I was lucky enough to be supporting her. That’s the final response you get from people when they find out you’re a stand-up ‘do you know…’ In answer to that – yeah, most professional comics know most other professional comics, at least to say hello to. I’m lucky enough to be one of the people who gets the joy of supporting Sarah on tour. She likes the company; she certainly doesn’t need the help. She is the most hard-working and supportive person I’ve ever met. So much so, she insisted that I bring along a box of my soon-to-be-published books to sell in the show’s interval. It’d seemed like a good idea right upon until the day of the gig. On the day itself I think we all got a bit nervous. I felt like a plank carrying my box of 22 books in from the car. Sarah gave an encouraging “I’m sure people will buy a couple” speech in the dressing room. Barry the lovely tour manager reckoned it’d go brilliantly. That’s tour managers for you, 90% of the job is being able to say everything is fine in a convincing manner when it quite clearly isn’t.

I did my set, which went OK, then I gave my fairly garbled sales-pitch about how I’d written a novel and I’d be standing outside in the interval if anybody wanted to buy one. I then brought on Sarah who proceeded to rock the house as only she can. I know that because ten minutes before the interval, I was standing outside in the lobby, with my pile of books and my sharpie clutched in my sweaty hand, listening to the steady stream of roars of laughter and rounds of applause. I was also considerably more terrified that I’d ever been on stage. These people had seen me do comedy and I’d told them the book was crime, they were going to put two and two together. Everybody hates that combination. I had the letters from agents to prove it.

I bloody love this book and I wasn’t going to be able to look at it, as people streamed by with awkward nods and fleeting eye contact. I started to feel like I’d somehow let the book down. It’d be like the awkward morning after a one-night stand. The audience and I had enjoyed that 15 minutes of verbal rumpy-pumpy but nobody was ready for the long-term commitment of a book.

I was stood beside the merchandise stand, which was being manned by the lovely Sean. Right then I hated him with a passion. There he was with his entirely relaxed demeanour, his tour programmes and his selection of humorous tea towels. Of course he looked relaxed, the only problem the stand has had on the 200 dates of the tour is managing the queues. People love tea towels, why hadn’t I thought of that? I’d brought a work of comedic crime fiction to a tea towel fight.

As the doors opened I was all set to bolt when Sean pipped up, “Merchandise over here or buy a signed copy of Caimh’s book over there.” What a prick! I stood there with a rigamortis smile on my face and a pair of nervous underpants that must’ve been fearing the worst.

Then something unexpected happened. A woman came up and bought a book. She asked me to sign it and I nervously did so while answering her questions. She first asked was it funny? I begrudgingly said yes. I’d already started the inscription. I should’ve asked for the money up-front. Rookie mistake. She then told me how delighted she was as she loved crime fiction but it was always so serious. How come there weren’t any funny ones? I then gave her some excited recommendations from the Chris Brookmyre back catalogue and she took a picture of the three of us, me, her and the book. Pic finished, I put the book back on the pile and she reminded me she had paid for it and it was hers now. Embarrassed, I gave it to her and sent it off out into the world. Only then, did I notice the queue. I double-checked to make sure I wasn’t mistakenly blocking the toilet or standing beside a pile of tea towels.

I turned up in the dressing room ten minutes later. Sarah and Barry looked worried, I’d not even made it all the way through the interval.

Sold out! Every copy. I even took back and sold the book I’d given to Sean. I could’ve sold a load more too. People were genuinely annoyed that they couldn’t get one. The wife would be livid when she heard that.

Still though, inexplicably people had bought the book. They’d known that I’d combined crime with judiciously applied comedy and they were fine with it. Clearly, none of these people would ever make it as literary agents.
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When I first asked for a guest post from Caimh McDonnell, I hadn’t read the book and to be honest, wasn’t quite sure what to expect. When this brilliant post arrived I was over 80% through the book and well past the ‘Does comedy and crime go together question’ and concluded that this excellent piece should be read before I post my review, which will be coming very soon!

In the meantime if you want to know more visit Caimh’s blog here

 

Thank you Caimh for an entertaining post and I wish you continued success with a book which will show all those literary agents that they are not always right!

About the Author

Caimh McDonnell is an award-winning stand-up comedian, author and writer of televisual treats.

His 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. He was also a winner in the BBC’s Northern Laffs sitcom writing competition.

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).

His debut novel, A Man with One of Those Faces, is out now.

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