Black Wood by SJJ Holliday – Blog Tour.

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Publication Date: Available now from Black and White Publishing.

Source: Publisher Review Copy

Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story. Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?

So any fan of the psychological thriller definitely needs to be getting their hands on this one – I was lucky enough to read it extremely early, even then I knew it was going to be a great addition to the crime fiction genre, since then I have read the finished version and turns out I was right. Brilliant.

What I found was a character driven story with a very haunting and expressive feel that pulled me in immediately. Jo is an intriguing character, dealing with some difficult issues stemming from a childhood trauma – but with no-one to believe her and a memory that is flaky, she feels very alone and that comes out in the way she interacts with those close to her. Not always sympathetic as a character but ever fascinating, the mystery of what happened to her and Claire all those years ago is compelling and addictive. I can’t say I liked her particularly, but one of the strengths of the story is in the fact that you feel for her anyway.

The book is an exploration of memory and emotion, how things from before can affect the after and is all the more powerful for it. There is a great depth to the psychology and feeling of it, with some authentic twists and turns to keep you off kilter, beautifully paced, it is one of those novels you sink into completely and have to shake off when you emerge back into real life.

The tale has a very “noir” feel, atmospheric and often very haunting, the heart of this is to be found in the people that pepper the pages and the background they are from – at times scarily claustrophobic, especially when delving into Jo’s head and heart, it will engage you and disturb you, surprise you and intrigue you.

It really is deliciously written, capturing the essence of village life perfectly and delivering an eclectic cast of characters, an appealing and exquisitely drawn enigma both in character and plot and overall would defnitely come highly recommended from me. Oh and beautiful job on the cover – captures the whole thing perfectly right there.

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Liz Currently Loves….A Song of Shadows by John Connolly.


Publication Date: 9th April 2015 from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Bookbridgr

Recovering from a near-fatal shooting and tormented by memories of a world beyond this one, Parker has retreated to the small Maine town of Boreas to recover. There he befriends a widow named Ruth Winter and her young daughter, Amanda. But Ruth has her secrets. She is hiding from the past, and the forces that threaten her have their origins in the Second World War, in a town called Lubko and a concentration camp unlike any other. Old atrocities are about to be unearthed, and old sinners will kill to hide their sins. Now Parker is about to risk his life to defend a woman he barely knows, one who fears him almost as much as she fears those who are coming for her.His enemies believe him to be vulnerable. Fearful. Solitary. But they are wrong. Parker is far from afraid, and far from alone. For something is emerging from the shadows . . .

Pretty unbelievable that Charlier Parker is on his 13th outing, seems like only yesterday I picked up “Every Dead Thing” rather randomly and became an immediate and lifelong fan of this author and of this series in particular. 13 may be unlucky for some but not in this case because “A Song of Shadows” has a beautiful quality about it, following as it does the emotional and traumatic events of “A Wolf in Winter”, a book that had me distraught for weeks. In a good way.

A bit of background for anyone who has not yet started these… Charlie Parker is a private investigator, who lost his family to the serial killer known as The Travelling Man. Each book takes Charlie one step closer to the end game (sob, I feel it coming now I really do, one time in my reading life I hope I’m wrong and there are another 20 books on the way) whilst each one also has its own self contained storyline. Even so I would highly recommend that you read these in order without missing a step – the richness and depth of the mythology that John Connolly has created here is pitch perfect both in construction and prose, with each novel leading you slowly towards something I still cannot yet imagine – as such the complete experience is better served as a sequence of events.

Looking at “A Song of Shadows” then, here we find Charlie recuperating from the violent attack he suffered, watched over as ever by the elusive Louis and Angel, he moves to a small town to take the time to heal. Living next door is Ruth Winter and her daughter Amanda – Ruth hides a dark secret with its roots firmly in the past. Of course Charlie gets involved. It is who he is.

I read this in a day, such is the addictive quality of the writing and the story unfolding – often taking time out to take a step back, I’m not sure why exactly but these stories always get right to the heart of me. It may be crime fiction with a twist but it is also poetic, haunting and highly emotional. Always. The sheer wonder of Charlie Parker’s world ends up giving me just as much pain as pleasure emotionally speaking, I am wrung out by the end of them, this one was no different. It is why I love them and will read to the bitter end (please don’t end) because books that touch the soul are rare – and books with this subject matter that do so are even more unusual.

The ongoing mythology of the series takes a huge step with very few words in this instalment – another huge strength of the writing is the author’s ability to get a world of meaning, passion and anticipation into a few small sentences – as well as dealing with Ruth’s issues, Charlie has his own family to consider. This thread of the tale was truly terrific, although of course it also made me mad as all heck that now I have to wait again. I’m really not good at waiting. I don’t like it. It makes me grumpy.

All our well loved characters are back, including a brief cameo from my personal favourite “bad” guy –  the interactions and conversations are electric as ever, the relationships solid and developing. I may take this opportunity to mention that I really hope that Mr Connolly might give us another novel somewhere in there that gives Louis and Angel their own tale of woe (see The Reapers) because these two marvellous men certainly deserve that and I’m sure there is a lot left unsaid for this pair.

Overall this was fantastic. I always think it cannot possibly hit me any harder but each time it does – beautifully written, literary genius and without doubt my favourite series in the history of the world ever. So highly recommended that highly recommended doesnt even cover it. If you have not read these yet you are missing something incredible. Don’t do that. Life is too short.

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Every Dead Thing (Charlie Parker, #1)

Tormented by guilt over the brutal slaying of his wife and daughter, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, ex-cop with the NYPD, agrees to find a missing girl. The search leads him into an abyss of evil and he is warned that The Travelling Man will strike again.

Happy Reading Folks!



Liz Currently Loves….Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton


Publication Date: Available Now from Faber and Faber

Source: Publisher Review Copy

Meet Van Shaw – soldier, ex-con – as he returns to his native Seattle after a decade’s self-imposed exile. Answering voices from his past, he finds a whole heap of trouble, and himself the prime suspect in the brutal attack on his grandfather. Drawn back into the violent, high-stakes life he tried to leave behind, he has to try and see right from wrong amid the secrets and resentments of those he was once closest to.

So the other week I took part in the blog tour for Past Crimes, the author told us all about writing and procrastination – you can read that article here:

Today I’m going to tell you about the book itself and my thoughts…

Past Crimes is a very authentic feeling, cleverly written thriller with a main protagonist in Van Shaw that I absolutely adored.

A note from his Grandfather brings Shaw back to Seattle, despite having left that life behind vowing never to return. When he discovers his Grandfather has been attacked, he starts to delve into the time that he has been away and finds himself drawn inexorably back into that world.

This is a fast, action packed story a la Reacher (although to my mind with much greater depth) which will engage immediately. I loved all the characters, Shaw of course with his inner turmoil and need to do right in a whole world full of wrong, but also Dono, who raised him and is a highly intriguing, shadowy figure who you slowly learn more about. Cleverly written to draw you into the family dynamic, as Shaw remembers his past and looks to the future, I really did enjoy every minute of it.

There are some little twists and turns along the way, the backstory is drip fed in perfect harmony with current events so you can start to see the bigger picture, the story is peppered with many colourful and eclectic characters and the author walks a fine line between right and wrong, Shaw especially lives in a world of grey area’s and this comes over beautifully.

The scene setting is also top notch – Seattle comes to vivid life giving the characters and events an anchor and putting you right on the spot.

Overall then a most terrific thriller – Hopefully we will meet Shaw again one day, I for one will look forward to that greatly.

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Liz Currently Loves….Harrison Squared by Daryl Gregory


Publication Date: March 24th from Macmillan-Tor/Forge

Source: Netgalley

Harrison Harrison—H2 to his mom—is a lonely teenager who’s been terrified of the water ever since he was a toddler in California, when a huge sea creature capsized their boat, and his father vanished. One of the “sensitives” who are attuned to the supernatural world, Harrison and his mother have just moved to the worst possible place for a boy like him: Dunnsmouth, a Lovecraftian town perched on rocks above the Atlantic, where strange things go on by night, monsters lurk under the waves, and creepy teachers run the local high school.

A few months ago I read a fantastic litte novella from Daryl Gregory called “We are all Completely Fine” – in which we met Harrison as an adult when he joins what turns out to be a particularly unusual support group. I was so engaged with it that I truly hoped that there would be more set in that world which was beautifully imagined so I was truly delighted to find “Harrison Squared”.

It is a terrific way of doing it, We Are All Completely Fine showing Harrison (just one of a whole bunch of amazing characters) when he is all grown up with all the experiences of that, now here with Harrison Squared, a novel that could be Young Adult or adult or both showing just one of the incidences of his youth that made him who he is.

This book had me snorting with laughter in places – Harrison is a witty, ironically drawn character who is also forced to grow up fast – he is  determined and often fragile, but so very likeable and engaging that he anchors the whole story giving it a highly addictive quality.

Add to that a really beautifully drawn fantasy world – urban fantasy really, where underneath the norm are many layers to be discovered. When his mother brings him to Dunnsmouth, Harrison is thrown into a weird and off kilter situation in his new school – the kids there are decidedly strange and the teaching methods are, erm, eclectic to say the least. When things go wrong at home, Harrison is sure the answer is somewhere within the depths of the town and sets off on a mission to discover just what is going on.

Cue a whole load of creepy and eerie shenanigans, a developing friendship, Harrison facing his fears head on and generally a stonking good yarn that will have you reading into the early hours of the morning. In a way it is very old school – bringing to mind the monster movies of my youth with a Hitchock flavour that I loved, beautifully written and ingenious throughout. And yes, very Lovecraft. Wonderful!

I love Daryl Gregory’s characters. We Are All Completely Fine was chock full of brilliantly drawn people, authentic despite the fantasy flavour and Harrison Squared is no different. I ADORED Harrison’s Aunt, she was so funny, a  character you wish could be in your real life with her observations and eccentric yet grounded outlook on life, her interactions with Harrison was one of the real strengths of this novel, their relationship is truly compelling.

Overall then a brilliant read – Highly Recommended from me and never before have I wished so hard for more books in a “series”. I hope that Mr Gregory brings us back to Harrison’s version of the Universe many times in the future. I will be the first in line.

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Harrison was the Monster Detective, a storybook hero. Now he’s in his mid-thirties and spends most of his time popping pills and not sleeping. Stan became a minor celebrity after being partially eaten by cannibals. Barbara is haunted by unreadable messages carved upon her bones. Greta may or may not be a mass-murdering arsonist. Martin never takes off his sunglasses. Never. No one believes the extent of their horrific tales, not until they are sought out by psychotherapist Dr. Jan Sayer. What happens when these seemingly-insane outcasts form a support group? Together they must discover which monsters they face are within–and which are lurking in plain sight.

My Review:

A short and brilliantly imaginative read this, once you start it just demands that you finish it to the exclusion of all else, so its probably a good job that I started this one on an evening when I had nothing else that had to be done…

We meet an eclectic group of wonderfully drawn characters, brought together by Dr Jan Sayer, psychotherapist, due to their similarly odd experiences. Over the course of the tale, the backstory and motivations of each individual become clearer and it is endlessy compelling.

Very clever, the lines between fact and fiction blurring, the more the story evolves the more you will sink into that world. The author has created a tremendously fun and often scary mythology here, pretty much character driven but that manages to be part thriller and part mystery at the same time. The relationships between each individual ebb and flow and not all is as it appears – multi layered and highly inventive, it is one of those stories that make you reassess things in a new light.

I really don’t want to give anything away – whether or not this group are all a bit nuts or whether there is in fact something other worldly going on here I will leave you to discover for yourself…it is a journey worth taking for sure, 90 minutes for me of pure reading joy. Hint: Do not pick this up if you have to catch a bus in half an hour. You WILL miss the bus.

Highly Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!




The Last Days of Disco by David F Ross – Blog Tour.

23891429David Ross

Early in the decade that taste forgot, Fat Franny Duncan is on top of the world. He is the undoubted King of the Ayrshire Mobile Disco scene, controlling and ruling the competition with an iron fist. From birthdays to barn dances, Franny is the man to call. He has even played ‘My Boy Lollipop’ at a funeral and got away with it. But the future is uncertain. A new partnership is coming and is threatening to destroy the big man’s Empire … Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller have been best mates since primary school. Joey is an idealist; Bobby just wants to get laid and avoid following his brother Gary to the Falklands. A partnership in their new mobile disco venture seems like the best way for Bobby to do both at the same time. With compensation from an accident at work, Bobby’s dad Harry invests in the fledgling business. His marriage to Ethel is coming apart at the seams and the disco has given him something to focus on. Tragic news from the other side of the world brings all three strands together in a way that no one could have predicted. The Last Days of Disco is a eulogy to the beauty and power of the 45rpm vinyl record and the small but significant part it played in a small town Ayrshire community in 1982. Witty, energetic and entirely authentic, it’s also heartbreakingly honest, weaving tragedy together with comedy with uncanny and unsettling elegance.

I adore a good retro story – especially when it is set firmly in my era, as a child of the 80’s for me this was funny, sometimes sad, always heart warming and I spent the entire reading experience in a daze of nostalgic innocence.

The Cassidy family are a delight, Mr Ross managing to weave around them a tale that is at turns hilarious and tragic, capturing the sense of the era perfectly – a homage to the music of the time embedded into the tale in a beautifully elegant way which gives the whole thing a depth and emotion that moves it beyond a simply family drama, evoking an emotional response in the reader that will stay with you long after reading it.

Set as it is in the Thatcher era, war looming with the Falklands, a time I remember well although from a teenagers point of view, we follow Bobby as he sets up his Disco venture, attempting to rival that of “Fat Franny” – a marvel of a character who kind of grounded the story for me – the writing is witty, ironic, perfectly paced and will drag you into that place and time in very short order. Gary’s story is compelling as we see him through army training and hovering over all this is the very real threat the Falklands war. It is amazingly well drawn, authentic and it is actually quite difficult to review in the sense that nothing I say can quite capture the ambience of it.

It is a tale of consequences, with heart and soul, a coming of age tale set in difficult times, David Ross has written a terrific terrific story that will have you laughing out loud one moment and sobbing into your pillow the next. Once I had gotten my head round the Scottish flavour of it all (brilliantly real unsurprisingly) there was no stopping me and I read it fast – the musical imagery at the core will have you putting your dancing shoes on, I challenge anyone to read this book and not end up having a boogie – but the heart of it is emotionally resonant and absolutely unforgettable.

Highly Recommended. Get your dancing shoes on!

About David:

David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over 30 years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night. His most prized possession is a signed Joe Strummer LP.

The Last Days of Disco is published by Orenda Books and is Available Now.

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You Belong to Me by Samantha Hayes – Blog Tour.


Today I am very happy to join the blog tour for “You Belong to Me” by Samantha Hayes – here she tells us about the Perils of being and author. You can find my review and purchase information right after that!


The Perils of Being an Author – by Samantha Hayes


Everyone knows that authors lounge around in silk pyjamas, dictating a few genius words before lunching at The Ivy and napping the afternoon away. But there are downsides associated with this tough job and, because I like lists, I thought I’d compile one to highlight some of the perils of being an author and dispel any myths. It’s very much a light-hearted look at a few literary liabilities, but just ask any author and I’m sure they’ll agree…


  • Authors don’t wear silk pyjamas. We wear jeans (old and ripped) or grubby tracksuit bottoms. The baggier the T-shirt the better, and hair is unkempt not because it’s fashionable, but because we just had to get that brilliant idea down on paper and completely forgot to look in the mirror.
  • Everyone you know is suddenly ‘going to write a book’. Hear this enough times and you’ll start to wonder if your career really is just a hobby. But authors are generally lovely people and will politely ask what the book is about, when all we really want to say is, ‘When you see your doctor, do you tell him you’re going to perform your own surgery, because really, how hard can it be?’
  • There’s no such thing as a free book. (Apart from on Amazon sometimes.) Be prepared for all your friends, friends of friends, and distant relatives of distant friends to request an endless supply of books at no cost. Get your own back by asking your accountant mate to do your tax return for nothing, or your hairdresser friend for a free cut.
  • Writing books is a lonely business. There is no water cooler gossip, no lunching with a friend from the next desk, no dress-down Friday (remember, every day is already dressed down), and there’s no one to bring in cake for your birthday. On the upside, the office Christmas party is cheap, and you don’t suffer Mortified Monday because no one sees what you got up to with the photocopier. (Actually, there is no photocopier.)
  • When you become an author, everyone will want to ‘pop in’ or phone you for hours at a time. I realise this contravenes point 4 slightly in that the loneliness is self-imposed, but authors just want to write. No, we have to write. Suddenly everyone wants to visit for tea, for a chat, to see how you are. Would you ‘pop in’ for coffee if I worked in a bank? Working from home clearly means, ‘I’m lounging around doing nothing so feel free to take up half my day, even though my deadline is tomorrow morning.’
  • Being an author is insecure. Authors sign contracts usually for two, maybe three books at a time. After that… well, you hear that tumbleweed blowing about? That’s an author’s job security. Of course, we always hope our latest book will be greatly received and well-reviewed, but it’s a tough business. If you don’t immediately secure a new contract, you will spend a year unpaid writing the next book in the hope it will sell. (Top tip: I always use the self-service check-out at supermarkets so that if I need to apply for a job there, I’ll already be trained up).
  • Everyone will want to know how much you earn. Ask them back.
  • Authors are largely at the mercy of reviews. Now, I fully accept that if an author writes a duff book, then the bad reviews must be taken on the chin. But not many jobs allow strangers to personally comment on a year’s worth of hard work and potentially take down a career. We don’t get the chance to publicly comment on a hotel receptionist’s miserable attitude, or a car mechanic’s shoddy work for the rest of the world to read. Be prepared to develop a thick skin beneath your grubby T-shirt—but also allow yourself to melt a little when readers and reviewers do enjoy your work!
  • Writer’s block. I have included this because many authors suffer from it, but really it’s a blessing rather than a peril. It’s way better than a tummy ache, or a migraine, and the grown-up literary equivalent of the dog eating your homework. Writer’s block implies something great is about to burst forth from your temporarily-hindered mind, not that you just fancy a day off.
  • Wearing the author’s uniform will guarantee you need to go out (yes, actually outside!) at a moment’s notice. I once made a dash to Asda in Author’s Standard Attire, and I couldn’t resist a peek at the book section. A shopper was holding my book, presenting the perfect hand-selling opportunity. ‘It’s really good,’ I said, sidling up, pointing at it. ‘Have you read it?’ she asked. ‘I wrote it,’ I replied proudly. Cue the disbelieving look before she scuttled off. She must have been wondering where my silk pyjamas were.


My Review:


Isabel left England to escape her past. For the first time in months, she’s beginning to feel safe. But then a letter shatters her world once more as she learns of her parents’ death in a car crash. Reluctantly she returns home, unable to shake off the feeling she’s being watched but determined not to let fear rule her life any more.

I’ve read previous novels from this author and have always very much enjoyed them – but I have to say with “You Belong to Me” I think the ante has been upped considerably – I ADORED it, could not put it down, it was terribly addictive and every time I thought I could pop it aside for a moment and do some housework or something, Ms Hayes would pop another humdinger happening in there and onwards I went…

We meet Isabel, hiding away in India from what we are not sure, when she receives some horrific news which forces her back to England. Meanwhile, Lorraine Fisher is suffering anxiety from a previous case and also feeling the pressure of a new one. Told from several points of view over time, a picture begins to develop of a dark and twisted mind…

Very clever writing here, drawing you into Isobel’s world – a sinister place to be as we discover what exactly she has been running from. Some terrific psychological insight to be had into all the characters – plus some deliciously enticing twists and turns and a very real sense of menace – making this a top notch psychological thriller.

It definitely crept up on me – perhaps not one I should have been reading as darkness fell due to the fact that it is really very authentic, with events being entirely possible. A constant need to look over my shoulder developed and for me, that is the sign of a really engrossing and captivating story. So this absolutely comes Highly Recommended from me – most especially for those readers who enjoy a tense read with a twist in the tale.

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Liz Currently Loves….Hotel Arcadia by Sunny Singh


Publication Date: 20th March 2015 from Quartet Books.

Source: Publisher Review Copy

Sam is a war photographer famous for her hauntingly beautiful pictures of the dead. After a particularly gruelling assignment, she checks into an expensive hotel. Unfortunately she has chosen the exact moment terrorists attack the hotel. Abhi, the hotel manager, begs her to stay quiet and stay put. Abhi has never wanted to be a hero; a disappointment to his army father and brother. He thought he’d come to a safe haven at the hotel, a place where he could be himself. Now stuck inside the sealed-off manager’s office in the middle of a terrorist attack, he is desperately trying to keep those still alive safe.

An evocative and very intense thriller, Hotel Arcadia is heavily character driven and beautifully written. One of those books that completely consumes you during the reading of it, this is one that will stay with me.

Sam, a war photographer, finds herself caught up in a siege. Her very real need to be at the heart of things makes her take unneccesary risks – meanwhile on the other end of the phone is Abhi, hotel manager, who is determined to keep her and as many others as possible, safe from the terrorist threat. Both bound by their background and experience, haunted in a lot of ways by the past, the relationship between these two is perfectly timed and very intriguing.

The sense of place is pitch perfect, you can almost feel the fear, the adrenalin and put yourself right into the moment – as things develop, the army outside waiting to see where things go, it is almost as if these two, Sam and Abhi are apart from all that – in a little bubble of their own making and yet still affecting the environment and those around them. When Sam discovers a child, alive and in need of help, things take an even more emotional turn, now she is responsible for more than just her own life. Powerful and elegant writing here as she makes her decisions and things move ever onwards..

Overall this is a powerful and thought provoking novel, a literary thriller that will both keep you on the edge of your seat and leaving you feeling emotionally drained in the best way possible. A really really terrific story, exquisitely constructed with two amazing and memorable characters at its heart I really cannot recommend it highly enough.

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Cherringham Returns….


Written by Neil Richards and Matthew Costello, the Cherringham series of cosy mysteries featuring web designer Sarah and American Ex cop Jack launched again yesterday with the latest instalment, A Lesson in Murder. These are great little stories which I have enjoyed thoroughly, so please do take a look.




Published by Bastei Entertainment.

When Jack and Sarah are called in to investigate mysterious pranks at an exclusive girls’ private school, it seems at first that it might be the work of a few mean pupils with a grudge. But things quickly turn serious when a popular teacher meets a sudden, violent death. Now, with murder in the air, Jack and Sarah have their own lessons to learn about the Cherringham Girls School, its dark secrets… and who wanted that teacher dead before they learned the truth.

— Cherringham is serial novel à la Charles Dickens, with a new mystery thriller released each month. Set in the sleepy English village of Cherringham, the detective series brings together an unlikely sleuthing duo: English web designer Sarah and American ex-cop Jack. Thrilling and deadly – but with a spot of tea – it’s like Rosamunde Pilcher meets Inspector Barnaby. Each of the self-contained episodes is a quick read for the morning commute, while waiting for the doctor, or when curling up with a hot cuppa.

— For fans of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series, Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who series, Caroline Graham’s Midsomer Murders, and the American TV series Murder She Wrote, starring Angela Lansbury.

— Co-authors Neil Richards (based in the UK) and Matthew Costello (based in the US), are known for their script work on major computer games. The Cherringham crime series is their first fictional transatlantic collaboration

Author Interview:

I interviewed Neil and Matthew a while ago and it made for fascinating reading.

What gave you the idea to write a series together?

Matthew: Neil had been talking to people at Bastei Luebbe who wanted to create an episodic cosy mystery series, set in the UK. We on our own had been discussing a different kind of sleuthing ‘team’, so as talks went along we started to work on a small outline of what would become Cherringham, anchored by the fact that the team would be the retired NYPD detective, Jack Brennan, working with single mum, Sarah Edwards.

Neil : Matt and I have worked together as TV writers since the late 90’s and even from the beginning we’ve been looking for a format which takes advantage of my UK background and his life-long knowledge of New York. We wrote a YA novel together last year and realised that we could use the same writing processes we developed for TV in the world of mystery crime novels.

A lot of people are interested in how it works – do you each write for separate characters and/or parts of the plot? Chapter by chapter?

Matthew: Ideally, and when we can, we brainstorm ideas in person, snippets really, of what would make a good mystery.

Then — again best face to face — we begin to zero in on those that most interest us and seem to best fit the Cherringham world. The outlines have been fairly detailed, though writing does change everything. But that level of detail allows us to swap pages back and forth., usually after 25-30 or so. We edit each other before hitting new pages. And in a month’s time—you have a new Cherringham mystery!

Neil: Sometimes we have to make do with Skype. But for Cherringham we’ve rented cottages in the Cotswolds for a week at a time and spent full-on days building the world, finding the characters, looking for story ideas etc. It’s vital that we both ‘see’ the same world. In fact, our fictional Cherringham has become so detailed that we’ve had to create a street map for the village marked with characters (80 so far and counting) plus unfortunate victims of course…

Are you fans of cosy mysteries yourself – or perhaps Agatha Christie?

Matthew: I just gave a speech on the series aboard Queen Victoria (where we arrive at Easter island tomorrow)…and someone asked that very question. Before I began writing, I devoured everything. I had my favourite genres….horror, suspense, SF…. but loved Holmes, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and a host of other mystery writers.

With my first novels, I was pulled into what seemed like a best fit for me, suspense and horror—which is a very different style. But this collaboration has allowed me to play with Neil in a world, and with a tone and voce, that I love.

Neil : I grew up in a house full of books – and my parents were both lovers of crime fiction. So I’ve inherited shelves of green Penguins. Many of those great mystery writers were my first adult fiction – and since then I’ve also become an inveterate crime and thriller reader. Before embarking on this series I went back into some of those classics – Josephine Tey, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh etc. And of course Agatha Christie.  I’m avoiding contemporary cosies – I really don’t want to steal someone’s plot by mistake!

Is there a lot of future planning involved for Jack and Sarah or is it more organic?

Matthew: Think I hit this a bit above…we have a host of possible mysteries. We are currently finishing #6, and number 7 has a pretty solid outline. But should the series continue, or even morph into full-length novels, we have a lot of ideas. And like a lot of reviewers and readers, we’ve grown to love our characters, the village and of course the mysteries!

Neil: Yes, as Matt says – we’ve fallen in love with the world and the characters.  In our first week of planning we came up with around 30 plots.  And – this is something we learned in TV – if the stories come thick and fast then you can really tell that the architecture of the world is solid.
It would make a great TV series – if you could cast it who would you give the lead roles to?

Matthew: I might be telling tales out of school, but for Jack Brennan, Tom Selleck would be perfect. You can ‘hear’ him saying Jack’s lines. For Sarah—I would defer to Neil (in my mind I see a younger Emma Thompson…) Perhaps Kate Winslet?

Neil : I feel I really know Sarah the single mum, whose real-life obstacles will be familiar to anyone who’s got teenage kids (I have two!). Matt’s right about Kate Winslet – she is about the right age. But I’d rather stay out of the casting game – I’m happy for the Sarah in my head to remain anonymous!
Favourite author/comfort reading.

Matthew: After devouring all genres, all the great authors, I have become a rather committed reader of non-fiction. I think (or believe) this is because when I read fiction…it draws me back to my own work, problems unsolved, plot points needed…and then there’s the matter of comparing the writing (mine versus whoever)…and suddenly, it’s definitely not r&r.

So for me, history, biography…current amazing and string recommendation, The Trip to Echo Spring,  by Olivia Laing, a book on the lives of some of America’s most important writers (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc) and their relationship to drinking. The tales are incredible, the insights marvellous…and the author’s writing is so clear and powerful. Best book I’ve read in a long time.

Neil : Well, I’ve worked my way through Scandi-crime (I fell in love with Wallander years ago)… If there’s a Jack Reacher at the airport that I haven’t read I’ll definitely grab it. I absolutely love the works of Alan Furst. Right now I’m in the middle of Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy, triggered by the current WW1 anniversaries – serious bed-time reading to stop my wife telling me that all I ever read are thrillers…

Dream job if you were not a writer.

Matthew: Gee. I have been a teacher, which I loved. And I could still love it. Kids, not adults. They are a gift to work with.

Neil : I’ve had a spell as a university teacher. I do like mentoring – especially to do with my first love, movie screenwriting.  Should have been an actor? Would love to be a director…

Favourite thing to do on a lazy Sunday.

Matthew: On each and every Sunday, my wife and I run a program, gratis, where we have been trained to help family members deal with their loved ones who have mental illness. (For information see;

Not exactly relaxing, but to help people in a world where such help is rare….that is another gift. Then home to a yummy lunch (I cook!), shovel snow (that’s all it does in NYC anymore!), play a round of one of my miniature wargames (shh…don’t tell anyone) then, as the sun sets, like our hero Jack, a pre-dinner martini with my wife.

Having written the above, does not sound like such a bad way…to spend a Sunday.

Neil: I’m terrible at taking time off.  Takes at least a week on holiday before I stop urging the family not to get up early and go off to ‘see things’.  Just have to be active – the result of doing a job which involves sitting at a keyboard for long days.

So I guess I’d start with a run (I’m so lucky, living in the New Forest that I have my own deserted trails to run), long bath, ALL the Sunday papers… Better still all the family would be home (my eldest is now off at uni) so a busy lunch then a walk (if I can drag the mob with me) then Sunday roast. Like Matt, I’m the cook in the family – we’re very careful when we cook for each other, I can tell you!



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The first book in the series is Murder on the Thames

Happy Reading Folks!

Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton. Blog Tour. Guest Post.


Today I am very pleased to welcome Glen Erik Hamilton to the blog. Past Crimes is a terrific thriller which I shall be reviewing in a separate feature very soon, but that comes Highly Recommended from me.  Here he talks about writing. And procrastination.



Lead Me Not into Procrastination


(or, How I Became a Better Writer using Masochism)


by Glen Erik Hamilton © 2015


When people ask me how long it took to write my first book, I’m not quite sure what to tell them. Some of the ideas were there when I first started writing a few years ago, but there were lots of abandoned characters and plotlines before I settled on the notion of what eventually became my debut novel. It’s probably a better question to ask how many books I wrote, page-count-wise, before writing that “first” one.


But my second book, part of the deal with the first, was on deadline. That was a whole different rugby game (baseball is not nearly bruising enough to make a suitable comparison). I had to become a lot more disciplined in my planning and much more ruthless in selecting ideas. Above all, I had to produce pages. Quickly.


And you and I know that ain’t easy, brothers and sisters.


The first rule, as authors more diligent and successful than I have avowed, is simple: Anything that is not writing is Not Writing. Not research. Not thinking. Not comparing ideas and challenges and gripes with other writers. Only putting words on the page.


So here are tips that have worked for me. They might also work for you, or they might not, and there’s a little whiff of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do therein. But by golly if they don’t result in pages when I adhere to them.


One caveat: If you try these tricks and it feels awful at first? Like you’ve painted yourself into a corner?




Caught in a Web

I cannot stress this one strongly enough. The internet is not your friend. It’s the biggest distraction in the modern writer’s life. You should be without access to the web when writing. Completely.


I can hear the rationalizations now: “But research…” “Sometimes I need to just…” “My backup service…” All of which ignore the cardinal rule, above. Get thee behind me, Google.


When I rented a tiny cave of an office for two months to finish the second Van Shaw book by the deadline, I specifically requested no internet service. In addition to saving some serious money (How much per gig??), it forced me to limit my online time to whatever was possible using my phone as a hot spot, which was pretty much just loading the day’s work to Dropbox at the end of the night. Anything that needed researching, I scribbled down to look up later, after writing time.


Which reminds me: Turn off the damn phone. You can play your turn on Words with Friends later.


Timing is Everything

For as much as all of us balancing day jobs and families with writing crave uninterrupted blocks of time, it can be a scary prospect to sit (or stand, if you prefer) and write for three or four hours a night. On weekends, ten or twelve hours can loom like Godzilla. So I have to break it up, without letting myself wander too far afield.


I have two timers I like to use, depending on my mood. The first is just a simple digital watch which I set to beep every forty-five minutes or so. I allow myself ten minutes to get up, get coffee, wash my face, whatever, BUT I also have to get a little exercise during those minutes. I call it the Big BUT Rule. It doesn’t matter what the exercise is. Pushups or knee bends or sun salutations or my favorite, banging my head against the wall. Just so long as it gets the blood moving.


The other timer is an hourglass from Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. It’s actually a fiftythreeminuteglass, because quality control is slipping at the ol’ Magic Kingdom. But I use that to my advantage. Fifty-three on, seven off (timed with the digital watch, above.) The nice thing about using the glass is seeing the sand flow through. It’s both peaceful and yet somehow gives a sense of urgency to the work. Maybe it’s the Mansion’s gargoyles staring at me.


Whistle While You Work

I find music to be hugely helpful in writing. It can set a mood, muffle outside sounds, lend me energy and keep me focused. But there is a catch. (Are you seeing a pattern with these provisos yet?)  It has to be music that won’t distract. Since I’m working with words, for me that means nothing with lyrics – nobody else’s art pushing its way into mine. Especially if it’s better, damn them.   And nothing TOO energizing, otherwise I’m back to the head-banging mentioned above. I like Mozart. Oscar Peterson. Ana Vidovic. Andres Segovia. George Gershwin. Miles Davis. All very different spirits, for different empathies of character.


Who’s a Good Boy?

My wife would be the first to tell you that I’m simply a large bipedal dog with slightly better grooming habits. She might waffle on the grooming part. In any event, the training process is the same: Reward good behavior with treats. Finish two pages? Have a cookie. Complete a couple of chapters? Pizza time. Finish a whole darn book and be gifted with a week of slack – whatever I wanna do on any night. Usually that means James Bond movies and consuming more imperial stout than a Kiev fraternity house.


In all seriousness, victories in writing are hard-won. Big achievements – finding an agent, getting published, receiving a great review – are of course worthy of big celebrations. But those don’t come along often, and for many, it takes some brutally tough work before benefits can be reaped. So you gotta draw your own finish lines, and give yourself the treats you earned when you cross ‘em. You deserve that.


And if you haven’t crossed those lines just yet: Get back to work.


BIO: Glen Erik Hamilton is a Seattle native, who lived aboard a sailboat as a boy, and grew up finding trouble around the marinas and commercial docks and islands of the Pacific Northwest. He now lives in California with his family. Past Crimes is his first novel.


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For fans of LEE CHILD’s Jack Reacher and DENNIS LEHANE’s Kenzie and Gennaro, an unputdownable series debut, from a thrilling new voice in American crime writing

‘A zipline ride of a thriller, plummeting through the back alleys of Seattle … Hamilton has crafted a compelling new hero in Van Shaw.’ Gregg Hurwitz, New York Times bestseller

If my grandfather’s letter had stopped at the comma, I would have tossed it in the trash… only the last three words mattered. If you can. That passed for please, in the old man’s way of talking… If you can scared me a little.

Meet Van Shaw – soldier, ex-con – as he returns to his native Seattle after a decade’s self-imposed exile. Answering voices from his past, he finds a whole heap of trouble, and himself the prime suspect in the brutal attack on his grandfather. Drawn back into the violent, high-stakes life he tried to leave behind, he has to try and see right from wrong amid the secrets and resentments of those he was once closest to.

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Liz Currently Loves…Remember me like This by Bret Anthony Johnston


Publication Date: Available Now from Two Roads

Source: Bookbridgr

Four years have passed since Justin Campbell’s disappearance, a tragedy that rocked the small town of Southport, Texas. Did he run away? Was he kidnapped? Did he drown in the bay? As the Campbells search for answers, they struggle to hold what’s left of their family together.
Then one afternoon, the impossible happens. The police call to report that Justin has been found only miles away in a nearby town, and most important, he appears to be fine. And though the reunion is a miracle, Justin’s homecoming exposes the deep rifts that have diminished his family, the wounds they all carry that may never fully heal.

This was a beautifully written and very haunting read, where the author delves into the lives of one family who has faced tragedy, then had an unexpected resolution – a child they thought lost is returned to them, which, you would think, would make everything perfect. With “Remember Me Like This” Bret Anthony Johnston has taken that theme and explored where such a happy event can also cause huge emotional issues. Not only for the child who was gone and has come back older, wiser and changed but for the family that was left behind, always hoping but perhaps beginning to come to terms with the loss.

Every character in this novel is gorgeously drawn and authentic, very real emotions come off the page and it is often sad but also very uplifting. A picture is painted of a family that was fracturing even before Justin went missing, in those small ways that creep up on you….after he disappears the shockwaves of that continue to affect them, then when he returns the aftermath of that is enthralling, wonderful, scary and brilliant.

I was especially fond of the relationship drawn between the two brothers, both before and after, for me this was at the heart of the story perhaps even more than the parental interactions – Griff was the character I related to most, growing up as the child left behind, his survivors guilt affecting him in ways he doesnt understand – then suddenly Justin is back. Different and yet the same. A traumatic event whilst also being a supposedly happy one.

The story ebbs and flows as everyone adjusts to yet another new reality – it is perfectly paced and has a mystery element with regards to Justin’s disappearance, but that is not what it is really about. This is about family, love, holding onto hope and learning to be happy in the face of huge upheavel. Brilliantly done. I don’t want to say too much more because the whole point of this is to take the journey with the Campbell’s  – evocative and terrifically compelling, this is one that will stay with me.

Highly Recommended.

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