An important week for me in books….

Look this is me currently whilst updating my notes in preparation for my Top Ten of 2015 post traditionally (now) posted on my Birthday 1st December.




The reason for the wild look would be two books, both of which are funnily enough released this week, which at the moment (still about 5 -6 weeks reading before I cut off for the year and start adding into next years mix) I simply cannot draw a line under or pick between. Maybe for the first year I’ll have to have a joint number one.

Two very different books that I’m fanatical about for very different reasons. Two very different novelists.


In the case of Louise O’Neill her debut “Only Ever Yours” took my No 1 spot last year  – and boy if she didn’t then go and write another important, visceral, no holds barred book in Asking For It (Quercus)  which had me on the floor and is again possibly one of the most important modern cautionary tales of our time. More on that on Thursday where I shall dig deeper and tell you what it meant to me.

*Order here:



Then there is Rod Reynolds, with his debut,  The Dark Inside (Faber)  A pure and intense type of storytelling that personally I haven’t seen for a while from a new author – anyone who follows me on Twitter will probably already have had enough of me banging on about this one, possibly even the author himself who puts up with my random fangirling with extreme good grace. I’ve already written a piece on it, link here, and will be talking to Rod via a Q/A as part of the official blog tour later.

*order here:


But thats not all. No 1 is one thing, but what about the other 9? Talk about setting myself an impossible task. Look, here are just a ^few* that are under consideration. Perhaps I’ll have to have several lists. Or is that cheating? It’s cheating right? Back to the drawing board….










I seriously need help….


Happy Reading Folks!






New Release Spotlight/Blog Tour. Burnt Paper Sky. Author Interview.


Today see’s the release of Gilly Macmillan’s brilliant novel Burnt Paper Sky – I am absolutely delighted to welcome Gilly to the blog to tell us a little about it. I’ve also persuaded her to come back another time so look out for that one in the future! Review to follow the interview – this comes highly recommended from me.


Tell us a little about the original inspiration for Burnt Paper Sky.

Burnt Paper Sky was inspired by my love for page-turning psychological thrillers, and especially those in the domestic noir genre. Before I started it I had recently read Linwood Barclay’s No Time for Goodbye, which had a brilliantly simple premise and a domestic setting that I really related to. It inspired me to try to think of what my worst nightmare would be, as a starting point for my book, and the answer came quickly and easily: for one of my children to be abducted and not to know what had happened to them. It’s just one of the most desperate situations imaginable and I knew it would give me lots of potential for interesting characters, a ticking clock as the investigation progressed, and the opportunity to explore all kinds of interesting themes and ideas.

The social media age and living life in the spotlight is a huge theme here, we all judge people caught up in these distressing events from the comfort of our sofa’s – do you think this hinders the police rather than helps?

I think social media can play a very useful role in spreading awareness about cases, or appealing for information, which can be extremely useful to police in some circumstances, especially missing persons. It can galvanise large numbers of people to help in physical searches too. Beyond that, however, I’m very dubious about its benefits in circumstances like these. On social media sites the judgements can become so extreme, so quickly – and this isn’t helped by traditional media reporting on the social media reaction – that it can seem as if a bit of a lynch mob mentality has developed, and that has to affect the behaviour of everybody involved in a case.

If families are being victimized before the investigation is underway, that can’t be good. And nor can it be good for there to be such a frenzy via traditional or social media, with all the demands for information and action that goes along with that, that police have to actively manage it when their efforts would be better concentrated on the investigation itself. And of course there have been extreme cases where use of social media has compromised investigations and also caused trials to collapse (to the point that there is new legislation that makes this unlawful). Having researched this in great detail, I believe we should all think very carefully before we wade in and express our opinions online in these cases, especially as so often we only know a fraction of the real story.

Did you have everything plotted from the start or did things change as you went?

Nothing was plotted! Though I’m not sure if I should admit to that! The only thing I had when I started the book was the first scene, the knowledge that I wanted Rachel (the mother of the missing child) as narrator, and a sense of what the ultimate fate of her son Ben would be. That was it. The rest evolved as I wrote, and was rewritten many times both before and after submission to publishers.

Which character was your favourite, if that is the right word – who came easily?

Rachel definitely came most easily. Her voice arrived fully formed right at the start and in fact one of the parts of the book that’s been tampered with least is her prologue and opening scenes in the woods. I so much wanted to explore her experience of her situation that although it was sometimes hard to be in her head, I never hesitated because her voice came easily and I felt as if the story of her experience needed to be told. Having said that, I do also have a huge soft spot for Jim Clemo. He wasn’t a narrator in the first draft, and it took me a long time to develop his character and to get the courage to write in a male voice and to be happy with that, but once I was in my stride I really enjoyed writing him too. He’s a character I’m very fond of.

When not writing what type of novels do you enjoy reading?

As I said above, I love a page-turner, but I’ll happily read any kind of novel.

I’ve been an obsessive reader since I was a child, and I don’t really stick to any genre. I’m glad I don’t because I think I would be missing out on so much if I did, and I think reading widely is very good for my writing. Lately, I’ve raced through historical fiction, comedy, crime and more traditionally literary books too. I read mostly contemporary fiction but not exclusively. A massive discovery this year has been Georges Simenon. For me, if a book turns pages, I don’t care what genre it’s in or when it was written, I just want to find out what happens next.

Can you tell us anything about what’s next?

I submitted my second novel to my publisher in June. It’s another psychological thriller called Butterfly in the Dark and I’ve just finished work on the proofs. I’m really excited about this one as writing a second novel, for a deadline, has felt like a massive challenge over the last year, and this one has a complex plot and a cast of characters who both thrilled and unnerved me. ‘Butterfly in the Dark’ is set over a very short time frame, barely two days. There are several narrators and it’s extremely intense, and claustrophobic. Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Several years ago, Zoe Maisey – child genius, musical sensation – caused the death of three teenagers. She served her time. And now she’s free. Her story begins with her giving the performance of her life. By midnight, her mother is dead. BUTTERFLY IN THE DARK is an intricate exploration into the mind of a teenager burdened by brilliance. It’s a story about the wrongs in our past not letting go and how hard we must fight for second chances.

Thanks SO much Gilly – and gosh can’t wait to read Butterfly in the Dark.

Burnt Paper Sky – Review.


Available Now from Little Brown.

Source: Review Copy.

Rachel Jenner turned her back for a moment. Now her eight-year-old son Ben is missing.

But what really happened that fateful afternoon?

Caught between her personal tragedy and a public who have turned against her, there is nobody left who Rachel can trust. But can the nation trust Rachel?

The clock is ticking to find Ben alive.


An absolutely brilliant page turner this, focusing very much on character rather than mystery (although the mystery element is also superb) as we delve into the heads, hearts and minds of a group of people caught up in a child abduction case.

When Rachel lets Ben out of her sight for a few moments, he disappears apparently into thin air. Following the ensuing police investigation and how it affects not only the family but the officers involved, this is an emotional rollercoaster of a read that utterly grips you from the very first page.

Rachel is an elegantly drawn character who is both sympathetic yet often incomprehensible – it is easy to understand why the general public turn on her. Gilly Macmillan has taken a story that could be straight out of the news and given us a fictional insight behind the scenes of such a traumatic event. It brought to mind a very obvious real life case which caught the public imagination, lets face it we’ve all done it, that little voyeuristic leaning. Seeing someone being interviewed on the news and thinking “ooh they look suspicious”. In “Burnt Paper Sky” you see it from all sides, from many angles and most of all get a real feel for how that can make an already stressful time that much worse.

Then we have Jim Clemo, in charge of the investigation, a man who we see in the aftermath as haunted and broken – as we look back over the details the reasons for this become apparent. It is beautifully constructed and has huge psychological depth. Jim I did sympathise with throughout, genuinely determined to find Ben at all costs, still his own personality traits often interfere with what might be logical. Authentic and totally believable, it was heart wrenching stuff.

Looking at the mystery element (what DID happen to Ben) this is woven into the plot seemlessly – whilst the characters and what they are going through are key, each little insight into them (not only our two main protagonists but the wider family and the other officers involved) gives another clue to a possible outcome, another step on the ladder to discovering what happened on that afternoon. Again realistically drawn, there is nothing here that is thrown in for the sake of it or to create red herrings, it is simply a good story that could easily be completely true.

Mostly this novel will have you questioning – the next time you see a breaking news story a little like this one (sadly I feel that this is bound to happen) you may look at things differently. After all if YOUR life was thrown under such a spotlight, where every nuance and every action was dissected and taken apart, how would you look to the outside world? We all have our secrets, we all make errors in judgement. If that one error led to a tragedy, could anyone really blame you more than you would blame yourself?

Whose Side are you on? Well Ben’s of course. But that won’t stop you going back and forth on the other players in the drama – guilty or innocent they will all get into your head and stay there. Brilliantly done.

Highly Recommended

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Happy Reading Folks!

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica – Blog Tour


Publication Date: Available Now from Mira

Source: Review Copy

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

Mary Kubica is a great storyteller as proven by her first novel “The Good Girl” – with Pretty Baby she has taken a slightly different approach whilst still writing a dark, intriguing psychological drama with great depth of character and a strong emotive edge.

Heidi is heavily into charitable acts so when she constantly spots a young mother and her baby on the streets, she becomes slightly obsessed -to the point of eventually inviting Willow into her home much to the consternation of her husband and daughter.  There is more going on than meets the eye however and things soon start to spiral out of control…

Told from 3 points of view – Heidi, Willow and Heidi’s husband Chris the story unfolds slowly, Willow’s story is gradually revealed and Heidi must decide just how far she is willing to go to protect this stranger and her Pretty Baby…

It is cleverly constructed to allow the characters to develop and the story to unfold in a highly intriguing and often very emotional manner – the psychological depth to all of our three main protagonists is such that you really get a feel for them and as a reader will react accordingly.

For me, I found Heidi rather dislikeable – seemingly wearing her charitable personality as a badge of honour, doing things with no thought to those close to her – I had a huge sympathy for Chris and their 12 year old daughter who have pretty much spent their lives working around Heidi’s propensity to give most of herself away to other people. Willow is fascinating and her character voice is probably the one that resonated most for me – as she slowly reveals where she came from it is gripping and addictive.

Pretty Baby is a slow burner…no rush to judgement just an intense and well imagined cautionary tale with some engaging themes and thought provoking events. Overall a beautifully written story which, whilst I did not engage with it QUITE as much as I had done with The Good Girl, I would have no hesitation in recommending. The twists and turns are surprising and unpredictable and overall it was an excellent read. If you love family drama focused psychological thrillers you will adore this.

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“I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”

One night, Mia Dennett enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn’t show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. At first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life.

When Colin decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota instead of delivering her to his employers, Mia’s mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them. But no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family’s world to shatter.

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Happy Reading Folks!

The Daughter’s Secret by Eva Holland. Guest post and Review


Today I am VERY happy to welcome Eva Holland to the blog to tell us about her writing hero. Following that a little review from me of the book which was really very excellent. Over to Eva!

My writing hero

Eva Holland

Margaret Atwood has been part of my life for twenty years now. I have never met her, but that is one of the wonderful things about writing heroes: we don’t have to meet them to be touched by them.

Why Margaret Atwood? It was The Handmaid’s Tale that started it. I read it for the first time twenty years ago. I had a Saturday job in a library (yes, I can confirm it was the Saturday Job of Dreams). When the library was quiet I would read the blurbs on the backs of the returned books before I put them on their shelves, setting any that caught my eye aside to take home. The Handmaid’s Tale was one of those books. I remember reading the back cover and sensing that here was a book unlike anything I had read before. I started it on the bus on the way home and didn’t stop until I finished it at four o’clock the next morning. I was hooked by the power of Atwood’s imagination, the fearlessness with which she created a world so dark and full of terror that it slipped into my dreams for weeks. Bleary eyed the next day I found Cat’s Eye on a bookshelf at home – it had been sitting there, waiting for me. I haven’t stopped reading her since and I don’t imagine I ever will.

From the nightmarish landscapes of The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake to the claustrophobic and menacing female friendships of Cat’s Eye and The Robber Bride, Atwood’s stories are teeming with life, with characters so real that they live on long after I have turned the last page. She moves from horror to humour with words so beautiful that they make me shiver, slipping seemingly effortlessly from the 1843 of Alias Grace to a distant future, from speculative fiction to crime. I think this is why she is among the tiny handful of authors I read and loved as a teenager and still read and love today.

If you are new to Atwood I envy you. You have several worlds of treasure to explore. Why not start with her recent short story collection, Stone Mattress? Then Alias Grace, then Cat’s Eye, then Oryx and Crake, then… Oh, just read all of them. You won’t regret it.

Thanks Eva!



Publication Date: Available Now from Orion.

Source: Netgalley

My daughter is a liar. A liar, liar, liar. And I’m starting to see where she gets it from.

When Rosalind’s fifteen-year-old daughter, Stephanie, ran away with her teacher, this ordinary family became something it had never asked to be. Their lives held up to scrutiny in the centre of a major police investigation, the Simms were headline news while Stephanie was missing with a man who was risking everything.

Now, six years on, Ros takes a call that will change their lives all over again. He’s going to be released from prison. Years too early. In eleven days’ time.

I really loved The Daughters Secret. For starters it was a bit of a departure in plot from the plethora of (mostly great) family drama novels I’ve read this year and had a particular depth and resonance to it that really appealed to me.

Eva Holland uses the past/present timeline to great effect here, painting a picture of the rifts in the family caused by her daughter absconding with her teacher years before, and now when he is about to be released from prison, putting new and deeply disturbing pressures on an already ruptured dynamic.

There is a great perception to the writing as we see the different ways the characters try to deal with the issues – none of them are particularly practical or indeed particularly likeable, but they are eminently realistic with an intuitively drawn depth that really gets you inside the issues. Ros especially, full of anxiety and neurosis, as the story unfolds and you see flashes of the home life Stephanie had, you begin to understand that there is more to things than meets the eye.

I was intrigued mostly by what would happen when Nate was released. Would Stephanie see him again? In that sense it was a real page turner and I was engaged all the way through. A story ripped straight from the headlines, imagnining the people behind the drama, The Daughters Secret was compelling, often sad and very authentic with a spot on pitch perfect ending.

Highly Recommended.

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Happy Reading Folks!


September Highlights – The Dark Inside by Rod Reynolds.


Publication Date: September 3rd from Faber and Faber

Source: Publisher Review Copy

1946, Texarkana: a town on the border of Texas and Arkansas. Disgraced New York reporter Charlie Yates has been sent to cover the story of a spate of brutal murders – young couples who’ve been slaughtered at a local date spot. Charlie finds himself drawn into the case by the beautiful and fiery Lizzie, sister to one of the victims, Alice – the only person to have survived the attacks and seen the killer up close.
But Charlie has his own demons to fight, and as he starts to dig into the murders he discovers that the people of Texarkana have secrets that they want kept hidden at all costs. Before long, Charlie discovers that powerful forces might be protecting the killer, and as he investigates further his pursuit of the truth could cost him more than his job…

I loved this book so much. So very very much. Will that do? No? Jeez but you lot are demanding…

The Dark Inside is old school noir – Southern Noir at that – and I have not read a book like it in many years, and when I have they have come from old school crime writers who are almost a dying breed (think James Lee Burke or Flannery O Connor)  – but like Rod Reynolds here they have this magic touch when it comes to taking very little time to put you BAM heart and soul into another era.

Here we enter the Texas/Arkansas border in 1946 – alongside Charlie Yates, who having had somewhat of a meltdown in New York has been sent along to cover a series of murders in a small town – to the folks back in the big city very unimportant stuff. But to Charlie it’s about to become everything…

Language is a beautiful thing when in the right hands – it has the power to evoke all the  senses, to paint a picture, to bring on a memory, to make you catch your breath and feel an emotion – The Dark Inside has this in spades. Chocka block full of that sort of thing this book is, all the while telling a compelling and really powerful story that will envelop you in the pure texture and realism of that time now passed.

The author sends his main protagonist on a real journey of self discovery, sets him on a perilous path and takes us with him every step of the way – down into the seething whirlpool of fear that this small town has become in the wake of the deaths. The sheer atmosphere and sense of something horrific lurking just below the surface is palpable throughout the telling and as Charlie faces his demons and everyone else’s head on you will be utterly gripped and totally unable to look away. I was really quite tearful by the end simply down to the sheer impact of every single chapter.

This is a debut – something that stops me in my tracks every time I remember it – the writing is both visceral and gentle, a really quite staggering achievement both in character study and incorporation of setting – If Rod Reynolds spends the rest of his writing career (and boy is this guy going to have a career) creating books only half as good as this one, he will still be writing some of the top fiction out there. A truly incredible talent.

I don’t really need to add “Highly Recommended” do I? Not really. You can take that one as read. When I had finished The Dark Inside, devoured it over the course of one gloriously reading mad day, I had that spider sense that told me I’d just made a lifetime commitment. If this author keeps writing I’m going to keep reading. A bit like with Stephen King if he publishes his shopping list I’m probably going to get in the queue to take a look.

I guess you could say I’m a fan.  How many people will agree with me remains to be seen. But early buzz from people I respect in the field tells me I’m not going to be alone here – and as one reader to another I’m saying go take a look. Sometimes it really is that simple.

Rod will be answering some questions for me on the 9th September as part of the official blog tour. Until then….

You can follow Rod on Twitter here:

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Read it. Live it. Love it.

Happy Reading Folks!


Liz Currently Loves….The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet


Publication Date: Available Now from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Netgalley

Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.
But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.
Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet promises so much and delivers so much more. One of those books you simply HATE to leave behind, so involved have you become in the minutae of the characters lives that you have practically lived with them yourself.

A really wonderful read on so many levels, a character drama set in space, an intensely intelligent and evocative building of worlds that sinks into your subconcious and hovers there, I loved every minute of it.

We have humans and aliens, but it’s nowhere near as simple or as standard as that – Becky Chambers weaves her story around the almost mundane day to day, the difference of course being that this is Outer Space, the worlds we visit are not our own and the cultural richness and utterly gripping social strata of each different species we encounter make it completely and definitively addictive.

The glue holding it all together is the Long Way of the title – our eclectic and very differing crew members are all heading to one place to complete one task – the road is seemingly forever, there are dangers and pitfalls along the way, odd moments of pure adrenalin followed by downtime of seemingly endless space –  throughout the journey we learn and adapt and are happy, sad, scared, alone, angry and emotional right alongside the inhabitants of the Wayfarer – a ship that becomes very much a character in its own right.

The sheer richness of the descriptive prose paints a truly magnificent vista for the reader to cast their eye over – the worlds are easy to imagine in the very talented hands of this writer – but the strength of this novel is not so much in the places as in the people. Rosemary is our “man on the ground” if you like – she is joining the ship trying to escape a family scandal – initially through her eyes we start to get to know the rest and get a handle on their many different layers – but as time goes on each character is given equal opportunity to shine, capture your heart or your sympathy or your disgust – a true group dynamic that is ever changing, ever developing and slowly but inexorably heading towards that small angry planet…

This is sharp, intuitive writing with a really keen eye for human nature and a brilliantly imaginative sense of how other species may view us. I liked how humans are actually the least important part of the universe she has created here, rather than being all that – it allows for a deeper exploration of ourselves in a lot of ways and as this group forms alliances and starts to become more than just a crew but absolutely a family, there are edge of the seat moments, utterly heartbreaking ones, some giggles and a whole lot of really terrific old school storytelling.

If you’ve read this far (thanks for sticking with me) you may have noticed that I have mentioned only one of the characters specifically – this is deliberate on my part, they are all so well drawn but I didn’t know anything about them going in and you shouldn’t either. I had the best time getting to know them  and I wouldn’t deprive anyone else of that – I finished reading this last week but I can still see every one of them, just glimpses out of the corner of my eye.

I was sad to leave the Wayfarer and those that travel with her behind. I can only hope to go back one day – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is the type of novel that demands a sequel, cries out for one- YES I say. Let there be more – but even if this is the only time I get to spend with them all then it was time well spent. Not one wasted moment.

Brilliant. Highly Recommended. 5 of the biggest brightest shiniest stars ever. Plus a Dodo or two.

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Liz Currently Loves… I Know Who Did It by Steve Mosby.



Publication Date: 24th September from Orion

Source: Netgalley

Charlie Matheson died two years ago in a car accident. So how is a woman who bearing a startling resemblance to her claiming to be back from the dead? Detective Mark Nelson is called in investigate and hear her terrifying account of what she’s endured in the ‘afterlife’.
Detective David Groves is a man with an unshakeable belief in the law, determined to bring his son’s killers to justice. But Groves’ search will mean facing someone with an altogether more ruthless approach to right and wrong.

Well now I obviously DO know who did it having just turned the final page. But really, that doesn’t matter because this novel, a sequel to the 50/50 killer (another top crime tale from this author which it’s not absolutely necessary to read prior although I would if I were you)is not so much about that.

It is of course, a mystery, a conundrum to solve but this is so much more, although I’ll struggle to tell you how without spoilers but I’ll do my best.

For a start it’s quite a conundrum. I mean what do you do with a woman who turns up, injured, claiming to have returned from the dead – especially when it turns out that she did in fact die in a fatal car accident years ago. You would most likely assume that she was traumatised and was actually somebody else. Well we all know what assume can do..

And that is just the start – Steve Mosby then leads you on a compelling and utterly gripping journey towards truth that is at turns poignant and moving as well as being downright addictive – when I said it was more this is what I was referring to. The pure emotional responses elicited throughout the book and incredibly so in the final moments just meant that I seriously couldnt care less “whodunnit” at that point I just wanted a happy ending dammit!!

I’m deliberately not giving away plot details but suffice to say our main characters are put through the wringer, there are strong themes of love, loss and redemption throughout the telling of this brilliantly constructed story and it is without doubt one of the top crime novels of the year for me so far. Possibly even one of the top novels in any genre.

And if that’s not enough to get you reading, there is also a completely jaw dropping moment that had me throwing the kindle aside and letting out a yell – which woke up my 4 year old who was asleep beside me but seriously the child should know better than to nap in the vicinity of Mum reading a darn good yarn – he’ll learn.

Did I get my happy ending? Well my lips are sealed but I will say that “I know Who Did It” is an emotionally resonant, multi-layered crime drama with some characters so full of depth and reality that they pop off the page and one that will stay with me for a long long time.

Don’t miss this one.

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Kitty Peck and the Child of Ill Fortune – Author Interview.


Really pleased to welcome Kate Griffin to the blog today to talk about Kitty Peck, I threw a few questions at her and this is what she had to tell me. Some fascinating insight. I’m currently reading the first in this series having finished the brilliant Child of Ill Fortune very recently – yes I know I’m going backwards but sometimes I forget myself in this bookish madness – so look out for another feature on these coming soon when I shall review both. For now over to Kate to tell us more about the background…


Tell us a little about the original inspiration behind the Kitty Peck stories.

I think there are probably two main inspirations for Kitty Peck: family and film

My mother’s family lived in Limehouse in the second half of the nineteenth century and I’m very aware that the stories told by my grandmother, Hannah Beck, in particular have percolated into Kitty’s world.

Born in 1898, Hannah lived near the infamous Narrow Street. It always comes as a jolt to think that Jack the Ripper was stalking the streets of Whitechapel just ten years before my grandmother was born.

In the late nineteenth century London was the greatest and most cosmopolitan city in the world and Hannah’s childhood reflected that. Neighbours included Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe and Chinese immigrants. The distinctive clothing, language and appearance of the latter were a source for the thrilling, but distinctly non multicultural, works of writers like Sax Rohmer and even Conan Doyle.

I have no delusions of grandeur about my Limehouse ancestors. They were mostly immigrants themselves (from the Irish Potato Famine) and they were poor. There were, however, tight knit and hard working.

Life must have been hard, but like hundreds of others they found distractions and entertainment in London’s music halls.

My grandmother told me that at the age of twelve, for a penny, she was allowed into the galleries where she watched performers including Marie Lloyd, Albert Chevalier and male impersonator Vesta Tilley.

To an extent I’ve tried to reflect that vibrant cultural mix, but I’ve had great fun subverting the casual racism and sexual stereotypes of the original ‘Penny Dreadful’ style stories of the period.

The second inspiration is definitely my love of a peculiarly British sort of film. People have said that they find it easy to visualise Kitty’s world. I suspect the ‘scenes’ I write owe a great deal to the miraculous lighting and set dressing of classic Gainsborough Pictures films of the 1940s and even Hammer (greatly underrated in my opinion). All those hours I spent as a teenager watching those intense – and intensely beautiful – gothic tales on TV have left a mark on my writing.

I am completely unashamed to admit that in Kitty Peck and the Child of Ill Fortune I am playing with the rules of melodrama and loving it. In fact, I think melodrama is long overdue for a reboot and revival!

Is the Victorian era a period of time you find particularly fascinating?

Going back to my previous answer, I think it’s an era with an incredibly strong and exciting visual identity. In my imagination – and probably everyone else’s – it’s a period of swirling fogs, steam trains, galloping hackney carriages, cane-twirling toffs, veiled mediums and cloaked villains.

And really, what’s not to like about all that?

Scratch that completely artificial surface and you find an age of extreme, warring contrasts – old and new, tradition and discovery, truth and hypocrisy, wealth and poverty.

If you look at the engineering and architecture of the period you see a confidence that probably isn’t around today. I think the Victorians – the powerful ones – believed they could do anything, and they did, no matter the cost.

You only have to read Dickens (Night Walks) and Mayhew (London Labour and the London Poor) to understand how the majority really lived and the heavy price paid for progress and Empire.

The Victorian era is beguiling, but also deeply troubling. And that makes it a fascinating setting.

The novel is quite dark in tone, bleak but beautiful, as a writer how difficult is it to walk the line between entertaining and authentic?

Thank you for describing it as ‘bleak, but beautiful’. I think my own imagined Victorian world is exactly that.

Those who know me well seem quite surprised by the novel. I am generally quite an optimistic person – I can be annoyingly chirpy, to be honest – but as I soon as I start to write it’s the dark places that fascinate and attract me, both in terms of setting and character.

Although I’ve consciously created an elaborate and heightened world, I try hard to make it live for the reader by giving a clear sense of how things, taste, smell and feel as well as describing sights and sounds. Hopefully, no matter how bizarre or unnerving the situation, readers will go with me because, in that moment, it feels real.

I am also very careful to avoid anachronisms that might break ‘the spell.’

I do think that as a writer you have a duty to entertain. If someone invests time in your story then you have to ‘perform’. I’m a bit of a failed actress – If I’m honest, writing is my stage. I often read my dialogue aloud and in character to check it sounds right.

No wonder my neighbours give me odd looks!

I read that you had a huge interest in old buildings – where did that start for you?

I can’t remember a time when visiting an old building didn’t thrill and inspire me. I suspect it started during a family holiday to Norfolk when I was about six and we stayed in a crumbling moated manor house that was reputedly haunted. It was the first time I was allowed a room of my own instead of sharing with my brother and I was completely and deliciously terrified.

I suspect it’s not so much about bricks and mortar as people. When you wander round a historic site you are making a direct connection with the past; with the people who lived there, worked there, loved there, plotted there, and died there! It’s all about human stories that unlock the imagination.

I’m very lucky that when I’m not writing I work part time for Britain’s oldest heritage charity, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (fondly known as SPAB). I’ve been there for ten years now and in that time I’ve had wonderful ‘behind the scenes’ glimpses of some amazing old buildings, including the marvellous Wilton’s in Whitechapel – London’s last surviving music hall.

If I had the controls of H.G Wells’ time machine I would always go back, never forward.

When not writing, what type of novels do you enjoy reading yourself and do you have a favourite book you throw at everyone?

It’s a tricky one as I read quite widely, although, oddly, I don’t particularly gravitate to crime. (A terrible admission!)

Mind you, having said that, Christopher Fowler’s quirky Bryant and May books about a pair of ancient detectives working on the outer limits of the law (and London) are a delight.

As far as I’m concerned, you can’t beat a good, dark Victorian novel – old or new.

I re-read the classics quite regularly (my all time favourite is Thackeray’s Vanity Fair), but I also enjoy neo Victorian literature. I recently enjoyed The Unburied by Charles Palliser and also The Quick by Lauren Owen. Ghost stories are a guilty pleasure. Anything by MR James or Susan Hill is bound to keep me reading into the small hours.

Instead of ‘throwing’ one favourite, can I cheekily ‘chuck’ two?

My never fail recommends are:

Forever Amber: Kathleen Winsor

Their Finest Hour and a Half: Lisa Evans.

Can you tell us anything about what is next for Kitty and co?

Now that would be telling! I’m nearly at the end of the first draft of book three. Let’s just say that sinister secrets swirl like a London fog on the streets of Limehouse and Kitty Peck is finding it increasingly difficult to find her way home.

Thank you!

About the Book…

March 1880, Limehouse.

Kitty Peck, a spirited but vulnerable seventeen-year-old, is the reluctant heiress to Paradise, the criminal empire previously overseen by the formidable Lady Ginger. Far from the colour and camaraderie of the music hall where Kitty had been working, this newfound power brings with it isolation and uncertainty. Desperate to reconnect with Joey, her estranged brother, Kitty travels to Paris. Reunited at last, she is unable to refuse his request to take a child back to London. Within days of her return it’s clear that someone has followed them… and this someone is determined to kill the child… and anyone who stands in their way.

Kitty Peck and the Child of Ill-Fortune is a fast-paced historical mystery with breath-taking twists and turns that takes us from the decadent, bohemian world of late 19th-Century Paris to a deadly secret at the heart of the British empire.

 Also Available: Read first (unless you are me)


Limehouse, 1880: Dancing girls are going missing from ‘Paradise’ – the criminal manor with ruthless efficiency by the ferocious Lady Ginger. Seventeen-year-old music hall seamstress Kitty Peck finds herself reluctantly drawn into a web of blackmail, depravity and murder when The Lady devises a singular scheme to discover the truth. But as Kitty’s scandalous and terrifying act becomes the talk of London, she finds herself facing someone even more deadly and horrifying than The Lady.

Bold, impetuous and blessed with more brains than she cares to admit, it soon becomes apparent that it’s up to the unlikely team of Kitty and her stagehand friend, Lucca, to unravel the truth and ensure that more girls do not meet with a similar fate. But are Kitty’s courage and common sense and Lucca’s book learning a match for the monster in the shadows? Their investigations take them from the gin-fuelled halls and doss houses of the East End to the champagne-fuelled galleries of the West End.

Take nothing at face value: Kitty is about to step out on a path of discovery that changes everything . 


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Liz Currently Loves…Lies Ripped Open by Steve McHugh


Publication Date: 24th August from 47north

Source: Netgalley

Over a hundred years have passed since a group of violent killers went on the rampage, murdering innocent victims for fun. But even back then, sorcerer Nate Garrett, aka Hellequin, knew there was more to it than simple savage pleasure—souls were being stolen.
Nate’s discovery of the souls’ use, and of those supporting the group’s plan, made him question everything he believed.
Now the group Nate thought long dead is back. Violent, angry, and hell-bent on revenge, they have Hellequin firmly in their sights. And if he won’t come willingly, they’ll take those closest to him first.
The battle begins again.

Oh Nate how I’ve missed you…

I’m not going to make any bones about what a huge fan of this series I am, most people know it anyway, but just to be clear I am a HUGE fan of this series.

With Lies Ripped Open the addictive quality of the Hellequin Chronicles goes into overdrive – I read this, fast and furious into the early hours of this morning so Steve McHugh definitely owes me a coffee or six – but you kind of just have to keep going once you start.

The backstory is fleshed out in this instalment, giving some insight into past events and also setting us up for more to come – Nate is on top form here and the magical mythology that the author has created using his own obviously insane imagination and mixing it up with stories we all know has also taken a huge jump in depth and creativity.

This is quite firmly in the adult market – Urban Fantasy for those of us who like our stories uncompromisingly realistic despite the mythological backdrop, Lies Ripped Open was a purely joyful read that I was more than happy to lose sleep over.

The dialogue is witty and full of ironic clarity, I love all the characters and each new novel brings something a little different than the last, the ongoing storyline is really well constructed – for that reason I would recommend reading these in order, although you CAN jump in at any point and have an excellent time.

Brilliant. The only problem being of course is now the wait starts for book 6. Which after THAT ending you will kind of wish you had sat there already. Taps foot.

If you havent read these yet and are a fan of all things magic and mayhem then this whole series will definitely be for you.

I’ll be dragging Steve kicking and screaming onto the blog to answer a few Nate questions for me before too long so look out for that – in the meantime dive into the Hellequin chronicles. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Highly Recommended.

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Murder in Malmo – Blog Tour. Review.

17700801Author in Malmö with Murder

Publication Date: Available Now from McNidder and Grace

Source: Review Copy

A gunman is loose in Malmö and he’s targeting immigrants. The charismatic head of an advertising agency is found dead in his shower. Inspector Anita Sundström wants to be involved in the murder investigations, but she is being sidelined by her antagonistic boss. She is assigned to find a stolen painting by a once-fashionable artist, as well as being lumbered with a new trainee assistant. She also has to do to restore her professional reputation after a deadly mix-up in a previous high-profile case. Then another prominent Malmö businessman is found murdered and Sundström finds herself back in the action and facing new dangers in the second Anita Sundström Malmö mystery.

Highly intriguing second read in this series  – I very much enjoyed the first one and this follows on perfectly, solidifying the main protagonist Anita and giving us another compelling and eminently readable mystery.

There are many things going on here and Torquil Macleod juggles all the layers perfectly, a beautifully flowing read that grips from the outset and never loses focus.

I’m growing very fond of Anita, her personality shines and she has a very different kind of back story that is fascinating and gives the story a great edge. Moving on from Meet me in Malmo and continuing the thread started there, I am very keen to see where she goes next.

On the mystery side a really well constructed complex plot with some very current themes and issues – whilst this is set in Sweden it is easy to draw parallels with the UK and some of the attitudes and outlooks you see here. As for the setting, it  comes to life beautifully within the narrative and the sense of place is evocative and fascinating.

Overall another great novel from Torquil Macleod – I’m looking forward to continuing Anita’s journey with the next in the series very soon.


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MinM blog tour pic

Happy Reading Folks!