Solomon Creed by Simon Toyne – Blog Tour: Author Interview & Review

solomon creedSimon Toyne by Toby Madden USEPhoto by Toby Madden USE

Today I am VERY happy to have Simon Toyne on the blog answering a few questions on “Solomon Creed” a novel that has been described as the Thriller of the year. I can’t really argue with that…So here is what I asked (and what he answered rather brilliantly I thought) and following that is a little review of the book from me.


Solomon Creed kicks off a new trilogy for you – tell us a little about the inspiration behind this one.

It’s actually a new series, not a trilogy, though I had the idea for it in the middle of writing The Key, second book in the Sanctus trilogy. I always seem to have my best ideas in the middle of something else. It started as a one line idea about a man who has to save a series of souls in order to ultimately save his own. About a year or so after having that idea I happened to re-watch the Wim Wenders film – ‘Paris, Texas’ – and during the opening sequence (have a look here) I thought to myself ‘That’s how that story should start. A man walking out of the desert wearing a suit.’ I ended up listening to the Ry Cooder soundtrack of ‘Paris, Texas’ all the way through writing Solomon too. It became one of his themes.

Although in a very different way from Sanctus, there is a religious theme running through the narrative – does this subject hold a particular interest for you?

I do find religion, particularly the stories woven into it, endlessly fascinating. If you look at the origins of all the older religions they were all about trying to make sense of unfathomable things and posing the big existential and philosophical questions like who am I, why are we here, what does it all mean? When I’m writing a novel and pushing my characters around the page with a pen I’m dealing with all these same questions, so the two work very well together. I also think they resonate with readers because we’re all still trying to figure out these same questions.

On the topic of trilogies and series fiction in general, moving forward will this be your preferred method? It does allow for a wider scope.

It does and that’s why I like it. The Sanctus trilogy was very much rooted in the city of Ruin and the mysteries it contained, it was the pivot around which everything else revolved. With Solomon, he is the central mystery and he can go anywhere. That was one of the things that appealed to me about him, that I can continue his story towards his own redemption and colour in his backstory as we go along whilst at the same time setting each new book in a totally different setting. As a writer it gives me the best of both worlds – familiarity and a long-form unfolding story, but also novelty. I hope that will appeal to the readers too.

All your novels so far have had a high addictive quality – how difficult is it to walk the line, creating a thriller that gets the heart pounding yet still has great depth of plot and character?

It’s hard. In the middle of every book I always have a moment where I think ‘why don’t I try and write something simpler next time?’ but ultimately I want to write books that I haven’t read before and that means trying to break away a little from the genre conventions. Some readers respond to that, others slam me for it. I’ve already had early reviews for Solomon saying they’re not sure what audience it’s aimed at because it contains a variety of different genre elements. For me that’s the point. I don’t see the benefit of staying inside the lines. Thriller readers are very sophisticated. They know the rules as well as we writers do. As a reader myself I like to be surprised and not know instinctively where something is going. So as a writer that’s what I try and do.

Having said that your other point is always first and foremost in my mind. I never try and lose pace at the expense of complexity or genre blurring. Each book goes through several drafts and each one is all about paring the story down until every storyline and every character is well-balanced, always developing, and always moving forward. Thrillers are like sharks, if they stop moving forward they die. I always spend a lot of time on the characters, all of them, not just the heroes. I think you need to care about everyone and everyone needs to feel real otherwise they’re not engaging. There’s an old joke about actors that if you asked someone playing a courtier in ‘Hamlet’ what the play was about they’d say ‘It’s about this courtier’. I think there’s some wisdom in that so I write each character as if the whole book is about them. Everyone has a yesterday and, hopefully, a tomorrow, even if they appear on just one page.

Are you allowed to give any clues about the next step in the Solomon Creed saga?

Probably not but I will anyway. In the first book Solomon knows nothing about himself. He only knows his name because it’s stitched into the label of his tailor-made suit jacket. At the end of the first book he has learned some things about himself but not enough. He figures the tailor who made his jacket must have measured him to make the suit so must know more about who he is. So he goes to France in search of him and finds more murder, mystery, and a shadowy legacy of the Nazi occupation.

Any writing habits or foibles?

I use my kids as a timing device. I drop them off at school then go and sit in a cafe and work until it’s time to pick them up again. I also try and write 1,000 words a day. These two things combined help focus the mind.

When not writing what kind of novels do you enjoy reading – and have there been any stand out reads for you this year so far?

I read all sorts, generally not thrillers though. Having said that I was one of the judges of a big US thriller prize earlier this year so read hundreds. Of those, my favourites were ‘Natchez Burning’ by Greg Iles, ‘The Fever’ by Megan Abbott, ‘Bad Country’ by CB Mackenzie. I also just read ‘The Son’ by Phillip Meyer – not a thriller but brilliantly written and just as compelling.

Thank you so much!

No, thank you. I was actually very nervous to see what you made of Solomon, being as you’re such a big Stephen King fan and all, so I’m delighted that you seemed to enjoy it so much.

My Review:

solomon creed

A plane crash in the Arizona desert. An explosion that sets the world on fire. A damning pact to hide an appalling secret. And one man bound to expose the truth. He is Solomon Creed. No one knows what he is capable of.

Not even him.

When Solomon Creed flees the burning wreckage of a plane in the Arizona desert, seconds before an explosion sets the world alight, he is acting on instinct alone. He has no memory of his past, and no idea what his future holds. Running towards a nearby town, one name fires in his mind – James Coronado. Somehow, Solomon knows he must save this man. But how do you save a man who is already dead?

I’m not going to tell you much about Solomon Creed when it comes to plot to be honest. It’s one of those books that is best read cold once you have looked at the blurb and gone “ooh…rather fancy that one” which is what I did. And also I remembered that my utter  hatred of Religious conspiracy type novels was completely changed to  huge amounts of love by this authors Sanctus trilogy. I went back to despising them after that – obviously Mr Toyne has that X factor something.

Moving onto Solomon Creed then – the reading experience of it is something akin to being on a runaway train I imagine. It starts with a bang then off you go – no stopping, hang on for dear life and hope to holy heck that there is something soft to cushion the impact at the other end..

The thing about this book though is there is plenty of action, often quiet action,  but also a wonderfully perfect mix of drama and character study wrapped around the “Oh God” moments  – Solomon Creed is enigmatic and unknoweable even to himself. But slowly things start to come to light, although to say I’m now in a state of chronic impatience for book two would be putting it somewhat mildly.

I loved the clever writing, the delicate little touches that make this story into a legend waiting to happen –  There are gorgeous intricacies in the plot detail  and as things pan out it is highly addictive stuff – like you know, if you’d taken this away from me while I was still in the middle of it there would have been blood. And it wouldn’t have been fictional.

Clever intuitive storytelling. I rather adored it. Certainly I would highly recommend it. And then some.

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Happy Reading Folks!

The Dark Inside. Blog Tour.


Oh goodie look I get to babble on about this one again. I reviewed this recently (review can be seen below) and felt VERY lucky to be able to ask author, Rod Reynolds a few questions about The Dark Inside as part of the official blog tour. Here is what I asked. And you know, what he answered. Enjoy!

Tell us a little about the inspiration and starting point for “The Dark Inside” – I’m aware it is loosely based on real events, was it that story or the time period perhaps that engaged you?

It was very much the real life story that first caught my eye. I’m a fan of novels written in and set in the 1940s anyway – Chandler to Ellroy and everything in between – but this was something very different.

The first thing that hooked me was the sense of sheer menace and terror reading about the murders provoked in me. It’s impossible to read about a masked gunman stepping out of the night and attacking young couples without feeling a sense of real unease. It’s like something out of a nightmare. But the more I read, the more intriguing the case became. The setting was unusual – a town (technically two towns) split between two quite different states, that was overwhelmed with GIs travelling home from war; seemingly endless law enforcement agencies involved – city, county and state police from both sides of the state line, railroad detectives, highway patrolmen and more, and all under the command of the Texas Rangers – the opportunities for infighting, corruption and ineptitude seemed huge. Then there were the persistent rumours of institutional corruption, cover-ups, conspiracy – it was a potent mix that just grabbed me from the instant I started thinking about it. Right away I had a very nebulous sense of a mood and a tone and a voice that I wanted to use to tell the story, even if the plot and characters came later. Everything developed from that.

One of the most fascinating things for me while reading was the huge difference in how the Press worked back then and now – in today’s world of 24/7 news where everything is immediate and in your face do you think we could learn something from those old school reporters?

It’s a fascinating area to me. I worked extensively with newspapers in my previous profession, and there is an assumption among most observers that the newspaper is dead, or certainly moribund. However, if you look at some of the biggest stories in recent years – thinking of things like the MP expenses scandal, FIFA corruption, etc. – they were brought to light as a direct result of investigative journalism on the part of newspapers. Furthermore, a good friend of mine makes the point that newspapers still set the news agenda, most days, that the 24/7 stations and websites then take their lead from.

Of course, we’ve also seen the dark side of that doggedness and ‘getting the story by any means’ attitude – the phone hacking scandal being the most recent example – but if we lose the old school style of journalism where reporters are given time and money to investigate a story properly, and then report on it fully, I think we’d be losing something very valuable indeed. At their best, newspapers should be democracy’s first line of defence.

Tell me about Charlie – that poor man goes on quite the journey of personal discovery during the telling of the tale – did you know from the start how it would all work out for him or did he change your mind?

Most of Charlie’s development as a character came about naturally as I was writing the story, but there were several key starting points I knew I wanted to work from. I was certain I wanted him to be an outsider, from a very different part of America, both to accentuate the strange and closed nature of the Texarkana he finds himself in, and to accentuate his own feelings of isolation and self-doubt, which plague him before he leaves and are only heightened by being plunged into such a nightmarish situation.

I also knew I wanted him to consider himself a coward, because that set the stage for the age-old tale of personal redemption that I wanted to try to tell. I was partly inspired by the quote James Ellroy has at the start of LA Confidential – ‘A glory that costs everything and means nothing.’ Although you can interpret that in many ways, to me it speaks to those times in life when we become obsessed with something, to the exclusion of everything else, even when we know what’s waiting for us at the top of that hill is nothing you’d call a victory. Ultimately that’s Charlie’s story – he’s a man who thinks he’s sunk as low as he can go, but discovers that’s not the case when he finally finds a cause worth risking his life for – and the only prize waiting for him if he survives is that he might hate himself just a little bit less.

However, the exact narrative arc of how that would play out was not decided in advance. I had certain plot points I wanted to get to along the way – not much more than a start, middle and end – but I find organic plots, influenced by the characters themselves, are the most satisfying to write. In addition, I don’t tend to plan out all the characters in advance, and there are several major characters in The Dark Inside who developed as the story was written. Therefore, once you have them interacting with Charlie, that in itself opens up new narrative possibilities you can’t anticipate in advance.

The “Southern Noir” feel you have embedded into the narrative is pitch perfect – right down to the conversational tone – how hard was that to accomplish?

I’m really glad you think so, thank you. It was quite tricky to get that right, and I knew it was crucial to the atmosphere, so I was keen to do so. In my head, I had a voice and a tone for Charlie quite early on, which is pretty much the one you see in the book, and I’ve long been a fan of American books/TV/culture, so I had a decent background to draw on.

However, to really get it right still took a lot of effort. I read and re-read a lot of the 40s & 50s noir classics, looking for vocabulary and speech patterns that have since faded, and also watched a lot of the old noir movies for the same reason. It also helped travelling to Texarkana to get a better idea of the local dialect and idiosyncrasies (as soon as the cabbie at the airport started talking – ‘My nose is itching, means someone’s lying about me; wish it was my hand – that means money.’ – I knew it was a worthwhile trip!)

However, my fantastic agent, Kate Burke at Diane Banks Associates, also had a huge role to play in getting it right, as she was brilliant at helping me weed out the parts that sounded anachronistic or inauthentic, and really helping me hone the text. I think Kate really got the tone and feel I was hoping to achieve, and I couldn’t have asked for a keener set of eyes to help do so.

The tagline tells us this might be a good read for fans of “True Detective” – and this is a comment I absolutely agree with – I wondered if you were a fan of that particular tv show, which is in a way like your book but in the visual medium and if so why do you think it IS so good?

I was over the moon with that tagline because I am a huge fan of the show (specifically the first series – although I was in the minority that quite likes series two as well).

I think there are lots of aspects of the first True Detective that made it so good. The show’s creator, Nic Pizzolatto, is a novelist as well as screenwriter (his book, Galveston, is very good) and I think that shows in the complexity of the plotting, the narrative setup, and the pacing.

I read a comment that said True Detective was, ‘A 7/10 story with 10/10 acting, direction and camerawork.’ I agree with the second part of that statement, and clearly the excellence the show exhibited in those respects played a part in making it ‘special’; but I think the first part is to underrate the plot hugely. Some were apparently disappointed that there were no huge twists towards the end of the series, but I think that’s to miss the point. The real story of the show, and what made it so great, was the personal journeys Rust and Marty made over the course of the series. It’s just another reminder that character really is everything.

Moving away from “The Dark Inside” and more towards Rod Reynolds himself, tell us a little about your writing heroes and was there anyone in particular (not necessarily an author) who inspired you growing up?

I’ve mentioned Ellroy a couple of times and that reflects the huge impact he had on me. The Cold Six Thousand was the first book of his I discovered, and I read it in my early twenties, when I’d fallen out of love with reading a bit. It’s probably his most divisive and stylistically extreme book, but it just blew me away. It reignited my passion for reading, and it is the book that first made me want to be a writer. I devoured everything of his after that, and then moved on to the people that inspired him – particularly Chandler and Hammett. I read everything I could get my hands on in that sub-genre. I discovered southern noir around the same time, first through James Lee Burke and then others like him, and I’ve just carried on from there.

If I was to pick a non-author creative influence, it would definitely be Michael Mann. He’s made some of my favourite films of all time – Heat being the pinnacle – and I just love the look, feel, tone and depth of a lot of his work. There’s so much to learn from his style, and I’ve definitely tried to incorporate elements of it in my writing.

Finally, the question I always have to ask, especially when I have particularly loved a book – what’s next for you? If you are allowed to give us a clue…

Next up is a the sequel to The Dark Inside, which I’m just drafting at the moment. The story is set six months after the first book in a town called Hot Springs, which is close to Texarkana, but has a distinct and incredible real-life history of its own. The town played host to gangsters from Capone to Siegel, and served as their model for early Las Vegas.

At the start of the book, Charlie is compelled to travel to Hot Springs, despite Arkansas being the last place on earth he wants to go. As soon as he arrives, things go bad and Charlie finds himself trapped in a nightmare web of murder, corruption and lies. Working in the shadow of Texarkana, Charlie fights to save himself – but the closer he gets to the truth, the more it seems he can’t outrun his own past…

Thank you!

Thanks for having me on the blog!

My Review (just in case you didn’t catch it)


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.


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Happy Reading Folks!

Dead Eyed – Idea to Publication. Guest Post from Matt Brolly


Today I am VERY pleased to welcome author Matt Brolly to tell us about how his first novel, Dead Eyed, came into being.


Dead Eyed – Idea to Publication

The idea for Dead Eyed came to me in 2008. I initially called it Souljacker, and the ‘soul-stealing’ element to the story was much more prominent. I set the story in a small seaside town, and the killer’s motive was tied into the history of the town’s church and small community.

I planned the whole story, and even submitted some opening chapters and a synopsis to the Debut Dagger Award. But for one reason or another, I stopped writing it and focused my energies on another project.

That project was a dystopian thriller which I finished and sent off to a select number of literary agents. I received some positive feedback, amongst the rejections, the most interesting of which came from an agent who commented that she thought my writing style was well suited to more ‘straight’ crime/thriller fiction. So, I decided to take another look at the Souljacker.

Although I liked certain aspects of the story, I couldn’t get interested in the piece as it stood. It had an air of the supernatural about it which I wanted to move away from. But I still liked the idea of the Souljacker. I sat down and started again from scratch.

Once I’d finished the new draft, nothing, save for the serial killer known as the Souljacker, remained from that original version. I changed the location, the main protagonists, and the victims. I even changed the Souljacker himself, giving him a completely different back story. Rather than have the Souljacker as a new case, I reactivated his killing spree after a twenty year hiatus. As I began writing the new main protagonist, Michael Lambert, I realised the book was really about his journey. The Souljacker started to take a back seat, as I explored Lambert’s past, and his motivation to investigate the killer.

Six months later the first draft of Dead Eyed was complete.

Not much of that version exists now, either. The Souljacker stayed, as did Lambert, but the novel was far from complete. Something was missing from Lambert’s journey, and the investigation itself. Over the next few drafts I added a second protagonist, DI May, who had a different approach to investigating than Lambert. The two characters began playing off each other, until the story started going in a completely different direction. Another few drafts later, and I felt ready to send the MS into the big world.

After a few near misses, Dead Eyed was accepted for publication by Carina UK (Harlequin/Harper Collins) who were keen to develop the book into a series.

It seemed that my journey with Dead Eyed was over. I worked through my first draft of the second in the series, thinking that the major work on Dead Eyed was complete.

Then I received my first set of editorial feedback.

The story was structurally sound, but could I take a second look at certain areas? Perhaps I could dig deeper into Lambert’s background, develop the relationship between Lambert and May further? A few months later, and Dead Eyed was a different monster to the book initially submitted. Whilst tightening up certain areas, the editorial feedback had enabled me to propel the story into something different. The feedback was sound, and just what I needed to make the book the best it could be.

August 2015 and I received my copy edited Author Amendments Copy of Dead Eyed. Reading through, it was hard to equate the book I was reading not only with the first draft of years ago, but also to the version which was initially accepted by my publishers. Signing off, I was relieved, and a little sad, to say goodbye to the story.

However, I now have a rich and exciting direction for the series so although from a writing perspective, my work on Dead Eyed is finished, some of the characters live on. The second in the series, Dead Lucky, is due for publication before Christmas 2015, and I will shortly start work on Book Three.

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DCI Michael Lambert thought he’d closed his last case…

Yet when he’s passed a file detailing a particularly gruesome murder, Michael knows that this is no ordinary killer at work.

The removal of the victim’s eyes and the Latin inscription carved into the chest is the chilling calling-card of the ‘soul jacker’: a cold-blooded murderer who struck close to Michael once before, twenty-five years ago.

Now the long-buried case is being re-opened, and Michael is determined to use his inside knowledge to finally bring the killer to justice. But as the body count rises, Michael realises that his own links to the victims could mean that he is next on the killer’s list…

The gripping first novel in a thrilling new crime series by Matt Brolly. Perfect for fans of Tony Parsons, Lee Child and Angela Marsons.

Happy Reading Folks!

September Release Spotlight: The Blissfully Dead Mark Edwards & Louise Voss


Publication Date: 29th September from Thomas and Mercer

Source: Netgalley

She couldn’t believe that he wanted to meet her. He was famous. She was a nobody. Finally, someone could see how special she was…

When the body of a teenage girl is found in a London hotel, DI Patrick Lennon is mystified. Nobody saw her or her killer enter the hotel, and there is no apparent motive—until a second teenager is found and Lennon realises somebody is targeting fans of the world’s biggest boy band.

As Lennon struggles with both his home life and his rivals on the force, the pressure to catch the killer before he strikes again reaches fever pitch. And when Lennon makes a terrible mistake that ends in disaster, he finds himself in a race to save not only the lives of more teenage girls but also his own career.

The Blissfully Dead is a truly terrific read. Not that I was expecting anything less from the dynamic duo of crime writing Edwards and Voss but still..truly terrific.

So two things – firstly the concepts explored in this, the second novel to feature DI Lennon, are timely and relevant and have the trademark creepy vibe that comes over in all the books. A famous band,  their fans and someone who really doesnt appear to LIKE said fans. Social media comes into play, themes of obsession and online drama (we all have online drama) and this story of our modern times has an amazing level of authenticity about it.

Secondly DI Lennon himself is probably one of the more original detectives flitting about in the wonderful world of crime fiction right now (and I do love my crime fiction) In The Blissfully Dead he is facing down some demons of his own, but they are most certainly HIS and not an amalgamation of every other detective you’ve read about ever. This I like. It just makes things so much more interesting and creates in Lennon a truly fascinating character that you feel you ACTUALLY need to get to know. On that note lets hope for more books in this particular series. Yes I am glaring at the two people responsible…

The mystery element is also brilliantly done. Twists and turns all the way whilst never losing focus on the point of it all. A disturbing look at the darker side of the entertainment industry and an even more disturbing wake up call about the dangers teenagers can face in the sometimes seemingly passive world of social media. The depth of perception in the writing makes it incredibly relateable as  to the issues raised and the two authors pull off that not always easy feat of balancing observation and social commentary with high levels of entertainment.

The thing about the Edwards/Voss partnership is that all their novels are so eminently readable whilst still having that depth of emotional resonance that keeps you going back for more and never being sure what you might get – apart, of course, from a stonking good read.

I’m a fan.

I’ve stalked Mark and Louise (in a relevant way to their latest novel of course rather than in a Kathy Bates type fashion) and have persuaded them to answer some questions for me – which they will as soon as I come up with them after the read has settled for me. So look out on the blog after release date for that – something to look foward to as this pair are great fun to hear from.

In the meantime…

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Happy Reading Folks!



The Girl In The Road by Monica Byrne. Blog Tour Review.


Publication Date: Available Now from Blackfriars.

Source: Publisher Review Copy

Meena, a young woman living in a futuristic Mumbai, wakes up with five snake bites on her chest. She doesn’t know how or why, but she must flee India and return to Ethiopia, the place of her birth. Having long heard about The Trail — an energy-harvesting bridge that spans the Arabian Sea — she embarks on foot on this forbidden bridge, with its own subculture and rules. What awaits her in Ethiopia is unclear; she’s hoping the journey will illuminate it for her.

Mariama, a girl from a different time, is on a quest of her own. After witnessing her mother’s rape, she joins up with a caravan of strangers heading across Saharan Africa. She meets Yemaya, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who becomes her protector and confidante. Yemaya tells Mariama of Ethiopia, where revolution is brewing and life will be better. Mariama hopes against hope that it offers much more than Yemaya ever promised.

As one heads east and the other west, Meena and Mariama’s fates will entwine in ways that are profoundly moving and shocking to the core.

The Girl in the Road was an interesting one for me. I’ll admit that I didn’t really “get it” whilst still being caught up in the language and the cultural imagery that the author brings to the story.

We have two times, two locations, two women, both on a journey of discovery. One across land and one across the floating road (which was an imaginative and well executed concept that was highly engaging). Apart from that I really don’t know what to say about the plot. It kind of has that inner  turmoil/inner monologue/descriptive prose that defies explanation but still gets you to where you need to  go.

There were several things I loved about it – Monica Byrne has written something different, created a future that itself could not be called any one thing – it just is what it is. For a lot of the read I wasn’t entirely sure where it was going (there is a lot of introspection and unreliable narrator vibe going on) but I was still somehow sucked into it – this was one that I kept re-reading little bits of, sometimes to clarify in my own head and sometimes just because of the author’s way with words.

Violence against women is explored here, sometimes a little too much so (although again I’m not really sure I  grasped what the author was trying to achieve) and the world is a mish mash of cultural identity, gender, sexuality and attitudes. The way the two stories are linked was cleverly woven into the whole  – this is fantasy and reality colliding somewhere in the middle and as such was an intriguing concept.

I think perhaps for me it was a little too convoluted when looked at as an entire first page to last read – there were portions of it that were stunning, shocking and emotionally resonant but they were mixed up in some almost mundane meandering points in time that I felt I wasn’t really getting.

Overall though this is a book that is meant to be read – one of those that everyone will take something different from, a book that will divide opinion and generate discussion – in THAT sense it works on all levels. I’m not sure I enjoyed it because enjoyed is not the right word – I admired it and had an interesting time reading it. Monica Byrne has attempted something very different and for that alone I’d recommend picking it up, the underlying messages are there for the taking and in the meantime you’ll get a vivid, imaginative and often heart wrenching tale which I can’t really tell you what you’ll do with.


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New Release Spotlight. Asking For It by Louise O’Neill.


Publication Date: 3rd Sept 2015 from Quercus

Source: Review copy (after which I bought a shiny hardback signed copy. Had to be done)

It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.

The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does.

Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes…

Where to start…

Asking For It will hit you hard in emotional places you didn’t even know you had. Louise O’Neill has some stark truths to put in front of us and boy does she do that without giving you ANY room to wriggle away or hide from them. This book SHOULD, assuming you are a human being, make you mad as all hell. Because sadly every single little bit of the story could be, has been and will be something that happens. Happened. Will happen again…unless we change an awful lot of attitudes.

We’ve all heard the term “Asking For It” right? And if you are honest you may have even thought about it in passing if observing an obviously drunk girl  on the street especially if she is wearing something that dares to show a bit of skin. You don’t really MEAN it, but the thought or something similar may flit around in your subconcious. The problem being of course, not that you as a person are particularly horrible or unfeeling – but that this is the pervading attitude in our society that is ingrained at a very basic level and is taking WAY too long to disappear.

If you are going to take this issue and write a book that counts you are going to have to have an AMAZING amount of talent. Because anyone with any writing ability could have written the plot but not many writers would have the ability to make you feel it RIGHT IN YOUR GUT.

Not many writers would have had the audacity to create a character who is extraordinarily unlikeable, a “mean girl”, popular and unrelentingly selfish, have this horrible thing happen to her whilst she is incapable, through her own actions, of making considered decisions and then expect the reader to accept that it’s not her fault. BECAUSE IT IS NOT HER FAULT. You’ll get there. This author is not going to let you end up anywhere else…

It’s all in that deft touch you see. Telling the truth can be hard – when you are reading one of Ms O’Neill’s novels it is unrelenting, that scalpel that she writes with will cut deep and draw emotional blood. We meet Emma and her friends and the crowd they run with, we meet her Mother who has very firm idea’s of how a girl should look and how she should conduct herself – and her father who adores his little “princess”. Everyone loves Emma. Until she falls off her pedestal…

Following along for a year after the “event” we see the impact of social media, some very differing attitudes, we see inside Emma’s head and it is compelling, emotionally raw and absolutely authentic. She spirals, we spiral, heading towards an ending that is so brutally realistic that it will take your breath away.  Louise O’Neill makes every word count. You won’t be able to look away but boy will you want to, will you want to hide under that duvet and pretend that the world is not actually this way, it can’t POSSIBLY be, we are enlightened this is 2015 after all.

Women are equal. If we want to drink as men do we can, no judgement. Right?

If we want to wear short skirts, high heels, flirt with the guys, give them a smile, that’s ok. Right?

Issues of consent. Issues of personal responsibility. Is there a line? Where is it?

The author asks these hard questions. Except really, as she gets across, they shouldn’t be hard questions at ALL. But it seems, in our world today, there are still those who question, when a sexual assault occurs, when a rape occurs, whether or not the victim may have been “Asking For It”.

This is some of the most brilliantly insightful writing I have come across. Ever. This should be on the national curriculum. I have no doubt that it will still be read in 100 years – HOPEFULLY as an insight for future generations into how we USED to be back when we were still learning.

One of the toughest reads of my life. As it should be.

Please read it.

They are all innocent until proven guilty. Not me, I am a liar until I am proven honest.




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Liz Currently Loves…Mockingbird Songs by R J Ellory


Publication Date: Available Now from Orion

Source: Goodreads Giveaway

Prison changes a man. Sometimes in ways you can see. Usually in ways you can’t.

The only reason Henry Quinn survived three years inside was because of Evan Riggs, a one-time country singer, one-time killer, now serving a life sentence. No parole. On the day he gets out, Henry promises Evan he will find his daughter, the daughter he never met, and deliver a letter.

A free man, Henry heads to the small Texan town where Evan grew up and where his brother Carson now resides as sheriff. There’s no sign of the girl and her uncle claims to know nothing of her whereabouts. But Henry isn’t about to give up. He made a promise and, no matter what, he’s going to find Evan’s daughter.

As Carson’s behaviour towards him becomes ever more threatening, Henry realises that there are dark secrets buried at the heart of this quiet town. What terrible thing drove the brothers apart and what happened to the missing girl?

So another atmospheric, unrelenting but also gently flowing read from the pen of one of my favourite authors – another book from him that I just sat down and devoured. Honestly if ever there were books that should come with chocolate, it’s ones written by R J Ellory.

In Mockingbird Songs there is a definite correlation between the writing and the music – in fact the giveaway came with music attached in the form of Low Country and I’m almost as in love with those songs as I am with the book so atmospherically speaking this was a terrific overall experience for me.

On a more traditional book review note – the story was emotionally raw and very addictive, taking as it does the heart of a disturbing sibling relationship, adding in small town politics and power struggles and giving us a main protagonist in Henry that can view all this initially from a distance and take us with him into to the soul of the narrative.

As we jump between past and present, as Henry remains ever determined to deliver a letter he has been trusted with, the story unfolds at a pitch perfect pace, the characters grow and become real and there is a level of authenticity here that not many authors can pull off, no not many at all. Here is one of them.

The writing is beautiful and as always has a sharp literary edge – you really do just sink into that time and place and live every moment.  A snapshot of a different era, true noir written with a modern eye for detail – there is so much to love here I can’t even think how to describe it all so I won’t try I’ll just say Yep.

As never fails to happen I was an emotional wet heap by the time I got to the end – as I said recently to someone who will recognise themselves should they read this review – I prefer the soul shredders. This was one of those. Again.

Whilst “Candlemoth” I think will always remain my favourite Ellory novel for reasons that are purely personal, I would put Mockingbird Songs up there as another I shall return to several times. It just had that “something” – I think it was probably Henry if I’m honest – that means it will stay with me. Genuinely character driven, intriguing and always taking you inexorably towards a conclusion that hits hard for any number of reasons – this is another author I have made a lifetime commitment to.

Highly Recommended.

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