The Spell of the Horse. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: 18th Sept from Blackbird Digital

The ability of the horse to sense emotion, energy and spirit is way beyond what most of the human world realises. A must-read for those wishing to understand the spiritual connection between horses and humans.

When Pam’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she began to notice the way her horse responded to her emotional turmoil. Thus began an exploration into the spiritual relationship between horses and humans and their infinite capacity to help us heal. Building on her remarkable discoveries, Pam began her pioneering work as a horse-led coach and therapist. By sharing her own path to redemption through personal tragedy, and other stories of healing inspired by the incredible interactions she has observed between horse and human, Pam puts forward her uplifting insights about the true nature of the horse, setting out some simple principles to help the reader transcend life’s challenges. 

So a little bit of a departure for me today – I’ve been trying to read more non fiction, so I was pleased to be part of the blog tour for The Spell of the Horse  – It is a well written memoir which has a lot of elements of  self help, focusing on the emotional relationship between Horses and Humans – how they sense our turmoil and how we can learn a lot about how to handle our emotional state. How the author came to discover this during a horrible time and built on that to help others.

Now I used to be around horses a lot when I was younger but fell out of that as I grew up – so it was an interesting read for me as someone who would not really have any insight. Pam Billinge writes with a wonderful beauty, I found myself entirely fascinated at the way her feelings impacted on the behaviour of her horse – her descriptive sense of her own emotions during a time of grief and loss created a palpable sense of melancholy – with ultimately uplifting resonance.

I think for anyone who is suffering emotional turmoil this would be a useful read, it is said that taking care of an animal is good for sufferers of anxiety, this kind of ties into that but with a lot more depth and of course focusing on horses as the spiritual healers. Overall a very very interesting read.

Recommended if you are a fan of self help memoirs and stories about overcoming life’s curveballs, especially if you are already a lover of horses.


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Glass Houses Louise Penny : Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Sphere

Source: Review Copy

One cold November day, a mysterious figure appears on the village green in Three Pines, causing unease, alarm and confusion among everyone who sees it. Chief Superintendent, Armand Gamache knows something is seriously wrong, but all he can do is watch and wait, hoping his worst fears are not realised. But when the figure disappears and a dead body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to investigate.

In the early days of the murder inquiry, and months later, as the trial for the accused begins, Gamache must face the consequences of his decisions, and his actions, from which there is no going back . . .

Gripping, surprising and powerful, Glass Houses is the new ingenious and illuminating novel from number one bestseller, Louise Penny, which will leave you spellbound until the final page. 

This is actually my first read of Louise Penny (won’t be my last, my book halo is slipping) and I enjoyed it thoroughly, mostly for the scene setting and the absolutely gorgeous descriptive prose. I will say I feel I may have been even more engaged with it had I read previous novels in the series – that is not to say you can’t read this in isolation you can – however I am now going to go back and read a selection of the others.

This book opens with high intrigue as Gamache is on the stand answering questions about a previous murder. This really set the scene beautifully and made me immediately want to know what had happened. The setting of “Three Pines” has obviously been embedded in during earlier stories, but I loved the sense that the author brought to the surroundings and the small town quirky vibe. Jumping between there and Montreal the drama unfolds in a very powerful way, this was a book I read fast and got completely immersed in.

I’m actually glad in a way that I have only just come to these – the mystery elements are clever, the writing is intuitively captivating, I can see why there is a huge fanbase for the Gamache series and I think I will shortly be joining it – and we all know that little jump of joy inside when we discover a new series and realise we have a whole lot to look forward to. Sometimes it is good to be late to the party…

Highly Recommended (But maybe start at the start?)


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Genuine Fraud E Lockhart – Author Interview and Review.

Today I am VERY happy to welcome E Lockhart to Liz Loves Books, telling me a little about the brilliant Genuine Fraud – available now from Hot Key Books. A little review from me follows, but if you are a fan of engaging and clever psychological thrillers this one will definitely be for you.

I’ve just finished reading “Genuine Fraud” which I devoured in two sittings, it definitely engaged me on more than one level – I know you took inspiration from the Ripley tales – but what attracted you first to writing a non linear narrative?


Thank you.  I was inspired by Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley more than by her other Ripley novels.  I was interested in the making of an antihero.  I also referenced superhero origin stories and Victorian orphan novels like Vanity Fair and Great Expectations  — all stories of class mobility and compromises both moral and emotional.  I wanted to tell an antihero story that ended with the reader feeling very connected to the central character.  After you know all that Jule has done — you see her at her youngest and most innocent.  That was a big reason to tell the story  backwards.


The enigmatic “Jule” never really shows us her true self, or does she? What do you think?


The novel is in third person, and the narration is tricky, but not unreliable.  There are no untrue sentences anywhere in the book.   And to answer your question about Jule — I’m not sure anyone has a true self.  It’s a very slippery thing, the self.


 When plotting “Genuine Fraud” did the story come to you in reverse or did you work beginning to end and then write it in the way that you did – I suppose this ties back to the first question in some ways, maybe the attraction to the non linear came after the story was fully formed for you.


I love to play with narrative structures.  In my earlier books, which were comedies, I did this a lot.  A book structured like a list, or with footnotes.  My last novel, We Were Liars, has a structure of two intersecting timelines intercut with fairy tales that are outside the main narrative but which still move it along.  Challenging myself with a structure is like setting myself to solve a puzzle.


It is a very different tale to “Liars” which was hugely popular for good reason, is it your aim to try and write different things every time, try and stay out of any particular comfort zone?


To me, We Were Liars and Genuine Fraud are both psychological thrillers about  class differences and intense friendships.  Both books  also have central female characters who are labelled “difficult” and both have  playful narrative structures and twisty plots.   But Liars is quite romantic, whereas Genuine Fraud is quite violent.  I like to shake things up and still satisfy my readers.


What do you hope readers are feeling at the end, how do you think you would respond to it if you were reading it as a pure reader?


I hope people will feel exhilerated and that they’ll want to read it a second time  and talk it over with their friends.  It’s a good book to argue about, I think.


Finally a question I ask everyone – is there a novel you have read this year that you would like to recommend to everyone?


Bone Gap by Laura Ruby is a cross-genre thriller that’s gorgeously written and very gripping. It won the Printz Award here in the US.  I think you’ll love it.


Thank you so much! And for the book which I loved very much.


Thank you for the fun questions and for featuring me on your blog.  xoE


About the Book: 

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete. 
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. 
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. 
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

My Review: 

I read this in just over 2.5 hours because I couldn’t put it down. Told in reverse, taking masses of inspiration from The Talented Mr Ripley but with a female main protagonist, Genuine Fraud was a huge page turner.

It did, in substance, feel like a homage to Ripley and to Highsmith, the author captures you with her beautiful descriptive prose, rich and layered settings and hugely divisive characters. By the end of it you know everything, yet you know nothing. This is a book that demands a second reading.

It won’t be for everyone and it is nothing like Liars, but for me it worked extraordinarily well and I have been caught up in it all day. I like the backwards story telling, like Megan Miranda’s “All The Missing Girls” a book I would also recommend if you enjoy this, it captured my senses, beginning at the ending and ending at the beginning – each little gem of a timeline giving you that bit more but also taking away, messing with your perception leaving you to work out what you believe.

Yes I’m a fan of books like these. I hope more authors try their hand at this non linear storytelling and hone the craft until I’m genuinely upside down. Genuine Fraud is both Ripley and not Ripley, a beautifully formed novel that yeah, definitely won’t be for everyone.

But it was for me.

Highly Recommended.

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Recommended Read This Week: Did You See Melody? Sophie Hannah.

Publication Date: Available Now from Hodder and Staughton

Source: Review Copy

Pushed to the breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied – by a man and a teenage girl.

A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.

Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?

So I’m going to be taking one book out of my well loved previous or recent/early advanced reads that I have loved and recommending it each week – these novels will always be available now and may be old, new or somewhere in between the two.

This week I’m going with “Did You See Melody?” the latest twisted thriller from Sophie Hannah – I read this a  few months ago but it is now out there in the world and if you are a fan of the hard to see resolutions and the twisted path to the truth of the matter then you could pick up almost any Sophie Hannah novel to be fair, but Did You See Melody was definitely, for me, one of the most addictive.

This story follows Cara, who has (rather childishly I felt but that somehow made it all the more compelling that she ended up stuck in an enigma wrapped up in a mystery) run away from home. Wanting peace and quiet and time to think, she ends up at a relaxing resort. A mix up on the first night finds her in the wrong hotel room and seeing people who don’t want to be seen – but was the girl she saw REALLY the supposedly murdered Melody Capa or just someone who has a remarkable resemblance to said girl. Should Cara say what she has seen? Oh what to do…

As usual Sophie Hannah peppers her cast with a diverse range of characters, often hard to like ones, then mixes them all up, making everyone seem suspicious at one point or another, draws out the background to tell you everything you need to know but then blindsides you with something you didn’t think about. It is clever writing, I mostly love how I spend the entire time trying to second guess the author, who never ever makes things easy for me.

Added to that of course is the sheer vitality of it – once started pretty much not put down – I devoured this one in two quickfire, immersive sittings, predicting some things and absolutely not predicting others.  As usual Ms Hannah explores some dark themes but makes it just as entertaining as it is thought provoking and makes it almost impossible to second guess. Obviously occasionally you need a slight suspension of disbelief during but then when it all comes together in her  Christie-esque way, you go AH THAT is what that was all about – and give a nod to the genius thinking.

With the poetic prose and intrepid plot construction that is her trademark, Sophie Hannah gives us yet another twist fueled, character driven, intensely intriguing psychological thriller and I will continue reading them as long as she continues writing them. Bring on the next challenge, I anticipate it eagerly.


Recommended for: Fans of psychological thrillers with twists you are actually unlikely to see coming.

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20 Questions For….Matt Bendoris

Wicked Leaks comes out in the US today and to celebrate that fact I threw my 20 questions at the wonderfully creative Matt Bendoris. Wicked Leaks is a positively brilliant book – one which I shall be reviewing very soon but at the moment illness prevents my words making too much sense – so instead you could check out this spot on review from the indomitable Gordon at Grab This Book. 


SO Wicked Leaks – what’s that all about then…

A night nurse who sits with terminal patients. One claims he was involved in the assassination of Princess Diana. And he’s got the proof – the white Fiat Uno is in his garage. Or at least it was…

You are a journalist (am I supposed to shout BOOOOO at this stage?) – what do you mainly report on/write about and is it worth buying your paper for?

I’ve been a features writer for 25 years and I love it. I do a lot of light showbiz nonsense but also quite a lot of politics as it’s almost the new showbiz these days. I spent the whole day and night with Alex Salmond during the Scottish referendum, so it leads to some incredible experiences, most of which end up in my books

Favourite kind of cheese.


DM for Murder was a book I loved VERY much but I don’t know why. Do you know why?

Because I murder “Piers Morgan”?

That is possibly it…

If you are stuck on a desert island with 4 really random famous people which random famous people would you choose and why?

Ben Elton – possibly my favourite author as I love his satire and social commentary. Alex Salmond – regardless of politics he’s a highly entertaining person and I enjoy his company immensely. The Krankies – my first book was ghost writing their 2004 autobiography Fan-Dabi-Dozi. They have both become good friends and are about the funniest people I know. Diana Gabaldon – the Outlander author is not only one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, but she’s great company. She’s also been very kind and generous to me as an author.

Do you do your best work during the day or in the dark depths of the night?

Morning. The 9.05 Croy to Queen Street train. Just a 15 minute journey but without it – and the many ScotRail delays and cancellations – I wouldn’t be onto my 4th novel.

One piece of technology you couldn’t live without

Originally my BlackBerry. I typed my first crime novel Killing With Confidence on it. I could tap the hell out of its tiny keyboard. The iPhone replacement has been a pain in the ass.

How many other authors make you jealous – in fact whose work would you steal and pass off as your own if you could get away with it.

The aforementioned Ben Elton and Chart Throb or Dead Famous I’d happily claim as my own. But I think anyone doing it professionally, really. I’m not really jealous, I’d just like to doth my cap to them all. You’re doing it. Living the dream. Just remember to be kind to those further down the food chain!

What are you writing now and why haven’t I read it already?

Rollover And Die – the murder of a Euromillions winner on a tough Glasgow housing estate. Coming your way soon, Liz

Most embarrassing moment of your life so far.

Wow good question. There’s so many to choose from. But I’ll go for one of the earliest memories…I was part of a childrens’ circus – true story. We were on the 80s ITV kids’ show Get Fresh with Gaz Top and some lassie I can’t remember. Backstage during rehearsals at George Square in Glasgow I’m doing bunny hops on my unicycle – showing off – when my pedal broke and I ended up in an undignified heap in front of the other guests Mick Hucknall and Muriel Grey. Thankfully we never met again.

Is there anything that makes you sob like a baby?

? My daughter’s end of year show.

Tell me why readers should read Wicked Leaks in 10 words or less..

Princess Diana. Explosions. Betrayal. Bit of how’s your father.

Now do that again for the US audience.

Booms. Betrayal. Banging.

Who would you call to help you bury the body and why?

Diana Gabaldon. If anyone could get away with it, she could!

One piece of music that you turn to in times of stress

Rumours – the whole album

One thing that irrationally irritates you when reading

Filler chapters. Can spot them a mile away.

One thing that irrationally irritates you in life

. Jamie Oliver.

What was for breakfast this morning?

Porridge, of course

One person in your life who inspires you

Sir Andy Murray. Has never settled for this typical British glorious loser shit. Great guy to interview as well, when you can get near him.

How much do you hate me right now?

Not at all. Great questions. You’re the best!

Thanks Matt! 

About the Book:

Assigned to care for a terminally-ill patient who claims to have killed Princess Diana, nurse Kelly Carter dismisses him as nothing more than a delusional fantasist. But Monahan has proof, and directs Kelly to an abandoned garage, where she discovers a beaten-up white Fiat Uno with French license plates matching the description of the vehicle that has eluded the British and French authorities for decades. When the garage goes up in flames minutes after her visit, Kelly realizes that she’s involved in something more dangerous than just caring for a patient.

Meanwhile, mismatched journalists April Lavender and Connor Presley are involved in the investigation of a shadowy website leaking nasty government secrets on a daily basis. When threatens to reveal the truth about Diana’s death, April and Connor begin to investigate in hopes of finding their next front-page story. After two deadly explosions lead them right to Kelly, all three set out to uncover the truth surrounding the death of the beloved princess–before Kelly becomes the next victim in a deadly cover-up that goes all the way up to England’s MI5.

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Latest Reads: The Eternity War: Pariah Jamie Sawyer.

Publication Date: September 26th From Orbit

Source: Review Copy

The first novel in a brand-new series from rising SF star Jamie Sawyer, The Eternity War: Pariah is an action-packed adventure set in the same universe as his acclaimed Lazarus War novels. 

The soldiers of the Simulant Operations Programme are mankind’s elite warriors. Veterans of a thousand battles across a hundred worlds, they undertake suicidal missions to protect humanity from the insidious Krell Empire and the mysterious machine race known as the Shard. 

Lieutenant Keira Jenkins is an experienced simulant operative and leader of the Jackals, a team of raw recruits keen to taste battle. They soon get their chance when the Black Spiral terrorist network seizes control of a space station.

Yet no amount of training could have prepared the Jackals for the deadly conspiracy they soon find themselves drawn into – a conspiracy that is set to spark a furious new war across the galaxy. 

This was my first foray into the writing of Jamie Sawyer – I have not (yet) read The Lazarus War trilogy (but now have them ordered and on the way) – and seriously it was banging brilliant all the way through, a beautifully epic feeling action adventure with a wonderful touch of geeky speculative technology and characters to die for. Over and over again….

The story is absolutely stunningly gripping, with spaceships and aliens and simulants and death and more death then some epic battles followed by some contemplation and just a *touch* of romance that isn’t at all romantic. I loved the Jackals – one of the huge strengths of Pariah (apart from the actual Pariah of the title which I won’t talk about in case of spoilers) was the slow burn team building, this diverse and eclectic group who should be working together but have not yet developed that trust – from the convict to the politicians daughter they are all completely fascinating. Keira is a long suffering leader, a woman who knows her own mind (and doesn’t need validation from anyone) – perhaps a little impulsive but seriously I think you need to be when you are shooting around the galaxy often not even in your own body. You’d think there wouldn’t be edge of seat trauma worry for the characters you fall in love with when even in death they get another go round but think again.

The underlying plot is complex and beautifully layered – secrets and possible conspiracies abound and the world building is elegantly achieved. This trilogy is set in the same world as the last one but you needn’t fear you will miss the subtleties, it is accessible for both previous readers and new ones like me. In fact I can’t wait to read the Lazarus War so I can meet some more of Jamie Sawyer’s brilliantly imagined characters and, well presumably, see the last big thing this universe was caught up in.

Ooh which brings me nicely onto the ending of Pariah which made me grit my teeth in anticipation of book 2 – in fact if only I could do some kind of space jump that kills some time and lands me right when it’s ready to go that would be cool. What only in books and films? Dammit somebody really should get onto that one..

Consider me converted to the cause. massive amounts of fun, warp speed ahead (or whatever, hey I grew up with Star Trek) a brilliant, entertaining, full of  soul piece of science fiction  with a spoonful of shiver and a huge helping of heart.

Highly Recommended fellow Jackals.

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Latest Reads: Freefall Adam Hamdy.

Publication Date: 2nd November from Headline

Source: Review Copy

Eight months after confronting Pendulum, John Wallace is losing himself in a dangerous warzone in a misguided attempt at penance for what he has done. But an assassination attempt makes Wallace realise that he has once again been targeted for death. This time, Wallace is prepared and, tracking down his would-be assassin, he discovers a link to his nemesis, Pendulum.

The link is the missing piece of a puzzle that has tormented FBI Agent Christine Ash ever since they confronted Pendulum, but with no Bureau support she has been unable to progress her case. Wallace’s proof breaks it, but also exposes them both to terrible danger.

Confronted by a powerful, hidden enemy, Ash and Wallace must overcome impossible odds if they are to avert a dangerous challenge to the networked world that threatens to destroy our way of life.

Anyone that remembers how excitable and shrieky my good friend Kate of Bibliophile Book Club and I got over the first in this series, the gloriously entertaining Pendulum, will know that anticipation for the sequel, Freefall was high. As were expectations. No pressure then Mr Hamdy.

Freefall turned out to be a banging good read, like Pendulum but better, picking up from where that left off we find Wallace in a war zone in an attempt to make some random amends, Ash fighting the force of an employer that doesn’t believe her conspiracy claims and Bailey wondering where the heck his equilibrium went in the aftermath of being badly injured. Sadly for them, happily for the reader, supporters of Pendulum’s nefarious doings have more mayhem in store for our intrepid trio, the challenges that face them here are as likely to  pull them apart as they are to bring them closer together.

This trilogy, in its first two instances, are what I call intelligent thrillers. The action is all consuming and relentless but the story running through the thrill ride is thought provoking and multi-layered. Conspiracies abound and it is true that you can trust no-one, unexpected allies and sudden betrayals lurk around every corner. The writing is taut, exciting and incredibly hypnotic – the kind of beautifully written descriptive scenes and absolutely riveting character drama that meld together to produce a right old page turner. Any random worries I may have had that this book 2 would suffer “mid trilogy terrible syndrome” went out the window with the first chapter. (I didn’t actually throw the chapter out of the window, just the worries)

I’m a bit difficult to please  when it comes to my thriller reading to be honest. If all you have is all talk and no action I get irritated. If all you have is no talk and all action I get equally irritated. Yes I know but for me the best thriller writers seamlessly sew together heart stopping action sequences with deeply intriguing characters and a proper, well rounded plot that doesn’t expect insane suspension of disbelief levels – Adam Hamdy walks that line pitch perfectly, making both Pendulum and Freefall an accessible delightful read for crime and thriller fans of all levels.

I’m a fan. I know Kate loved this too as well. I suspect more Kermit the Frog gifs will be peppering out Twitter feeds nearer to the release of Freefall – and if you haven’t yet read Pendulum well you’ve got a bit of time. Because I’m nice like that. Due notice given thriller fans! Read in order is my advice.

Highly Recommended. And then some.

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House Of Spines Michael J Malone. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now: Kindle 15th September Paperback from Orenda

Source: Review Copy

Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who it seems has been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, it seems Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word—the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror . . . the reflection of a woman.

House Of Spines is a brilliantly creepy and extraordinarily readable (translation: I had another late night) psychological gothic thriller, strongly character driven and with added shiver.

Definitely with added shiver!

The tension in this book is palpable – an inheritance, a seemingly easy task, but something is not quite right and soon our main protagonist is caught up in his very own ghost story. He is not exactly mentally stable, for the reader the house comes alive on the page and as we head further into the tale you’ll be glancing over your shoulder, jumping at shadows and randomly shrieking when you catch sight of your reflection in the window. Just me? Well ok then but still..fair warning. The odd off kilter feelings build and build from first page to last, it is incredibly immersive.

House of Spines is like a gothic “ghost” story of old, beautifully written, beautifully plotted, intensely creepy practically straight from the start – themes of mental health and personality  with a gorgeous hit of modern unreliable narrator, all wrapped up in a bow and delivered to the reader with class and style. Michael J Malone is going through a bit of a literary awakening with both this, and his previous novel A Suitable Lie, I must say I’m loving that very much and can’t wait to see what comes next.

Although you’ll have to give me time to get over this one first. I really engaged with Ran, and with the house and with the whole thing. Utterly absorbing, never less than eerily fascinating, House Of Spines hits the sweet spot in terms of both storytelling and emotional resonance – and with the added bookish theme, it really is a perfect storm.

Highly Recommended.

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Ngaio Marsh Awards finalists: Best Crime Novel.



Today I’m very happy to welcome the five finalists for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, announced last month, to talk a little more about their finalist books.

The Ngaio Marsh Awards are New Zealand’s literary prizes for crime, mystery, and thriller writing. Last year’s winner, Trust No One by Paul Cleave, was released in the UK this summer. This year’s winners will be revealed next month in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Detectives Bobby Ress and Pollo Latu are put to the test when someone starts martyring Dunedin priests in the most medieval of ways. The international judging panel called this book “a brutal page-turner with compelling characters that takes a deep-dive into the psychological and a captivating examination of urban and countryside settings”.

Purchase Pancake Money: 

What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

In my day job (prior to writing) I’ve worked in night shelters, charities, hospitals and prisons. Over the years people have told me absolutely amazing things, spanning the human condition from wondrous to grotesque. After a while some of those things started following me home – writing became a way of making sense of it. Eventually that writing coalesced into my first two books (Dead Lemons and Pancake Money) which I originally wrote as one too big, overly complex story but then separated out into two much more sane looking books. When I started I didn’t have a clear intention or plan to publish. So I couldn’t say the books had a clear inspiration or goal. I just wrote. Because I liked doing it, the process helped me. I didn’t really think much about the end result or what to do with it. The books as they are really just sort of came out. It happened without thinking (and knowing the quality of most of my thinking that’s probably a good thing).

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Awards finalist?

Not real at all. The day it was announced I must have checked and rechecked the list five times. I even went back later in the evening and checked again, just to be sure nothing changed. There are some good, good books on the short list. I keep thinking at some point someone is going come tap me on the shoulder and explain that there’s been some kind of mistake.


A man suffering memory loss, a grieving daughter, and disgraced cop all have their lives upturned as they’re plunged into a global conspiracy. “Intriguing characters, twists that keep you guessing, and at heart a complex tale of betrayal and deception – a brilliant page-turner,” said the judges.

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What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

The inspiration behind Spare Me The Truth was reading an article by the Telegraph’s science correspondent Richard Gray, who stated, “Researchers have found they can use drugs to wipe away single, specific memories while leaving other memories intact”. I wanted to explore the ramifications of such an amnesia drug, the downsides being that it could be taken on a whim, say, after a relationship breakup, but the upside could potentially help a severely traumatised victim of crime or war to return to a relatively normal life. All this got my creative synapses firing. What if someone had been administered the drug and couldn’t remember? Why was it done? What if everyone knew about it except the protagonist? I love, “what ifs”. They’re my staple diet.

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Awards finalist?

I keep pinching myself. Being explicitly recognised for what I do feels fantastic. I also feel very moved, because it was my Wellington-born father who introduced me to Ngaio Marsh’s writing when I was a teen. We read all of her books, and if Dad knew I’d been finalised for this award, he would just about burst with pride.


Private eye Johnny Molloy and reporter Caitlin O’Carolan get entangled in deadly agendas and union politics as the 1951 waterfront dispute rages. Said the judges: “Cullinane’s characters fizz and sparkle in this historical thriller whose cracking dialogue and ceaseless pace make it feel utterly current.”

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What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

I wanted to write a crime novel because: (a) they’re the novels I most enjoy reading; and (b) because like any genre fiction they follow certain rules about plot and atmosphere and characterisation which the better novelists can afford to break but for the first-timer provide a reassuring template. I set Red Herring in 1951 because that was the heyday of hard-boiled fiction so it seemed appropriate – plus the industrial dispute (or lockout or strike, depending on your point-of-view) that closed New Zealand’s ports for 151 days in that year provided such a rich source of material.

There is a photograph in Never a White Flag: The Memoirs of Jock Barnes, Waterfront Leader that shows Barnes, president of the TUC, and a small group of watersiders on the footpath outside the Auckland Town Hall after a stopwork meeting during this period. The men have broad backs and lined faces. They are wearing tweed jackets or coats. A few have ties. Most are wearing hats. Barnes is leaning back, lost in thought. In the middle of the group, George Samways, the top of his short-back-and-sides just visible, is listening intently to the man on his right. Alec Drennan, head cropped on the right of frame, a smoke stuck to his bottom lip, has cauliflower ears and a nose so gloriously broken you could use it for a step-ladder. The men look to be around 40 for the most part (Barnes was 43). All of them would have been through the Depression and at least one world war and they’re still fighting. What would they make of New Zealand now? These were the sort of people I had in mind when I wrote Red Herring.

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Awards finalist?

Thrillers, crime novels, tangled conspiracies, pulp fiction of any kind – Elmore Leonard, Paul Cleave, John Godey, James M. Cain, Eric Ambler etc etc etc – those are the novels I love to read. The Ngaio Marsh Awards were established to recognise the sort of writing, by New Zealanders, that I most enjoy reading, so it is a great feeling to have made the finalists this year and to be part of the wider group.


After his witness protection handler is kidnapped, ex-NYPD undercover cop Marshall Grade decides that offense is the best form of defense, infiltrating his old haunts for answers: “Some of the tautest writing and nastiest characters around, an adrenalin-charged tale where no-one emerges unscathed,” said the judging panel.

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What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

Marshall’s Law had to be a sequel to my previous novel, American Blood, so I knew my anti-hero Marshall would take centre stage. In terms of the setting however, I wanted a complete change: American Blood took place in New Mexico during summer, so I decided Marshall’s Law would be a city novel, playing out in New York during winter. The inspiration for the plot came during a trip to the US in 2014, when my friends and I stopped at a restaurant in Connecticut called the Galaxy Diner. There happened to a big SUV parked outside, and for some reason that image of the car stayed with me—I decided it belonged to a heroin dealer named Henry Lee, and that Marshall was meeting him there to talk about something. But I had to start writing to find out what they needed to discuss.

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Awards finalist?

The Ngaios serve as a great profile-booster for crime writers in New Zealand. I’m thrilled and grateful to be on the shortlist alongside such talented spinners of criminal yarn.


A survivor and a perpetrator of a brutal home invasion seek to come to terms with their altered lives after the news cycle moves on. “Lyrically and sensitively written, a harrowing yet touching story that stays with you; this is brave and sophisticated storytelling,” said the judges.

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What were the inspirations behind your finalist book?

There were a series of high-profile crimes in New Zealand in the 1990s, which captured my attention both for their senseless brutality and the youth of the perpetrators. Long after the news cycles had ended and the stories disappeared from our national consciousness, I found myself still pondering them. One in particular – a brutal home invasion – would leave its imprint. I had questions. How could the victim of an awful crime ever go on to negotiate some sort of meaningful life again? And what had happened in a youngster’s life to set him/her on a path to murder? From the outset I had two voices in my head – that of a victim and a perpetrator. I realised then that I wanted to bear witness to the fuller story of a crime.

How does it feel to be named a Ngaio Marsh Award finalist?

Special indeed! It is endorsement for a story I was anxious but compelled to write. I’m thrilled The Last Time We Spoke has found its way into the light.

You can follow the Ngaio Marsh Awards on Facebook:

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Find out LOTS more as my fellow book reviewers take a little virtual tour around the awards.

Happy Reading!

Latest Reads: Insidious Intent Val McDermid

Publication Date: Available Now from Little Brown

Source: Bought in a bookshop

IInsidious Intent, Tony and Carol are on the hunt for a serial killer who victimizes women at weddings without a date–and forces the duo to confront their most haunting moral dilemma so far.

In the north of England, single women are beginning to disappear from weddings. A pattern soon becomes clear: Someone is crashing the festivities and luring the women away–only to leave the victims’ bodies in their own burned-out cars in remote locations. Tony and Carol are called upon to investigate–but this may be the toughest case they’ve ever had to face. Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Paula McIntyre and her partner Elinor must deal with a cruel cyber-blackmailer targeting their teenage ward, Torin.

It’s that time of year again when there’s a new Val McDermid book out in the world and last Thursday saw me actually rousing myself from my book cave and heading down to my local independent bookshop, where I waited impatiently for them to open so I could lay my hands on a copy. Which I did. Then I read it almost immediately because well, its Val McDermid.  Even more than that it features Carol Jordan and Tony Hill – two characters that are so real to me now that  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to turn on BBC News one day and actually see Carol Jordan giving an interview about her latest collar.

Before I talk Insidious Intent, I’m fairly sure there can’t be THAT many lovers of crime fiction out there that have not at least dipped into this series – but just in case I catch one of you reading this may I highly recommend that you read in order and take a few weeks off work. For me, absolutely one of the best series out there, even though we are now on book 10 each one offers something new, be it in the horrifying realities of the dark depths of human nature, a particular personal crisis for one of our beloved characters, a freshly observed moral dilemma or twist on a mystery that is inordinately difficult to predict.

So Insidious Intent then finds Carol, Tony and the rest with their first  case for the newly formed Remit – a major incident team headed by Carol and featuring her hand picked people. New characters and old friends form the unit, but they soon realise that having the spotlight on them, especially when faced with a difficult case and an intelligent killer, can bring its own pitfalls. Not everyone wants them to succeed – indeed in the aftermath of events from previous novels a fair few would like to see them fall flat on their asses – with Carol still facing down her demons and Tony struggling to continue to prop her up, the scene is set for a right page turner. And a right page turner it was.

Mixing things up with her indomitably twisted (in a creative way obviously) spirit, Val McDermid gives us less of a “whodunnit” and more of a “How the hell are they going to catch him” – we get snippets of the killer’s planning and motivation and from there see how our team are doing.We also have Paula and a parenting problem, my very favourite character outside of Carol and Tony (that would be Stacy Chen) doing lots of fascinating technical stuff and a sharp learning curve for the relationship between our main pair.

One thing I love about this series is the truly authentic sense that is brought to the procedural elements. It is never one thing that solves the case but more a myriad of things and often pure chance – in Insidious Intent it is going to take the talent of every single investigator to get them even within miles. So the story plays out, whilst at the heart of it a moral dilemma for our dynamic duo, in conjunction with a killer of a character (literally and figuratively), builds and builds to a crescendo of a resolution, one that had me genuinely with several paper cuts as I flung page after page over to find out if they would get him. Will they? Well you know what you have to do….

It is the personal touch that makes these books work so well – you feel like you are reading about real people, over the years Val McDermid has created a family. They are the readers family as much as they are hers and each others – therefore now, and for a few books before it at least, you feel every jolt, you devour every heart stopping moment, you live and die with what is happening now in the chapter you are reading. It is clever, involving, brilliantly emotional writing that also encompasses a lot of thought provoking real life issues  – in Insidious Intent yes, but also in every novel written, even those not featuring Carol and Tony – so you are entertained, challenged in your thinking and ultimately hugely satisfied if not a little wrung out. Definitely a little wrung out.

Insidious Intent well, it is just all the brilliant. All the brilliant. I don’t think there’s anything else I can say.

Well, except I’m never eating a sourdough loaf again without taking huge precautionary measures…

What? Well you know what you need to do…

Pure Class.

Highly Recommended.

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Happy Reading!