Latest Reads: Shadow Man Margaret Kirk.

Publication Date: 2nd November from Orion

Source: Review Copy

Two brutal killings rock Inverness, and bring ex-Met Detective Inspector Lukas Mahler the biggest challenge of his career…

The body of the queen of daytime TV, Morven Murray is discovered by her sister, Anna, on the morning of her wedding day. But does Anna know more about the murder than she’s letting on?

Police informant Kevin Ramsay’s murder looks like a gangland-style execution. But what could he have stumbled into that was dangerous enough to get him violently killed?

Mahler has only a couple of weeks to solve both cases while dealing with his mother’s fragile mental health. But caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse, is ex-Met DI Lukas Mahler hunting one killer, or two?

Well written and intriguing debut here from Margaret Kirk  – set in Inverness, one of the main strengths of this novel is that setting and putting it firmly into the minds of the reader, using the character driven narrative to keep things engaging.

Mahler is a police detective I got right on board with. Challenged in some but not all of the usual ways, he is a little like a fish out of water, dealing with two murders and a mother who is mentally unstable. The mystery elements are strongly atmospheric, with a few little twists and turns along the way – the supporting cast all come with their own little foibles and overall this was an extremely steady and confident start to a new police procedural series.

The ending works well both as a conclusion and a continuation, there are some characters other than Mahler that I’m hoping to meet again in book two – I have no problem recommending this and I will absolutely look forward to the next story and revisiting Inverness once more.

Smart and compelling, top notch crime fiction.

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Latest Reads: Anything You Do Say Gillian McAllister

Publication Date: Available Now from Penguin

Source: Review Copy

Joanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly.

But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home. Is she being followed? She is sure it’s him; the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave her alone. Hearing the steps speed up Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps and lying motionless on the floor.

Now Joanna has to do the thing she hates most – make a decision. Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong.

What would you do?

A momentary, impulsive, split second decision and suddenly you have your life and that of another teetering on the edge of the next move you make…

“Anything You Do Say” is a dual narrative, incredibly thought provoking character drama, peppered with realistically flawed people and a moral dilemma at the heart of it that may keep you up at night. Gillian Mcallister pulls no punches with either of the possible outcomes, laying it out for the reader, paring back her characters personalities, decisions, defining moments and taking you down the rabbit hole with Jo into separating possible futures, neither of which necessarily grants absolution.

I do love a book that keeps you feeling edgy and unsure – as both possible realities play out and Jo in either one faces emotional and practical issues that would pressure the most sensible personality – you are waiting for that one defining moment that decides her fate but as in real life a lot of consequences are unpredictable. Jo’s husband was a character that I got randomly snarly about which again is something I love, I had a distinct urge to kick him in the shins in both scenario’s and Jo herself is not entirely likable but she is entirely real.

This novel is clever – just that – in the way it plays with your emotions and your moral judgments – the fact that nobody you meet here could be labelled “bad” but they are all very human with all the many layers that brings, the ending in both possibilities leaves you melancholy but thoughtful. Conceal. Reveal. What WOULD you do?

The world is not black and white.

Doing the wrong thing is not necessarily easy.

Doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily solve anything.

Fight or Flight. Right or Wrong. Make that choice…you only have moments…

An easy “Highly Recommended” tag from me. Entertaining, beautifully plotted, resonating – A moral question with no simple solution…

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Latest Reads: The Tethered Mage Melissa Caruso

Publication Date: 24th Oct from Orbit

Source: Review Copy

In the Raverran Empire, magic is scarce and those born with power are strictly controlled — taken as children and conscripted into the Falcon Army. 
Zaira has lived her life on the streets to avoid this fate, hiding her mage-mark and thieving to survive. But hers is a rare and dangerous magic, one that threatens the entire empire.

Lady Amalia Cornaro was never meant to be a Falconer. Heiress and scholar, she was born into a treacherous world of political machinations.

But fate has bound the heir and the mage. And as war looms on the horizon, a single spark could turn their city into a pyre.

Ooh good this one was. That was my attempt at Yoda again. I’m never any good at it but it’s always worth a try.

So The Tethered Mage is a political thriller. Kind of. I’m glad Theresa May doesn’t have access to falcons.

This book has magical mayhem and behind the scenes shenanigans, a brilliantly imagined world  and two girls bound to each other by fate and fury. Mostly on Zaira’s part the fury. Which is unfortunate as she possesses the ability to burn the world to the ground so a bit like the hulk you really don’t want to make her angry.

What I loved about this one was, well, all of it. Amalia is a beautifully drawn character, born into duty and expected to eventually do great things. Then she ends up becoming a Falconer  through sheer chance and is bound to Zaira, a fire warlock whose power is huge yet lacking in control. To say nobody is that happy about this would be an understatement but with Amalia’s calm intelligence and Zaira’s fast wit and street smarts (also hilarious bouts of sarcasm which keep you smiling) somehow they start building a relationship and trust. Very slowly. Considering there’s the strong possibility a war is about to start they might want to move that along a little…

Gosh I really don’t want to give anything away. The story is strongly character driven, but Melissa Caruso manages to make you see their world in vivid, colourful snapshots. The different empires (or wishful empires) the hierarchy and political landscape all built to perfection through the characters adventures. I loved all of them especially the wickedly dark Lord Ruthven, but what gave the book such huge heart were the relationships between the various people, some trying to start that war some trying to stop it – and especially the growing friendship between our two main protagonists.

The writing is sharp and often ironically funny, sometimes very powerful especially when all hell* (*translation: Zaira) is breaking loose and overall The Tethered Mage is a fantastically readable, incredibly addictive and intelligently plotted fantasy novel, the start of a series that I cannot WAIT to read more of – I loved it, complete and utter escapism of the very best kind. Roll on The Defiant Heir. Can I have it now please?

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Last Will – William McIntyre

Publication Date: November 16th from Sandstone Press

Source: Review Copy

Blood is thicker than water – but it’s not as hard as cash. The trial of Robbie Munro’s life: one month to prove he’s fit to be a father. No problem. Apart, that is, from the small matter of a double-murder in which Robbie’s landlord, Jake Turpie, is implicated. Psycho-Jake demands Robbie’s undivided attention and is prepared to throw money at the defence – along with some decidedly dodgy evidence. 

Robbie has a choice: look after his daughter or look after his client. Can the two be combined to give the best of both worlds? Robbie aims to find out, and his attempts lead him into the alien worlds of high fashion, drug-dealing and civil-litigation. It’s what being a father/lawyer is all about. Isn’t it?

I’m a HUGE fan of this series based on the last couple I’ve read so I was excited enough when I received this prequel through the door to pick it up straight away. Then I read it fast because seriously, these characters are SO engaging you just want to go and live with them…

In Last Will we are finding out how Robbie’s daughter came to live with him – it is funny, intelligent and realistic on the parenting front – at the same time he is embroiled with Jake, a murder and dealing with people’s “help” creating some hilarious situational moments as well as some edge of the seat ones…

What I love about the Best Defence series is the dynamic, edgy and immersive writing, the vividly drawn and full of life characters and the deft plotting that incorporates family drama, legal drama and thriller to an absolutely addictive degree. I love Robbie’s family (especially his ex-footballer brother), his staff (it was great to see Joanne in retrospect knowing what was coming later) and the authors ability to write a totally non annoying and brilliantly authentic child character really puts the icing on the cake.

The mystery element is also excellent – Robbie’s path to the truth is hilariously twisted and keeps the reader guessing. The dialogue sparks, the personal relationships built between our main protagonist and the supporting cast is hugely compelling and overall I really can’t recommend this highly enough.

Loved it. Loved loved. When can I have more?

That is all.


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Sleep No More P D James – Blog Tour Review

Publication Date: Available now from Faber

Source: review copy

As  six murderous tales unfold, the dark motive of revenge is revealed at the heart of each. Bullying schoolmasters receive their comeuppance, unhappy marriages and childhoods are avenged, a murder in the small hours of Christmas Day puts an end to the vicious new lord of the manor, and, from the safety of his nursing home, an octogenarian exerts exquisite retribution.

The punishments inflicted on the guilty are fittingly severe, but here they are meted out by the unseen forces of natural justice rather than the institutions of the law. Once again, P. D. James shows her expert control of the short-story form, conjuring motives and scenarios with complete conviction, and each with a satisfying twist in the tail

Oh I do love a good twisty tale me, of course P D James is the absolute queen of crime and all things dark and dastardly, so  I was MORE than keen to dig into these six short tales of the unexpected. I had a lovely (almost) week of one per evening with a cup of tea and possibly more than one chocolate biscuit..

Spicing things up with multi layered characters, cleverly imagined death scenario’s  and even more cleverly imagined  justice, each tale within this collection is immersive, beautifully written and often more than a little creepy. A natural storyteller, P D James messes with your perception of things and gives good book – my favourite of these was “The Girl who Loved Graveyards” with its gothic undertones and descriptive brilliance – but every story you find here is entirely excellent.

It’s always difficult to review short stories because it would be oh so easy to give things away – so I’m staying quiet and letting you discover these delights for yourselves. It is a dark delight to be sure but ever compelling and incredibly engaging.

Loved them all. For many different reasons.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Bluebird Bluebird Attica Locke

Publication Date: Available now from Serpents Tail

Source: Netgalley

Southern fables usually go the other way around. A white woman is killed or harmed in some way, real or imagined, and then, like the moon follows the sun, a black man ends up dead.


But when it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules – a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.


So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he is drawn to a case in the small town of Lark, where two dead bodies washed up in the bayou. First a black lawyer from Chicago and then, three days later, a local white woman, and it’s stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes – and save himself in the process – before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

Bluebird Bluebird is a novel of true excellence,  in concept, execution, character and incredibly talented writing. It pulls you in from the very first page, tells truth however uncomfortable, leaves you thinking about it for a good few hours afterwards and is one of those books that defies definition.

The plot is complex, intelligent and disturbingly realistic – and described much better than I could do justice to in other reviews (this being my favourite) so I’ll stick to talking about the impact Bluebird Bluebird (taken from the John Lee Hooker song) had on me  –  that was one of quiet contemplation about the realities of life outside my little bubble of work, school runs, reading and an easy, fairly privileged upbringing.

I’m not sure I can get over how vastly emotional the descriptive, beautiful tone of this novel, telling a sad and unfortunately all too authentic story, makes you feel. Darren Matthews, black Texas ranger, facing a range of problems even aside from the causal racism, is a uniquely qualified character to drive the narrative – his experiences, determination, flaws, all form the heart of the story, which is both thriller and thought provoking drama within one vivid and genuine setting.

Attica Locke is an engaging, perceptive writer who immerses you into the world she is talking about with beautifully captivating prose, an unsettling sense of feeling and sparking dialogue – it is yes an entertaining read but also an educational one – oh how far we think we have come as humans but oh so far do we still have to go….

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: Now We Are Dead Stuart MacBride

Publication Date: 2nd November from Harper Collins

Source; Review Copy

From the No. 1 bestselling author of the Logan McRae series, comes a standalone spinoff featuring DS Roberta Steel
Sergeant Roberta Steel has recently been demoted after being caught fitting up a suspect. The trouble is, the man she got sent down has had his sentence quashed now he’s back on the streets. And women are being attacked again. But if DS Steel goes anywhere near him his lawyers will get her thrown off the force for good.

The Powers That Be won’t listen to her not after what happened last time. Besides, she’s got more than enough ongoing cases to keep her busy perhaps she should focus on solving them instead of harassing an innocent man?

But Steel knows he’s guilty and the longer he gets away with it, the more women will suffer. The question is: how much is she willing to sacrifice to stop him?

Is there a single detective anywhere created in fiction who could outdo  Roberta Steel? No is what I say – she is (subjectively) the single most entertaining and cleverly written police protagonist on the block. All the blocks. In my humble opinion anyway – therefore a book from the uber talented Mr MacBride focusing on her was probably the biggest book treat I’ve had this year.

I rocketed through this like a grasshopper on acid, immediately compelling, laugh out loud funny, the dialogue crackles, the plot is both exciting and incredibly immersive, there is actually not a single downside to reading this book. Unless you count eating too much chocolate and being incapable of coherent thought on any other subject until you have finished it. I don’t count that because for me that is what books are supposed to do. Even the lack (apart from a cameo) of one of my other favourite fictional detectives Logan McCrae didn’t put a dent in my enjoyment of this one.

Poor Roberta, she’s been demoted for planting evidence – something that anyone who read the novel where that happened can sympathise with. Still now she’s sorting out stolen goods, dealing with violent loan sharks and still determined to bring down her nemesis  – unfortunately she’s under the spotlight, in danger of losing her job entirely – yeah right, like that is going to stop her. Throw into the mix the incredibly lovable DC Stuart Quirrel, whose attempts to keep up with Roberta and keep her under control create some of the best moments in Now We Are Dead and boy you have a read and a half on your hands. I just loved it. Loved loved loved. And my gosh that last little bit had me quite literally on the edge of my seat – brilliant brilliant finale that I’ll never forget. Just the icing on the top of the most delicious bookish cake.

I have to give a nod to the beautiful little hardback too  – the author’s introduction is fantastic and the end papers provide some hilarious and beautiful drawings which I considered taking pictures of to show y’all but in the end decided that it was best unwrapped like the best looking Christmas gift ever – and I can’t believe I just said the C word considering my hatred of all things festive season – but honestly perfect present material.

All the positive, none of the negative, a banging good read that will engulf you in madness but it is the best madness ever. Bring it on.

Highly Recommended.

Stuart MacBride will be appearing at First Monday Crime November – unmissable. Book your free place HERE.

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Latest Reads: The Perfect Victim Corrie Jackson

Publication Date: 16th November from Bonnier Zaffre

Source: Review Copy

Charlie and Emily Swift are the Instagram-perfect couple: gorgeous, successful and in love. But then Charlie is named as the prime suspect in a gruesome murder and Emily’s world falls apart.

Desperate for answers, she turns to Charlie’s troubled best friend, London Herald journalist, Sophie Kent. Sophie knows police have the wrong man – she trusts Charlie with her life.

Then Charlie flees.

Sophie puts her reputation on the line to clear his name. But as she’s drawn deeper into Charlie and Emily’s unravelling marriage, she realises that there is nothing perfect about the Swifts.

As she begins to question Charlie’s innocence, something happens that blows the investigation – and their friendship – apart.

Now Sophie isn’t just fighting for justice, she’s fighting for her life.

Blimey I think Corrie Jackson may be the new queen of the twist in crime fiction, The Perfect Victim was pure drama and just when you thought you’d grasped the truth you got sent down another dastardly dark alley (figuratively and literally) and just ended up turned around some more. Excellent plotting. Huge brownie points for keeping me guessing for far longer than any other mystery novel this year so far.

I loved the first Sophie Kent book – it was absolute class as is the character – but in The Perfect Victim things are taken up a notch – that touch of glamour remains but through a glass darkly as Sophie struggles not just with her own demons but it seems everyone else’s as well. Her long term friend is suspected of murder, his wife is acting strangely, Sophie herself is trying to come to terms with many things and it is beautifully written HIGHLY addictive and genuinely unpredictable.

There are a lot of books that explore the dark facade beneath the most pitch perfect seeming relationships but I think this one does that better than many – Emily and Charlie seem like a dream couple but what goes on beneath the surface you would never guess. As Sophie struggles to adjust to a new reality, you feel every moment of it, the emotional depth Corrie Jackson brings to her characters is in the top tier of crime writing today and she is only on book 2 so I can’t even begin to imagine where we might end up next. No pressure or anything but I can’t wait for more.

As a fan of crime fiction and series crime fiction in particular I’m always looking for my next must read obsession. Well here is one right here. Hugely talented, I’d say this author is one to watch for the next few years.

Full of heart, darkly disturbing, thought provoking and honestly authentic.

Highly Recommended.

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Bloods Game Angus Donald – Blog Tour Extract.

It is the winter of 1670.

Holcroft Blood has entered the employ of the Duke of Buckingham, one of the most powerful men in the kingdom after the king. It is here that his education really begins. With a gift for numbers and decoding ciphers, Holcroft soon proves invaluable to the Duke, but when he’s pushed into a betrayal he risks everything for revenge.

His father, Colonel Thomas Blood, has fallen on hard times. A man used to fighting, he lives by his wits and survives by whatever means necessary. When he’s asked to commit treason by stealing the crown jewels, he puts himself and his family in a dangerous situation – one that may end at the gallows. 

As the machinations of powerful men plot to secure the country’s future, both father and son must learn what it is to survive in a more dangerous battlefield than war – the court of King Charles II. 

One missed step could prove fatal . . .

One of the raggedy boys, the smallest one, ran ahead of Holcroft, and crossed the road barring his path. The two behind him were closing in. Holcroft heard the litany of familiar taunts about his stupidity: ‘Tom-noddy . . . buffle-head . . . ninnyhammer . . . nump-son . . .’

He could see a pair of squat, red-faced women, standing outside their front doors, strong arms folded, looking on with amusement as the predatory boys closed in around Holcroft. He did not like this. These boys were going to spoil his errand. His mother had given him strict instructions: go to the Wheatsheaf, buy the rum and come straight home. And he had tried his best to do just that. But these three were going to ruin everything. He felt sick and dizzy. By the side of the street he saw a mounting block, a waist-high cube of stone, with three steps cut into one side. He walked over to it and carefully placed the pewter pot of rum on the top step.

Then he turned to face his tormentors.

The leader was clearly the biggest one – as tall as Holcroft, but thicker in the chest, and he moved with the rangy grace of a street cat. He had a shock of ginger hair, a wide grin and a black gap where his two front teeth should have been. The little blond one to Holcroft’s left, the one who’d run ahead to cut him off, was of no account. He was a follower, and younger than the others by some years. The redhead’s other companion, dark, bull-necked and vicious-looking, might be even more dangerous than the red.

Holcroft was no stranger to bullies. All his life people had objected to him in one way or another. And he had taken beatings with regularity until his older brother Tom, at his mother’s tearful pleading, had reluctantly taken him aside and taught him the rudiments of pugilism and Cornish wrestling. Tom had then taken pleasure in knocking him down again and again, day after day, while he lectured his brother in the finer points of the fighting arts.

Holcroft did not think there was any point in saying anything to these three, so he merely jumped forward and pumped a straight left into the redhead’s nose, smashing his head back. Then he dipped a shoulder and buried his right fist into his enemy’s now-open belly. He hit him a third time, again with his left, and with all his weight behind it, smack on the right cheekbone. The boy went down. Holcroft whirled, saw the dark boy nearly on him, fist raised. He blocked the punch and seized the boy by the lapels of his coat, pulled him in and crashed his forehead hard into the bridge of his opponent’s nose. He felt the crunch of cartilage, and the boy’s weight as he staggered, but Holcroft kept hold of him, shifting his position slightly as he brought his knee up smartly into the fellow’s groin. Holcroft released him and the boy slid bonelessly to the ground.

The tall redhead was gasping and spitting blood, back up on his feet but tottering. Holcroft took his time and clubbed him on the join of the jaw with his right fist, hard as he could, then followed in with a left uppercut to the chin that cracked his teeth together and hurled him on his back into the mud.

He looked at the third one: the blond child. Both Holcroft’s hands were hurting now, and he felt as if he were about to burst into tears, as he always did after a bout. He screamed, ‘Haaaaa!’ pushing his face right forward and scowling like a gargoyle, and the urchin gave a squeak and took to his heels. Holcroft looked at his two foes, now both curled in the mud, coughing, spewing, writhing feebly. He had nothing to say to them. He turned his back and went over to the stone mounting block to collect the pewter pot of rum. He looked, looked again and saw that the pot had disappeared.

The burly women spectators had vanished, too.

Holcroft’s heart sank into his shoes. No rum for Mother now. He felt cold and tearful. He would never hear the end of this.

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Snow Sisters Carol Lovekin Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Honno

Source: Review Copy

Two sisters, their grandmother’s old house and Angharad… the girl who cannot leave.

Meredith discovers a dusty sewing box in a disused attic. Once open the box releases the ghost of Angharad, a Victorian child-woman with a horrific secret she must share. Angharad slowly reveals her story to Meredith who fails to convince her more pragmatic sister of the visitations until Verity sees Angharad for herself on the eve of an unseasonal April snowstorm.

Forced by her flighty mother to abandon Gull House for London, Meredith struggles to settle, still haunted by Angharad and her little red flannel hearts. This time, Verity is not sure she will be able to save her…

Two parallel coming of age stories – one tragic, the other holding out the hope of salvation. 

Snow Sisters is absolutely beautifully written, a ghostly ethereal tale with themes of family running through the heart of it, a little bit of a literary delight.

Verity and Meredith are drawn wonderfully, the strength of this novel for me came through their relationship and their finding of themselves – Snow Sisters has only a few characters, all of whom come to life on the page through the author’s lyrical and descriptive writing. If you like non genre specific books where the characters are the story then Snow Sisters will definitely be for you.

It is kind of melancholy, highly absorbing, as winter approaches this is just the sort of book I like to curl up with in a warm corner – it is transporting and imaginative, the differing timelines all play into one another, thought provoking and engaging you’ll be captured by it utterly.

It is a difficult one to place when it comes to recommending it – with Snow Sisters the quality of the writing is the key – I simply cannot imagine any reader not finding something within its pages to love – so I guess the easiest thing to say is if you are looking for something a bit different, with a deft feminine touch and plenty of both style and substance then this one will be for you.


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