Blog Tour – July 2022 – Hostage – Clare Mackintosh

So – the latest Clare Mackintosh! An author whose first couple of books you read and loved; you’ve got all the others in your TBR pile. How did Hostage measure up?

Oh my goodness! I’ve been looking at a lot of the books I own and have read, and – to paraphrase Crocodile Dundee – thinking, “That’s not a book! This is a book!” (meaning, of course, Hostage!) I’ve got to admit – embarrassingly – I’d sort of forgotten how damn good Clare Mackintosh is at the little details that build up into a great book. She’s quite brilliant at the minutiae that builds up to make everyday lives, and fill her books, and their characters, with such a strong sense of authenticity.

Hostage is about an air stewardess who’s on the inaugural non-stop London to Sydney 20-hour flight, and is threatened by an anonymous hijacker who wants her help bringing down the plane – or they’ll kill her daughter. Is that the plot, in a nutshell?

Absolutely – and what a fabulous premise, in one sentence, that is, isn’t it? It makes for a tense as hell situation; one which has you pondering exactly what you would do in her position at many points in the novel. And the fact that the vast majority of the book is set on the flight makes it as claustrophobic as hell too! Occasionally books set mainly in one space can get a little bit dull, or same-y, but not this one – Mackintosh manages to keep you turning the pages long past your bedtime! Not that that should be a surprise to the army of fans she’s built up over the last few years.

Tell us a little bit about Mina, the stewardess and central character…

Obsessed about aeroplanes from an early age, Mina has her dream job. Her family is police officer Alan – who comes across as shifty from the very start; my instant thought was, “affair,” and it seems like that’s what Mina thought too as they’ve recently taken to sleeping in separate rooms. The only reason they haven’t actually separated is because adopted daughter Sophia has “separation anxiety,” amongst a host of other psychological difficulties. These two are pretty much Mina’s world, as obviously her job takes up most of the rest of her life. It also keeps her sane, as Sophia is a pretty demanding child – and so takes up most of the rest of it. But she utterly loves her daughter, that’s clear.

What would be your selling line to readers thinking of picking up Hostage be?

Buckle up for take off! And hold on tight – you’re in for a hell of a trip! (And clear your diary before you begin reading…) Actually, that’s three lines – here’s a fourth: Hostage is all killer, no filler.

Go and buy or borrow this book now! It’s the perfect summer read!

I’d like to thank Anne Cater at Random Things Tours and Compulsive Readers for the invitation to participate in this blog tour, and Sphere Books for the ARC. That has in no in way affected my opinion of the book, and this is an honest review.

Author Clare Mackintosh

Follow all the other wonderful bloggers taking part in this Blog Tour!

BLURB: You can save hundreds of lives. Or the one that matters most.

A claustrophobic thriller set over twenty hours on one airplane flight, with the heart-stopping tension of The Last Flight and the wrenching emotional intensity of Room, Hostage takes us on board the inaugural nonstop flight from London to Sydney.

Mina is trying to focus on her job as a flight attendant, not the problems of her five-year-old daughter back home, or the fissures in her marriage. But the plane has barely taken off when Mina receives a chilling note from an anonymous passenger, someone intent on ensuring the plane never reaches its destination. Someone who needs Mina’s assistance and who knows exactly how to make her comply.

It’s twenty hours to landing. A lot can happen in twenty hours.

Blog Tour – July 2022 – A Killing Rain – Faye Snowden

Another day, another new author and blog tour! – what’s the story here?

First of all, we’re in one of my favourite settings – Louisiana, in the Deep South – and one of these small Southern towns: this one’s called Byrd’s Landing. Our main character, Raven Burns, has returned here, as it’s the one place that truly feels like home. She had worked as a cop before retiring, and is now wanting a quiet life, working in a coffee shop.

And she – and the town – have quite a creepy past, am I right?

Yep – the town’s known as a bit of a breeding ground for serial killers…amongst them Raven’s father, who was also a cop. And there’s a new serial killer around, focusing on young boys – so when Raven’s nephew Noe and his friend Clyde go missing, she finds her skills as an investigator being requested. And how can she say no, when it’s the nephew with whom she’s only recently been reunited?

This is one of those fabulous Southern towns populated with all sorts of quirky characters, which adds to the atmosphere. I do sort of wish I’d read the first in the series, to have more background on Raven and her past, as well as Byrd’s Landing, but as soon as I have time, I’ll remedy that!

You found it more of an atmospheric build-up of a crime novel, rather than an action packed one, didn’t you?

I did, but to be honest, that’s the way I like books to be – it gives you more of an opportunity to get to know the characters – and there are some great characters, make no mistake! We meet her ex-partner Billy-Ray; her brother – and Noe’s father – Cameron; a friend from school, Edmee; and locals like crime scene cleaner Willie Lee. They all add colour and flesh out the story. And as I said before, I love these rural Southern settings, with gumbo on the menu in local eateries, and bait shops – it reminds me of the genius that is James Lee Burke, amongst others!

This is a hugely promising series, with a delightfully snippy central character, who definitely doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and really just wants a peaceful life – if only it wasn’t for these damned serial killers! But she is dragged back into criminal investigation reluctantly, simply because she fears for her nephew’s – and his friend’s – safety. And all the while, time is tick, tick, ticking away – and we crime readers all know that’s definitely not a good sign…

A hugely promising second book in what looks like building into a great series!

I would like to thank Anne Cater at Random Things TTours for inviting me on this blog tour, and Flame Tree Press for providing me, through Anne, with an eARC of this novel. This has not affected my opinion of this book, and this is an honest review.

Author Faye Snowden

Check out the previous dates on this Blog Tour!

BLURB: After former homicide Raven Burns returns to Byrd’s Landing, Louisiana to begin a new life, she soon finds herself trapped by the old one when her nephew is kidnapped by a ruthless serial killer, and her foster brother becomes the main suspect. To make matters worse, she is being pursued by two men— one who wants to redeem her soul for the murder Raven felt she had no choice but to commit, and another who wants to lock her away forever. 

Blog Tour – June 2022 – Tasting Sunlight – Ewald Arenz

Another wonderful Orenda tour! But this isn’t crime fiction, unusually for you…

No, but I loved the book’s premise, and that’s what drew me to participating in the blog tour. It’s a German translation (Karen Sullivan from Orenda has a knack for tracking down foreign gems for our delight) about a troubled teenager, Sally, who’s walked out of the clinic where she’s being treated for eating disorders, and leaves the city for the country, where she feels she’s less likely to be bothered. There she meets Liss, a quiet 40-something farmer who enjoys peace, quiet, and hard work on the farm.

Having grown up on a farm, which my father and sister still work, I was keen to read the descriptions of the countryside, and I wasn’t disappointed – Arenz has clearly spent a lot of his life working outside, and his writing about the outdoors is highly evocative, not to mention downright beautiful.

So what happens – does Sally stay on the farm?

She’s a naturally cynical girl, but she slowly comes to trust Liss and understand she wants nothing from her, although Sally does some work on the farm to gain her keep, which she begins, to her surprise, to enjoy. She’s used to people always wanting something, or pushing her to do things she’s reluctant to do, so that relationship, coupled with the fresh air, the natural tiredness (and hunger!) that comes from physical work, is a revelation to her.

Slowly the relationship between the two women allow them both to heal – but really it’s the countryside, and the satisfaction of working in the open air, seeing weather – and seasons – change, plants growing until they can be harvested…all that is really the catalyst for healing.

And you were surprised the writer was male, weren’t you?

I was – due to the name being new to me, it’s only when I saw the picture below of the author that I realised it was a man writing. At the danger of sounding sexist – apologies if I do! – it’s really unusual to meet a man who can write about women, and the relationship between two women, and make it sound so real.

His writing about the countryside is truly beautiful – I don’t read about the countryside a great deal; I think it’s because I was brought up there (and couldn’t wait to get out, although I do have wonderful memories of watching – and “helping” – my father work – and by God did he work, and still does at 80 years of age!) But some of the writing here is so wonderfully descriptive and, as I said earlier, evocative, I was reminded of my favourite poet, Seamus Heaney, who I started reading for Higher English, and who was from a farming background too – and given that he is a Nobel Laureate, I don’t think I can offer higher praise!

So who would you recommend this book to?

I’ll be honest – anyone who enjoys good writing! It’s a beautiful book – one to savour, and perhaps mark favourite passages of yours for future reference. I’m gutted I don’t yet have a hard copy to annotate – and that’s something I rarely do, unless it’s a book I know I’ll keep, and go back to. I wouldn’t be surprised if readers also feel healed by the gorgeous descriptive passages! Just a wonderful book…

Do not miss this massive German bestseller – it’s utterly fantastic!

I would like to thank Anne Cater at Random Things TTours for inviting me on this blog tour, and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the eARC. That has in no way influenced my opinion, and this is an honest review.

Author Ewald Arenz

Check out the other wonderful bloggers’ thoughts on the blog tour!

BLURB: Teenager Sally has just run away from a clinic where she to be treated for anorexia. She’s furious with everything and everyone, and wants to be left in peace.

Liss is in her forties, living alone on a large farm that she runs single-handedly. She has little contact with the outside world, and no need for other people.

From their first meeting, Sally realises that Liss isn’t like other adults; she expects nothing of Sally and simply accepts who she is, offering her a bed for the night with no questions asked.

That night becomes weeks and then months, as an unlikely friendship develops and these two damaged women slowly open up – connecting to each other, reconnecting with themselves, and facing the darkness in their pasts through their shared work on the land.

Achingly beautiful, profound, invigorating and uplifting, Tasting Sunlight is a story of friendship across generations, of love and acceptance, of the power of nature to heal and transform, and the goodness that surrounds us, if only we take time to see it…

Blog Tour – June 2022 – The Other Guest – Helen Cooper

So – a psychological thriller with two protagonists; one in Derby, one in Lake Garda, Italy. How did you enjoy The Other Guest?

I absolutely adored it! It kept me up late on more than one night, and I absolutely flew through it (and I’m not the fastest reader – plus some of the meds I’m on for nerve damage cause me to fall asleep and wake up sitting up, with specs on and a cold hot chocolate next to me!) The Italian setting, particularly, was heavenly sounding – an exclusive resort, run by a glamorous family. But, it being a psychological thriller, there were secrets lurking behind the facade – as was the case in Derby, too…

Tell us a little bit about the basic storyline, and the two characters who propel the plot along…

It’s really about the death by drowning of Amy, one of the daughters of the family who run the highly exclusive resort set on a remote part of the shores of Lake Garda. The book is set a year after her death, and it’s the first time since before it happened that her aunt, Leah, has felt able to return to see her sister Charlotte, brother-in-law Gordon, and remaining niece Olivia, who all run the resort. Leah’s very different to the glamorous Charlotte and Olivia – she was more similar to Amy, who wanted more from life than running the resort. Leah’s a successful lawyer, and enjoys pushing herself with fell running and other sporty pursuits.

The other character, in Derby, is Joanna, who works as a university counsellor. She’s just recovering after a painful breakup with Luke, who she’d bought a “forever house” with before their relationship inexplicably imploded, with Luke ending it. She meets a barman, Callum, who’s just arrived in Derby, knowing no-one, and started work in a pub close to her new home she occasionally drops into. Like all the best barmen, he’s a great listener, and so the two become friends. But Joanna’s somewhat shocked to be summoned to the hospital after Callum is involved in a hit-and-run, leaving him with broken ribs and covered in bruises. Joanna feels somewhat railroaded by the busy hospital into allowing him to move into her spare room…until it occurs to her that she really doesn’t know this man at all. Who is the stranger she has allowed to move into her home?

And in Italy…?

“Auntie Lee,” as she was known by both her nieces, is continuing her investigation into Amy’s death, by, amongst other things, questioning her friends in the nearby village. But her brother-in-law Gordon is trying to intimidate her into dropping her investigation, seemingly more concerned for the PR of the resort – or has he another reason for getting her to drop it? And someone in the household steals photos and a SIM card given to her by Amy’s best friend, and replaces them with photos of Leah taken around the heavily camera-ed resort – along with a threat to drop her investigation into Amy’s death…

It’s not difficult to see where the two situations dovetail – it’s not intended to be, but, beyond that, Helen Cooper keeps you guessing beautifully…the sinister background behind the beautiful and luxurious facade of the resort is wonderfully portrayed, as is Joanna’s growing unease at Callum’s residency in her home. What does he want from her? She realises how much she’s isolated herself, and how naive her behaviour would look to any friends or family. Is she just jumping at shadows, and there’s really nothing threatening about Callum? And she then runs into her ex-partner Luke, and is shocked at how much weight he has lost and how ill he looks…

It all sounds very dramatic…

It is, wonderfully so, like all the best psychological thrillers. And, also like them, you’re jumping ahead, guessing at possible outcomes – and if you’re like me, you’ll get them all wrong! The book suggests that Helen Cooper is an author to keep your eye on – and this book is the perfect summer read. (I’ll also be seeking out her debut, The Downstairs Neighbour.)

Perfect holiday reading!

Thanks to Hodder and Stoughton for my proof copy. This is an unbiased review and reflects my true opinion of the novel.

BLURB: After a shocking death at a luxurious Italian resort, two very different women must question everything—and everyone—they love in order to untangle truth from lies in this twisty, captivating read.

One year ago, Leah’s feisty 21-year-old niece, Amy, mysteriously drowned in the beautiful lake near her family-owned resort in Northern Italy. Now, Leah’s grief has caught up with her, and she decides to return to Lake Garda for the first time since Amy’s death. What she finds upon her arrival shocks her—her sister, brother-in-law, and surviving niece, Olivia, seem to have erased all memories of Amy, and fought to have her death declared an accidental drowning, despite murky circumstances. Leah knows she must look beyond the resort’s beautiful façade and uncover what truly happened to Amy, even if her digging places both her family ties and her very life in danger.

Meanwhile in Central England, thirtysomething Joanna is recovering from a surprising break-up when she is swept off her feet by a handsome bartender. But when she learns that he is on the run from something in his past, and that their meeting may not have been a coincidence, Joanna realized that he may just a bit too good to be true.

What follows is a propulsive cat-and mouse game set against the Italian lakeside as the two seemingly-unconnected women are caught up in a dangerous conspiracy.

Book Review – June 2022 – Opal Country – Chris Hammer

So – Chris Hammer; one of the foremost writers in the genre called Outback Noir. Set in rural or smalltown Australia, it’s some of the hottest (literally and figuratively) fiction around! Tell us about Opal Country…

This is Hammer’s fourth book, and he’s establishing himself as one of the leading lights in this genre – Jane Harper was first to burst onto the scene, with The Dry (although the late Peter Temple has a couple of crime fiction novels worth a look), and she was followed by a number of authors – and, so far, they’ve all been very good. Chris Hammer is one of the best, with his Martin Scarsden series (Scrublands, Silver and Trust), and now Opal Country. Before we talk about Opal Country, some other names worth a mention are Emma Viskic, Garry Disher, Helen Fitzgerald, Michael Robotham, and Kathryn Fox. I also recently reviewed a book called Wake, which is an excellent debut by a writer called Shelley Burr – don’t miss it.

So what’s Opal Country about?

It features a new character – cop Ivan Lucic. Lucic is sent from the city to investigate a murder in a small town, which is dying as an opal mining town (and doesn’t have much else going for it, save a large open cast mine.) He’s partnered with Nell Buchanan, who was previously based in the town in question, Finnigan’s Gap. For personal reasons, she is not happy to be back – and nor is she popular, as she busted some cops who were on the take with dealers, but those in charge value her intel on the town and some of its characters.

Tell us a bit about the murder…it’s somewhat unusual isn’t it?

It is. The victim was an opal miner, and his death is called in anonymously, because it was discovered by the lowest of the low – the “ratters.” They basically steal from an opal mine when they hear a miner is on a good streak – as it’s such a small place, with only one place to sell your stones, it’s not easy to keep it a secret when you hit a good seam of stones. It’s such an issue that some miners sleep right at their mine, to protect their claim.

The victim is found crucified, on a large cross of wood – but that was done some time after his death. Does this mean two different parties were involved in the murder? And what about his history, when he killed his wife and her sister, his neighbouring miner’s wife and mother to his son years before? Could someone still want revenge for that…?

There’s also a somewhat bizarre religious settlement on the edge of the town, which Jonas, the victim, and his wife, had been involved with years before. All these places need investigation by Ivan and Nell – for a small town, Finnigan’s Gap has a lot of people for them to cross off their list!

And Ivan and Nell have some personal issues to deal with too, don’t they?

Ivan has a fondness for gambling, and pours money into the machines at the local club where everyone eats and drinks…mainly drinks, as is the case in small towns with nothing to do. And Nell had a bit of a romance going when stationed here previously, the rekindling of which ends in complete embarrassment for her.

It’s a big book – the hardback comes in at just under 500 pages – but, if you’re like me, you’ll gulp it down in big chunks. It’s “bloody brilliant,” as they’d say Down Under!

Opal Country is out now in paperback. I’d like to thank Wildfire Books for sending me a proof, but that in no way affected my opinion. This is an honest review.

BLURB: Opals…

In the desolate outback town of Finnigans Gap, police struggle to maintain law and order. Thieves pillage opal mines, religious fanatics recruit vulnerable youngsters and billionaires do as they please.

Bodies…

Then an opal miner is found crucified and left to rot down his mine. Nothing about the miner’s death is straight-forward, not even who found the body. Homicide detective Ivan Lucic is sent to investigate, assisted by inexperienced young investigator Nell Buchanan.

But Finnigans Gap has already ended one police career and damaged others, and soon both officers face damning allegations and internal investigations. Have Ivan and Nell been set up, and if so, by whom?

Secrets…

As time runs out, their only chance at redemption is to find the killer. But the more they uncover, the more harrowing the mystery becomes, and a past long forgotten is thrown into scorching sunlight.

Because in Finnigans Gap, nothing stays buried for ever.

Bloody Scotland Debut Prize 2022 – Shortlist

Launched in 2019, the Bloody Scotland Debut Prize has already launched two early winners onto this year’s McIlvanney Prize longlist – Claire Askew (2019) and Deborah Masson (2020). That’s clearly proof of its ability to identify the wonderfully talented people that produce crime fiction in this small country year after year – so many it’s difficult to keep up with all of them! This year’s shortlist features two women and three men. One name will probably be well known to you, but not as a writer of crime fiction – although as a bestseller in other genres (and an ex-English teacher!), he can be regarded as well-qualified. There’s also a battle between the giant that is Thomas & Mercer, Amazon’s publishing arm, and Into Books, an indie so small they haven’t even published enough books to qualify for membership of Publishing Scotland – although they can, however, clearly spot a writer with potential!

So, without further ado, here are the five on the shortlist:

Tariq Ashkanani, Welcome To Cooper (Thomas & Mercer, Amazon) – A dark thriller set in small town America by an Edinburgh based solicitor and podcaster.

Frankie Boyle, Meantime (John Murray) – A picaresque detective story set against the backdrop of post referendum Scotland by one of Britain’s best-known comedians and writers.

Amanda Mitchison, The Wolf Hunters (Fledgling Press) – Set in a brutal, chaotic Scotland of the near future. The author is an award-winning journalist and author of several children’s books.

George Paterson, The Girl, The Crow, The Writer And The Fighter (Into Books) – An epistolary tale of murder and chicanery which spans continents and lifetimes by a writer, DJ and musician.

Sarah Smith, Hear No Evil (Two Roads) – Based on a true case from Scottish legal history about a young deaf woman accused of murder. Smith is a family history researcher and a creative writing tutor.

Well there’s certainly an interesting mixture there – a wonderful variety of novels! The winner will be announced on Thursday 15th September, after the torchlight procession. And look out for the McIlvanney Longlist and the Debut Shortlist getting promoted in bookshops all over Scotland up until then.

Best of luck to all shortlisted authors!

Blog Tour – June 2022 – The Loyal Friend – A.A. Chaudhuri

There’s nothing I enjoy better than a psychological thriller that keeps you guessing…

And The Loyal Friend is certainly that – it’s a story about four women (psychological thrillers generally are, aren’t they? Men are much less complicated, although there are exceptions, obviously! I’m instantly thinking of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley as an example.) There’s Jade, who’s an instructor at a fitness class three times a week, and the story concerns three regulars at these classes: Grace, Natalie, and Susan. Jade seems almost perfect – she’s generous, has lots of friends, is attractive, and just a generally lovely person. So why on earth would someone engineer her disappearance – possibly murder? And could it be one of her (so-called!) friends? I must say, I loved the tagline for this book – “She has your back. And may stab you in it.” It perfectly sums up this book, which I whizzed through, putting off all sorts of chores to read just…one…more…chapter… And isn’t that so the definition of a really juicy psychological thriller…?!

So spill the beans on this disappearance…

When one day Jade doesn’t turn up to take her usual class, Natalie seems the only one concerned enough to call round on her. Her car is outside but, getting no reply, Natalie uses keys she has to let herself in. There’s no sign of Jade, but there’s blood in her bathroom and an abandoned mobile.

DI Donovan Bailey and DS Javid Singh are given the case, and the story unwinds with chapters told from the perspective of the four main characters. The three class members are very different. Susan is pampered, spoilt, and likes to boast about her easy life, in which she pays people to do all the awkward things in life. She’s easy to dislike. Natalie is in her late 20s, works in a library and has little confidence, but is finding her life is getting better under Jade’s encouragement to come to the fitness class, which is helping her lose weight. Grace is somewhat put upon – she tries to be a devoted wife and mother, as well as caring for an elderly parent, but is struggling to keep it all together – understandably. They make an unusual loose group of friends, but that could all unravel with Jade’s disappearance, as her class was the reason for this friendship.

And all the women have secrets, don’t they?

They have indeed – and they definitely don’t want them revealed! And when rumours spread that Jade has a diary where she writes everything she hears, the trio are worried that their secrets will not stay hidden for much longer. But does one of them have a secret that’s so explosive it’s worth killing to keep under wraps…?

Wow! This really does sound like a cracking psychological thriller!

Believe me, it is! It’s been a flooded market since Gone Girl, but this is one of the most compelling psychological thrillers I’ve read for a long time! A.A. Chaudhari wrote the well-received She’s Mine, and is a name to seek out if you’re a fan of books that keep you guessing – and changing your mind, and guessing again – until the very last page…!

Superb stuff! Clear your diary!

I received an eARC courtesy of Hera Books and Netgalley, but it has not affected my opinion of this book, and this is an honest review.

BLURB: She has your back.

And may stab you in it.

Wealthy, pampered Susan is living the perfect life in leafy Kingston. She’ll never let anyone see the darkness she’s concealing behind the diamonds and rosé.

Grace is new to the group, seemingly the perfect wife and mum. Yet no one knows the truth of what’s happening behind closed doors.

Loner Natalie hides the pain of her childhood behind a carefully ordered life. But how long can the past stay hidden?

Three unlikely friends, brought together for a weekly class run by beautiful, friendly, instructor, Jade.

But when Jade goes missing in mysterious circumstances, the group starts to unravel. And as their darkest secrets come to light, it seems that no one can be trusted. Even their closest friends…

Book Review – June 2022 – Wake – Shelley Burr

So – yet another book from Down Under! This “Outback Noir” is really becoming a big thing, isn’t it?

It is, and it’s no surprise when you come across books like this – and a debut at that! And I hadn’t realised until now that this was the Winner of CWA Dagger for Debut Crime Fiction…and once you’ve read a chapter or two of the book, that won’t be a surprise at all! It absolutely blew me away, and to be honest it doesn’t read like a debut – you feel like you’re in the hands of a well-established author…it’s that good! Shelley Burr is a name to watch, that’s for sure!

Where is it set, then?

It’s set in a small, dying outback town called Nannine. About an hour’s drive outside it, on a large sheep farm eighteen years previously, one of the most notorious missing person cases in Australia took place. A nine-year-old girl called Evie McCreery was kidnapped – taken from the bedroom where she was asleep with her non-identical twin, Mina, and never seen again. It’s constantly debated on internet chatrooms (we see some of the Reddit-type posts at the beginning of chapters), but there’s been no answer to the whereabouts of Evie, or to what happened to her – despite a colossal reward, which was doubled by the McCreery family. Before she died of cancer, Mrs McCreery was a constant campaigner for answers as to what happened to her daughter – on TV, in newspapers, magazines, and eventually writing a book, the funds from which financed the McCreery half of the reward.

So where exactly are we at when the book opens?

A new face appears, hoping to be able to finally put the case to bed. Lane Holland needs the reward money, as he wants to finance his younger sister’s Lynnie’s university course so she doesn’t have to work at all sorts of menial jobs, which would end up eating into her study time, as he knows from personal experience – it’s how he financed his Criminology degree. (I’ve been there – just after moving into a flat in Glasgow’s West End I found a job waitressing in a pizzeria on Gibson Street, for £12 a night. What was meant to be two nights a week soon became five, and I was very popular with my three flatmates, too, as when I left at 11 pm the chef would insist I took a pizza – a meal was a perk of the job. I used to see my flatmates hanging out the window as I walked home with the box! Happy days…anyway, I digress…!)

But Lane is no stranger to crime solving, is he? Hasn’t he already had some success solving cold cases?

He has, and has already received two rewards for solving cold cases involving missing girls or young women. However, they weren’t nearly so high profile as the McCreery case – and nor were the rewards so substantial.

It takes a fair bit of time to build up trust with Mina who, understandably, is tired of gawkers and rubberneckers, and people who think she – or one of her family – may know more than they’ve hitherto revealed about Evie’s death. Unlike her late mother, Mina and her father don’t court the media, and do what they can to get by in farming, as well as a call centre job working from home Mina has, advising other farmers, many in despair at the state of the industry, on behalf of the Australian Government.

What did you enjoy so much about the book?

I really liked the characters, and how they were developed – Mina and Lane are both essentially loners, and somewhat distrustful of others due to events in their childhoods (Mina’s we obviously know about; we learn more about Lane’s background as the book moves on.) It’s very well-paced, gradually drawing you in so you want to learn more and more about Mina, Lane, and, of course, what did happen on that fateful night that was to change so many lives forever.

There are also some fantastic twists, although I’m giving nothing away! Shelley Burr is clearly going to be a name to watch – and with the buzz around so-called Outback Noir at the moment, she couldn’t have picked a better time to release her first novel…and I, for one, can’t wait to read more of her work!

One of the best books I’ve read so far this year!

I read this book courtesy of Pigeonhole Post.

BLURB: The tiny outback town of Nannine lies in the harsh red interior of Australia. Once a thriving center of stockyards and sheep stations, years of punishing drought have petrified the land and Nannine has been whittled down to no more than a stoplight, a couple bars, and a police stationAnd it has another, more sinister claim to fame: the still-unsolved disappearance of young Evelyn McCreery nineteen years ago.

Mina McCreery’s life has been defined by the intense public interest in her sister’s case–which is still a hot topic in true-crime chat rooms and on social media. Now an anxious and reclusive adult, Mina lives alone on her family’s sunbaked destocked sheep farm.

Enter Lane Holland, a young private investigator who dropped out of the police academy to earn a living cracking cold cases. Before she died, Mina’s mother funded a million-dollar reward for anyone who could explain how Evelyn vanished from her bed in the family’s farmhouse. The lure of cash has only increased public obsession with Evelyn and Mina–but yielded no answers.

Lane wins Mina’s trust when some of his more unconventional methods show promise. But Lane also has darker motivations, and his obsession with the search will ultimately risk both their lives–and yield shocking results.

Compulsively readable, with an unforgettable setting and cast of characters, WAKE is a powerful, unsparing story of how trauma ripples outward when people’s private tragedies become public property, and how it’s never too late for the truth to come out.

June 2022 – Blog Tour – Believe Me Not – Natalie Chandler

This looks rather exciting – tell me more about that dramatic tagline, “They say your baby isn’t real. But you know he is.” That piques your interest straight away, doesn’t it?

It so does, doesn’t it? So, here’s the beginning – Megan wakes up in hospital. She knows she’s had a baby – she even has a caesarean scar, and she also has a name – Luka – for the child, as well as fractured memories! However, she soon begins to realise that this isn’t a hospital for physical ailments, but a psychiatric hospital – she’s had a psychotic break.

So, what’s happened to Luka then? Where is he?

Well, this is the premise of the entire book – everyone else denies his existence. There’s Stef, her husband; Sophia, her sister: Dr Mac, the hospital doctor; Gemma, the nurse…and Megan’s told the “caeserean scar” is actually the result of a hysterectomy, which is sort of plausible….

Is the story told entirely from Megan’s perspective?

No, there is some background told from Stef’s viewpoint, where we learn about his twin brother Isaac.

So who’s telling the truth? Has Megan had some kind of breakdown, or are some – or all – of the people in her life lying to her? If so, why??

That’s the thing with psychological thrillers – you’ve got to try to figure out who to believe! I found certain characters somewhat shifty, but then I started thinking, is this just the author manipulating me to think this way, as a red herring? Because you have to have a few of these in any good psychological thriller! Stef, and Dr Mac particularly, seemed the most dodgy, but Sophia, Megan’s sister, had plenty of problems in her own background – are these relevant, though, I found myself asking myself. She has a daughter too – Amelia.

The big question – did you enjoy this book? And would you recommend it?

I did enjoy it, although it took me a little while to switch from my “police procedural” head – I’ve clearly been reading too many of these recently, when in the not-so-distant past I was reading mostly psychological thrillers! The author’s background in psychiatric medicine means the topic of mental illness was treated realistically – in my (layman’s) opinion – but sympathetically. The book really sped up towards the last third or quarter, and kept me on my toes – not that it was slow-moving previously, but you did notice it shifting up a gear towards the climax!

All-in-all, it was a really promising debut, and I’ll definitely be looking out for the next novel by Natalie Chandler. A thoroughly enjoying way to spend my time while I enjoyed my hot chocolate last week!

A very promising debut psychological thriller, recommended for fans of this genre!

With thanks to Headline Publishing for inviting me on this Blog Tour, and for the ARC. This in no way affected my opinion and this is an unbiased review.

Follow all the other wonderful bloggers on the rest of this Blog Tour!

BLURB: What if everyone you love is lying to you?

When Megan wakes up in a hospital bed, her first question is: where’s my baby?

But her husband, her sister, and her doctor said he doesn’t exist.

Megan’s not in a maternity ward, she’s in a psychiatric unit.

Convinced that they’re lying to her, Megan is determined to find out the truth.

But how can you prove your baby exists when you can’t trust your own memories?

An utterly chilling psychological thriller with a heart-stopping twist.

The McIlvanney Prize 2022 – Longlist

Well there’s a real embarassment of riches on the longlist for the McIlvanney Prize 2022 – some old names we’ve seen on it before, some new names I’ve yet to read (and some I’ve read and yet to review!) Anyway, it’s my intention to read them all before September – the shortlist will be revealed at the beginning of September. Without further ado, here they are:

A Matter Of Time, Claire Askew

The Sound Of Sirens, Ewan Gault

The Blood Tide, Neil Lancaster

From The Ashes, Deborah Masson

The Heretic, Liam McIlvanney

Rizzio, Denise Mina

May God Forgive, Alan Parks

A Corruption Of Blood, Ambrose Parry

A Rattle Of Bones, Douglas Skelton

The Second Cut, Louise Welsh

Here’s some stats, courtesy of the lovely Fiona Brownlee from Bloody Scotland‘s organisational committee:

2.5 of the authors have won the prize before: the lovely Liam McIlvanney (2018) and the equally lovely Denise Mina (2017), plus the also charming Chris Brookmyre (2016) in his solo status, whereas Ambrose Parry is a combination of the talents of him and his wife Dr Marisa Haetzman (who is a consultant anaesthetist in her day job – so one talented woman!) Chris has appeared on every longlist either as himself or as Ambrose Parry – quite an achievement! Actually, when I put down the book Black Widow, which won it for him in 2016, I turned round to my partner and declared, “That’s going to win the Bloody Scotland prize!” (as it was then known!) I’ve actually declared in a review that Alan Parks will be a contender. I reckon Louise Welsh is in with a very good shout – not before time! – and despite having only read 100 pages of The Heretic, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Liam McIlvanney lift the prize named after his incredibly friendly and charming father yet again. But there are others I’ve yet to read, so watch this space…I will say this, however – it is only a matter of time before Alan Parks does win the prize!

There are also previous winners of the Debut Novel Prize on this longlist now too – Claire Askew won the first Bloody Scotland Debut Novel Prize in 2019, and Deborah Masson won it in 2020.

Bob McDevitt, Director of Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival said:
‘I’m so pleased to see such an excellent longlist of books in the running for this year’s McIlvanney prize. Police procedurals dominate this year, set all around Scotland and from the 1970s to the present day, along with a few striking historical novels (set before the 1970s!) and some contemporary Glasgow noir. Once again, the judges have their work cut out for them!’

The McIlvanney Prize will be judged by Ayo Onatade, winner of the CWA Red Herring Award and freelance crime fiction critic, Janice Forsyth, presenter of the Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Scotland and Ewan Wilson, crime fiction buyer from Waterstones Glasgow. The Glencairn Glass, the world’s favourite whisky glass, is again sponsoring both The McIlvanney Prize and The Bloody Scotland Debut Crime Novel of the Year for 2022. Kirsty Nicholson, Glencairn’s Design and Marketing Manager commented: 

‘This is our third year of sponsoring the McIlvanney Prize with the Glencairn Glass and once again we’re delighted to see such an exciting longlist for the award. Congratulations to all the authors who have made it this far. The books featured on the longlist provide the perfect opportunity to discover the best in crime fiction alongside a wee dram of whisky in the world’s favourite whisky glass.’

Well, one thing is certain – as ever, the judges have their work cut out for them!