Watch out for Colin MacIntyre “The Letters Of Ivor Punch”

Bit of nepotism here – I’d like to congratulate a boy I was in school with, who has written his debut novel “about the deliciously strange island world of Mull” (when I read that I did wonder if it was a novel?!)  He’s earned a “solid five-figure sum advance” from Weidenfeld & Nicolson for “The Letters Of Ivor Punch”. Previously a musician, both solo and as the leading member and songwriter for Mull Historical Society, he says, “I’m thrilled to be embarking on another creative journey.” Sophie Buchan, publisher, says, “I fell head over heels for TLOIP. It’s a wonderfully heartfelt, anarchic novel from a natural born storyteller.” His uncle’s and grandfather’s were distinguished names in the sadly disappearing world of the Gaelic writers of the West of Scotland. His late father, Kenny MacIntyre, had been the Political Editor for BBC Scotland, and his older brother, also Kenny, reports on football for BBC Radio in the North-East. It’s so good to see Colin following in the MacIntyre footsteps, and I wish him ALL the luck in the world. Send me a review copy, pal!


1. I am at present devouring Harry Bingham’s “Talking to the Dead”. He’s got a pretty cool heroine, who has lots of quirky, fiddly habits, without coming across as an Eccentric Detective. Bingham’s great at writing as a female, a skill many authors lack (writing as the other sex.) I’m just past page 100, so things are starting to come together, and I’m enjoying the way this is going

2. Recently I read “A Dark and Twisted Tide” – Sharon Bolton, for review. It was my first Lacey Flint book, and I’ll probably read her others, as I come across them. I liked Lacey, as a protagonist – she’s fun and spunky. If I had to give one criticism, it was the inescapable romantic element. Do we really need this? It’s 2014, girls and I say “NO!” It’s sexist and patronising. Or am I alone in thinking this? Sharon Bolton is not the only one who has a romantic sub-plot – even some male authors do (Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham.) I suspect it’s the publisher’s marketing dept. Anyone agree? But if I want kisses and Mr Right? musings I’ll head for the tripe in the candy pink coloured section – no brain required

3. This is the question I find hardest to answer, but despite the difficulty of it, it’s also my favourite question. When I’m ready to begin a new book, I’ll often gather a pile of half-a-dozen “maybes” books and leaf through, to see what “floats my boat.” Right now, I’m intrigued by “Elizabeth Is Missing” by Emma Healey, the incredibly bulky but nonetheless intriguing “The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair” by Jöel Decker, but I’ll probably end up being less daring and go for the ever-reliable Nicci French’s “Tuesday’s Gone”, as I really enjoyed “Blue Monday”. However, that could ALL change before “Talking To The Dead” is done!

A Dark And Twisted Tide – Sharon Bolton

This is the fourth in the very successful Lacey Flint series written by Sharon (formerly S.J.) Bolton. I’ve never read a Lacey Flint book before, although I did read her debut, Sacrifice, which, despite finding it somewhat far-fetched, I still turned the pages avidly to the end.

Apologies to Lacey fans for not knowing her full back story – although I suspect I’ll find it out soon, as Lacey is a most likeable heroine. Besides her, there’s a boyfriend, Mark Joesbury, who doesn’t feature a great deal in this book as he is working undercover. There’s also Lacey’s superior, Dana Tulloch, who’s a good character too. There are also various other police officers in their team, but I must admit I struggled to tell the difference between them all – I’m sure I’ll get there if I read the rest of the series.

In this novel, Lacey has (for some unmentioned reason, unless, you’ve read book 3) made the unusual decision to return to uniform, of her own volition, and is working for the river police.  As the book opens, Lacey is swimming in the Thames. On her return journey she comes across a dead, shrouded female body, tethered to a post. As it wasn’t there on Lacey’s outward trip, it appears to have been left for her to find.

Research by the team flag up two other possible victims – are they dealing with a serial killer?

Also, someone is leaving small offerings on Lacey’s boat – a couple of toy boats, and a heart shape made up of pieces of glass and stones. In another side story, Lacey meets a disabled herbalist, Thessa, and her brother Alex. Lacey meets her on her meanderings around the river, and Thessa too travels the river on a boat, collecting herbs, etc. for her work. Thessa takes a great interest in Lacey, giving her various herbal tinctures to try. Lacey, Thessa and Alex become friendly.

The team come to the conclusion that this is people smuggling, but of a very specific type of person. And why are some of the smuggled girls ending up dead, shrouded in the Thames?

Someone needs to go undercover to find out why the people smuggling is going on, and why some don’t make it. I’m not going to spoil anything further, but at this point the book really starts speeding along, and you turn the pages faster and faster. The conclusion is good, but at times I found it – and the motivations of a couple of characters – somewhat confusing. I particularly enjoyed the Thames as a setting; it added a new aspect to a crime novel.

As for me, particularly due to some mysterious hints dropped in this book regarding Lacey’s background which intrigued me, I’m a convert to the Lacey Flint fan club. She reminds me slightly of Maeve Kerrigan, of Jane Casey’s books, and I think fans of either would enjoy the other.

4 out of 5 from me.

I’d like to thank Random House UK for the review galley, in return for an honest review.