Blog Tour – September 2022 – The Bleeding – Johana Gustawsson

Well first of all – I can’t believe it’s September! The summer has sped by, mostly spent, er, reading, and while we try to wring a few more days outside, it’ll soon by time to sharpen my pencils, buy some nice new stationery – never a chore! – and get back to my Open University studies. But before the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness descends – what do we have here? Is that another beauty from Orenda I see before me?

It is indeed! And – coincidentally – this one, like Whisper Of The Seals, is also set in Quebec. It’s the beginning of a really exciting new series from the highly talented Johana Gustawsson, who’s also responsible for the fantastic Roy & Castells series. The lead character in this one is Detective Maxine Grant, single mother to a teenage girl and a newborn baby boy – their father was killed in a work-connected helicopter crash before his son’s Hugo’s birth. She’s ably supported by her sergeant, Jules, who’s a friend as well as a colleague. Their boss is the trés chic and somewhat scary Marceau, and, in this book at least, their investigation is aided by a forensic psychologist, Professor Ginette “Gina” Montminy.

So what is the investigation?

Maxine is called to a crime scene at the home of her former schoolteacher Mrs Caron, who’d asked for her by name – indeed, that’s the only words she’d uttered. Inside the large home she’d shared with her husband, Professor Philippe Caron, lies his body – butchered by his wife using a knife, attacked with it over and over again – textbook overkill. Moreover, further investigation in the house reveal some very gruesome finds.

What can possibly have pushed this devoted wife of many years to murder the husband to whom she was said by all who knew them to be devoted, and inseperable from? She is not speaking at all, despite the police officers’ best efforts – so Gina is brought in, to bring her professional opinion to bear upon the macabre finds in the household, as well as to attempt to cajole Mrs Caron into telling them what provoked her into attacking the husband with whom she allegedly had the perfect marriage.

But there are two other stories contained in this book, aren’t there, of a historical nature?

Yes – in between the chapters about the Caron case, which make up the majority of the book, there are shorter chapters set in 1899 and 1949. The 1899 storyline is about a woman, Lucienne, who’s lost her two young daughters in a horrendous house fire. She’s persuaded by an acquaintance that a medium may be able to reach them, if they are really dead – she’s hoping, however, that they somehow escaped the inferno.

The other story, set in 1949, features an elderly woman, and the unlikely friendship that develops between her and Lina, a bullied teenager, whose father had fought for the French Resistance. She does her best to help Lina get the better of the teenage girls who are making her life hell (is there anyone able to make people’s life hell more effectively than teenage girls?!)

All three stories centre upon the exact same area, and there’s a strong theme of the supernatural running through them – mediums and spiritualism (with Arthur Conan Doyle making a guest appearance), witchcraft and the abilities of women to use the dark arts to punish our enemies. It’s fascinatingly presented, and I really found it interesting and thought-provoking.

This certainly sounds like a great novel – how enjoyable was it?

To be honest (and I know I keep saying this, but every time I say it it’s true, I swear!) – I think this is the best book I’ve read so far this year. The characters came across as utterly compelling, with realistic relationships between them all. The details of each of the mysteries at the heart of the novel were released in a wonderfully slow, steady way, guaranteed to keep the reader turning the pages to keep finding out just a little bit more! (I was nudged several times to, “get the lamp off” – although not so politely!) And, unusually for a book featuring three storylines, I didn’t feel that one was more interesting than another, or that one dragged – all three held my interest equally, which is no mean feat.

This book bodes incredibly well for this new series by Gustawsson – I loved Maxine and Jules – and the refreshingly friendly and supportive relationship between them. I’m also hoping that Gina, the forensic psychologist, will be reappearing in future books. She really is a force to be reckoned with. I’m really excited about book two already!

It’s such a privilege to get the opportunity to read books from all over the world – as well, of course, as ones from the UK – brought to us by Orenda. This is yet another series I simply can’t wait to read more of (even if I will be keeping himself awake…!)

Miss this book at your peril – I absolutely adored it!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion of the book, and this is an honest review,

Author Johana Gustawsson

Keep an eye on the wonderful selection of bloggers who’ll all be reviewing The Bleeding!

BLURB: 1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.
1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.

2002, Quebec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation.
Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones they love…

Blog Tour – July 2022 – The Retreat – Sarah Pearse

Oh my goodness! Hold on to your hats, people, clear your diaries…and check your doors and windows are locked, too…

An over-the-top heading but wow, this is another peach so if you’re heading anywhere, I’d pack this and Hostage for starters…

This is one of these books I’m reticent about revealing too much about, plot-wise – simply because you want all other readers to enjoy the unfolding of events as much as possible!

So what can you tell us about The Retreat without taking us into spoiler territory?

Pearse brings back her detective, Elin, who appeared in The Sanatorium, and who has technically been put on less serious cases after the events of that book. But the fact that she’s close by, coupled with a shortage of staff, means she’s sent to the island to investigate a death which initially looks like an accident – so it’s looking like a box-ticking exercise. Note I said initially there…

I can sense a but coming…

Well, let me change tack here. The family who are featured most in the book consists of three sisters, a cousin, and two of the sisters’ partners. However, one of the sister has cancelled at short notice, citing a work trip – although her partner still comes. It’s a freebie, as one of the sisters is an “influencer,” and is meant as a chance for the family to reconnect. But the holiday starts to collapse as petty resentments from the past are brought up, and secrets revealed that add to the poisonous atmosphere. And meanwhile, around them the island’s malevolent past is revealing itself, both to it’s new occupiers, and to us readers…

I’ve got to say, I’m struggling to write more about the plot. But I’ve got to say, read this book! It’s phenomenal!

Give us some reasons to read it! (Apart from the rollocking plot, obviously…)

Pearse has a way of unveiling information, in a steady and satisfying drip, drip, drip that is guaranteed to keep you turning pages. And I don’t think I’ve ever changed my mind about who’s good and who is not so good so many times in one book – because her characters, like most people, are a mixture of good and bad. The past of the island also keeps rearing it’s head in a highly satisfying way, and the supernatural elements are wound through the book like the ivy in the forest that still covers much of the island. It all works in a splendidly atmospheric way that leaves you feeling like looking over your shoulder as you’re reading…if that isn’t enough reasons, I don’t know what else I can say! Suffice to say, I loved it…but you’ve figured that out, I think!

Absolutely dynamite! A five-star read!

With thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation, and Bantam Press for the ARC. This is my honest opinion and is an unbiased review.

Author Sarah Pearse

Check out the other fantastic bloggers in this blog tour!

BLURB: Most are here to recharge and refresh. But someone’s here for revenge. . .

An eco-wellness retreat has opened on an island off the English coast, promising rest and relaxation—but the island itself, known locally as Reaper’s Rock, has a dark past. Once the playground of a serial killer, it’s rumored to be cursed.

Detective Elin Warner is called to the retreat when a young woman’s body is found on the rocks below the yoga pavilion in what seems to be a tragic fall. But the victim wasn’t a guest—she wasn’t meant to be on the island at all.

When a guest drowns in a diving incident the following day, Elin starts to suspect that there’s nothing accidental about these deaths. But why would someone target the guests, and who else is in danger?

Elin must find the killer—before the island’s history starts to repeat itself . . .

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.


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?


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.

Book Review – June 2022 – The Trawlerman – William Shaw

William Shaw is one of the crime writers you regard as at the top of his game, isn’t he?

Absolutely! I think I said on Twitter that he makes writing good crime fiction look easy – when of course it’s incredibly hard, otherwise we’d all be doing it (rather than waxing lyrical about those who do!) The Breen and Tozer series, set in late ’60s London, was fantastic – I do hope they’ll return! – as well as some fabulous standalones (I’ve one waiting for me, called Dead Rich under the pen-name GW Shaw.) This is the fourth in the equally wonderful DS Alexandra Cupidi series.

So what’s happening with Alexandra in this book?

Well, she’s on sick leave as she’s suffering from PTSD, due to events in the previous book, with the plan being that she’ll return to “light duties” – something she’s definitely not keen on, as she’s a very proactive, get-up-and-go type officer! She’s having to attend counselling sessions, but in her free time she simply can’t resist getting involved in some nefarious goings-on locally – one of them of a somewhat historical nature…

So tell us what’s got her copper’s instinct working overtime…

The book opens somewhat dramatically, as she spots a woman heading towards a bridal party of two women getting married where she’s relaxing at the end of the small local railway line, which is usually used by tourists. There’s something “off” about the woman – perhaps it’s the fact that she’s wearing a long heavy jacket despite it being a hot day? Anyway, soon the woman produces a knife and accuses one of the brides – her one-time daughter-in-law – of murdering her son when they were married. Alexandra is forced to get involved, and that’s when she hears about the death of this man, a trawlerman, who died while out on the boat fishing, when his wife was at home – so it doesn’t look like she murdered him, despite his mother’s protestations.

What else is happening in Dungeness, on the Kent coast, where the series is set?

There’s also what looks like a double murder, which Alexandra can’t resist poking around, despite being not on duty – that of a retired couple who have lost all their money in a bad investment, as did many other members of a local golf club. One of the members, a well-to-do man who’s taken early retirement, seems to have taken quite a shine to Alexandra, and daughter Zoe is encouraging her to date him…but all Alexandra is interested in is being a copper! Zoe’s volunteering at a local bird sanctuary, and as usual she’s being left to her own devices much of the time, as Alexandra gets somewhat obsessed with cases, but luckily her neighbour – and ex-cop – Bill is there to keep an eye on things. However, it’s revealed he was a victim of the scam at the golf club too, leaving him penniless. Luckily Alexandra has a somewhat unorthodox way of getting his home secured, and revenge on the scammer. She also sticks her nose into the case of the accidental death of the trawlerman, from years previously! All in all, it’s a superb mix of different crimes which Alexandra can’t resist getting involved in – and I absolutely loved it! I can’t wait for the next one – William Shaw is proving to be a writer at the top of his game! If you haven’t read him yet, I urge you to indulge. You will not be disappointed.

Absolutely unmissable!

With thanks to Riverrun Books for the proof copy. This is an unbiased review and all opinions are my own.

Blog Tour – February 2022 – Detective In A Coma – Jennifer Lee Thomson

Something a tad different to start with today – I have an excerpt for you from a new voice in Scottish crime fiction, Jennifer Lee Thomson. Once I get through my current OU assignment I will to be in a position t to sit down and enjoy it, and then give you my thoughts in a review, but until then I have an excerpt from it to give you all a taster – and hopefully tempt you into buying it! First, though, the BLURB: DI Duncan Waddell is on the brink of a nervous breakdown – he thinks his best pal DC Stevie Campbell, who’s been in a coma since he was attacked by a suspect, is talking to him.

When office worker Shelley rushes to her boyfriend’s aid after he is attacked, she is abducted. She wakes up in a strange room with no memory of how she got there.

On the case, Waddell finds himself in a desperate race against time to uncover the truth behind the abduction.

To do this, he and his team must delve into the seedy underbelly of Scotland’s swingers’ scene and a world where women are tricked into the sex business and traded like cattle.


Stuart was hiding something. Shelley could tell. She was always the one who’d had to wake him because he could block out the shrill of the alarm clock. Nowadays, he was up before her, grabbing the mail whilst she slept. And he’d started making breakfast – nothing much, just tea and toast, more than he’d ever made her in their near three years together. 

When she’d ask him if anything was wrong, he’d shrug his shoulders, give her a wee smile and say everything was fine. She knew he was lying because his face went even paler, making his freckles stand out as if they’d been drawn in by a kid with a coloured pencil. She never pushed it, maybe because deep down she was worried that he’d tell her he’d met someone else. 

The No.76 bus was empty when they clambered on board – one of the benefits of working until eleven at night in a call centre, was that there was no need to scoot past a sea of legs and become a contortionist to get on and off a bus. 

Their cold breath filled the air with ghosts as they walked towards Waterstones, Shelley pausing to peek at the new crime fiction releases showcased in the illuminated windows, whilst Stuart fidgeted with his watch. He was always footering about with something since he’d given up cigarettes and it drove her mad, but at least it didn’t fill his lungs with tar and make the house smell like an overflowing ashtray. 

“I need to have a pee,” he announced, as they came to the dimly lit lane off Mitchell Street that reeked of eau de Glasgow: decomposing takeaway, urine and other bodily fluids. 

She groaned. “Can’t you wait until we get home, Stuart?” She knew she’d pronounced his name “Stew- art” as she always did when she was annoyed with him. She couldn’t help it. 

What made men think it was okay to urinate in public? 

Stuart looked pained. “Sorry, I can’t. Too much coffee tonight.” 

She let him walk on ahead of her and whilst he scooted down the alley, she stood outside the amusement arcade, pretending to look in so she wouldn’t be mistaken for a prostitute. It’d happened to her once when she’d got off the bus alone. Stuart hadn’t been working that night. 

Five minutes later, she was so cold she couldn’t feel her nose and Stuart still wasn’t back. 

She turned the corner to look for him, fully expecting to see him ambling back towards her with that jaunty walk that always made her smile. He wasn’t there. 

Where was he? 

Anger welled up in her chest. Had he started smoking again? He swore he wouldn’t. 

There was one way to find out.

Author Jennifer Lee Thomson

Jennifer Lee Thomson is an award-winning Scottish crime writer who has been scribbling away all her life. She also writes non-fiction as Jennifer Thomson and fiction as Jenny Thomson. She’s owned by a giant rescue dog called Harley.

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With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me on this Blog Tour,

Blog Tour – February 2022 – A Lethal Deception – Rachel Amphlett

This is the first Rachel Amphlett book crimeworm has reviewed…

Yes, it is, although she’s an author who’s always been “on my radar,” as it were. But crime fiction fans will know there’s a multitude of authors out there, and it’s impossible to read everyone who catches your eye. Still, Rachel’s books always sounded really intriguing, so I figured it was about time I read and reviewed one!

So did you enjoy it, after waiting so long?!

I did! This is quite a topical subject matter – the abuse of prescription drugs; something I’ve read a few excellent non-fiction books about in the last few years. However, they’ve mostly centred on the US; this is a UK based police procedural, which regular followers will know is one of my favourite genres.

A bit of background, if, like me, you’re new to the author. Detective Kay Hunter is married to a vet, Adam. It’s nice to come across a functional relationship involving a police officer! Anyway, the case starts when Adam’s veterinary surgery is broken into; he’s slightly injured but what they’re really after is the drugs stored there. Due to her connection with Adam, Kay is slightly sidelined but the case begins to really develop when a woman commits suicide by leaping from the top of a car park.

Dramatic stuff! So what’s happened to the drugs?

Well, there are more deaths, and the victims are found to have a bag of white powder either on their person or in their homes. It seems the drugs stolen from Adam’s veterinary surgery have made their way into the community, and are causing devastating consequences.

This is very topical indeed – even in the very small town I live in, drugs – often prescription ones – are causing the deaths of young people. This is a fairly affluent town, but it’s quite isolated, and boredom, as well as mental health issues, seem to cause a lot of young people to make that one bad choice.

Exactly. I think Rachel Amphlett has picked a subject matter that will resonate with many people, even if it’s just that they’ve read about local problems in their newspaper. The heartbreak it can cause those involved, as well as partners and families, is well portrayed in this book.

How did you find the case? Did you think the police issues seemed realistic?

I can only compare it to other procedurals I’ve read (although my mum was a policewoman in Inverness, in the early ’70s – a whole different ball game then!) but I’d say yes – there was a good amount of banter, and the teamwork made me think this was a series I should have picked up earlier, as it was very much up my street. The good news is, there’s ten previous novels to catch up on – as well as other series featuring different protagonists!

So is it fair to say Rachel has a new fan then…?

Yes, I think you can add Rachel Amphlett to the multitude of authors whose new books I look out for (don’t tell my partner though; he’ll have a fit! Although he’s been reading a Glaswegian police procedural the last few nights, so I’ll convert him yet!)

Highly recommended!

I’d like to thank Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this Blog Tour, and sending me an ARC.

Follow the rest of the Blog Tour!

BLURB: When a brutal attack on a business owner is followed by a suspicious death, the police first suspect the beginning of a new underworld drugs war.

Then a second victim is found dead, and the truth starts to look like something much worse.

With the death toll rising and her career under scrutiny from the media and her own superiors, Kay Hunter is running out of time to unravel the deadly secrets hiding behind ruthless ambition and treachery.

But Kay isn’t going to give up easily.

Because this time, the first victim is closer to home…

Blog Tour – July 2021 – Risk Of Harm – Lucie Whitehouse

So who and what is it all about, then?

It’s basically a police procedural, featuring DCI Robin Lyons. She’s not long returned to Birmingham (her return featured in the previous book, Critical Incidents, which I have but have yet to read – it’ll be zooming up the TBR pile after this, though!)

What’s the case she’s investigating?

Actually, it’s two cases, both murders of young women, and first of all it looks as though they could be related – the women looked as though they’d been left with no identifying documents, meaning they would struggle to find out who they were. However, the crime scenes are very different, and Robin and her team (featuring her boss – and teenage sweetheart – Samir) soon come to the conclusion they could be on the hunt for not one but two murderers.

What else is going on in the book?

Well, Robin is a single mum to a 15-year-old daughter, Lennie, and part of the reason she’d moved back to Birmingham was to spend more time with her parents, and give Lennie a chance to get to know them, and vice versa. They’re also available to help with chilcare – although Lennie is kind of beyond that stage, time is a constant issue in Robin’s life (goodness knows how she managed in London, with no family help, when Lennie was younger!) There’s also her brother, Luke, with whom she has always had a somewhat fractious relationship, and an old schoolfriend, Kev, who looks promising boyfriend material for Robin. Lennie has also made good friends since moving cities – one of whom, Asha, has a brother, Austin, who Lennie really likes. So there are lots of characters, as well as the police investigation that’s ongoing, featuring a variety of officers who are under Robin’s command, and who are also well-developed characters. That’s one of the most impressive aspects of this novel.

So why would you recommend this book to me?

First of all, it’s a cracking example of a police procedural, with an engaging and likeable lead character in DCI Lyons, as well as intriguing – and plausible – cases. Also, the family dynamic, both between her and Lennie, and the two of them and Robin’s family, fleshes out the story nicely, and makes for a realistic, rounded life for her – no microwave dinners and wine hangovers for this cop, thankfully! That had become a wee bit of a cliché. Ditto the relationship with Kev – it gives her character a three-dimensional feel. There’s also the feeling that there could be unfinished business with Samir – but with him married with two kids, that could end up getting very messy, were that romance to rekindle…

Lucie Whitehouse has always been an excellent writer – I read her early books, which had more of a domestic noir, or secrets-amongst-old-friends feel, but her move into the police procedural market shows what a mature, versatile and confident writer she has become. I’m very, very hopeful this will not be the last we’ll see of DCI Robin Lyons!

WIth thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and Harper Collins for the review copy.

BLURB: The gripping new crime thriller from the bestselling author of Before We Met and Critical Incidents

Robin Lyons is back in her hometown of Birmingham and now a DCI with Force Homicide, working directly under Samir, the man who broke her heart almost twenty years ago.

When a woman is found stabbed to death in a derelict factory and no one comes forward to identify the body, Robin and her team must not only hunt for the murderer, but also solve the mystery of who their victim might be.

As Robin and Samir come under pressure from their superiors, from the media and from far-right nationalists with a dangerous agenda, tensions in Robin’s own family threaten to reach breaking point. And when a cold case from decades ago begins to smoulder and another woman is found dead in similar circumstances, rumours of a serial killer begin to spread.

In order to get to the truth Robin will need to discover where loyalty ends and duty begins. But before she can trust, she is going to have to forgive – and that means grappling with some painful home truths.

Author Lucie Whitehouse
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Book Review – May 2019 – Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly

Sometimes I think if you looked up the word, “pageturner” in a dictionary, you’ll be greeted by a picture of the author Michael Connelly. I’ve read him for years – since the early 90s – and unlike other authors of whom I was a fan around that time, I’ve never tired of or outgrown his work. (Patricia Cornwell is an author I also read back then, but in that case, I think it’s more, “it’s not me, it’s her.”) Jonathan Kellerman is the only other author I can think of who’s still writing and who I still read – but my love for him doesn’t compare to my love for Connelly, or, more specifically, Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch, his most prolific and successful creation. I’m delighted to finally see great adaptations of his novels on Amazon Prime – although personally I’m more of a reader than a viewer of crime fiction.

Connelly is now facing the difficulty of Bosch having retired from the LAPD, although he does investigate cold cases pro bono as a reserve for the small San Fernando PD. So this one isn’t just a Bosch book – it also features Renée Ballard, to whom we were introduced in the very good recent novel The Late Show. Harry Bosch has had his fair share of partners over the years (Kiz Rider and Jerry Edgar immediately spring to mind), but Ballard is probably the most idiosyncratic of them all. Having spent her childhood in Hawaii, she loves the beach – to the extent she doesn’t have a permanent home, preferring instead to work her night shift (the late show, as it’s known) then drive to the beach in her van and pitch a tent, grabbing a few hours sleep after doing some paddleboarding.

Bosch and Ballard start working together on the LAPD cold case of Daisy Clayton, a 15-year-old runaway murdered 9 years previously. Ballard’s job means Bosch can gain access to LAPD material, and although the two solo operators are initially unsure how much trust to place in one another, they eventually begin to work as a team – especially after Renée extricates Bosch from a sticky situation resulting from his investigation into a gang-related murder in San Fernando. They’re actually very similar types of people – both essentially loners, married to their work; dogged investigators; and both subscribing to Bosch’s oft-cited view that “everyone counts or no one counts.” Ballard is very skilled at sizing up a crime scene and seeing exactly what occurred, something which is wonderfully demonstrated at the beginning of the novel when she is called to what looks like a particularly unpleasant murder scene. As well as Daisy’s murder, various other crimes are investigated along the way (the aforementioned crime scene Ballard’s called to, which morphs into another crime; Bosch’s gangland cold case.) They don’t all tie together the way they would in some novelists’ work; rather they demonstrate the strange and fascinating world of policing in Los Angeles – particularly at night. I also enjoyed getting an insight into how LAPD used to work, with the “shakedown”, or field interview cards. The sexism still rife in the Department is well illustrated in a “boys will be boys” case where some young teenagers are caught peeking at a strip club. Daisy’s case shows how Hollywood Boulevard – to cinema-goers and tourists, the epitome of glamour – has a much seamier side, particularly during the dark sacred night that supplies the book with it’s title. 

Connelly’s success comes from knowing this city’s dark sacred nights inside out himself from his days as a crime correspondent on the Los Angeles Times (you can read some of his work as a reporter in the excellent Crime Beat.) Bosch and Ballard make a fine combination – it’s always been hard to find a partner who matches him in tenacity, and personality, as we’ve got to know him so well. His daughter Maddie is now away at college and has only a peripheral role to play in this novel, although I’ve often thought Connelly may intend to write books featuring her exploits (as a rookie cop, presumably) when the time comes. For now, though, there’s only room for one Bosch on the mean streets of LA, and this book should please dedicated fans and newbies equally. And I really wouldn’t expect anything less by now. Superb stuff indeed.

Don’t miss it! 

I received an advance review copy of this book through NetGalley, courtesy of Orion Books. This is an unbiased review. 

BLURB: LAPD Detective Renée Ballard teams up with Harry Bosch in the new thriller from #1 NYT bestselling author Michael Connelly.

Renée Ballard is working the night beat again, and returns to Hollywood Station in the early hours only to find a stranger rifling through old file cabinets. The intruder is retired detective Harry Bosch, working a cold case that has gotten under his skin. Ballard kicks him out, but then checks into the case herself and it brings a deep tug of empathy and anger.

Bosch is investigating the death of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway on the streets of Hollywood who was brutally murdered and her body left in a dumpster like so much trash. Now, Ballard joins forces with Bosch to find out what happened to Daisy and finally bring her killer to justice.

April 2019 – Blog Tour – The Island – Ragnar Jónasson

The second in the Dark Iceland series, after The Darkness, this is an utterly engrossing tale of two murders, exactly a decade apart. The first was solved by our police officer heroine Hulda Hermansdóttir’s colleague, Lydur (now her superior.) The accused – I won’t say who it was – committed suicide in custody, sealing belief in their guilt.

Ten years on, the brother, Dagur, and close friends (Benedikt, Alexandra, and Klara) of the victim, Katla, travel to the uninhabited island of Ellidaey for a reunion – but only three make it to the end of the weekend. As Hulda digs into the background of those present, she finds out about the original murder, and is convinced the answers to her case lie somewhere in that investigation – causing her to bump heads with Lydur, who definitely doesn’t want his findings examined too closely. That case was also primarily responsible for him climbing up the promotional ladder above the diligent Hulda, who also suffered due to the institutional sexism still ingrained in the Icelandic police at that time. (The first murder occurred in 1987, the second in ‘97.)

To be honest, a five word review would perfectly sum up what I thought of The Island – I LOVED THIS BOOK! Jónasson (whose Dark Iceland series with Orenda Books has been a massive hit, and rightly so – I’m a colossal fan!) ratchets up the tension tighter and tighter, so we are cheering on the unlikely heroine Hulda, who has a tragic backstory of her own. It is essentially not dissimilar to an Agatha Christie novel (whose novels Jónasson translated into Icelandic) – there are only three suspects, as the island is otherwise deserted. Added frisson comes with the question of how this is connected to the murder of the quartet’s friend and sister a decade previously, giving Hulda two murders to solve…as well as the opportunity to see the insufferable Lydur knocked off his ill-deserved pedestal. The well-portrayed spooky atmosphere of the deserted Elldaey also left me feeling uneasy as I read late into the night…

It’s difficult to say much more without dropping spoilers. I must admit to being a big fan of Icelandic Noir, partly because of settings like Elldaey and the way writers use such desolate landscape to give readers a feeling of unease. I particularly enjoy Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Arnaldur Indridason, and Quentin Bates. Ragnar Jónasson is demonstrating with each book he writes that he more than deserves a place amongst such hallowed company. Victoria Cribb, who also translates for the first two mentioned above (Bates writes in English), provides as ever a seamless translation.

I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve found my concentration pretty poor while I’ve been in hospital, and I’ve been guilty of getting halfway through books before abandoning them for another title – something I’d rarely do at home. This definitely wasn’t the case with The Island – I romped through it faster than nearly any other book since I’ve been in hospital! Here’s hoping it’s helped my concentration heal.

Highly recommended.

I received a proof copy from Penguin Michael Joseph books, but this is an unbiased review.

BLURB: Elliðaey is an isolated island off the coast of Iceland. It is has a beautiful, unforgiving terrain and is an easy place to vanish.

The Island is the second thrilling book in Ragnar Jonasson’s Hidden Iceland trilogy. This time Hulda is at the peak of her career and is sent to investigate what happened on Elliðaey after a group of friends visited but one failed to return.

Could this have links to the disappearance of a couple ten years previously out on the Westfjords? Is there a killer stalking these barren outposts?

Written with Ragnar’s haunting and suspenseful prose The Island follows Hulda’s journey to uncover the island’s secrets and find the truth hidden in its darkest shadows.

Book Review – February 2019 – Mummy’s Favourite – Sarah Flint


Well, after a hiatus that extended somewhat longer than I anticipated, I’m back. I’m actually in hospital at the moment, in the quite wonderful National Spinal Injury Unit in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, in Glasgow. I’ve been here for three and a half months, and anticipate being here probably a couple more months. You’d think hospital would be an ideal place to catch up on your reading, but my concentration isn’t as consistently good as usual – although it is now dramatically improving. I’ll be posting reviews of some of the books I’ve read as soon as I can type them up – hospital is bizarrely tiring! Now, to the book…

Sarah Flint is the latest in quite a line of crime writers who were once “on the job” themselves. Not that that’s an automatic recommendation – the main qualification for writing a gripping police procedural is not authenticity (although naturally that helps.) No, to my mind, anyway, it’s being able to spin a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining yarn; one that keeps the reader guessing until the final reveal.

I’m happy to report that the first book in the DC Charlie Stafford series ticks all the boxes. It’s original, realistic, and as for whodunnit…well, at one point or another, I’d pretty much blamed everyone, bar the actual protagonist.

DC Charlie Stafford is also a likeable central character. She’s somewhat shambolic when it comes to presenting the present-day slick, media-friendly look to the world, with hair that sticks up everywhere, and a tendency for getting distracted by criminals on the way to work and appearing looking as though she’s been dragged through a hedge backwards. But she’s tenacious, and worships her boss, DI Geoffrey Hunter (although naturally, stubborn Charlie attempts to hide it.) She works in the Community Support Unit, which is described as, “the first stop for all budding CID officers.” They deal with crimes involving domestic violence, and crimes connected to race/faith/sexual orientation/disability. The unit’s involvement in the big case featuring in this book comes about due to the disappearance of a mother and her son. The reason for their involvement is because there had previously been allegations of domestic abuse made against her husband – could he be responsible for the disappearance of his wife and one of his two sons? His reaction certainly looks suspicious – he wastes no time at all in clearing out all trace of her, as well as scrubbing the house clean, making it impossible to judge whether she’s left of her own volition, or been the victim of a crime, as well as destroying any DNA evidence.

Well, Keith Hubbard’s certainly a nasty piece of work, as Charlie personally discovers, but when another mother-and-child pairing disappears they have to widen their investigation – while not dismissing Hubbard entirely. And I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say there are more victims as the book proceeds.

A prominent and highly respected lawyer – the sort that’s a bane to coppers – gets mixed up in their investigation, intriguing me still further. There’s also a somewhat unusual love interest for Charlie – a homeless ex-soldier who suffers from problems associated with leaving the army: PTSD, alcohol abuse, and other such problems often associated with adjusting to life in the less regimented Civvy Street. He’s a good soul, with a soft spot for Charlie, particularly after one incident they both get caught up in. He makes a refreshing change from the more conventional love interests in police procedurals (very often, it’s colleagues.)

There’s ample red herrings, and excellent story development. This one will definitely keep you reading until the final page. A book is really having to grab me for me at the moment for me to get through it. Mummy’s Favourite managed to do that, and I look forward to hearing more about DC Charlie Stafford. Sarah Flint could be a name to look out for.

With thanks to Head Of Zeus for my copy of the book, which did not influence my review. 

BLURB: He’s watching… He’s waiting… Who’s next?
Buried in a woodland grave are a mother and her child. One is alive. One is dead.
DC ‘Charlie’ Stafford is assigned by her boss, DI Geoffrey Hunter to assist with the missing persons investigation.
As more pairs go missing, the pressure mounts. Leads are going cold. Suspects are identified but have they got the right person?
Can Charlie stop the sadistic killer whose only wish is to punish those he deems to have committed a wrong. Or will she herself unwittingly become a victim.
A gripping, heart-stopping crime thriller, introducing new series character DC Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Stafford of London Metropolitan Police.