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Friday, December 24, 2021

The Christmas Killer (DI James Walker Book One) by Alex Pine


The Christmas Killer (DI James Walker Book One) by Alex Pine.

Published 29th October 2020 by Avon.

From the cover of the book:

As the snow begins to fall, the body count begins to climb…

DI James Walker is ready for a quiet family Christmas in the sleepy village of Kirkby Abbey.

But when he opens an early Christmas present left on his doorstep, he soon realises it is no gift. Inside is a gruesome surprise, and a promise – twelve days, twelve murders. Not long after, the first body is found, half frozen in the snow.

As the blizzards descend, panic spreads through the remote Cumbrian village – there’s a killer amongst them, and with eleven more victims to go, anyone could be next….

Can James stop the killer before they strike again?

The first in a new series, Alex Pine has written a dark, atmospheric crime novel, set in a snowed-in Cumbrian village, for fans of Val McDermid, Ross Greenwood and LJ Ross.


When DI James Walker and his wife Annie move to the rural Cumbrian village of Kirkby Abbey, where she grew up, they are expecting a quiet family Christmas after the difficult times they have left behind in busy London, but fate has other plans for them.

A few days before the festivities begin, Walker finds a mysterious package left on his doorstep, but rather than being a gift from a well-wisher it contains a gruesome surprise and a Christmas card promising twelve murders in twelve days. The first body is found frozen in the snow soon after, and as victims and sinister Christmas messages start to pile up, Walker and his team are at a loss to explain who is responsible for this campaign of retribution upon the 'guilty' of this tiny village.

Can Walker get to the bottom of the killings before the murderer reaches their target of a dozen sinners?

The Christmas Killer is a festive novel filled with suspense in the remote Cumbrian countryside, and the setting of a sleepy rural village in the snow is the perfect backdrop for this mix of police procedural and cosy murder-mystery with a gritty undercurrent. Small town stories have a tendency to be full of characters with secrets to hide and lies to be uncovered, and rather deliciously, this is just the case in Kirkby Abbey. Someone in this picturesque backwater has knowledge of all the dirt on its outwardly respectable residents, and is determined that a few of them be brought to justice at the pointy end of a very sharp knife.

Walker has a lot of suspects to consider before he can find the culprit, which brings in a slew of entertaining red herrings in true Christie style. As the tension mounts among the residents of the village, the net-curtains are twitching, and long-standing feuds and rivalries between neighbours spill over into shouting matches and fisticuffs, which hamper the progress of the investigation - building up to an intriguing finale.

I polished this book off in double time and am looking forward to picking up Walker's story in book two The Killer in the Snow, very soon. This is just the ticket if you enjoy an easy read Midsomer Murders kind of countryside crime story, with added snowy vibes!

The Christmas Killer is available to buy now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from your favourite book retailer.

About the author:

Alex Pine was born and raised on a council estate in South London and left school at sixteen. Before long, he embarked on a career in journalism, which took him all over the world – many of the stories he covered were crime-related. Among his favourite hobbies are hiking and water-based activities, so he and his family have spent lots of holidays in the Lake District. He now lives with his wife on a marina close to the New Forest on the South Coast – providing him with the best of both worlds!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Crime At Black Dudley (Albert Campion Book One) by Margery Allingham (Audio Book)


The Crime at Black Dudley (Albert Campion Book One).

Narrated by David Thorpe.

Released 14th February 2013 by Audible Studios. Originally published in 1929.

From the cover:

When George Abbershaw is invited to Black Dudley Manor for the weekend, he has only one thing on his mind - proposing to Meggie Oliphant. Unfortunately for George, things don't quite go according to plan. A harmless game turns decidedly deadly and suspicions of murder take precedence over matrimony. Trapped in a remote country house with a murderer, George can see no way out. But Albert Campion can.

About the author: Margery Allingham was born in London in 1904. Her first novel was published when she was 17. In 1929 she published The Crime at Black Dudley and introduced the character who was to become the hallmark of her writing - Albert Campion.


When doctor and forensic expert George Abbershaw is invited to Black Dudley Manor for the weekend, he is looking forward to a relaxing time in the company of friends - especially the beguiling Meggie Oliphant, who has captured his heart. Unfortunately for George, things go serious awry when a harmless game takes a deadly turn.

The plot thickens when it appears that one of their number is a notorious crime boss, who is determined to get his hands on a mystery item that has gone missing, and he and his hired goons won't let anyone leave this remote country house until it is found.

The weekend visitors have become trapped here - one of them is certainly a murderer, and they are all under the threat of harm from a seriously dodgy gang of cut-throats who may or may not be behind the killing. George can see no way out, but eccentric fellow guest Albert Campion, who no one can remember inviting, might just have a plan...

I love Golden Age crime, but have never read Margery Allingham, so when this book, the first in the Albert Campion series, came up in an Audible sale I had to have a listen.

This has all the menacing, locked room murder-mystery elements I love, but it is rather quirky as it is pitched somewhere between a classic crime tale and a humourous P.G. Wodehouse-esque caper - with flashes of adventure tales like The 39 Steps. I think the most unusual thing about it is the fact that Albert Campion is actually a bit-part player for most of the story, although he is the key to solving the mystery.

I really enjoyed this tale, especially as it was narrated by one of my favourite voice actors David Thorpe, but I am not sure if I am quite sold on Campion himself yet, and suspect he might be something of an acquired taste. I have book two, Mystery Mile, lined up to listen to in the new year so time will tell!

The Crime at Back Dudley is available to buy now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from your favourite book retailer.

About the author:

Margery Allingham is ranked among the most distinguished and beloved detective fiction writers of the Golden Age alongside Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Ngaio Marsh. Allingham is J.K. Rowling's favourite Golden Age author and Agatha Christie said of Allingham that out of all the detective stories she remembers, Margery Allingham 'stands out like a shining light'.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

My Mother, Munchausen's And Me by Helen Naylor (Audio book)


My Mother, Munchausen's and Me by Helen Naylor.

Audio book narrated by Helen Naylor.

Released 25th November 2021 by Thread Books.

From the cover:

"There was a time when I loved my mother. It’s shocking to imply that I stopped loving my mum because mothers always love their children and always do their best for them. Mothers are supposed to be good. But my mother wasn’t good."

Ten years ago, Helen Naylor discovered her mother, Elinor, had been faking debilitating illnesses for 30 years. After Elinor’s self-induced death, Helen found her diaries, which Elinor wrote daily for more than 50 years. The diaries reveal not only the inner workings of Elinor’s twisted mind and self-delusion, but also shocking revelations about Helen’s childhood.

Everything Helen knew about herself and her upbringing was founded on a lie. The unexplained accidents and days spent entirely on her own as a little girl, imagining herself climbing into the loft and disappearing into a different world, tell a story of neglect. As a teenager, her mother’s advice to Helen on her body and mental health speaks of dangerous manipulation.

With Elinor’s behaviour becoming increasingly destructive, and Helen now herself a mother, she was left with a stark choice: to collude with Elinor’s lies or be accused of abandoning her.

My Mother, Munchausen’s and Me is a heart-breaking, honest, and brave account of a daughter unravelling the truth about her mother and herself. It’s a story of a stolen childhood, mental illness, and the redemptive power of breaking a complex and toxic bond.


My Mother, Munchausen's and Me is a heart-breaking account of one woman's discovery that everything she thought she knew about her mother and their relationship was based on lies, and that far from loving and wanting the best for her daughter her mother Elinor was consumed by the need for attention to the detriment of all other things in her life, including her own health.

When Helen became a mother herself, she began to question quite how much of her childhood had been as normal as she had previously thought. Despite her father's considerable medical problems, their family life revolved around Elinor's conviction that she was suffering from ME (Myalgic encephalomyelitis). As Helen realised that her own idea of motherhood looked very different to the way Elinor behaved, she gradually realised that there were huge inconsistencies between the things Elinor said and did.

It wasn't until Elinor claimed to be suffering from severe Parkinson's Disease, manufacturing traits of the disease that she had obviously read about but never seen, that Helen came to understand that her mother was actually displaying all the symptoms of both Munchausen's Disease and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but her attempts to make her suspicions known to the medical practitioners treating Elinor mostly fell on deaf ears. Eventually, the toll on Helen of living with Elinor's increasingly bizarre behaviour led to a breakdown in their relationship, and Elinor's mental and physical condition deteriorated so much that she brought about her own death.

Helen originally decided to write down her experiences as a record for her children to read once they had grown-up, but as she started to tell her story, she realised that this would become much more than a private family account of her relationship with her mother - especially when she came to read the diaries that Elinor had left behind. Reading Elinor's own words not only came to confirm everything Helen had suspected about her mother's mental health, but shockingly brought home quite how much she had been neglected and abused during her own childhood. Instead, this book has become not only a moving memoir, but also a way to raise awareness about Munchausen's Syndrome and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

There is so much to take from this book, not just about being more aware of of two largely undiagnosed conditions, but also about how the lack of joined up thinking in the health system contributes to them going under the radar - and perhaps more importantly, highlights that the widely held belief that all mothers are loving and caring is not the truth, and sometimes you need to separate yourself from toxic relationships for your own good.

This is really not my usual sort of audio book listen, but Helen's account of her life is so compelling that I found myself hanging onto every word as she recounted her experiences, especially since I saw my own mother fade away in the grip of Parkinson's Disease, and I have nothing but praise for her brave decision to share her story. I urge you all to read, or listen, to this one, because it is a real eye-opener of a profoundly shocking tale. Interestingly, this is actually a book which encourages you to examine your own family relationships too!

My Mother, Munchausen's and Me is available to buy now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Thread Books for allowing me to have access to the audio version of this memoir.

About the author:

Helen Naylor has been writing as a hobby since she was a small girl; but it wasn't until she began a memoir about growing up with a mother who faked illnesses and had narcissistic personality traits that she was encouraged to pursue writing professionally. Helen lives in Nottingham with her husband; two children and cat and enjoys cycling; playing guitar and drinking good coffee.

The Arctic Curry Club by Dani Redd


The Arctic Curry Club by Dani Redd.

Published 9th December 2021 by Avon.

From the cover of the book:

‘For my whole life I had been looking for home. But why would that be in a place that I’d left? Perhaps I had to keep moving forward in order to find it…’

Soon after upending her life to accompany her boyfriend Ryan to the Arctic, Maya realises it’s not all Northern Lights and husky sleigh rides. Instead, she’s facing sub-zero temperatures, 24-hour darkness, crippling anxiety – and a distant boyfriend as a result.

In her loneliest moment, Maya opens her late mother’s recipe book and cooks Indian food for the first time. Through this, her confidence unexpectedly grows – she makes friends, secures a job as a chef, and life in the Arctic no longer freezes her with fear.

But there’s a cost: the aromatic cuisine rekindles memories of her enigmatic mother and her childhood in Bangalore. Can Maya face the past and forge a future for herself in this new town? After all, there’s now high demand for a Curry Club in the Arctic, and just one person with the know-how to run it…

A tender and uplifting story about family, community, and finding where you truly belong – guaranteed to warm your heart despite the icy setting!


Anglo-Indian chef Maya is someone who is not really sure where she belongs, even if she can't remember much about her life in India before the death of her mother when she was seven. Perhaps if she could overcome her fears, stepping out of her comfort zone might be just the thing she needs?

Then an exciting opportunity comes her way... Her boyfriend Ryan persuades her to accompany him for the duration of his placement studying polar bears in the Arctic, and the prospect of sleigh rides and romantic snuggles watching the Northern Lights has her excited, but the reality of living in Longyearbyen, the most northerly town in the world, is rather different. The sub-zero temperatures, constant darkness and threat of polar bear attacks are far from romantic or cosy, and pretty soon Maya's crippling anxiety lays her low and brings a distance between her and Ryan. Maybe coming here was a mistake, especially since she was already feeling unsettled by her father's decision to move to India and his impending marriage?

When Maya takes the opportunity of a job offer to become a chef at an Arctic pursuits training camp just outside town, she starts to make good friends of her own and learns how to cope with life in this extreme environment, but it is unexpectedly, the return of Maya's English father to the country of her birth that gives her the strength to follow her dreams. For it is Maya's ambition to run an Arctic Curry Club in frozen Svalbard, based on a fusion of the handwritten recipes of her mother, which come into her possession when she attends her father's wedding in Bangalore, and the Nordic flavours of her icy adopted home. Maya slowly, and sometimes painfully, reconnects with her childhood, as the aromatic and sensual flavours of Indian cuisine bring back long forgotten memories of her mother, and as she finds a way to piece together her own identity she also comes to finally understand that standing on her own two feet is how to discover where she belongs.

When I began Maya's story, I was expecting a cosy rom-com set in a chilly environment, full of the kind of experiences that Maya herself thought would be part of her Arctic adventure, but in fact Dani Redd has cleverly created a tale in these pages that is about so much more than a girl-meets-boy scenario. Instead, this is a story about how some very challenging times help Maya to take control of her life.

This is a story full of family, true friendship and pulling together in adversity, with Maya's many experiences about life in Longyearbyen contrasting beautifully with those from her visit to baking-hot Bangalore, and everything goes together into one big mixing pot to produce a bit of story magic. The cooking theme works so well throughout, tying Maya's memories closely with the evocative aromas and flavours of her childhood, highlighting how our experience of food is about so much more than the ingredients. This proves to be something of a metaphor for both Maya's culinary ambitions and personal journey, as she finds just the right recipe to put together all the little pieces of her mixed heritage. 

There are laughs, chiefly from the absurdity of the situations that arise, but Redd does not shy away from also exploring some pretty dark themes about mental health, family trauma, and acceptance through the stories of many of the characters here, which elicit many tears of both the happy and sad variety. 

This is such a wonderful heart and stomach warming story of self-discovery, that takes you through the whole gamut of emotional flavours - and I guarantee you will be craving a curry by the time you reach the gorgeous ending.

The Arctic Curry Club is available to buy now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Avon for sending me a proof of this book in return for an honest review.

About the author:

Dani Redd is the debut author of The Arctic Curry Club, which was longlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Prize. She has an MA and PhD in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. This involved research trips to some of Europe’s remoter islands, including Spitsbergen, in the Arctic Circle. After this, she spent two years living in India. She now lives in Norwich with her husband, and is working as a food editor while writing that tricky second novel.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Christmas At Lobster Bay (Lobster Bay Book Two) (Audio Book) by Annie Robertson


Christmas At Lobster Bay (Lobster Bay Book Two) (Audio Book) by Annie Robertson.

Released 1st December 2021 by Isis Audio.

Narrated by Eilidh Beaton.

From the cover:

When Emma and Aidan decide to expand The Guesthouse at Lobster Bay by merging their two homes, Emma feels certain it's the project she needs to develop her flourishing retreat. Emma has three months to complete the project before her guests arrive for a sumptuous Christmas in Lobster Bay, but as soon as the work begins, Emma's dream of expansion begins to fall apart....

Unforeseen structural problems, the arrival of a long-term guest and an errant puppy who is determined to chew her way through every piece of pipe and furniture push Emma and Aidan to their limit. As Emma battles to keep her dream alive, will she pull off her dream of Christmas at Lobster Bay?


Welcome back to the picturesque Scottish sea-side resort of Lobster Bay! Christmas at Lobster Bay begins some months after the events in book one, The Guesthouse at Lobster Bay, in which Emma decided to leave her life in London behind and pursue her dream of running a guest house in the tiny Scottish resort of Lobster Bay, finding love, friendship, and the community spirit she was looking for to make her whole again.

Emma has made a great success of her guesthouse venture, and things are now running smoothly with her faithful team around her, including her boyfriend Aiden, but instead of feeling content with her lot she finds herself a bit restless. Aiden is baffled by Emma's need for something more, but when they decide to expand the guesthouse to incorporate his house next door it seems the perfect project to give Emma the challenge she is looking for. 

However, things soon become a bit more a challenge than Emma had in mind, when the project runs into trouble that could spell disaster for all Emma's plans... and her future with Aiden. As structural issues, an errant puppy, and relationship and friendship complications all add to the mounting toll of problems, Emma begins to wonder if uprooting her life and moving to Lobster Bay was the right thing to do. Can she get her dreams back on track?

I absolutely loved the first book in this series and could not wait to meet up with the Lobster Bay gang once again in this fabulous second instalment of Emma's story. Things are going well for Emma on the guesthouse, relationship and friendship front, but fate decides to throw a huge spanner in all the works when Emma's restlessness leads her to take on a project that almost spells disaster for her dream of happily ever after in Lobster Bay. There are laughs and tears a-plenty in this story as the mishaps and misunderstandings serve to tie all the threads together into a knot that is seems impossible to unpick, but of course, as in all the best rom-coms everything sorts itself out in one gorgeous heart-warming ending that is all the better for being in such a wonderful setting at Christmas time.

All my favourite characters are here again, and there are also some new faces to mix things up nicely and give the fabulous narrator Eilidh Beaton a challenge on the regional accent front, which she pulls off in the accomplished way that makes her one of my favourite voice actors: her storytelling held me spellbound from beginning to end, evoking all the feels as she told Annie Robertson's lovely tale of what comes with trying to balance all sides of life and recognising when everything you need has been right there in front of you the whole time. 

I just love the way Robertson manages to deliver a tale about friendship, family, and love, with such a lovely cast of characters of all ages coping with the pressures that come with modern life, bringing in issues around mental health, communication, coping with loss, managing expectation, and overcoming family trauma in a way that makes them engaging and relatable. I am not ashamed to say that much sobbing, of the happy and sad variety, happened while I listened to this audio book, and I loved every teary minute.

I have my fingers crossed that Robertson will decide to pay a visit to Lobster Bay again in the future, because my heart lies firmly in that little Scottish sea-side town with all its human, and animal, residents.

Christmas at Lobster Bay is available to buy now in paperback, ebook and audio formats.

Thank you to Isis Audio for sending me a copy of this audio book in return for an honest review, and to Danielle Price at The Reading Closet for inviting me to be part of the 12 Audiobooks of Christmas blog tour.

About the author:

Annie Robertson is a pen name for Nora Brown, the author of four romantic novels, including My Mamma Mia Summer, My Mamma Mia Christmas, Four Weddings and a Festival and When Harry Met Sally Again. She recently bought her own guesthouse in a beautiful coastal town in Scotland, which was the inspiration for the new Lobster Bay series, The Guesthouse at Lobster Bay and Christmas at Lobster Bay.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie


Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie.

Special edition published 14th October by Harper Collins.

From the cover of the book:

It is Christmas Eve. The Lee family reunion is shattered by a deafening crash of furniture, followed by a scream…

Upstairs, the tyrannical Simeon Lee lies dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed.

But when Hercule Poirot, who is staying in the village with a friend for Christmas, offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems everyone had their own reason to hate the old man…

When a murder takes place during a family reunion, Hercule Poirot offers his assistance and finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. Originally published in 1939 and reissued for the AGATHA CHRISTIE COLLECTION.


When elderly, infirm millionaire Simeon Lee invites his four sons and their respective wives back home for Christmas, including the two sons he hasn't seen for years, his plan is not so much to have a big family reconciliation, but rather to have a little fun at their expense. The plot thickens when they discover Simeon's Spanish grandaughter, a young woman none of them have met, has also been invited to not only stay for Christmas, but to make her home among them, and Simeon announces that he plans to alter his will.

Add to the mix a mysterious South African who claims to be the son of Simeon's former partner in the diamond mining business, and a rag-tag mix of domestic staff and you have the perfect setting for one of Agatha Christie's finest twisty murder mysteries - for, of course, it's not long before wicked Simeon's malicious meddling leads to the old man being brutally murdered and some precious stones he keeps in his safe being stolen.

This is a tricky crime to solve, especially since Simeon's bedroom door was locked from the inside, but fortunately Hercule Poirot is in the neighbourhood and able to offer his famous skills to his friend Chief Constable Colonel Johnson, and to the investigating officer Superintendent Sugden in their endeavour to discover who murdered Simeon Lee and stole his diamonds.

In true Christie style, nothing is straightforward, everyone has something to hide, and motive and opportunity to kill the old man, and it is a delight to follow the investigation through to its classic Poirot conclusion when he gathers them all together for the whos, whys and where-fors and fingers the guilty party!

Fabulous festive whodunnit shenanigans!

Hercule Poirot's Christmas is available to buy now in hardcover, paperback, ebook and audio formats.

About the author: 

Agatha Christie is known throughout the world as the Queen of Crime. Her books have sold over a billion copies in English, with another billion in over 70 foreign languages. She is the most widely published author of all time and in any language, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. She is the author of 80 crime novels and short story collections, 20 plays, and six novels written under the name of Mary Westmacott.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Her Second Death: A Bree Taggart Short Story by Melinda Leigh (Excerpt and Author Interview)


Her Second Death: A Bree Taggart Short Story by Melinda Leigh (Excerpt and Author Interview).

Published 7th December 2021 by Amazon Orginals.

From the cover of the book:

In this short-story prequel to the Bree Taggert series by #1 Amazon Charts and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author Melinda Leigh, a murder investigation yields parallels to the Philly detective’s own frightening past.

When a man is shot in the head, Bree Taggert and her new partner, veteran detective Dana Romano, respond to the call. They break the news to the victim’s ex-wife and learn the estranged couple’s five-year-old daughter was supposed to have been with him. 

What starts as a murder investigation quickly morphs into a desperate search for a missing child. 

The case stirs memories of Bree’s own traumatizing childhood. To find the little girl, Bree will have to relive her own terrifying past.


To mark the publication of this short-story prequel to the Bree Taggart series, it is my absolute pleasure to bring you an excerpt from the book and an interview with its best-selling author Melinda Leigh!

Her Second Death Excerpt

The medical examiner pulled out of the Ford’s interior. “No rigor yet. Livor mortis isn’t fixed yet either. Cold would slow decomp, but he’s relatively fresh. Died very early this morning.” He closed his eyes and his jowly face screwed up as he did the mental math. “Six to eight hours ago, roughly between midnight and two a.m.”

Which matched the times on the surveillance video. “Detective Romano?” Reilly called. “CSU is here.”

As soon as the ME removed the body, the crime scene unit would take over.

“Do we have a next of kin for the victim?” Romano asked.

Reilly nodded. “He’s married to Kelly Tyson.”

“Let’s go notify Mrs. Tyson.” Romano turned back toward their vehicle. Once behind the wheel, she rubbed her palms together, then pulled a pair of leather gloves from her pocket and tugged them on.

In the passenger seat, Bree blew on her freezing hands. Romano peeled away from the curb.

“Wasn’t a robbery.” Bree rolled the facts around in her head. “They left cash in Tyson’s wallet. Also, they didn’t take the car. Drug deal gone sour?”

“We have no idea what happened, other than a guy got shot.”

“You don’t like any of those theories?” Bree asked.

Romano shot her a direct look. “I like evidence, not theories.”


Interview with Author Melinda Leigh

Detective Bree Taggert is one of your most popular characters. What is it about her that makes readers come back for more of her story?

Bree is strong and smart, but she’s also flawed and vulnerable. She begins the series as an excellent homicide detective but personally empty. A horrific childhood tragedy distanced Bree from her family and made her a loner. Her sister’s murder triggers the desire to change that. Bree takes on her sister’s case—and her sister’s kids. Bree sees her own childhood reflected in her niece and nephew and is determined not to let them grow up as damaged as she is. In order to do that, she needs to make herself vulnerable. In accepting responsibility for the children, she starts her own road to healing.

I believe readers want to root for her. They want to see her overcome her violent backstory. She often does what is right, not what is easy or comfortable. In each book, she not only solves a murder, she also makes a small step toward healing, with readers cheering her on.

You have published five books in this series so far, but in Her Second Death you write a prequel story. What made you want to show Bree on one of her first homicide cases?

I wanted to show the evolution of Bree’s professional life before she begins her personal journey. She is a complex character, and I’ve enjoyed exploring all aspects of her development.

In Her Second Death, Bree is assigned to investigate a violent crime. Tell readers a bit about the case and how she and her new partner Dana Romano work to find the killer.

Bree begins the story as a brand-new homicide detective. She and partner investigate the crime in the usual fashion, but Bree brings her own past to the table. She provides unique insight that helps her solve the case.

Bree finds a personal connection to this crime almost immediately. What effect does her own early family tragedy have on her handling a missing child case?

The case immediately strikes a familiar—and disturbing--cord in Bree. But she can’t allow her personal discomfort to interfere with the investigation. She’ll have to relive her past to solve the case.

What is next for Bree?

The next Bree Taggert novel, Dead Against Her, will be released in May. In it, Bree will need to face a more recent demon, the murder of a former deputy with whom she has a personal disagreement. When she took over the job of sheriff, Bree inherited some misogynist deputies from the previous, corrupt sheriff. In Dead Against Her, this conflict comes to an explosive and violent head.

About the author:

#1 Amazon Charts and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author Melinda Leigh is a fully recovered banker. Melinda’s debut novel, She Can Run, was nominated for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers. She’s garnered numerous writing awards, including two RITA nominations. 

Her other novels include She Can Tell, She Can Scream, She Can Hide, and She Can Kill in the She Can series; Midnight Exposure, Midnight Sacrifice, Midnight Betrayal, and Midnight Obsession in the Midnight novels; Hour of Need, Minutes to Kill, and Seconds to Live in the Scarlet Falls series; Say You’re Sorry, Her Last Goodbye, Bones Don’t Lie, What I’ve Done, Secrets Never Die, and Save Your Breath in the Morgan Dane series; and the Bree Taggert novels, Cross Her Heart, See Her Die, Drown Her Sorrows, and Right Behind Her

She holds a second-degree black belt in Kenpo karate, has taught women’s self-defence, and lives in a messy house with her family and a small herd of rescue pets. 

Social Media Links:

Website     Facebook     Twitter     Instagram     Goodreads

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Search No Further by A.J. Campbell


Search No Further by A.J. Campbell.

Published 11th December 2021 by Code Grey Publishing.

From the cover of the book:



Glamorous Cara De Rosa has it all: a successful and rapidly expanding chain of family-run Italian restaurants, friends aplenty, and an imminent marriage to a much younger man.

When she collapses during a family party, all signs point to a heart attack. But Cara knows better.

Someone wants Cara dead.

Granddaughter Sienna already knows what it’s like to want answers. This time she’s determined to get them.

Because at De Rosa’s, someone needs to pay.


Cara De Rosa is a woman who seems to have it all. Head of an expanding chain of family-run Italian restaurants, with her finger on the pulse of the lives of all her family members right down to her beloved great-granddaughter Lola, she seems to have been blessed with the kind of driving ambition and boundless energy that would put any woman of more tender years to shame, and she is more than a match for her younger fiance.

When Cara collapses during a lavish family party, the doctors are sure she has had heart attack, even if she does not seem to be responding to their treatment plan, but Cara suspects that this is not an illness brought on by natural causes - she is convinced someone wants her dead. As Cara's health begins to deteriorate, she turns to the only person she can trust to get to the bottom of what is happening - her granddaughter Sienna, Lola's mother.

Sienna knows exactly what it is like to search for answers to difficult questions, but the secrets the gravely ill Cara has entrusted her with seem a little confused. Is there really a murderer at work here, or are they both being paranoid? The only way to find out is to delve into the vipers' nest that makes up lives of their nearest and dearest...

Search No Further is an absolute scorcher of a psychological thriller that hooks you right from the start and keeps you very busy with a stream of the most delicious twists, turns and shocking revelations all the way through. It starts in the very best of ways with an intricate family drama, full of the kind of simmering sibling rivalry, suspicion and jealousy that any soap opera would be proud of, dialled up to the max by fiery Italian temperaments. Cara has kept them on a tight rein as head of the family, but they all seem to have secrets that are begging to be discovered, and as her grip on them begins to slip the lies begin to show.

Playing detective is the seemingly fragile Sienna, who is finding it difficult to move on from the accidental death of her husband some years ago, even though she has a beautiful daughter and a new man in her life. Starting with a few jumbled clues from Cara, the woman who has kept her together through her trauma, it is up to Sienna to solve the mystery of her Nonna's decline, and she needs to do it fast - fortunately she has a few friends in useful places to help her along the way, because what she discovers sets her reeling. I liked Sienna from the start - she sticks to her task with fierce determination, and finds a way to regain control over her own life while solving this mystery, even though much of what she discovers turns her life upside-down.

The pacing of this story is spot on, and once I had started it I could not put it down until all the beautifully conceived threads, filled with multiple blind alleys and red herrings, had played out to reveal the many dark secrets at the heart of the De Rosa family. I think I suspected just about every single person of dirty deeds her, except little Lola, and every time I thought I had this worked out, there was another little entertaining little twist to knock me sideways again.

This is an absolutely cracking little thriller, and I loved every single, page-turning second of it. I definitely need to go back and absorb Campbell's previous books, because this was a brilliant read!

Search No Further is available to buy now in ebook and paperback from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to A.J. Campbell for sending me an ecopy of this book, in return for an honest review.

About the author:

After graduating as an alumna of the Faber Academy, A.J. Campbell published her debut novel Leave Well Alone in August 2020, which became an Amazon bestseller. Readers who received a pre-release copy described it as ‘a gripping story with a killer twist’.

She draws her inspiration from many facets of everyday life and especially how challenging events impact us all in different ways. The human mind and how different people react to each other and interact in society fascinate her. Asking, ‘How can that have possibly happened?’ she immerses myself in developing threads, plotting and letting her creative energy help her characters evolve.

Reading or writing, she loves nothing more than settling down with a good story. She enjoy most genres, and especially novels that are thought-provoking and beg the question - what would I have done in that situation?

She lives on the Essex / Hertfordshire border with her husband, two of her three sons and her cocker spaniel, Max.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Blue Running by Lori Ann Stephens

Blue Running by Lori Ann Stephens.

Published 2nd December 2021 by Moonflower Books.

From the cover of the book:

In the new Republic of Texas, guns are compulsory and nothing is forgiven...

Fourteen-year-old Bluebonnet Andrews is on the run across the Republic of Texas. An accident with a gun killed her best friend but everyone in the town of Blessing thinks it was murder. Even her father – the town’s drunken deputy – believes she did it. Now, she has no choice but to run. In Texas, murder is punishable by death.

There’s no one to help her. Her father is incapable and her mother left the state on the last flight to America before the secession. Blue doesn’t know where she is but she’s determined to track her down. First she has to get across the lawless Republic and over the wall that keeps everyone in.

On the road she meets Jet, a pregnant young woman of Latin American heritage. Jet is secretive about her past but she’s just as determined as Blue to get out of Texas before she’s caught and arrested. Together, the two form an unlikely kinship as they make their way past marauding motorcycle gangs, the ever watchful Texas Rangers, and armed strangers intent on abducting them – or worse. When Blue and Jet finally reach the wall, will they be able to cross the border, or will they be shot down in cold blood like the thousands who have gone before them?

Some things are worth dying for.


Fourteen-year-old Bluebonnet has grown up in the Republic of Texas, too young to remember much about the desperate days when Texas closed its borders after the secession, except for a repeating hazy memory of her mother fleeing on one of the last flights to America, leaving her and her drunk town-deputy father behind in the small town of Blessing. - a memory that she is not even sure is the truth. The Wall that surrounds Texas is now her reality, supposedly there to protect the people of the Republic from those who want to take their 'freedoms' away, it seems it is also intended to keep them shut in - in any case, trying to cross The Wall in either direction is likely to result in death from the gun-toting vigilantes that guard it.

In the new Republic, open carry gun ownership is mandatory, even for older children, and everyone is expected to conform to fundamentalist religious beliefs. However, far from creating a haven, things are not peaceful in Texas: money talks, corruption is rife, gun crime is widespread, and violent motorcycle gangs terrorise the towns. This is not a place to be poor, or to stand out for being different.

When Blue's friend Maggie, the daughter of Blessing's powerful mayor, is accidentally killed while cleaning Blue's gun, she is accused of her murder. Blue's only hope of escaping the death penalty is to run away and try to get over The Wall - her vague plan is to somehow find her mother, who she knows is in California. On her journey, she forms an unbreakable bond with sixteen-year-old Jet, a pregnant Latin American illegal who is on the run from her rapist uncle, and is desperate to get to America to have an abortion. Both girls are in search of freedom, but how far will they get, and will they ever see the other side of The Wall?

Blue Running is a dystopian thriller that is extremely timely given the recent developments in America, especially states like Texas, and as a piece of all too prophetic fiction it is truly chilling to read. Through Blue and Jet's stories, Stephens explores a myriad of meaty themes around nationalism, feminism, women's rights, abuse, racial discrimination, law and order, immigration, corruption, white power, money, and gun ownership, and she pulls no punches in the process. But she also delves into the strength of the human spirit, friendship, acceptance, love and the kindness of strangers, bringing some much needed threads of gold - and as Blue is forced to confront the beliefs instilled in her, and Jet learns to trust again through their developing friendship, they both work their way into your heart.

I am impressed by the way Stephens incorporates so many thought provoking topics into a fast-paced and entertaining thriller that draws you in from the very first page. This is a book that addresses challenging themes, but her writing is easily accessible to a wide audience from older teens and above, and really encourages discussion around the important issues of the many facets of freedom, the rights of the individual, and political and religious division.

This is a book that breaks your heart, makes you fearful for the future, and fires you up with indignant rage, but it also shows how the right kind of thinking and intent can make a difference. This is exactly the kind of unflinching book we need at this moment in time to raise awareness about how the politics of the hate has been given far too much rein in recent years.

Blue Running is available to buy now in hardcover, ebook and audio formats from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Moonflower Books and Midas PR for sending me a proof of this book in return for an honest review, and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Lori Ann Stephens is the award-winning author of novels for adults and children, including 2018's Middle Grade novels Novelee and the Spider Secret, Some Act of Vision and Song of the Orange Moons. Her short stories have appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, and other literary presses. She is also the winner of The Chicago Tribune's "Nelson Algren Awards".

A lifelong Texan she's seen the best and worst of her home state and has come to the conclusion that Texans are truly fabulous at heart. She teaches creative writing and critical reasoning Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Square Haunting by Francesca Wade.


Square Haunting by Francesca Wade.

Published 16th January 2020 by Faber Books.

From the cover of the book:

'I like this London life . . . the street-sauntering and square-haunting.' Virginia Woolf, diary, 1925

Mecklenburgh Square, on the radical fringes of interwar Bloomsbury, was home to activists, experimenters and revolutionaries; among them were the modernist poet H. D., detective novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, classicist Jane Harrison, economic historian Eileen Power, and writer and publisher Virginia Woolf. They each alighted there seeking a space where they could live, love and, above all, work independently.

Francesca Wade's spellbinding group biography explores how these trailblazing women pushed the boundaries of literature, scholarship, and social norms, forging careers that would have been impossible without these rooms of their own.


I find the period between the wars endlessly fascinating, because there is so much to delve into around the social changes that were taking place, especially for women, so Square Haunting really caught my attention.

In this book, Francesca Wade gives an account of the lives of five women, who are all connected by virtue of living in and around London's Mecklenburgh Square on the fringes of Bloomsbury, during the interwar years. Bloomsbury, during this era, was home to many activists and revolutionary thinkers, and Wade chooses as her subjects modernist poet H. D., detective novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, classicist Jane Harrison, economic historian Eileen Power, and author and publisher Virginia Woolf.

I had previously only heard of the very famous Woolf and Sayers, so found it fascinating to learn about how each of each of these women fought to push the boundaries in each of their chosen professional fields and through their unconventional personal lives, forging the way for the women who came after them. Each of their stories is very much in the vein of Woolf's assertion that to explore their intellectual freedom a woman needs a room of their own, and Mecklenburgh Square is where they found the freedom to achieve their success.

Interestingly, Wade does not stop at recounting the intellectual pursuits of these women alone, but also examines how they struggled to reconcile all aspects of their lives with their need to work independently, including their romantic lives, how they supported themselves, and the stifling constraints of how others thought they should feel and act - all themes that are still very relatable for women today.

My favourite character here actually turned out to be the wonderful historian Jane Harrison, who I am keen to read more about, but all these women are fabulous trailblazers and deserve to be celebrated.

I cannot recommend this one highly enough!

Square Haunting is available to buy now in hardback, paperback, ebook and audio formats from your favourite book retailer.

About the author:

Francesca Wade has written for publications including the London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Financial Times, New Statesman and Prospect. She is editor of The White Review, and winner of the Biographers' Club Tony Lothian Prize. Square Haunting is her first book. She lives in London.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Whitesands by Johann Thorsson


by Johann Thorsson.

Published 26th September 2021 by Headshot Books.

From the cover of the book:

Detective John Dark’s daughter has been missing for two years. In his frantic and unfruitful search for her two years ago, Dark overreached, and was reprimanded and demoted.

Now suddenly back into the homicide department, Dark is put on a chilling case – a man who killed his wife in their locked house and then dressed the body up to resemble a deer, but claims to remember none of it. A few days later an impossibly similar case crops up connecting the suspects to a prep school and a thirty year old missing persons’ case.

Just as Dark is getting back into his old groove, a new lead in his daughter’s disappearance pops up and threatens to derail his career again.

Time is running out and John Dark needs to solve the case before more people are killed, and while there is still hope to find his daughter.


John Dark is a good detective, with uncanny instincts. Unfortunately, his mind has not really been on the job since the disappearance of his teenage daughter two years ago. Consumed by his search for her, Dark has spread himself too thin and burned a lot of bridges, and the resulting hot water has earned him reprimands and demotion - his marriage and relationship with his son have also suffered from his emotional, and often physical, absence. But Dark is still determined to find his daughter, and he just might be onto the best lead he has had in months, if only he can keep everything together.

As Dark is following up his new lead, he and his long-suffering partner Monique are called to a domestic disturbance, which turns out to be the scene of a gruesome murder. Suddenly, they find themselves back in the Homicide Department, and Dark is given an unexpected chance to save his career. This seems an open and shut case, with no one home but a horribly butchered wife and a husband with blood literally on his hands, but there are some very odd things about the way the body has been arranged - and when the husband claims to know nothing about how his wife came to be killed Dark finds himself believing him.

Days later, another woman is brutally killed by her husband in similar circumstances, and Dark cannot shift the feeling that the murders are connected in some way, however bizarre this seems. The plot thickens when Dark and Monique discover that both men, and three of their friends, were involved in the case of a missing girl during their school days at the exclusive Whitesands - a girl who was presumed to have run away, but was never traced. Are these five school friends guilty of a crime, and have the sins of the past started to catch up with them?

Whitesands is a creepy cross-over between police procedural and supernatural horror story, and marks the beginning of a brand new series of books about John Dark. As we follow the course of the investigation into some very unusual deaths, both Dark and his partner are torn between difficulties in their personal and professional lives. Dark struggles to separate his need to find his missing daughter from all other aspects of his life, and the story swings back and forth between the shocking cases, and what he uncovers from his new lead into her whereabouts - with the addition of a third thread about a character called Daniel who sheds some intriguing light on the murders. We also get a glimpse into Monique's difficult relationship with her own drug-addicted daughter, something which allows her to feel a connection with Dark and his own family problems.

The fun part of the story lies in the cases themselves, which are gory, down-right weird, and with an unmistakeable dark noir feel that clearly stems from Thorsson's Icelandic roots. These are not straightforward murders, and Thorsson builds up a pretty disturbing picture of the events that draw Dark and Monique into some very eerie country, before blowing everything wide open with a deliciously haunting, supernatural plotline around crimes that have gone unpunished and what happens to the dead who have business left unfinished.

Wrapped up in a cracking page-turner of a tale, the personal and professional threads of the story delve into some very interesting themes around money, privilege, discrimination, and family, which make this thriller a cut above the crowd. This is one I sat down and read almost entirely in one sitting - the need for sleep the only thing keeping me from consuming the whole delectable book in one go - and I am really looking forward to whatever Thorsson has planned for Dark in his next adventure.

Whitesands is available to buy now in paperback and ebook from our favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Bloodshot Books for sending me an ecopy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers Tours for inviting me to  be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Johann Thorsson is a native of cold, dark Iceland and he writes cold, dark fiction.

His favourite books include The Silence of the Lambs, Annihilation and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

When the Children Return (Children of the Eye Book Two) by Barry Kirwan


When the Children Return (Children of the Eye Book Two) by Barry Kirwan.

Published 21st October 2021.

From the cover of the book:

Is the enemy of your enemy really your friend?

Ten years have passed since the Axleth invaded Earth and a few hundred humans escaped aboard the ship Athena, piloted by the Artificial Intelligence who calls himself Ares. 

Now, the refugees approach Earth, determined to take back their home. But something has followed them from deep in space, and as war breaks out on Earth, humanity must decide who is the real enemy.

"When the Children Return is a thrilling sequel that takes the series in epic new directions..." Tom Witcomb


When the Children Return picks up the story of Nathan, Lara, Sally and the few hundred other adults and children that managed to escape from Earth on the space ship Athena, in order to avoid certain death at the hands of the alien Axleth invasion force. They have now spent ten years aboard Athena, working hard to prepare themselves for the forthcoming battle to retake their planet from its alien masters, and trying to live as normal a life as possible under unique circumstances. They are unsure what they will find on their return, or even if humanity still exists at all, but the children that left ten years ago have been shaped into a fighting force to be reckoned with, now under the leadership of Sally - some with added enhancements courtesy of their AI host Ares. There is also the mystery surrounding a possible even greater enemy - The Eye.

The battle for Earth is about to begin, but it's not always easy to tell who is your friend, or who is your enemy...

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, When the Children Come (my review here), with its terrifying alien invasion and apocalyptic themes. This second book takes everything into space opera fun, with the characters we came to champion last time around ten years into their mission to become humanity's last hope, under the leadership of Sally, who is now their president despite her youth. Things have been far from easy on the Athena, and Ares still remains a mystery to many of his human guests, which does nothing to dispel the idea that he is hiding secrets about his intentions - there have definitely been some mysterious goings on, including some odd disappearances of those who didn't always agree with Ares' way of doing things, but Sally has grown to see him as her mentor, and she feels she needs to rely to his judgement if their attempt to retake Earth is to succeed.

There are a lot of things I cannot divulge here about what lies instore for our human and enhanced human freedom fighters, or their enemies, but can tell you that Barry Kirwan throws almost everything at you in terms juicy themes about the potential pitfalls of AI technology, and most intriguingly takes the notion of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' into some very twisty and complex country.

Many of the characters we came to know in the first book develop nicely in this instalment, and the children who were rescued now come into their own after the ten years they have spent in training. There is plenty of human interest in their stories, which allows Kirwan to explore some deep themes about survival, love, loss, and connection which really adds depth to the tale among all the sci-fi action - and there is a lot of cracking sci-fi action to enjoy!

Second books in a series often suffer from being in the middle of the arc of a story, but I have to say that there is so much going on here in terms of tasty plotlines and character development that I actually found this very exciting and immersive. The action is relentless, fed by dollops of intrigue and the feeling of not quite knowing who to trust, and I could not put the book down until all the little twists and turns had worked themselves out, culminating in a very entertaining finale. Kirwan then gives a little glimpse of what comes next for our plucky heroes, as they take the war for survival into the heart of the lair of the big bad boss - The Eye.

If you like your sci-fi full of spills, thrills and gripping scenes, with an added philosophical dimension to set your mind working, then this book has everything you are looking for. I cannot wait to see what Kirwan has up his sleeve for the final book!

When the Children Return is available to buy now in ebook and paperback formats from your favourite book retailer, or via the links below:

Thank you to Barry Kirwan and Rachel Gilbey of Rachel's Random Resources Tours for sending me an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review, and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

I grew up in Farnborough, England, home to the fast-jet Red Arrows, and started writing when still at school, a weekly satirical thriller called the Adventures of Blackie the Cat for my classmates. I then got hooked on academic writing for my day job (preventing disasters in nuclear power plants, oil rigs and aircraft) and published four text books on human error. It wasn’t until I moved to Paris that I started writing fiction again, with the Eden Paradox released in 2011. It was intended to be a one-off, but I got a lot of fans demanding more, and so it went ‘epic’, a space opera of four books. 

After an accident with my back and two subsequent operations, I was laid up for a long while and couldn’t scuba dive-my other passion-so I wrote a thriller about a spy who was also a scuba diver, and the Nadia Laksheva series was (to my amazement at the time) snapped up by Harper Collins. They asked me to use a pseudonym, which is where the initials J F came from, borrowed from my late father, who loved thrillers. 

Although I keep my work and fiction separate (some of my colleagues aren’t convinced) the fiction is always influenced by my psychological training, and an unending fascination with how the mind works, and how it can go off the rails. This most clearly comes out in my two new series, Greg Adams (The Dead Tell Lies) and Children of the Eye (When the Children Come).My favourite sci-fi authors range from Asimov and Clarke, to Brin, McDevitt, Hamilton, Asher and Reynolds. My favourite thriller writers are Baldacci, Child and Nesbo. My favourite moment as an author is when I’m sitting with my laptop with an espresso macchiato, wondering what comes next in a story, when suddenly it arrives, and I can’t type fast enough.

Find out more about Barry Kirwan:     Website     Twitter     Facebook