Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Tickets on sale for one-day crime fiction event in the heart of Vera country

Hi, crime lovers!

Have you heard about Bay Tales Live yet? You should have...

The team behind Virtual Noir at the Bar have released tickets for their first physical event - in their hometown of Whitley Bay, North Tyneside. Bay Tales Live, a one-day crime fiction festival for readers and writers, will be held at Whitley Bay Playhouse on Saturday 12th February 2022 and will feature some of the most successful UK crime writers, as well as introducing audience members to the brightest rising stars of 2022. Featured authors have had their books optioned by BBC, ITV and Netflix

Keen to continue their habit of hosting the biggest names in crime fiction alongside new writers, Vic Watson and Simon Bewick - shortlisted for FutureBook’s Event of the Year last year - have collaborated with some of the UK’s biggest publishers to put together a programme of six panels featuring award-winning authors like Louise Candlish and Vaseem Khan as well as successful local authors Ann Cleeves and Trevor Wood. And, just like their virtual shows, the pair couldn’t resist throwing a wildcard into the mix: inviting Dr Richard Shepherd, forensic pathologist and author of the Sunday Times bestseller Unnatural Causes, to speak at the event. “This event is perfect for both readers and writers of crime fiction, with a little forensic pathology thrown in for good measure,” said Vic Watson who, prior to the pandemic, had been responsible for events in Newcastle and Harrogate. "The events I’ve hosted in the past, whether online or in real life, have always given audience members to connect with the featured writers. Bay Tales Live may be in a more formal setting but there will still be opportunities for people to meet the writers and get their books signed as well as to ask questions towards the end of each panel.” 

After bringing hundreds of authors and readers together during the pandemic, Watson and Bewick would like them to connect in their hometown which also happens to be the setting for ITV’s smash hit TV show, Vera. Local author Ann Cleeves, author of the Vera and Shetland series said: "I can't wait to meet fellow readers and writers in Whitley Bay in February. I know it'll be a brilliant day.” Whitley Bay, a seaside town ten miles east of Newcastle, has seen significant investment and regeneration in recent years and the Bay Tales team are keen to raise the town’s profile by enticing crime fiction fans with a reasonably-priced day pass, leaving guests with plenty of money to spend while in the town. 

Simon Bewick, who edited the NHS charity fund raising crime fiction anthology featuring Virtual Noir at the Bar authors, Noir from the Bar said: “We want to make this event truly affordable for everyone. At £30 for a full day festival featuring six panels and over twenty authors, we believe it’s the best value of its kind around.” More information regarding the full line-up and where to buy tickets can be found here.

I don't know about you, but this sounds so exciting! And the best news? I'm giving away my ticket to a low-income reader or writer who would love to attend this event, as I can no longer go (I'm gutted but it's great news for you!). To enter, please retweet this tweet and comment with which panel you're most excited to see. I'll pick an entrant at random and notify you if you're the lucky winner.



Monday, 10 May 2021

Cover Reveal: Meat is Murder by Chris McDonald

Hi, crime lovers!

I'm buzzing to be part of the cover reveal for Meat is Murder, #3 in the Stonebridge Mysteries series by Chris McDonald. A huge thank you to Meggy at Red Dog Press for the sneak preview!

Here's what it's all about...

McNulty’s Meats, one of Stonebridge’s oldest businesses, is about to be taken over in a lucrative deal that would make brothers Ron and Kevin very rich men indeed. Unfortunately for them, local activist Tyler Love has other ideas. Convinced that the deal would be bad for the town, he burns the place to the ground and inadvertently kills himself in the process.

At least, that’s what the police think.

Tyler’s mum disagrees and pleads with amateur sleuths Adam and Colin to investigate. Although, going up against the psychopathic McNulty brothers, a rival businessman, a group of hippies, and a girlfriend with secrets of her own might not be such a good idea... Someone has something to hide, and will go to great lengths to keep that secret buried.

Meat is Murder is the third book in The Stonebridge Mysteries series of Cosy Crime novellas.

About the series:

Stonebridge is a small town on the north coast of Northern Ireland. Most of its inhabitants are friendly, happy people. Most of them... Because bad things happen even in the happiest of places. It’s a good thing, then, that Adam Whyte and Colin McLaughlin call Stonebridge home.

Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of detective shows, a misplaced sense of confidence and a keen desire to see justice done, these two are the closest thing the town has to saviours. Which isn’t that reassuring...

Are you ready for the cover reveal?

Drumroll, please...

Another stunning Red Dog Press cover, right? This lands on 8th June 2021, and you can preorder here.



About the author

Originally hailing from the north coast of Northern Ireland and now residing in South Manchester, Chris McDonald has always been a reader. At primary school, The Hardy Boys inspired his love of adventure before his reading world was opened up by Chuck Palahniuk and the gritty world of crime. A Wash of Black is his first attempt at writing a book. He came up with the initial idea whilst feeding his baby in the middle of the night, which may not be the best thing to admit, considering the content. He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs. Whispers in the Dark is the second installment in the DI Erika Piper series, and Chris is currently working on his latest series, The Stonebridge Mysteries, to be published by Red Dog Press in 2021. 

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Book Review: Nighthawking by Russ Thomas

That which was lost... will always be found again.

Sheffield’s beautiful Botanical Gardens – an oasis of peace in a world filled with sorrow, confusion and pain. And then, one morning, a body is found in the Gardens. A young woman, dead from a stab wound, buried in a quiet corner. Police quickly determine that the body’s been there for months. It would have gone undiscovered for years – but someone just sneaked into the Gardens and dug it up.

Who is the victim? Who killed her and hid her body? Who dug her up? And who left a macabre marker on the body?

In his quest to find her murderer, DS Adam Tyler will find himself drawn into the secretive world of nighthawkers: treasure-hunters who operate under cover of darkness, seeking the lost and valuable… and willing to kill to keep what they find.

If you remember my review for Russ Thomas's Firewatching, you'll know how impressed I was with the beginning of the series. The sequel, Nighthawking, fully lived up to my expectations! When a book opens with a dead body buried in a botanical garden with Roman coins in the eye sockets, you know you're going to be in for a thrilling read.

Nighthawking is a tense and gripping police procedural set in Sheffield, featuring Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler, a cold case reviewer with a troubled past. I don't come across LGBT protagonists in crime fiction very often, and it's something I'm desperate to see more of, so a huge shout out to Russ for making his books so inclusive.

Russ is brilliant at writing diverse, believable characters. He has created a fantastically frustrating protagonist in the character of Adam, and I'm a huge fan of the ambitious Detective Constable Amina Rabbani, who really blossoms as a force to be reckoned with in this book. 

It's so clear this story has been thoroughly researched, especially around the topics of metal detection and plant life, which really bring the story to life, and set it apart from anything else I've ever read. There are several interesting threads to this tightly-plotted story, which weave together perfectly, combined with excellent pacing

I'm a fan of crime novels with shifting perspectives and it's done so well in this book, with the inclusion of diary entries from the nighthawkers themselves, which serve as a brilliant insight into the story.

The way this compelling book ends, with a satisfying conclusion to the case melting into an insane cliffhanger, has left me desperate to find out what happens next in this fantastic series.

Nighthawking is out on Kindleaudiobook, and in a gorgeous hardback today, and the paperback is out on 2nd September (but I challenge you to wait that long!).



About the author

Russ Thomas is an author and creative writing tutor living in Sheffield. Firewatching is Russ's first book in a new series of crime thrillers set in Sheffield, published by Simon & Schuster in the UK. The sequel, Nighthawking, will be released in April 2021.

Website | Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Book Review & Author Q&A: Lie Beside Me by Gytha Lodge

Someone killed a man last night... and it might have been you.

Louise wakes up. Her head aches, her mouth is dry, her memory is fuzzy. But she suspects she's done something bad. She rolls over towards her husband, Niall. The man who, until recently, made her feel loved. But it's not Niall who's lying beside her. In fact, she's never seen this man before. And he's not breathing... 

As Louise desperately struggles to piece her memories back together, it's clear to Detective Jonah Sheens and his team that she is their prime suspect - though they soon find she's not the only one with something to hide. Did she do it? And, if not, can they catch the real killer before they strike again?

Full disclosure: I loved this book so much. I must admit, I haven't read any others in the series (but I do have one on my shelf!) so I'm reading them out of sequence. I don't think it matters. This reads perfectly as a standalone but has made me keen to read the rest. A good sign, don't you think?

As you can see from the summary above, the hook for this addictive book is immense. It captured my attention immediately, making me desperate to find out who the dead man is in Louise's bed. Reader, I could not put this book down

The narrative style of this thriller is brilliant. Louise, the prime suspect, tells the story of what really happened in alternating chapters, running parallel to the police investigation, addressing her husband in a letter. The only problem is, she doesn't remember a great deal. Drunk Louise was in charge that night... and she's unpredictable. She can't control herself. Bit by bit, you're drip-fed more and more information to help you piece together the mystery. And my god it's mysterious. Who murdered the man in her blood-soaked bed?

You also get a look into the personal lives of the detectives, an element which I really enjoyed. As the focus switches from character to character, it builds the pace brilliantly. With DCI Sheen heading up the investigation, we also follow the story of DS Ben Lightman, Domnall O'Malley and DC Juliette Hansen. Juliette was a character who interested me greatly. While she's focusing her efforts on this challenging investigation, her abusive ex-partner Damian refuses to leave her alone, intent on destroying her life. 

I love Gytha's writing style. It's compellingdripping with suspense and packed full of drama. The plot is exciting, clever and feels thoroughly researched, and the characterisation is second to none, with an authenticity that brings each character to life. I'm so convinced you'll love it too!

Ready to meet the author? Gytha joins me on the blog today to discuss his latest launch.

Welcome to the blog, Gytha! I'm excited to be part of the blog tour for such an exciting book... I love the hook for Lie Beside Me. Can you tell me what sparked the idea for it?

So glad you like it! It's definitely my favourite hook so far. I think I'm a little boring at how I come up with ideas - in that I basically sit in a chair and go, "Right, that's that book done. Now I need a concept for the next one." 

With Lie Beside Me, I'd actually had a totally different idea that I wasn't happy with. So when it came to starting to write, I just thought, "I need something better. Something that will give me chills to think of." And as I often do, I hunted for some kind of experience that was spine-tingling. Hopefully to readers as well as to me. 

There was perhaps some background thought for the idea. I wrote a play in 2004 about someone finding themselves in a police interview room with no memory of the events they were being questioned about thanks to alcohol. It was an idea that really appealed to me then and still appeals to me now. I know I've had a night or two in my life where I've woken up and been horrified at what I might have done. For Louise, it's just a lot worse because what she might have done includes murder.

I love hearing how ideas come to writers! And this one is truly chilling.

What was your favourite scene in this book to write? On the flip side, what was the most difficult to write? 

I loved writing the opening scene. I am a huge fan of really gasp-worthy openings. But there's also a scene later on in the book when a whole lot of memories suddenly rush back to Louise, and I found it profoundly satisfying for her - and us - to finally understand part of the puzzle. 

Me too! As a reader, I can say it was VERY satisfying. On the subject of Louse, she is quite a character! Do your characters tend to take you on an unexpected path, or do they behave themselves and stick to your plot? 

Ha, they're total tearaways! I often plot quite extensively and then end up going in a hugely different direction because it becomes clear to me that the characters want something else. I think that's part of the fun of writing, as well as one of its challenges. 

Characters can be such nuisances! Which of your characters would you enjoy being stuck in a lift with and why? 

Ooh, interesting. I think most of my detectives would be good company in one way or another. Hanson and O'Malley would be great banter. Jonah would be great at working out how to get out. And I think a good length of time to try to figure out what's going on beneath the surface with Lightman would be good, too!

Are there any actors you can imagine playing the characters if this were to be adapted for TV or film? 

I love thinking about this. They definitely look, in my head, nothing like any actors I know. But it's really good fun to cast the characters. Because John Hopkins did an amazing job with the audiobook, I'd be intrigued to see him playing Jonah. And I'd love Jodie Comer to bring Hanson to brilliant life. 

All great choices! 

Will there be more from you in the DCI Sheen series? If so, can you give us some sneaky details? 

Yes, Jonah Sheens and his team will be back for more next year and the year after if all goes to plan - and to be honest, from my perspective, for many years after that 😉 I just hope I keep being allowed to write them!

The team has a really strange, challenging and unsettling case to come in the next instalment. But they also have their own issues to deal with, some of which become evident in Lie Beside Me. It's so satisfying to thread the team's own lives through as the books progress. At times some come more to the fore than others but they will all have their time. And it's great to build relationships between them, too.

Very excited to hear there will be more in the series - I love it when I find a series I can get stuck into. 

Do you find inspiration in real-life events or news stories, or does it all come from your head? 

I think it's absolutely fed by real-life events, interactions and people - but when coming up with stories, I tend not to consciously base it on one particular thing. Perhaps it's to do with liking the illusion of true originality! But without question, everything feeds in somewhere. 

The past year has been interesting, to say the least. Has the pandemic changed your approach to writing? Has it made it more difficult, or easier? 

It's been a strange old year, hasn't it? I've had to change my approach thanks to being a real coffee-shop writer, and thanks to having a 10-year-old boy at home with me. Homeschooling got a lot better as the school adapted, but there was a while where it inevitably took a lot of input, and being my son's friend, psychologist, teacher and mum all at once (with side roles as his cleaner and his cook) was definitely hard. 

I had to get a lot better at being ok with staying in, and with getting my day started without any of the usual routines or cues. I would put exercise in at different times - having formerly always done the bike ride to school and then a run into the city to find a coffee shop - and have spent more time working in the evenings to make up for interrupted days. 

I think I'm lucky to really love the job I do. It's made it all so much easier. Because as much as I might gripe about deadlines from time to time, I love to write and edit at every stage of a book, and that has also definitely kept me sane!

I can't imagine what it must be like trying to write a book during a pandemic and be a mum at the same time!

What was the first thing you ever wrote? (I'm hoping it's something embarrassing from when you were a kid...) 

Oh, I don't know what the first thing ever was - I remember my mum talking to my teacher when I was 7 and her saying that I didn't write stories - I wrote novels. Ha! 

The first full-length book I wrote was a terribly over-written thriller called Retribution set in America. I wrote it at 14, mostly in the back of history classes, and then I rewrote it later to set it in the UK and sent it to an editor, with full belief that it was BRILLIANT. I was lucky enough to pick a really lovely editor who rang me up to be super encouraging but to tell me the things I needed to change, and it was both incredible and humbling. It made me realise that writing was a real job of work, like so many other things, and involved learning all the skills over time. An attitude I have never lost. 

How amazing they took the time to give you feedback - it must have been so encouraging.

What book are you most looking forward to this year? 

I hate having to choose just one! Hahaha! I've been hugely excited for the new Elizabeth Knox title, The Absolute Book, and we're actually launch day buddies here in the UK! 

Thrillers-wise, there are so many, but Gillian McAllister's That Night looks just terrific and I always snap everything of hers up. 

I've also recently read utterly brilliant proofs by Erin Kelly and Jane Casey, so look out for those!

Oh my goodness, I'm a huge fan of both Jane Casey and Gillian McAllister (and Erin Kelly is on my list of authors to check out!). I'm so jealous you've read the proof copies. 

What's the best writing advice you ever received… and the worst? 

It's strange that I can never pick out a single eye-opener when it comes to advice. I've had so much gentle, brilliant advice that has trickled through from my wonderful agent, Felicity Blunt, and from my editor at Penguin, Joel Richardson. They are both really great at asking key questions and I learn so much with each and every book.  

That said, I think the advice that turned around my career came from the marvellous Michael Lengsfield at UEA. He was teaching us adaptation that term, and we were all trying our hands at adapting a book into a script. During it, we all had to write a synopsis as if we were pitching our script, and he went through my synopsis and said, "No. We don't want a series of plot points. We want the STORY." And in making me think about what made it a story, he totally changed my way of thinking about everything I wrote.

The worst advice would probably be in script feedback I once had. I had a character saying, in a slightly obnoxious attempt at a joke, that, "Oh, Nick works in a call centre, so he's not the brightest," and the person giving feedback actually wrote, "Not all people who work in call centres are stupid." And I just wanted to shake them for the extraordinary bad teaching involved in that. He was basically saying that we should only write characters who say NICE things or things that WE think. Which I thought about the most reductive idea I'd ever heard. 

I totally agree! Wouldn't it be boring if all our characters agreed with us?

What's your dream writing setup – snacks, drink, music, location? 

The coffee shop in a Waterstones book shop. I love my Cambridge one. It's just the best possible writing space. There is the wonderfulness of being surrounded by books, the fact they get the temperature right, the fact that most people there are kindred book-loving spirits, and the fact that they do amazing snacks. Including crumble cakes, which are the best thing ever. 

This has now become my enduring fantasy for the last year, as I've been denied my favourite place for all that time. I absolutely cannot wait to get back there, vaccinated and with the shop open again, spending half my salary on lattes and black earl grey tea. 

That would be the DREAM right now.

Thanks so much for joining me today, Gytha! I really can't wait to read more from this series.

This tense, riveting thriller is out tomorrow in hardback, audiobook and ebook. Grab a copy from your favourite bookshop... I'm 100% sure you won't regret it!



About the author

Gytha Lodge is a writer and multi-award-winning playwright who lives in Cambridge. After seven years spent as a successful playwright, she studied creative writing at UEA and was shortlisted for the Yeovil Literary Prize and the Arts' Council England fiction awards. She also developed a large online following, with over seven million reads accrued on platform Wattpad. Her first novel, She Lies in Wait, was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and a Sunday Times bestseller. Lie Beside Me is her third novel. 

Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram 

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Book Review: Anthrax Island by D. L. Marshall

FACT: In 1942, in growing desperation at the progress of the war and fearing invasion by the Nazis, the UK government approved biological weapons tests on British soil. Their aim: to perfect an anthrax weapon destined for Germany. They succeeded.

FACT: Though the attack was never launched, the testing ground, Gruinard Island, was left lethally contaminated. It became known as Anthrax Island.

Now government scientists have returned to the island. They become stranded by an equipment failure and so John Tyler is flown in to fix the problem. He quickly discovers there's more than research going on. When one of the scientists is found impossibly murdered inside a sealed room, Tyler realises he's trapped with a killer...

A huge thank you to the Canelo team for an advance copy of Anthrax Island by D. L. Marshall. This gripping, intelligent locked-room mystery reminded me of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, but with a contemporary twist: the added terrifying threat of death by anthrax.

I have to start by saying this thoroughly-researched thriller is one of the best examples of setting I have read in a long time. I was completely transported to this unique setting - a dark and stormy island, brimming with atmosphere, helped along by the brilliant lines of descriptive prose. I highly recommend listening to storm sounds while you're reading this, for a fully immersive experience! The fact that Gruinard Island is a real place, and the story is inspired by real events, only adds to the chill (and thrill!) factor. 

The other element that struck me was the characterisation. John Tyler is a character I want to read more about. He's smart, sarcastic and really quite funny: someone you would definitely want on your side. So I was so excited to find out that a sequel is coming! It's got a great cast of characters for you to be suspicious of. And once you think you've solved the mystery, the illusion is shattered and you realise you were wrong all along. It's impossible to predict!

It's got a great structure - this masterfully plotted story takes place over the course of 24 hours, with each chapter ending in a mini cliffhanger that'll have you struggling to put it down. This fast-paced, tense and exhilarating thriller is packed full of twisty action from the first page to the last.

Available to pre-order in paperback and ebook, but if you want to get your hands on a signed copy, check out Forum Books, a fantastic independent bookshop.


About the author

D. L. Marshall was born and raised in Halifax, West Yorkshire. Influenced by the dark industrial architecture, steep wooded valleys, and bleak Pennine moors, he writes thrillers tinged with horror, exploring the impact of geography and isolation. In 2016 he pitched at Bloody Scotland. In 2018 he won a Northern Writers’ Award for his thriller novel Anthrax Island.

Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Monday, 1 March 2021

Cover Reveal: Dead in the Water by Chris McDonald

Hi, crime lovers!

I'm sooo excited to be part of the cover reveal for Dead in the Water, #2 in the Stonebridge Mysteries series by Chris McDonald. A huge thank you to Meggy at Red Dog Press for the sneak preview!

Here's what it's all about...

The Stonebridge Regatta is looming. The town’s annual face-off against neighbouring Meadowfield is usually a weekend filled with sunshine, laughter and camaraderie. 

This year is different.

A week before the race, the body of Stonebridge team captain Matthew Henderson is found dead in the water. The police file his passing as a tragic accident however, his grieving widow disagrees and suspects foul play is involved. She enlists the help of Adam and Colin, the town’s amateur (self-proclaimed) private detectives to unearth the truth.

Did Matthew simply slip and fall into the water, or is there more to his death below the surface?

Are you ready for the cover reveal?

Drumroll, please...

Another stunning Red Dog Press cover, right? This lands on 27th March 2021, and you can preorder here.



About the author

Originally hailing from the north coast of Northern Ireland and now residing in South Manchester, Chris McDonald has always been a reader. At primary school, The Hardy Boys inspired his love of adventure before his reading world was opened up by Chuck Palahniuk and the gritty world of crime. A Wash of Black is his first attempt at writing a book. He came up with the initial idea whilst feeding his baby in the middle of the night, which may not be the best thing to admit, considering the content. He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs. Whispers in the Dark is the second installment in the DI Erika Piper series, and Chris is currently working on his latest series, The Stonebridge Mysteries, to be published by Red Dog Press in 2021. 

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Cover Reveal: Blackstoke by Rob Parker

It's another cover reveal day and I'm mega excited to be part of the cover reveal for Blackstoke, by the awesome Rob Parker, author of the Audible number 1 bestseller Far From The Tree. A huge thank you to Meggy at Red Dog Press for the sneak preview.

Here's what Blackstoke is all about...


In a quiet cul-de-sac on the newly-opened, much sought-after Blackstoke housing development, the first handful of families are moving in. These neighbours, thrown together for the first time, are looking forward to settling into their bright new lives—with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The estate couldn’t be nicer, but it’s a big change for everyone. 

Then things start to happen. Bad things. As if something doesn't want them there. 

As the new residents try to make sense of events, the buried history of the area makes itself suddenly, deeply apparent—with a series of shocking, violent escalations. 

Soon, no one is safe, as the original powers of Blackstoke return to reclaim their territory and birth right in a final night of dark revelations, gore and bloodshed. 

Are you ready for the cover reveal? Drumroll, please...

How awesome is this? This lands on 23rd March 2021, and you can preorder here.



About the author

Rob Parker is a married father of three, who lives in Warrington, UK. The author of the Ben Bracken thrillers, Crook’s Hollow and the #1 Audible bestseller Far From The Tree, he enjoys a rural life, writing horrible things between school runs. Rob writes full time, attends various author events across the UK, and boxes regularly for charity. He spends a lot of time in schools across the North, encouraging literacy, story-telling and creative-writing, and somehow squeezes in time to co-host the For Your Reconsideration film podcast, appear regularly on The Blood Brothers crime podcast, and is a member of the Northern Crime Syndicate.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Book Review: Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker

She wanted a child. So she took one.

Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want... except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim - heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop - she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But little foul-mouthed Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

Meanwhile Kim is demonised by the media as a 'scummy mummy', who deserved to lose Tonya and ought to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media's rules, she begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle...


Welcome to the blog! If you're looking for an exciting new read, or a twisted Mother's Day present, I'm pleased to tell you that you're in the right place. A huge thank you to Netgalley and Viper Books for the advance copy in exchange for my honest, unbiased opinion.

When a woman, known only as Mummy, spots 5-year-old Tonya being ignored by her mother, she decides to make motherhood happen for herself by snatching the little girl in broad daylight and keeping her a prisoner in her lavish home. She gives her everything she could possibly want... a million miles away from that 'scummy mummy' of hers. But all Tonya wants is to go home. 

This disturbing and twisted tale delves into some very dark themes indeed. Prepare yourself. Call Me Mummy also explores the darker side of the press and social media, and how it can affect the families that are unwillingly thrust into the limelight. 

It is mainly told from the perspectives of Mummy and Kim, Tonya's real mother, as well as snippets from little Tonya herself. The short and snappy chapters built up the tension really quickly, and had me racing through the book, desperate to see how things would pan out for everyone involved. 

The thing I found clever in Call Me Mummy, is that I felt sympathy for both characters - yes, even the abductor. I'm not sure I should even admit this, but at times I almost wanted Mummy and Tonya to be happy together. Both Kim and Mummy experienced harrowing childhoods, and adulthood hasn't been much better for either of them. My head was a whirling vortex of emotion and internal conflict as each horrendous secret bubbled its way to the surface.

This book is heartbreaking at times, but always exciting and unputdownable, with a writing style that is utterly fantastic. And can we just stop for a moment to appreciate that stunning cover?

Huge congratulations to the fabulous Tina on this explosive debut thriller, which lands on 25th February in ebook, audiobook and hardback, with the paperback release coming in September.


About the author

Tina Baker, the daughter of a window cleaner and fairground traveller, worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years and is probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. After so many hours watching soaps gave her a widescreen bum, she got off it and won Celebrity Fit Club. She now avoids writing-induced DVT by working as a fitness instructor.

Call Me Mummy is Tina's first novel, inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to become a mother. Despite the grief of that, she's not stolen a child - so far. But she does rescue cats, whether they want to be rescued or not.

Website | Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram

Monday, 15 February 2021

Cover Reveal: Roses for the Dead by Chris McDonald

Hi, crime lovers!

I'm so excited to be part of the cover reveal for Roses for the Dead, the third installment in the excellent DI Erika Piper series by Chris McDonald. A huge thank you to Meggy at Red Dog Press for the sneak preview!

Full disclosure: I LOVED the previous book in the series, Whispers in the Dark. Check out my review and author Q&A here.

Here's what Roses for the Dead is all about...

Rockstar Johnny Mayhem sits on his bed, holding a bloody baseball bat. On the floor, clutching a lavender rose in her fist, is his wife, Amanda, who he has just beaten to death. Erika Piper knows this because she is one of the first on the scene. Mayhem is arrested and led away, screaming that they’ve got the wrong man. But the evidence is irrefutable and when Mayhem is sentenced to life in prison, no one is surprised.

Thanks to new evidence, Johnny Mayhem is a now free man. During a television interview, he issues a thinly veiled threat to those involved in the original case before seemingly disappearing off the face of the Earth. When the body of Mayhem’s dealer is found, Erika Piper is pulled from the safety of her desk job and thrown into the hunt for the Rockstar. Can she find Mayhem before he can enact his revenge or everyone involved, including Erika? Or, has he been telling the truth all along? Did the police really get the wrong man?

Are you ready for the cover reveal?

I don't know about you, but I'm excited! Drumroll, please...

How amazing is this? This lands on 13th April 2021, and you can preorder here.

About the author

Originally hailing from the north coast of Northern Ireland and now residing in South Manchester, Chris McDonald has always been a reader. At primary school, The Hardy Boys inspired his love of adventure before his reading world was opened up by Chuck Palahniuk and the gritty world of crime. A Wash of Black is his first attempt at writing a book. He came up with the initial idea whilst feeding his baby in the middle of the night, which may not be the best thing to admit, considering the content. He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs. Whispers in the Dark is the second installment in the DI Erika Piper series, and Chris is currently working on his latest series, The Stonebridge Mysteries, to be published by Red Dog Press in 2021.



Friday, 15 January 2021

Montague Island Books with Chris McDonald

Montague Island is a fictional island off the coast of Cumbria that was created by M.W. Craven for his book The Curator. Bookends Book Club invite one author and one reader each week to do a desert island discs style session but with a book-themed twist. 

Chris McDonald and I were invited to choose our favourite 7 books, an album, a film, a meal and of course, a luxury item each to take on the island with us. 

Find out all about Chris's latest book launches, why he cries at musicals, who's going to be cooking our daily roast dinner and a little bit about my current work in progress. This was a really fun session with lots of laughs, and we hope you enjoy it! There are lots more sessions to come, so please join Bookends Book Club or visit Montague Island Books on Facebook to find out more.



Monday, 4 January 2021

Book Review: Chasing Vega by Terry Shepherd

When a meth bust goes bad, Detective Jessica Ramirez and her partner, Officer Alexandra Clark, find themselves in pursuit of a serial killer who dispatches her own form of street justice from the rim of the Grand Canyon. 

They soon discover that the danger their adversary poses reaches well beyond Arizona and into the very heart of the New York City Financial District. 

Firstly, a huge thank you to Terry Shepherd for sending me a signed copy of Chasing Vega all the way from Florida, which I will treasure forever. Secondly, I loved this book!

I read mostly books set in the UK, so it was really interesting reading a thriller set in the US, whisking me away to places I've never been. I especially loved the scenes at the Grand Canyon... so dramatic! The thing that stood out the most to me was the character development. Jessica and Alexandra are smart, sassy and brave women, who give as good as they get. I have a fondness for books featuring LGBT characters and this one does not disappoint. 

This exciting, clever thriller is full of non-stop explosive action that I could envisage in my head like a film. In between the action, Terry has added splashes of emotion in the characters' backstories and relationships with each other, and their families. There's even a healthy dose of romance. It really has it all.

It's clear that Chasing Vega was thoroughly researched and meticulously plotted, with twists and turns aplenty. The short, snappy chapters that switch between different characters' perspectives is enough to keep you turning the pages into the night like a maniac. 

I can't wait to see what Jessica and Alexandra get up to in future books! If I've tempted you into the world of Jessica Ramirez, you can pick up a paperback or ebook copy today.



About the author

Terry Shepherd is a writer and editor by trade, living in Jacksonville, Florida. He is the author of the Jessica Ramirez series: Chasing Vega, Chasing Cody, and Chasing the Captain (coming soon), as well as the Mystery Bug collection that teaches children about the coronavirus. 

Thursday, 31 December 2020

My Top 10 of 2020

This year has been... well. Do I even need to say? From discovering Schitt's Creek to signing with David Higham Associates, from doing a reading at Virtual Noir at the Bar to growing vegetables (badly), 2020 was definitely a mixed bag. I'll skip over the heartbreak and focus on the positive. BOOKS.

I read so many amazing books! I'm sure I missed some absolute gems, but these are the 10 that I just can't forget.

The Cutting Place by Jane Casey

When human remains wash up on the shore of the Thames, DS Maeve Kerrigan traces it to a journalist who has been digging around for information on a gentlemen's club that's drenched in dark secrets and cover-ups. Maeve becomes knee-deep in the world of rich, male privilege, and as one crime exposes another, the case builds and builds to its climactic, unpredictable end. This intense thriller has an unbelievably believable plot, splashes of unexpected emotion and characters that'll stay with you long after you begrudgingly turn over that last page. 

How to Disappear by Gillian McAllister (audiobook)

This gripping psychological-suspense thriller is told from the viewpoints of four characters, a family torn apart by the ripple effect of an awful crime, separated by the witness protection programme. The plot is unpredictable, twisting and turning all over the place. I found myself listening to this at every opportunity. I was completely and utterly addicted. This is not only the best book Gillian has ever written, but it's one of the best psychological thrillers I've ever read. It's tense, chilling and beautifully-written - all the ingredients required for a compelling, keep-you-up-at-night thriller.

Far from the Tree by Rob Parker (audiobook)

Nine hours of pure edge-of-your-seat, keep-you-up-at-night drama. A pacey, twisty police procedural with an immense hook from the very first chapter: 27 bodies discovered in a mass grave. When the case gets a little to close to home, Brendan Foley throws himself full-pelt at it, doing everything he can to get to the bottom of it at all costs. Full of different threads that are woven together with masterful plotting. Prepare to be taken to some very dark places indeed, and brace yourself for shocking reveals you could never imagine. 

Firewatching by Russ Thomas

A dark and twisty police procedural introducing DS Adam Tyler, a cold case reviewer with a troubled past. When the skeleton of a corrupt businessman is discovered bricked-up in the cellar of the Old Vicarage, Adam lands himself this high-profile murder investigation, only to find himself in hot water. As fires spring up all over Castledene, it's clear that a pyromaniac is on the loose, dead set on watching the world burn. Scorches with a tangle of threads that I challenge even the most seasoned of thriller readers to tie together before the incredible, unpredictable ending. 

Without a Trace by Mari Hannah

DCI Kate Daniels hurtles towards London after the news that a transatlantic flight has dropped out of the sky... and the love of her life, Jo Soulsby, was on that flight. Kate blags her way onto the investigation and embarks upon a mission to disprove that Jo was on that flight... because she couldn't have been... could she? An unimaginable rollercoaster of twists and turns that I couldn't have predicted transformed me into a page-turning maniac. It's tense. It's dramatic. It's emotional. A perfectly-executed and riveting piece of crime fiction.

Whispers in the Dark by Chris McDonald

Drug dealer, Marcus Stone and DCI Clive Burston had never met until one night in August. By the end of that night, both had been shot dead in a small bedroom in the heart of gang territory. DI Erika Piper is called to the scene but is at a loss to explain what’s happened. How did these two even meet, let alone end up dead in what appears to be a strange murder-suicide? A powerful and thrilling novel that packs a punch from page one, from the sinister prologue to the shocking ending. A tense, twisted and superbly-plotted thriller that is as terrifying as it is heartbreaking. 

All That is Buried by Robert Scragg

When 7-year-old Libby Hallforth goes missing at a funfair without even a sniff of evidence or a single witness, DI Jake Porter and DS Nick Styles are left with more questions than they have answers. The case goes cold, and all hope of finding Libby is lost, until human remains are discovered several months later. And like with all good crime novels, it's just the start of a race against time to stop a killer in their tracks. This is a fast-paced, thrilling read that is packed not only with action, but the emotion that is often left out of this kind of book. I absolutely loved it.

The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen

A psychological thriller that tells the heartbreaking tale of four sisters who were kidnapped twenty years ago. The mystery is not about how they manage to escape, because what happens after is so much worse. As the twentieth anniversary of the kidnapping looms closer, a catastrophic chain of events sends the reader rocketing towards a series of twists and turns that are as unpredictable as they are clever. Louise is the master of foreshadowing, leaving you hanging on by a fingertip as she ends each chapter. She sends you hurtling down one road, only to whip the carpet from beneath your feet.

Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan

When Eleanor Costello is found hanging in her Dublin home, all signs point to suicide. Enter DCS Frankie Sheehan, a detective with a sharp eye, a potty mouth and an innate ability to climb inside the heads of the victims. Suffering from PTSD driven by a vicious attack during a previous investigation, Frankie soon learns that the lines between killer and victim are becoming increasingly blurred. An atmospheric, immersive and skillfully-plotted police procedural that will blow you away. So compelling and incredibly absorbing.

The Storm by Amanda Jennings

A twisty psychological thriller set in a Cornish fishing port, following the story of Hannah and Nathan Cardew, and their picture-perfect marriage... or so it seems. As the past threatens to catch up with her, the dark secrets of Hannah's past soon begin to unravel. There's more than one storm brewing in this compelling story... just you wait until the thunder cracks. Amanda's gripping style of writing draws you in like a fishing reel, only to fling you back into the storm with a big reveal that'll leave your mind whirling.

What were your top 10 2020 reads? Share in the comments!



Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Book Review: End of the Line by Robert Scragg

Detective Jake Porter's world was shattered when his wife was killed by a hit-and-run driver nearly four years ago. Since then, he has been building a new life piece by piece, but this is rocked when evidence comes to light that might finally lead him to her killer. 

At the same time, he and his partner DS Nick Styles have a volatile case to juggle. Ross Henderson was an influential vlogger rallying against the growing tide of the far right. As his audience tuned in to his latest live broadcast, they watched in horror as he was brutally murdered. 

While struggling to prevent full-blown riots in the wake of the atrocity, following the trail to his wife's killer will take its toll. Porter will have to act like a criminal in order to take down the person responsible, but there's no guarantee he will come out the other side alive.

A couple of months ago, I discovered the Porter & Styles series when I got my hands on a copy of All That is Buried (one of my top 10 books of 2020!). If you read my review, you'll know why I loved it so much. So I was thrilled to read an advance copy of Robert's latest installment in the series: End of the Line. A huge thank you to NetGalley and the author for giving me the chance to read this before publication! You know when you open up a book and you can tell from the first chapter that it's going to be a brilliant read? This is one of those books!

This pacey, tightly plotted thriller is packed with action from page one. With two narrative threads running through the book - the murder of Ross Henderson and a previous case concerning the death of Porter's wife, Holly - this gripping police procedural had me obsessed and totally emotionally invested.

Porter is supposed to be focusing on finding the people responsible for the beheading of Ross Henderson, but when his boss reveals that the person responsible for the death of Holly has potentially been identified, that's all he can think about. Ignoring his boss's instruction of keeping his nose out, he knows he needs to be the one to solve Holly's case... even if it means putting himself in danger.

From the explosive beginning to the unpredictable ending, I was completely and utterly hooked. I love Robert's witty and sharp style of writing, with strong, likeable characters that spring to life, stroll off the page and stay with you. I cannot recommend this book enough. 

End of the Line hits the shelves on 21st January and you can preorder your hardback copy here and your Kindle edition here.



About the author

Rob Scragg is a northerner born and bred. He is the author of the Porter & Styles series, as well as a founding member of the North East Noir crime writers group.

Monday, 28 December 2020

Book Review: Ask No Questions by Claire Allan

Not all secrets are meant to come out…

Twenty-five years ago, on Halloween night, eight-year-old Kelly Doherty went missing while out trick or treating with friends.

Her body was found three days later, floating face down, on the banks of the Creggan Reservoir by two of her young classmates.

It was a crime that rocked Derry to the core. Journalist Ingrid Devlin is investigating – but someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. As she digs further, Ingrid starts to realise that the Doherty family are not as they seem. But will she expose what really happened that night before it’s too late?

Firstly, a big thank you to NetGalley for the early copy of Ask No Questions by Claire Allan. Secondly, wow! I've read a couple of Clare Allan's books... I loved The Liar's Daughter, and I very recently listened to the audiobook of Forget Me Not which was excellent. So I was thrilled to find out the main character in Ask No Questions is Ingrid Devlin, the journalist who featured in Forget Me Not. I've read my fair share of crime novels but am yet to read one from the point of view of an investigative journalist, and I really enjoyed this angle. And I really loved Ingrid! She's a fantastic protagonist and a very strong female lead who will stop at nothing to get to the truth. So a big tick from me on character.

Ask No Questions is set in Derry, a place I've never been but feel as if I have, thanks to Claire's excellent scene-setting (and my devotion to Derry Girls). On the 25th anniversary of 8-year-old Kelly Doherty's murder, Ingrid starts to delve deeper into the story, believing that there's a chance the man convicted of the murder is innocent. But she's soon warned off. Not only by her boss, who believes nothing good will come of it, but by someone else too. Someone who is interfering with Ingrid's life... and will do anything to keep the past buried

Claire's writing style is both entertaining and engagingAsk No Questions is told from multiple viewpoints, which keep the pages turning quickly in this pacey thriller. And it's so atmosphericIt's dark and chilling with a plot that builds and builds, keeping me guessing until the climactic ending that I totally did not see coming. And it was oh-so-satisfying.

This gripping psychological thriller lands on 21st January and you can preorder your ebook here or paperback (out 22nd July) here.



About the author

In 2006, journalist Claire Allan decided to try and fulfil a lifetime ambition to write a novel and spent six months writing Rainy Days and Tuesdays. This was published by Poolbeg Press in Ireland in 2007 and became an instant bestseller.

Seven more women's fiction novels followed before Claire decided to leave journalism to concentrate on writing, and also to try her hand at writing psychological thrillers. Ten years after Rainy Days and Tuesdays, Claire began to write Her Name Was Rose, which was published by Avon Books in 2008. It became a bestseller in the UK, Ireland, Canada, America and Australia. 

It was followed by Apple of My Eye (Jan, 2019) and Forget Me Not (May, 2019) and The Liar's Daughter (January 2020).

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