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Book reviews ... Author interviews ... and anything else I think might be of interest to writers and readers.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Sail Upon The Land by Josa Young



Sail Upon The Land


Sail Upon The Land gives us a story that starts in India, travels back to England, then revisits India before ending once more in a quintessentially English setting. The narrative also travels back in time from the beginning and then forward again.

Although the structure is complex, it doesn’t detract from the story. In fact, the handling of the timescale means that we are able to read back into the past and really got to know the significant characters at all the important moments in their lives.

I loved Josa Young’s first novel, One Apple Tasted, (you can read my review here), but if anything I loved Sail Upon The Land even more. I think the main reason was that intense familiarity with the characters, that feeling that you know everything about them – that holds the reader’s interest so tightly. How can you not love a character when you’ve seen them being born, or gone to school with them, or watched them fall in love for the first time?

There’s a richness to the writing that runs through all the strands of the story. Pitch perfect descriptive writing, authentic dialogue and sensitive characterisation.

Although the cast of characters is large, and the author has written the book in such a way that the reader identifies with all of them, Damson Hayes is the star of the show.

It is with Damson that the book starts – as she suffers a hideous ordeal – and it is with her that we finish, and it is Damson’s journey more than that of any other character that holds the novel together. I really don’t want to give too much away, but her story is full of drama, pain, suffering, steadfastness and ultimately redemption.

Though the story is full of romance, it isn’t just a romance, and though it tells the story of a family it is also much more than a family story.

It deals unflinchingly with the themes of motherhood and birth, love, death, duty and finally hope.

I really urge you to read it. You won’t be disappointed.


Thanks very much to the author for a copy of this book.

You can find out more here and buy a copy here.


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Waiting Game by Sheila Bugler



The Waiting Game


This is what the publishers have to say about ‘The Waiting Game’.

DI Ellen Kelly's career seems to be stalling – again. And her feelings for Jim O’Dwyer feel like they’re spiralling out of control. Meanwhile, someone is out there, stalking the weak, bringing misery and fear, and it’s Ellen’s job to stop them. Could it be that this time, for the first time, Ellen is the one trapped in the web?

I really enjoyed ‘Hunting Shadows’, Sheila Bugler’s first book about DI Ellen Kelly, so I was really pleased to be sent a review copy of this one.

The plot of ‘The Waiting Game’ is quite complex and it takes a while to get to grips with all the different strands and work out what is going on. There’s a stalker out there, but who are they and who are they really after? Chloe knows that someone has been getting into her house at night, and she’s been attacked. When will the police take her seriously? Monica approaches the police with a similar story. But Chloe and Monica claim not to know each other, and Ellen and her colleagues can’t find a link.

Full of chilling twists and turns, I found the story gripping as it explored some very dark events. This story is not for the squeamish.

In the first book we found out quite a lot about Ellen’s back story. In this book she’s moved on a bit form the death of her husband, but her new relationship, with Jim O’Dwyer is about to become yet another problem. I enjoyed the little vignette’s of Ellen’s private life – her children, her parents and her brother and his partner. Again, the author cleverly works those relationships into the plot when her work life begins to encroach dangerously on her family life.

The depiction of Ellen’s colleagues, especially DC Raj Patel, is also nicely done and adds to the authenticity of the story.

Overall an enjoyable read with plenty to hold the interest.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.

You can read my review of 'Hunting Shadows' here.


Monday, 20 October 2014

Race To Death by Leigh Russell


To celebrate the paperback release of Race To Death, and Leigh's current book tour and blog tour, here's my review!

Race To Death


I really enjoyed this second outing for DI Ian Peterson – part of the spin off series from Leigh Russell’s original Geraldine Steel books.

A man plummets to his death during the York Races. Suicide or murder?  Newly-promoted DI Ian Peterson is plunged into a complex and high-profile case, and as the body count increases, the pressure mounts for his team to solve the crimes quickly.

From this intriguing beginning set against the vivid backdrop of a racecourse on race day, the story unfolds at a great pace and grips until the end.

Like Geraldine Steel before him, Ian has moved since his last investigation so this book sees him getting used to a new set of colleagues and living in a new place. The relocation throws up challenges for Ian. In particular a new boss who expects results and doesn’t let up on the pressure when she doesn’t get them, and a wife who feels uprooted and discontent in her new environment.

In this case, DI Peterson is up against a criminal with a very complex and unusual MO indeed. Peterson and his colleagues have to solve a series of murders that seem to make no sense and have no link and, as the days tick by with no progress, pressure mounts.

As with all Leigh Russell’s books this one has a great mix of just the right amount of police procedure and a chance for the characters to shine. I was also pleased to see another guest appearance for Geraldine in Ian’s story.

In this book we get some deeper insights into Ian’s personal life, and towards the end things get very personal indeed as the investigation threatens to endanger everything he holds dear.

Overall, I found this a great read. Ian Peterson is a likeable main character and his new sergeant, Ted Birling, provides a great foil and York a great setting.

I recommend this book to crime and thriller lovers, and look forward to more in the series.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.


You can find out more here.

You can find my reviews of Leigh Russell’s other books here and here.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Leigh Russell - Race To Death

Leigh Russell Interview

Today I'm very pleased to have the wonderful Leigh Russell here to talk about her latest book 'Race To Death'.

In 'Race To Death' Leigh has her main character, Ian Peterson, moving to York for his next adventure. Here she tells us why.

            In my first series, my detective Geraldine Steel began her career in the Kent constabulary, working with her sergeant, Ian Peterson. In the fourth book in the series, Geraldine moved to London, leaving Ian behind in Kent.
            By the time Geraldine relocated to the Met in Death Bed, Ian Peterson had become a popular character in his own right, so the two of them kept in touch. Following the success of the Geraldine Steel series, my publisher raised the possibility of my writing a second series, and a spin off series for Ian Peterson was the obvious answer. I was very excited by the idea and so it was agreed. All that remained was to decide on a location for Ian's investigations.
            My interest in York came about as the result of a personal connection. My husband attended York University and we had spent some time there, revisiting his old haunts. It's a fascinating place, where the history is almost palpable, from the Roman ruins and Viking museum, to the medieval Shambles shopping area and Victorian railway station. Walking along narrow lanes or snickelways from a medieval church to a modern street, is almost like walking through time. Having toyed with several places, it occurred to me that moving Ian to York would mean I could visit the city more often to research the area. And of course, every time we visit York we have afternoon tea at Bettys. If you haven't been there, you should go!
            The first in the spin off series sees Ian in Kent, after Geraldine's departure. At the end of the book, Ian learns that he has been promoted and is moving to York. He is excited, although his wife is not pleased about the move. The paperback for Race to Death came out in September, the first book set in York. It starts with a death at York racecourse which the police quickly realise was no accident. As Ian struggles to make sense of the mysterious murder, the body of a young woman is discovered beside the river. As Ian begins to piece together what has happened, he sets off a course of events that threatens to lead to more tragedy... and if you want to know what happens, you will have to read the book! 
            I'm returning to York in October to carry out research for the next book in the series, and to launch Race to Death with a number of book signings and talks in and around York.

Details of events can be found on my website http://leighrussell.co.uk

Thanks to Leigh for that fascinating insight into her decision to move the action in her spin off series to York. It certainly makes a dynamic setting for a crime story!

You can find out more about Race To Death here.

You can find my reviews of all of Leigh Russell’s books here and here.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah


The Monogram Murders


I have to admit that when I first heard there was going to be a new Poirot book, I was slightly dubious. But that was before I realised it was Sophie Hannah who would be writing it. I love Agatha Christie, I love Poirot, and I love Sophie Hannah. What’s not to like?

So as the time of the release date got nearer, I got more intrigued about this book and was thrilled when HarperCollins offered to send me a review copy. I wasn’t disappointed when it arrived – I loved it and read it in one sitting.

Sophie Hannah made some crucial decisions in the writing of this book, which I think are at the heart of why it works so well. Firstly, she gave Poirot a new sidekick/narrator in the form of Edward Catchpool. This gives a sense of freshness to the narration, and sits well with the blending of Sophie Hannah’s voice and Agatha Christie’s voice.

But Catchpool is not just a device to show the reader how clever Poirot is, he is a real character with a past and concerns of his own. Why is he so haunted by the murders he has to investigate, and why is he so troubled by the hands of the dead. ‘Hold his hand, Edward.’

We also find Poirot living, not in Whitehaven Mansions, but in the lodging house of Mrs Blanche Unsworth. It turns out that Poirot is lying low in order to give his formidable mind a rest. This results in his meeting Catchpool, but also takes him out of the environment in which readers are used to seeing him. It works well because had he been left in Whitehaven Mansions, the reader would have been expecting Captain Hastings or Miss Lemon to turn up with every turn of the page.

As you’d expect of an Agatha Christie, and indeed a Sophie Hannah, there’s a murder with an ingenious twist to be investigated in this novel. Why have three guests at The Bloxham Hotel been murdered and left with monogrammed cufflinks in their mouths? Who is PIJ and why was a note left at reception saying, ‘May they never rest in peace’?

It’s an engrossing mystery, a complex and satisfying plot, and a great tribute to the Queen of Crime. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of Agatha Christie and Sophie Hannah alike. It is a truly great crime novel.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Love Is All You Need


Love Is All You Need


With any anthology of short stories, one of the most important things is to have a good mix of stories. They shouldn’t all sound the same, and you should find yourself taken by surprise by the selection.

‘Love Is All You Need’ certainly succeeds in this. As Sophie King says of the stories in her introduction: ‘Many stood out in different ways but in the end, I picked those that surprised me and also left a lovely warm feeling.’

The common theme of the stories is love, but it is handled in many different ways.

The beginning of Alyson Hilbourne’s ‘Hot Chocolate Hero’ reads more like an action adventure story, and that promise is certainly delivered on as her unusual theme and an unexpected romance complement each other throughout the story.

In ‘High On Life’ by Yvonne Walus we literally feel the earth move, and in that story as well as Johanna Grassick’s ‘ Rum Truffle’, we experience the emotion of loss as well as that of love.

I absolutely loved Helen Yendall’s trip back in time for her story, ‘The Taste Of Love’ which cleverly recreates the world of Nell Gwyn through the eyes of a young woman working in a Chocolate House in the London of 1669.

You may remember that back in June, when the e-book of ‘Love Is All You Need’ was released, I interviewed Sherri Turner about her contribution, ‘Funny Face’. This story closes the collection and it’s another cracker. It makes a great satisfying end to the anthology and will certainly leave you with a smile on your face. 

This anthology of love stories has something for everyone and I highly recommend it.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

The anthology is now available in paperback as well as Kindle versions, and you can find out more here.