Sunburn by Laura Lippman – a review BLOG TOUR

sunburnI was lucky enough to meet Laura Lippman at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival a couple of year’s ago and have always been a fan of her books. Therefore I jumped at the chance to be the final stop on the blog tour for her latest novel Sunburn.

Polly is on a family holiday to the beach when she walks off leaving behind her husband and daughter. She lands in a small town in Delaware and gets a job at the High Ho restaurant. She is soon joined by the mysterious Adam who gets a job as a cook. Whilst he is obviously following Polly for some reason, it is soon clear that he also has secrets. As they both become more drawn into each other’s worlds the lines between truth and lies get more blurred.

This was a really intriguing story. Whilst it wasn’t one you’d class as fast paced, it felt almost hypnotic in it’s telling. It has been likened to some of the classic noir tales such as those by James M. Cain and that is a great comparison. It starts off as a relatively simple premise, we are lead to believe that Polly is the kind of woman who can leave her child behind and therefore is uncaring. Yet as the story flows you realise that things are not as black and white as they seem. Adam could be Polly’s hero turning up just when she needs someone. Yet there is more to him than meets the eye and it soon becomes clear he is not necessarily the person we are first led to believe.

This was change from my usual books, but I really enjoyed it. The gentle pace made for a nice relaxing read on a train. However the twists were certainly there and even though you feel you know most of the story by the time you are halfway through there is still so much that is unknown you just have to carry on. I really liked the fact that everytime I thought I had a handle on who was good and who was bad something else became clear and thoughts changed.

It’s hard to say more without giving away the plot, but suffice to say for me the ending was perfect. I would thoroughly recommend Sunburn especially if like me you enjoy reading a strong female lead in a very compelling story.

Sunburn is available here

Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the blog tour.

SUNBURN_blog tour (1)


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Closer Than You Know by Brad Parks – a review BLOG TOUR

Closer Than You Know by Brad Park introduces us to Melanie. Having survived a difficult childhood she is now happily married with a young son. Her life seems to be in control. Until she arrives to pick up her son from his child minder to find out that he has been removed by social services. Her problems then increase when she is arrested for drug possession and she realises that someone is trying to frame her.

The story is told not only from the point of view of Melanie, but also that of Amy who is the assistant commonwealth’s attorney. She is assigned to Melanie’s case, but is also hunting down a serial rapist who has been active for years.

This was a good read. The story itself was interesting although in parts it did feel a little implausible. However it is no lie that I couldn’t put this one down. The twists and turns just kept coming giving it a real rollercoaster feel. The characters of Melanie and Amy were both well written. Both women were in incredibly frustrating situations and despite their different circumstances they both felt powerless at times. One thing that really stood out for me was the fact that at no point did it become obvious that this was a man writing from a woman’s point of view. I find often certain words or phrases sound a bit out of kilter but not with this one.

This was the first I have read from Brad Park’s but I’ll certainly keep an eye out for the rest of his novels if they are all such a roller coast as this one was. Closer Than You Know is out on the 15th March. Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the blog tour.

Closer Than You Know_BLOG TOUR POSTER

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Silent Victim by Caroline Mitchell – an extract BLOG TOUR

Silent Victim by Caroline Mitchell tells the story of Emma. She was abused by her teacher when young, eventually killing him and burying him in the garden. Unfortunately her husband has now got a new job and they have to move, meaning her secret is about to be discovered.

Silent Victim silent victimwas a superb read that kept me gripped to the end. The story is told not only from the point of view of Emma, but also her husband Alex and Luke the ‘victim’. The chapters from each characters point of view slip between present and past as we learn about the crime and its consequences. I am a fan of an unreliable narrator and this certainly has that. Whilst you clearly want to feel sorry for Emma it is not always easy. As a child she struggled with an ailing father and a deep sense of isolation which makes her incredibly vulnerable. Yet the grown up Emma is harder to like and I found some of her actions incredibly frustrating. Those chapters where we hear from Luke as her teacher make for uncomfortable reading at times and I felt that the story tackled the issues of both abuse and eating disorders very well.

This was a good quick read that I really enjoyed. This is the first of Caroline’s novels that I have read however she has an impressive back catalogue of crime fiction. If they are all as good as this one I can’t wait to delve into them.

Read on for an extract from Silent Victim.



Betrayal had a smell, it would be that of tar – the kind that sticks to your shoes in the heat of midsummer and bubbles like a living thing on the road. Emma and I had offered each other weary smiles as we pretended everything was all right. I had shrugged off her concerns that someone had invaded our home, tapping on the window while I was away. She must have imagined it. How could this be possible, when Luke had been in the pub with me that night? I felt sick at the thought – and at the prospect of what I was about to do. Involving our son in our troubles was the last thing I wanted, but I desperately needed to know the truth. Jamie squealed with delight as I lifted him in the air, pretending to drop him, only to take him in my arms again. I inhaled the scent of liquorice shoelaces on his breath, allowed only on the condition that he brush his teeth afterwards. Plopping him on our bathroom counter, I wore my best smile. I had locked the door. Emma would be horrified if she knew what I was about to do. But then how many times had she visited our little bathroom to force herself to vomit when she had eaten just minutes before? The scent of lemon bleach and floral air freshener gave her away every time. If only the rest of her secrets were as easily deciphered. Reaching across the counter, I carried out my own form of betrayal.

Click here to purchase Silent Victim by Caroline Mitchell

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The Collector by Fiona Cummins – a review

Today is World Book Day, and I suspect there are scores of children everywhere dressed as Harry Potter, for once slightly gutted that school is shut due to snow.

Every day is book day in my world, just without the fancy dress. So today a cancelled train to Edinburgh gives me the perfect opportunity to read. However my latest read certainly isn’t one for children. It was The Collector, the second novel by author Fiona Cummins. Her debut novel Rattle was one of my favourite books of a couple of years ago, so I was very excited to get a copy of her follow up in my Festival goody bag last year and the Collector certainly didn’t disappoint.

The Collector starts shortly after the first book finished. There is a girl missing, and Brian Howley, the Bone Collector is on the run. In Rattle, Howley’s collection was destroyed and now he is trying to rebuild it. Detective Etta Fitzroy is back on his trail and is determined to prove she is up to the job of catching him again. Jakey is also back and having escaped from The Bone Collector once he is determined that no one else will suffer. This time we also meet Saul, with an alcoholic mother he meets Mr Silver and is soon under his spell.

This was another gripping read. The Collector grabs you from the start and continues at break neck speed until it reaches it’s disturbing conclusion. The Collector is terrifying and I think one of the reasons it is so creepy is that everyone can identify with collecting things. I was always collecting something when I was younger, even now I have a collection of fridge magnets. So collecting is something that you can understand, although hopefully no one reading this is collecting body parts!

The writing is superb in this novel, and the characters are that great mix of both good and bad that keeps them realistic. The viewpoints change throughout giving us an insight into not only Etta but also Howley and Saul which makes it a real page turner.

The Collector is an excellent novel. It is definitely best to read Rattle first but I would thoroughly recommend making your acquaintance with the Bone Collector and what more excuse do you need too treat yourself than in celebration of World Book Day.

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Evidence of Death by Peter Ritchie – a review BLOG TOUR

Today I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Evidence of Death by Peter Ritchie published by Black and White Publishing.

In Evidence of Death Billy Nelson returns to his loyalist roots following his discharge from army service and leads a gang in a series of violent attacks. Being forced out of Belfast which has changed since he was there he moves to Edinburgh. Here he decides to get into the drugs business and take on the criminal underworld that stretches from Edinburgh to Glasgow and back to Belfast. It is newly promoted Grace Macallan who has to try and keep the streets of Scotland safe whilst dealing with police in Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Evidence of Death by Peter Ritchie is the second in the Grace Macallan book, and although I hadn’t read his previous one there is enough in the story to fill in some of the background. This was a really interesting read that grabbed my attention from the start.

It is quite a violent novel, yet it doesn’t seem out of kilter with the book. Rather the violence draws you into the incredibly seedy and disturbing world that Billy Nelson inhabits. I particularly liked the character of Grace Macallan. She is tough, and doesn’t take any nonsense as you would expect. However we also get glimpses into a softer side of her.

There is a lot of police procedural in this book, yet that in no way distracts from the story. I actually found it fascinating learning details about how the police work. You almost felt like you were part of the investigation. I was also bizarrely drawn to some of the characters, even those who you are not meant to like, which says something about the quality of writing. Even mindless thugs have a different side sometimes!

I very much enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more from Peter.

Evidence of Death is out on the 22nd February and can be purchased here.

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While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt – a review

I was recently sent a copy of this from the publisher. When I’d originally agreed to read it the name hadn’t rung any bells. So it wasn’t until I received a copy of the book that it clicked Stephanie Merritt was SJ Parris, an author who I had had the pleasure of joining for dinner a few years ago at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

It begins, they say, with a woman screaming… Well in the case of While You Sleep in begins with Zoe arriving on a remote Scottish island from America. She wants to get away from her marriage and is hoping that some time away from everything will help restart her painting career. However things within the house are not as peaceful as she hopes. She starts hearing singing and ghostly happenings, which gets worse as she starts to learn more about the spooky history of the McBride house.

This was a really intriguing story that certainly kept my interest even though I’m not usually a fan of supernatural twists. However to me the supernatural element was very small and almost felt like an extra element rather than a way of making unbelievable things happen as can often be the case.

I have recently read a few novels that use a similar plot device (which I can’t say as I don’t want to give anything away) so I did guess partly one of the big twists. Yet this didn’t spoil my enjoyment in anyway.

I must confess to finding the sex scenes all a bit gratutuous, I understand the reasoning behind them in order to build up the suspense. Yet for me personally they just felt a bit at odds with the rest of the book. However the rest of the novel more than made up for it. The setting of this novel on a small remote island is incredibly evocative. The descriptions are suitably earie evoking the feeling of claustrophobia and isolation that is heightened by our main character arriving from America and settling into a place that is so different from where she has come from.

This is great story that keeps you interested until the end. I would recommend it to anyone who likes stories where the place plays as big a part as the characters.  

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The Book Case

So Tuesday was my first trip out with Bookcase For All. For those who don’t know the idea is that we provide books for the homeless and vulnerable in York. When people think of the city of York they think of historical buildings, great tourist attractions, and for those of us of a certain age the Blue Peter competition to design a boss for the ceiling of York Minster. Whilst there is no denying that York is a beautiful place and we are very lucky to live here, like most places there are those who are struggling with the high cost of living, and with life in general. York has a high population of homeless and it seems like this is a problem that is just getting worse.

One good thing however is that there are some fantastic organisations within York providing essential items to people in need. The Lunar Project concentrates of period poverty and provides an outreach service twice a week, as well as providing boxes of towels and tampons in schools. Another excellent project around is Kitchen for Everyone York (KEY). They provide a hot meal on a Tuesday night as well as a cooked breakfast on a Sunday. Mr F can sometimes be found cooking sausages and bacon at KEY on a weekend (which is great for me as it means he’s not stinking out my kitchen frying it!)

One idea that had been brewing with me for a while was the idea of providing books for those who would like them. You often see people on the streets quietly minding their own business reading a book. As someone who reads a lot it bothered me that not everyone can afford to buy books, and whilst I am a huge fan of the library, without an address you can’t get a library card. Having done a bit of research there was no specific place I could donate books to try and reach vulnerable people. Therefore the idea for Bookcase For All (BFA) was born, and thanks to KEY a venue was offered to trial.

Everyone warned me not to get too disappointed if I didn’t get any takers to start with, it takes time to build up trust with people. However, my first outing was a huge success with over ten books taken and lots of requests for different genres and themes. What struck me both at BFA and when I went out with the Lunar Project, is the absolute lack of greed of people with nothing. When we were out offering hot drinks, alongside socks and gloves people were only taking items if they needed them. At BFA anyone who came up to chat was told to take anything they wanted from my pile of books, yet people were not just grabbing anything. They were picking up, and looking and choosing just like a proper library.

The other thing that surprised me and really shouldn’t have is that readers are all similar no matter what their home life. They all love books. They love to talk about books – what they have read, what they would like to read, what they are currently reading. People who like to read all like to talk about what they read.

However, the big thing I noticed is how narrow my own reading choices are.  As you know I read crime fiction, therefore 99% of the books I own are crime fiction. Therefore all of the books that I had for my first BFA were crime fiction. To me this didn’t seem to be a problem, yet apparently there are some weird people out there who don’t read crime fiction. Luckily I was saved by a donation from a friend which meant I had a much more eclectic mix of books to offer.

What it has taught me though is I’m definitely going to need a better source of books than just my own bookshelves, so if anyone is in York and has any books they could donate do let me know.

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