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It’s a huge honour to welcome authors to join me for a natter and share a little information about their books, their writing processes and what’s on the horizon for them, and today I am thrilled to bring you a Q&A with the lovely Julie Newman, whose third book has just come out. Her previous books are Beware the Cuckoo and The Kindness of Strangers, both are available via these links.


Julie was born in East London but now lives a rural life in North Essex. She is married with two children. Her working life has seen her have a variety of jobs, including running her own publishing company. She is the author of the children’s book Poppy and the Garden Monster. She writes endlessly and when not writing she is reading. Other interests include theatre, music and running. Besides her family, the only thing she loves more than books is Bruce Springsteen.

The Kindness of Strangers, Julie’s second novel following Beware the Cuckoo, just published in May 2018.

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

The best thing is when the character you are writing about takes you by the hand and the story just flows from pencil to page. Nothing beats a good writing day.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

The worst bit for me is when the story is finished and you are waiting for reviews and/or feedback.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

Absolutely anything by Toni Morrison. Her books are profound and powerful. And A Bear Called Paddington, who wouldn’t want to be responsible for one of the most charming and endearing characters in children’s literature.

How do you spend your time when you are not writing?

Relaxing with family and friends. Visiting the theatre. Reading, of course and listening to Bruce Springsteen.

Do you have a set routine for writing? Rituals you have to observe? i.e specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I am at my best in the mornings. I always write longhand with a pencil and a new notebook for each project. I do not need silence and will very often have music playing in the background.

What’s on the horizon?

I have started my fourth novel. All I can say is it is very different from anything I have previously written.

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be?

It doesn’t matter if you don’t like a book. We are all different and life is too short to spend time on something that isn’t right for you. That said, when you do read something you like please tell everyone and maybe leave a review. It helps authors tremendously and we are all eternal grateful. 

My Latest book is Cast No Shadow. Samantha, a journalist is desperate to investigate the ‘big stories’ and in her quest for this she comes across a little reported story of an hotelier in India accused of rape. The hotelier is exonerated when he is revealed as a she. Samantha looks deeper into the story with the help of Gregory, a colleague whose brother works for the British High Commission in Delhi. When Simon is murdered Gregory travels to India to discover what happened to his brother. He, in turn goes missing. Realising there is no-one able to help her Samantha heads to India to search for Gregory and the truth behind the hotelier’s story and Simon’s death.

Samantha’s journey is not just a geographical one. She learns much of herself and those closest to her. She soon learns nothing is as it seems.

Cast No Shadow looks at relationships, power and privilege. I hope it challenges stereotypes and encourages the reader – like Samantha – to realise often nothing is as it seems.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a hugely intriguing read, and one I will definitely be adding to my reading list asap! If you want to buy a copy and find out what happens to Samantha and Gregory, then head over to Amazon and grab a copy.

My thanks to Julie for joining me today, I love that she’s such a fan of Bruce Springsteen!

First Monday Crime is back after the summer break and October is set to be an exciting event with some great authors and there’s bound to be amazing chatter – head along if you can!

Date: Monday 7th October at 6:30pm

Location: College Building, Room A130, City University London

Tickets are free, but you must book so that the organisers can ensure they have enough seats for everyone.

Reserve your seat here

So who’s appearing I hear you ask … well

The moderator for the evening is Claire McGowan, and the authors she’ll be keeping in check are:

Peter Robinson:

Peter Robinson grew up in Yorkshire, and now divides his time between Richmond and Canada. Peter has written twenty-four books in the Number One Bestselling DCI Banks series as well as two collections of short stories and three standalone novels, the most recent of which is Number One bestseller BEFORE THE POISON. Peter’s critically acclaimed crime novels have won numerous awards in Britain, the United States, Canada and Europe, and are published in translation all over the world. 

Peter’s DCI Banks is now a major ITV1 drama by Left Bank productions. Stephen Tompkinson (Wild at Heart, Ballykissangel) plays Inspector Banks, and Andrea Lowe (The Bill, Murphy’s Law) plays DI Annie Cabbot. The first series aired in Autumn 2011 with an adaptation of FRIEND OF THE DEVIL, the second in Autumn 2012, and the third in February 2014.

Peter’s standalone novel BEFORE THE POISON won the IMBA’s 2013 Dilys Award as well as the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel by the Crime Writers of Canada. This was Peter’s sixth Arthur Ellis award.

Find out more from Peter’s website, www.inspectorbanks.com, or visit his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/peterrobinsonauthor.

Nicci French:

Nicci French is the pseudonym for the writing partnership of journalists Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. The couple are married and live in Suffolk. There are twenty bestselling novels by Nicci French, published in thirty-one languages. Blue Monday was the first thrilling story in the Frieda Klein series, which concluded with Day of the Dead. The Lying Room is their latest novel.

https://www.facebook.com/NicciFrenchOfficialPage

Marnie Riches:

Marnie Riches grew up on a rough estate in north Manchester. Exchanging the spires of nearby Strangeways prison for those of Cambridge University, she gained a Masters in German & Dutch. She has been a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist and professional fundraiser. 

Her best-selling, award-winning George McKenzie crime thrillers, tackling the subject of trans-national trafficking, were inspired by her own time spent in The Netherlands. Dubbed the Martina Cole of the North, she is also the author of Born Bad and The Cover-Up – the critically acclaimed hit series about Manchester’s notorious gangland.

Tightrope is the start of a brand new series, set mainly in the famous footballer-belt of Hale, Cheshire, and introducing quirky northern PI, Bev Saunders who risks everything to fight the corner of her vulnerable client. A second Bev Saunders novel will follow in early 2020. So far, Marnie has sold an impressive 250,000 books and counting…

When she isn’t writing gritty, twisty crime-thrillers, Marnie also regularly appears on BBC Radio Manchester, commenting about social media trends and discussing the world of crime-fiction.

Moderator: Claire McGowan

Claire McGowan was born in 1981 in a small Irish village where the most exciting thing that ever happened was some cows getting loose on the road. She is the author of The Fall, and the acclaimed Paula Maguire crime series. She also writes women’s fiction under the name Eva Woods.

 



  • Title: Callum and the Mountain
  • Author: Alan McClure
  • Publisher: Beaten Track Publishing
  • Publication Date: 14th August 2019

Copy received from author for review purposes.

Description:

It’s a quiet wee village, Skerrils.
Not much going on. Shingle beach, pretty walks, peaceful library, exploding school, talking dogs, carnivorous monuments, interfering all-powerful nature spirits and a mountainous secret too baffling to tell…
Callum Maxwell and his pals are in for the strangest, scariest, most exciting summer of their lives.
Join them and you’ll never look at the natural world in quite the same way again.

My Thoughts:

This is the kind of book I wish had been around when I was growing up! I would have loved to read about Callum and his friends going on their adventures, and I will be sure to keep this copy handy for my daughter once she’s old enough to read it.
With the strange goings on around him, it’s no wonder that Callum starts to wonder what’s happening, he cannot quite believe the events that unfold in the opening pages, but it sets the scene perfectly for the capers that are to follow.

McClure has a wonderful way of creating the scene and bringing it to life with crisp descriptions, the magic that is woven throughout the narrative is thrilling and frightening in equal measure, making this such an exciting read!
The interactions between the characters feel natural and by using Scots in the language, the author adds an air of authenticity to it all without alienating non Scots speakers.

It’s a really fun read, with plenty of moments have you chuckling out loud as you read, especially the moment with one character speaking out of his bum! And that alone will make it appeal to many readers, but the story telling is what really makes this such a fantastic book to share with younger readers, but equally older readers will enjoy the adventure unfolding around them.

Morecambe and Vice is a crime writing festival that first broke onto the festival scene in 2017, and has since attracted crime authors and fans in their droves to listen to the panels and masterclasses that range from LGBT themes in crime fiction to paths to publication, and many topics in between! The attendees list is a veritable who’s who of the crime fiction world, this year’s line up includes Professor Dame Sue Black, Graham Smith, Lesley Kelly and Robert Daws to name but a few.
Tickets to the panels and events can be purchased via this link.

And if this wasn’t exciting enough, there is another fantastic event happening!

London’s award-winning LGBT+ literary salon comes to Morecambe & Vice as part of the Polari Prize Tour, funded by Arts Council England. Founded in 2007, Polari is curated and hosted by crime writer Paul Burston and features guest authors, poets and spoken performers showcasing their work. Think literary cabaret and you won’t go far wrong. Based at London’s Southbank Centre, Polari also tours regularly – though this is the salon’s first visit to Morecambe. This special crime-themed event will feature the best in established and emerging LGBT+ literary talent, including writers associated with The Polari First Book, founded in 2011 to celebrate debut books which explore the LGBT+ experience.  Tickets for the Polari Salon starring Paul Burston, Derek Farrell, Lesley Thomson and Lilja Sigurðardóttir can be purchased via this link.

And I am delighted to welcome Derek Farrell back to The Quiet Knitter blog today to share his thoughts about festivals and the reasons you should attend them (when you can). Derek is one of those writers who can make you feel like he’s right there in the room with you as you read his books, you can almost feel his infectious excitement as you race through the pages and can hear his laughter as you sit stunned at what you’ve read. I’ve long been a fan of his books, and hopefully I’ll manage to bump into him at a festival soon with my copies of his books for autographing!
If you need any persuasion, my reviews of his books are available here and I would highly recommend the Danny Bird mysteries! Links to the reviews of Death of a Diva, Death of a Nobody, Death of a Devil and Death of an Angel are all here for reading.

Being the lovely soul that he is, Derek is offering a signed copy of Death of an Angel (the latest Danny Book) and 5 sets of pin badges featuring the words “Diva” “Nobody” Devil” and “Angel,” to some lucky subscribers to his mailing list. And there’s a FREE short story to download after you’ve subscribed! Isn’t he just a gem!? Pop over to www.derekfarrell.co.uk for more information and to sign up!

If you haven’t been to a Crime Festival before, then you should really be getting yourself off to Morecambe at some point between the 27th – 29th of September.

The Morecambe & Vice festival itself is on the Saturday and Sunday but the Thursday night has the Polari Salon at which I will be reading alongside Lilja Sigurdardottir, Paul Burston and Lesley Thompson.

If you’ve been to a festival before, you’ll know all the reasons why they’re so brilliant, but if you haven’t, allow me below to suggest a few reasons why popping in – for a couple of sessions, a day, a whole weekend – could be the best thing you do all year.

Firstly, there are four types of people who go to Festivals: Readers, Writers, Publishing Professionals and Authors. And no matter which of those groups you fit in (or if, like many people, you fit in more than one) there’s something for you at a festival like Morecambe & Vice.

Reason #1 Books: There’s a bookshop. It has lots of books. Some of these books are not officially in the shops yet, meaning you get to buy and read them before anyone else. And book-lovers, as everyone knows, love bragging-rights almost as much as they love books. Plus there are often goodie-bags which sometimes feature – even more excitingly – free books. Let me say that again: FREE. BOOKS. I know, right? Again, many of these free books aren’t due in the shops for months, so you get advance copies of books everyone’s going to be talking about next summer, at which point you can airily say “Oh yes, I read that last year. Got it at Morecambe & Vice.” Plus, you’ll almost definitely find books you’d never heard of before (see ‘Networking’ below for more on that).

Reason #2 Panels: I have to admit, when someone first suggested that I might enjoy sitting in a room listening to a bunch of writers talking to each other about their books and the craft of writing, or reading excerpts from their work, I was somewhat sceptical. I mean, no-one’s ever suggested I might enjoy listening to a group of plumbers discussing their oeuvres. But then not all plumbers* are born story tellers. The thing about the various events at Morecambe & Vice (which cover everything from Mental Health to Young Adult crime fiction via LGBT+ readings and on through apocalyptic crime, a discussion of dyslexia and a whole panel of prize-winners) is that even if the topic doesn’t immediately whet your appetite, the presence of people who are born story-tellers – and passionate story-tellers at that – means you’re almost guaranteed interesting, thought-provoking and entertaining conversation.

Reason #3 Networking: First of all, I hate the phrase Networking. It always sounds like something corporate that a robot would do. So let’s rebrand it: Making new friends who have more in common with you than you could imagine. Reading, by it’s nature, is a pretty solitary experience, but if you think that’s solitary, you should try writing: Living for months with only the voices in your head for company. So coming along to a festival like Morecambe & Vice is a brilliant way to meet readers, to meet writers who have books you haven’t read yet (I started reading one of my favourite crime series because I met the author at a festival and picked up the first book ‘on spec’), and to meet bloggers who often have news and gossip about your favourite genre, novelists or series before anyone else has. I attended my first crime festival as a book-lover who wanted to be a published novelist. This was back in the Cretaceous period when dinosaurs walked the earth and I knew absolutely nobody, but a couple of drinks at the bar**; a coffee at lunchtime with a bunch of people; and I have friends now that I would never have made if I hadn’t come along to that festival, spoken to people, asked them who they were and what had brought them to the festival.

Reason #4 Making contacts: Not quite the same as Networking, but if you’re an as-yet unpublished writer, an author looking to expand their professional network (there’s that word again, but slightly more relevant in a professional environment) or a Publishing Professional (editor, agent, publisher, designer, etc) then festivals are a brilliant way to make contact with others in your world. My top tip here: Don’t go in trying to find people who can ‘help you.’ That makes you look like a user (cos you are, quite frankly). Instead, go in looking for that personal connection. Almost everything good that has happened to me in this business has happened because there was a personal connection before we realised that each of us had something the other had been looking for. Also – and on that note – never go in thinking you have nothing to offer anyone. You have skills, knowledge, a viewpoint. If all else fails, you have that party trick where you can fit your whole fist in your mouth.

Reason #5 Partying: Here’s a list of things I have done at Crime Festivals: Had coffee with esteemed writers; been sworn at by Val McDermid (on a panel. Reykjavik 2016) crashed publishers parties I hadn’t been invited to (but ssssh; cos I don’t wanna get a reputation). Hung out at the bar with friends who made me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe (I wonder if anyone has killed a character in a book that way?); spent way too much in the book shop and fretted about how I was going to carry all the books home; had a delicious meal with a roomful of other crime fiction lovers at a murder mystery dinner (no, I didn’t figure out whodunnit); sung David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ in a Karaoke room with a selection of Sunday Times Bestselling crime writers; met and chatted to first ministers and TV personalities; absolutely fanboyed my heroes, and been barged out of the way by James Patterson’s security detail (I’m not sure what I’d said, but they seemed uber keen to get him into a fast car and away from me as quickly as possible); pitched to agents; and introduced my dad to writers he’d been enjoying for years. The point is: There is literally something for everyone at a crime fiction festival like Morecambe & Vice, and the added feature of the festival taking place in an atmospheric town, and in a gorgeous art deco hotel makes the whole thing even more exciting.

So hopefully I’ll see you there!

(*with apologies to any wonderful story-telling plumbers out there)

(**okay; maybe more than a couple. I seem to recall waking up in a ditch somewhere in Nantwich without my shoes but wearing a chinchilla cape I had never seen before in my life. Happy days.)

Derek Farrell is the author of The Danny Bird Mysteries which are Death of a Diva/Nobody/Devil/Angel, and the forthcoming Death of a SINner. He splits his time between London and West Sussex and is really excited to be reading from his books at The Polari Salon at M&V on Friday 27th September at The Midland Hotel.

Derek loves hearing from readers on Twitter @derekifarrell, or via the contact page on his website derekfarrell.co.uk, where you can get a free exclusive Danny Bird Mystery just for signing up to his newsletter.

To celebrate his appearance at Polari Salon at Morecambe & Vice he’ll be giving away a free signed copy of his latest Danny Bird Mystery “Death of an Angel” to a random subscriber to his website derekfarrell.co.uk. The winner will be selected on 18th October 2019.

  • Title: Cage
  • Author: Lilja Sigurdardóttir
    Translator: Quentin Bates
  • Publisher: Orenda Books
  • Publication Date: 17th October 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

The prison doors slam shut behind Agla, when her sentence ends, but her lover Sonja is not there to meet her.

As a group of foreign businessmen tries to draw Agla into an ingenious fraud that stretches from Iceland around the world, Agla and her former nemesis, María find the stakes being raised at a terrifying speed.

Ruthless drug baron Ingimar will stop at nothing to protect his empire, but he has no idea about the powder keg he is sitting on in his own home.

At the same time, a deadly threat to Sonya and her family brings her from London back to Iceland, where she needs to settle scores with longstanding adversaries if she wants to stay alive.

With a shocking crescendo, the lives of these characters collide, as drugs, smuggling, big money and political intrigue rally with love, passion, murder and betrayal until the winner takes all … in the masterful, explosive conclusion to the award-winning Reykjavík Noirtrilogy.

My Thoughts:

Cage is another stunning offering from Lilja Sigurdardóttir, cementing her place in my mind as one of THE names in Icelandic crime writing. This is also the final book in the Reykjavik trilogy, the previous two being Trap and Snare, and I would highly recommend checking them out if you’re not familiar with them.

It’s no surprise that Iceland Noir is a firm favourite of mine, especially with books of this calibre. The plot is engaging, the characters are impressive and the adrenaline fuelled frenzy that has you turning pages makes this such a punchy and thrilling read.

Although Sonia has been the key character in this series, I could not help but feel a great interest in Agla, her lover. In Cage, readers follow Agla as she faces her final months in prison for financial crimes. We see her adjust to a vastly different life to the one she had previously, and her subsequent release from prison brings more issues as she adapts to life on parole … but the chance to settle old scores and flex her intellect as she tries to unravel a mystery that places danger at the doorstep of an acquaintance, as well as brings her face to face with someone from her past.

As always, Sigurdardóttir manages to deftly weave current hot topics into the narrative of her work, offering readers an opportunity to view them from a different perspective and provides a great basis for topical discussion. She portrays events with an open honesty, showing the inescapable drug world, the dangerous links between the hierarchies of the bosses, mules and victims. But more than this, Sigurdardóttir expands on ideas of cultural unrest, migration, and the struggles of coming to age so masterfully that emotion is evoked in the reader, leaving them feeling anger, upset, shock on behalf of the characters involved.

Her style of writing pitches the perfect pace to keep readers turning pages, eagerly trying to find out what will happen next, to see how events will link up and what fates will befall the various characters.
The development of the characters throughout the series, as well as in the individual books, is superb to see. Witnessing Agla’s fall from grace, Sonia’s turmoil, Ingimar’s ruthlessness, all adds to the gripping storyline and brings these characters to life. Readers begin to connect with them in a way, not always liking them, but certainly feeling some form of a connection towards them and at times I admit, that I did feel sympathy towards certain ones.

There is no doubt for me that Cage is an electrifying read, packed with emotion and touching moments that grab the reader, but it also leaves them feeling the creeping Icelandic chill that gets under their skin and has them desperate for more books from this author!

  • Title: A Litter of Bones
  • Authors: JD Kirk
  • Publisher: Zertex Media
  • Publication Date: 1st May 2019

Copy received from publisher and blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

Was the biggest case of his career the worst mistake he ever made?

Ten years ago, DCI Jack Logan stopped the serial child-killer dubbed ‘Mister Whisper,’ earning himself a commendation, a drinking problem, and a broken marriage in the process.

Now, he spends his days working in Glasgow’s Major Investigations Team, and his nights reliving the horrors of what he saw.

And what he did.

When another child disappears a hundred miles north in the Highlands, Jack is sent to lead the investigation and bring the boy home.

But as similarities between the two cases grow, could it be that Jack caught the wrong man all those years ago?

And, if so, is the real Mister Whisper about to claim his fourth victim?

A Litter of Bones is the explosive debut crime thriller novel from JD Kirk, an exciting new voice in Scottish crime fiction. Perfect for fans of L.J. Ross, Ian Rankin, Chris Brookmyre, and Stuart Macbride.

My Thoughts:

JD Kirk was a name I’d not heard before, but one read of that description was more than enough to have me eager to get into this book! How incredibly creepy does Mister Whisper sound?

With an incredibly dark and twisted theme running throughout, the race is on for DCI Jack Logan as he tries to track down a missing boy in a case that has many questioning whether he caught the killer ten years ago. The cases are similar, almost frighteningly so, but Jack refuses to believe that the man he caught isn’t the right one. He knows he caught Mister Whisper all those years ago, even if everyone else around him is wondering “what if?”, and he will prove it, no matter what it takes.

The investigation into the current disappearance takes Jack Logan up to the Highlands. As Jack slowly gets to grip with the landscape and the progress that’s been made so far, his mind goes into overdrive trying to think of new angles and links from the original case that proved to be useful in nailing down suspects. Although his methods and manner are questionable, there’s no doubt that he’s gotten results in the past and soon advancements are being made in the search for suspects.

Kirk writes some great characters in this book and I love when they stick in my mind, a sign of great writing! The different personalities at play in the investigating team are brilliant, all unique but working well together. But it was also good getting to know more about the protagonist, DCI Logan. What drives him, just how invested in the original case was he, how it impacted on him, how he moves forward after seeing the things he’s seen over the years … it all makes for fascinating reading.

Plotting, well that’s something I won’t say too much about as you need to discover this one for yourself. But I will say that it’s written in such a way that it grabs the reader, has them holding their breath or peeking from behind their hand, the pace is brisk and matches the action well. This combined with the dialogue, makes for a good read.

About the Author:

JD Kirk lives in the wilds of Scotland, where he spends his days making stuff up and writing it down. He lives with his wife, two children, one dog, and – if his daughter has anything to do with it – a cat in the very near future.

Having been writing in various genres for over a decade, JD turned his attention to crime fiction in May 2019, and hasn’t looked back. A Litter of Bones is his first crime novel, and the first of his hundred-plus books that his wife could bring herself to read.

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jdkirkbooks/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jdkirkbooks 

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19106689.JD_Kirk

Website: http://www.jdkirk.com

I’m delighted to polish off my #TeamOrenda badge today and share the cover of Kjell Ola Dahl’s latest thriller in the Oslo Detectives series! For those not aware of this series (where have you been?!), check out Faithless and The Ice Swimmer and fall in love with this gripping and atmospheric series! Orenda Books will be publishing Sister in April 2020, and I for one CANNOT WAIT!!

Now, for part one of the exciting reveal …

“Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator, when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum seeker, who the authorities are about to deport. She claims to have a sister in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant death.

Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman’s sister, but things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and Frølich is threatened off the case by the police. As the body count rises, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the mysterious sister, who is now on the run…

A dark, chilling and up-to-the-minute Nordic Noir thriller, Sister is also a tense and well-plotted murder mystery with a moving tragedy at its heart, cementing Kjell Ola Dahl as one of the greatest crime writers of our generation.”

Now doesn’t that sound good? And are you ready to see the cover?!

What a cover! Orenda Books always give their books stunning covers that excite readers just as much as their contents, and this is definitely one of those!

Kjell Ola Dahl
One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik.
He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which form a series of police procedurals-cum-psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix, and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in fourteen countries.
He lives in Oslo.

  • Title: Pog
  • Author: Pádraig Kenny
  • Publisher: Chicken House Books
  • Publication Date: 4th April 2019

Description:
David and Penny’s strange new home is surrounded by forest. It’s the childhood home of their mother, who’s recently died. But other creatures live here … magical creatures, like tiny, hairy Pog.

He’s the one of the First Folk, protecting the boundary between the worlds. As the children explore, they discover monsters slipping through from the place on the other side of the cellar door. Meanwhile, David is drawn into the woods by something darker, which insists there’s a way he can bring his mother back …

My Thoughts:
What a wonderfully exiting sounding book and gorgeous cover! I have to admit that the cover immediately grabbed my eye and made me want to find out more and the description just sealed the deal, so I decided to treat myself for Independent Bookshop Week (which coincidentally occurs around the time of my birthday!), and got a copy of this book from one of my favourite bookshops.

Following the arrival of David and Penny at their new home, readers are given glimpses of their lives through the eyes of Pog, the small creature who has lived in their house for many years. And it is from Pog’s perspective that a lot of the action takes place, making this such a fun and exciting read. His thoughts about humans and their ways are humorous and his recollections of those who have gone before him like “Grandfa” really make this character stand out.
The narration isn’t limited to Pog though, we see events through the eyes of both David and Penny, see how they cope with the grief of losing their mother and how it’s impacted on their wee family. The author has taken great care to explore their grief in a natural way for children, demonstrating that it can make things seem harder than you’d expect, that at times it’s unfathomable but ultimately for David and Penny, the support of each other and their father is something that will help them get through the hard times.

Wonderfully vivid descriptions of the characters and their antics give readers a real feel for what goes on in this book, it’s hard not to image the scenes as they play out on the pages and draw the readers in. It’s a really beautifully written book, the magical mysticism appeals to a whole variety of readers and although it’s aimed at readers 9+, I really enjoyed it and found it a great book to blast away the cobwebs with!

  • Title: In The Absence of Miracles
  • Author: Michael J Malone
  • Publisher: Orenda Books
  • Publication Date: 19th September 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about.  A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover. For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.

My Thoughts:

Michael J. Malone has the unique ability to take a dark and often less spoken about social issue and bring it right into the spotlight, and he does just this in his latest book.

Expertly taking the reader on an emotional and turbulent journey through the pages, Malone unravels a multilayered plot at the perfect pace, shocking and surprising the reader in equal measure.
With a plot so complex, it would be wrong of me to attempt to break it down or say much about it, and in all honestly, I’m not sure I could. Not without giving something away!
However, I will say that the plotting is fiendishly clever, and I had no idea it was heading down this particular route until I got to a certain passage … I then had to re-read it again, shocked at what I’d read, such is Malone’s way of ensuring difficult topics are laid out, bringing them to mainstream attention without sugar-coating or sensationalising them. And for this, I applaud Malone. His writing highlights topics that are not discussed enough or even at all. There is a powerful poignancy in his writing that never fails to move me.

The characters that Malone has created in this book are ones that I found I needed to get to know, I wanted to know about their pasts, find out more about what drove them to make the decisions they made and why they acted as they did. The clever use of multiple timelines explains many actions of the characters and gives readers an insight into a world they might never experience otherwise.

  • Title: Blood Song
  • Author: Johana Gustawsson
  • Translator: David Warriner
  • Publisher: Orenda Books
  • Publication Date: 19th September 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

The action swings from London to Sweden, and then back into the past, to Franco’s Spain, as Roy & Castells hunt a monstrous killer … in the lastest instalment of Johana Gustawsson’s award-winning series

Spain, 1938:
The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.

Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.

Terrifying, vivid and recounted at breakneck speed, Blood Song is not only a riveting thriller and an examination of corruption in the fertility industry, but a shocking reminder of the atrocities of Spain’s dictatorship, in the latest, stunning installment in the award-winning Roy & Castells series.

My Thoughts:

There are a few authors that I always look forward to book news from, but Johana Gustawsson is a name that I will practically stalk on social media for updates. The simple reason is that her books are stunning.

For fans of Block 46 and Keeper, you are in for an amazing reading experience with Blood Song. With a dual timeline, readers are transported between 1938 Spain and 2016 Sweden, coupled a cast of characters who compel and captivate and a plot that completely blows you away.

Gustawsson has the ability to effortlessly beguile her readers, weaving a complex and compelling tale that draws on events from history. I must admit, my knowledge of Franco’s dictatorship was quite lacking, I had no comprehension of the atrocities committed under the guise of civil war, nor the conditions that met the imprisoned upon their arrival. The narrative surrounding this timeline is heartbreaking, and while there has been attempt to soften some of the more brutal aspects, there is no denying that it gives readers much to think about and I certainly cannot deny the impact it had upon me as I read. I felt that I was holding my breath, holding back tears, holding in screams.
The 2016 timeline contains its own atrocities, including the murder of Aliénor Lindbergh’s family. But this should not overshadow the investigation into the Swedish fertility clinics which made for frightening reading. The exploitation of people when they are so vulnerable and so desperate for a child is hard to read, but it is pitched perfectly to engage the reader.

And as the plot unfolded, I found myself wrapped up in the lives of the characters, feeling their pain, their frustrations and anguish. I always feel a sort of connection with Emily Roy and Alexis Castells, something in the way that these two characters have been crafted makes them so lifelike, the situations they are involved in become more than just words on a page, they play out like clips on a movie reel.

Up until now, Block 46 was a firm favourite for me, but I think that Blood Song has somehow managed to wedge itself a little more into my heart. Somehow this book has managed to fascinate and haunt my head in equal measure, it is a truly magnificent book.

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