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Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing joins up with the blog tour for Claire MacLeary’s third book in the series featuring PIs Maggie Laird and Wilma Harcus in Aberdeen. Having read and loved the previous books, I was very excited to be involved with the buzz for the new book, Runaway. Claire MacLeary is a name you want to remember her books are fantastic!

  • Title: Runaway
  • Author: Claire MacLeary
  • Publisher: Contraband
  • Publication Date: 14th March 2019

Early copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

When Aberdeen housewife Debbie Milne abruptly vanishes, her husband is frantic with worry and turns to local PIs Maggie Laird and Big Wilma Harcus.

Maggie is reluctant to take on a misper case, but Wilma cajoles her into a covert operation trawling women s refuges and homeless squats in search of a lead. But when a woman’s body is discovered in a skip, the unlikely investigators are dragged into a deeper mystery involving people-trafficking, gambling and prostitution and they’re in deadly danger.

With the police struggling to make headway and the clock ticking, the race is on for Harcus and Laird to find answers, further straining their already fraying relationship.

With Runaway, Claire MacLeary delivers the goods again creating a surprising, gritty, fast-paced tale with the warmth and wit of women of a certain age.

My Thoughts:

Where to start … well if you’re unfamiliar with this series, I would highly recommend checking out the previous books, Cross Purpose and Burnout and getting to know the force of nature that is ‘Big Wilma’ and her business partner Maggie, they are by far some of the best characters I’ve ever met in a book.

In Runaway, the reader is faced with a frantic man searching for his wife who seems to have vanished, his phone call to the emergency services starts the book with bang. Who is the missing woman, what has happened to her, where has she gone, is there more to her disappearance than meets the eye … so many questions based on an opening chapter!
As the police investigation develops and the frantic husband, Scott begins to lose faith with the detectives and hires Harcus and Laird to look into the disappearance of his wife Debbie. Unbeknownst to Scott, the police investigation has picked up some speed and with information from another branch of Police Scotland, the case is soon escalated to CID which should mean that Harcus and Laird step back and allow the police to do their work. Big Wilma firmly has the bit between her teeth with this case and is adamant she will not give this case up. After the previous case that the agency worked on, the women are keen not to make the same mistakes again, and Maggie especially is wary of taking things at face value, and tries to push back on Wilma every time her dogged determination tries to take over or push her.

With two such strong characters it’s hard for readers not to connect with them. Billed as ‘women of a certain age’, they certainly don’t feel outdated or difficult to like, they are what I would think of as “normal” women, trying to make a living doing something they are actually good at whilst juggling running a household, family, life … admirable really. The thing I found most appealing about these characters is the way that they secretly want to be a little more like the other. Wilma, always impressed at the vocabulary that Maggie possesses, seems to want to expand on her knowledge, wants to use the intelligence she clearly already has and it’s wonderful to see this develop through the book. Maggie often seems as though she wishes she had Wilma’s confidence and sure-footedness in many situations and slowly begins to take chances with it.
Underneath their often heated exchanges, is a genuine care for each other, these women may not have started out at best friends, but there’s a strong friendship between them which has grown with each new book in the series, I’ve loved seeing how these two vastly different women have not only formed a lasting friendship but become the emotional support that the other needed.

If strong characterisation wasn’t enough to make this book a winner, then it has to be said that the writing itself is a thing of beauty! Hailing from the Granite City, I know a lot of the landmarks and settlements mentioned within the book and Claire MacLeary distills their essence perfectly. Even down to the little details such as the railings inside the Dutch Mill hotel and pub. She brings the people and the places of Aberdeen alive and shows that no matter the city, there is always a side to things you may not be aware of. And as Maggie and Wilma work their way through their investigation, their paths crisscross through some dark and dangerous streets, MacLeary ensures that readers can ‘feel’ the danger that lurks in the shadows ahead, she makes sure they can ‘sense’ the dread and anticipation, but most of all she takes some truly difficult themes and makes them understandable, writing them in a way that does not simplify or remove any of the severity surrounding them.

A gripping, dark and gritty read that is the perfect addition to the series and I truly cannot wait to see what Claire MacLeary writes next! If you ever get the chance to see Claire talking at a book festival, or even just see her in the crowd, do say hello. She is one of the loveliest people, and genuinely wonderful to speak to!

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** My thanks to Robbie at Saraband for my copy of this book **

 

Description:

Fifty-something Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name.

Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, Shona is thrilled when selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for a one-week mission in 19th-century Moscow: to pair up the beautiful, shy, orphaned heiress Lidia Ivanovna with Sasha, a gorgeous young man of unexplained origins.

But, despite all her accomplishments and good intentions, Shona might well have got the wrong end of the stick about her mission. As the body count rises, will she discover in time just who the real villain is?

My Thoughts & Review:

First and foremost, would you take a look at that cover?!  It’s lovely isn’t it?  So eye catching and enchanting!  I am a sucker for a nice book cover, I make no apology for that, I’m merely proving the art departments right when they design a book cover to wow readers.

Anyway, moving on to the book itself, when I first heard about this one it was put to me as “sort of cosy crime, really witty and not really a crime title, although it involves some murders”, well that was enough to grab my attention and I’m really glad I did read it.

We first meet Shona in 19th Century Russia as she attempts to gain an audience with Madame Potapova, a member of the Russian high society when a tragedy occurs.  Through Shona’s narration the reader learns how she came to find herself in 19th Century Russia, a series of interspersed recollections scattered throughout give a interesting insight into this character.
Shona has been tasked with a delicate mission, one that she cannot fail and it all hinges on the fate of a shy heiress who is appearing in Society for the first time since childhood.  Taking to her mission with gusto, Shona dives straight in at the deep end and soon has Russian aristocrats jigging away to the Dashing White Sergeant in an attempt to save the failing atmosphere at the party thrown by Lidia Ivanovna.

There is cosy crime feel to this novel, it has dead bodies and mystery that require someone to puzzle the pieces together for the final “Ah-ha!” moment when the cunning reveal is made.  The way that the plot is structured means that readers can enjoy the mystery as it unfolds, will Shona succeed on her mission, what secrets are being kept by various characters, what are the events that no one must speak of, these are all things that keep the story moving along at a comfortable pace.
The richness of the descriptions used throughout mean that readers get a good feel for the settings and the scenes in this book, the way that Nanny is described did give me a chuckle, got to love a fellow knitter!  But even down to the small details of the parquet flooring, the outfits worn and the highly decorated samovars, it all evokes a great sense of atmosphere and did make me feel like I had been transported.

I did find the style of writing took a little getting used to, it is an intelligently written book that is an enjoyable read.  I especially enjoyed comedy and wit that was liberally dotted around, Shona’s sense of humour and use of Scottish phrases made her a very endearing character.

You can buy a copy of Miss Blaine’s Prefect & The Golden Samovar via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour:

MBP blog tour

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Published: 23 February 2017

 

Description:

Longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2017

When Maggie Laird’s disgraced ex-cop husband suddenly dies, her humdrum suburban life is turned upside down. With the bills mounting, she takes on his struggling detective agency, enlisting the help of neighbour ‘Big Wilma’. And so an unlikely partnership is born.

But the discovery of a crudely mutilated body soon raises the stakes… and Maggie and Wilma are drawn into an unknown world of Aberdeen’s sink estates, clandestine childminding and dodgy dealers.

Cross Purpose is surprising, gritty, sometimes darkly humorous – a tale combining police corruption, gangs and murder with a paean to friendship, loyalty and how ‘women of a certain age’ can beat the odds.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

When I saw that this crime thriller was set in my home town of Aberdeen I knew I had to read it, there’s something about books being set in a place that you know that immediately makes them jump out.  Equally, when a respected blogger recommends a book to you then you know you’re on to a winner, and I can honestly say that it was worth listening to Gordon on this one!

Maggie Laird’s life is thrown into turmoil when her husband suddenly dies, she seeks out the help of her nextdoor neighbour to get to the mortuary to identify the body of her husband not realising that this simple act of kindness would lead to a great friendship and business relationship between the two.
George Laird was a police officer, who was “forced” into early retirement because of disgrace, investigation was what he knew best so he set up his own detective agency, and following his death, Maggie decides to take a gamble on running the business with the help of Wilma to try and pay the bills that are mounting up.  But Maggie also has an ulterior motive for running the detective agency, she wants to exonerate George’s good name.

Maggie then walks a tightrope of increasing danger when she becomes entangled with some of the Granite City’s finest (or perhaps most dastardly) criminals.  Keen to show no weakness, Maggie puts up a strong facade and comes across perfectly businesslike when she needs to, but underneath it all she is fragile and trying to balance her grief whilst keeping things together for the sake of her grown children.
Her sidekick in all of this, “Big Wilma” on the other hand is as fearless as they come.  She definitely reminds me of many an Aberdonian woman in her ways.  She’s down to earth, no airs and graces but would loan you her last fiver if she thought it would help you out.  Both  Maggie and Wilma bring something different to the partnership, and it’s true about opposites attracting, where Maggie is reserved and quiet, Wilma is sharp tongued and spirited.  The dialogue between the two is fantastic, many of their exchanges felt absolutely authentic to the point I could hear the accents of the parts of town they were from (even with doric, we like to mix things up so folk fae Kincorth spik diff’rint frae ‘he folk fae Northfield).  And I have to say that the geography of the book felt pretty authentic to me, even down to the mentions of the layout at Castlegate with the Mercat Cross and the shops.

The development of the characters in this was well done, it was nice to see focus was shared between more than just the female sleuths, seeing the story from the perspective of the police detectives and being able to share their frustrations that they could not move their investigation added depth.  Some characters in this will definitely make you feel a bit uncomfortable and that is down to the skill of the author.  It takes great skill to create a character that makes the skin crawl and that’s exactly what Claire MacCleary does here.  For a debut novel I was very impressed, it felt that a lot of work had gone into laying the foundations for a solid plot that could be expanded upon throughout the book as well as leaving ample opportunity for future books.

Wee word of caution for those not familiar with doric, a handy link to help you translate any words you might get stuck with is The Doric Dictionary – it’ll save you getting crabbit fan yeh cannae understan’ fit ‘he quine is spikin aboot!

My thanks to Gordon McGhie and Sara Hunt at Saraband/Contraband for the opportunity to read and review Cross Purpose and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

You can buy a copy of Cross Purpose via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository

 

Follow the blog tour:

CP-blog-tour

 

 

 

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