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I am thrilled to share a review with you today of Sam Blake’s latest thriller which she will be discussing at this First Monday Crime on 2nd December at City University London. Details about the panel and how to book your free ticket can be found on the First Monday Crime website.

  • Title: Keep Your Eyes on Me
  • Author: Sam Blake
  • Publisher: Corvus
  • Publication Date: 2nd January 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

You won’t be able to look away

When Vittoria Devine and Lily Power find themselves sitting next to each other on a flight to New York, they discover they both have men in their lives whose impact has been devastating. Lily’s family life is in turmoil, her brother left on the brink of ruin by a con man. Vittoria’s philandering husband’s latest mistress is pregnant.

By the time they land, Vittoria and Lily have realised that they can help each other right the balance. But only one of them knows the real story…

My Thoughts:

As a fan of Sam Blake’s Cathy Connolly series, I was keen to see if she could grab my attention with a new set of characters and have me writing off an entire day at the weekend to just read a book, and she pulled it off with impressive ease.

From the moment I started reading Keep You Eyes on Me I was hooked, I loved how the plot was twisting and weaving, I was intrigued by the characters and began to care what happened to them. Blake crafted two incredibly fascinating female characters that readers cannot help but become invested in, their happy lives have been disrupted and rather than sit back and wallow, they take matters into their own hands and do something about it … well for each other.
A chance meeting in the airport, has Lily and Vittoria sharing pleasantries as they sit together and they end up sitting together on their flight, chatting more personally, both letting slip just how fraught their situations are. It’s not long before the women come up with a plan to try and put things right.

Where Sam Blake’s writing really shines is by crafting situations and scenes that you can see playing out in your head as you read. The vivid details woven into the narrative gave me a great image of the bookshop, the intricate pieces of jewellery, and even had me looking up paintings for an idea of whether they looked like I imagined. She creates supporting characters who are so well defined and sculpted that readers feel sympathy towards their plights, or anger at their lack of morals.
And the plot, what a whirlwind packed with tension! I was absolutely gobsmacked while reading parts, so clever and so subtle at times, I was caught off guard when things didn’t pan out the way I thought they might.

A brilliant read that kept me guessing and entertained throughout!

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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.

 



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  • Title: Breakers
  • Author: Doug Johnstone
  • Publisher: Orenda Books
  • Publication Date: 16th May 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

A pulsatingly tense, deeply moving psychological thriller from the Number One BESTSELLING Scottish author of Fault Lines

Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings, he’s also trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addict mum.

On a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead, but that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt.

With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in devastating danger, Tyler meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house, and he thinks she may just be his salvation … unless he drags her down too.

A pulsatingly tense psychological thriller, Breakers is also a breathtakingly brutal, beautiful and deeply moving story of a good kid in the wrong family, from one of Scotland’s finest crime writers.

My Thoughts:

When you pick up a Doug Johnstone book you know that you are going to be spoiled with some incredibly atmospheric writing that will utterly blow you away.
In Breakers readers meet Tyler, a seventeen-year-old lad who is struggling with the harsh realities of life and things are only going to get harder for him. The shining light in the darkness for Tyler is his little sister Bean, who he loves and will do anything to protect her, even hiding their mother’s drug addiction from her so as not to shatter her childhood entirely. Part of his survival depends on his participation in robberies with his older siblings, his lithe movements being useful for fitting through tight spots and another pair of hands is always useful when you’re robbing the homes of the wealthy. His illegal activities should cause a reader to dislike him, but instead Johnstone manages to turn everything on it’s head and causes the reader to feel empathy towards Tyler. The writing portrays a character with more than you first realise, Tyler has many sides to him but underneath it all is a deep sense of caring.

The most profound thing that I found when reading this was the idea that one decision can be the turning point life, and that you never really know where the road will take you. And we never truly know what happens behind the facades that we see, but what is clear is that Johnstone will draw emotions out of readers so effortlessly with his excellent writing.

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First Monday Crime is always exciting, and when I got a sneaky look at the authors lined up for 30th April I struggled to pick which book(s) to feature, there were so many brilliant authors on the list!
Eventually I tossed a coin and picked Cathi Unsworth’s That Old Black Magic as my read to share with readers of The Quiet Knitter blog.

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** My thanks to Serpent’s Tail for my copy of this book and the awesome folk at First Monday Crime for having me as part of the reviewer panel **

 

Description:

April 1943: four boys playing in Hagley Woods, Worcestershire make a gruesome discovery. Inside an enormous elm tree, there is the body of a woman, her mouth stuffed with a length of cloth. As the case goes cold, mysterious graffiti starts going up across the Midlands: ‘Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?’

To Ross Spooner, a police officer working undercover for spiritualist magazine Two Worlds, the messages hold a sinister meaning. He’s been on the track of a German spy ring who have left a trail of black magic and mayhem across England, and this latest murder bears all the hallmarks of an ancient ritual.

At the same time, Spooner is investigating the case of Helen Duncan, a medium whose messages from the spirit world contain highly classified information. As the establishment joins ranks against Duncan, Spooner must face demons from his own past, uncover the spies hiding beneath the fabric of wartime society – and confront those who suspect that he, too, may not be all he seems …

 

My Thoughts & Review:

The moment I read the description of this book I was hooked, WWII setting, spies, black magic … what more could I ask for?!

This is an interesting historical novel that gives readers a glimpse into a dark side of WWII that they may not have encountered before.  The clever blending of fact and fiction amalgamates in a fascinating read that details the use of the occult by the Nazis in their strategies to win the war.

The detective entrusted with the investigation into the case of tracking down the traitors to the British war effort and German spies is DS Ross Spooner, an Aberdonain lad who grew up in an antique bookshop.  This bookish early life being hugely beneficial, sparking an interest in the occult and such like.  His work with MI5 bringing him into contact with many occurrences to investigate the occult circles and practices.
Spooner is a character that I took a liking to, perhaps it was his connection to my home town … but he was an intelligent and thoughtful character that does that needs to be done in order to solve a case or get answers, even if they turn out to be ones he’d rather not get.

This is a very detailed book and one with a plot that keeps readers guessing.  There are factual characters that readers will recognise as well as ones based loosely on real people, The Chief being one such character who was based on Maxwell Knight, one of the great spymasters of the 20th century.

The plot is one that’s hard to do justice to in a short review, and equally one that I don’t think I want to break down in my review, there are subtitles that could potentially spoil this book for others but I will say that it keeps readers on their toes, provides them with questions as well as answers and pulls them in with a hypnotic danger that is eerie and haunting.

Unsworth has done some brilliant research for her novel and I have to say that this sparked a little bit of my inquisitive nature and I want to find out more, there are things I want to look into myself, satisfy my curiosity.  She has pulled together some brilliant strands of plotting to weave a novel that will have readers wondering about the possibilities of the supernatural world and the power it holds over people.

You can buy a copy of That Old Black Magic via:

Amazon UK

 

About the Author:

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Cathi Unsworth began a career in journalism at nineteen on the music weekly Sounds, and has since worked for many music, arts, film and alternative lifestyle journals. She is the author of five other novels, Without the Moon, Weirdo, The Not Knowing, The Singer and Bad Penny Blues, and the editor of the award-winning crime compendium London Noir, all published by Serpent’s Tail. She lives in London.

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Another Monday has rolled around, and so that means that that it’s time for another exciting First Monday Crime evening in London!  The authors featuring are superb, each brilliant in their own right and have all written some fantastic books!

So I shall attempt to share my review of Blue Night by Simone Buchholz, from February …

The Quiet Knitter

Today to Celebrate Indie Publishing I am delighted to share a book from the amazing Orenda Books, a publisher who brings exceptional books to the hands of readers around the world and I’m pleased to say that today’s offering is one such book!

Blue Night cover final

** My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my copy of this book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour **

Description:

After convicting a superior for corruption and shooting off a gangster’s crown jewels, the career of Hamburg’s most hard-bitten state prosecutor, Chastity Riley, has taken a nose dive: she has been transferred to the tedium of witness protection to prevent her making any more trouble. However, when she is assigned to the case of an anonymous man lying under police guard in hospital – almost every bone in his body broken, a finger cut off, and…

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** My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book **

 

Description:

‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

My Thoughts & Review:

This has to be one of those books that most people have heard something about, whether it’s because they’ve heard it being likened to Agatha Christie on psychedelics, or because it’s a bit like the classic 80s show Quantum Leap with Scott Bakula (google it if you don’t know about it!) or just because it’s so cleverly plotted and complex.

Without talking about the plot in much detail, I shall attempt to review this book……erm well, that might be a little harder than I thought.  The plot of this book is superb, there are so many threads and they are so cleverly woven together.  I hate to think of the work that went into the writing of this book, and raise my hat to Stu Turton, what a bloomin’ clever chap he is.  With a myriad of different characters that are intricately detailed there is the potential for details to become overshadowed, vital clues to be lost within the narrative and well, the danger for readers to be so intimidated by the sheer complexities of the plot but somehow it all links together beautifully.

Each of the characters that plays a part in this magnificently woven tale is wonderfully detailed.  Whilst they are all so very different, they share the same goal, to solve the mystery of the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle before time runs out or the looming menace catches him first and ends it all.  I don’t think I could pick a favourite from all of the creations in this book, there are some who appealed to me more than others, but each plays an important role in moving the story along and so their quirks and flaws make them individual.

I know that many people have read this book and commented that they’ve struggled to put into words just how much this book as blown their minds, or left them reeling.  I can’t blame them, I found that it took a while to get my thoughts in order after finishing this book, and if I’m honest, I don’t think I’ve fully digested everything about this one yet….its still running on a loop through my head despite the books I’ve read since.  There’s just something about this book that causes readers to think, scratch their heads and want to applaud Stuart Turton for his brilliant writing, masterful plotting and absolute genius!

You can buy a copy of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle via:

Amazon UK
Wordery

 

About the Author:

Stuart Turton is a freelance travel journalist who has previously worked in Shanghai and Dubai. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is his debut novel. He is the winner of the Brighton and Hove Short Story Prize and was longlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition. He lives in London with his wife.

 

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*** My thanks to the amazingly lovely people at First Monday Crime for my copy of this book and for asking me to be part of their review panel ***

 

Description:

She can’t prove he did it. But she might die trying…

From the Sunday Times No.1 bestselling author of the Logan McRae series, comes a standalone spinoff featuring DS Roberta Steel.

Revenge is a dangerous thing…

Detective Chief Inspector Roberta Steel got caught fitting up Jack Wallace – that’s why they demoted her and quashed his sentence. Now he’s back on the streets and women are being attacked again. Wallace has to be responsible, but if Detective Sergeant Steel goes anywhere near him, his lawyers will get her thrown off the force for good.

The Powers That Be won’t listen to her, not after what happened last time. According to them, she’s got more than enough ongoing cases to keep her busy. Perhaps she could try solving a few instead of harassing an innocent man?

Steel knows Wallace is guilty. And the longer he gets away with it, the more women will suffer. The question is: how much is she willing to sacrifice to stop him?

My Thoughts & Review:

Firstly, apologies to my dad for rubbing it in that I got to read this before he did…..usually he buys Stuart MacBride’s books the minute they’re released and lords it over me that he’ll have read it before me, but revenge is sweet….I gloated that I knew the book was coming out before him, I got a copy before him and most importantly I read the whole thing before publication day (insert smug daughter face here).

Right, now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me talk about this book.  For fans of Stuart MacBride’s books, you are in for a treat.  Anyone that loves his books will no doubt have a soft spot for Roberta Steel and her unique ways, her morale boosting techniques and ever so delicately eloquent phrases.  I was so excited to hear that this book would feature Steel, there’s something about this character that I’ve watched develop over the many books that she’s appeared in.  That’s not to say that you can’t pick this book up without having read any of the previous books, this is a stand alone book from the Logan McRae series and there is more than enough detail to confidently understand what has transpired previously to result in our leading lady’s demotion from DCI to DS.

I won’t go into the ins and outs of the plot, mainly because I don’t want to give anything away.  But you are guaranteed laughter from the very opening pages with MacBride’s wonderful descriptive writing – who else would describe their leading character in such a way as:

…..grey hair sticking out in all directions like a

demented ferret. Face set in a grimace. Probably hadn’t done
any serious running since she was a kid – trying not to get
eaten by dinosaurs.

If you know the various colourful descriptions of Roberta Steel from previous books then you can be sure that nothing has been lost at all with her having her own book – the spotlight hasn’t gone to her head and made her all glamorous that’s for sure!

It was also nice to see DC Quirrel, a.k.a. Tufty who first appeared in the Logan McRae books.  His unique brand of humour works perfectly alongside Steel’s brusque manner, but there’s definitely an excellent pairing with these two.  I think Tufty helps to bring out Steel’s softer side, dragging her caring side kicking and screaming into the light.  She acts as a good mentor to him (in her own unique way), and there’s definitely a genuine air of care towards her young DC.  Tufty is one of those characters that you cannot help but love, he’s funny, caring and embarrassingly shy at times, something that Steel abuses when it comes to a certain colleague (PC Kate Mackintosh).

Dark humour is a trademark of MacBride’s novels and this one has it in spades.  This coupled with the local dialect, Doric just means this book scores highly with me.  Seeing “aye aye” and “hoy” in the narrative just made me smile, always nice to see a little bit of home in a book.  The great descriptions of Aberdeen and surrounding areas felt really authentic, and I found I was recalling the layout of Union Street etc from memory as the story played out in my head.  The plot is superb, despite being very dark and somewhat disturbing at times, the humour woven throughout provides light relief.  But Stuart, how could you, that poor wee wifie Mrs Galloway….

If you get the chance to read this I would highly recommend it, it’s sharp, it’s witty and it’s everything you love about Stuart MacBride’s writing.  Oh and check out Tufty’s super secret map of Aberdeen, it’s pretty spot on (comes with this Aberdonian’s seal of approval).

I could probably blether on more about this book but I’ll stop while the going is good and before I start mentioning things I shouldn’t (there are so many bits I’ve deleted from this review because they hint towards stuff, and it’s taken me over a week to get this review done!)

You can order a copy of Now We Are Dead via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

About the Author

SM

Image and bio courtesy of HarperCollins

Stuart MacBride was born in Dumbarton, near Glasgow and moved to Aberdeen at the age of two. After dropping out of university to work offshore he went to work for himself as a graphic designer, eventually becoming studio manager for a nationwide marketing company. He gave it all up to have a go at becoming an actor, until it became clear to him that he was never going to be good enough to make a decent living out of it.

Whilst progressing through a whole new career in the IT sector, ending up as project manager for a global IT company, Stuart also wrote in his spare time. He is now the No.1 bestselling author of the Logan McRae series and the Ash Henderson series.

His novels have won him the CWA Dagger in the Library, the Barry Award for Best Debut Novel, and Best Breakthrough Author at the ITV3 Crime Thriller awards. In 2012 Stuart was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Hall of Fame.

Stuart’s other works include Halfhead, a near-future thriller, Sawbones, a novella aimed at adult emergent readers, and several short stories.

He lives in the north-east of Scotland with his wife, Fiona and cats Grendel, Gherkin, Onion, and Beetroot, some hens, horses, and a vast collection of assorted weeds..

Social Media links:  Twitter | Facebook | Website

 

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