Posts Tagged ‘Little Brown Book Group’

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


How do you find a killer when you’re surrounded by madness?

1935. As Europe prepares itself for a calamitous war, six homicidal lunatics – the so-called ‘Devil’s Six’ – are confined in a remote castle asylum in rural Czechoslovakia. Each patient has their own dark story to tell and Dr Viktor Kosárek, a young psychiatrist using revolutionary techniques, is tasked with unlocking their murderous secrets.

At the same time, a terrifying killer known as ‘Leather Apron’ is butchering victims across Prague. Successfully eluding capture, it would seem his depraved crimes are committed by the Devil himself.
Maybe they are… and what links him with the insane inmates of the Castle of the Eagles?

Only the Devil knows. And it is up to Viktor to find out.

My Thoughts:

One read of that description was enough to hook my intrigue, historical fiction set in one of the periods I find most interesting, crime thriller, and exploration of the dark recesses of the human mind – what more could I want?!

If you want a read brimming with superb characterisation, gothic darkness and excellent writing, then this is the book for you. Craig Russell has crafted a fantastic character in Viktor Kosárek, and with narration from this perspective, readers get a glimpse into the mind of a young doctor trying to push the boundaries of treatment within the field of psychiatry.

Craig Russell sets the scene of 1930s Czechoslovakia and Prague perfectly, he captures the unrest prevalent in that time and uses this well to add to the tension rife in the plot. The chilling atmospheric details are superb, they enable the reader to see the settings, to feel the hypnotic unease that leeches from the mists that swirl through the streets and villages.
The streets of Prague are unsafe, a crazed killer roams, picking off unsuspecting victims and leaving the police clueless about his identity. Dubbed ‘Leather Apron’, he savagely murders his female victims, leaving little evidence behind and it’s the job of Kapitan Lukas Smolak to piece together the little information they have in an effort to catch him.
This arc of the plot runs alongside that of psychiatrist Viktor Kosárek as he takes up a post at Hrad Orlu Asylum. The asylum houses six of the most notorious serial killers in Europe, aptly named the ‘Devil’s Six’. The nearby villagers are less than happy about the asylum, folklore tells of dark and dangerous happenings in the castle that houses the asylum, and despite assurances that the security measures in place render the castle impenetrable, they are not convinced.

Russell weaves a tale so vivid and complex, pulling together strands of folklore, mythology, psychology and sociology to create a fascinating and enthralling read. The whole time I was reading this, I could almost feel the unease, the dread that characters were experiencing. I desperately wanted to piece together the scant clues that Kapitan Lukas Smolak had, but no matter how hard I tried, I was entirely in the dark. Intelligent writing, that renders the reader equal parts terrified and fascinated.

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** My thanks to Clara for my copy of this book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour **




Magical, heartbreaking, beautiful – Days of Wonder reminds us that stories have the power to save lives.

Tom, single father to Hannah, is the manager of a tiny local theatre. On the same day each year, he and its colourful cast of part-time actors have staged a fantastical production just for his little girl, a moment of magic to make her childhood unforgettable.

But there is another reason behind these annual shows: the very first production followed Hannah’s diagnosis with a heart condition that both of them know will end her life early. And now, with Hannah a funny, tough girl of fifteen on the brink of adulthood, that time is coming.

With the theatre under threat of closure, Hannah and Tom have more than one fight on their hands to stop the stories ending. But maybe, just maybe, one final day of magic might just save them both.

A tale about growing up, the beauty of a special bond between father and daughter, and finding magic in everyday life, Days of Wonder is the most moving novel you’ll read all year.

My Thoughts & Review:

There are the books that you read and fall in love with and then there are the book that you read and stay in your head and heart for a long time afterwards.  Days of Wonder is definitely a book in the latter category.

Having read Keith Stuart’s previous novel A Boy Made of Blocks, I wasn’t sure if it would be possible for me to appreciate his writing any more than I already did, but his second book really blew me away.  There’s something so magical and rich about the way that he writes that he makes the world around you cease to exist, almost like creating a wee portal for his readers to step through when they open his books.

Days of Wonder centres around the story of Hannah and her father Tom.  Hannah is a fifteen year old girl that desperately wants to be like every other fifteen year old girl, but she has a heart condition that means her father is incredibly protective and cautious about what she does and where she goes.  Tom is a single father and tries to battle the need to wrap Hannah in cotton wool to protect her, but he also realises that he needs to let her live a life, let her be young and do the things that young people do, before it’s too late.  Their relationship is one of openness and frank honesty on the most part.  There are the usual parental issues of trying to hide the dangers and horrors of the adult life from your children, or appearing like a fun sucking wet blanket, but on the whole Tom and Hannah work well together.
Hannah’s personality shining through when the narration is from her perspective, her attitude understandable and relatable.  Equally, when reading from Tom’s perspective, you get a wonderful insight into what drives this character and it really brings him alive from the pages.

The plot flows effortlessly, and the pace is perfect.  Despite being a fairly chunky read, I found that I breezed through it and didn’t want to put it down, I wanted to see if they could save Willow Tree Theatre, I want to see how events would pan out and most importantly I kept hoping for a miracle for them all.

Often, when you read such a poignant and moving story you feel a lump in your throat, or even the odd sniffle will escape as you encounter a particularly emotive moment, but I found that the depth emotions I felt reading this took me by surprise.  I laughed aloud at times, I snorted at Hannah’s retorts to her father, I felt frustration for characters as events unfolded, and I wept.  I said before that Keith Stuart has the ability to stop the world around you, but it’s more than that, it’s almost like he makes the book part of you, and you it.

A beautifully written, heartwarming story that will stay with me for some time and most definitely a book I will revisit soon!

Very highly recommended!!

You can buy a copy of Days of Wonder via:

Amazon UK
Book Depository


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** My thanks to Clara Diaz at Little, Brown Book Group for my copy of this  book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour **



Yorkshire, 1927. Eclipse fever grips the nation, and when beloved theatre star Selina Fellini approaches trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton to accompany her to a viewing party at Gigglesiwkc School Chapel, Kate suspects an ulterior motive. 

During the eclipse, Selina’s friend and co-star Billy Moffatt disappears and is later found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate can’t help but dig deeper and soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. With the help of Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden, Kate sets about investigating the deaths – and whether there is a murderer in the company.

When Selina’s elusive husband Jarrod, injured in the war and subject to violent mood swings, comes back on the scene, Kate begins to imagine something far deadlier at play, and wonders just who will be next to pay the ultimate price for fame . . .

My Thoughts & Review:

Kate Shackleton is back with another cosy crime mystery, Death in the Stars is the ninth book in the series and I am sure it will be a hit with her fans.  For those not familiar with the Kate Shackleton mysteries, they are a little like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books.  There are mysteries aplenty and many suspects for our sleuth to investigate along the way before eventually arriving at a definitive conclusion with none of the modern day gore or danger.

In this book, Shackleton is invited to accompany theatre star Selina Fellini to view an eclipse at a local school chapel, and ever the investigator, Kate’s suspicious mind begins to start ticking over.  During the eclipse Selina’s friend and co-star Billy Moffat is found dead in the grounds of the chapel, and this highlights Selina’s fears about other members of the theatre group having met suspicious endings in the past year.
Shackleton is soon on the case with the help of her good friends Mrs Sugden and Jim Sykes and together they are determined to find answers for the mysterious circumstances of the deaths of the members of the theatre group as well as Billy Moffat’s death.

This is only my second meeting with Kate Shackleton, having previously read book eight in the series Death at the Seaside and I have enjoyed the change of pace that both of these books have brought.  These are more gentle mysteries that my usual crime thriller reads, and there is something nice about the way these books get your brain working, trying to link the clues together and working out how it all goes together like the investigative team are doing.  Despite not being an action packed, adrenaline filled reading, this is a very enjoyable read and very well written.

A cast of very interesting and well crafted characters bring the tale alive, the plot is well thought out and the small details really make this stand out as one not to miss!

You can buy a copy of Death in the Stars via:

Amazon UK
Book Depository


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Author: Sarra Mannning

Published: 10 March 2016
Reviewed: 5 September 2016

4 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Sphere in return for an honest review



After the Last Dance is an extraordinary story of two women, separated by time but connected by fate, that will make you believe in the redemptive power of unexpected love.

Kings Cross station, 1943. Rose arrives in London hoping to swap the drudgery of wartime for romance, glamour and jiving with GIs at Rainbow Corner, the famous dance hall in Piccadilly Circus. As the bombs fall, Rose loses her heart to a pilot but will lose so much more before the war has done its worst.

Las Vegas, present day. A beautiful woman in a wedding dress walks into a seedy bar and asks the first man she sees to marry her. When Leo slips the ring onto Jane’s finger, he has no idea that his new wife will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

So when Jane meets Rose, now a formidable older lady, there’s no love lost between them. But with time running out, can Rose and Jane come together to make peace with the tragic secrets that have always haunted their lives?

My Thoughts & Review:

Recounting the tales of two women 60 years apart, Manning first introduces the reader to Rose in 1943.  Rose is a teenage runaway, boarding a train to Kings Cross and escaping the dull and mundane life of Durham.  She makes her way to Rainbow Corner, the famous dance hall run by the American Red Cross and starts a new life.  Making friends and falling in love cannot stop the war ravaging those nearest and dearest to her.

The second woman the reader is introduced to is Jane, decades after Rose’s escape to London, Jane makes her own daring move to change her life.  She walks into a run down bar in Las Vegas wearing a wedding dress and proposes to the first man she sees.

Paralleling the timelines of young Rose and Jane (and older Rose) in present day is interesting, it allows the reader to compare both versions of Rose, gives a great insight as to how this character has grown and matured.  The transformation from being a naive but hopeful young woman to a powerful and judgement woman was quite a juxtaposition.  However, the way that Manning has written this character it is difficult not to want to find out more about her.
Jane and Leo are characters that take time to warm to, Jane definitely does not come across as sympathetic in any way but as her back story is drip fed to the reader it soon becomes clear that she has a dark past, perhaps psychological damage lurking under her outwardly façade which can only really be explained by why she was running away too.

The writing itself is wonderful, the detail about the war years shows a great wealth of research has been done to ensure accuracy.  The descriptiveness of the narrative is superb, you can almost taste the doughnuts Rose eats, the coffee she drinks.  The detail about  Rainbow Corner conjures vivid images and is something I want to find out more about.

I have to admit that I did prefer the historical story of Rose most, I felt more connected to it and would have loved to have read more about her.

You can buy a copy of After The Last Dance here.

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Author: Val McDermid

Published 25 August 2016
Reviewed: 31 August 2016

5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Little, Brown Book Group in return for an honest review



There were a lot of things that ran in families, but murder wasn’t one of them . . .’

When a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car, a routine DNA test could be the key to unlocking the mystery of a twenty-year-old murder inquiry. Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is an expert at solving the unsolvable. With each cold case closed, justice is served. So, finding the answer should be straightforward, but it’s as twisted as the DNA helix itself.

Meanwhile, Karen finds herself irresistibly drawn to another case, one that she has no business investigating. And as she pieces together decades-old evidence, Karen discovers the most dangerous kind of secrets. Secrets that someone is willing to kill for . . .

My Thoughts & Review:

Out of Bounds is the 30th novel written by Val McDermid, yes, 30th and despite being an accomplished author with an impressive back catalogue, the writing in this is as fresh as it was back when I was knee high to a grasshopper in the late 1980s.  Having discovered McDermid’s books in my teenage years (thanks to my parent’s extensive book collection), I have been an avid fan ever since and it’s nice to see the master continue writing phenomenal books.

Even though this is the  second book to feature DCI Karen Pirie of Police Scotland’s Historical Crime Unit, it is possible to read this as a standalone, enough detail is given to understand the character and her back story.

After the loss of her partner and colleague Phil, Karen Pirie returns to work and has lost none of her curiosity or abilities,  but sleep evades her.  And just when she needs it most, the distraction of a case comes at the right time.
In Dundee some joyriders cause a tragic accident which reveals new evidence by way of routine blood tests on the drunk driver, evidence that could help with a 20 year old cold case from Glasgow.  Whilst the evidence turns out not to be the case breaker she’d have hoped, she and Jason ‘The Mint’  Murray  investigate in their own unconventional way. During the investigations  Karen’s curiosity is piqued by another case, the death of a man named Gabriel Abbot – a current case that is out of her remit and one she should be nowhere near, but Karen isn’t about to be put off by such a slight technicality.

Karen Pirie is an exceptionally well created character, fiesty, strong and incredibly intelligent.  She picks fights that she knows she will win, especially with her boss.  The way in which  McDermid writes Karen’s grief seems to seep from the pages so that the reader can almost feel it, her actions and thoughts whilst she struggles to adjust to life without Phil are very real.
Jason ‘The Mint’ Murray is a character that the reader cannot fail to like, the partnership between Murray and Pirie is unconventional but it works.  He is her opposite in so many ways but he has a heart of gold.

The plot is clever and complex, whilst not as action packed as some of her previous books, this novel still packs a fair punch.  The slow build up works really well in this, each time Karen (and the reader) have an idea what’s happening, McDermid quickly throws in a well timed twist and it’s back to square one.
The Scottish pop culture and expressions added an authenticity to the writing and were as always a joy to to read.

A very original police procedural, which is nice as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find stories that are different to others but this one breaks the mould.

You can buy a copy of  Out of Bounds here.

About the  Author

Author Image & Information via http://www.valmcdermid.com/

Val comes from Kirkcaldy, Fife, and read English at St Hilda’s College, Oxford (where she is now an Honorary Fellow). She was the first ever student from a state school in Scotland. Following graduation she became a journalist, and worked briefly as a dramatist.
Her first success as a novelist came with Report for Murder The first Lindsay Gordon Mystery, first published in 1987.

Among her many awards are the Portico Prize for Fiction, the LA Times Book Prize, the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award and the Cartier Diamond Dagger. She has published 27 novels, short stories, non-fiction and a prize-winning children’s book. She is a regular broadcaster for BBC radio and lives in Edinburgh.

For more information about Val McDermid’s books check out her website http://www.valmcdermid.com or follow her on Twitter @valmcdermid

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