The Seven Doors by Agnes Ravatn

When the tenant of a house that university professor Nina owns with her doctor husband goes missing after an uncomfortable visit, Nina starts her own investigation … with deeply disturbing results. The long-awaited new thriller from the bestselling author of The Bird Tribunal.

University professor Nina is at a turning point. Her work seems increasingly irrelevant, her doctor husband is never home, relations with her difficult daughter are strained, and their beautiful house is scheduled for demolition.

When her daughter decides to move into another house they own, things take a very dark turn. The young woman living there disappears, leaving her son behind, the day after Nina and her daughter pay her a visit.

With few clues, the police enquiry soon grinds to a halt, but Nina has an inexplicable sense of guilt. Unable to rest, she begins her own investigation, but as she pulls on the threads of the case, it seems her discoveries may have very grave consequences for her and her family.

Exquisitely dark and immensely powerful, The Seven Doors is a sophisticated and deeply disturbing psychological thriller from one of Norway’s most distinguished voices.


From the first few pages of The Seven Doors by Agnes Ravatn I just knew that I was going to absolutely love it and I did. If I could persuade Amazon to award it more than five stars, I would!

The writing is superb, feeling sparse, yet pulling a punch that left me reeling when I had finished the book.

From the moment University Professor Nina starts to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her former tenant, her life begins to spiral out of control. Yet even though events change rapidly, the story itself eases along, with quiet moments interspersed with heart racing tension. It’s a clever move by the writer, because the austere writing style, actually extenuates the tension that permeates the story. None of the fast faced, action-laden drama so popular in many American thrillers, which distract from the emotional impact on the reader and characters. Here it is the quietness between the sentences, between the disturbing events that creates the bleak, crippling anxiety that enveloped me as I read. For moments, I actually felt my heart tighten and my nerves scream out for relief.

The Seven Doors is full of an amazing collection of characters, all of whom could be neighbours of any of us. They are realistic, beautifully drawn and it is their authenticity that adds a feeling of palpability; you feel like they are capable of being touched or felt. That is the genius of Agnes Ravatn writing, characters like Nina. Facing great changes in her life, frustrated at work, she inadvertently becomes tangled up in a mystery that coils itself into every part of her day to day existence. Many of us subconsciously seek out challenges to help us deal with stressful events, feeling lost as retirement looms, but can’t be faced. This is Nina and this is why I felt a connection to her, the story, her family and the chaos that is created from one fateful moment!

If you take both story and character, add them together and you have a novel of quiet genius. I am left wondering where the writer Agnes Ravatn has been all my reading life. I am glad she is here now and I hope she continues to grace my shelves with her wonderful writing.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon, Waterstones, directly from the publisher and all good independent bookshops.

About the author

Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is an author and columnist. She made her literary début with the novel Week 53 (Veke 53) in 2007. Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing still (Stillstand), 2011, Popular Reading (Folkelesnad), 2011, and Operation self- discipline (Operasjon sjøldisiplin), 2014. In these works Ravatn shows her unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility. Her second novel, The Bird Tribunal (Fugletribuanlet), was an international bestseller, winning an English PEN Award, shortlisting for the Dublin Literary Award, a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick and a BBC Book at Bedtime. It was also made into a successful play, which premiered in Oslo in 2015. Agnes lives with her family in the Norwegian countryside.

About the translator

Rosie Hedger was born in Scotland and completed her MA (Hons) in Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She has lived and worked in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and now lives in York where she works as a freelance translator. Rosie was a candidate in the British Center for Literary Translation’s mentoring scheme for Norwegian in 2012, mentored by Don Bartlett. Visit her website: and follow her on Twitter @rosie_hedger

In Black and White: A Young Barrister’s Story of Race and Class in a Broken Justice System by Alexandra Wilson

Alexandra Wilson was a teenager when her dear family friend Ayo was stabbed on his way home from football. Ayo’s death changed Alexandra. She felt compelled to enter the legal profession in search of answers.

As a junior criminal and family law barrister, Alexandra finds herself navigating a world and a set of rules designed by a privileged few. A world in which fellow barristers sigh with relief when a racist judge retires: ‘I’ve got a black kid today and he would have had no hope’.


In Black and White by Alexandra Wilson, is without a shred of doubt one of the most relevant and important books of our generation! In the time of Black Lives Matter and attacks on the integrity of the justice system, we needed a book that shines a light on all that is wrong with not just our legal system, but society in general. This book is a starting point from which we as a nation can begin to accept where we are still failing, but also how we are succeeding. It is not a rampant attack on on our legal system, but it is critical of the often imbued bias against people of colour, women and class.

The writer Alexandra Wilson tells a very personal story of the reasons she became a barrister, the hard work and commitment it took, especially when faced with many barriers. It is as The Secret Barrister is quoted on the cover as saying “An absolute triumph”. Why? Because of it honesty and the powerful message it carries to others to not let ingrained bigotry, racism or gender in balance, stop you from achieving all that you are capable of. Yes she talks of all the problems she faced, but she also acts as a shining light for all those who feel they are forever excluded from working in the legal system. That there are still people in 2020, who see the colour of a persons skin, their gender, their sexuality, before they see their talent or their passion for fairness, is shocking and for me the most upsetting part of this book. But In Black and White Alexandra Wilson lays that open to the reader and asks us acknowledge that change is needed still, that we are far from having a legal system that represents all and that is why this book is so important. Why, that for those that might claim that there is not bias within the law, we should make this book compulsory reading!

As a writer she is unfailing fair, she rightly talks of how she has faced racial bigotry, having been mistaken for a client, even though she was smartly dressed , carrying briefs and clearly a professional, and yet when faced with this she also celebrates those that championed her career! The result is a book of huge importance, a vital voice that needs to be championed so that we move forward to a better, fairer world.

You can purchase this book from Amazon, Waterstones and any independent book seller.

About the author

Alexandra Wilson is a junior barrister. She grew up in Essex and is the eldest of four children. Her mother is White British, her father is Black British and her paternal grandparents were born in Jamaica and came to England as part of the Windrush generation.

Alexandra studied at the University of Oxford and was awarded two prestigious scholarships, enabling her to research the impact of police shootings in the US on young people’s attitudes to the police. She went on to study for a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and her Master of Laws at BPP University in London. Alexandra was awarded the first Queen’s scholarship by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, a scholarship awarded to students showing exceptional promise in a career at the Bar.

A Song of Isolation by Michael J Malone #ASongOfisolation #BlogTour #MeToo

Film star Amelie Hart is the darling of the silver screen, appearing on the front pages of every newspaper. But at the peak of her fame she throws it all away for a regular guy with an ordinary job. The gossip columns are aghast: what happened to the woman who turned heads wherever she went?

Any hope the furore will die down are crushed when Amelie’s boyfriend Dave is arrested on charges of child sexual abuse. Dave strongly asserts his innocence, and when Amelie refuses to denounce him, the press witch hunt quickly turns into physical violence, and she has to flee the country.

While Dave is locked up with the most depraved men in the country and Amelie is hiding on the continent, Damaris, the victim at the centre of the story, is isolated – a child trying to make sense of an adult world.

Breathtakingly brutal, dark and immensely moving, A Song of Isolation looks beneath the magpie glimmer of celebrity to uncover a sinister world dominated by greed and lies, and the unfathomable destruction of innocent lives … in an instant.


Thrillers are often based around one basic premise; killer and the police seeking to bring them to justice!  Michael J Malone though is no ordinary thriller writer; he produces novels that challenge the reader with quite difficult subjects, are deeply emotive, while still producing a story of exceptional intensity.

A Song Of Isolation is full of twists and turns, with lyrical prose that reflects the writers background as a poet. It reads with grace and left me as a reader deeply affected by the often-harrowing story within. I felt drawn into the lives of young man accused of child sexual assault, a child isolated as well as confused and a young actress fighting her own demons. Its strengths are numerous, but for me the reason it is so exceptional is the characterisation, the quality of both the story and the writing.

Michael J Malone takes us into the lives of all three of the main characters, deep into their thoughts, their hopes and fears and the brutal effect events have on all three of them. He draws a tale of how each end up isolated from each other and the world around them. Weaving each thread into a complex and emotional narrative which is centred around the theme of isolation. It is quite exceptional in how he does this, they flow like rivers apart, then in and out of each others orbit, unit they finally conclude in ending that left me feeling emotionally spent.

His handling of Damaris story is exceptional. Her confusion and anger are signs of the overwhelmingly negative experiences she suffers as a child leaving her isolated from those around her, even from her parents. Her confusion is almost palatable, as if you can reach into the page and touch her.  

Then there is Dave, accused of child abuse and though he maintains his innocence is subjected to brutal violence in prison. The writer takes into a shattered mind and personality as he explores the way the character isolates himself even from family and his fellow prisoners, closing down emotionally to protect himself.

Finally there is Amelie who has been the victim of exploitation and is damaged from the cult of celebrity. She has isolated herself from that world, but what Michael J Malone does In A Song Of Isolation is show that she can run, but never hide from the demons that plague her. It’s a cutting and perceptive portrayal of celebrity and the damage it can do in the MeToo era.

He pulls this all together and ties the characters in a web of pain, betrayal, isolation and hope. Making this a novel of exceptional emotional depth, nothing I wouldn’t expect from this talented writer, but still he gets better with every book he writes.

I wish in this case that Amazon allowed you to give a book more than five stars!

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones.

But why not order it from your local Indie bookshop?

About the author

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and MarkingsBlood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

Some of my favourite fictional characters!

I sat in work the other day (yes I do work sometimes!) and I got to thinking about some of my favourite fictional characters from the last few years and these are the ones I thought of.

How about you, who are your favourites?

Patroclus from Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles.

Awkward young prince, lover of Achilles, noble, loyal and in my humble reading opinion, the perfect character. His passion and bravery, how he acknowledged Achilles failings and yet loved him beyond reason, will mean he will always have a special place in my heart.

Ellis, Michael and Annie from Tin Man by Sarah Winman.

It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things.
Oh that line, it gets me like a blow to the chest every single time. I should hate Annie, for coming between Ellis and Michael, but I cannot, she is the third point of a triangle, in a tale of love, longing and loss that will haunt me forever. Ellis and Michael are two of the greatest loves of my life and I know fellow readers will understand this and Annie is intrinsic to their story.

Gustav Perle and Anton Zwiebel from The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain

In this remarkable and moving study about the fine line between love and friendship, Gustav Perle and Anton Zwiebel are close friends from childhood, but their connection grows deeper. Both became as entwined in my mind as they were in the pages of the book and I felt a connection to them brought about by both the beauty of the writing and Rose Tremain’s intrinsic understanding of human emotion. As in Sarah Winman’s Tin Man she showcases the fact that men and boys are capable of beautiful things, if freed from the prejudice, stigma and discrimination of society in general and sometimes their own internalised fear of being ostracized by those around them.

Margery Benson and Enid Pretty from Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

Oh Margery Benson and Enid Pretty, what can I say other than they are rare characters in fiction even in 2020. Two amazing, heart warming women, so easy to love, holding their own in an adventure story for adults, a genre so often dominated by male characters! Margery is a dreamer, who throws down the shackles that bind her to the past and dares to cross the seas to find a beetle that may not exist. Enid, her damaged, yet formidable companion is also searching for a new life. Unlikely companions they maybe, yet they are the perfect example of finely drawn, perfectly shaped characters and leaving them behind as I read the final pages was heart breaking.

The Skelf’s Family from Dark Matter and The Big Chill by Doug Johnston

When I picked up Dark matter to read, I knew intrinsically that it would be good, having read Doug Johnston’s books before! However, what sets this apart from an already exceptional back catalogue for me were Dorothy, Hannah and Jenny who run the family funeral home and a private investigator business. The three generations of women, Dorothy (Grandmother and Mother), Jenny (daughter and mother) and Hannah (granddaughter and daughter) form a formidable family unit. They bind the stories within this novel and the follow-up with the force and depth of their personalities.

Orfeia by Joanne M.Harris and illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins

When you can find me an acre of land,
Every sage grows merry in time,
Between the ocean and the sand
Then will you be united again.

(Inspired by The Child Ballads 2 & 19)

So begins a beautiful and tragic quest as a heartbroken mother sets out to save her lost daughter, through the realms of the real, of dream, and even into the underworld itself.

But determination alone is not enough. For to save something precious, she must give up something precious, be it a song, a memory, or her freedom itself . . .

Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.


One of the many things I love about taking part in blog tours is how it has opened up my world to new authors! I had meant to read one of Joanne M Harris’s books for quite some time. When I received the email for Orfeia I jumped at the opportunity and I am so grateful that I did. It is a work of great imagination, full of magical imagery, both written and illustrated. It draws on our rich heritage of fairy tales to tell a story about loss, grief, hope and desire.

Set in the realm of the fairy folk a broken hearted mother, seeks to free her daughter and for this she must risk her own freedom and travel through a land, which though it has a close connection with human kind, is full of traps and tricks that could bind her forever within its embrace. Written in novella form, never the less the writer creates a story of epic imagination, no mean feat in a standard length novel, but an act of literary skill in this shorter novel form. The story seeming to expand beyond the words on the page to a realm of magic. You can easily imagine that if walking the streets of London, you could see the world Joanne Harris has created within your mind’s eye, because the story she creates is so vibrant. Novels are words on a page, but here they bring alive a world that lived as like a real place within my imagination.

The illustration are stunning and complement to story perfectly, adding another layer of experience to reading the book. Done well they enhance the written content and here they are the perfect match, promoting an emotional and visual connection with the story. As Neal Gainman and Chris Riddell have shown, done well, it can give us as adult readers a more immersive experience. Joanne Harris words and Bonnie Helen Hawkins illustrations create a story of stunning vibrancy. You see the characters through the illustrations and feel their emotions and motivations through the writer’s quite extraordinary ability to create a world that sits just on the edge of our imagination.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones. It can also be bought from your local independent bookshop.

About the author

Joanne Harris is the internationally renowned and award-winning author of eighteen novels, plus novellas, scripts, short stories, libretti, lyrics, articles, and most recently, a self-help book for writers, TEN THINGS ABOUT WRITING. In 2000, her 1999 novel CHOCOLAT was adapted to the screen, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and is Chair of the Society of Authors.
Her hobbies are listed in Who’s Who as ‘mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion’. She is active on Twitter, where she writes stories and gives writing tips as @joannechocolat; she posts weekly writing seminars on YouTube; she performs in a live music and storytelling show with the #Storytime Band; and she works from a shed in her garden at her home in Yorkshire.
She also has a form of synaesthesia which enables her to smell colours. Red, she says, smells of chocolate.

A Year Of Living Simply by Kate Humble ~ Review ~ Blog Tour

‘Simply wonderful.’ – BEN FOGLE

‘Kate’s book has the warmth and calming effect of a log fire and a glass of wine. Unknit your brow and let go. It’s a treat.’ – GARETH MALONE

‘Kate Humble pours her enviable knowledge into attainable goals. It’s a winning combination and the prize – a life in balance with nature – is definitely worth claiming.’ – LUCY SIEGLE

‘As ever, where Kate leads, I follow. She has made me reassess and reset.’ – DAN SNOW

If there is one thing that most of us aspire to, it is, simply, to be happy.  And yet attaining happiness has become, it appears, anything but simple.  Having stuff – The Latest, The Newest, The Best Yet – is all too often peddled as the sure fire route to happiness.  So why then, in our consumer-driven society, is depression, stress and anxiety ever more common, affecting every strata of society and every age, even, worryingly, the very young?  Why is it, when we have so much, that many of us still feel we are missing something and the rush of pleasure when we buy something new turns so quickly into a feeling of emptiness, or purposelessness, or guilt?

So what is the route to real, deep, long lasting happiness?  Could it be that our lives have just become overly crowded, that we’ve lost sight of the things – the simple things – that give a sense of achievement, a feeling of joy or excitement? That make us happy.  Do we need to take a step back, reprioritise?  Do we need to make our lives more simple?

Kate Humble’s fresh and frank exploration of a stripped-back approach to life is uplifting, engaging and inspiring – and will help us all find balance and happiness every day.


A Year Of Living Simply by Kate Humble is the first book I have read by this author, but it will not be the last!

Within it’s pages is a captivating and humble telling of a year in her life, when she looks at all the ways she can lead a life of greater sustainability. It is both moving, informative and written with humour. It is a gentle call to us all to consider a life in which we treasure the simple things and consume less of the items society suggests we should aspire to.

Less waste, more repair and reuse calls to me on many levels. I have always felt that I should not replace my phone just because a new shiny model is advertised, or my TV because It doesn’t do HD or connect to the internet. I grew up at a time when you had your TV repaired not just replaced, where cloths were divided into best and everyday. Yet as I grew up I was also part of the generation they witnessed the start mass consumerism, throw away clothes, too many shoes and ready meals. I can’t sew, I’m a disaster in the kitchen and I have bought bags full of cloths and shoes that I either didn’t wear or only wore a few times. So reading this exceptional, funny and inspiring book, reminded me that the attitude of my grand parents generation is one we should aspire to, for the sake of all those who will inherit the world we leave behind us.

A Year of Living Simply is not saying we can’t we enjoy all the things that define our lifestyles, but to sit back at remember that we can be happy in a more sustaining way! It’s reminds us in writing that is both uplifting and positive that it’s not objects that give our lives the joy we crave, but sharing a walk, taking a moment to listen to world around us, spending time with our families. She is not shouting you can’t travel, you can’t buy a TV, but consider how you take the journey. During this time of unprecedented crisis, the Alexa a good friend bought us has given joy and a sense of connection! Family holidays have had to be cancelled, we faced not seeing each other and watching the children grow and that was heart breaking. So the Alexa with it’s screen has allowed us to face time and laugh together and that is a blessing. In A Year Of Living Simply Kate Humble is not asking us to all live in a shack with no electricity or connection to the internet, but to live a life of greater simplicity. It remains a life in which we can travel, watch TV, but in doing so in a more sustainable way, we improve not just our own well being, but those of others around us.

Kate Humble’s writing is joyful, inspiring and positive and I am off to add her other books to my library.

You can purchase this book from Amazon and Waterstones and all good independent bookstores.

About the author

Kate Humble is a writer & broadcaster specialising in science, wildlife & rural affairs. Together with her husband she runs Humble by Nature, a rural skills centre on a working farm near Monmouth in the Wye Valley. She lives in permanently muddy jeans on a smallholding in Wales.

The Humble by Nature farm is home to a thriving rural skills centre with a wide range of courses & events & delightful holiday accommodation. Courses include: smallholding & animal husbandry; traditional rural skills & crafts; & food & cookery. All the tutors are experts in their fields & courses have small numbers to ensure personal attention & hands-on experience.
Whether you’re thinking about starting a smallholding, want to build a dry stone wall or discover delicious wild food in the hedgerow, a course at Humble by Nature will give you the knowledge & confidence to get started at home.

Comedy Women In Fiction Prize – Shadow Panel winner and most commended runner up.

Over the last few weeks I have been both honoured and delighted to be part of the shadow judging panel for The Comedy Women In Fiction Prize with some remarkable and passionate fellow book bloggers.

Last week we met up on line to choose our winner and runner up, it was a wonderful experience to be part of and to be able to listen to the views of the other bloggers. The discussion was passionate and full of bookish love.

After much consideration we choose our favourites from the seven short listed books. It was close and a difficult decision, but we ultimately decided that our shadow panel winner was The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbie Waxman.

Our much commended runner up was the wonderful The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary.

My congratulations to the authors. Both were up there as possible winners of the title and we talked long and hard deciding which should win. Both deserved it and I would recommend to all that will listen that reading them was a a joy and a pleasure.

Congratulations in fact to all the short listed authors, I enjoyed all your books for various different reasons and will shout out about them on my blog for the rest of the year.

My thanks to my fellow judges Clare at Years Of Reading Selfishly, Janet at From First Page to Last, Stacey at Whisperingstories and Danielle at The Reading Closet for making taking part such a amazing experience. You are all incredible book bloggers.

My thanks also to Kathryn Eastman at Nut press for inviting me onto the shadow judging panel, for all her the support and encouragement as well as the equally lovely Maureen Stapleton.

Special thanks also to the founder of this amazing prize Helen Lederer which celebrates women comedy writers, for setting this amazing prize up and trusting us to be a part of her celebrations.

A little plea for help, it’s a difficult time for everyone at the moment, but if you can, please consider making a donation to keep this amazing prize which promotes women, comedy and literature going in the years to come ~ Comedy Women in Print Prize just giving page.

Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen.

Routine makes Majella’s world small but change is about to make it a whole lot bigger.

*Stuff Majella knows*
-God doesn’t punish men with baldness for wearing ladies’ knickers
-Banana-flavoured condoms taste the same as nutrition shakes
-Not everyone gets a volley of gunshots over their grave as they are being lowered into the ground

*Stuff Majella doesn’t know*
-That she is autistic
-Why her ma drinks
-Where her da is

Other people find Majella odd. She keeps herself to herself, she doesn’t like gossip and she isn’t interested in knowing her neighbours’ business. But suddenly everyone in the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up wants to know all about hers.

Since her da disappeared during the Troubles, Majella has tried to live a quiet life with her alcoholic mother. She works in the local chip shop (Monday-Saturday, Sunday off), wears the same clothes every day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, nuked in the microwave) and binge watches Dallas (the best show ever aired on TV) from the safety of her single bed. She has no friends and no boyfriend and Majella thinks things are better that way.

But Majella’s safe and predictable existence is shattered when her grandmother dies and as much as she wants things to go back to normal, Majella comes to realise that maybe there is more to life. And it might just be that from tragedy comes Majella’s one chance at escape.


A few reviews back I declared myself a Nina Hill superfan, today I am announcing my status as an Majella enthusiast. I love the character, her bawdy charm, her oddness and her courage. She is a character of great depth, innate charm and she is a wonderful creation, who fills the pages of this novel with such presence, that I doubt I will ever forget her.

Majella knows not everyone gets a volley of gunshots at their graves, but she doesn’t know that she is autistic, where her dad is or why her mum drinks. She works hard every day except Sunday in the village chip shop, loves sex, doesn’t want a boyfriend, loves a fish supper and lives a less than extraordinary life. But don’t mistake that for meaning she herself is not extraordinary, she is! She is honest, considerate of others, looking after her mum, putting up with wise cracks from customers so not to offend them, making Majella feel warm and real to life. By the end of the book I was besotted with her. Who could not, superb characterisation, with the writer giving is a sensitive portrayal that is nuanced and informed. She never makes Majella the source of the amusement, rather the characters who we see through her eyes, entering into the chip shop, become not only the rich tapestry around which her life flows, but the comedy element of the story.

The story itself, really is Majella and her view of the world around her, distorted by her autism and yet at the same time, it shows the sometimes absurd and moving events in greater clarity because of the honesty of the narrative. It makes the book feel unique and also deeply touching, because your given time within the story to get to really know Majella. How she thinks and how her autism shapes her perceptions of the world around her. Setting the story in a small community was a masterstroke, because it allows her individualism to shine.

This a deeply moving read, with humour that lifts the story and creates a warmth and love for Majella, which I think will be the books lasting legacy!

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author

Michelle Gallen was born in Tyrone in the 1970s and grew up during the Troubles a few miles from the British border in Ireland. She studied English literature at Trinity College Dublin and Publishing at Stirling University. She has been published in the Stinging Fly, Mslexia and other publications, and won the Orange/NW short story award.

My Wonderful Reading Year – August 2020 #MyWonderfulReadingYear

Welcome to a series of posts that chart my wonderful reading year, 2020. I don’t have the time to review all the books I read and wanted I way to celebrate each one. So I’m going to do a monthly post of all the wonderful books I’ve been reading that month. Short snappy reviews, simple comments about why I enjoyed them so much.

It is a scary world out there at the moment and my reading is suffering, but I am keeping it up and hoping my reading mojo doesn’t disappear totally.

Sending Cwtches to all those that need one.

So welcome to my celebration of my reading in August 2020.

My first read was The Twins of Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor with Lisa Rojany Buccieri. 

Moving and beautifully written story of Eva and her twin sister who survived the horrors of the Nazi Regime.

The Twins Cover

Then came the wonderful V For Victory by Lissa Evans. It was such a gentle read and very moving as well. The characters are warm and perfect, the story utterly charming, the perfect combination.

V For Victory Cover

Reasons To Be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe was funny, charming and quirky and I enjoyed it very much.

Reasons to be Cheerful

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams rightly deserves to be a bestseller, it is very moving and funny in a crazy, zany way and I loved it.


The came The Bookish Life Of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman which is one of my favourite reads this year so far, funny and charming, the perfect escapist read for our troubled times.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

From The Bookish Life of Nina Hill I went on to read The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa. Which was both moving and darkly funny.

The Blessed Girl

Then I read Flat Share by Beth O’Leary, a delightful, funny and charming read, that made me smile and laugh. 

From the delightful The Flat Share I then read the deeply moving and thought provoking A Song Of Isolation by Michael J Malone.

Then it was off to the seaside and a murder enquiry in Murder At The Seaside by Brian Gee. Gritty and very realistic.

Bookworm – A Memoir Of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan is the first non-fiction book I have read for a few weeks and it is beautiful. I found myself reminiscing as I read and remembering how I could fully immerse myself in a book as a child, in a way I can’t always do so as an adult. Hours spend in the library, discovery much loved authors like Rosemary Sutcliff and losing myself in the mists of Roman Britain. AS Lucy Mangan so perfectly says about bookworms –

Reading’s our thing

Lucy Manghan

Next came In Black And White by Alexandra Wislon. This is a powerful story of her journey to become s junior Barrister, and the issues she faced being both a women and of mixed race heritage.

Big Girl, Small Town by Micehlle Gallen was both darkly funny, moving and offered the hope of better times.

Murder By The Seaside by Brian Gee. #MurderByTheSeaSide #BrianGee #Pantherpublishing

A murder with no known suspects. A chance meeting that changes everything…

Simon Croft has seen death before. Yet the death of a drug user leads him down a path he has yet to experience. A dark crime has been committed on the south coast of Sussex, and it is going to take all of his skill to get this case solved.

A murder with no suspects is always hard, but evidence is always left behind. Simon’s attention is caught by two unassuming people, Bethany and Stevie, who seem to be hiding something.

Simon has to deal with his personal life, while feeling the mounting pressure of a death that can’t be explained. This gripping murder mystery will have you questioning if a trip to the seaside is worth it.


One of the things that I love to read is a good old fashioned murder mystery, that feeling of becoming caught un in the less law abiding half of society! A book that takes us behind the scenes of an investigation as well and that is why I enjoyed Murder At The Seaside by Brian Gee.

I loved the way the story was made up of lots of different stories, investigations into different crimes, with one central murder giving the book its title. It added a dose of reality that is often missing from crime books, the fact that the police and other agencies would be involved in many different investigations a the same time. It is done well and adds to that the busy feel of the story and it is quite a difficult thing to do without it all feeling cluttered or not flowing properly, but Brian Gee has done is superbly. You feel that sense of pressure on the team to gather all the evidence, the long hours, the commitment and the thrill they get from fitting the pieces of a crime scene together!

The central character Simon Croft is a scene of crime officer and we follow him and his team through a series of investigations. He is very likeable and feels authentic, as if if you were to meet him at a crime scene, you’d feel reassured he will ensure it is all done professionally. I really enjoyed spending time with him and his colleagues, because the writer made them feel so real, especially the excitement that spreads amongst them when they get the chance to get their teeth into a really juicy murder scene. You can feel how much of a buzz it gives and just know you would feel the same!

All the characterisation is warm and feels real for wont of a better word, because you get to know not just Simon, but all those he works with, seeing the investigation from their point of view as well. Best of all you also feel like you get deep into the mindset of the criminal. Not here the tortured and twists thoughts of a psychological killer, but more the actions of muddled foolish man or women who falls into crime by accident, adding another layer of the gritty everyday feeling of most crimes. Not the glamorous world depicted in the CSI American dramas I once fond myself addicted to, but the much more tantalising feeling of a real crime investigation. It’s the way he writes his characters that makes this work so well and why it feels so utterly compelling to read.

This is a fab start to a new series of books featuring this character and I am really looking forward to the next one. I rushed through the pages because I was enjoying it so much and I wanted to spend more time with Simon and his team.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon

About the author.

Brian Gee has a wealth of knowledge about the forensic and crime scene side of crime investigation, having worked in a Scenes of Crime department for over twenty-five years
On retirement, he decided to write his first book, Murder by the Seaside. The book follows Simon Crofts and his forensic team over a few days as they investigate two very different suspicious deaths.
He wanted to write a book looking through the eyes of the crime scene investigators, to give their own unique version of investigations.
I currently live on the Sussex Coast, together with my wife and family.