Review ~ The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech.

thumbnail_Lion Tamer front cover final

Be careful what you wish for…

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t… Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined… Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it? What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything? A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart…


Today as part of the month long celebration of the wonder of Orenda Books, I am sharing once again my review of The Lion Tamer Who Lost! Deeply moving, this love story will forever be one of my very favourite reads.

There are some books that leave a strong impression on a reader because they pack an emotional punch, right in the solar plexus and The Lion Tamer That Lost is one of these very special books. It leaves you utterly devastated and yet filled with such joy because you were blessed to read it. It’s a complex reaction to a book, which is hard to put into words, so please forgive me Louise, if I fail to do justice to your book.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is stunning. It’s sad, moving and achingly beautiful and for me Louise Beeches finest book to date. Andrew and Ben’s love story, will haunt me for years to come and they are both characters that will be forever be lodged in my heart for safe keeping.

It’s rare for a book to make me cry. I can name on one hand the books that have reduced me to tears. There is my favourite book of all time, Madeline Miller’s A Song For Achillies that reduced me to a sobbing mess, I still can’t read the last paragraphs without emotion catching in the back of my throat. Then there is my favourite read last year, Tin Man by Sarah Winman’s, which stole my heart and still I find myself thinking of Michael and Ellis! Or the equally splendid Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain. Well The Lion Tamer That Lost is there amongst these rarest of books and left me emotionally wrung out and I love it for that very reason. I enjoy so many books, but it’s rare and all the more special for an emotional connection to be made with a book and its characters. When it is, that book should be treasured.

What makes this book so out of the ordinary? It’s written with an emotional honesty that caught me unawares and unable to sleep when I finished it. The writer is not playing with your emotions, she is simply telling s story with searing honesty, which is heartbreaking on times, but also beautiful and bittersweet. Louise Beech writes with a deft hand about the complicated feelings that define human love, sexuality and friendship. Both Ben and Andrew are flawed, but what makes them special is that they are just ordinary men caught up in a maelstrom of emotions and relationships that threaten all that they hold dear.

Essentially the Lion Tamer that Lost is a story about love. It has elements of a mystery and it’s imbued with secrets and lies that come from the past to haunt the present. But for me, what matters the most was the attention paid to the relationship between Ben and Andrew. Meeting by chance, what develops is a bond that consumes them both and consumed me as well. You can’t ask more of any writer, than to tell as a story which leaves waves of emotional devastation in its wake. When the narrative is so beautiful, it’s worth the emotional investment and pain it causes within the reader; if it fills you with a plethora of emotions and produces a connection that binds you and the characters together. Louise Beech takes the characters on a journey of discovery, chance meetings, love, loss and discovery, not just for Ben and Andrew, but the supporting characters that surround them. Attention is paid to characters like Ben’s father, who grew and changed and she managed to change how I felt about him by the end of the novel. The story is made all the richer, in being character driven and because it is written with an understanding that it is often our differences that make us who we are and fascinating to read about.

I would recommend this book simply because it is a beautiful tale about love. Much like novels such as Tin Man, its power lies in the deceptively simple story. Neither book is simple, they are just written with effortless skill and an understanding of human nature.

You can purchase The Lion Tamer Who Lost from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author

thumbnail_Louise Beech

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.

You can follow Louise Beech on Twitter and Facebook.

Review – Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten.

‘Hugely confident … harrowing, visceral … recommended’ Ian Rankin

‘Kept me hooked’ Angela Marsons

‘An excellent read’ Martina Cole

‘Gritty, dark and chilling’ Mel Sherratt

A murdered woman…

When the body of a young woman is found in a local park, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she’s dealing with no ordinary killer.  The murder victim has been disfigured; her outfit changed to resemble someone else.  Someone Maggie knows all too well…her close friend Dr Kate Moloney.

A determined detective…

Maggie is determined to keep her friend safe, but with Kate already struggling with a threatening stalker, Maggie now fears Kate’s life is in real danger.  Who else would want to harm Kate and why else would the killer be turning his victims into exact replicas – his living dolls? 

Can Maggie find the depraved killer?  Or will Kate become his next living doll?


From the moment I picked up Noelle Holten’s first novel Dead Inside I knew instinctively by the way she handled the written word, the story and the characters, that she was going to become one of my to read authors. I was right, she has become a firm favourite, a writer who delivers on the promise of a thriller that is guaranteed to excite and unnerve me as a reader. With every book she publishes, her voice becomes more assured, her writing easily portraying the sinister undertones of the twisted disturbed mind of a killer whose presence invades each moment of Dead Perfect.

The story is the third novel in the Maggie Jamieson Crime books and for me best read as part of the whole series. So I’d say if you haven’t read Dead Inside or Dead Wrong, why not? They are brilliant and will enhance your enjoyment of Dead Perfect!

What I loved about this the third in the series is that is was like meeting up with old friends again. From DC Maggie Jamieson to profiler Dr Kate Moloney. even their cats and colleagues, I just immediately felt at home amongst them. You get to know them and with each book they develop into more rounded individuals. The writer reveals more of their background story, their wants and needs, never allowing the character to stagnate and become second fiddle to the story.

I was fascinated by Maggie’s bi-sexuality and her feelings for Kate and the sexually charged undertones of her relationship with reporter Julie Noble. Noelle Holton makes her feel real and flawed by giving a voice to her reluctance to allow her sexuality to define her. She is first and foremost a Police Officer and does not want her preferred choice of partner to be the white elephant in the room. This is a brave thing to do in a genre typified by not only male leads, but alpha males, because it lifts her novels above the norm. It’s still unusual to represent bi-characters in main stream novels and Maggie is a shining beacon in a genre cluttered with straight white men.

The story itself had me on edge within the first few pages. As a writer Noelle Holten has an uncanny knack of being able to whack you with levels of anxiety throughout her novels; this one had me sitting blot upright straight way, as the last few pages of Dead Wrong flowed into the beginning of Dead Perfect! As Maggie works to protect her friend Kate from a stalker we are thrust into the beginning of nightmare that is scarily real in feeling and content. She manages to capture the feeling of claustrophobia experienced by Kate, as the threats from her stalker threaten both her life and her freedom. Add to that the way her colleagues and especially Maggie seek to limit the threat to her, by taking away her intrinsic need for control of her own life and you have a novel that gives a voice to the trauma experienced by many who have lived this experience for real. The authors work within the field of offender management gives this book a sense of of how a victims life is effected and she does so with within a riveting and electrifying read.

Add into the mix a killer who frankly gave me the chills and you have a must read novel. Roll on book four, I am waiting for you with excitement!

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones, but why not give your local indie a ring and order it from them?

About the author

Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of risk cases as well as working in a multi agency setting. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog.

Dead Inside – her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK is an international kindle bestseller and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

You can follow the author on the following social media sites –

Twitter, Facebook and on her website.

Review ~ Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen.


Sex, lies and ill-fitting swimwear … Sun Protection Factor 100

Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village – the ‘hottest beach in Finland’. The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary. With a nod to Fargo, and dark noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams and people struggling at turning points in their lives – chasing their fantasies regardless of reason.


This darkly funny book is my chosen review today as part of Orenda October and what a book it is!

Having read and LOVED Antii Tuomainen novel The Man Who Died, I have been looking forward to his next offering with great excitement. I can promise you fellow readers that the wait was worth it. This darkly funny and original tale is an utter triumph!

There is a murder, a police officer sent to investigate, a victim, an assorted group of criminals and a failed beach resort. Now that sounds pretty much standard fair, but it is anything but formulaic. Antii Tuomainen takes the traditional elements expected in a thriller and adds in darkly delicious humour, to create a black comedy and an addictive page turner, I didn’t want to end.

It’s compelling, clever, packed full of atmosphere and will make you beam with enjoyment, it will even make you laugh. Now I realise that most people don’t read thrillers to be amused, but that is what makes this book such a rich and rewarding read. It captures with perfect clarity the often farcical behaviour of those caught up in events in Palm Beach Finland. The humour gives it an edge and enhances the portrayal of human relationships at their worst, giving what would otherwise be overwhelmingly dark tale, an element of humanity. Humour can often be found in the darkest corners and Antii Tuomainen celebrates this aplomb.

The novel is full of amazing characters, quirky individuals who each play a part in this very different thriller. Now I know you’re not meant to like the ‘bad’ guys, but bear with me, because I must confess, I adored them. Coco and Robert are a pair of life’s drifters, not great with the whole adult living thing and they are even worse criminals. I found myself wanting to hug them, because they are seriously incompetent. Then you have Jan Nyman the police officer working undercover to solve a murder, who is as lost and rudderless as the two unlucky criminals and immerses himself in his work to cover over the cracks in his life. Add in Olivia Koskia who is equally hapless at life, a psychopath bent on revenge and a inept business man and you have a stellar cast of characters who together are used by the author to write a character driven first class thriller.

As for the story, it’s original, extraordinarily funny, sad, but also uplifting. It is also incredibly clever, in the way it weaves each character into the story and catching them up in a web of lies and deceit. The writer has taken a group of people all looking to change, chasing dreams that are fading from view and who in their desperation not to let go, leads them to actions they would otherwise deplore. When you’re reading, your caught up in the story and time just flaws past unnoticed. The characters become like old friends, you wish you could go back and visit again and again.

I would recommend this book to all readers, not just thriller readers, because it is a real treat. From page one I was gripped in the human drama as it unfolded. I laughed, sometimes inappropriately and was also sad because I didn’t want it to end.

You can purchase Palm Beach Finland from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author.

Antti Tuomainen.jpg

Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labeled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen “The king of Helsinki Noir” when Dark as my Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula.

“Antti Tuomainen is a wonderful writer. His characters, plots and atmosphere are masterfully drawn” Yrsa Sigurdardottir

You can follow the author on Twitter

Review ~ Attend by West Camel


When Sam falls in love with South London thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.

Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, the mysterious world that lies beneath their feet and, ultimately, the solution to their crises.

With echoes of Armistead Maupin and a hint of magic realism, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters that you will never forget.


As part of Orenda October I am once again sharing my review of a very special book, Attend by West Camel.

I’m writing this minutes after finishing the book, so all my feelings about it are raw and full of swirling emotions, like the tides of the river that features so heavily in this novel.

Reading this book is like wrapping yourself up in a robe that protects you from the cares of the world, as the writing embraces you in it’s soft embrace.  Nothing really matters but the story being told and characters that you never want to be parted from, because to leave them behind is like losing a part of yourself, so interwoven had Sam, Deborah, Derek and Anne had become with me as I read. Leaving them was a bittersweet experience, it caused by heart to ache, but I could never regret getting to know them, because in leaving a hole in my heart on parting, they had enriched my soul.

Part fairytale, part love story, it is both magical and endlessly exquisite.  It talks about friendship and attending those around us, that we otherwise are blind to. Allowing ourselves to love and be loved, opening our weary tired selves to the possibility of the magic around us. There is a massive heart at the centre of this novel and though the gritty realism catches you unawares, it’s the peace within the maelstrom of events that calms your heart. There is one moment for Anne when violence threatens to engulf her, my heart felt like it would explode, yet even here, it’s the power of the silence that follows and her strength that gives this novel it’s uniqueness for me. For all the main characters are on a journey, that journey is fraught with mistakes, moments of loss, but it’s when they sit quietly and listen, that we to see where that journey might lead them and us.

I remember on reading The Gustav Sonata how I almost forgot to breath as the end of the story approached, desperate for an ending that would catch up my heart, Rose Tremain gave me the perfect ending and so does West Camel. As I read the last chapter,  my heart missed a beat and it was utterly spellbinding. They talk about book hangovers, well I have one that I will never forget.

If this book doesn’t end uplk classic of modern writing, it will be a grave injustice. I for one will be singing its praises to all who will listen.

You can purchase Attend from Amazon

About the author


Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing.  He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch.  He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

Review~ The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen.

A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, markinng a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir. . ‘I was glued to this book. It made me laugh and grimace at times, and also made me sad. 


Today as part of Orenda October I am re sharing my review of this darkly comedic novel.

It’s not always guaranteed that a book in translation works outside the language it was originally written in, but this darkly funny and original story is an utter triumph. It’s compelling, intelligent, packed full of atmosphere and will make you smile, it will even make you laugh.

Scandinavian Noir is not normally known for its comic element and this is what makes The Man Who died such a new and imaginative creation.
If you’re worried that the comedy element will ruin your enjoyment, because you read this genre for its edgy darkness, fear not, for it has this in abundance as well. Reading this book is like enjoying your very favourite choice of food, but adding a new ingredient, the balance and flavours are different, better, enhanced and deliciously appetizing.

From page one to the conclusion I was addicted to the story of Jaakko Kaunismaa who faces his own death, when he discovers he has been poisoned over a period of time by an unknown assailant. I smugly thought I had worked out who had poisoned the unsuspecting Jaakko, worked it out from the clues in the story, oh, how wrong was I, writer Antti Tuomainen is far too clever to reveal the guilty party so easily! He takes you down one road, smacks you with a literary u turn and only when he has beguiled you with unexpected twists and turns, do you find out who it is that wants Jaakko dead.

The novel is full of amazing characters, quirky individuals who each play a part in this very different thriller. From the yet to die victim, bear with me, his death is promised, to his fellow mushroom obsessed employees and crazy murderous competitors. You are never going to be bored by this cast of unusual characters.

As for those traditional elements you enjoy so much, all the twists and turns propel the story forward at a thrilling speed. You are sat on the edge of your seat, book in hand, turning pages over without pause, needing to know who is responsible for all that befalls Jaakko. While at its core the novel retains a darkness that envelops you the reader in it’s chilling embrace. You may find yourself laughing at some of the events, but the comedy is dark and shows human relationships at their worst.

I adored this book. Its differences from more traditional Scandinavian Noir were exciting. You get everything you love from this genre, but with an altogether more original element. It’s stunning and will stay with me for a long time. I will be very surprised if this book does not feature in my top reads of 2017.

A special mention goes to David Hackston for the superb translation from Finnish to English.

The Man Who Died can be purchased from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author

innish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labeled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen “The king of Helsinki Noir” when Dark as my Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula.

“Antti Tuomainen is a wonderful writer. His characters, plots and atmosphere are masterfully drawn.”
Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Antti  Tuomainen can be followed on Facebook

Review ~ A Modern Family by Helga Flatland.

A Modern Family Cover

The Norwegian Anne Tyler makes her English debut in a beautiful, bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights…

When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce. Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history. A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…


As part of Orenda October I am sharing once again a review that first went live in June 2019 of this stunning family drama.

Just occasionally, you come across a book that is not just a delight to read, it is so special, it’s placed on the bookshelf labelled, My All Time Favourites. A Modern Family now sits proudly on that shelf, resplendent in its glory as one of the most perceptive reads I’ve had the joy of reading in many a long year. It joins many others from Orenda Books, small and yet incredibly special independent publisher, whose championing of its authors, has given us books that should be gracing the top literary prizes.

I don’t normally compare one writer with another, but in this case I think it is fair and a complement to both. Helga Flatland has the same ability to deliver a story that shines with poetic clarity and is peopled with a rich tapestry of descriptive characterisation as is Elizabeth Strout. Here we have a story that takes ordinary people, their rich and complex emotions and weaves a tale of their struggles to understand both themselves and their family.

Told from the points of view of siblings Liv, Ellen and Hakon it deals with the reactions they each have to their parent’s decision to divorce. From this moment on their lives and family begin to unravel. These amazingly characters could be you and me or our families; the beauty of the story being that as you read, you can’t help but begin to look at yourself and those around you, wondering if you really know them, despite what we think is the strongest of bonds. All the characters in this book, felt like friends, ones I wanted to spend a lifetime with. I think they will remain with me for many years to come. They are drawn with vivid strokes of the pen, so that you can’t help but feel deeply for them. Their power over the reader, born from their normality, from fact that the pain, love and troubles that grip them, have all been faced by many of us.

The story is told with a deceptive simplicity, characterisation being a shining beacon that lights up a powerful story, of the fragility of the threads that connect us. Yet the story is not one of hopelessness, it is in fact a tale of hope and the enduring power of love and forgiveness. I didn’t want it to end, I always wanted to be there with them. As the story, brought their thoughts and lives into my world, like a richly woven tapestry. Intricate, careful, yet perfectly written, I could find no fault with it.

I can not recommend this book highly enough, I still miss Liv, Ellen and Hakon ‘s voices now and I think I always will.

Utterly spellbinding and perfect in every way.

You can purchase A Modern Family from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author 

Helga Author Pic

Helga Flatland is already one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize. She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies.

You can follow the author on Twitter

Review – Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds

Blood Red City Jacket

When crusading journalist Lydia Wright is sent a video of an apparent murder on a London train, she thinks she’s found the story to revive her career. But she can’t find a victim, much less the killers, and the only witness has disappeared. Wary she’s fallen for fake news, she begins to doubt her instincts – until a sinister call suggests that she’s not the only one interested in the crime.
Michael Stringer deals in information – and doesn’t care which side of the law he finds himself on. But the murder on the train has left him exposed, and now he’ll stop at nothing to discover what Lydia knows.
When their paths collide, Lydia finds the story leads through a nightmare world, where money, power and politics intersect … and information is the only thing more dangerous than a bullet.
A nerve-shattering and brutally realistic thriller, Blood Red City bursts with energy and grit from the opening page, twisting and feinting to a superb, unexpected ending that will leave you breathless.


Today on booksaremycwtches as part of Orenda October I’m once again sharing my review of one of my favourite thrillers of 2020, the excellent Blood Red City

It’s always exciting to find a new author, it sets my nerves a tingling with anticipation.  So opening Blood Red City felt like it was set to energize my reading and I’m delighted to say it did.

Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds delivers on many reading fronts, the plotline is taunt, while the characters feel gritty and fascinating.

It starts from the premise of the murder of an unknown man on a London tube and a reporter who is caught up in the mystery behind his killing. From this the writer weaves a tale of deception, betrayal, international money laundering and political manipulation giving the reader a thumping great read. It is imbued with a sense of intelligence and a clinical eye for a storyline both taunt enough to be thrilling, but also full of enough twists within the narrative, to leave the reader flicking through the pages at a rate of knots.

I loved the way the writer managed to leave me feeling I couldn’t trust whoever journalist Lydia Wright came into contact with, including the enigmatic Michael Stringer. As the story weaves its way through her increasingly dangerous investigation, we are drip fed moments of clarity, where we think we have solved the mystery, but it’s like making your way through a maze, where your fooled into thinking you have solved the puzzle, but actually your just being led up a blind alley. The writer at one point had me blaming practically everyone for the murder and yet at the end, I was wrong on every single count.  He also manages to weave the topical theme of Russian interference into Britain’s affairs, by giving it a all to scary link to current theories behind the actions of this communist state, that will have you wondering if any of aspects of our lives are clear cut as we once thought.

I loved Lydia, intelligent, determined and yet fallible.  But it was the superb Stringer that captured both my imagination and instinct told me he was more than the sum of his criminal activities ! He has a pervading sense of mystery about him. Hard to read, because you are never sure of his motivations around the death of the man, was he involved or is he fighting to save his own life? He seems polished and yet he is far from it, Michael Stringer is an enigma and finding out all his secrets was compelling and exciting. I do hope this is not the last we hear of him, either with the sassy Lyndia or on his own, because he was addictive and his flaws made me want to delve deeper into his past and spend time in his future.

I will be recommending Blood Red City to anyone who will listen.

You can purchase this novel from WaterstonesAmazon and directly from the publisher’s ebookstore.

Why not also consider buying it from your local indie bookshop!

About the author 

Rod Reynolds Author Pic

Rod Reynolds is the author of four novels, including the Charlie Yates series. His 2015 debut, The Dark Inside, was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger, and was followed by Black Night Falling (2016) and Cold Desert Sky (2018); the Guardian have called the books ‘Pitch-perfect American noir.’ A lifelong Londoner, in 2020 Orenda Books will publish his first novel set in his hometown, Blood Red City. Rod previously worked in advertising as a media buyer, and holds an MA in novel writing from City University London. Rod lives with his wife and family and spends most of his time trying to keep up with his two young daughters.

You can follow the author on Twitter @Rod_WR

Blog Tour ~ Review ~ Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone.

Faultlines final Cover aw_preview (1)

In a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, where a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery.
On a clandestine trip to new volcanic island The Inch, to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body, and makes the fatal decision to keep their affair, and her discovery, a secret. Desperate to know how he died, but also terrified she’ll be exposed, Surtsey’s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact – someone who claims to know what she’s done…

Today as part of Orenda October I am re sharing my review of this wonderful, quirky read.


Yet again Orenda Books have produced for it’s readers, a thriller of the highest quality!

Doug Johnstone delivers a narrative that had me gripped throughout. He cleverly mirrors the tectonic fault running through a reimagined  Edinburgh, to the shock waves running through the life of his main character Surtsey.

I was deeply impressed by the power of the setting of Fault Lines. You could feel the brooding presence of Inch, a  volcanic Island sitting in the Firth of Forth throughout the novel. It felt to me, that it gave the story an originality, which will allow it to stand proudly out from other similar books. Inch and it’s foreboding presence added to the feeling that life for Surtsey was balanced on the edge of a precipice. She and those she loves threatened by a malign and twisted killer.

As a reader I felt a range of emotions reading Fault Lines, excitement, anxiety, anticipation and most of all, real overwhelming fear of the final outcome for Surtsey.

I would recommend this book to all thriller readers and especially those who revel in heightened feelings of brooding suspense. Inch and Surtsey taking equal roles in this superb book.

Fault Lines can be purchased from Amazon  and Waterstones

About the author

Doug Johnstone is the author of ten novels, most recently Breakers (2018), which was longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions, and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

Book Review ~ Welcome To The Heady Heights by David F. Ross.

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Welcome to the Heady Heights …
It’s the year punk rock was born, Concorde entered commercial service and a tiny Romanian gymnast changed the sport forever.
Archie Blunt is a man with big ideas. He just needs a break for them to be realised. In a bizarre brush with the light-entertainment business, Archie unwittingly saves the life of the UK’s top showbiz star, Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks’, and now dreams of hitting the big-time as a Popular Music Impresario. Seizing the initiative, he creates a new singing group with five unruly working-class kids from Glasgow’s East End. Together, they make the finals of a televised Saturday-night talent show, and before they know it, fame and fortune beckon for Archie and The High Five. But there’s a complication; a trail of irate Glaswegian bookies, corrupt politicians and a determined Scottish WPC known as The Tank are all on his tail…
A hilarious and poignant nod to the elusivity of stardom, in an age when making it’ was ‘having it all’, Welcome to the Heady Heights  is also a dark, laugh-out-loud comedy, a heartwarming tribute to a bygone age and a delicious drama about desperate men, connected by secrets and lies, by accidents of time and, most of all, the city they live in.


‘It is a triumphant debut novel, which announces a real new talent on the Scottish literary scene’ Press and Journal


‘More than just a nostalgic recreation of the author’s youth, it’s a compassionate, affecting story of a family in crisis at a time of upheaval and transformation, when disco wasn’t the only thing whose days were numbered’ Herald Scotland


‘Dark, hilarious & heartbreaking’ Muriel Gray


‘Warm, funny & evocative’ Chris Brookmyre

Today as part of Orenda October I am resharing my review of this dark, hilarious and moving read. 


Welcome to the Heady Heights is at times hilarious, upsetting, exciting, deeply moving and darkly comedic.  It is a love letter to a city and it’s people, celebrating he best and illuminating the worst of this iconic northern city. As both a backdrop and a character it’s beauty is celebrated as much as the characters themselves, for beneath the “blackened soot” is a majestic beauty encapsulated in it’s buildings and people. It’s brooding presence sets the scene for a novel so compelling, so complex that I lost myself utterly in it’s poignant telling of Archie Blunts dream of hitting the big time.

It’s at this point in the review that I admit that I feel head over heals in love with Archie, failed tram driver, who becomes caught up in the machinations of the Circle, a group of men with dark perversions.  At heart Archie is a loving, gentle man, who makes mistakes, poor decisions, but the world around him has left him with little choice, but to try and manipulate those that seek to look down on him.  Trying to escape poverty and a life both bewildering and often heart breaking, he is left with no choice but to try rising above the dangerous world around him, even if it only leads him further into its embrace. But despite this, Archie continues dare to live “technicolour dreams” and I couldn’t love him more for this, for his faults, but most of all for his bravery in getting up and continuing to try for a better life.

The humour in this stunning novel comes from his attempts to enter a boy band into a talent competition. I kid you not, I cried tears of laughter as well as tears of sadness when reading this novel; the laughter reaching its peak when the boy band suggest the name “Fuckwits”, come on, it makes a change from Take That!  Days after finishing, I still can’t stop laughing at the trip in the back of the van down to London.  Yet on the turn of a phrase, I felt such sadness, it felt like my chest was being crushed with a sense of hopelessness.

The darkness comes from characters like Heady Hendricks, who are used to expose the under belly of society, the intuitional corruption that allowed men like Saville and Rolf Harris to avoid exposure.  Then we have Barbara, a young PC, who despite the very public humiliation layered on her by her male colleagues, fights to bring the Circle to justice and from this to the demeaning exploitation of wannabe stars, many vulnerable for viewing figures in a X-Factor like talent show.  It is powerful stuff, especially when you add the thriller elements into the story. I spent so much time scared that Archie and the supporting cast of characters would be destroyed by the evil raging against them, that I forgot to breath on times.

The language is colourful on times, but what’s not to love about the authors celebration of language, unafraid to give a honest voice to his characters, so much so I will leave the last words of this review with the Fuckwits, ” Ma throats as dry as a camel’s arsehole back here.”

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones

About the author 


David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over thirty years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night. His most prized possession is a signed Joe Strummer LP. Since the publication of his debut novel The Last Days of Disco, he’s become something of a media celebrity in Scotland, with a signed copy of his book going for £500 at auction, and the German edition has not left the bestseller list since it was published.



Review~ Maria In The Moon by Louise Beech.

Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’

Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.

With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything.

Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…


I would like to thank Orenda Books, Louise Beech and blog tour organiser Anne Cater for the ARC of Maria in the Moon in return for an honest review.
I have always felt that we have an intrinsic reaction to the books we read, some speak to us, while others leave us emotionless and indifferent. For me it often starts with the cover, which should speak of the story, like a portal into its very soul.
The cover of Maria In The Moon is stunning. It evokes the life of thirty-two year old Catherine Hope in free fall, floating and discounted from the world around her! While the story is a moving evocation of the part memory plays in all our lives. For each of us is made up of recollections and experiences that the shape the adults we become. It talks to the reader of the damage trauma can do, as we develop and grow. With piercing insight into the connection between emotional frailty and the physical reaction to trauma, Louise Beech delivers a poignant and emotional tale of one women’s struggle, to regain memories that always seem out of reach, but which haunt her. With a deft hand the writer takes us and Catherine on a painful journey of discovery. Because only by knocking down the walls her mind has built to protect her, can Catherine hope to heal. It’s a story that explores the frailty of our memories and how the truth though painful, if ignored can do untold damage.
In Catherine she gives us a character who is damaged and yet brave and determined to face those terrors that haunt her. There is no attempt at a trivial pull of the heart strings, it’s an emotional read and one that will affect you deeply, but your reactions will be based on the honest brutality of the experiences Catherine has buried.

Louise Beech has an instinctive understanding of her characters and their stories and delivers a story that will haunt you for weeks, maybe months after you finish it. Told with remarkable sensitivity and though difficult to read in places, needs to be read,  if we are have any hope of understanding the frail hold Catherine and other’s like her, have on the reality of events long since buried.  The actions that drive her to help others that are suffering, help us understand her more, her complex nature and extent of her bravery. You find yourself compelled to read on, to complete the journey with Catherine and to see if she can find peace and from that a life renewed.

It is without doubt a book that once read, will stay with you. It’s a stunning depiction of memory, loss and the power love has to heal.

If your already a fan of Louise Beech then Maria In The Moon will only cement the respect and love you already have for her books. If you have not read her novels, then I recommend you do, dark, poignant and moving, this new release will without doubt garner her many more fans and well deserved that will be.

Maria In The Moon can be purchased from:  Amazon/ Waterstones

About the author

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.

Louise Beech can be followed on the following social media sites: Facebook/Twitter