Book Review – On The Rock by Andy McNab

I’m making a point with my reading this year to try things that are outside my usual reading comfort zone. Like most people, I’ve heard of Andy McNab but was never that sure about reading his work.

Blurb

This is the call he is always ready for. They’ve had word of a planned attack. That’s why he’s back here, opposite some suit who’s trying to tell him what he needs to do. But he knows exactly what’s required.

Four men. Plain clothes. Eyes peeled.

Three targets. Two cases. One car.

Gibraltar isn’t an ideal location. Too many people. Too many blind alleys. But then again, he’s not the terrorist. Who knows what goes through their minds? Well, he will soon. If everything goes to plan.

Review

This is one from the Quick Reads books, so only about 70 pages of large print, and I read it in one sitting because that’s what these books are meant for.

The story is told in the first person and is led by ‘K’, called in for a job that could be fatal and is most definitely deniable. On Gibraltar, K and a small team are looking to foil a terrorist bombing, and identify a radicalizing influence to stop future attacks.

Okay, so I wasn’t expecting much from the book, which is kind of just as well, because I didn’t get much from it. The writing is competent, and the story echoed a number of police incidents on Gibraltar that I remember, so there was a clear element and sense of realism. I’d say McNab did his research well if it weren’t more a case of he lived his life well.

The reason I brought the Quick Read was to see if I wanted to read a full-length novel of McNab’s, and I can’t say that this has convinced me they are something I’d enjoy. I might try reading one at some point, but I certainly won’t rush to do so. That said, I can see why other would love McNab’s writing, it’s just not my cup of tea.

Book Review – The Venetian Game by Philip Gwynne Jones

I’ve been getting around to reading some of the work from fellow Crime Cymru members. Started with this one as I usually read UK based books, and this was a little further away.

Blurb

A game of cross and double-cross in Venice, one of the most beautiful cities on earth.

From his office on the Street of the Assassins, Nathan Sutherland enjoys a steady but unexciting life translating Italian DIY manuals. All this changes dramatically when he is offered a large sum of money to look after a small package containing an extremely valuable antique prayer book illustrated by a Venetian master. But is it a stolen masterpiece – or a brilliant fake?

Unknown to Nathan, from a vast mansion on the Grand Canal twin brothers Domenico and Arcangelo Moro, motivated by nothing more than mutual hatred, have been playing out a complex game of art theft for twenty years. And now Nathan finds himself unwittingly drawn into their deadly business …



My Review

Nathan Sutherland is an Englishman aboard. In Venice – unsurprisingly, given the title. Nathan is a man alone, sitting in his Venetian flat not translating lawn mower instructions, not cooking, drinking too much, and getting bored with his position of honorary consul and helping tourists find lost directions, lost passport and their way into the hands of the Venice Police where there is in fact, very little he can do for them. The thing he does really well is feed the cat, but then with Gramsci, he would have to.

What is surprising is how Nathan gets sucked into a world of art crime. Luckily, he knows someone. Turns out, he knows several someones actually. But in this case, Federica, the art restorer, seems to be one of the most useful. Not to mention, probably the prettiest.

There is a game afoot, and one that has rather escalated from the version that turns up in most childhoods. 

The story is intelligent and interesting, and it shows of its landscape well, the physical one of Venice, and the psychological one of Italian culture as seen through the eyes of an Englishman.

This is the first on the Nathan Sutherland books, and a good start it is too. Would recommend.

There are references to some great music in the first part of the book too.

The fact that Gramsci reminds me of Greebo, the cat who runs Nanny Og and everyone else ragged in Terry Pratchett’s books, actually helped make the whole thing more amusing.

About the Author

Philip Gwynne Jones was born in South Wales in 1966, and has since lived in Holland, Germany and Scotland. He first came to Italy in 1994, when he spent some time working for the European Space Agency in Frascati, a job that proved to be less exciting than he had imagined.

He spent twenty years in the IT industry before realising he was congenitally unsuited to it, and now works as a teacher, writer and translator. He lives in Venice with his wife Caroline.

He is the author of the Nathan Sutherland series, set in contemporary Venice, and his books have been translated into Italian, German and Bulgarian. The fifth book in the series, “The Venetian Legacy” will follow in April 2021. His travelogue, “To Venice With Love” is now available.

He enjoys cooking, art, classical music and opera; and can occasionally be seen and heard singing bass with the Cantori Veneziani.

Philip is published by Constable, and be contacted at https://philipgwynnejones.com/

Blog Tour – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Chef by Philip Brady

After the Meal of Fortune Blog Tour, I was more than happy to be involved with the new tour for this second offering from Philip Brady.

The Blurb

BOND MEETS BAKE-OFF IN A FAST-MOVING COMEDY CAPER

Someone’s going around killing celebrities and London’s police don’t have a clue. With outrange mounting on social media, disgraced copper DI Mark Henwell, is thrown a chance to save his career or bury it trying.

Things are finally on the up for MI5 officer, Anna Preston. But when an informant is murdered before he can pass on vital information on a terrorist plot, she has no way to find out more about the threatened attack. And no way of stopping it.

But could there possibly be a link between the murders and the terrorist plot? And what does Dermot Jack, Anna’s old flame and manager of a string of TV chefs and other lowbrow celebrities, have to do with it all?

As the police and MI5 investigations collide, Anna, Dermot and Henwell are thrown together and a tense love triangle emerges. But with a murderer on the loose and the terrorists about to strike, they really don’t have time for any of that.

Do they?

My Review

Loved it! It was a good read, and a page turner. It’s a bit of a caper and one needs to suspend disbelief for certain parts of the storyline, but that’s not really a problem when the read is this much fun.

Anna and Dermot are always a joy to read, though Dermot really isn’t helping himself or his cause with Anna in this one. Oddly I may have fallen a little bit in love with DI Henwell, he’s brilliantly drawn on the page, a classic copper, dealing with the idiocy that can come along with bureaucracy. However frustrated he gets, he still gets to the answer despite ‘help’ from above. I hope he also appears in future releases of this series. I want to see more of this man, and I have a feeling Anna does too.

As this is part of a series, the question I find myself asking is would I have enjoyed it so much if I hadn’t read the previous book. Answer is, pretty much. There are a couple of references to actions in the first book, but if you hadn’t read it, they wouldn’t detract greatly.

Amazon says that this book is “a laugh out loud comedy thriller” – it’s not. At least it wasn’t for me, but I have been told I have no sense of humour. That’s not true, I do have a sense of humour, but this book still didn’t make me laugh out loud. That said, it was very amusing and it did make me smile, so it is comedy that I appreciate, but I want to give my readers a clear view of what I experienced. There is a reference to a certain Time Lord or three that I particularly enjoyed.

If you are someone who likes a few giggles with their thrills, I would heartily recommend this book.

The Author


Phil lives in west London with his wife two children and some animals, which also like to call the house home.

He is somewhat obsessed and bemused with the public and media’s fixation with celebrities of every stripe. This forms the backdrop of his books, which also tend to feature spies, gangsters, hit men and TV chefs.

His first novel, The Meal of Fortune, was published in 2017, with a second edition following in 2021.  The follow up. Tinker Tailor Soldier Chef will be published in 2022.

Phil’s main rule in life is never to let tomato ketchup touch any food that is green.  This may not have any deep meaning, nor may it be the soundest of principles to live by – but it’s better than many he’s come across down the years.  Best not to go there though.

You can buy the ebook (only format) on Amazon.

Thanks to Philip for sharing this, Heather for inviting me in, and Overview Media for ranging the blog tour.

Book Review – The Smell of Copper by Mark Fowler

Saw a request from Mark for readers, and agreed, it’s always good to see work from someone I haven’t read before. So here’s my review.

BLURB

When DCI Jim Tyler believes he has uncovered evidence of deep-rooted corruption in the police department, his thirst for justice and loathing of authority combine in a deadly cocktail that threatens to destroy him.

A police officer is found dead in a Staffordshire park. It looks like suicide. DCI Tyler and DS Mills want to speak to the dead officer’s partner, a bent copper recently thrown off the force. Then the partner is found dead in almost the same location. It appears to be another suicide.

Tyler believes there’s a bigger story and digs deeper, upsetting half of the local police force into the bargain, until he is finally ordered to close the case. Mills fears his colleague’s reluctance to pull out reveals a personal agenda, and a rift develops between the detectives.

But Tyler remains determined to dig down to the bottom, in spite of the pressure on him from the top … and regardless of the consequences.

My Review

Tyler is definitely a determined police officer, and when he gets a case that seems like suicide, he believes there’s more to it and goes after the truth. The acts within the book are sensible and Tyler certainly doesn’t get everything all his own way, nor should he. Tyler isn’t a typical maverick, but he is more emotional, well desk thumpingly angry, than most. So, it’s nice to see that he had to face the fallout.

Mills also comes across as a fully rounded character, with a realistic family and interests outside of the home, which… well I’m not giving things away.

The investigation played out over a reasonable amount of time, though the behaviour of some of the higher-ranking officers left a little to be desired. It was difficult at times to see who was manipulating who, but it was good to see an officer with flaws. The final resolution worked out, but the body count actually left me feeling like that was too convenient, but it was still readable.

This is book four of the Tyler and Mills series, so I have to ask if I’ve missed anything by not having read the previous books, and the answer is, no I don’t think I have.  There are light references to previous cases and Tyler’s history but there was enough in the book for the references to work without making the reader feel that they were missing out.

Worth a read.

Mark L. Fowler is best known as a writer of detective crime fiction and psychological thrillers.

Mark is the author of the popular Tyler and Mills detective crime series. The first book, RED IS THE COLOUR, set in 2002, was shortlisted for the 2018 Arnold Bennett Prize and is set in his home county of Staffordshire. The story begins with the grim discovery of a schoolboy who disappeared thirty years earlier. BLUE MURDER involves a missing singer and a murdered guitarist, and THE DEVIL WORE BLACK unveils the mystery of a crucified priest. The latest book in the series, THE SMELL OF COPPER, finds the detectives uncovering police corruption. All four books can be read as standalone crime novels.

His other detective mysteries include TWIST, the first in a new series featuring a private investigator returning to the city of nightmares to look into the case of a dead philosophy student. THE MAN UPSTAIRS introduces hard boiled Frank Miller, who discovers he’s a fictional detective and that his author is plotting to kill him.

Mark also writes psychological thrillers, including SILVER. Journalist and writer Nick Slater becomes obsessed with an unpublished manuscript that a best-selling author was working on when she was murdered. SEXTET delivers more psychological chills, with the twisted rivalry between twin sisters, the weird games they played as children, and the rising murder rate in a small English town.

He is also the author of COFFIN MAKER, a gothic fantasy novel. Death is sent two strange apprentices amid warnings from a priest that the devil has arrived on Earth.

Audible Review – Animal Instinct Human Zoo by Simon Booker

I listened to this book because that’s the only to get it, it’s only available on Audible. I have to say that I found it really enjoyable.

Joe Cassedy isn’t a policeman anymore, but that doesn’t stop him investigating when an old friend in trouble comes to him. What starts out looking like a fairly straightforward murder mystery soon descends into something unexpectedly darker. Making reference to animal behaviour, it reminds the reader that we’re all just beasts in the end and what is done to the victim family is certainly beastly.

There’s an interesting side story about Joe and his marriage that keeps the reader interested too.

Kent is my home county, so I recognised many of the places named, which made it feel like visiting an old friend. Though the territory of the themes in the book was a whole new world to me, there was clearly a lot of research that went into writing this story, and the author did the most wonderful job of only using what was necessary to get the message across.

There’s a great cast and high production values to this presentation. Who wouldn’t enjoy listening to Brendan Coyle, he’s got a lovely voice, my only issue was that every time Joseph Marcell spoke – he did a good job of this in fairness – but every time I inevitably got an image of Geoffrey the Butler from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, this is doubtless a function of my age more than the production.

Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely.

Blog Tour – Meal of Fortune by Phil Brady

I was very happy to be asked to be part of the Meal of Fortune blog tour.

The Blurb

Failing celebrity agent Dermot Jack thinks his luck might have turned when a mysterious Russian oligarch approaches him with an irresistible proposition – help launch the pop career of the man’s beautiful daughter.

Meanwhile, Dermot’s former girlfriend Anna Preston is just as happy to be handed the chance to resurrect her own rather specialised career.

Little do they know that their paths are about to cross again – thrown together in a desperate attempt to lure the Russian, in reality a vicious arms dealer, into a highly unusual trap.

That’s going to be hard enough without having to deal with a lecherous celebrity chef, a diminutive mafia enforcer with his own agenda or one very impatient loan shark who ‘just wants his money back’. And then there’s Anna’s boss, who isn’t exactly playing it straight.

If she and Dermot are going to come out of this alive, they’ll have to learn to trust each other again, and push themselves well out of their comfort zones.

But one thing’s non negotiable. They’re absolutely not going to fall in love again. That’s never going to happen, OK?

My Review

I wasn’t at all sure what I was going to get when I agreed to be on the blog tour for this book, but I can tell you I wasn’t disappointed.

Dermot is a hapless chump caught up in something he can’t possibly deal with alone, it’s that far out of his experience. Anna is a strong and archetypal hero, but she’s suffering the glass ceiling. Koslov appears on the page like thug, but the thing he’s hiding is a brain. Bukin is an oligarch with little to recommend him – except perhaps a penchant for daytime cookery quizzes and an apparently great love for his daughter.

Meal of Fortune feels like The Avengers, the original 1960s version with Patrick Macnee. It’s full of action, adventure, a little romance, and comedy. Now don’t get me wrong, this book won’t have you laughing out loud, but it has a real tongue in cheek tone and an intelligent sense of humour that doesn’t take anything too seriously and still elevates the story.

Dermot might not be the best Steed ever, but Anna is a hell of an Emma Peel.

I have two very minor criticisms of the book. The first chapter describes an attack, and by the time the next reference is make to that attack, I’d almost forgotten about it. That said, it wouldn’t have worked if it had been put in the book in chronological order, so it’s best where it is and for someone who reads faster than I do, it won’t be a problem at all. The second point is that there are a few typos that jumped out at me, such as Belgian being used where Belgium should have been, as you can see, I am talking minor errors only. And I report these just to give full disclosure.

I have a tendency to read quite gritty crime, and this was much lighter and easier to read, a very welcome break. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I am intending to read more from this author, so I really would recommend this book. I’m giving it a four not a five because it didn’t completely dazzle me, that je ne se pas was missing. That said, am sitting here wondering if should this be a five star, definitley 4.5 then.

The Author

Phil lives in west London with his wife two children and some animals, which also like to call the house home.

He is somewhat obsessed and bemused with the public and media’s fixation with celebrities of every stripe. This forms the backdrop of his books, which also tend to feature spies, gangsters, hit men and TV chefs.

His first novel, The Meal of Fortune, was published in 2017, with a second edition following in 2021.  The follow up. Tinker Tailor Soldier Chef will be published in 2022.

Phil’s main rule in life is never to let tomato ketchup touch any food that is green.  This may not have any deep meaning, nor may it be the soundest of principles to live by – but it’s better than many he’s come across down the years.  Best not to go there though.

Thanks to Phil and Heather Fitt for inviting me on this blog tour.

Blog Tour – The Commandments by Óskar Guðmundsson

I was very happy to be invited to join this blog tour, and am very pleased to be able to say that it has added to my aim this year of reading more non-UK based crime.

The Commandments – The Blurb

Former police officer Salka Steinsdóttir finds herself pitched into the toughest investigation of her life, just as she is back in the tranquil north of Iceland to recover from a personal trauma.

The victim is someone she had pursued earlier in her career – and had never been able to pin down. Now a killer has taken the law into their own hands and meted out brutal retribution for ancient crimes. Salka is faced with tracking down the murderer of a stalwart of the church and the community, a man whose dark reputation stretches deep into the past, and even into the police team tasked with solving the case.

As the killer prepares to strike again, Salka and her team search for the band of old friends who could be either killers or victims – or both.

A bestseller in Iceland, The Commandments asks many challenging questions as it takes on highly emotive and controversial issues.





My Review

Written by Óskar Guðmundsson and translated by Quentin Bates, this is a story that draws the reader in from the start. We first see the setup of the situation in 1995, it is not pleasant, and the indications are clear from the off. Then we jump to 2014 and then the real action begins. Headlines in the paper that state: “Church covers up child abuse victims tell all” really sets the scene for what’s going to happen through the book. This story deals with grooming and corruption on many levels and how powerful men will cover up for others, until the victims are left powerless and unbelieved.

The writing in this book, the plot and subplots, flow naturally and well, there isn’t a wasted scene. There is plenty of misdirection and hints at a great many things, some of which turn out to be real and some don’t. As a reader you don’t really know which are which until the end, which is great because it keeps you guessing and reading.

All the characters are really well-drawn, they feel like real people with real lives, another huge positive. The investigator, Salka is an interesting character, a lost and lonely woman with a past, and real potential for the future – assuming she doesn’t blow it. Her reality only truly reveals itself on the very last page and it is a surprise, but it also explains so much about the way she is as a woman and as a police officer.

The final resolution is two-fold, the first revelation surprised me, which it probably shouldn’t have done. The second didn’t, though it probably should have. I like that I was surprised, it means I was kept guessing till the end and a good crime novel should do that.

The thing that tripped me up through the book was the names. Obviously, they are Icelandic and most of them were no problem at all, the people (except one) were easily nameable, and I think I’d make a good attempt at pronunciation – but I’ve no idea how to say many of the mentioned places. Reykjavik, Grenvik, those were fine, but in my head, the others slowed me right down and I had to really think to read them syllable but syllable, which in turn threw me out of the rhythm of the story. This is most definitely an issue with me and not with the book, I’m reporting this as my reader experience not criticising the book.

The subject matter of this book is a tough one and I think that it was handled with care and sensitivity. However, the nature of the subject did make for a tough emotional read at times. It makes the reader stop and think, which again a good book should.

I can easily see why this book will get a great many 5* reviews however, I’m giving it 4*. The reason for this is that it didn’t have that undefinable quality that meant I just had to keep reading – don’t get me wrong once I was reading it, I loved it, it really is well written/translated. But there were several times when I thought, oh I could sit and read now, that the idea of reading this particular book meant I didn’t. This is clearly much more of a me issue than an issue with the book, so other readers shouldn’t necessarily be put off by my assessment. In reviewing I have to be totally honest, and the stop-the-world-I-have-to-read-this-now factor was missing for me.

I really do think that a great many crime readers will absolutely love this book, and I would highly recommend it.

About the Author and Translator

Óskar Guðmundsson

One of the rising stars of Icelandic crime fiction, Óskar Guðmundsson has been writing since he was a youngster, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that his novel Hilma was published – and was an immediate success, winning the Drop of Blood award for the best Icelandic crime novel of 2015. This was followed by a sequel, Blood Angels, in 2018.

The first of his books to be published in an English translation, The Commandments is a standalone novel which appeared in Iceland in 2019. All of Óskar’s books have been bestsellers and rewarded with outstanding reviews. The TV rights to Hilma have been acquired by Sagafilm.

His latest book is The Dancer, which has been published simultaneously as an ebook, audiobook and paperback – accompanied by an original song in which Óskar’s words have been put to music featuring some of Iceland’s leading musicians.

Óskar’s talents don’t end there, as he’s also an artist and has held a number of exhibitions of his work.

Óskar Guðmundsson is the kick-ass breath of fresh air that Icelandic crime fiction has been waiting for

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir




Quentin Bates

Quentin’s roots in Iceland go very deep. In addition to writing fiction of his own, he has translated into English books by Lilja Sigurðardóttir, Sólveig Pálsdóttir, Guðlaugur Arason, Einar Kárason, Ragnar Jónasson and others. One of the original founders of IcelandNoir crime fiction festival in Reykjavik.

Blog Tour – A Shetland Winter Mystery by Marsali Taylor

Today I’m pleased to be part of The Sheltand Winter Mystery for Marsail Taylor and Reading Between the Lines blog tours

I understand you live and work on Sheltand, what drew you to the island and what’s your favourite place there?

Well, the answer’s rather prosaic: we were advised, at teacher training college, to apply to every region in Scotland with fingers crossed, as jobs were scarce. My first offer of a job was a letter from the Shetland Director of Education, saying there were two vacancies for a French/English teacher in Shetland. I knew I wanted to be in the country and near the sea, and I liked the idea of a small school, so I chose Aith (school roll 180 pupils aged 5-16). My first view of Shetland was the drive to my interview there, on the most gorgeous summer day, along quiet roads with green, green hills on one side and the sea dancing on the other. I fell in love straight away. That was forty years ago in August … 

My favourite place is what’s called “the Minn” locally – Swarback’s Minn, the hand-shaped piece of water between Aith, Brae and the wild Atlantic – my sailing territory. There are headlands with a variety of birds, beaches with seals basking and otters ducking under, porpoises and I’ve even seen a humpbacked whale, all within sailing distance of the marina, which is only 400m from my front doorstep. On a good day I can get from doorstep to the middle of the voe with the sails up and engine off in 17 minutes! Yes, of course Cass’ beloved yacht Khalida bears more than a passing resemblance to my own Karima…

Shetland has its own unique dialect and I understand that you have written plays in the dialect. Will any of that dialect be seen in your novel?

The Shetland dialect is just beautiful to listen to – to hear it, have a look on BBC Sounds for Mary Blance’s Radio Shetland Books programme. The dialect’s a mixture of old Scots and Norn, the old form of Norwegian, with many words of Norse origin still in common use – the islands were Norwegian territory until 1469, and some Norn was still spoken by older folk in Victorian times. Many of my pupils speak in dialect, and I wrote the plays for them to perform at our local Drama Festival. In the novels I’ve tried to give a feel of the rhythm of the speech without putting readers off by phonetic spelling, and I’ve used dialect words where the meaning can be guessed from the context (though there’s also a glossary at the back). The grammar’s also different; for example, a Shetlander would say ‘I’m been’ to the shop, instead of ‘I have been.’ For example, if Cass’s friend Magnie was to greet her with, ‘Now then, Cass, where have you been since I last saw you?’, I’d write it as, ‘Now then, lass, where’re you been fae I saw you last?’ but it would actually sound like ‘Noo dan, Cass, whaur’s du been fae I saa dee last?’

When did you start writing, and why?

I’ve always written, since I was a child. I love telling stories. I began on my first adult novel as soon as I left University, and wrote five before I finally got a publisher for Death on a Longship – two historical romances, and three Shetland detective stories, all still unpublished. My first published works, apart from articles in the local magazine Shetland Life, were Shetland Plays and my self-published Women’s Suffrage in Shetland. It was meant to be a pamphlet, but so much was involved in the suffrage fight – education, working conditions, divorce, and custody laws and property ownership – and it went on for so long, from the first House of Commons bill in 1860 to partial women’s suffrage in 1919, that it ended up 320 pages.

What motivates you to write?

I write because I love doing it. Every morning after breakfast, I take a quick walk round the village, then head for my desk and get on with Cass’s latest adventure … or my Practical Boat Owner column … or a short story for our monthly local writers’ group meeting. I’m always writing something.

A Shetland Winter Mystery (The Shetland Sailing Mysteries Book 14) Kindle Edition

Who is your favourite of your characters and why?

My favourite character … hard question. I’ve got fond of them all! Cass is like a sometimes-exasperating little sister but I love her determination and fearlessness (I wish I had her head for heights!), and her cool head in a crisis. I love Gavin’s quiet sense of humour, his passion for wildlife, his unflappability. Maman is great fun when she swans on in her best dramatic fashion with a mixture of opera theatricality and French common-sense, and I enjoy Dad’s belief that his Cassie will only be truly happy when she finds a good Catholic man and has six children. Dream on, Dad! I genuinely don’t use real people in my stories, with one exception: some day my fifteen-year-old grandson is going to be asking searching questions about who inspired the engaging but naughty Peerie Charlie.

Who is your least favourite of your characters, and why?

Least favourite characters … I’ve created a few very unpleasant people. I won’t name them because of spoilers, but I think the worst are in The Shetland Sea Murders…. which just happens to be my last book. In it, Cass is on board our own tall ship, Swan, for a birthday weekend when a fishing boat goes on the rocks. The book is structured on the history of women’s suffrage and this is reflecting in the characters – so, for example, the first section links to the fight for women to get custody of their children, and involves possible child abuse; the second section links to women officials, and one character has the ambition of being Shetland’s first woman Convenor of the Council, and so on; I hope in the final chapters you’ll see Cass as a modern descendant of those determined women who drove ambulances under fire in World War I.

Tell us about your last book…

My newest book, A Shetland Winter Mystery, is set during ‘the Yules’, the old Norse word for Christmas, which has a number of traditions associated with it. One of them is that during the dark days before Christmas the ‘trows’, Shetland’s little people, are set free to roam round the houses. The book opens with Cass and Gavin waking to find little footprints in the snow around the house – and they’re not the only house to be visited. Naturally Cass begins investigating, and then a teenager disappears from the middle of a snowy field …

What’s coming next…

Well, the next Cass is half-planned and 11,000 words long – a tenth of the way! I don’t do a complete plan because it changes so much during writing, and because it’s more fun for me if I don’t know what’s going to happen next either. However, I do know it will involve the Book of the Black Arts, a book of spells stolen from the Devil himself, last seen in Cullivoe, on the north island of Yell, in Victorian times …

Thank you very much for letting me feature on your blog, and I hope you enjoy A Shetland Winter Mystery.

Author Marsali Taylor photographed onboard her yacht in Aith Marina, Shetland, Sep 2005



Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland’s scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland’s distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women’s suffrage in Shetland. She’s also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.


Bio copied from Amazon.





Thanks to Marsali for answering my questions, and don’t forget to see what everyone else has to say on the rest of the blog tour.

Get Covered – the Business of Writing

We’re always told not to judge a book by its cover, but let’s face it, we all do.

The reason I’m talking about this is because I’ve recently gone through the process of getting the Locked Series recovered and reissued. 

Now I love these books, I always have, and I have no problems with the original covers, but as I was reissuing them under the HanWill Publishing banner, they needed new covers and covers which are consistent so they look like a set.

To get these designed, I had to get someone else to put them together for me. I know what I want from a cover, but I simply don’t have the skills to create it. And one thing that really bugs me, is seeing a really naff cover that lacks a professional finish. You see when I see that I really do judge the book by its cover. That indicates to me that the author couldn’t be bothered to invest in good design, so they probably didn’t invest in a good editor either, so I won’t invest my time in reading them.

I don’t want my books to be viewed that way. So I found a good designer.

Mark Thomas of Coverness design was a joy to work with. We chatted about what I wanted and agreed a budget. I gave him the brief, and he very quickly turned around what I needed.

We had a small cross communication as I initially received the draft designs on my phone and everything looked blue though it wasn’t, hopefully, you’ll see the difference from the picture.  So, if you go through this process yourself, always check the imagery on more than one device.

There were, of course, tweaks that needed doing and Mark was great for turning everything around quickly and I was really happy with the brief.

Top tips I can give for working with any designer, is be prepared.  Think about what you need before you contact the designer and when you do, have as tight a brief ready as you can. As clear a guide as you can get to what you want to see. Also have the following in place:

  • The title
  • The byline
  • The blurb
  • Any strap line or other you want on the cover
  • What format you need – hardback, paperback, ebook, audiobook (or any combination thereof)
  • The size of the physical format

If you have them the number of pages and the ISBN might be useful to give too.

Would also suggest that you do your due diligence, check websites, read testimonials, make sure that you are dealing with a reputable designer. And if you need a recommendation – I highly recommend Coverness, easy to work with, and a great final product.

Name Check

Reasons to do your research

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo, for those who don’t recognise this, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, it’s an American initiative to get people writing. I’ve been taking part most years since I heard about it in 2013.

I’m writing ‘Scenes in My Head’, in other words, any scene from any of the books currently jostling for a place in my brain. The particular scene I’m writing today is from a police procedural. And in this scene, the lead investigator gets a call from another force.

The force in question covers Kent. As I grew up in Kent, I know that it was always called the KCC, the Kent County Constabulary. So that’s what I wrote. I also know that their headquarters is in the center of Maidstone.

Turns out, I don’t know much.

Kent County Constabulary did have its headquarters in the centre of Maidstone, but now they’ve moved to the North Kent Police Station, which is actually in Gravesend.

They also aren’t called Kent County Constabulary anymore either. Although they do hold the distinction of having been the last force to have kept the word ‘county’ in their name, in 2002, they changed their name to Kent Police.

It’s also interesting to note that Kent Police are, as far as I can tell, the only ones with a station on foreign soil, as they have a station in Coquelles, France

They were also the first force to have a black chief constable, Michael Fuller – 5 January 2004 to 16 February 2010, who also happens to have written a book, “Kill the Black One Fist“, which might interest some of you.

So, the moral of the story is – do your research, and check your facts, even the facts you absolutely KNOW you know.