On My Shelves – The Heretics of De’Ath by Howard of Warwick

Blurb

Medieval mystery for people who laugh starts here….

England’s most famous date 1066: At the monastery of De’Ath’s Dingle, during a completely pointless theological debate, there is a mysterious death. Routine business for the average investigative medieval monk.
Unfortunately this isn’t a tale of average monks.

Anyone who would put the idiot Brother Simon in charge of a murder investigation is either one chant short of a plainsong or is up to something. When Brother Hermitage, innocent in every way, including bystanding, is lined up for execution, he begins to wonder if something might be going on.
Perhaps his new companion Wat, weaver of pornographic tapestry, can figure out what it is. Before it’s too late.

If you are a lover of the historical detective genre, if you have a deep respect for the worlds created, don’t read this book. It’ll only upset you.

My Review

I have said that I don’t read historical fiction, and generally, I don’t, but then I was looking at my shelves the other day and I noticed this series. This is the first volume of The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage. It follows the life and adventures of Brother Hermitage, a young (probably 19), and naïve monk as he meets Watt, a maker of dubious tapestries, and they find themselves surrounded by murders they are compelled to investigate. By the way, the quality of Watt’s tapestries is fine, but the depictions aren’t something a young monk should ever look at since Watt uses an inordinate amount of pink silk.

Wasn’t sure about this when I bought this book what it would be like, but I had a good time reading it. It’s fun, irreverent, humourous. The humour comes from one character, Hermitage, taking everything literally, and the other, Watt, being a more worldly wise character attempting to steer him right. It’s a mix of ecclesiastic and potty humour, with the twisting of language that works so well for the likes of Pratchett.

I literally laughed out loud when I read this, and I enjoyed it so much, I’ve brought and read many of the subsequent novels in the series.

Book Review – The Accidental Medium by Tracy Whitwell

Blurb

The Accidental Medium is the first book in a hilarious series from Tracy Whitwell featuring Tanz, the accidental medium who, with the help of the dead, is about to become an unwilling crime-solver.

Tanz is a wine-loving, straight-talking, once-successful TV actress from Gateshead, whose career has shrivelled like an antique walnut. She is still grieving for her friend Frank, who died in a car crash three years ago, and she has to find a normal job in London to fund her cocktail habit. When she starts work in a ‘new age’ shop, Tanz suddenly discovers that the voices she’s hearing in her head are real, not the first signs of madness, and that she can give people ‘messages’ from beyond the grave. Alarmed, she confronts her little mam and discovers she is from a long line of psychic mediums. Despite an exciting new avenue of life opening up to Tanz, darkness isn’t far away and all too soon there’s murder in the air

My Review

I brought this because it said “hilarious” and “unwitting crime-solver”. Besides, it was half price, I was on holiday, and it appealed.

The main character, the accidental medium herself, is Tanz, a late 30s actress struggling to get acting work. She also from Gateshead, likes a bucket or two of white wine, and has some interesting friends. But she’s brassic, so she gets a job working part-time in what I can only describe as a new age shop which also offers tarot readings. Then the voices in Tanz’s head start in proper, and she opens herself up to a new side of life.

There is a murder in the book, one Tanz solves, as most murders actually are solves, very quickly.  But that only rears its head on page 190, there are a lot of other stories to get through first.

According to Amazon, this book is in “horror parodies and satires”. It’s not horrific. It’s actually a very gentle and amusing take on a life less ordinary.

As mentioned, I bought this while on holiday and I read it over two days of that holiday. It was fun, readable, enjoyable and exactly the kind of light entertainment I was looking for on holiday. Not what I would call hilarious, but definitely appealed to my sense of humour and raised a smile. And it does have a murder, however late it appears in the story, so can be considered on the periphery of crime fiction and included here. Though in all honesty, if I’d brought it expecting crime fiction, I would have been disappointed. Still I will give the next in the series a go.

I liked it.

Book Review – Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Blurb

My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (and as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit – we do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to – and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.

Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden … and there’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it’s falling to me to bring order out of chaos – or die trying.

My Review

I wasn’t sure about this when I first picked it up, and I can’t even remember why I did pick it up.  But I do like the mix of solid police procedural an the arcane.

Peter Grant is a great character who draws the reader into his world with frank observation and a cool head. A PC in the Met, he’s lead by a ghost to answers he wasn’t expecting, and that introduced him to DCI Nightingale, and man few would ever expect. DCI Nightingale heads the Special Assessment Unit.  He’s also a wizard.

The case sends Peter and his colleague Leslie May on a wild ride around London, introducing Peter and the reader to a new, or rather, very old, side of the city.  There are ghosts, and spirits and of course, magic.  Peter isn’t that happy with the restrictions Nightingale puts on his learning and practice of Newtonian Magic, but there are reasons, not least of which is that too much magic will literally kill you.

The cast of this book is wonderfully diverse, Peter is of Nigerian descent and his parents are great. Nightingale is a quintessential Englishman, but he would be, given his age. Leslie, like Peter,is a Londoner through and through. And Dr Abdul Haqq Walid, is just fabulous, the name implies Arabic, but this is due to his conversation to Islam, he speaks with a soft, lilting Highland accent. The characters stand off the page in well developed form. Each is unique and has their own voice.

I will admit that I first listened to Rivers of London on audiobook, and I loved it. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith does the most fantastic job of being the voice of the Rivers of London. Peter Grant may be his voice, but he does an excellent range of voices for the characters, I particularly enjoy the gruff DCI Alexander Seawoll.  For some reason, the voice of Nightingale always makes me think of Peter James, I have no reason why, but it does.

My point of course, is that this is a wonderful book that pulls the reader along with the events, beautifully written, and a wonderful introduction to a whole new London you may never have met before.  The following books are just as brilliant.

Book Review – The Safe House by Louise Mumford

Blurb

She told you the house would keep you safe. She lied.

Esther is safe in the house. For sixteen years, she and her mother have lived off the grid, protected from the dangers of the outside world. For sixteen years, Esther has never seen another single soul.

Until today.

Today there’s a man outside the house. A man who knows Esther’s name, and who proves that her mother’s claims about the outside world are false. A man who is telling Esther that she’s been living a lie.

Is her mother keeping Esther safe – or keeping her prisoner?



My Review

Louise does a wonderful job of taking the ordinary and every day and turning it into something special and unusual, something extraordinary. 

Esther is just an ordinary girl turning twenty-one. All she wants for her birthday is to go on the Yearly. The once a year event when her mother goes Out There, and gathers supplies for a year. Of course, mother says she’s not ready, but uses reverse psychology to ensure that Esther stays home.

Waiting alone, Esther sees something she never expected, a man coming up the drive. And stepping on… well read the book if you want to know.

The point is, the arrival of this man is going to change Esther’s life forever. This story is of the longest and most important journey anyone can ever take, the journey of self-discovery. Esther has to learn who she is and what the world around her is like. Most of us have every year of our childhood to achieve this, but Esther hasn’t been in the world for most of her life and has to learn it in days.

The fall out needs a blast wall. The struggle is a giving birth. The result is messy and glorious.

Reading this story is to watch a flower move to bud to blossom, but Esther remains true to herself throughout, and it’s a beautiful, sometimes painful tale. Discovery, embarrassment, growth, life and death. Fear and courage. It’s all here and it’s wonderful.

Highly recommend.

I have read Louise’s first book too, “Sleepless”, I loved that as well. There’s no link here. They are each standalone, but if you’ve read and enjoyed “Sleepless”, then you’ll love “The Safe House”. If you read “The Safe House” and enjoy it, there’s a good chance you’ll feel the same way about “Sleepless”. Both are excellent.

Book Review – The Unwanted Dead by Chris Lloyd

Blurb

Paris, Friday 14th June 1940.

The day the Nazis march into Paris, making headlines around the globe.

Paris police detective Eddie Giral – a survivor of the last World War – watches helplessly on as his world changes forever.

But there is something he still has control over. Finding whoever is responsible for the murder of four refugees. The unwanted dead, who no one wants to claim.

To do so, he must tread carefully between the Occupation and the Resistance, between truth and lies, between the man he is and the man he was.

All the while becoming whoever he must be to survive in this new and terrible order descending on his home…

My Review

I was reluctant to read this book at first, having studied Nazi history, I remember how harrowing the truth was and I wasn’t keen to dip my toes back into that particular pool.

However, The Unwanted Dead, is a very well written mystery worth reading.

Inspector Giral is a man with a troubled and troubling past. He’s set to investigate the murder of four men in a railway truck. But they were just Poles, and why should the remaining French Police or the occupying Germans care? Only Giral does care and he’s not the giving up kind. Not when another Pole commits suicide, taking his young son with him.

The multilayered structure of the Nazi and German military and officialdom are pitted against Giral in this case, and against each other. There are French soldiers fleeing from the occupiers. There are Poles fleeing and fighting for their lives. There’s evidence that can’t be found. Deserters who may have more evidence, and maybe not.

On the way Giral confronts enemies on all sides, not to mention within. The flashbacks to what he’s suffered are revealing as to his nature, and explain his family situation. None of which is a shining example of good and gracious behaviour. The moment he meets Dax is particularly interesting.

Strangely, that character that kept me reading was not Giral, but Major Hochstetter. Some of the best lines in the book are either about him or said by him.

It has to be said too, that Giral really is put through the wringer during the course of his investigation. Pretty much every side beats him up at least once. Maybe that affected his thinking because the thing that actually annoyed me, was that the evidence when found was in the obvious place, and it shouldn’t have taken over 420 pages to have got there.

I can see why it won a HWA award, it’s well worth reading.

Book Review – Lost River by Stephen Booth

Blurb

A May Bank Holiday in the Peak District is ruined by the tragic drowning of an eight-year-old girl in picturesque Dovedale. For Detective Constable Ben Cooper, a helpless witness to the tragedy, the incident is not only traumatic, but leads him to become involved in the tangled lives of the Neilds, the dead girl’s family.

As he gets to know them, Cooper begins to suspect that one of them is harbouring a secret – a secret that the whole family might be willing to cover up.

Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Diane Fry has a journey of her own to make – a journey back to her roots. As she finds herself drawn into an investigation of her own among the inner-city streets of Birmingham, Fry realises there is only one person she can rely on to provide the help she needs.

But that man is Ben Cooper, and he’s back in Derbyshire, where his suspicions are leading him towards a shocking discovery on the banks of another Peak District river.

My Review

The landscape acts like a new character in this book. Two new characters, in fact, the Dales and Birmingham. Loved the evocative nature of the landscapes described here, both the natural beauty of the rugged world and the concrete jungle of the city.

This book is all about family. The one we grow up in, the ones we see, the ones we belong to whether we want to or not, and the ones we choose. It also shows that no matter what we think, we never know what really goes on behind closed doors, or want damage is wrought, or what price any of us will have to pay for those things.

Though Fry and Cooper are apart for most of this novel, they distinctly grow together, the importance of the relationship to each growing clearer.

Of all the Fry and Cooper novels I’ve read, this more than the others has drawn me into caring what is going to happen to the characters.

On My Shelves: Cold Granite by Stuart MacBride

Blurb

Taken from the Amazon Listing:

Winter in Aberdeen: murder, mayhem and terrible weather…

It s DS Logan McRae s first day back on the job after a year off on the sick, and it couldn t get much worse. Three-year-old David Reid s body is discovered in a ditch, strangled, mutilated and a long time dead. And he s only the first. There s a serial killer stalking the Granite City and the local media are baying for blood.

Soon the dead are piling up in the morgue almost as fast as the snow on the streets, and Logan knows time is running out. More children are going missing. More are going to die. And if Logan isn t careful, he could end up joining them…

My Reveiw

The first of Stuart MacBride’s that I’ve tried and I really enjoyed it.

Logan is a typical damaged hero, rubbish love life, drinks a bit and doesn’t have a great relationship with all of his superior officers. This volume deals with the murder and mutilations of a number of young children (under-fives), and as such there were sections I found particularly hard to get through, but it was well worth the effort.

Logan and the team are vividly and realistically drawn, though there is still one question that came up at the start of the book I don’t think was entirely answered by the end, but Jackie doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

A great start to a series and I’ll be reading more.

Interview with Victoria Selman about new release “Truly Darkly Deeply”

I was fortunate to have met with Victoria thanks to an interview at CrimeTime FM about the Gwyl CRIME CYMRU Festival, and again at CrimeFest this year. I’m very pleased to bring you an interview with Victoria about her latest release.


Blurb

Twelve-year-old Sophie and her mother, Amelia-Rose, move to London from Massachusetts where they meet the charismatic Matty Melgren, who quickly becomes an intrinsic part of their lives. But as the relationship between the two adults fractures, a serial killer begins targeting young women with a striking resemblance to Amelia-Rose.

When Matty is eventually sent down for multiple murders, questions remain as to his guilt – questions that ultimately destroy both women. Nearly 20 years later, Sophie receives a letter from Battlemouth Prison informing her Matty is dying and wants to meet. It looks like Sophie might finally get the answers she craves. But will the truth set her free – or bury her deeper?

©2022 Victoria Selman (P)2022 Quercus Editions Limited

Interview

Clearly “Truly Darkly Deeply” is a dark and psychological thriller that is going to take the reader through some intense emotions. And there’s a sense of uncertainty throughout the book as to what really happened. What took you to the place from which this story developed?

Those familiar with my work, will know all about my fascination with true crime and the criminal psyche- though what intrigues me just as much as the mentality of evil is how serialists are able to dupe those close to them. That it’s possible to share your life with one without ever suspecting it.

So, it’s fair to say I’m more than a little bit obsessed with serial killers! However, I was keen to approach what can feel like a well-worn genre from a fresh perspective.

Much has been written from the viewpoint of the serial killer’s wife, but it struck me that very little has been penned from the viewpoint of a child. I wanted to explore that relationship and its legacy whilst also as looking at what it means to be a monster – and to love one.

The book is told in dual timelines, the stories unfolding in parallel, what did you do to ensure it was clear to both yourself and the readers which timeline they are in at any one point?  Were there any tools you used to take you to the right timeframe, e.g. music or imagery?

Music, fashion references and nods to current events were all ways of signposting to the reader when we were in the past.

I grew up in the 80’s and so one of the highlights of writing Truly Darkly Deeply was tapping into my childhood memories and bringing them back to life on the page. Like Sophie, I listened to Madonna (who didn’t back then?!) made a Royal Wedding scrapbook and still remember vividly coming home from school to be told we were at war with Argentina.

The book remains in the first person throughout, so the reader can only know what Sophie knows.  While first person is one of the most intimate ways to write, drawing the reading up close and personal, for many writers it’s also one of the hardest stand points to do well. Why did you feel that this story was best told in this way, and were there stumbling blocks were you desperately wanted to show something Sophie couldn’t know?

The first person is actually the viewpoint I’m most comfortable with since it enables you to literally step inside your character’s skin. In this instance, it was the natural choice because of the personal nature of the narrative- particularly its reflective tone and retrospective elements. The fun part was allowing the reader glimpses of what ‘child’ Sophie couldn’t possibly know but what ‘adult’ Sophie had come to suspect!  

Given the levels of uncertainty that are examined in the book, do you know the truth about Matty’s guilty or innocence?  (Yes or No is a sufficient answer if you want it to be.)

We do find out in the end, yes! I couldn’t leave that question unanswered!!

Without spoilers, because we don’t want to harm a good read, what is the overriding message or emotion that you want your readers to take away from the read? What do you think they’ll be thinking about in the years after they’ve read Truly Darkly Deeply?

There are two sides to Truly, Darkly, Deeply: a coming of age narrative and a serial killer thriller. A tale of the triumph of hope over despair; of losing everything only to find what you really need is inside you all along.

You are a busy mum of two, you work on the Crime Time FM podcast, and now your second novel is out.  What’s next for you?

Writing is both my career and my passion so I’ll be writing until I’m told, ‘No more, thank you!’ As well as writing though, I’m also very much involved in building up Crime Time FM with my co-hosts, Paul Burke and Barry Forshaw and by the time Truly, Darkly, Deeply comes out, I’ll have just MC’d the Daggers and be getting ready for my book tour.

If there is anything else you want to highlight or let the readers know, feel free to add it here.

I have a newsletter in which I offer sneak previews of upcoming titles, run giveaways and give an insight into my life as an author. If you’re interested, you can sign up here: http://www.victoriaselmanauthor.com/

You can also follow me on Twitter @VictoriaSelman

To purchase the book, here’s the link “Truly Darkly Deeply”

Victoria Selman Biography

Victoria Selman is the author of the critically acclaimed Ziba MacKenzie series. Her debut novel, Blood for Blood, was shortlisted for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger and an Amazon Charts #1 bestseller for five weeks, selling over half a million copies.

Victoria has written for the Independent, co-hosts Crime Time FM with critics, Barry Forshaw and Paul Burke, compiles the Afraid of the Light charity anthology series and was shortlisted for the 2021 CWA Short Story Dagger.

Her first standalone thriller, Truly, Darkly, Deeply, is being published as Quercus’ flagship crime thriller title on July 7th 2022 and has been receiving praise from household names such as Patricia Cornwell, S.J. Watson and Alex Michaelides.

On My Shelves – Choke Hold by Christa Faust

Blurb

Angel Dare went into Witness Protection to escape her past – not as a porn star, but as a killer who took down the sex slavery ring that destroyed her life. But sometimes the past won’t stay buried. When a former co-star is gunned down, it’s up to Angel to get his son, a hotheaded MMA fighter, safely through the Arizona desert, shady Mexican bordertowns, and the neon mirage of Las Vegas…

My Review

Angle Dare is a woman with a past she had no choice but to run from (see Money Shot for details). Then an ex, Thich Vic, turns up and turns her life upside down. His son, Cody, isn’t much better.

“Choke Hold”, caught me on the first scene. This book is fast-paced and populated with colourful characters who could hold of my attention immediately and kept it. There are twists and turns that keep the characters on their toes and the reader turning pages.

Very evocative prose, good dialogue and clear characterisation of some twisted individuals who remain believable, characters not caricatures.

I enjoyed that these people were flaws, and ex-porn star, a wanna be cage fighter and a punch drunk, brain damaged ex-fighter. The fact that they are running from crooks who want to kill them and not always for the reason you think, makes for some interesting twists and turns. The end came a bit quickly and thankfully wasn’t one of those annoying ‘happy ever afters’ that often feel contrived, yet there remained something a little unsatisfying about the end all the same.

I like to try different types of crime fiction every now and then, and this one was way outside my usual read zone. I really enjoyed it. I don’t tend to go for American fiction, nor for real noir, which this is, definitely in the vein of older classics like Chandler et al. Worth a read.

Book Review – Dexter and Sinister Detecting Agents by Keith W Dickenson

BLURB

John Sinister is not having a good week.

Hired to look into some shady goings on at the airship factory, his investigation has barely begun before people start dying. Soon he’s on the wrong side of some fairly unpleasant people, and that’s before he meets Dexter, the world’s only walking, talking, mechanical cat. That’s when things get complicated.

With secret societies, arrogant aristocrats, and criminal chocolatiers to contend with, John and Dexter will have to keep their wits about them if they’re going to come out of this alive. And if John happens to fall in love with his employer’s daughter along the way, well nobody said catching a killer was going to be easy now did they?

Review

This book is a little different from the books I usually review here. It is a crime story, but it’s also a steampunk / urban fantasy story. It has airships, a whirlygig, mechanical horses that blow up, and a steam-driven self-regulating automaton running an experimental analytical engine, that just happens to be in the shape of a cat.

John Sinister is the scholarship boy who’s not doing so well. Then his one real friend from school, the wealthy Henry Chard, turns up and tells him that there’s ‘trouble at mill.’ In this case, the trouble is at Chard Mechanical, just about the largest engineering firm in the Empire, and seems to be a threat to the business. The next day, Henry is dead, and John is thrust into a world of intrigues he hadn’t expected.

Henry’s father is Donald Chard, an industrialist famed across the Britannic Empire, wealthy, powerful, and a touch strange. Paid by Donald, John starts investigating Henry’s death. With the assistance of a letter of authority from Donald Chard, and the reluctant assistance of the police, notably Detective Hardigan. Only to have the rug pulled from under his feet by Donald’s death. Then Dexter asks him to investigate, claiming John should finish the job he’s already been paid for. And so, together, that’s what they do.

Between the covers of this book, the reader finds the strange inventions of Nomko; the memory and repercussions of John beating the Chess Club (seven games in one); Strange goings on at Caesar’s Coffee and Chocolate club; Agnes Goodenough—who is way more than good enough; and the various other characters who are all well drawn for their purpose on the page.

It’s a romp. It’s an investigation. It’s life and death, loyalty and betrayal. But mostly, it’s the story of a man who doesn’t quite fit getting used to a talking mechanical cat.

Dexter, the cat, has almost all the best lines. Not to mention typical cat superiority and sarcasm.

I loved this book and would highly recommend if you’re looking for something a bit different. There is a second in the series, and I will be reading it sometime.