Still Dark by Alex Gray

I recently treated myself to Still Dark by Alex Gray. She is a Scottish crime writer whose books I have enjoyed in the past. Several are reveiwed on this site including Five Ways to Kill a Man https://bookreviewstoday.info/2015/09… and The Darkest Goodbye https://bookreviewstoday.info/2017/07….

Alex GrayStill Dark follows on from The Darkest Goodbye. Indeed, although this crime thriller has a cracking beginning. The main protagonist, Lorimer, witnesses a horrifying incident which affects his pschyche very badly. Eventually he accepts that he needs professional help to get over the trauma.

While he is receiving treatment, Lorimer sees a news programme on television in which he sees the man who he believes was involved in the crimes he investigated in The Darkest Goodbye.Still Dark

From this point on, the large tract in the middle of Still Dark really requires the reader to have read the earlier book. DC Kirsty Wilson re-appears and provides Lorimer with ‘legs’ during his treatment.

This book disappointed me. It was as if Still Dark was really the second part of the earlier novel. I felt cheated. I always thought Alex Gray respected her readers, but this book was a bit of a pot boiler: although it did have a satisfying conclusion. I cannot recommend Still Dark.

Val Penny

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A Mind Polluted by Martin Geraghty

A Mind PollutedWhen I went on holiday recently, I took a few books with me so that I could sit in the sun, relax and enjoy. One of the novels was A Mind Polluted by Martin Geraghty, a new author from Glasgow, Scotland. This is his debut novel published by Crooked Cat Books. It is based on the story of the man who murdered Jo Cox MP.

A Mind Polluted tells the story of Connor Boyd who lives with his mother, father and brother in a tenement flat in Glasgow. The story is told in three parts. In the early part of the story, Connor is an able well-adjusted school boy. However, when he overhears an argument between his parents, his attitude to life changes profoundly.

In the second part of A Mind Polluted, Connor leaves home and goes to college. During that time, he shares a flat with a group of other boys who are students with him. They get on well, each having their own role within the group. Connor sees very little of his family and his life seems to be back on track. Connor finds love with Laura. Their relationship developes and Connor sees his future with her.

The last part of the book is very short, but sees Connor re-united with his family and he is able to explain his views to his mother.

The end of A Mind Polluted contains an emotional twist that shocks even Connor. The books is told throughout in a strong Scottish brogue in the author’s truly original voice. A Mind Polluted is a fine novel.Martin Geraghty

The author, Martin Geraghty, is a forty-something private investigator from Glasgow who has been writing for around eighteen months. In that time he has written his first novel, A Mind Polluted. Recently he began to write short stories and poetry which he has performed at various spoken word events and at a 404ink book launch. He has had pieces featured in Glove Litzine, Razor Cuts Litzine, Paragraph Planet and Next Month at zomag.co.uk

Val Penny

Foxtrot in Freshby by Awen Thornber

foxtrot in freshby bookAwen Thornber is a new author to me and I don’t often read romances but, when I was getting ready to go on holiday, I chose Foxtrot in Freshby to take with me.

Foxtrot in Freshby tells the story of dance teacher Gina Pendleton. She finds her boyfriend cheating with the person she thought was her best friend. As a result of this she throws her cheating boyfriend out of her house, which she inherited from her beloved grandmother. Unfortunately this means she has lost his contribution to the house and must find a way of earning extra money to pay her bills.

She decides to turn her large livingroom into a dance studio and run dance classes at her home. Her new friends who own the local store suggest a source of large mirrors that she needs to complete the look of the dance studio. When they come round to deliver the mirrors their freind Chris Jackson comes with them. Gina finds Chris very attractive. She even discovers he can dance when he invites her to his annual works nught out.

Gina’s new dance class incurs the wrath of the owner of the local well-established dance school and her life becomes even more fraught when she is targeted by vandals and intruders.

Chris is charming and very protective of Gina. So, it doesn’t take her long to realise that he is the man of her dreams, especially as he’s a wonderful dancing partner and willing to enter a major dancing competition as her partner. However, she becomes aware tha Chris is hiding something from her. As a result of this, she feels she cannot trust him. It amazes her to discover his secret when Chris turns up at her dance class unexpectedly.

Foxtrot in Freshby is a really good book for book groups and has an unexpected twist at the end. It will definitely appeal to everybody who enjoys watching ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars‘ as well as those who just enjoy a fine romance.awen thornber

The author, Awen Thornber was formerly a textile artist and design consultant for a craft company. She produced craft projects and articles for magazines, and had a regular craft column in Northern Life Magazine. Awen is always looking for inspiration to spark her creative mind and currently devotes her time to writing novels. She was born and bred in Lancashire, England. Awen also loves walking, painting, ballroom and ballet dancing.

Val Penny

Is it a crime novel? By guest author Nancy Jardine

Today, my friend and fellow author, Nancy Jardine stops by my blog to discuss her books. Thank you, Nancy. Tell us about your work.

I start with a very broad question because you write crime thriller novels, Val, but it’s one which I’ve been asked more than once while selling my novels at Book Fairs, Craft Fairs and events like Highland Games up in North East Scotland. Potential customers have asked me – What are your novels about? I give them an initial overview that I write Historical Fiction; Contemporary Mystery/ Thrillers and Time Travel Historical. I then say that although my novels would not fully fit the ‘Crime’ genre on Amazon they do have crime in them to varying degrees. Though, perhaps they’re not the crime novels they are looking for.

Nancy JardineMy first century A.D. historical Celtic Fervour Series isn’t a series of whodunits set in northern Roman Britain (roughly from Yorkshire northwards) but they do have battle scenes where the intent is effectively genocide on the part of the Roman generals who invaded the north. Back then, it was bow to the dictates of Rome or they annihilated any Iron Age tribes who resisted them. That could be said to be very big crime indeed but it’s not what would normally be in a reader’s mind who is interested in ‘police detective led procedural’ crime. Killing one warrior or killing many, in battle, isn’t treated the same as murder would be in a detective novel, yet it is premeditated crime of sorts. Are the police involved? No, but they weren’t invented in Roman Britain! In my historical novels there are also situations of retaliation on the part of the invaded ‘Celts’ when they raid Roman convoys and steal the goods; and when the ‘Celts’ organise ambushes of Roman patrols and kill the auxiliary escorts, but is that crime? There are reports of rape and the death of innocent children in the novels but does that make my story fit the crime genre?

If someone picks up a copy of my mystery novels and reads the blurb they can see that although my mystery thriller Topaz Eyes wouldn’t be classified as a crime novel it does have strong criminal elements. There’s acquisition of goods (jewellery) by devious means; there’s intent to kill; there’s stalking with intent to murder; there’s theft: there’s murder; and there’s accidental death during an aggravated criminal situation – yet my story Topaz Eyes is not considered to be a crime novel because it is primarily a mystery thriller. Are the police involved? Yes, in more than one city but is it a crime novel? Errr…not quite. Topaz Eyes has also been called a treasure hunt mystery; a romantic mystery suspense that ‘weaves a plot of intrigue across Europe’; ‘A velvety trip packed full of history, mystery and suspense’ and many other wonderful 5* comments. But it’s not a crime novel.

What about my other mysteries published by Crooked Cat Books? Well, funnily enough they also have crime in them but again not the type that gets them classified as crime novels.

Monogamy Twist is a fairly simple mystery that centres on a plot that’s a combination of a quirky Dickensian-style bequest of a dilapidated Yorkshire mansion house and a somewhat shady ancestral tree. There’s fraud; there’s intended deception and possibly even a touch of benign coercion- all of which might court prosecution today- but essentially it’s a slightly humorous ancestral romantic mystery. Are the police involved? No, but the main female character has to be an amateur sleuth to solve the mystery.

Take Me Now is what I call my ‘Corporate Sabotage’ mystery so yes, there’s definitely crime involved but it’s a light-hearted, fun romantic comedy mystery. There’s intent to cause bodily harm; there’s malicious and wilful damage to property and people; there’s attempted murder- though, again it isn’t called a crime novel. Are the police involved? Yes, they are. Is there an amateur detective involved? Yes, but she’s also one of the main characters in the romance.Nancy Jardine Books

My point in all of this seems to be it’s actually quite hard to write a novel without any kind of crime in it! The next time I sell my books at a Fair of any kind perhaps I should get a large pop up banner to proclaim – I’m not actually a crime author but… with a lot of *wink, Winks* and smiley faces.

Stop Press – My Celtic Fervour Series published by Crooked Cat Books is no longer available after the end of February 2018 but look out for new versions later in the spring! My Crooked Cat Books contemporary mysteries are definitely available, easily seen via my author page below.

Nancy Jardine regularly looks after her grandchildren and sometimes her garden can look quite creative. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Federation of Writers Scotland and the Historical Novel Society. She’s published by Crooked Cat Books and has delved into self publishing.

You can find her at these places:

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk  Website: www.nancyjardineauthor.com/   Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG & http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G

email: nan_jar@btinternet.com Twitter https://twitter.com/nansjar

Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5139590.Nancy_Jardine

Hunter’s Chase by Val Penny by guest author Susan Roebuck

I have a new hero: Detective Inspect Hunter Wilson – tough when he needs to be but with a soft centre.

Move over all you crime writers, there’s a new girl in town : Val Penny . She’s penned a crime thriller that is so well plotted with a myriad of believable characters that the novel moves along at a pace that keeps the reader hooked from beginning to end. Hunter’s Chase is a novel that should stand on the shelves next to the best-sellers.

I believe the book was well researched because, for me, the facts were spot on (the post mortem scene will stay with me for a long time!). The mix of humour and thriller kept me enthralled (as well as “seeing” Edinburgh in winter) and I can’t wait to see what lovely DI Hunter is going to have to solve next. An excellent debut novel.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hunters-Chase-Edinburgh-Crime-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B0775TSPFT/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1519645089&sr=1-1&keywords=Val+Penny
Hunter's Chase book cover

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballet dancer or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her first crime novel, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ set in Edinburgh, Scotland was published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018. The sequel, ‘Hunter’s Revenge’ will be published on 09.09.2018.author pic 2

Guest author Susan Roebuck is a British author who lives in Portugal. She was born and bred in the soft south of the UK but was exported to Portugal after meeting her husband in London. She now lives overlooking the mighty Tagus River which is a wonderful source of inspiration.
She loves being in her adopted country and believes that Portugal has a huge heart, which the world should know more about. Portugal also doesn’t appear in many English-language novels and Susan hopes that, now, that will change.Forest Dancer
She may be contacted at
Her most recent novel, “Forest Dancer” is set in Portugal and published by Crooked Cat Books. It is available from Amazon:

The Cocktail Bar by Isabella May reviewed by guest author Sue Roebuck

the cocktail BarThe Cocktail Bar comes fast on the heels of Oh! What a Pavlova. Although it’s not a sequel, it does continue the author’s unique – and soon-to-be very popular (you mark my words) writing voice which is like a breath of fresh air. I think Ms May enjoys writing so much that her enthusiasm shines off the page.

The prose gallops along without a boring moment as River (the main character) leaves the high life to set up his cocktail bar in Glastonbury. There’s a whole host of quirky characters from bitchy Georgina to hippy Mum populating the book that romps to an ending that will have readers crying out for more (just like the perfect cocktail).

The author, Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing.isabella may

As a Co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One).

She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’!

Oh! What a Pavlova is her debut novel… and her second novel, The Cocktail Bar, was published by Crooked Cat Books in early 2018.

 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cocktail-Bar-Isabella-May-ebook/dp/B077MCWWB1/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8
Forest DancerGuest author Susan Roebuck is a British author who lives in Portugal. She was born and bred in the soft south of the UK but was exported to Portugal after meeting her husband in London. She now lives overlooking the mighty Tagus River which is a wonderful source of inspiration.
She loves being in her adopted country and believes that Portugal has a huge heart, which the world should know more about. Portugal also doesn’t appear in many English-language novels and Susan hopes that, now, that will change.
Her most recent novel, “Forest Dancer” is set in Portugal and published by Crooked Cat Books. It is available from Amazon:

The Girl in the Gallery by Alice Castle

girl in the galleryWhen I was on holiday last year I read Death in Dulwich by Alice Castle. I thoroughly enjoyed it and reviewed the book here: https://bookreviewstoday.info/2017/10… . So I was delighted, when I was browsing Amazon recently, that the site suggested I might be interested in the author’s new book The Girl in the Gallery. Amazon, for once, was right!

The Girl in the Gallery re-unites the reader with protagonist Beth Haldane. I love this character. She is intelligent, inquisitive and credible and her almost romance with DI York is delightful.

In this novel, Beth visits her local art gallery and finds a comatose teenage girl positioned on top of a sarcophagus. Beth takes charge of the situation when the museum assistant proves to be completely hapless. This is how she falls into investigating the case with York. The author juggles Beth’s involvment in the case with her own job at Wyatt’s College and the demands of being a single mother, bringing up her little boy. I do not want to give any spoilers, suffice to say the plot is clever, and maintains the well-paced and interesting mystery throughout. I read a great many murder mysteries, but I did not guess ‘who dunnit’ in this case.

If anything, I enjoyed The Girl in the Gallery even more that Death in Dulwich and will definitely look out for more books by this author. The Girl in the Gallery would be an excellent book club read. Alice Castle writes fine mysteries and I highly recommend this book.
alice castle
Alice Castle lives in South London with her two children, two stepchildren, two cats and her husband. She was a feature writer on the Daily Express for many years and has written for most other national newspapers. She has a degree in Modern History from St Andrews University, is the British Royalty expert for Flemish TV, and lived in Brussels for eight years. Her first novel, Hot Chocolate, sold out in two weeks and her second, Death in Dulwich, was published in September 2017 as the first in the London Murder Mystery Series.

Val Penny

 

The Truthseeker by Heidi Catherine reviewed by guest author Susan Roebuck

The TruthseekerThis series just gets better and better. The Truthseeker sees the return of the Soulweavers, the Mother (although you might not recognise her), the Author and the new character the Truthseeker. Heidi Catherine’s imagination holds no bounds in this book : the reader visits a planet far away where humans are evolving into fish; then the journey continues back to Earth to the slums of Mumbai, to London and back again. The author’s sense of place is second to none – and I felt a connection to each setting I found myself in – and she is skilled at character-building.

There’s a sense of profoundness in this novel which, I believe, has grown in each of her novels – just as my belief in the power of souls has grown. Thank you Heidi Catherine for an excellent read, one I never wanted to put down, one I didn’t want to end and one I felt so happy to pick up to continue reading.

Heidi Catherine is an Australian author whose debut novel, Heidi CatherineThe Soulweaver, won Romance Writers of Australia’s Emerald Pro award and was published by Crooked Cat Books. The Truthseeker is the second book in the series. The author is unable to decide if she prefers living in Melbourne or the Mornington Peninsula, so Heidi shares her time between both places. She is similarly pulled in opposing directions by her two sons and two dogs, remaining thankful she only has one husband.
The Truthseeker is avialable from Amazon:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Truthseeker-Heidi-Catherine/dp/1984291661/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1519644898&sr=1-5&keywords=Heidi+Catherine
Forest Dancer
Guest author Susan Roebuck is a British author who lives in Portugal. She was born and bred in the soft south of the UK but was exported to Portugal after meeting her husband in London. She now lives overlooking the mighty Tagus River which is a wonderful source of inspiration.
She loves being in her adopted country and believes that Portugal has a huge heart, which the world should know more about. Portugal also doesn’t appear in many English-language novels and Susan hopes that, now, that will change.
Her most recent novel, “Forest Dancer” is set in Portugal and published by Crooked Cat Books. It is available from Amazon:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_3_14?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=forest+dancer+susan+roebuck&sprefix=forest+dancer+%2Cdigital-text%2C271&crid=YA261MN31XUV&rh=n%3A266239%2Ck%3Aforest+dancer+susan+roebuck
 

After the Fall by Charity Norman

This book was the first story I had ever read that was set in New Zealand. It is the book that was book of the month in my book club.

Charity NormanAfter the Fall is a psychological thriller by Charity Norman. The author was born in Uganda and brought up in successive draughty vicarages in Yorkshire and Birmingham. After several years’ travel she became a barrister, specialising in crime and family law in the northeast of England. Also a mediator, she is passionate about the power of communication to slice through the knots. In 2002, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to New Zealand. After the Fall was published in 2013.

The story starts in the quiet of a New Zealand winter’s night, a rescue helicopter is sent to airlift a five-year-old boy, Finn, with severe internal injuries. He’s fallen from the upstairs veranda of an isolated farmhouse.

Initially, Finn’s fall looks like a horrible accident; but his mother, Martha McNamara,After the Fall book knows how it really happened. After the Fall tackles some tough family issues. This book  kept me on the edge of getting to the heart of the truth long enough to be satisfying when I got there.

I could not put it down and read this book quickly, eager to get to the ending and understand. After the Fall is a brave, well written, book that I recommend for your to read list. The characters are so vibrant and the writing so taut and the plot is complex and keeps your interest throughout the book.

If you like a complex family drama in your reading don’t look past this nove. After the Fall goes really deep into the heart of what really matters. Great setting and great story.

Val Penny

The Story of a Nobody by Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov authorMy local library has a bookcase of classic novels. When the librarian mentioned that it was nice to have them, but nobody ever borrowed them, I saw it as a challenge! I was familiar with the title The Story of a Nobody by Anton Chekhov so I borrowed it, as much to prove her wrong, as anything else!
The author, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was born on January 29, 1860, in the small seaport of Taganrog, southern Russia. He was the son of a grocer. Chekhov’s grandfather was a serf, who had bought his own freedom and that of his three sons in 1841. He also taught himself to read and write. Yevgenia Morozova, Chekhov’s mother, was the daughter of a cloth merchant.
In 1879 Chekhov entered the Moscow University Medical School. While at the university, he began to publish hundreds of comic short stories to support himself and his mother, sisters and brothers. Chekhov died on 15 July, 1904.
This novella, The Story of a Nobody was originally published in 1893, and the version IAnton Chekhov book read was a fine translation by Hugh Aplin and deserves to be much better known. The ‘Nobody’ is keen “to make history”. He is a member of a secret terrorist group that infiltrates the household the household of Orlov, son of a government minister whom they judge to be a “serious enemy” to the radical cause. They do this with a view to spying on the father and, ultimately, assassinating him.
However the young man entrusted with the task—an ailing, terminally ill, world-weary “nobody”is seized with the purposelessness of life and a sense of his own impending death. He gradually becomes disillusioned with his mission, and decides to embark on a new path which will lead him to tragedy. By harming the family, the “Nobody” hopes to become somebody. But then all the tugs and tangles of humanity intrude. Sympathy with the clan distracts him and the “hatred” behind his mission wanes in the face of the old man’s frailty: “It is hard to strike a match against crumbling stone”.
The story combines psychological detail with a strong sense of place and time and bears all the hallmarks of Chekhov’s genius. The Story of a Nobody perfectly captures the political and social tensions of its day, in Russia in the late nineteenth century. The Story of a Nobody is a beautifully constructed piece of writing that fully deserves its place in the library’s selections of classics.
Val Penny