Review of Hunter’s Blood by Lance Greefield Mitchell

This is the second of Val Penny’s Hunter series that I have read. Although they can all be read as stand-alone stories, they are tied together by the continuity thread of the characters who reveal more of themselves as you read on. Once again, I struggled to keep up with the relationships between the characters as there are so many of them, but it does all tie together and make sense in the end.

Hunter’s Blood is about the circumstances surrounding the suspicious deaths of three old ladies, one of whom is Hunter’s aunt, the disappearance of a young girl from a travellers’ camp and a fatal car crash that remains undiscovered for far too long.

I was drawn into the story to the extent that it was impossible to escape. I needed to know the outcomes. There are some nasty characters, the worst of whom escapes to Ireland. I hope that he gets his come-uppance in a subsequent volume.

This is a great series and I would say that Hunter has already established himself as one of Edinburgh’s greatest fictional detectives.

Hunter’s Secret Reviewed by Sharon Rimmelzwaan

Hunter’s Secret by Val Penny is the fifth book in the Edinburgh Crime mysteries featuring DI Hunter, although this is the first time I have read this author. This book does work as a standalone but by the time you have read it you will wish you had started at the beginning, I did.

Val Penny

This is a story in which the past and present collide for Hunter. Two of his team, Bear Zewedu and Tim Myerscough discover a corpse when they are out running, but then, when they return to the scene, it’s disappeared. Hunter realises this is almost a replica of something he experienced when he was younger and we time slips back to that time with him. It was a mystery then and now, they are dealing with something that can only be described as traumatic for him.

I really enjoyed getting to know the team and all the banter they had. They all seem really comfy around each other and their chemistry really made me wish I had started at the beginning of the series. I liked the mistrust that Val had created it added excitement to the mounting investigation, and I did need to work out who were the people to ‘watch’ and that piqued my interest as well. As the title suggests it is Hunter’s secret that connects the past to the present and we do find out some of Hunter’s past. I do like to find out about the back story of any new main character, it makes them relatable and likeable (depending upon the character of course).

I thoroughly enjoyed the vividness of Val’s writing, It brought the book to life for me. A fast-paced skilfully crafted murder mystery that had me hooked from the start, now I’m off to add the others to my never decreasing the pile!

Author Tim Taylor

It is a pleasure to introduce you to author and poet, Tim E Taylor today. Tim writes novels, poetry and short stories. His two novels were published by Crooked Cat Books.

His debut novel, Zeus of Ithome is ground breaking historical fiction. It tells a tale set in Greece, 373 BC where for three centuries, the Messenian people have been brutally subjugated by their Spartan neighbours and forced to work the land as helot slaves. Diocles, a seventeen-year-old helot, has known no other life but servitude.  After an encounter with Spartan assassins, he is forced to flee, leaving behind his family and his sweetheart, Elpis. On Mount Ithome, the ancient sanctuary of the Messenians, he meets Aristomenes, an old rebel who still remembers the proud history of their people and clings to a prophecy that they will one day win back their freedom.  A forlorn hope, perhaps. But elsewhere in Greece there are others too who believe it is time that the power of Sparta was broken.

Tim’s second novel, Revolution Day, starts when Carlos Almanzor has been the ruler of his country for 37 years. Now in his seventies, he is feeling his age and seeing enemies around every corner. And with good reason: his Vice-President, Manuel Jimenez, though outwardly loyal, is burning with frustration at his subordinate position. Meanwhile, Carlos’ estranged and imprisoned wife Juanita recalls the revolution that brought him to power and how, once a liberal idealist, he changed over time into an autocrat and embraced repression as the means of sustaining his position. In time, as Manuel makes his own bid for power, Juanita will find herself an unwitting participant in his plans.

Tim’s most recent book is a collection of poetry, Sea Without a Shore. In this debut collection, Tim Taylor explores the transformative effect of the wild Yorkshire landscape he now calls home. He expertly immerses the reader in the landscapes and history of the South Pennines before challenging our senses with brave new perceptions from house plants to outer space. Set in two distinct parts, this is a debut pamphlet that takes the reader from the dark peaks of Bleaklow and Black Hill (Ungrimming) to the far reaches of our solar system (Pioneer) and back to the living room (The House Plant). Poetry at its very best, highly-innovative and effortless; a feast of words to transform your day.

The Author

Originally from North Staffordshire, since 2001 Tim has lived in Meltham with his wife Rosa. He divides his time between creative writing, academic research and part-time teaching and other work for Leeds and Huddersfield Universities.

Born in 1960 in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Tim grew up near Leek. He went to Newcastle-under-Lyme High School, then studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford. After graduating he moved to London and spent a couple of years playing guitar in a rock band. When it became clear that he was never going to be a rock star, he sadly knuckled down and joined the Civil Service, where he did a wide range of jobs before leaving in 2011 to spend more time writing. While still in the Civil Service Tim studied part time for a PhD in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, achieving it in 2007. He is now a visiting research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Ethics Applied Centre at the University of Leeds.

Tim writes poetry, novels and short fiction – you can find samples of all three on this blog. His most recent publication is a poetry collection, Sea Without a Shore, published by Maytree Press in May 2019 – his poems have also appeared in various anthologies and magazines such as Acumen, Orbis and Pennine Platform.  Tim has also has published two novels with Crooked Cat: Zeus of Ithome (a finalist in the 2014 Chaucer Awards for historical fiction) follows the struggle of the ancient Messenian people to free themselves from Sparta. His second, Revolution Day, is about an ageing dictator who is losing his grip as his vice-President plots against him. He has also published a non-fiction book, Knowing What is Good For You (Palgrave Macmillan 2012), on the philosophy of well-being.  Tim also plays electric and acoustic guitar and a little piano, and like to walk up hills.

Val Penny

The Cold Cold Sea by Linda Huber

I have always enjoyed books by Linda Huber and I had had The Cold, Cold Sea in my TBR pile for far too long. I suppose lockdown had to be good for something, I made a dent into the bundle!

The Blurb

Maggie stared across the beach. The tide was coming in. But where was her daughter?

When three-year-old Olivia disappears from the beach, a happy family holiday comes to an abrupt end. Maggie is plunged into the darkest nightmare imaginable – what happened to her little girl?

Further along the coast, another mother is having problems too. Jennifer’s daughter Hailey is starting school, and it should be such a happy time, but the child has become moody and silent. Family life has never seemed so awkward, and Jennifer struggles to maintain control.

The tide ebbs and flows, and summer dies, but there is no comfort for Maggie, alone now at the cottage, or for Jennifer, still swamped by doubts.

My Review

The Cold, Cold Sea tells two desperately sad stories, each is about the loss of a child and how it affects the families involved and how they react to their devastating grief and lives going forward. The school teachers become involved too and are crucial to the resolution for the families

About half way through this book, I thought the story was too obvious and nearly set it aside. However, I had read this author’s work before and guessed she would have a twist to come.

Indeed she did! What a twist it was!. I do not want to say anything that would spoil the story for other readers, suffice to say that every member of both families tries to make the best of the hand they are dealt. This is a clever book with a human touch. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it. I think this book would make an excellent book group read.

The Author

Linda Huber is an ex-physiotherapist who grew up in Glasgow but has lived over half her life in Switzerland, where she writes psychological suspense novels as Linda Huber as well as feel-good novellas under her pen name Melinda Huber.

The inspiration for her books comes from everyday life – a family member’s struggle with dementia, the discovery that a child in her extended family drowned in the 1940s, and more.

Val Penny

Hunter’s Secret on Jess Bookish Life Blog

I am thrilled to share a fine review of Hunter’s Secret that appears on the brilliant blog, Jess Bookish Life Read the review there or below. It is part of the blog tour arranged by Rachel’s Random Resources.

This is the fifth book in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries Series and if you are reading this review, and don’t know the series or the author, I highly recommend you go check out her books, because I honestly believe this is a series you should read from the beginning.

Since this is part of the series, I like to keep it free of facts that could be spoilers for any of the books. You know I have read the previous ones and I loved this one as much as the others.

The amazing thing about this entire series is that each time we follow DI Hunter in one of the journeys of figuring out the truth and reveal the culprit of the crime, we are also unveiling Hunter’s background and secrets.

This had a good balance for me, with past and present cases and Hunter leading us through the path to question, learn and be excited, until we finally arrive to the ending. Quite a fantastic mystery adventure, just the kind that makes me wanting. That may be why I always get very curious when a new book comes out.

From Hunter keeping me intrigued with his past and the relationship between him and everyone else… To the plot itself, and the motivations behind the crime… I was amazed by everything. It appears that Val Penny doesn’t get tired of surprising the readers, which makes me so happy.

Overall, I love the book. The uncovering of the truth. Learning more about Hunter and is past. See the action, the interactions, the brilliant descriptions and dialogues. Can’t wait to see what Val Penny comes up with next.

The End of the Road by Anna Legat

I am overjoyed to be included in the blog tour arranged by Love Books Tours @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours for The End of the Road by Anna Legat @LegatWriter and published by @ darkstrokedark an imprint of Crooked Cat Books @crookedcatbooks. This new novel is an exciting work from a talented author.

The Blurb

The fight for survival has begun

All-out war spins out of control, and it doesn’t discriminate. Governments fall, continents are obliterated, deadly viruses consume everything in their path, and what’s left of humanity is on the run. Caught in this global refugee crisis are a few unlikely survivors. 

Tony, a philandering London lawyer, escapes the doomed city and his own murky past as he evacuates to the continent. 

A hapless flock of Belgian nuns prays for a miracle as they watch their city turn to rubble. 

Bella, a naïve teenager, thinks she is going on holiday when her father drags her across the globe to New Zealand. 

Reggie, a loyal employee of a mining corporation, guards a hoard of diamonds in the African plains, fending off desperate looters. 

Alyosha, a nuclear scientist, has been looking for the God-particle in Siberia, but now the world is at an end, he wishes to return home to Chernobyl. 

A pair of orphaned children are cowering in the Tatra Mountains, fearing the sky will fall in on them. 

Will they find an escape route before it is too late? Or are they doomed to fail?

The Review

This was the first book by this author that I had read, so I cam to it with excitement and an open mind.

The author introduces a diverse series of interesting characters and the reader is plunged into the story immediately with a lively conversation that creates a vivid picture of drunken disharmony. This is a precursor to the catastrophic international disharmony that follows.

The author skilfully introduces other characters suffering the results of the global conflict in different parts of the world. The powerful story grips the reader with a fearful tale envisaging the end of the world.

This novel is a real page turner as the reader strives to discover whether the characters can survive or whether they are overcome by the disastrous events. It was surprising how ultimately uplifting I found this novel to be. I think it would provide excellent discussion for a book group. I certainly highly recommend it.

The Author

Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh murder mystery series. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She read law at the University of South Africa and Warsaw University, then gained teaching qualifications in New Zealand. She has lived in far-flung places all over the world where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. Anna writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.

Under Your Skin by Rose McClelland

I recently made a journey to London by train. I was meant to have my husband’s company, but he was unwell and not able to travel, so I took Rose McClelland’s new novel, Under Your Skin with me. I had read Rose’s earlier novel The Year of no Rules a while back and really enjoyed it. The book is reviewed on this site. https://bookreviewstoday.info/2017/11/15/the-year-of-no-rules-by-rose-mcclelland/

Although this book is a different genre I knew that I liked the author’s writing style. I was not disappointed.

Under Your Skin tells the story of the seemingly perfect couple, Kyle and Hannah. Of course there is no such thing as a perfect couple and when Hannah goes missing, the police suspect foul play by Kyle.

He is adamant he knows nothing of her whereabouts and even leads a campaign to find her. Their whole town comes out in force to try to find her. But one person knows where she is and that one person is keeping a secret. Hannah has left no traces and Kyle says he has no clues.

Local Belfast resident Julia Matthews joins the campaign to find Hannah and becomes friendly with Kyle because she sympathises with his plight. As Julia becomes more involved in the case, and Kyle, than she bargained for, she begins to uncover more secrets than the Police.

This mystery gets deeper and darker as the novel progresses and I was gripped by it. I did not see the twist coming and found the end of the novel satisfying and thrilling.

I think this book would make an excellent read for a book group. I enjoyed it very much and definitely recommend it.

The Author

“Under your skin” is Rose’s fourth novel. Her previous three novels were romantic fiction published by Crooked Cat. She has made the genre jump from “chick lit” to psychological thriller and is enjoying delving into a darker corner of her mind!

Rose has also written two short plays which were performed in the Black Box theatre in Belfast.

She discusses book reviews on her You Tube channel and writes theatre reviews for her blog.

She loves nothing more than curling up with her cats and a good book. She has two rescue cats – Toots, who is ginger with an inquisitive face and Soots, who is black and hops along on his 3 legs looking ever so cute.

An Interview with Maggie Cobbett

I am thrilled to welcome author and fellow Swanwicker, Maggie Cobbett who hales from the North of England. Thank you for coming to talk to me today, Maggie.

I was born and raised in Leeds but I ventured across the Pennines to study at the University of Manchester and spent the next few decades teaching modern languages in the UK and abroad. Back in Yorkshire for the foreseeable future, I live on the edge of the Dales with family and cat.

I’ve always felt the need to put my thoughts down on paper and was an avid letter writer in pre-email days. Pen friends came and went, but I still correspond with an American lady who first got in touch when we were both twelve years old. Almost from the time I first learned to write, I kept a diary and I still do. It’s an invaluable source of inspiration.

Writing is such a portable occupation. I can write just about anywhere, with one of my favourite places being a bench by the Moon Pond on the Fountains Abbey/Studley Royal estate.

I wish I could say that I had a regular writing routine. The truth, though, is that I can work for long hours at a stretch or do nothing for several days. Unless I have a deadline to spur me on, I can procrastinate for England.

Much of my writing has an historical background and I spend hundreds of hours on that, which is why my longest novel to date took me twelve years to write. ‘Shadows of the Past’ with its semi-autobiographical core involved spending a lot of time in France, revisiting the places that inspired it, conducting interviews and researching in local museums.

In the case of ‘Wheels on Fire’, I had the whole story in my head before I began to set it down. The same was true of ‘Workhouse Orphan’, whose main character was sent on a quest to reunite his family. ‘Shadows of the Past’, however, was only originally intended to be a memoir of a strange summer in the 1960s and, like Topsy, it ‘just growed’. The result was 130+ words set over three distinct time periods. The section dealing with WW2 and the German occupation of France took by far the longest to research and became something of an obsession.

For me, the relative importance of characters, plot and setting fluctuates between stories. My WIP is a short story set in a bowling alley and I’m currently focussing on the background and atmosphere. Characters and plot will follow.

I’m attempting to put together all my recollections of working as a television/film extra.

Moving from classroom to studio was quite a leap, but I’ve never regretted it. As well as giving me far more time to write, sharing experiences with the many people I’ve met over the last few years has provided more ideas than I could ever exploit.

I’ve never been able to settle down to one genre and often wish that I could. My books are all completely different and I also write short stories, articles, reviews, ‘fillers’ and even the odd poem.

Many of my short stories and articles have been commercially published, but I decided to go down the self- publishing route for my books. For the latter I must give credit to my son Richard, a computer whizz who does all the ‘techie stuff’ for me.

After the success of ‘Bill’s Last Night’, a short drama produced at Swanwick’s ‘Page to Stage’ event last year, I’m hoping to turn it into a radio play. Also ticking away at the back of my mind is a sequel to ‘Workhouse Orphan’, which concluded when the main character was still in his early teens.

Joanne Harris is a favourite author of mine, probably because we share a love of France and all things French. I’m also a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series, which I’ve been rereading during lock down. One guilty pleasure is Jilly Cooper’s set of ‘bonkbusters’ set in the fictional county of Rutshire.  As you can tell, I’m not very high brow these days, having spent years studying and teaching literary fiction in several languages.

Carry on writing for as long as you enjoy it. There is no age limit for creativity.

The above, really, and to mix with other writers as much as you can. Join one or more writers’ groups and go to gatherings like the Writers’ Summer School (Swanwick). If money is tight, look into the grants available and/or enter competitions for a free place. (As well as winning my way to Swanwick on two occasions, I once scored a weekend pass to the Harrogate Crime Writers’ Festival.)  

………………………………………………..

My website is www.maggiecobbett.co.uk and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Everything is under my own name, as I’ve yet to feel the need for pseudonyms.

Rough and Deadly by Paula Williams

I have just finished the second in Paula Williams series of novels set in Much Winchmoor, Rough and Deadly. Having said that, the book works perfectly well as a stand-alone.

I have read and enjoyed the first book in the series, Murder Served Cold and it was fun to be re-united with Kat Latcham, her on/off boyfriend Will, friend Jules and her parents. Kat’s mother is still running her salon from the front room and her cooking has not improved. However, that is not the only catering issue in the village. Everyone knows Abe Compton’s Headbender cider is as rough as a cider can get. But when the lady of the manor, Margot Duckett-Trimble is murdered, she is found face down in a vat of his cider, a drink she volubly disliked.

Kat’s aunt, comes to stay because she has separated from her husband, Kat’s uncle Richard. She may have known Margot from a previous meeting. The little Somerset village of Much Winchmoor is fast gaining a reputation as the murder capital of the West Country and Kat’s Aunt Tracy decides to stay.

Soon, it is found there is a murderer running loose in the community, but when Abe is arrested, Kat who has known him all her life, is sure that, although he had motive, he didn’t kill Margot. She is determined to investigate but the murderer strikes again. As Kat gets nearer to finding out who the real killer is, the closer to danger she becomes.

This second Much Winchmoor mystery is once again full of humour and sprinkled with romance. The cast of colourful characters, known and new include a manic little dog called Prescott whose bite is definitely worse than his bark.

I really enjoy Paula Williams novels and Rough and Deadly is no exception. I highly recommend it to all who enjoy a good mystery tied up in a well written book.

The Author

Paula Williams has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil but she’s been making up stories since she was old enough to speak, although her early attempts were more of the “It wasn’t me, Mum, honest. It was him” genre.

Her first ‘serious’ effort was a pageant she wrote at the age of nine to celebrate St George’s Day. Not only was she the writer, but producer, set designer and casting director, which was how she came to have the title role. She also bullied and blackmailed her three younger brothers into taking the supporting roles, something they still claim to be traumatised by.

Many years later, this pageant became the inspiration for her first publishable short story, Angels on Oil Drums, which she sold to the UK magazine Woman’s Weekly. Since then she’s had over four hundred short stories and serials published in the UK and overseas. She also has a number of novels in large print which are available in libraries.

With the changing face of the magazine market, Paula now focuses her attention on her first love, crime fiction and is busy planning and writing a whole series of Much Winchmoor mysteries. She is a proud member of both the Crime Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She also writes a monthly column, Ideas Store, for the UK writers’ magazine, Writers’ Forum and for the last five years has written the pantomime for her local village Theatre Group. She still hasn’t run out of things to write about and is waiting for someone to invent the thirty hour day.

She has two grown up sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law and three gorgeous grandchildren. She lives in Somerset with her husband and a handsome rescue Dalmatian called Duke who is completely bonkers and appears frequently on her blog. (The dog, not the husband!)

Val Penny

Interview with Andrew Marsh

I am pleased to be joined on the blog today by author and fellow Swanwicker, Andrew Marsh. Thank you for joining me today, Andrew. I appreciate your time.

 1 Please tell my readers a little about yourself?

I am 56 and have retired from a career as a geologist and now write novels in a couple of genres. Five years ago, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and that has brought great clarity to my life and has been the springboard for starting my own business as a speaker and coach focused on raising awareness of Asperger’s and employment.

2 What inspired you to become a writer/author?

When I was a geologist people would tell amazingly funny stories about that had happened on site and I started to keep a notebook and would write these down. I started to be more observant of people and how they behave in different circumstances and eventually I had the idea for a dramatic opening scene for a book and started to plan and eventually write my first novel.

3 What is the best thing about being a writer/author?

The freedom to express myself through my characters and story and let them lead me where it is fun to go. I get such a thrill from writing first drafts.

4 What is your writing routine like?

I treat my writing like a job, so I get up and put in a full shift working on the book. I aim to reach 1500 words a day and frequently achieve mush more than that. I take my writing seriously and get in the zone where it flows freely.

5 How much time is spent on research?

It depends on the genre. For my young adult fantasy, only a little at the start about giants and giant lore, but most of the rest being fantasy is just my imagination and world building.

For contemporary young adult that I am also writing, there is quite a lot of research about specific things and that has taken some time to gather together, but it will make the story authentic to those that know those subjects.

6 How much of the book is planned out before you start writing it?

I normally start by writing a notes and ideas file where I free write the basic idea for the story, main character, significant events and so on, perhaps even some dialogue for a key passage. When this file is about 6 to 8 pages long I feel ready to get into the story and start writing and them it flows freely.

7 What do you think is most important when writing a book? Characters, plot, setting, etc

This is a tough question. But ultimately I think a good book is driven by the characters and how they behave and what they do.

8 What is your latest book about?

Jack Janson and the Storm Caller is a young adult fantasy that adults are also engaging with. It tells of Jack, who is nearly 14, unloved at home and bullied at school and gets the chance to go and stay with his gran for the summer holiday in Cornwall, which he jumps at.

There, she treats him like and adult and they bond over the simple things in life like her herb garden, growing her own food and baking. One day she takes him to a cave at the bottom of the garden and introduces him to a giant, Winfred Storm Caller.

He immediately gets on with Winfred and soon discovers giant magic and from there, his adventures begin.

The book explores the relationships between Jack, his gran and Winfred and also the relationship Jack has with his neighbour, Sarah-Jane, whom he adores and they begin to become an item.

9 What inspired it?

I wanted to write something different and having read a lot of fantasy, I thought that would be an interesting place to go given that the young adult genre is on the rise. So, taking inspiration from fantasy, I came up with the Jack Janson story.

10 Why did you pick the genre or genres that you write in?

I started writing adventure and crime thrillers, but once I got the idea for Jack Janson I became engrossed in the idea and developed it further.

11 How did you go about getting a publishing deal? Or how did you become self-published?

I tried for several years to be a traditional publishing deal or an agent without any success, so I decided to self publish again this time with assistance from Indie Authors World in Glasgow who did all of the preparation for me.

12 Any new books or plans for the future?

Jack Janson and the Storm Caller is the beginning of a series that will be eight books and will take Jack and Sarah-Jane to the land of the giants many times to save them from calamity as their own relationship grows.

Book 2, Jack Janson and the Pirates of Nathir has been fully prepared and will be published soon while book 3, Jack Janson and the Treasure of V’Laddek is with beta readers.

13 What authors have been an influence on your writing?

My earlier works were influenced by James Herbert and Stephen King and my fantasy work reflects people like David Eddings, Tad Williams and of course JRR Tolkien. I love to get into a story with different layers and epic journeys and those three certainly do that.

14 What writing advice would you have given yourself when you started?

I think one of my early pitfalls was not to get good beta readers before publishing. I now realise how significant that part of the process is and would have told myself to let others read it for their honest feedback.

15 What writing advice would you give to an aspiring writer or a new author to the block?

Be observant of people and watch what they do and how they interact, it will help describe scenes and dialogue but the biggest advice would be to keep on writing and seek out good courses and tutors to help you refine your work. If you can, go to a residential school.

16 What has been your favourite book so far this year?

I’m reading a lot of non fiction at the moment and my favourite would be As I See It by Temple Grandin who is an amazing lady with autism helping others on the spectrum be successful.

17 What is your all-time favourite book and why?

That would have to be Stephen King’s It. The way he weaves the two time lines together seamlessly is a masterpiece of storytelling.

18 What genre do you read most often?

In fiction I am reading more young adult at the moment and in non fiction both history such as the Great Moghuls and Genghis Khan and also a variety of personal development books.

19 What are you currently reading?

I have just finished the 100 Year Life, an exploration of how people will be living to 100 and what challenges they will face along the way. A fascinating, sobering and thought provoking book.

20 Anything else you would like to add?

I think any aspiring writer should consider who they should go to for inspiration and help. The Writer’s Summer School, Swanwick has been an amazing place to make new friends and learn from excellent tutors and my writing has benefited from going there immensely.