Bethel Manor Reborn by Beatrice Fishback

Sometimes a sequel can be a disappointment. However, I had read Bethel Manor by Beatrice Fishback and enjoyed it, so when I had an opportunity to read bethel Manor Reborn, I took it and was not disappointed. I would recommend reading these books in the correct order as the story flows on seamlessly.

Clare Shaw Blackwell is struck with blindness after the birth of her son, George. Unsurprisingly, she struggles to cope with her loss of independence and withdraws into her world of darkness, she shuts out the person who wants to help her most, her husband, James.

James seeks solace at the home of a friend, an innocent liaison blossoms into something unexpected, and threatens to tear his family apart.  Many obstacles are thrown in the path as James and Clare strive to find their route toward happiness.

The chronicle of the Shaw and Blackwell families continues in Bethel Manor Reborn as they struggle to heal broken relationships, offer forgiveness to an enemy who tries to destroy them, and restore their deteriorating home to its former glory. Read this wonderful story and find out if they can overcome their trials and find the peace they long for.

Val Penny

Evil Games by Angela Marsons

Angela Marsons was a new author to me, although I had heard a lot about her novels and they were highly commended. I’ll be honest, I chose Evil Games because it was on sale. It transpires this is the second book in her DI Kim Stone series, but it really doesn’t matter because this works perfectly well as a standalone novel.

In Evil Games a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. However, more vengeful killings come to light and it becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

The investigations are quickly gathering momentum, and the novel becomes increasingly tense and dark. There were parts that even I, as a crime novel officiando found too dark. The character of DI Kim Stone also reminded me a bit of MJ Arlidge’s Detective Helen Grace, so it all felt a bit derivative. Any way, Stone finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own wicked experiment. She is up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Stone must dig deep to stop the killing spree. 

The reader learns more about Stone’s childhood; she starts opening up, just slightly, to her friend Bryant – and she acquires a dog. There are some tight well-written climactic scenes. I would probably read another book in this series, but I wouldn’t shuffle my TBR pile to get it to the top.


Angela is the author of the Kim Stone Crime series. She discovered a love of writing at Primary School when a short piece on the rocks and the sea gained her the only merit point she ever got.
Angela wrote the stories that burned inside and then stored them safely in a desk drawer.
After much urging from her partner she began to enter short story competitions in Writer’s News resulting in a win and three short listed entries. The rest, is history!

Val Penny

In America by Nina Romano

In America is the third novel in Nina Romano’s award winning series, the Wayfarer Trilogy. I enjoyed the first two novels, The Secret Language of Women and Lemon Blossoms and was looking forward to reading the final book. In America did not disappoint.

In America tells the conclusion of the Scimenti family saga. It takes place in Brooklyn, N.Y. during the Great Depression. I enjoyed revisiting Giacomo and his experiences of life in America.

The strong willed Marcella, who has always wanted to be a singer in Hollywood. As she comes of age, true love comes into play. Marcella must learn to balance new friendships, promising suitors, and life as a modern working girl with the expectations of her tradition-bound family, all against the backdrop of a looming economic depression and a changing world. Along the way, she unearths a devastating family secret that shakes her to her core and tests the boundaries of her love, loyalty, and faith.

As in all Romano’s novels, the prose is wonderfully written and so very descriptive. The description of wonderful Italian dishes make your mouth water as you read. I highly recommend that you read this wonderful trilogy.

The Author

Nina Romano earned a B.S. from Ithaca College an M. A. from Adelphi University and a B. A. and M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. She’s a world traveler and lover of history. She lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, five poetry collections, and two poetry chapbooks. Her most recent collection, Westward: Guided by Starfalls and Moonbows, was published from LLC Red Dashboard. She co-authored, Writing in a Changing World from Bridle Path Press. Romano has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize.

Val Penny

Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings by Katharine Johnson

Although this was the first novel written by Katharine Johnson, it is the one I have read most recently. I always enjoy the subtle pschological thrillers created by Johnson. I would put the quality of her writing along side Erin Kelly or Sophie Hannah, although Johnson is less well known.

In Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings, the action takes place in England around World War II. It starts in 1931 when our hero, Jack is introduced. Nothing much has gone right for Jack since he graduated from Cambridge with a law degree last year. His career has failed to take off, his father is unimpressed with him and his fiancée has ditched him for someone with better prospects. On top of all that, he receives an invitation to their wedding. He dreads going to the wedding alone, surrounded by his high-achieving university friends, so when he meets a beautiful girl, Giselle, who offers to accompany him he jumps at the chance.

Jack falls passionately in love with Giselle and believes she loves him too, but the path of true love for some is a lot more stony than for others. Jack’s pathway is strewn with boulders yet, he’s not daunted by the prospect. As the story unfolds, the reader wonders who is Giselle and also where is Giselle. There are some very dark themes in this pre and post World War II novel, highlighting the way war can change both a person’s personality afterwards and how that can affect the people around them. 

As with all Katharine Johnson books, I was swept up in the story and believed in the characters. I think this would make an excellent book gorup read as there is plenty of room for lively discussion.


Katharine Johnson is an English author who grew up in Bristol and now divides her time between Berkshire and Lucca, Italy. After doing a History degree she trained to be a journalist and has worked for a variety of magazines, writing about everything including the kitchen sink. She’s loved writing since childhood and wrote her first book aged nine. When not writing she can usually be found walking her spaniel, doing the school run, playing netball or being a room guide in a stately home.

Val Penny

If You Love Me I’m Yours by Lizzie Chantree

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that my favourite genre is crime fiction, however from time to time I stray into other territories. Often this is because of my book group or because I am given a book as a gift. On other occassions, I simply find an author whose work I enjoy. Lizzie Chantree is one of those writers.

Her novel, If You Love Me, I’m Yours, is about as far from my usual crime thrillers as it is possible to get – but it is well worth a read. The eclectice characters jump off of the page and into your heart.

Maud and Dot come together to support each other as they find their way in the world that has been created for them by their parents. Maud, is a blooming artist, but she is constricted by the disappointment in her parents who want her to settle down, dress conservatively, find a nice man and have a good job, basically forget about art. Her bungalow is plain to the outside world apart from her bedroom, where she has painted a gorgeous mural and her studio at the end of the garden.  While Dot wants to be an artist and tries to live up to her parents and brother’s talent. They are all outstanding artists, but Dot, in her mind, can’t paint. So instead, she is a persona of what she thinks her family want her to be, the crazy one, with outrageous outfits.

They find each other, well Dot finds Maud, due to someone dropping random art around the village with little tags on and it causes quite the stir. Instantly, the extrovert Dot and the introvert Maud become fast friends, both seeing the real person behind the walls they have built. There is also a love story but I enjoyed that the romance took the back seat in this story and it was the friendships that took centre stage. 

This is a delightfully crafted story that I read in one sitting because I could not put it down. Read it, enjoy it, you won’t forget it!


A #1 bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now runs networking hours on social media, where creative businesses, writers, photographers and designers can offer advice and support to each other. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

Val Penny

Strange Affair by Peter Robinson

I have read many of Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks books, but not necessarily in the correct order, but that never seems to matter. Strange Affair is the fifteenth book in the seriesbut I only read it recently. This is an interesting novel because in it a murder and a personal story about Banks intertwine.

A young woman is driving along the road in Yorkshire but she is run off the road and later found shot in the head still in her car. She has DCI Banks’s name written on a piece of paper.

At the same time Roy, Banks’s brother, leaves a message for him to call back ASAP stating it’s a matter of life or death. The Inspector tried to reach Roy by phone with no answer. He decides to drive South to London to his brother’s house. The front door is unlocked, but Roy is not there.

Roy Banks is discovered to be the 2nd murder victim which takes DCI Banks back to his parents home. To prevent his parents from learning of their son’s death from a stranger DCI Alan Banks breaks the devastating news of Roy’s death. This is when so much of Banks’s childhood was revealed to me as the reader. I learned far more abour Banks’s background than in any of the other novels I have read so far. That fact of his early childhood brought to mind his lack of emotion when dealing with everyday adult life.

DCI Alan Banks takes it upon himself to deal with his brothers murder by looking into his brother’s past and present associates. That’s when he finds there was a connection between Roy and the first murder victim.
I enjoyed Strange Affair even more than other books due to the revelation of details about his childhood and it made me think a great deal about how that may related to him as an adult and a cop. 

If you enjoy crime thrillers, I highly recommend Strange Affair by Peter Robinson.

Val Penny

Die Every Day by Gordon Bickerstaff

I am thrilled that Gordon Bickerstaff has agreed to visit my blog during the blog tour by Love Book Group Tour for his new novel Die Every Day part of his Lambeth Group series.

The Blurb

A woman is murdered in a Glasgow city hotel room. Police have everything they need to charge a suspect. Caught at the scene, he confessed, and he’s filled with guilt and remorse. With undeniable evidence; the police expect him to plead guilty.
Rumours suggest the man will plead not guilty and tell his story. If he faces trial, the truth will cause international outrage and the government will fall.
Faceless mandarins in corridors of power are determined he will remain silent.
Lambeth Group agent, Zoe Tampsin, is ordered to make him plead guilty. What she discovers will crush her soul and place her next in line to be murdered.
Who is pulling the strings? What secrets are they hiding?  

The Extract

Hoping for better news, Toni asked, ‘Did the private dinner and birthday cake go well?’

‘Oh God! You won’t believe what she did.’

Toni hesitated to ask. ‘Did she throw it in your face?’

‘The hotel left a lovely trolley in the room with dinner and the cake. When we’d finished our meal, she cut the cake down the middle and took one half to the bathroom, broke it into bits and flushed it down the toilet.’

Toni cupped her jaw to stop laughing out loud. ‘Jesus. What did you say?’

Zoe’s voice sounded brittle. ‘Frankly, I was stunned. I’m not sure what I said. She pointed to the cake and said, we can only have this half because the other half of the time you weren’t there.’

Toni punched the air. Good for Amy, she thought. ‘Oh! She has grown up.’

Zoe lowered her voice. ‘She hadn’t finished.’


In an annoyed voice, Zoe explained, ‘After dinner, we sat on the balcony. Under the stars for her benefit. I poured a glass of wine for her. After a long sip, she went to her suitcase and fetched her special journal.’


‘She has a record of all the times I missed a birthday, didn’t attend a school event, promised to meet her somewhere but didn’t arrive until hours after it finished. Every damning episode, logged.’ Emotion sapped Zoe’s voice. ‘I couldn’t stop her pointing out each time I failed her as a mother.’

Toni returned with a supportive tone. ‘You have to admit. She is her mother’s daughter.’

Zoe’s exasperation deepened. ‘Worse. Every event is rated one to five stars. One star, I annoyed her. Five stars, she hated me.’

Just as well they were not in the same room. Toni clamped her eyes shut and folded her lips to hold back a giggle.

Silence for a minute.

Toni composed herself. ‘You’re not a bad mother. You happen to have an important job that requires total commitment.’

‘That doesn’t cut it with Amy,’ she replied sharply.

The Author

I was born and raised in Glasgow but spent my student years in Edinburgh. On summer vacations, I learned plumbing, garden maintenance, and I cut the grass in the Meadows. If I ran the lawnmower over your toes – sorry.

I learned some biochemistry and taught it for a while before I retired to write fiction. I like DIY and I do some aspects of DIY moderately well and other aspects not so well. I live with my wife in Scotland where corrupt academics, mystery, murder and intrigue exists mostly in my mind.

I write the Lambeth Group series of standalone crime/conspiracy thrillers:
Deadly Secrets, Everything To Lose, The Black Fox, Toxic Minds, Tabula Rasa and Tears of Fire.

They feature special investigators Zoe and Gavin. More will come in due course.

Run by Jackie McLean

I am thrilled to take part in the Love Book Group blog tour of the new book Run, written by my friend and fellow crime writer, Jackie McLean. You can follow the whole tour.

DI Donna Davenport and her team are under pressure.

With the hunt on for the country’s most notorious cop killer and an ongoing complex international investigation, the murder of a local thug during a football match is the last thing the police need.

But as more incidents overload the police, and fear brings vigilante mobs onto the streets, suspicion grows that the mayhem is being orchestrated.

One man can make it stop. With the city heading towards chaos and disaster, Donna prepares to abandon caution and the rules, even if it means she is ostracised by her own team.  

Toxic killer loose on the streets of Dundee

A Weekend Special report by Lindsey Forsyth

In this weekend special, we can exclusively reveal a catalogue of incompetence at the heart of Police Scotland in Dundee, and we’ll be asking why crazed killer Jonas Evanton has been allowed to roam free among the city’s unsuspecting citizens for the last two years.

We can provide the inside story about how the former Detective Inspector – arrested two years ago as the mastermind behind a smuggling operation that resulted in eleven horrific deaths across Tayside – was sent to Belmarsh Prison as part of a deal.  He became the only person ever to escape from the high security facility, and has evaded police ever since.  Coincidence? We let you decide.

A source close to Police Scotland told us how Evanton, despite being the subject of the police force’s biggest manhunt in its entire history, managed to sit right under their noses in Bell Street for months.  The brutal murderer remains at large, and we will be demanding to know why no warning has been issued to the public.

In further revelations, we have learned that lead detective DI Donna Davenport, who recently spent several months in a psychiatric hospital, has been given her own armed protection.  We understand blunders made by Davenport were responsible for Evanton’s escape following his most recent sighting.  We will be asking questions about Davenport’s role in the disastrous investigation, and we’ll be looking at concerns about her state of mind and fitness to be on duty.

Local Councillor Hugh Finnie has expressed alarm at the revelations, and has confirmed that a number of vigilante groups have begun to patrol parts of Dundee.  “People need to protect themselves,” he told us, “if they can’t trust the police to do it.”

The Author

Jackie McLean lives in Glasgow and has a varied background, including being a government economist, a political lobbyist, and running a pet shop in Glasgow’s Southside (ask her anything about pets).  She currently works with East Ayrshire Council, where until recently her job involved frequent visits to Kilmarnock Prison.

  • Toxic is her first crime novel, introducing DI Donna Davenport, and was shortlisted in the Yeovil Literary Prize before publication by ThunderPoint Publishing Ltd. 
  • The sequel, Shadows, was published in October 2017, and
  • Her third book in the DI Davenport series (Run) will be published in October 2019.

Jackie has appeared at crime writing festivals Newcastle Noir, Crime at the Castle and Literally @ Newbattle, and regularly appears at Noir at the Bar events (including Edinburgh, Newcastle, Dundee and Dunfermline).  She also forms part of the Dangerous Dames and Murder & Mayhem along with a number of other crime writers, and has appeared at events in libraries and bookstores across Scotland as part of these.  She is one of Bloody Scotland’s 2019 Crime in the Spotlight authors.

Until recently, Jackie ran the writing group at Waterstones Braehead, and has also run creative writing sessions with the men in Kilmarnock Prison. 





Mother and Child by Annie Murray

I am delighted the Annie Murray has agreed to visit my blog as part of her Love Book Tours blog tour. It is for the publication of her novel, Mother and Child, published by Pan Macmillan. You can follow the whole tour.

The author was born in Berkshire and read English at St John’s College, Oxford. Her first ‘Birmingham’ novel, Birmingham Rose, hit The Times bestseller list when it was published in 1995. She has subsequently written many other successful novels, including A Hopscotch SummerSoldier Girl and the bestselling novels Chocolate Girls and War Babies. Annie has four children and lives near Reading.

The Excerpt from Mother and Child

‘Breakfast,’ I murmur to myself. ‘Eat.’ I am trying to think of my body as someone else’s, an objective thing that I have to look after, like a pet tortoise. My phone goes off as the smell of toast is drifting through the kitchen. Ange, the screen says. God, when did I last speak to Ange?

‘Jo? How’s it going?’ She sounds really, really nervous. Dear old Ange, so perky and kind, so distant now, someone from a completely different life – my different life. I suppose it’s my fault, but that’s how it feels. ‘Oh, fine.’ I wander into the living room. It’s all one room knocked through, light streaming in at each end. Feeling the pile of the carpet under my toes, I realize I haven’t put any shoes on or even socks. ‘Did you know we’ve moved?’

Of course she doesn’t know. ‘Oh?’ Startled. ‘Have you? Where to?’ ‘Hollywood.’= ‘Hollywood? What – you mean, America? Film stars?’ ‘You know, near Wythall, down near Ian’s mom. Seemed a good idea. We only got here yesterday.’ Does my voice sound normal? I can’t tell any more. I’m trying to sound light and cheerful – heaven knows what I actually sound like. Probably shrill and a bit crazy. ‘Just getting settled in. I’m going to see Dorrie in a bit.’ ‘Good for you.’ Ange sounds awkward and not really like herself either. I’ve become one of those people who others are not sure how to talk to or what they can say.

Say the right thing. ‘You’ll have to come over.’ It would be great to seeAnge, wouldn’t it? To have a friend, a life. I can’t rememberwhen I last saw her – has she deserted me or was itme who did the damage?‘Yeah,’ she says. I hear a small sound, her dragging ona cigarette. ‘Yeah – hey, I’ll be over to see you soon,chicky.’I leave it a beat. ‘Who says chicky?’Ange lets out a relieved snort of laughter. ‘Soon, yeah?’Nothing definite then. She’s cautious, hurt, I think. Atiny window must be opening in me if I even realize now,how I’ve shut everyone out.

Keep the Midnight Out by Alex Gray

Alex Gray is one of my ‘go to’ authors. I enjoy her DI William Lorimer series of crime novels very much over the years, so when I went to choose a book from my TBR pile recently, I chose Keep the Midnight Out.

The story starts when Lorimer and his wife are on holiday. Lorimer finds the body of a red-haired young man washed up on the shore of the beautiful Isle of Mull. This rather interferes with the Lorimers’ tranquil holiday away from the gritty streets of Glasgow.

The body has been bound with twine in a ghoulishly unnatural position and strongly reminds Lorimer of a murder that was never solved twenty years old in Glasgow. Then he was a newly fledged detective constable and the case has haunted him ever since. Now he is a Detective Superintendent and determined to ensure the connections are made.

As local cop DI Stevie Crozier takes charge of the island murder investigation and Lorimer does try to avoid stepping on her toes. But as the similarities between the young man’s death and his cold case grow more obvious, Lorimer realises that there could be a serial killer on the loose after all these years.

As the action switches between the Mull murder and the Glasgow cold case twenty years earlier, Lorimer tries desperately to catch the cold-hearted killer.

I enjoyed this book, but it was not one of my favourites. I found the idea of identical styles of sadism occurring twenty years apart and never during the intervening period too much of a stretch for me. I thought the likelihood was that the perpetrator would have been drawn to act with more frequency. That said, there were plenty of credible red herrings. If you enjoy a good ‘whodunit’, Keep the Midnight Out is a good read.

The Author

Alex Gray was born and educated in Glasgow. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing and is the co-founder of the Bloody Scotland international crime writing festival. Married with a son and daughter, she lives in Scotland and is currently writing the next book in the Detective Lorimer series.