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Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival 21-23 September 2018

‘They have really tried to find new ways of doing things.They decided to institute a football match which was Scottish writers versus writers from the rest of the world, they hired rooms in a nearby pub so authors could do cabaret or turns and that’s extra-curricular. I think if we’re going to attract more people to literary festivals…you have to have more enticing things happening around the festival as a sort of fringe.’

Jake Kerridge talking about Bloody Scotland

on Open Book, BBC Radio 4, July 2018

Bloody Scotland has established a great name for thinking outside the box and the annual football match, which takes place at 2pm this Saturday 22 September, between Scottish and English crime writers has become a highlight of the Crime Writing Festival.

It’s a great chance for the public to get up close and personal to some really big names. Mark Billingham again captains the England squad. Chris Brookmyre, who has taken over the role as captain of the Scottish squad from Ian Rankin, said:

“I am deeply honoured to be captaining my country, and am planning to learn from my predecessor Ian Rankin by being on the pitch for the kick-off and then limiting my subsequent participation as much as possible.”

The Scotland team captained by Chris Brookmyre will include crime writers Craig Robertson, Doug Johnstone, Liam McIlvanney, David Ross, Alan Jones, Andrew Reid and Charles McGarry.

The England team captained by Mark Billingham will include crime writers Luca Veste, Howard Linskey, Will Carver, Robert Scragg, Vincent Holland Keane and Lloyd Otis.

Commentary will be provided by the inimitable Douglas Skelton.

It is a fabulous FREE event which takes place on the hallowed turf of Cowane’s Hospital bowling green and is enhanced by a pop-up bar serving Bloody Scotland cocktails courtesy of Stirling Gin and, in the event of rain, made less soggy by Bloody Scotland umbrellas.

The Scotland team lifted The Bloody Cup in 2017, with a storming 6-3 victory, sending Mark Billingham’s men homeward to think again. The word is that they have thought and they’re coming back hell-bent on revenge.

The Corset by Laura Purcell @spookypurcell @BloomsburyRaven #TheCorset


Source: Netgalley

Publication: 20th September 2018 from Raven Books

Pp:  416

ISBN-13: 978-1408889619


Dorothea and Ruth.

Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless.

Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality, and the power of redemption.

Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?

I do love a good slice of  Victorian Gothic, and Laura Purcell’s The Corset is a prime example of the genre. Not for nothing is her Twitter handle @spookypurcell.  She beautifully conjures up a Dickensian setting in which the characters take on a sometimes very chilling life of their own.

The Corset is a particularly horrifying tale, wrapped up in the gentility of the rich and then dressed in the garments of respectability, whilst underneath all is rotten and despicable.

Our main protagonists are two women at different ends of the social spectrum. Dorothea Truelove is young and the daughter of a wealthy man. Ruth Butterham (I love these names) is 16, poor and has been exploited all her life. Both women lack freedom of choice in their lives. Dorothea is dependent upon her father for her living and Ruth is in Oakgate Prison for the murder of her erstwhile mistress.

Dorothea is slightly unconventional and is dedicated to good works, such as prison visiting. She also has a somewhat obsessive scientific interest in phrenology and she uses her prison visits to help test out some of her studies. It is while visiting Ruth that she hears first-hand the terrible treatment that Ruth has endured and the darkness that has almost engulfed her completely.

For Ruth is nursing a secret, one that could cost her life and Dorothea cannot help but be drawn to her dark and dreadful story.

I could not help being sucked into this intricately woven story. Beautifully written, full of quite terrifying images, immaculately plotted, this is a tale of immense cruelty and casual indifference to human life. Some of this story is so gruesome that the images that have been created in my head will take a long time to dissipate.

Purcell is an extraordinary storyteller whose writing sucks you into her world and doesn’t let go. The Corset is immersive, propulsive and utterly gripping. Tense, draining and downright freaking scary in places, it is a terrific read.

Verdict: Dark, twisted, authentic and surprising.

Amazon                                                         Waterstones

About Laura Purcell


Laura Purcell is a former bookseller and lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs.

Her first novel for Raven Books THE SILENT COMPANIONS won the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award 2018 and featured in both the Zoe Ball and Radio 2 Book Clubs. It is followed by THE CORSET in September 2018, and BONE CHINA and THE SHAPE OF DARKNESS in later years.

Laura’s historical fiction novels about the Hanoverian monarchs, QUEEN OF BEDLAM (2014) and MISTRESS OF THE COURT (2015), were published by Myrmidon and are available from all book retailers.

Follow Laura on Twitter @spookypurcell

Down To The Woods by M.J. Arlidge (D.I. Helen Grace #8) @mjarlidge @MichaelJBooks #DownToTheWoods

Source: Netgalley

Publication: 20 September 2018 from Michael Joseph

PP: 480

ISBN-13: ISBN-13: 978-0718183875


The last thing Tom Campbell remembers is camping in the New Forest with his girlfriend, Melissa. Now he is helpless, alone and consumed by fear, hunted through the woods by a sinister, masked figure…

When Tom’s body is found, displayed with grisly relish, Helen Grace takes the case. But before she can catch her breath, a second victim is taken – a serial killer is on the loose.

You better not go alone…

Something dark and deadly stalks the forest. Helen and her team must race against time to catch the perpetrator, before more blood is shed.

But the hunt will take Helen back into the eerie twilit woods – and this time she might not make it out alive.

As with other books in this fabulous series, it is perfectly OK to read this book as a stand-alone.  I am sure though that reading the whole series in order will give the reader a better background and understanding of the somewhat turbulent life that is experienced by D.I. Helen Grace, in charge of the Major Incident Team at Southampton Central Police Station.

Helen Grace is one of my favourite characters. M.J. Arlidge never spares her, regularly putting her life in danger and she never makes it through a case unscathed either physically or emotionally.

This time, something is rotten in the New Forest. First, it was the wild ponies, cruelly and mercilessly killed. Now both a man and a woman have been hunted down and murdered in seemingly unrelated killings while camping in different parts of the forest.  Shot with home -made crossbow bolts, the victims are strung from the trees in a manner reminiscent of racist Klan killings in the deep South of America.

DI Helen Grace is finally making some kind of peace with herself. Her mentor and old friend Superintendent Simmons is temporarily in charge of Southampton’s Police Force  and providing much needed stability with a watchful and non-meddlesome eye.

Helen has added a new member to her team with the introduction of D.S. Joseph Hudson.  It is early days yet, but there’s something about him that suggests he’s worth closer inspection.  Whether he is a benign character or otherwise, we will just have to wait and see.

Helen and her team need to know whether there is a connection between the two victims or if they are dealing with a rampaging psychopath.  Their investigations are not helped by the constant interference of Emily Garanita, the local paper’s chief investigative journalist who has made herself Helen’s bête noir and who is determined never to miss a story, whatever it takes.

As they try to piece together the clues, the hunt leads them up and down some thorny paths which twist and turn but fail to deliver. The creepiness of the stalker in the woods is really very suspenseful and not a little disturbing and the plot leads are very convincing.

Well plotted, fast paced and thrilling, this is an accomplished addition to the Helen Grace canon.

Verdict.  Another terrific heart-thumping page turner you can’t put down.

Amazon                                                        Waterstones


About M.J.Arlidge


M. J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last fifteen years, specializing in high-end drama production, including the prime-time crime serials Torn, The Little House and Silent Witness. Arlidge also pilots original crime series for both UK and US networks. In 2015 his audio exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a Number One bestseller.

His first thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014. It was followed by the bestselling Pop Goes the Weasel, The Doll’s House, Liar Liar, Little Boy Blue, Hide and Seek, and Love Me Not.

Follow Matthew Arlidge on Twitter @mjarlidge


The Tainted Vintage by Clare Blanchard (Dvorska and Dambersky #1) @CBCrime @fahrenheitpress @damppebbles #TheTaintedVintage

Source: Review copy

Publication: 10 July 2018 from Fahrenheit Press

Pp: 202

ISBN-13: 978-1912526277


In the small Czech town of Vinice the mayor has been found dead in his wine cellar.

Detectives Jana Dvorska and Ivan Dambersky are called to the scene and soon realise that despite appearances, Mayor Slansky’s death was most definitely not from natural causes.

Almost immediately, the close-knit community closes ranks to try and brush the unexplained death under the carpet with the minimum of fuss.

Dvorska & Dambersky are drawn deeper and deeper into secrets that many hoped would remain buried forever and they’re forced into pursuing an investigation where their own lives are put in danger.


Daniel Slansky, The Mayor of Vinice, a small town in the Czech Republic, has been found dead in his wine cellar after celebrations for his 57th birthday.

Jana Dvorska and Ivan Dambersky , detectives from the local police force are called to the scene. On the face of it, it seems the Mayor has had a heart attack. Certainly, everyone who matters in Vinice is content to believe that, despite evidence to the contrary uncovered by Jane Dvorska.

Even the Chief of Police wants this death swept under the carpet and as fast as possible. But Dvorska and Dambersky, an unlikely pairing, are determined to find the truth.

I enjoyed Clare Blanchard’s characters Jana Dvorska and Ivan Dambersky. Dvorska wedded to her ancient but reliable Skoda and Dambersky, lazy, with drug issues but with a wily way that helps Dvorska to work out how to get to the truth without letting the bosses know what they are up to.

Blanchard has created a beautifully atmospheric novel in which the fantastic Czech landscape, its history and culture take centre stage. She paints strong pictures of the town and surrounding countryside where Dvorska has a cabin. Her wine cellar is a dark, fetid place where you would not want to spend any time, especially if you knew what had gone before….

As the detectives delve into the victim, they uncover a dark and horrible history to the family and their rise to wealth and power.  Here are secrets so terrible that they affect anyone who hears them and Dvorska and Dambersky are no exception.

Going back to the war and uncovering a whole raft of unutterable crimes; this is a crime novel that is shocking and sometimes brutal.

I really enjoyed the first outing by this pair of detectives who have more to them than at first is evident. I liked the pace and the writing and would certainly read the next in the series. Where I would wish for something to be different is in the ending, which I thought was slightly too quickly tied up and a bit too pat.

Verdict:  an excellent read in a great setting with two fascinating protagonists who have a lot more to tell us.

Amazon UK      Amazon US   Kobo   Nook


About Clare Blanchard

Clare Blanchard

Originally from the North Yorkshire coast in England, Clare Blanchard spent half her lifetime in the Czech Republic, where her books are mainly set. Inspired by Nordic noir, where the settings are often like another character in the plot, she writes crime mysteries and other fiction, usually with a historical twist. She loves beautiful landscapes and architecture, cross-country skiing, the wine of South Moravia, and of course Czech beer. When she’s not being literary she knits funky socks.

Follow Clare Blanchard on Twitter: @CBCrime



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The After Wife by Cass Hunter @C_HunterAuthor @TrapezeBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #TheAfterWife


Source: Review copy

Publication: 6th September 2018 from Trapeze Books

Pp: 368

ISBN-13: 978-1409172642


When Rachel and Aidan fell in love, they thought it was forever.

She was a brilliant, high-flying scientist. He was her loving and supportive husband.

Now she’s gone, and Aidan must carry on and raise their daughter alone.

But Rachel has left behind her life’s work, a gift of love to see them through the dark days after her death.

A gift called iRachel.


The advances in technology today are such that Cass Hunter’s The After Wife is not so unbelievable as it might have been even 10 years ago. And that makes her book all the more poignant and touching.

The After Wife is a book about love, loss and what touches the heart. Beautifully written with humour and verve, I liked this so much more than I expected to. We have all experienced loss in our lives and how we come to terms with it is different in every case. Sometimes we get angry, or withdraw from the world; sometimes we fall to pieces, though others may seek to suppress the pain and ‘soldier on’.

Cass Green has drawn a convincing and heart-rending picture of a father and daughter experiencing a massive loss in their lives and how the wife and mother they have lost has prepared for her passing.  In a novel that is often very funny, this is a caring and perceptive look that unashamedly deals with the emotional struggle after the death of a loved one.

Aiden and Chloe are devastated at their loss and both in their different ways are very angry.  Cass lets it affect her friendships; Aiden is too stunned to notice what is going on around him.  But as Rachel’s preparations begin to impact upon them, it is like watching the first ray of sunshine touch their faces after an abnormally cold, long winter.

Though The After Wife deals with loss, it is principally a book that asks a fundamental question – what does it take to be human?  Who we are and what makes us unique and individual is a fascinating area for exploration and Cass Green has got the balance absolutely right in this delicate, clever and deeply moving book.

A novel that will make you laugh as well as cry, the characters are richly drawn and believable and these are all people you come to care about, especially iRachel.

Verdict: Surprising, entrancing and enjoyable, this is a novel to make you think about what humanity really means.


About Cass Hunter

CASS HUNTERCass Hunter was born in South Africa and moved to the UK in 2000. She lives in North London with her husband and two sons. She is an avid lifelong learner, and works at a London university. Cass Hunter is the pen name of Rosie Fiore, whose novels include After Isabella, What She Left, Babies in Waiting and Wonder Women.

You can follow Cass on Twitter @C_HunterAuthor  and visit her website for more information.

Read more about The After Wife here:


Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce @Harriet_Tyce @WildfireBks @JenniferLeech1 #BloodOrange

Source: Review copy

Publication: February 21st 2019 from Wildfire Books

Pp: 336

ISBN-13: 978-1472252753

Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…

Just one more night. Then I’ll end it.

Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle.

I did it. I killed him. I should be locked up.

Alison’s client doesn’t deny that she stabbed her husband – she wants to plead guilty. And yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself.

I’m watching you. I know what you’re doing.

But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….

Don’t get me wrong, I like pink, I really do. I have a couple of deep pink tops, and I’m fond of a nice dry pink champagne, not to mention a gin and rose lemonade or a rhubarb gin and ginger ale.  But all of these simply pale in comparison to a Blood Orange cocktail.

There’s a strength and a fire in a Blood Orange that brings out the best and the worst in me – and Harriet Tyce’s debut novel of that name reflects that strength and zest for life.

Alison Wood Q.C. is a bit all over the place. Married to therapist, Carl, with a young daughter Matilda, she’s kept busy in Chambers with criminal cases, both prosecuting and defending. She’s prone to letting off steam after work by having at least one drink too many, in common with a number of her peers, and she’s embroiled – though even she isn’t sure how deeply, in a steamy affair with a colleague, Patrick.

Not a woman who lives life in half measures by any means. Now she is about to defend her first murder case – a case given to her by an instructing solicitor who is also her on/off lover.

Harriet Tyce’s Alison is not a woman you are going to immediately warm to. She’s got flaws, way too many weaknesses and she knows it. Her infatuation with Patrick leads her into some pretty awful degradation, yet somehow she can’t stop herself. Meanwhile back at home, her long suffering husband and their daughter are waiting for mummy to come home.

Harriet Tyce’s writing is both utterly riveting and hugely propulsive. Once you start reading this book I guarantee you, you will not want to put it down. Tyce gives us a lot to think about as Alison tries to make her name defending her first ever murder case, and that, in itself, is a strong and meaty story.

Alongside that, though is an even more compelling narrative arc, that of the relationships between Harriet and her family, and Harriet and her lover. Layered, sharp, biting and beautifully crafted, this is writing to be proud of.

I loved the character of Alison with all her excesses.  Harriet Tyce accurately portrays the stresses of life as a criminal barrister and the need to find a way to relieve the tension that comes from dealing day in day out with some pretty terrible criminality, not to mention the strain of knowing you are arguing for someone’s liberty or incarceration. Being a criminal Q.C. is not a job for the faint-hearted.

I loved this book and just adored the fact that although I was able to work out some of where the plot strands were heading, others hit me in the face with such a surprise that I was shocked.  Murder mystery, legal thriller, personal drama, domestic noir; this book is all of these things and more. Dark, strong and intriguing this is a psychological thriller that does not miss and hit the wall.

Verdict: Strong, visceral, compelling and as sharp and bitter as the eponymous Blood Orange, this is an outstanding debut.

About Harriet Tyce

harriet tyce

Harriet Tyce is the author of Blood Orange, a psychological thriller due to be published by Wildfire in the UK and Grand Central Publishing in the US in February 2019.  It will also be published in a further eleven countries, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Spain.

She grew up in Edinburgh and studied English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University before practising as a criminal barrister for the next decade.  After having children she left the Bar and has recently completed with distinction an MA in Creative Writing – Crime Fiction at the University of East Anglia. Blood Orange is her first novel.

Keep Her Silent by Theresa Talbot (Oonagh o’Neill #2) @Theresa_Talbot @Aria_Fiction #KeepHerSilent


Source: Review copy

Publication: 21 August 2018 from Aria

Pp: 428

ISBN-13: 978-1788545334

Do that which is good and no evil shall touch you’ That was the note the so-called Raphael killer left on each of his victims. Everyone in Glasgow – investigative journalist Oonagh O’Neil included – remember the murder of three women in Glasgow which sent a wave of terror through the city. They also remember that he is still at large… When the police investigation into the Raphael killings reopens, Oonagh is given a tip off that leads her straight to the heart of a complex and deadly cover-up. When history starts to repeat itself, it seems the killer is closer than she thinks. Could Oonagh be the next target…?


Keep Her Silent is the follow up to The Lost Girls and we find Oonagh in 2002 and not yet wholly recovered from her ordeal as she investigated the brutal abuse in the Magdalen institutions run by the Catholic Church. Oonagh herself was savagely attacked and she has the scar to prove it – and  her good friend Father Tom has now left the church. Physically she is now fine, but her nerves are on edge, her judgement is a wee bit shoogly and she is finding it hard to get by even on a maximum dose of tranquilisers.

None of this, of course, is going to stop her from pursuing her career as a T.V. journalist.  Under pressure from her boss to share her programme development ideas and to give away some of her limelight, Oonagh claims to be quite a way down the road to developing a series on Women Who Kill. Now all she has to do is to make a start….

When she is given a tip off about a cold case and a previously uncovered scandal, she has no idea that it will lead her straight to Dorothy Malloy, a woman who has been in a mental institution for over 20 years for the savage murder of her husband and six year old son.  Dorothy’s mental state is fragile and no-one reading this book could fail to be appalled and horrified at some of the heart-breaking treatment she had to endure at the hands of her jailers.

Neither does Oonagh realise that this cold case will lead her deep into the details of a medical scandal of huge proportions which, to this day, has left relatives grieving and seeking answers.

D.I. Alec Davies has also been told by his boss to investigate a cold case. In 1975 the ‘Raphael‘ killer murdered three young women, leaving biblical messages with their bodies, and then disappeared. Now a woman is insisting her dead father is the killer.

Though they do not know it, Oonagh and Alec are working on parallel lines of enquiry and it soon becomes clear that they are embroiled in a cover up of a scandal of massive proportions. The details of the contaminated blood scandal are factual and Talbot demonstrates just how terrible the impact was on families.

This is a chilling story, made more so for its basis in fact and Theresa Talbot has created a spine tingling story that is full of corruption, malfeasance and murder. This story twists and turns but as a balance to the darkness, there is a frequent spark of humour in some of Oonagh’s banter that helps to leaven the dread.

With a layered and complex plot, Talbot pulls all the strands together for a surprising and horrifying denouement .

Verdict: an utterly fascinating plot line, rooted in fact, that will keep you interested all through the book.



About Theresa Talbot  

theresa talbot

Theresa Talbot is a BBC broadcaster and freelance producer. A former radio news editor, she also hosted The Beechgrove Potting Shed on BBC Radio Scotland, but for many she will be most familiar as the voice of the station’s Traffic & Travel. Late 2014 saw the publication of her first book, This Is What I Look Like, a humorous memoir covering everything from working with Andy Williams to rescuing chickens and discovering nuns hidden in gardens. She’s much in demand at book festivals, both as an author and as a chairperson. Penance, later published as The Lost Children was Theresa’s debut crime novel.

Follow Theresa on Twitter @Theresa_Talbot

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