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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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The Gravedigger’s Bread by Frédéric Dard trsl by Melanie Florence @PushkinPress

Source: Netgalley

Publication: 28 June 2018 from Pushkin Vertigo


ISBN-13: 978-1782272014

Blaise should never have hung around in that charmless little provincial town. The job offer that attracted him the first place had failed to materialize. He should have got on the first train back to Paris, but Fate decided otherwise.

A chance encounter with a beautiful blonde in the town post-office and Blaise is hooked – he realizes he’ll do anything to stay by her side, and soon finds himself working for her husband, a funeral director. But the tension in this strange love triangle begins to mount, and eventually results in a highly unorthodox burial…

I love this Pushkin Press venture in which they republish newly translated works of some of the greatest, most iconic crime fiction from around the world together with Pushkin Vertigo Originals which are exciting contemporary crime writing by some of today’s most accomplished authors.

Frédéric Dard is the master of French Noir and a great respecter of Simenon. The Gravedigger’s Bread is not a long novel, but it is beautifully written and wonderfully atmospheric.

Blaise is a bit of a wastrel. He’s been pushed into applying for a salesman’s job in a rubber factory in a small town outside Paris, but it is of no surprise to himself, or we suspect, anyone else that when he turns up to the factory he is too late and the job has been filled.

Blaise has, what in Scotland we would term ‘a guid conceit of himself’.  Too worldly to be drawn into provincial living, he has an eye for a striking lady, so much so that when he sees a  beautiful blonde, he will not stop himself from finding out where she lives.

What follows is a beautifully drawn slice of 1950’s French noir. Set in and around a funeral parlour Dard presents us with a ménage a trois in which there can only be one outcome.

Arrogant, cocky and just the tiniest bit insufferable, Blaise uses his masculinity to persuade the blonde that he is the right man for her, despite the fact that he has accepted a job with her husband.  There are interesting facets to all three of the characters and though they are all flawed, it is possible for the reader to find empathy with them all at different times.

.Tightly plotted, well executed and full of darkness in both the setting and the mood The Gravedigger’s Bread is a tense and oppressive domestic noir.

Verdict: A tale of lust, obsession and lies, this is a gem of a book which plays with human psychology and draws us into its claustrophobic heart,

Amazon                                            Waterstones

About Frédéric Dard

frederic dard

Frédéric Dard (1921-2000) was one of the best known and loved French crime writers of the twentieth century. Enormously prolific, he wrote hundreds of thrillers, suspense stories, plays and screenplays throughout his long and illustrious career.

As one of France’s most popular post-war thriller writers, it may come as no surprise that Dard’s own life was itself full of interesting facts and events.

As one of the most prolific French writers of the post-war era, Dard authored 284 thrillers over the course of his career and sold over 200 million copies of his work in France alone. The actual number of titles that can be attributed to him is somewhat under dispute as he adopted at least seventeen noms de plume, including the mysterious l’Ange Noir and the seemingly breakfast cereal inspired Cornel Milk.

One of Dard’s greatest influences was the renowned crime writer Georges Simenon. Over the course of Dard’s career, a mutual respect grew between the two writers and Simenon agreed to let Dard adapt one of his books for the stage.

Dard peppered his work with the numerous words and phrases that he loved to invent. Over the course of his career, he dreamt up so many new words and phrases that a San-Antonio Dictionary – named after his most famous protagonist – was created to catalogue them all.

Dard drew heavily on his own life’s experiences for inspiration to fuel his enormous output of three to five novels a year. In 1983, his daughter was kidnapped and held prisoner for 55 hours before being ransomed back to him for two million francs; he admitted that the experience traumatised him forever, but he used it as material for a later novel nonetheless. Toward the end of his life, he is reported to have remarked that his only regret was that he would not be able to write about his own death.

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan @DervlaMcTiernan @LittleBrown


Source: Netgalley

Publication: 6 September 2018 from Sphere

Pp: 400

ISBN-13: 978-0751569315


Cormac Reilly is about to re-open the case it took him twenty years to forget

On his first week on the job, Garda Cormac Reilly responds to a call at a decrepit country house to find two silent, neglected children waiting for him – fifteen-year-old Maude and five-year-old Jack. Their mother lies dead upstairs.

Twenty years later, Cormac has left his high-flying career as a detective in Dublin and returned to Galway. As he struggles to navigate the politics of a new police station, Maude and Jack return to haunt him.

What ties a recent suicide to the woman’s death so long ago? And who among his new colleagues can Cormac really trust?

Happy paperback publishing day to Dervla McTiernan.

Rúin is old Irish for secret, and this is a book full of secrets. Our protagonist is Cormac Reilly, a D.I. in the Gardaí.  Cormac has been stationed in Dublin and doing very well but has just moved to Galway in order to be with his partner, Emma, who has just taken on an important new job.

He isn’t settling in too well, though. The rest of the station staff aren’t exactly wowed by the new broom from Dublin and the only person he knows at work is being ignored by everyone. To top it off, all his work so far is on cold cases – hardly the glory bit of the job.

When he was a Dublin rookie, Cormac was sent out to a call at the  Dower House in the small village of Kilmore. What he saw there has haunted him ever since. Scenes of neglect and abuse, drugs and alcohol use and 2 young children; Maude who is 15 and Jack is 5 years old. Their mother, Hilaria Blake lies dead upstairs of a heroin overdose.

Cormac took the children to the hospital but Maude later disappeared, never to be found and Jack went into the foster care system. It’s the case that has stayed with him, never to be forgotten.

Jack grows up to be an engineer and when he is found drowned, the police accept it as suicide but his sister, Maud, recently returned from Australia, thinks differently. Maud talks Jack’s partner Aisling into helping her investigate his death.

Out of the blue, Cormac is asked to look into the death of Hilaria Blake as a cold case and soon finds himself under pressure to look at Maud as a suspect.

Something is clearly rotten, but it’s hard for Cormac to know who he can trust. As the past and present begin to throw up their secrets, Cormac will find he is is the object of gossip and speculation and that this may be the case that will bring his career to a grinding halt.

This is a really cracking start to a new series. I was immersed in McTiernan’s well developed storytelling. Her plot is complex and multi-layered and her characterisation excellent.

The story takes a while to give up its background, but once it does, the pace and tension really get the heart racing. Cormac is a great character and I can’t wait for more from him.


Verdict: Great characters, a heart–stopping and sometimes heart-breaking read.

Amazon                                                 Waterstones


About Dervla McTiernan


Dervla McTiernan’s debut novel The Rúin sold in a six-way auction in Australia, and has since sold to the United States, the UK and Ireland, and Germany.

Dervla was born in County Cork, Ireland to a family of seven.

She studied corporate law at the National University of Ireland, Galway and the Law Society of Ireland, and practised as a lawyer for twelve years. Following the global financial crisis she moved with her family to Western Australia, where she now lives with her husband and two children.

In 2015 she submitted a story for the Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto competition and was shortlisted. This gave her the confidence to complete the novel that would become The Rúin, which will be published in 2018 in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Follow Dervla on Twitter @DervlaMcTiernan

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