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Lake Child by Isabel Ashdown @IsabelAshdown @TrapezeBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #LakeChild #blogtour

Source: Review Copy
Publication: 19th September 2019 from Trapeze
PP: 336
ISBN-13: 978-1409178927

You trust your family. They love you. Don’t they?

When 17-year-old Eva Olsen awakes after a horrific accident that has left her bedbound, her parents are right by her side. Devoted, they watch over her night and day in the attic room of their family home in the forests of Norway.

But the accident has left Eva without her most recent memories, and not everything is as it seems. As secrets from the night of the accident begin to surface, Eva realises – she has to escape her parents’ house and discover the truth. But what if someone doesn’t want her to find it?

I am delighted to feature Isabel Ashdown’s latest psychological thriller, Lake Child on my blog today. Isabel has written a fabulous feature for us, highlighting the complex family relationships that lie at the heart of our domestic relationships and what happens when trust is eroded or taken away.

Without further ado, over to Isabel:

Isabel Ashdown on Family Mysteries & Missing Babies

My latest psychological thriller, Lake Child, centres on the mystery of a young Norwegian woman, Eva, as she wakes after an accident and finds herself confined – locked away – in the attic room of her family’s forest home in the heart of Norway’s ancient fjords. Told from Eva’s perspective, it’s about family secrets and lies – it’s about the lengths we’ll go to, to protect the ones we love – and it’s about escape.

The second voice in Lake Child is very different, and its narrative is concerned with a missing child cold case – that of a British infant, snatched from a Dorset hospital just days after birth. I did a lot of reading around ‘abducted babies’ when I wrote Lake Child, and found myself equally fascinated and horrified by the idea of never knowing what happened to that child. As a parent or relative, you would forever wonder, where are they now? What are they doing? Who are they with? It’s certainly something you could never fully recover from; the ultimate and most devastating kind of unfinished business. Being someone profoundly interested in the dynamics of family – good and bad – it’s exactly the kind of emotion-led mystery that I love to write about.

I think it’s human nature to be intrigued by family relationships – it’s more complex than mere nosiness – and it’s no wonder to me that we’re particularly interested in exploring the darker corners of our family histories. What is it we’re looking for, when we dig deeper into our genealogy? Some drama? Some context? Something which renders us more connected to the wider world? When I was exploring my personal ancestry lately, I was more intrigued to find the tales of struggle – for example a great-grandmother growing up in the workhouse – than I was to discover good fortune or upward mobility! I think this universal interest in family is why so many writers like me continue to create stories around those relationships – often the most difficult and unpredictable relationships we’ll ever have.

Thank you so much, Isabel. Sounds fascinating, doesn’t it? You can purchase Lake Child here:

Hive Books

Isabel Ashdown was born in London and grew up on the Sussex coast. Her writing career first took off ten years ago when an extract of her debut novel GLASSHOPPER won a national writing competition and was twice named among the Best Books of the Year. Today she is the author of seven books, a Royal Literary Fund Lector, and a regular creative writing host at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. She lives and writes in West Sussex with her family and their two dogs.

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Plenty Under The Counter by Kathleen Hewitt @I_W_M @angelamarymar @AnneCater #wartimeclassics #blogtour

Source: Review copy:
Publication: 5 September 2019 from The Imperial War Museum
PP: 240
ISBN-13: 978-1912423095

London, 1942. Flight-Lieutenant David Heron, home on convalescent leave, awakes to the news that a murder victim has been discovered in the garden of his boarding house. With a week until his service resumes, David sets out to solve the murder. Drawn into a world of mystery and double-dealing, he soon realises that there is more to the inhabitants of the boarding house than meets the eye, and that wartime London is a place where opportunism and the black market are able to thrive. Can he solve the mystery before his return to the skies?

Inspired by Kathleen Hewitt s own experience of wartime London, this new edition of a 1943 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds light on the fascinating true events that so influenced its author.

Gosh, this is a cracker of a book. I’m a sucker for novels set in a different time that take us back and allow us to know how it was – in this case to be living in London in the then. Of course Kathleen Hewitt was writing of her time and that means her backdrop is authentic and her language just spot on. Cigarettes are ‘gaspers’ and the shop that features heavily on the book is a ‘Fancy Goods Emporium’.

Set in the midst of the Blitz, Plenty Under the Counter concerns Flt. David Heron of the RAF who is on convalescent leave, as a result of a slight aeriel dispute with a Jerry. He’s been recovering for four months and has a week left before he returns to his Spitfires, or kites, as he callsthem. Heron, a former actor, is a debonair young man who has been awarded the DFC. He is also a young man in a hurry. He has found the girl of his dreams in Tess Carmichael. She is a children’s nurse working at a day nursery looking after the children who have not been evacuated or whose homes have been bombed during the Blitz. Heron is determined to get Tess to marry him before the week is out.

 Heron is staying in a boarding house he frequents on a regular basis when on leave and this book is, in the main, centred on the characters there. And what characters they are! On his first night, a man is murdered in the back garden of his lodgings. No-one knows who he is, but Heron is driven to investigate. 

As he does so, he learns more about his landlady Mrs Meake, once a treader of the stage boards and her daughter Thelma, a girl who is no better than she ought to be. Meake is something of a mother figure to Heron and she also employs a domestic called Annie, Though times are hard, Mrs Meake has managed to install telephone extensions in all her bedrooms and Heron himself is not averse to jumping in taxis and taking his young lady to the Savoy or similar establishments. So this is not a working class novel; these people are more of a reflection of Kathleen Hewitt’s own background.

As Heron investigates he comes up against the working of the Black Market, the main way of racketeers enhancing their profits during wartime. In the course of his investigations he will come up against sinister looking foreigners, racketeers and people with secrets to hide a plenty. In his efforts he will be aided by the local police in the form of Inspector Gracewell.

Hewitt writes with brio. Her central characters are spirited and full of good humour and positivity, essential for any wartime novel. She has created a range of characters each of whom hides a secret – some more exotic than others – and the whole positively sings with mystery, not unlike an Agatha Christie novel.

Verdict:  A definite page turner, full of mystery, murder  and a few deft twists that brings home the atmosphere of blitz torn London and young people full of spirit.

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Photo of the author, Kathleen Hewitt

Kathleen Hewitt (1893 1980) was a British author who wrote more than twenty novels in her lifetime, mainly in the mystery and thriller genre. During the Second World War she lived in Marylebone, and belonged to the The Olde Ham Bone, a bohemian club in Soho, as well as frequenting the Ivy, The Cafe Royal and the Pen Club. Hewitt enjoyed friendships with many literary and artistic figures of the day including Olga Lehman and the poet Roy Campbell.

About IWC Classics

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, IWM will launch a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics. 

Originally published to considerable acclaim, these titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print.  Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict.  They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances.  Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced. 

List of those participating in the blog tour, with the url's for each blog

Linwood Barclay At Waterstones, Newton Mearns launching Elevator PitchChaired by Douglas Skelton @Linwood_Barclay @joe_thomas25 @DouglasSkelton1

Linwood Barclay is a class act. A gentleman and a natural humourist, it is always a pleasure to listen to him and so I was never going to miss an opportunity to hear him on my home ground.

The Primavera Bistro was packed as he told us that he had been on tour in the U.K. for a week, flying in from Toronto and starting in London he has been touring England and then last night was in Edinburgh with Ian Rankin where a visit to the Oxford Bar was high on his agenda.

He’ll leave London on Sunday and then head straight to Toronto before undertaking a US tour, where Elevator Pitch comes out on Tuesday next week, and then he’s back to Toronto to give his daughter away at her wedding. He was happy to come away on tour just now, because as he said, his opinion at home is not needed an anything!

This is his second time in Scotland. Last trip he went to Bloody Scotland, Glasgow, Stirling and Elgin. He also managed to fit in a trip to Barlinnie, which didn’t, he says, look anything like a Waterstones.

He talked about Elevator Pitch, explaining to the audience the double edged meaning of the title which encompasses nicely the ‘Elevator Pitch’ term used when pitching an idea usually for a movie, and his
Idea of elevators pitching down in Manhattan.

How did the idea come to him, Douglas Skelton asked?
Barclay was listening to Toronto news and heard an item about there not being sufficient lift inspectors in Toronto to cover the growing number of high rise buildings. The idea sparked right then for a guy who goes round killing people by sabotaging elevators.

Subsequently he learned that many people have incidents and phobias about elevators which just fed into the whole concept.

Asked if he had phobias, he says that he usually tries to write novels that get people where they live. His kind of phobias are the ones where he lies awake at night staring at the ceiling wondering why your daughter isn’t home.

The title pretty much came straight away. He did have one other title which he decided was personably not appropriate – Going Down

The narrative, he says just propelled itself. His brother in law arranged for him to meet a guy who looks after all the elevators in a skyscraper. That was when he realised that this guy could control all the elevators in a huge skyscraper with a device that looks like a large TV remote.
He asked if that complex device was hard to come buy only to be told that it can be bought On eBay for 500 dollars. You’d have to know a few things to hack into the system, he says, but it could be done.

He told us about elevator surfing where teenagers get on top of a car and ride it. Linwood was also able to offer the tip that if you are in a plunging elevator, jumping as it plummets to the ground isn’t going to work. The only thing to do is to distribute your weight by lying on the floor. Useful, unless you’re in an elevator with 15 other people.

Linwood Barclay with Douglas Skelton

He set Elevator Pitch in New York because it’s a really vertical city. Skelton asked him whether, as it is a fast read, was it a fast write? He responded that he Started the book in in November 2017 and had a first draft in February the following year. He usually takes three months for a first draft then the rewrites depend on how happy he is with his first draft. He told us that both A Tap on the Window and The Accident had a lengthy rewriting period

When Barclay gets the ‘What If’ of his books he then needs to know what he calls the foundation. What happened, who did it, who are these people? He knows where he wants to end up but doesn’t know ‘the big mushy middle’.

Linwood plans for a week to ten days then starts writing. He doesn’t see all the opportunities until he starts to get into the writing. The story, he says, develops in front of him.

Particular challenges? Easier book to do. A lot going on, a few red herrings. Every time you sit down you want it to be the best. Want to be able to give readers what they come to expect.

Douglas Skelton asked him about one of the characters in his book, Richard Henley the Mayor. Barclay says he is a little like Trump,
but nowhere near as repulsive as the real thing. He may be called Dick, but he isn’t stupid, unlike Trump.

What were the particular challenges of writing Elevator Pitch? This, he said was one of the easier books to write. There is a lot going on, and a few red herrings. Every time you sit down, he says, you want it to be the best. You want to be able to give readers what they have come to expect from you and still surprise them.

He talked a little bit about Stephen King, and the friendship they have developed which has led to their referencing things in each other’s books. He and Ian Rankin have also interviewed each other on a few occasions. It was good to see him in Edinburgh, he says and he’s really hoping his career takes off. You can tell he really enjoys a nice bit of very funny banter and his humour is gentle and rewarding; the audience lapped it up.

Very funny banter. As an aside he told us that what he really wants to see is Pennywise the clown in the sewers of Downton Abbey – now that would be his kind of movie.

Skelton came armed with some off the wall questions for Barclay, based on some of his tweets. How did he get butter pastry in his hair? (Don’t ask) He also had a question from Caro Ramsay (she may have been asking for a friend) who wanted to know the downside of a being a multi million best seller. Well, he said, carrying all that money can be heavy.

Seriously though, he told us, it is a really privileged position making a living doing what you have always wanted to do. Linwood Barclay has written all his life, ever since he was a young boy. Even when you are doing well, he told us, there’s a pressure and anxiety – a fear about the next book and whether it will be good. But he says, it is like standing on the edge of a very cold pool, you are afraid it’s going to be freezing, but once you have jumped in, it’s always warmer than you feared it would be.

I asked him about the terrorist group in his novel, the Flyovers. He told me that the Americans have a term ‘Flyover country.’ This refers to people, the more affluent travellers who fly from coast to coast passing over middle America.Passing over middle America, many of those who voted Trump because they feel neglected and forgotten. The US is so polarised, with the rise of new nazi groups and white supremacists that such a terrorist group is not hard to imagine.

He loves to write humour. That’s how he started out – writing humour, a memoir, political satire, and a book on fatherhood. Then the first four thrillers were humorous. But humour books don’t sell well, so he moved on to thriller writing. He wrote a humour column for 14 years.and he says, When you write satire there is always someone who thinks that it’s true. Now when he thinks of things that spark outrage or humour, he puts them on Twitter.

An audience member asked how he avoids repetition from book to book as every one is different. Sometimes, he says, he worries that he might be repeating himself But Elevator Pitch is a different book to his others in that his previous books his heroes have been ordinary people. This one has a journalist and a couple of police detectives as protagonists. This is also his first book set in a major city as opposed to a small town.

Barclay’s Promise Falls Trilogy and the fourth book, Parting Shot, have been optioned by Entertainment One and are in development. He’s writing some of the scripts. He has no plans to revisit Promise Falls, but if a pilot gets made and then the series follows and people like it then maybe he will re-think, but as he says, that is lot of ifs.

Barclay has a contract for a book a year. When he finishes a book the first thing he does is to clean his desk until it is pristine. He’ll walk away for a couple of months and go on tour, speak at festivals and maybe, undertake a screenplay adaptation. The worst feeling, he admitted is for waiting for his editor’s response to the new book.

He was asked about his next book. Laughing, he told us that he had written a novel, got it ready to go, and delivered it. It’s a little different, he says, a little more like a Michael Crichton book. Then he did what he says was ‘a stupid thing’ and told his people what he intended to write after that. They liked the idea so much that they suggested he put the already written work on hold while he writes the one that he had the new idea for. So he’s saying nothing about that one!

But his most important piece of writing will have to be done very soon. He has been given three minutes to write his Father of the Bride speech at the end of September. He says he has a good story to tell. And you know what? I bet he does.

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Endgame by Daniel Cole @Daniel_P_Cole @TrapezeBooks #Endgame

Source: Review copy
Publication: 5 September 2019 from Trapeze
PP: 352
ISBN-13: 978-1409168843

A locked room. A dead body. A secret that went to the grave.

When retired police officer Finlay Shaw is found dead in a locked room, everyone thinks it’s suicide. But disgraced detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes isn’t so sure.

Together with his former partner Detective Emily Baxter and private detective Edmunds, Wolf’s team begin to dig into Shaw’s early days on the beat. Was Shaw as innocent as he seemed? Or is there more to his past than he’d ever let on?

But not everyone wants Wolf back – and as his investigation draws him ever deeper into police corruption, it will not only be his career on the line – but the lives of those he holds closest as well…

Endgame is the last of the Ragdoll trilogy and though it contains all the characters we have come to know and love, as a story I think it works well in its own right and could therefore be read as a stand-alone. To get the most from it though, start with Ragdoll, the first book.

I think Endgame is the best of the three books so far. It has an excellent story arc, starts with a locked room mystery and is full of the irascibility, humour and fast paced action for which the Ragdoll series is known.

Our protagonist Wolf reminds me slightly of Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb. He has the same lack of respect for rules; the ability to suss out double dealing and match it with even greater duplicity, the foul mouth and the biting wit. The comparison ends there, of course, but Wolf is a larger than life figure that cannot be ignored.

Finlay Shaw an ex-copper, is found dead at his home, by his wife Maggie, with a gun by his side William Fawkes (Wolf) is not prepared to believe that his long term friend would ever commit suicide because he loved his wife too much.

Wolf ropes in DCI Emily Baxter, PI Alex Edmunds and Jake Saunders to look into Finlay’s old cases. Commissioner Christian Bellamy, Finlay’s partner in the early days and long-term friend ever since, joins them in searching out the answers to how and why this happened.

The answer lies in the past and it is soon clear that there are people who will go to any lengths to make sure it stays there.

With Wolf treading a very thin line between being re-arrested and sent to prison, you’d think this would not be a time for Wolf to go round picking fights and complicating his already pretty dire personal life, but that wouldn’t be Wolf. His past actions as well as Emily Baxter’s impinge on this case and as they get into the depths of the investigation there is a tension in the team that is palpable and things get very heated.

Daniel Cole has written a cleverly constructed plot, with great characters and a lot of fast paced and violent action. What makes these books stand out though is the interaction between the characters with all the scathing wit and put downs that make the reader laugh at the same time as they are in the midst of deadly gun battles.

Verdict: Excellent, fast paced entertainment that offers a thrilling ride. Cole’s tight plotting and lively wit make this a sure fire winner. Let’s hope there’s more to come.

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Daniel Cole has worked as a paramedic, an RSPCA officer and most recently for the RNLI, driven by an intrinsic need to save people or perhaps just a guilty conscience about the number of characters he kills off in his writing.

He currently lives in sunny Bournemouth and can usually be found down the beach when he ought to be writing instead.

A Breath on Dying Embers by Denzil Meyrick @BloodyScotland @lochlomonden @PolygonBooks #BloodyScotland #blogtour

Source: Review copy
Publication: 11th July 2019 from Polygon
PP: 400
ISBN-13: 978-1846974755

Bloody Scotland is the highlight of my year. There’s no better place to see and listen to fabulous crime writers amidst the historic Stirling setting. And the books! Oh my goodness what books there are to treasure, to get signed, to fill up the oncoming dark and wet winter nights.

So with Bloody Scotland to look forward to, torchlight processions and all, this is an excellent time to look back at the books that have been published during the last year and to celebrate those that made the longlist for the McIlvanney Prize – for Scottish Crime Book of the Year.

Picture is of the cover jacket for A Breath on Dying Embers by Denzil Meyrick

I have chosen to highlight Denzil Meyrick’s book, A Breath on Dying Embers. I love Denzil’s characters and his fabulous settings alongside his clear love of authentic dialogue. so without further ado, here’s a reprise of my review.

When the luxury cruiser, hastily renamed Great Britain, berths in Kinloch harbour, the pressure is on DCI Jim Daley. The UK Government are taking a high-powered group of businessmen and women on a tour of the British Isles, golfing and seeing the sights, as part of a push for global trade. But when one of the crew goes missing, and an elderly local ornithologist disappears, will the pressure become too great?

The arrival of a face from the past sends Daley’s world into a tailspin. And the lives of the passengers and crew of SS Great Britain, as well as the country’s economic future are in jeopardy. DS Brian Scott comes to the fore, and replete with a temporary promotion, is once more – most reluctantly, in his case – back at sea.

Daley faces a life and death struggle, but is this his last throw of the dice?

Oh my. I adore Denzil Meyrick’s DCI Jim Daley books. From the very first book I was captivated by the fictional town of Kinloch and its wonderfully created settings and characters. I have binge read this series, mostly listening via audiobook (narrated by the excellent David Monteath) and loved every single one.

With A Breath on Dying Embers, I read a hard copy, but was still able to hear all those marvellous voices in my head as I read. What makes these books quite so special (and gentle reader, they are very special indeed) is the depth of characterisation. I feel as if I know all of these people, from the principal characters of D.C.I. Daley and D.S. Brian Scott, through to Annie the hotel owner and barkeep through to Hamish, the elderly fisherman whose sixth sense comes to the fore in this novel.

The settings come alive in Meyrick’s outstanding descriptive prose and there’s no lack of contemporary issues in this authentic portrayal of west coast town living.

A Breath on Dying Embers is the latest in the series. While you can of course, read it as a stand-alone, please do read the whole series from the beginning. The time will be well spent and very well rewarded, because you will come to love these characters; it is impossible to do otherwise. They are so finely drawn and acutely well observed, they feel like friends; people you know and have grown to love, for all their flaws, difficult relationships and sometimes their eccentricities.

In the latest book in the series, the Kinloch force finds itself severely tested. Chief Inspector Carrie Symington has her work cut out liaising with MI5 over security for a high profile visit by the hastily renamed #SS Great Britain to Kinloch waters, carrying a plethora of high powered foreign visitors on an important trade mission; part of the Government’s attempts to strike new trade deals with key strategic businesses abroad. As part of their wooing, the Government is showing the best of what Scotland and the UK has to offer, and Kinloch is a port of call on their itinerary.

Symington has to call on Brian Scott to step up. While Brian is equal to the task, she has no doubt, his hatred of anything to do with boats makes him a reluctant participant in this endeavour, but he is keen to show his wife, Effie, that Kinloch is a place where she can live and they be happy, and that is at the forefront of his mind as he prepares to step off solid ground and once more step gingerly onto the floating ship.

As ever, nothing goes quite as smoothly as Carrie and the Government would like and soon the police force finds itself chasing not only those behind the disappearance of a local ornithologist, but also suspected terrorists intent on inflicting serious damage to the trade delegation aboard the SS Great Britain.

In a tense and dramatic book, Symington, Daley and Scott will find themselves battling their deadliest foes yet, and with a number of complex, layered personalities to deal with, will have their work cut out to show that they are equal to the task at hand.

As ever with this series, there is more than one front to fight on, and the domestic lives of our characters is also to the fore as they track the perpetrators they are after.

Among the myriad reasons I love this series is the humour and the banter that reaches out and grasps the reader tightly in its embrace. There is an exceptional sense of warmth, love and laughter amidst a dark and gritty police procedural that makes this an authentic and compelling read and one where you care enormously what happens to each and every one of these returning characters.

There’s darkness, and there’s an awful lot of gut roaring laughter and light too, making for an exceptional read. There are themes that will strike a chord with everyone who reads it. Meyrick’s gift is to write visceral prose in a way that hits home and feels all too real and to combine it with superb, layered, plotting.

I don’t want to spoil it by revealing more, but I will honestly say that I found this book, in particular, an emotional and gut wrenching read and utterly, completely, unmissable.

If you haven’t read any of this series, what are you waiting for? If you know the series, you will find it completely transfixing; compelling and heart breaking.

Verdict. Reader, I cried. There’s no greater compliment than that from me.

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List of those participating in the Bloody Scotland blogtour, together with thumbnail images of the featured books.
Find out about the other long-listed books by following this blog tour

The Long Call (Two Rivers #1) by Ann Cleeves @AnnCleeves @panmacmillan #TheLongCall

Source: Review copy
Publication: 5 September 2019 from MacMillan
PP: 384
ISBN-13: 978-1509889563

In North Devon, where the rivers Taw and Torridge converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. The day Matthew turned his back on the strict evangelical community in which he grew up, he lost his family too.

Now he’s back, not just to mourn his father at a distance, but to take charge of his first major case in the Two Rivers region; a complex place not quite as idyllic as tourists suppose.

A body has been found on the beach near to Matthew’s new home: a man with the tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

Finding the killer is Venn’s only focus, and his team’s investigation will take him straight back into the community he left behind, and the deadly secrets that lurk there.

A brand new series from Ann Cleeves is something not to be missed and I dived into The Long Call with eagerness. This is the Two Rivers series, so called because the books are set in North Devon between the Taw and Torridge rivers.

There we meet D.I. Matthew Venn, hovering outside a church where inside his father’s funeral is taking place. Matthew Venn is from this area and grew up part of a strict evangelical sect known as the Barum Brethren. But his family ostracised him when he felt he could no longer believe in their God, or any God, and they have not spoken since.

Matthew is married to Jonathan, an easy going chap and head of The Woodyard, a community arts centre that also houses a day centre for learning disabled adults. Two of those attending are Lucy Braddock and Chrissie Shapland, both of whom have Down’s Syndrome.

Matthew works out of Barnstaple Police station where his boss, DCI Joe Oldham is going through the motions prior to retiring. Matthew’s team are DS Jen Rafferty,  a single parent who has fled Liverpool to get away from her abusive partner and Ross May, the DCI’s blue eyed boy who Jen suspects is Oldham’s eyes and ears on the ground. May is over eager and quite competitive which also doesn’t endear him to Jen.

Their first case is, as it turns out, far too close to home for Matthew to be comfortable, though for the reader it provides a great opportunity for us to get to know the principal series characters and the local area. For that reason, I’d recommend this book for anyone wanting to read the series as it develops.

Simon Walden’s marriage collapsed after he killed a child whilst driving under the influence of alcohol. A veteran, Simon had been drifting since then, drinking too much and suffering from depression. After pitching up at the Woodyard he was taken in by two local women, Caroline Preece who is going out with the local pastor and artist, Gaby Henry.

When Simon is found murdered on the beach at Crow Point, Matthew finds himself in a difficult position. He is too close to the Woodyard and should by rights be excusing himself from the investigation, but Oldham is prepared to let him run with it provided he checks in regularly.

Ann Cleeves beautifully captures the North Devon countryside and seascape and her descriptions of the landscape are evocative and sometimes quite haunting. One of the real strengths of this book is the richly drawn nature of the characters who spring to life from the page. These are people we can see, whose characters we understand and this lets us immerse ourselves in Cleeves story.

I really liked that Cleeves has chosen to write an inclusive novel which portrays the strengths of Down’s Syndrome adults and that Matthew, an introvert, relies on Jonathan, a more relaxed and gregarious individual, to be his rock.

The Long Call is a great read; confident, well-plotted and character driven. Cleeves lays out the plot strands and then slowly and cleverly weaves them into an intricate pattern which is not revealed until the final chapters.

Verdict: Fabulously drawn new characters in a complex and well-plotted police procedural written with insight and compassion. What more could you want?

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Photo of Ann Cleeves, standing with arms crossed

Ann Cleeves is the author behind ITV’s Vera and BBC One’s Shetland. She has written over twenty-five novels, and is the creator of detectives Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez – characters loved both on screen and in print. Both series are international bestsellers.

In 2006 Ann was awarded the Duncan Lawrie Dagger (CWA Gold Dagger) for Best Crime Novel, for Raven Black, the first book in her Shetland series. In 2012 she was inducted into the CWA Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame. Ann lives in North Tyneside.

Bloody Scotland Reveals Final Four on Shortlist for McIlvanney Scottish Crime Book of the Year Prize 2019 @BloodyScotland @Brownlee_Donald

Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival
20-22 September 2019

A panel of judges including Alison Flood, James Crawford and Stuart Cosgrove today revealed the finalists for The McIlvanney Prize 2019.

They are the multi-talented Doug Johnstone who has a PhD in nuclear physics and moonlights as the manager and drummer for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, Manda Scott who studied veterinary surgery before turning to crime writing, a former McIlvanney winner Denise Mina and half a former winner in the form of Ambrose Parry – aka husband and wife writing team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman.

The winner of the Scottish Crime Book of the Year will be awarded The McIlvanney Prize in memory of William McIlvanney at the opening reception on Friday 20 September and will lead a torchlight procession – open to the public – with David Baldacci on their way down to his event. The award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones.

This is what the judges had to say about each of the shortlisted books:

Photo of Doug Johnstone holding his book, Breakers
Doug Johnstone

Breakers – Doug Johnstone (Orenda)
A tightly written and compelling exploration of two sides of Edinburgh, touching on social topics rarely examined in crime fiction. A brilliant and moving portrait of family dynamics and loyalty as a young boy struggles to break out of his powerlessness.

Photo of Manda Scott
Manda Scott

A Treachery of Spies – Manda Scott (Bantam Press)
A powerful, complex and remarkable espionage thriller: a present-day murder links back to Resistance France. An intricately plotted novel which keeps the reader guessing right to the end.

Photo of Denise Mina
Denise Mina Photo: Ollie Grove

Conviction – Denise Mina (Harvill Secker)
A highly original and timely rollercoaster of a read, a caper which takes the reader on an unforgettable journey from central Glasgow to the Highlands, France and Italy. The novel fizzes with energy and brims over with a love of storytelling.

Photo of Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman who comprise Ambrose Parry
Ambrose Parry Photo: Alan Trotter

The Way of All Flesh – Ambrose Parry (Canongate)
Intensely and brilliantly researched piece of writing, casting back to 19th century Edinburgh when the art of surgery was just emerging at the same time as body snatchers were at large on the streets. Vivid, original, compelling, playful. 

Photo of the McIlvanney judges, Stuart Cosgrove, Alison Flood and James Crawford
McIlvanney judges

This year’s judges are Alison Flood, books reporter for The Guardian and a former news reporter for The Bookseller; James Crawford, chair of Publishing Scotland and presenter of BBC series, Scotland from the Sky and Stuart Cosgrove, writer and broadcaster who was formerly a senior executive at Channel 4.

Previous winners are Liam McIlvanney with The Quaker in 2018, Denise Mina with The Long Drop in 2017, Chris Brookmyre with Black Widow in 2016, Craig Russell with The Ghosts of Altona in 2015, Peter May with Entry Island in 2014, Malcolm Mackay with How A Gunman Says Goodbye in 2013 and Charles Cumming with A Foreign Country in 2012. The 2019 winner will be kept under wraps until the ceremony itself.

Five authors are also shortlisted for the inaugural Bloody Scotland Debut Scottish Crime Book of the Year:

All the Hidden Truths, Claire Askew (Hodder)
From the Shadows, G R Halliday (Vintage)
Black Camp 21, Bill Jones (Polygon)
In the Silence, M R Mackenzie (Bloodhound)
The Peat Dead, Allan Martin (Thunderpoint)
The winner will be revealed on the opening night of the Festival.

Tickets are available from or at the Box Office in the Tolbooth Stirling or in the Albert Halls.
Download the Bloody Scotland programme here

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