Winners to be presented on Friday 18 September 2020

Four years ago the Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award was renamed the McIlvanney Prize in memory of William McIlvanney who is often described as the Godfather of Tartan Noir. Last year Bloody Scotland also introduced a prize for The Bloody Scotland Debut Scottish Crime Book of the Year. This year both are sponsored by the Glencairn Glass. At a time when debut writers have suffered more than anyone else due to bookshop closures the debut prize is more important than ever:

Debut Prize Shortlisted authors are:
Deborah Masson, Hold Your Tongue (Transworld)
Stephen O’Rourke, The Crown Agent (Sandstone)
Marion Todd, See Them Run (Canelo)
Francine Toon, Pine (Doubleday)

Masson, O’Rourke, Toon and Todd

One, Francine Toon, is also longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize which includes:
Lin Anderson, Time for the Dead (Macmillan)
Lisa Gray, Bad Memory (Thomas & Mercer)
Andrew James Greig, Whirligig (Fledgling)
Doug Johnstone, A Dark Matter (Orenda)
Val McDermid, How the Dead Speak (Little, Brown)
Ben McPherson, The Island (HarperCollins)
James Oswald, Bury Them Deep (Headline)
Ambrose Parry, The Art of Dying (Canongate) aka Chris Broomyre and Marisa Haetzman
Mary Paulson-Ellis, The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing (Mantle)
Caro Ramsay, The Red, Red Snow (Severn House)
Craig Robertson, Watch Him Die (Simon & Schuster)
Francine Toon, Pine (Doubleday)

Finalists for the McIlvanney Prize will be revealed at the beginning of September and the winner of both prizes will be revealed on Friday 18 September. The Bloody Scotland Debut Prize will be judged by a panel including crime writer and founding director of Bloody Scotland Lin Anderson and representatives from Waterstones and the Glencairn Glass. The McIlvanney Prize will be judged by Stuart Cosgrove, writer and broadcaster, James Crawford, chair of Publishing Scotland and presenter of BBC series Scotland from the Sky and Karen Robinson, Editor of The Times Crime Club.

The McIlvanney award recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing, includes a prize of £1000 and nationwide promotion in Waterstones. The 2020 longlist features established crime writers and debuts, corporates and indies. Previous winners are Manda Scott with A Treachery of Spies in 2019 (who chose to share her prize with all the finalists), 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 inaugural Bloody Scotland Debut Prize 2019 was won by Claire Askew with All The Hidden Truths.


The Glencairn Glass, the World’s Favourite Whisky Glass and the Official Glass for Whisky is sponsoring both The McIlvanney Prize and The Bloody Scotland Debut Crime Novel of the Year. Culture & Business Fund Scotland have generously given matched funding.

The authors shortlisted for the Debut Prize will collaborate on a short story in the run up to the Festival to be co-ordinated by author and board member, Gordon Brown aka Morgan Cry, in association with The Glencairn Glass.

The Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival was scheduled to take place in the historic town of Stirling from 18-20 September but will now take place entirely on-line.

The Silent Wife (Will Trent #10) by Karin Slaughter @SlaughterKarin @FictionPubTeam @RandomTTours

Source: Review copy
Publication: 23 June 2020 from Harper Collins
PP: 400
ISBN-13: 978-0008303440

Atlanta, Georgia. Present day. A young woman is brutally attacked and left for dead. The police investigate but the trail goes cold. Until a chance assignment takes GBI investigator Will Trent to the state penitentiary, and to a prisoner who says he recognises the MO. The attack looks identical to the one he was accused of eight years earlier. The prisoner’s always insisted that he was innocent, and now he’s sure he has proof. The killer is still out there.

As Will digs into both crimes it becomes clear that he must solve the original case in order to reach the truth. Yet nearly a decade has passed—time for memories to fade, witnesses to vanish, evidence to disappear. And now he needs medical examiner Sara Linton to help him hunt down a ruthless murderer. But when the past and present collide, everything Will values is at stake.

It is such a privilege to be starting off this epic blog tour for a book that I have wanted to read since I first heard it was to be published. My sincere thanks to Harper Collins for the opportunity.

Honestly, I do not know how she does it. After 20 books in 20 years, a massive achievement in itself, Karin Slaughter has outdone herself with her 10th Will Trent book and a return to Grant County.

I have read every single one of these books and they never, ever disappoint. This one, though…well this one is a real cracker. The Silent Wife kicks it way out of the park and then some.

Will Trent from the Georgia Bureau of Investigations is investigating in the aftermath of a prison riot where a prisoner was murdered when one of the inmates, Daryl Nesbitt offers information on why the prisoner was killed and by whom. His offer comes at a price though: he claims to be innocent of the crimes he was convicted for and says he can provide the proof that shows that innocence. If the GBI will at least re-open his case and see that he was fitted up, he’ll share his information.

The problem is that Nesbitt is inside for a series of really savage murders and attacks perpetrated against women and the man who allegedly fitted him up was no other than Sara Linton’s ex-husband, the now deceased Jeffrey Tolliver.

Will and Sarah are going through a patch of sticky communication problems and this claim is just the icing on the cake for Will. Sarah’s love for Jeffrey was immense – she married him twice after all, and Will not only doesn’t want to tell Sarah about the claims that he was a dirty cop, he’s also not that sure that he wants to see Jeffrey exonerated.

But this is Will Trent, straight as a die – a man incapable of not doing the right thing when it comes to his job.

Cooper has claimed that the murders have carried on after his incarceration and he supplies the GBI with the details of more women murdered with the same MO. And so Will and Sara begin their investigation into the deaths of the women highlighted by Nesbitt and start to consider the past cases for which he was sentenced.

This means paying a visit to the most divisive character in Slaughter’s books – Lena Adamson. Lena is the classic outsider; never the most truthful of cops, with a difficult personal history and as the survivor herself of a fearsome attack, Lena is prickly and difficult. Jeffrey always defended Lena and there’s no way she’s offering any help to those seeking to find out if his judgement was contaminated.

As Sara looks back at the autopsies and other medical evidence, it is soon abundantly clear that, far from stopping these killings by locking Nesbitt up, the killer has been able to refine and improve his murderous skills by covering up his vicious and truly savage murders sufficiently well to make them seem accidental.

By laying the groundwork so well and giving us a dual timeline to work with, Slaughter is able to not only give the reader the information about the investigation of the current day cases, but also to take us back to Grant County and Jeffrey and Lena’s investigations – as well as reprising the point in Jeffrey and Sara’s relationship where she has discovered his infidelity and he’s hoping he can re-instate himself in her affections.

It is the Jeffrey-Sara-Will triangle to die for as Will tries to compete with the ghost of a memory and he and Sara are painfully unable to communicate through the wall that has grown between them.

Slaughter never flinches from showing the brutal side of crimes against women – and be warned that these are especially violent and degrading, but then so are most crimes of this nature. What she also achieves though, through the series, is a portrait of how these women can recover; fight back against the violence that has been unleashed on them and show in a host of different ways how these women have reacted to their circumstances and how they have (when they have) come to terms with them. Her ability to show empathy, grief and sadness in her characters as they find a path through these violations to take steps towards recovery is remarkable.

Of course this classic Slaughter narrative is as sharp and focussed as you would expect. Her story-telling abilities just keep getting stronger and her plot is so beautifully structured that the reader is drawn in deep to a book that sucks you down and refuses to let go.

Mostly though, for me, it’s the characterisation that gets me every time. That sense of the different kinds of love that pervades the book and the characters. The tension between them that makes the sparks that you can feel so palpably between them. Even the disdain and sometimes hatred that one character feels for another, charges the book with meaning. This is an ensemble cast and each is beautifully drawn, finely honed and very real in the reader’s mind so that we fear for them and agonise when they make wrong choices or miss some pretty obvious cues.

As they come closer to pinning down the perpetrator, lives will be put at risk and the intrigue will have you spellbound, but there will be moments when the emotional tension and vulnerability is almost unbearable and that really hits where it hurts the most. It is raw, emotional and utterly propulsive.

Verdict: Outstanding storytelling, brilliant plotting and terrific characterisation combine with a brutal and savage series of killings to propel The Silent Wife straight into the MUST HAVE – MUST READ category.

Hive Books                       Waterstones                    Foyles                 Amazon

Photo of Karin Slaughter by Alison Rosa

Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 120 countries with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her 19 novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Town and the instant Sunday Times bestselling novels Pretty Girls,The Good Daughter and Pieces of Her. The Good Daughter and Cop Town are in development for film and television and Pieces of Her is soon to be an eight-part Netflix adaptation, directed by Lesli Linka Glatter (Mad Men) and produced by Charlotte Stoudt (Homeland) and Bruna Papandrea (Big Little Lies).Karin is the founder of the Save the Libraries project- a non-profit organisation established to support libraries and library programming. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone (Skelfs #2) @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 20 June 2020 from Orenda Books
PP: 300
ISBN-13: ISBN-13: 978-1913193348

Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral that matriarch Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver’s shadowy life.

While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly.

But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves sucked into an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves?

Following three women as they deal with the dead, help the living and find out who they are in the process, The Big Chill follows A Dark Matter, book one in the Skelfs series, which reboots the classic PI novel while asking the big existential questions, all with a big dose of pitch-black humour.

I loved A Dark Matter, the first in the Skelfs series and am thrilled that The Big Chill is, if anything, better than that cracker of a book. I love the Chandleresque title to begin with.

Then there are the big themes that run through this book, but brought in with the lightest of all touches. Life and death; being and nothingness are all part of Johnstone’s wickedly funny and very dark crime thriller.  In other hands, this could be heavy stuff, but with Johnstone’s deft touch we are treated to quantum mechanics and cosmic evolution alongside murder, disappearing students and a deadly driver.

This is a writer who is in his stride; time and time again now he is hitting and elevating his stride, really finding his voice as he brings us characters we care about and are learning to love rather a lot. Women you can laugh with and cry for; women whose are more than cyphers on a page but who in our world you’d want to get to know better and spend a lot of time with.

My personal favourite is Dorothy, a 70 year old grandmother from California, but long since moved to Edinburgh and who was married to Jim Skelf, the undertaker whose passing started A Dark Matter. Dorothy is a drummer and she’s developing rather a close relationship with a local detective, which certainly does not hurt the Skelf’s burgeoning P.I. business, though it sometimes doesn’t help it, either.

The Big Chill can be read as a stand-alone, but you’ll enjoy it more if you have first read A Dark Matter. Johnstone has carried through the strong sense of grief that came from A Dark Matter and we now find the women in a pretty raw and emotionally vulnerable state. The death of Jim, the patriarch, never allowed them fully to grieve because of the trauma that was inflicted on them shortly thereafter – affecting them all in different ways. This portrait of grieving is so truthful, so authentic that it hurts and the reader finds Jenny struggling to move on with her life and in a new relationship, while clearly still distraught and Hannah, the physics student, is lost in a world she’s finding it hard to come to terms with, never mind get on with her studies.

They need each other, but they are individually so fractured that it’s hard for them to comfort each other and Hannah’s relationship with her partner Indy is really difficult as Hannah withdraws into herself, shutting Indy and the world, out.

Archie, their chief mortician is struggling with his own grief. Never was there so much death in the midst of life as right now and even life isn’t offering much pleasure, save perhaps for Einstein, their newly adopted dog.

But the work is still coming in and each woman has a project of their own to investigate as Johnstone shows us the resilience of this family as they find ways to come to terms with events by ensuring that they are not victims but active participants in their own lives who will seize their moments and find a path through their grief and upset to solve a mystery and at the same time restore their own confidence.

I’m conscious that I have made this sound very bleak, but it’s actually not that at all. It is in fact, quite dark but it is also dramatic, sometimes tense, often chilling and downright riveting. It’s only because you get wrapped up in these women’s lives that you tend, as a reader, to empathise with what they must be feeling.

Johnstone has a fantastic narrative arc that layers the women’s stories one upon another as they strive to stay above the grind and do some powerful good against the odds. I think it is that effort to keep going; to make a difference that marks them out as family unit determined not to be ground down.

Along the way, there is a lot of dark humour that again elevates the narrative, making something very special indeed

Verdict: Shocking, chilling, raw, dark and funny, this is Johnstone riding high on the crest of a wave. His writing is superb, his plotting impeccable and his characterisation to die for. I really don’t want this to be just a trilogy….

Hive Books                       The Portobello Bookshop                          Waterstones                    Amazon

Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s had eight novels published, most recently Fault Lines. His previous novels, Breakers and The Jump, were finalists for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his other novels have been award winners and bestsellers, and he’s had short stories published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines. His work has been praised by the likes of Ian Rankin, Chris Brookmyre, Val McDermid and Irvine Welsh. Several of his novels have been optioned for film and television. Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow. He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative writing at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors. He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, and is the drummer for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He also reviews books for The Big Issue magazine, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics.

SINS OF THE FATHER by Sharon Bairden #COVERREVEAL @sbairden @RedDogTweets

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be part of the cover reveal for the ASTOUNDING debut novel from one of the VERY BEST women I know, Sharon Bairden, blogger extraordinaire, whose Chapter In My Life blog has championed Scottish crime writers for many years now.

Now it is our turn to repay that work and I am so excited that Sharon has now penned a fantastic, dark, thriller that will chill you to your bones.

So let’s start by finding out about SINS OF THE FATHER.

Lucas Findlay thinks he has struck gold when he marries Rebecca, but she married him for one reason only – to destroy him.

Trauma runs deep

When her past comes back to haunt her, Rebecca begins to disconnect from herself and the world around her. As secrets are unearthed, she begins to fear for her sanity … and her life.

Truth will out

With her world unravelling around her, Rebecca clings to her determination to make Lucas pay, whatever the cost.

Forgive his sins

But someone must pay for the sins of the father…

Now, does that not sound just fabulous? I know it is so awesome and it is available for pre-order TODAY! WHOOHOO!

I’m almost ready to show you the cover for Sins of the Father, but first a word or two about our author, Sharon Bairden.

By day Sharon Bairden is the Services Manager in a small, local independent advocacy service and has a passion for human rights; by night she has a passion for all things criminal. She blogs over at Chapterinmylife and is delighted to be crossing over to the other side of the fence to become a writer. Sharon lives on the outskirts of Glasgow, has two grown up children, a grandson, a Golden Labrador and a cat. She spends most of her spare time doing all things bookish, from reading to attending as many book festivals and launches as she can. She has been known to step out of her comfort zone on the odd occasion and has walked over burning coals and broken glass – but not at the same time!



Is that not just the most amazing, noirish cover you have ever seen? WOW!!

You can pre-order Sins of the Father here:
Red Dog Press

All Fall Down by M.J.Arlidge (Helen Grace #9) @mjarlidge @orionbooks @orion_crime

Source: Review copy
Publication: 11 June 2020 from Orion
PP:  496
ISBN-13: 978-1409188407

“You have one hour to live.”

Those are the only words on the phone call. Then they hang up. Surely, a prank? A mistake? A wrong number? Anything but the chilling truth… That someone is watching, waiting, working to take your life in one hour.

But why?

The job of finding out falls to DI Helen Grace: a woman with a track record in hunting killers. However, this is a case where the killer seems to always be one step ahead of the police and the victims.

With no motive, no leads, no clues – nothing but pure fear – an hour can last a lifetime…

I’m a big fan of the Helen Grace books, but goodness Mathew Arlidge doesn’t half put her through some tough stuff both personally and professionally. This book is no exception. Just when you begin to think that D.I. Grace might be in danger of getting a life, Arlidge puts a halt to that in no uncertain terms.

The case this time dates back some years ago to when a group of five teenage schoolchildren were outward bounding for their Duke of Edinburgh Award. Out on the moors, the mists fell and unaccompanied and trying to find their way back over rough terrain, they were forced to take shelter in a run-down farmhouse where their worst nightmares were enacted.

Not all of them would make it out alive.

Years later, that night still haunts them and now one of that group has written a book about the events of that night, while the others prefer to stay out of the limelight.

Then one receives a call telling them that they have one hour to live and sure enough, our killer is true to their word. Some, it seems, is picking off the members of that group. With precious little to go on and finding that Emily Garanita, Helen’s least favourite journalist, always seems to be in the know if not one step ahead, Helen and her team are faced with a race against time to save the last members of the group.

As ever, Arlidge creates a fast moving, gruesome story with a terrific villain and a lot of grief for Helen. Helen has swapped other forms of stress relief for speed and now she de-stresses by taking her leather clad body out on her motor bike and going hell for leather until she can’t go any further.

Charlie, her colleague, friend and confidante is heavily pregnant and a new bloke seems to be shaping up well, but there is something about him that makes Helen wonder. Helen’s boss Simmons still has her back, but she, too, is coming under pressure from above to make sure this case is solved as Garanita contrives to make the investigation look pretty bad.

With so much pressure, the tension really is taut all the way through and the adrenaline ride is intense as we go with Helen on her racing trip to find the killer before it is too late. The narrative is all-consuming and I was lost in this book from the first five minutes right through to the end.

Verdict: All Fall Down is everything we have come to expect from M.J. Arlidge and this series. It is a fabulous, exciting and riveting read.

Hive Books                       Waterstones                   Amazon

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, Love Me Not and Down to the Woods.

Follow Matthew Arlidge on Twitter @mjarlidge

Watch Him Die by Craig Robertson @CraigRobertson_ @simonschusterUK

Source: Review copy
Publication: 11 June 2020 from Simon and Schuster
PP: 416
ISBN-13: 978-1471165368


 The LAPD find a man dead at home. Nothing suggests foul-play but elements of the victim’s house show that something is deeply wrong.

Meanwhile, in Glasgow, DI Rachel Narey is searching for a missing young woman – and the man she suspects of killing her.

When a feed broadcasting the slow and painful death of a final victim is discovered, these two cases become linked.

There’s no way to identify him.
No way to find him
No way to save him.
Not without the cooperation of a killer.

And the only way he will cooperate is if he can watch him die.

Oh my! This one is a doozie. I mean that in a good way. Watch Him Die puts a capital N into Noir. A high concept thriller that really ticks all of my many boxes when it comes to enjoyment of a crime thriller.

Set in both Glasgow and Los Angeles, Robertson has come up with a concept that makes this really work in a way I hadn’t thought possible. D.I. Rachel Narey is looking for Eloise Grey, though she worries it’s a body she’s looking for, so she’s also looking for Grey’s former boyfriend, a man well acquainted with violent confrontations, Tam Harkness.

Los Feliz cops Mario Kovacic and Carlos Rojo make a routine visit to a house where Ethan Garland has died, believed to be from natural causes. What they find when inspecting the house chills them to the bone and they bring in Detectives Bryan Salgado and Cally O’Neill. It soon becomes clear that they have chanced upon a deadly game…one that will end with someone else dying in front of their eyes if they can’t stop the killer and find the victim in time.

Robertson has come up with a serial killer thriller that is captivating and spine-chilling. Neatly tying in with the theme of one of his earlier books, Murderabilia, Robertson increases the depth of his Noir writing by bringing in to the investigation one of the most notorious L.A. murders of all time.

Though set on both sides of the Atlantic, the dominant story is Rachel Narey’s. When the L.A. cops discover that their dead man has been up to seriously nefarious wrongdoing and they find the murderabilia items, they also discover that the dead man has been researching individuals in Scotland; and that’s when Rachel Narey is read into their investigation.

The L.A. Detectives make for a good contrast with the dogged and intrepid Narey and their personalities are likeable, making the reader feel comfortable with them even as they are uncovering a lot of gruesome information.

Robertson gives the reader a countdown to death and ratchets up the tension as Rachel Narey interrogates the clues for anything that can bring her closer to finding a warped serial killer whose pleasure comes from watching his victims die. Her interactions with an unnamed, faceless killer are riveting and the insight that Robertson offers into the mind of a psychopathic killer is a little worrying, but I’m just going to put that down to good research and striving for and succeeding in getting, authenticity.

Cleverly combining serial murders with a twisty plot and dark and somewhat macabre humour, Robertson pulls the whole book together with flair and panache to make a seriously good multiple murder mystery playing out against a timer where the sand is rapidly running out.

Verdict: With pace and style, Robertson provides an intelligent and nail biting chase full of excellent, snappy dialogue, great characters and above all, a brilliant and original premise. A must read from me.

Hive Books Waterstones

A former journalist, Craig Robertson had a 20-year career with a Scottish Sunday newspaper before becoming a full-time author. He interviewed three Prime Ministers, reported on major stories including 9/11, Dunblane, the Omagh bombing and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. He was pilloried on breakfast television, beat Oprah Winfrey to a major scoop, spent time on Death Row in the USA and dispensed polio drops in the backstreets of India.He now shares his time between Scotland and California and can usually be found on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic.

The Curator by M.W.Craven @MWCravenUK @TheCrimeVault @BethWright26

Source: Review copy
Publication: 4th June 2020 from Little Brown
PP: 384

It’s Christmas and a serial killer is leaving displayed body parts all over Cumbria. A strange message is left at each scene: #BSC6

Called in to investigate, the National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are faced with a case that makes no sense. Why were some victims anaesthetized, while others died in appalling agony? Why is their only suspect denying what they can irrefutably prove but admitting to things they weren’t even aware of? And why did the victims all take the same two weeks off work three years earlier?

And when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch things take an even darker turn. Because she doesn’t think Poe is dealing with a serial killer at all; she thinks he’s dealing with someone far, far worse – a man who calls himself the Curator.

And nothing will ever be the same again . . .

If crack cocaine were a book, it would be The Curator. Immensely anticipated, even better when it arrives and as soon as you have devoured it, you know you’re going to have to have more. Honestly I got a major book high from reading this. It’s addictive, adrenaline raising, delicious, exciting stuff.

Right from the off there’s a killer scene that hooks you in- yes I do mean Poe at a baby shower –  and then that hook takes hold in your gut and carries you along, twisting, feinting and leaving you completely wiped out. We start with what turns out to be three sets of unidentifiable body parts and work from there.

Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are called in when only clue to what might be happening is the hashtag  #BSC6 left at the scene of each discovery.  DI Flynn is seriously, ankle swellingly, on the cusp of giving birth but nothing is going to stop her being involved in this case.  

The three victims do not appear to have anything in common and Poe can’t grasp what the motive might be or what the hashtag means. Outstanding work by the brilliant, on the spectrum, Tilly Bradshaw gives them some leads but is only when Poe receives a phone call from a disgraced FBI agent that he starts to consider that he and Tilly may have been led up the garden path.

I love this pairing so much. Poe, dark, determined, brusque to the point of studied rudeness and Tilly, loyal, literal, super-intelligent with a stubborn streak and in this book, displaying a courage that is awesome. Tilly has developed so much as a character that it’s hard to imagine her as she was back in the Puppet Show; now her talents have been recognised by the NCA and she has a team of her own. But she will always be first and foremost loyal to Poe and we love her all the more for it. In his own way, Poe repays that loyalty and so we have one of the best pairings in contemporary crime fiction.

Craven has a real sense of place too. His books are suffused with the isolation of the Cumbrian landscape and the atmosphere of bleakness and wildness that is the island he visits adds to the darkness. What makes it all work, apart from the immaculate plotting, (the deviousness of his plotting structure is profound) and the gory bits that add to the full horror sequences is the wonderful juxtaposition of light and shade that runs through the whole book.

The humour elevates the reading experience and allows us time to breathe as we appreciate what a remarkable duo Poe and Bradshaw really are.

Nothing, though, is going to let you guess where this plot is headed. As the FBI agent tells Poe, ‘whenever you think you have a handle on this case, you’ll know the Curator has you right where he wants you.’

Verdict: I loved The Puppet Show. Black Summer was sublime, but Craven has outdone himself with The Curator. A fabulous. mind-blowing tour de force that is a must read for every crime fiction fan.

Bookends Carlisle           Hive Books         Waterstones     Amazon

M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle, running away to join the army at the tender age of sixteen. He spent the next ten years travelling the world having fun, leaving in 1995 to complete a degree in social work with specialisms in criminology and substance misuse. Thirty-one years after leaving Cumbria, he returned to take up a probation officer position in Whitehaven, eventually working his way up to chief officer grade. Sixteen years later he took the plunge, accepted redundancy and became a full-time author. He now has entirely different motivations for trying to get inside the minds of criminals . . .M. W. Craven is married and lives in Carlisle with his wife, Joanne. When he isn’t out with his springer spaniel, or talking nonsense in the pub, he can be found at punk gigs and writing festivals up and down the country.

Canal Pushers by Andy Griffee (Johnson and Wilde #1) @AndyGriffee @OrphansPublish @AnneCater

Source: Review copy
Publication: 4th June 2020 from Orphans Publishing
PP: 320
ISBN-13: 978-1903360316

I was delighted to review Andy Griffee’s debut novel, Canal Pushers last year just before it came out in hardback and I’ve also had the pleasure of reviewing his second, newly released novel in the series, River Rats. So I am taking the opportunity to reprise my early review of Canal Pushers, the start of a fascinating journey into #canalnoir.

Jack Johnson, newly divorced ex-journalist with a talent for trouble, takes a stranger on board his new narrow boat … and is soon caught up in a hunt for a serial killer, tangling with organised crime and on the run from the media. New crime thriller series perfect for fans of Dick Francis.

Jack Johnson is a journalist. I doubt there is such a thing as an ex-journalist; those instincts never disappear and the need to tell a story is uppermost in whatever they do. Fresh from a break up with his wife, looking to start anew with a fraction of the capital he used to have and with no desire to re-mortgage into a life of solitary tedium, Jack decides to try another way of living.

With no experience and even less knowledge, he hires a narrow boat for a month, which he christens ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, with a view to living in it full time if he likes the ambience. It doesn’t take long before he’s at sea, and that’s before he’s even begun his canal journey. Fortune looks kindly on him though and as he struggles to get the measure of how to handle his temporary home, an obliging and attractive young woman steps up to the plate and shows him how it should be done.

When, at the last minute, Jack is let down by his promised travelling companion, a handsome, if roguish actor called Will, it looks like Jack’s been grounded before his journey has even started. Fortunately for Jack, the young woman Nina is prepared to be helpful for a bit longer and though she sets strict ground rules for him, she agrees to help navigate the narrow boat through the waterways for a few days until Jack gets the hang of things.

Nina is something of an enigma, and she won’t brook any enquiries into her private life. But she is a dab hand on the tiller and soon the two are making their way through the canal system to Stratford.

Part of the joy of this book is in the meticulous detail of the canals and waterways around the Midlands; from Worcester to Stratford and Birmingham and then through to Bath. It is so easy to visualise the surrounding countryside from Griffee’s vivid descriptions. His sense of place and of an alternate way of life suffuses the pages to great effect.

The waterways carry their own sense of rhythm; nothing here is hurried or too adventurous, at least in the beginning. Early in their journey together they pull up to have lunch and do a little light shopping and Jack encounters a scruffy young man begging by the side of a shop with his dog, Eddie. Taking pity on Sam, he buys him lunch and offers him the use of his shower to clean up.

When Sam is later found dead in the canal, in a presumed accidental drowning, Jack can’t help but remember the blue Land Rover he’d seen the young man get into not long after he left the boat.

What Jack doesn’t know is that there is a killer on the canal towpaths. Someone who is obsessed with showing how clever his killings are and how many victims he can dispose of without getting caught.  But is Sam the victim of a serial killer, or was he involved in something else that brought his young life to an abrupt end?

Jack and Nina begin to look into Sam’s life and their investigations lead them into in very murky waters where considerable danger lurks. Suddenly the calm and relaxed environment in which they have been travelling begins to unravel and their need to stay under the radar increases with every canal side stop they make.

Jack will need to make use of his journalistic experience if he is to ensure that he and Nina are not besieged the length and breadth of the waterways, something that would draw more than one set of unwelcome attentions to their door.

Neatly intertwining Nina’s personal story with the all too plausible impact of organised crime and an unexplained spike in canal side deaths, Griffee weaves a solid tale of nefarious doings which climax in a devastating game of cat and mouse. In so doing, he makes use of his own extensive journalistic experience to maximum impact.

Verdict: A welcome new voice in crime fiction imbued with a real sense of place. I look forward to the next instalment of Jumping Jack Flash.

Orphans Publishing                  Hive Books                                Amazon

Andy Griffee is a former BBC journalist and media consultant with a fascination for stories. He began his journalism career at the Bath Evening Chronicle, and then spent twenty-five years at the BBC, culminating in his role as Editorial Director of the redevelopment of Broadcasting House. Andy lives in Worcestershire and, when he isn’t writing, rears rare breed pigs, struggles to keep a 1964 Triumph Spitfire on the road and enjoys hiring narrowboats with his wife Helen.

Fair Warning by Michael Connelly @Connellybooks @alexxlayt @orionbooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 26 May 2020
Length: 10 hours 14 minutes
ASIN no: B082975V1M

Jack McEvoy is a reporter with a track record in finding killers. But he’s never been accused of being one himself.

Jack went on one date with Tina Portrero. The next thing he knows, the police are at his house telling Jack he’s a suspect in her murder.

Maybe it’s because he doesn’t like being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Or maybe it’s because the method of her murder is so chilling that he can’t get it out of his head.

But as he uses his journalistic skills to open doors closed to the police, Jack walks a thin line between suspect and detective – between investigation and obsession – on the trail of a killer who knows his victims better than they know themselves…

I love the Jack McEvoy books and Fair Warning is a cracker. Both a love letter to journalism and an exciting serial killer thriller, Fair Warning is a must read.

Jack McEvoy, once LA Times reporter turned author, is working for an internet based, non-profit consumer news organisation called Fair Warning. Jack is an intrepid journalist and solver of crimes but all too sadly prone to self-sabotage in matters of the heart.

Fair Warning is a real news organisation; Connelly is on the Board and as a post-script he has a discussion with its editor, Myron Levin which explains what Fair Warning is and why it is important in an era of declining investment in newspaper journalism and a rising prevalence of fake news.

Jack works as a consumer investigative journalist at Fair Warning and when he is questioned by the police for having once been to the home of Tina Portrero, a woman he picked up in a bar – and that woman was subsequently murdered some time later- he starts to look into her case. What he discovers is a link to the murder of other women, and that link plays directly to his role as a consumer journalist.

Finding his way around the unregulated world of ancestry determination – involving DNA analysis, Jack discovers that we are all giving away knowledge of ourselves far too cheaply in a free for all world which chooses not to regulate this industry at all.

In his quest to find the serial killer Jack McEvoy does not miss his opportunity to bring in former FBI agent and profiler Rachel Walling, a woman who captured his heart in The Poet only for him to throw it away in a cloud of mistrust and self-doubt.  Jack, a fellow reporter and Rachel work together  to establish the existence of a pathological serial killer known as The Shrike.  As ever, Connelly has his finger on the pulse and he references the rise of pockets of Incel groups of men who are the worst kind of misogynists, fuelled by their hatred of women.

Fair Warning is Connelly at his best. Great characters, fast paced action, miles of authenticity and a brilliantly plotted story all come together beautifully.

Fair Warning is fascinating, intense and exciting. Connelly is such a brilliant writer that his plots never fail to surprise and delight. He can build the tension to such a peak that your heart races and you just have to know what’s coming next.

I love the Bosch/Ballard novels too, but there’s something about Jack McEvoy that makes me think this is Connelly going back to his roots – to what he loves best, and it shows in the way this book is crafted.

Easily read as a stand-alone, the audiobook is narrated by Peter Giles, who also read The Scarecrow and makes for a fabulous listen.

Verdict: Tense and thrilling with layered and detailed plotting, and masses of suspense, this is another terrific book from a writer at the top of his game.

Hive Books                       Waterstones                    Amazon

A former police reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Connelly is the internationally bestselling author of the Harry Bosch series, and several other bestsellers including the highly acclaimed legal thriller, The Lincoln Lawyer. The TV series – Bosch – is one of the most watched original series on Amazon Prime and is now in its third season. He has been President of the Mystery Writers of America, and his books have been translated into thirty-nine languages and have won awards all over the world, including the Edgar and Anthony Awards. He spends his time in California and Florida.

Jeremiah’s Bell by Denzil Meyrick @lochlomonden @BirlinnBooks @PolygonBooks

Source: Review copy
Publication: 4th June 2020 from Polygon
PP: 400
ISBN-13: 978-1846975202

Teenager Alison Doig disappeared from Kinloch over thirty years ago under mysterious circumstances. Her reclusive family still live in a remote part of the Kintyre peninsula, amidst rumours of wrecking, smuggling and barbaric cruelty.

Now rich American hotelier Alice Wenger has arrived in town, determined to punish those who made her suffer in the past. But someone has vowed to keep hidden sins concealed for ever.

Daley’s team must race against time to expose long-held secrets and shameful lies before there are any more victims.

I’ve been having a major reading slump recently, taking ages to read a book, not able to focus as well as I normally do. All part of social isolation I guess. But to my huge relief, this book cut through all of that and I devoured it.

Any new Kinloch book is hotly anticipated but this one more than most. Regular readers of this series will know that Meyrick’s last book, A Breath on Dying Embers ended on a major cliff-hanger and we’ve all been holding our collective breath waiting to find out what happened.

Well, I can confidently tell you that I’m not about to divulge spoilers, but what I will say is that a funereal like pall is hanging over Kinloch. It’s everywhere you go, and not least in the County Hotel which is facing a death knell all of its own.

Brian Scott isn’t very cheery, either. Still on the ginger and limes, he’d really been hoping that he could hang up his shiny new D.I. uniform and get back to what he loves best, policing without the paperwork. But Carrie Symington needs him now so he has no choice but to get on with it.

Liz Daley is depressed and drinking too much and trying to get on with things for little James’ sake, and it’s really only a surprising friendship that helps her face the future.

Meanwhile, out on the bleak promontory, overlooking the jagged rocks, a solitary old woman is ringing a hand-bell calling her menfolk back from the sea.

Jeremiah’s Bell is a finely honed, dark work by Denzil Meyrick. One of the darkest I have read in this fine series. Even the dry humour of Hamish and the banter between Hamish, Annie and Brian are tinged with bleakness for the future. The humour is still there, as large as life and as funny as ever, but with an edge to it. All of which just adds to a sense of foreboding that hangs over this sometimes savage book. And I loved it!

The dark foreboding,  sleekit lawyers and an American woman who has come back to Kinloch to make sure her family face up to what they have done, all bring their own troubles to Kinloch and it’s not long before there’s a vicious attack, followed by a murder.

The deepest and darkest of family secrets, holding a fascinating and brutal story that is decades old and crosses continents, lie at the heart of this thrilling police procedural which caught me up in its story from the opening pages.  Meyrick excels in his astute characterisation, his ear for dialogue that sparkles and of course his beautiful and highly atmospheric settings. That sense of place is so important to these books and Meyrick uses it to maximum impact. It’s always fun to see the pompous having their bubbles burst and no-one does that better than this author. Coupled with a plotline that thunders like the sea against the rocks on a choppy day, and you have the perfect combination for a spellbinding, tense and completely propulsive read.

Verdict: There’s just the right proportions of light and shade in this gripping Scottish noir novel. I love the way Meyrick mixes fact and fiction to give readers a tense and thrilling story where the plausibility lies in well researched but little known facts. Another fabulous must read from a writer who understands his readership very well.

Hive Books                       Waterstones                    Amazon

Denzil Meyrick was educated in Argyll, then after studying politics, joined Strathclyde Police, serving in Glasgow. After being injured and developing back problems, he entered the business world, and has operated in many diverse roles, including director of a large engineering company and distillery manager, as well as owning a number of his own companies, such as a public bar and sales and marketing company. D. A. Meyrick has also worked as a freelance journalist in both print and on radio.

– Daily writings | for thoughtful & reflective moments.

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