My Best Friend’s Murder by Polly Phillips

There are so many ways to kill a friendship . . .

You’re lying, sprawled at the bottom of the stairs, legs bent, arms wide. And while this could be a tragic accident, if anyone’s got a motive to hurt you, it’s me.

Bec and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives. They have been through a lot together – from the death of Bec’s mother to the birth of Izzy’s daughter. But there’s a darker side to their friendship, and once it has been exposed, there is no turning back.

So when Izzy’s body is found, Bec knows that if the police decide to look for a killer, she will be the prime suspect. Because those closest to you are the ones who can hurt you the most . . .

#MyBestFriendsMurder @perthectpolly @simonschusterUK

My Review

When I started reading, I commented that I didn’t like any of the characters apart from Missy the dog. By the end I liked them even less (apart from Missy again and maybe Tilly). The main characters – and even some of the less important ones – are as toxic as the relationship between Bec and her ‘best friend’ Izzy. I’d rather have no friends than have one like her.

Izzy is married to Rich, who Bec knew from childhood and has always been secretly in love with. They have a four-year-old daughter called Tilly. Bec is engaged to Ed, who is a bit of a prat really, but they have a gorgeous Bassett Hound called Missy, who doesn’t feature nearly enough for me. Bec also has a brother Rob who is in a relationship with a film star (also a secret).

Rich has two snooty brothers who he rarely sees and a father who wants him to get a better career. Rich just wants to be a writer and is working on his first novel. His mum isn’t that much better. Izzy’s parents, especially mum Glenda are awful.

Izzy is practically perfect in every way (apologies to Mary Poppins). She’s beautiful, slim, well-dressed, throws wonderful parties and runs a 10k effortlessly. You get the picture. Yes we hate her already and want to slap her. No-one is that great.

But Bec worships Izzy even though she treats her so badly. To say their relationship is toxic would be an understatement. Bec brings flowers to a party – Izzy bins them. Bec buys Tilly an amazing Christmas present – Izzy goes mental and says it’s too much.

They are all ghastly but it’s still very entertaining. We know that at some time Izzy will die (it’s in the opening chapter and in the book description), but it’s not until the end we discover the how and the why. Great debut novel.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, the author and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Polly is originally from South West London but after visiting Australia in 2011, she fell head over heels for the lifestyle, even though she doesn’t drink coffee and rarely goes to the beach! Polly currently lives in Perth with her husband, daughter and much-loved dog. My Best Friend’s Murder won the writing prize at the Emirates Literature Festival and is her debut novel. She hopes that after they read it, her friends will still be talking to her…

Silent Graves by Sally Rigby

Nothing remains buried forever…

When the bodies of two teenage girls are discovered on a building site, DCI Whitney Walker knows she’s on the hunt for a killer. The problem is the murders happened forty years ago and this is her first case with the new team. What makes it even tougher is that with budgetary restrictions in place, she only has two weeks to solve it.

#SilentGraves @SallyRigby4 #CavendishandWalker @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours Facebook @damppebblesblogtours 

Once again, she enlists the help of forensic psychologist Dr Georgina Cavendish, but as she digs deeper into the past, she uncovers hidden truths that hurtle through the decades and into the present.

Silent Graves is the ninth book in the acclaimed Cavendish & Walker series.

My Review

The team are back! DCI Whitney Walker and Forensic Psychologist Georgina ‘George’ Cavendish star in the ninth book in the series but this one is very different to the last one I reviewed – Ritual Demise – where our intrepid duo were on the trail of a serial killer who leaves his victims in staged positions with their heads on a heraldic cushion. Click here to read my full review.

Silent Graves is not so grisly, in fact it’s a cold case dating back 40 years to when two girls went missing and the police decided they were runaways. But two bodies have been found on the edges of a farm which is being dug up for housing development. Could they be the missing girls? DNA has come a long way (in fact it wasn’t used in a police investigation until 1986 in the UK so wasn’t possible in 1980) and it’s not hard to identify a body in 2020. So long as you have samples of the girl’s hair for instance, or a sample of the parents’ or siblings’ DNA.

But how did they die and who buried them? And why was the original investigation so bungled? It’s up the the team to find out. Talking of which, the team has changed since the last book. Two members have left – Doug, Frank and IT specialist Ellie remain – and are joined by ambitious sergeant DS Brian Chapman and DC Meena Singh. How will they gel? Whitney isn’t sure about Brian. He’s too keen and she has to keep putting him in his place. I have a feeling we’ll find out a lot more in book ten. She hasn’t found out much about Meena yet so the same applies.

They have also moved into a new building and have a new ‘super’ – the formidable Helen Clyde – who appears to have more respect for Whitney than the last ‘super’ Jamieson did. But I’m waffling. What about George? She’s still there, watching and analysing quietly in the background. She knows when people are lying – which will prove to be very useful in this case.

My only sadness is that we don’t get to see crazy pathologist Claire often enough. I love her. Please give her more to do next time.

Silent Graves is another great police procedural which examines the dynamic of the team and its individual characters as much as it does the criminals and their victims.

Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to be part of #damppebblesblogtours

About the Author

Sally Rigby was born in Northampton, in the UK. She has always had the travel bug, and after living in both Manchester and London, eventually moved overseas. From 2001 she has lived with her family in New Zealand (apart from five years in Australia), which she considers to be the most beautiful place in the world. After writing young adult fiction for many years, under a pen name, Sally decided to move into crime fiction. Her Cavendish & Walker series brings together two headstrong, and very different, women – DCI Whitney Walker, and forensic psychologist Dr Georgina Cavendish. Sally has a background in education, and has always loved crime fiction books, films and TV programmes. She has a particular fascination with the psychology of serial killers.

Check out Sally’swebsite for a FREE prequel story….. www.sallyrigby.com  

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SallyRigby4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Sally-Rigby-131414630527848/posts/?ref=page_internal

Website: https://sallyrigby.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sally.rigby.author/

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/373TnGQ

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/39ZDwL1

The City of Tears by Kate Mosse

Following on from the Sunday Times number one bestseller, The Burning Chambers, Kate Mosse’s The City of Tears is the second thrilling historical epic in The Burning Chambers series.

August 1572: Minou Joubert and her family are in Paris for a Royal Wedding, an alliance between the Catholic Crown and the Huguenot King of Navarre intended to bring peace to France after a decade of religious wars. So too is their oldest enemy, Vidal, still in pursuit of a relic that will change the course of history. But within days of the marriage, thousands will lie dead in the streets and Minou’s beloved family will be scattered to the four winds . . .

A gripping, breathtaking novel of revenge, persecution and loss, the action sweeps from Paris and Chartres to the city of tears itself, Amsterdam. 

My Review

I described The Burning Chambers – the first book in the series – as epic. I can’t think of another word that fits The City of Tears. Once again we have conflict, religious wars and unbridled ambition, set mainly in Paris, Chartres and Amsterdam over a period of around ten years.

We join Piet and Minou living comfortably in Puivert, Minou now the Chatelaine, due to her inheritance. The family are planning a trip to Paris for the Royal Wedding between the Catholic Crown and the Huguenot King of Navarre intended to bring peace to France. Minou’s brother Ameiric will go separately as he is a soldier, but sister Alis plans to go with them. Piet and Minou have two children – seven-year-old Marta and two-year-old Jean-Jaques, who will also be on the trip.

But things in Minou’s life rarely go to plan and what should have been a beautiful celebration and coming together of peoples of different Christian denominations turns into a nightmare. Paris is burning and bodies litter the streets. No one is spared, not women or children or the clergy. Minou and Piet must flee but at what cost? I got so upset and angry I almost couldn’t carry on reading. I’m glad I did – I know with Kate’s books there will be sadness – but sometimes it is unbearable.

In the meantime, Cardinal Valentin – Vidal – is obsessed with collecting religious relics (real or fake it doesn’t matter so long as people believe them to be real). He has also acquired the service of a nine-year-old boy known as Louis, who we soon discover is his illegitimate son.

Following the massacre in Paris, Vidal has been forced to flee and seems to have gone underground. Power mad and bitter, he wants to start his own Catholic church based around the relics he has collected (a bit of a simplistic description for which I apologise). Piet and Minou are now living in Amsterdam but for them the conflict will never be over.

As with book one I got quite stressed at times. I got cross too as I mentioned above and was upset by certain decisions the family made, but then I suppose I have to put myself into what life was like in 1572 and not nowadays. I kept thinking about it but I’m afraid I didn’t change my mind by the end of the book.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, the author and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Kate Mosse is an international bestselling author with sales of more than five million copies in 42 languages. Her fiction includes the novels Labyrinth (2005), Sepulchre (2007), The Winter Ghosts (2009), and Citadel (2012), as well as an acclaimed collection of short stories, The Mistletoe Bride & Other Haunting Tales (2013). The Taxidermist’s Daughter was published in 2014.

Kate is the Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (previously the Orange Prize) and in June 2013, was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to literature. She lives in Sussex.

Unintended Consequences by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

Every choice has a price.

Ella loves her job. Designing solutions for houses with unusual shaped rooms. And she ‘s good at it. In fact they are all good at their jobs apart from maybe Bronwyn who just happens to be the daughter of the owner of the construction company.

But business is not good due to the economic climate and there may be redundancies. But who will have to go? Neil has been there forever. Samira has ‘connections’. Bronwyn is family. Poor Ella is the last in first out. But who gets to decide?

Enter Geoff. No qualms about feelings or fairness for him. But the others? It’s every man for himself and every choice has a price. How far would you go?

What an entertaining piece of radio theatre. Well-written and brilliantly acted. Food for thought. I’m still reeling…

Unintended Consequences was written by Barbara Jennings

With @MaisieCarter1
Tristan Carter
@LukeRhodri
@pippameekings
Ashley Shiers

Directed by @EBraefield
Produced by @COAPiano

Cat on a Piano Productions produce and edit feature films, sketches and radio plays.

Their latest project is called @Theatrephonic, a podcast of standalone radio plays and short stories performed by professional actors. You can catch Theatrephonic on Spotify and other platforms.

And if you really enjoyed Hoping for Butterflies, listen to Theatrephonic’s other plays and short stories and consider becoming a patron by clicking here…

The Dark Room by Sam Blake

Hare’s Landing, West Cork. A house full of mystery…

Rachel Lambert leaves London afraid for her personal safety and determined to uncover the truth behind the sudden death of a homeless man with links to a country house hotel called Hare’s Landing.

#TheDarkRoom @samblakebooks @corvusbooks #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours

New York-based crime reporter Caroline Kelly’s career is threatened by a lawsuit and she needs some thinking space away from her job. But almost as soon as she arrives, Hare’s Landing begins to reveal its own stories – a 30-year-old missing person’s case and the mysterious death of the hotel’s former owner.

As Rachel and Caroline join forces, it becomes clear that their investigations are intertwined – and that there is nothing more dangerous than the truth…

My Review

They say a change is as good as a rest but I sincerely hope I never have a holiday like this one. I doubt Hare’s Landing will turn up on Airbnb any time soon and if it ever does I’ll give it a wide berth. I prefer a vacation without murder, secrets, intrigue and ghostly violins.

Caroline Kelly is at country house hotel Hare’s Landing to get away from her stressful life as a crime reporter in New York, where her job is under threat. Rachel Lambert arrives a day or so later with ex-police-dog-turned-pet Jasper in tow, to escape from London where partner Hunter has been knocked off his bike, and their houseboat has been broken into. Are the two incidents connected?

Caroline and Rachel have never met before, but not only do they hit it off, they soon find that their stories may be linked.

What happened at this remote and slightly spooky hotel 30 years ago where previous owner Honaria Smyth died in mysterious circumstances? What happened to the teenagers Meg Cassidy and Johnny O’Connor who both went missing at the same time? And how is it connected to the death of a homeless violinist known as Alfie Bows (yes really) in London about whom Hunter is making a documentary?

Caroline and Rachel join forces to untangle the web of secrets and lies in a remote part of County Cork where everyone knows everyone else’s business, only some know more than others. I really enjoyed this book. The tension grew as the story progressed and the great reveal was quite a surprise.

Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours.

About the Author

Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the hugely popular national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout and has assisted many award-winning and bestselling authors to publication. As Sam Blake, she has written four previous novels and has topped the Irish bestseller chart.

Poppy Flowers at the Front by Jon Wilkins

1917: with her father in the British secret service and her brother Alfie in the trenches, under-age Poppy Loveday volunteers against her parents’ wishes to drive ambulances in France. We follow her adventures, racing to save wounded men driven to the Casualty Clearing Station, and back to the Base Hospital.

#PoppyFlowersAtTheFront @WriterJWilkins @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours Facebook @damppebblesblogtours 


During one battle she finds Élodie Proux, a French nurse, at a roadside clutching a dead soldier. Poppy rescues her. Élodie becomes her dearest girl as they fall in love.

Poppy and Élodie encounter frightening adversaries at the Western Front as well as away from it during the closing weeks of World War On
e.

My Review

This book was nothing like I expected. The story begins in France in 1917, towards the end of the First World War. Our heroine 17-year-old Poppy Loveday drives an ambulance ferrying injured soldiers from dressing stations to makeshift hospitals and to the mortuary in many cases. She can hear the soldiers screams of pain from wounds and gas. Every detail of the horror – the mud, the cold, the lice, the rats, the blood, the body parts – it’s all here.

But a lot of the story focuses on her forbidden relationship with French nurse Elodie Proux – a romance that must remain hidden from everyone else. Only in high society Paris can they express their love more freely.

Poppy keeps a private journal in which she reveals her true feelings for Elodie – musings about forbidden love and about the futility of war. We also get to read the letters she sends home and to her brother Alfie, stationed somewhere in Europe. In these letters she can only refer to Elodie as a friend.

Her thoughts are very mature for someone so young. She even worries about the horses, including those from her parents’ estate, that are sent to die needlessly. As the war moves towards its conclusion, the soldiers seem to get younger, the deaths more frequent and the injuries more horrific. Then the Spanish flu begins to take hold across Europe and Poppy is more afraid than she was before. Very apt in these times of Covid. Maybe the author felt it was appropriate to write about it at this time.

I really enjoyed reading about Poppy and Elodie. It has horror and sadness mixed with a touch of P. G. Woodhouse, especially from her brother Alfie, referring to – as my friend would call them (courtesy of Charles Dickens) ‘the Aged Ps’ – ‘Dada’ and ‘mater’ and his jolly good show type of language. But then Poppy is actually Lady Ophelia Loveday, mother used to be a suffragette and Dada is a spy. How totally spiffing!

I got to love Poppy in particular and I am sure you will too.

Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to be part of #damppebblesblogtours

About the Author

Jonathan loves to write. He is a retired teacher, lapsed Waterstones’ bookseller and former Basketball Coach. He taught PE and English for 20 years and coached women’s basketball for over 30 years. He regularly teaches creative writing workshops in and around Leicester.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WriterJWilkins 

Website: www.jonathanwilkins.co.uk

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3owCjPw Brigand: https://bit.ly/34enzNZ

The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry

A gripping historical novel of medicine & murder from bestselling author Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman, set in nineteenth-century Edinburgh

Edinburgh, 1849. Hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. And a campaign seeks to paint Dr James Simpson, pioneer of medical chloroform, as a murderer.

#TheArtofDying @ambroseparry @cbrookmyre @blackthornbks @canongatebooks #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours

Determined to clear Simpson’s name, his protégé Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher must plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets and find out who or what is behind the deaths. Soon they discover that the cause of the deaths has evaded detection purely because it is so unthinkable.

  • Contains real life characters and events, based on Marisa Haetzman’s research, including:
    • Dr James Simpson, pioneer of chloroform
    • An antagonist inspired by 19th-century nurse and ‘Angel of Death’ Jane Toppan
    • The controversy surrounding chloroform’s introduction to obstetrics practices
    • The growth of the women’s movement, which led to the formation of the
      Edinburgh Seven: the first women to enrol in university in the UK

My Review

I love a book that has been thoroughly researched and The Art of Dying is certainly that. I know I would never have the patience. There will be many readers who have knowledge of Victorian medicine so it is important to get it right if you don’t want to be called out.

Dr Will Raven and Sarah Fisher are great protagonists and I love them both. At this stage I need to admit that I never read the first book – in fact I didn’t initially realise this was the second book in the series – so I didn’t know that they had history. Will is in love with Sarah but for various reasons which I will not divulge, he ran away to Europe, coming back to find that she had married Dr Archie Banks, who had no such reservations as Will. I love Archie, probably even more than Will.

But as this is a crime novel, the main plot is not their on-off romance but something far more sinister. People are dying at an enormous rate – whole families sometimes – and no-one knows what ails them. Illness appears to be sudden and death comes quickly. There appears to be no precedent for this disease. And is it just coincidence that the same nurse is the one hired to look after the victims?

As well as reading what happens in the third person, we also get glimpses into a first person narrative told from the point of view of an unknown woman. One who tells us that she is never a suspect because no-one expects a woman to be capable of such atrocities.

I absolutely loved this book. I’m not always the greatest fan of historical fiction, preferring more contemporary fodder, but this was just brilliant. My brother is into the history of medicine and I can see the fascination after reading this.

Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours.

About the Author

Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for a collaboration between Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. The couple are married and live in Scotland. Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels. Dr Marisa Haetzman is a consultant anaesthetist of twenty years’ experience, whose research for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine uncovered the material upon which this series, which began with The Way of All Flesh, is based. The Way of All Flesh was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year and longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.

The Art of Dying is the second book in the series.

The Coffinmaker’s Garden by Stuart MacBride

A village on the edge…
As a massive storm batters the Scottish coast, Gordon Smith’s home is falling into the North Sea. But the crumbling headland has revealed what he’s got buried in his garden: human remains.

A house full of secrets…
With the storm still raging, it’s too dangerous to retrieve the bodies and waves are devouring the evidence. Which means no one knows how many people Smith’s already killed and how many more he’ll kill if he can’t be found and stopped.

An investigator with nothing to lose…
The media are baying for blood, the top brass are after a scapegoat, and ex-Detective Inspector Ash Henderson is done playing nice. He’s got a killer to catch, and God help anyone who gets in his way.

My Review

Here is an author who manages to find humour in the face of adversity. Well not just adversity, more like in the face of serial killers, blood, gore, torture, beatings and murder. It’s exciting, full of suspense, sometimes a bit over-the-top and unbelievable, but always enjoyable. It involves the hunt for not one but TWO serial killers – a bit like BOGOF but with more violence (except when there’s a rush in the middle-of-Lidl’s bargain aisle).

On the minus side, I was not keen on Ash’s Clint Eastwood 1970s Dirty Harry ‘Go ahead, make my day’ taking the law into your own hands style policing. It’s a bit much at times. I kept thinking you can’t DO that. It makes police corruption look acceptable.

The characters though, make this story. Ash Henderson – retired police officer (my friend Clive who left the force seven years ago says you are never an ‘ex-police officer’) – hot-headed and obviously superhuman (most of us would be dead after all the beatings) and his sidekick Dr Alice McDonald who drinks herself into a stupor most days and suffers from verbal diarrhoea. Bit like that paragraph. And breathe….

Then there’s Henry. Need I say more. Well OK. A bit like Alice, I always say more. Henry is our lovable, scruffable, fluffable wee Scotty dog. The true hero of the piece and everyone’s favourite character. Maybe not that kind of hero, but he never shirks his duty when free food is involved.

The Coffinmaker’s Garden is the third book in the Ash Henderson series, so readers of the first two will no doubt be familiar with the other police officers – Mother, one-eyed Shifty and jobsworth boss McEwan to name just three. Not having read the first two books it took a while to sort out who is who. But I did – eventually.

This is a brilliant read. And all set against the background of violent storms and the murder house disappearing into the sea. Even if you wince at times at the violence and the policing methods or lack thereof, you’ll be hooked I’m sure, like I was.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, the author and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

PS I quite enjoyed my 10 years working as a project manager in IT.

About the Author in his own words

“I was born in Dumbarton — no one knows why, not even my mother — and moved up to Aberdeen at the tender age of two, dragging my mother, father, and a pair of wee brothers with me. There followed a mediocre academic career, starting out in Marchburn Primary School, where my evil parents forced me to join the cub scouts (specialising in tying unnecessary knots in things and wearing shorts). Thence to Middlefield Academy for some combat recorder practice.

“Having outstayed our welcome in Heathryfold we stopped thencing and tried going hence instead. To Westhill. To a housing development built over the remains of a pig farm. Sounds a bit suspect, but that’s what the official story was when all the householders found teeth and bones coming to the surface of their neatly tended vegetable plots. Pig farm. Right… Eventually I escaped from Westhill Academy with a CSE in woodwork, a deep suspicion of authority, and itchy shins.

“Here followed an aborted attempt to study architecture at Herriot Watt in Edinburgh, which proved to be every bit as exciting and interesting as watching a badger decompose. If you’ve never tried it, I can wholly recommend giving it a go (watching mouldy badgers falling to bits, not architecture). So I gave up the life academic and went a-working offshore instead. That involved a lot of swearing as I recall. Swearing and drinking endless cups of tea. And I think I had Alpen every morning for about a year and a half. Can’t look at a bowl of the stuff now without getting the dry boak, sod how regular it keeps you. After my stint offshore I had a bash at being a graphic designer, a professional actor, failed the interview to be an undertaker, passed the interview to be a marketing company’s studio manager, a web designer, programmer, technical lead… Then last, but by all means least, finally circling the career drain by becoming a project manager for a huge IT conglomerate. Shudder.

“Anyway, while I was doing all that IT stuff, I wrote a wee book about an Aberdonian detective sergeant and his dysfunctional colleagues: Cold Granite. HarperCollins bought it, and overnight I went from a grumpy project manager caterpillar to a writing butterfly. As long as you can picture a six-foot-tall, pasty-white, bearded butterfly with no wings, that spends all its time hanging about the house in its jammies.

“I’ve been shortlisted for a bunch of things, won a couple of them (including Celebrity Mastermind), been lucky enough to have a couple of honorary doctorates conferred upon me (by the lovely Dundee and Robert Gordon universities) but my crowning achievement has to be winning the WORLD STOVIES CHAMPIONSHIP at the 2014 Huntly Hairst! How impressive is that?

“Oh, and I own a banjo now. Banjos are cool.”

Winterkill by by Ragnar Jónasson translated by David Warriner

Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjörður, the northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes.

@ragnarjo #Winterkill #DarkIceland @OrendaBooks #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours

Ari Thór Arason is now a police inspector, but he’s separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air.

Three days before Easter, a nineteen-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes ‘She was murdered’ again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death…

As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access to Siglufjörður, Ari Thór must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth … one that will leave no one unscathed.

Chilling, claustrophobic and disturbing, Winterkill marks the startling conclusion to the million-copy bestselling Dark Iceland series and cements Ragnar Jónasson as one of the most exciting authors in crime fiction.

My Review

In the last few months I’ve become a real fan of Scandi Noir, or in this case Icelandic Noir, both in books and on TV in series like The Bridge and The Valhalla Murders. The latter, like Winterkill, is set in Iceland. Being an island there is something very claustrophobic about it. There is nowhere to go, it’s cold and dark for much of the year. The climate is like one of the characters – villainous, chilling and foreboding.

Of course Iceland is also a popular tourist destination, where people go to see the Northern Lights, together with the volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields. But this is not what we are seeing here. We are seeing the dark underbelly of this beautiful country. It’s hard to imagine such a small island would have any crime, but it obviously does.

Winterkill is the sixth novel in The Dark Iceland series, in which we met Ari Thór Arason, now a Police Inspector and separated from girlfriend Kristin and their young son. At no time are we given the impression that they might get back together, so we are ultimately not disappointed. In fact Ari Thór is contemplating rekindling the relationship he once had with Ugla who works at the nursing home that is embroiled in the investigation, but is there actually a connection?

Winterkill is atmospheric, full of intrigue and suspenseful. What starts as a seemingly simple investigation into a teenage suicide turns into something far more complicated. Did she jump or was she pushed. No-one knows but Ari Thór will not give up until he discovers the truth. And his search uncovers far more than he expected. An excellent read.

Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours.

About the Author

Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, and currently works as a lawyer, while teaching copyright law at the Reykjavík University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines. Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavík, and is co-founder of the International crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. Ragnar’s debut thriller, Snowblind became an almost instant bestseller when it was published in June 2015 with Nightblind (winner of the Dead Good Reads Most Captivating Crime in Translation Award) and then Blackout, Rupture and Whiteout following soon after. To date, Ragnar Jónasson has written five novels in the Dark Iceland series, which has been optioned for TV by On the Corner. Winterkill is the sixth in the series. Ragnar lives in Reykjavík with his wife and two daughters.

Hoping for Butterflies by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

Lisa is telling her daughter Katie what she can see outside. She is explaining about the people sitting on deckchairs outside their own houses. Just a couple outside each house. It’s sunny and the people are looking at the sun.

Lisa tells her about the rainbows. A4 paper stuck on the insides of windows. Katie wants to know about the colours.

Alex and Jamie meet in the street. Jamie asks Alex about his run. They talk about Katie having a scan. It’s the first time we realise that Katie is ill.

The story develops as more people come together. People who rarely spoke to each before. There is birdsong. Alex and Jamie are talking about the caterpillars in pots on the windowsill and how they are hoping for butterflies.

After everything that happened in 2020, this play shows us how we can find community in adversity. Very current and poignant. A beautiful play.

Hoping for Butterflies was written and directed by @lid_ear_kenny, who also composed and performed all the music AND edited it together.

Written by Lydia Kenny @lid_ear_kenny
With Maisie Carter @mc_combat
Danielle Lade @ladeington 
Ashley Shiers
Kieran Mortell
Emmeline Braefield @ebraefield
Robert Penny @robertpenny1

About Cat on a Piano

Cat on a Piano Productions produce and edit feature films, sketches and radio plays.

Their latest project is called @Theatrephonic, a podcast of standalone radio plays and short stories performed by professional actors. You can catch Theatrephonic on Spotify and other platforms.

And if you really enjoyed Hoping for Butterflies, listen to Theatrephonic’s other plays and short stories and consider becoming a patron by clicking here…

My 3 favourite books of 2020

It was far easier to choose my over all Top 3 than it was to choose my favourite eight from each half of the year. Why? Because once you open the floodgates it’s impossible to stop. So here goes. They are all totally different from each other, but they each hold a special place in my heart.

Image thanks to Leafy Bean Co

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

Probably one of the reasons I loved this book so much was because it is set in my era. I was only 10 at the time, much younger than Evie, and still at Primary School, but I remember everything she talks about, from Adam Faith (I loved him – his was the first record I ever bought) to Atora Suet (still don’t know what that is but I can still see the packaging) and our Dansette record player, though ours was red.

But one of the stand-out things for me about the book is how Matson has managed to capture perfectly the ‘playful’ (his word) voice of a 16 year old girl in the sixties. Hard enough for someone like me who was there. So grab a copy and a cuppa and enjoy. With a slice of cake or a fat rascal from Betty’s of course.

For my full review click here…

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Every once in a while you know you have read something special, something original, something so overwhelmingly beautiful and sad that you feel like your heart is breaking. Mirrorland is that something. Dark and unsettling, the more you read, the more you cannot imagine what the next chapter holds. It’s like holding your breath underwater, afraid to surface, yet more afraid to remain. 

Catriona and Ellice lived out their childhood in a world of their own invention. A world called Mirrorland. Populated with pirates, clowns, adventurers, Belle, Mouse and The Witch, the only other child allowed into their world was Ross. That is, until the girls are found wandering, bloody and wretched at the dock, waiting for a pirate ship to take them away.

To say this book is fantastic would not do it justice. It’s just brilliant and amazing and every other adjective I can think of.

For my full review click here…

When the Music Stops by Joe Heap

When the Music Stops is so unique, so different, that it left me reeling. The story takes us through the ‘seven stages of woman’ (inspired by Shakespeare’s seven stages of man in As You Like It *) – from Ella’s life as a child in Glasgow and her first experience of losing someone close to her when she was still a child, to now, when she is old. She is on a boat. It is starting to sink and is gradually filling with water. Ella is 87 and alone apart from a baby which she discovers in a room which has been turned into a nursery. The baby is very young and needs looking after.

Towards the end I was totally overwhelmed and had to take a break or I would have started crying and not been able to stop. Writing this review made me cry. It is rare for a story to have such a profound effect on me and make me feel so happy and sad at the same time. This is one book I will definitely read again (and I almost never do that).

For my full review click here…

2020 – A Year in Books

Here is a round-up of my favourite books of 2020. Being furloughed during the first lock-down, I got used to reading far more books than in previous years and it also saw the beginning of my new ‘career’ taking part in blog tours. The following are not just from those blog tours, but also NetGalley and Pigeonhole reads. I hope 2021 has as many good books to offer (Mirrorland is not published till 2021) though hopefully not another lock-down (as I write this I am afraid we may be headed for another one tomorrow).

On Friday (New Year’s Eve) I’ll publish my Top 3 for the year.

Image thanks to Leafy Bean Co

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau

I just loved this book. It’s 1911 and Peggy Battenberg works in the Moonrise Bookstore in New York. But Peggy is no ordinary shop girl. She’s an heiress belonging to one of the countries richest Jewish families. Then one day, while making martinis for an eminent – if rather salacious author – and his agent, Peggy is dragged away by her Uncle David to spend the summer in New York’s illustrious and hedonistic Coney Island with her extended family.

For my full review click here…

The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby

This book is so beautiful and sad, words cannot give it justice. Yes it’s slow at times – especially in the middle – and I guessed at some of the tragedies that do not come to light until the end, but don’t let that put you off. It’s not yet another book full of twists and turns and a shocking reveal. This is a gentle read about Romilly’s coming of age and one that will have you in tears at the end.

For my full review click here…

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor

Probably one of the reasons I loved this book so much was because it is set in my era. I was only 10 at the time, much younger than Evie, and still at Primary School, but I remember everything she talks about, from Adam Faith (I loved him – his was the first record I ever bought) to Atora Suet (still don’t know what that is but I can still see the packaging) and our Dansette record player, though ours was red.

For my full review click here…

I Am Dust by Louise Beech

Magical realism is my favourite genre, but I Am Dust is all out supernatural featuring dead crows, bad dreams, Ouija boards, strange voices and ghostly happenings. And I lapped it up. Every scene and every word. Brilliantly written, it revolves around three teenagers in 2005 who mess around with dark things they don’t understand. I can’t praise this book enough. It’s spooky and entertaining and I love the seance scenes…

For my full review click here…

The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman

This is such a hard book to review. It made me cry – buckets at times. It made me mad – how could ‘that’ have been allowed to happen? It made me sad many times for the wonderful, beautiful, real characters that Charity Norman has created. I loved every minute of this book.

For my full review click here…

Daughters of Cornwall by Fern Britton

I literally read this in two sessions. I wasn’t sure what to expect, this being my first Fern Britton novel, thinking it was probably a romance set in Cornwall or a bit like The Shell Seekers (though I loved that book in my thirties). How wrong I was! This is a tale of three generations of incredible women.

For my full review click here…

The Split by Sharon Bolton

This was a roller-coaster of a ride from South Georgia (where even is that?) to Cambridge and back again. At times the pace of the story leaves you breathless and winded and you have to remind yourself to breathe. By the end I needed three Yoga sessions to bring my heart rate down.

For my full review click here…

Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar

You can read this book in two different ways. You can simply regard it as another psychological thriller featuring two main female protagonists or a protagonist and an antagonist, depending on whose shoes you are standing in, but if that is all you may be disappointed. Or you can see it as something much deeper. A power struggle between two women who should have been helping and supporting each other in the male-dominated world of publishing.

Her Last Words by Kim Kelly

There is something very personal about Her Last Words. It feels as though the author has lived it and suffered it in some shape or form. Penny Katchinski, for instance is a Catholic Jew (as am I), and I don’t believe it’s incidental. I can’t imagine your hero would have that background unless you had a reason. I may be wrong of course, but it resonated with me in such a personal way.

For my full review click here…

The Cry of the Lake by Charlie Tyler

This book is absolutely stunning. I can’t praise it enough. I read about 70% of the book in one sitting. The story is intricately woven and at first I couldn’t quite work out what was going on, but then it just got better and better. The plot involves teenager Lily (who can’t speak or won’t speak) and her older sister Grace. Grace is out for revenge and we know the girls have taken on new identities, but what have they fled from and why.

For my full review click here…

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

Margery Benson and Enid Pretty are two most unlikely travelling companions. They have nothing in common. In fact Margery really doesn’t want Enid – she doesn’t even like her –  but it’s all she has left after the other applicants for the job of entomologist’s assistant were a disaster. So now she is stuck with her.

Unlike my usual feast of psychological thrillers and police procedurals, this book will make you laugh and cry in equal measures, though towards the end you will probably cry and cry like I did.

For my full review click here…

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Every once in a while you know you have read something special, something original, something so overwhelmingly beautiful and sad that you feel like your heart is breaking. Mirrorland is that something. Dark and unsettling, the more you read, the more you cannot imagine what the next chapter holds. It’s like holding your breath underwater, afraid to surface, yet more afraid to remain.

For my full review click here…

The Thriller Collection by Alan Gorevan

This is just so good. I only meant to start the first story and ended up reading the first two back to back until well gone midnight. If I hadn’t had to get up early I’d have read the third one straight after.

I loved all three stories – probably a toss up between the first and the last as to which is my favourite. One event in the middle one was too upsetting to put it at the top. The author might guess what I mean. I look forward to reading more of his work.

For my full review of all three stories click here…

The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Bjorg AEgisdottir Translated by Victoria Cribb

What can I say. This is just brilliant. Everything about it is exciting, chilling, scary, I could go on with a list of adjectives. It’s the perfect police procedural but there is also so much more. The Creak on the Stairs also gives us an insight into Iceland’s character, its history and the cold, often bleak weather, which create the backdrop for this thrilling story. I loved it.

For my full review click here…

When the Music Stops by Joe Heap

When the Music Stops is so unique, so different, that it left me reeling. The story takes us through the ‘seven stages of woman’ (inspired by Shakespeare’s seven stages of man in As You Like It *) – from Ella’s life as a child in Glasgow and her first experience of losing someone close to her when she was still a child, to now, when she is old. Towards the end I was totally overwhelmed and had to take a break or I would have started crying and not been able to stop. It is rare for a story to have such a profound effect on me and make me feel so happy and sad at the same time.

For my full review click here…

Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski

It’s six o’clock in the morning. I awoke at five and had to finish this book. So many thoughts in my head. I was compelled to get up and write this review. For me this was more than just a story. It was my heritage.

I went to Poland with my father in 1978, Reading this book brought it all back to me. Of course I cannot identify with Ludwik’s sexuality and his love for Janusz or his pain, but the sadness of the politics resonates with me. The book is so beautifully written – a love story tinged with the desperation of so many people’s plight.

To read my full review click here…

My Three Most Original Reads of 2020

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

The Constant Rabbit is a serious insight into the human condition and how it will take another so-called ‘lower species’ (in this case rabbits) to make us realise who we really are and what we have done to this earth. It uncovers the hidden racism and the not-so-hidden hatred of anyone who is different.

For my full review click here…

Purple People by Kate Bulpitt

Should we turn criminals purple so everyone can see who they are? This book is original, hilarious, wacky and current. 

For my full review click here…

Cooking for Cannibals by Rich Leder

Oh my goodness! This is like nothing I have ever read before. Hilarious, shocking, funny, dark and gross – what a ride. Not for the faint-hearted it includes murder, torture, rats, nudity, orgies, drugs, more rats, cannibalism, sex, torture and more….

For my full review click here…