The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen translated by David Hackston

Award-winning author Antti Tuomainen launches his first series with The Rabbit Factor, an energetic black comedy, currently being adapted for the screen by Amazon/Mandeville Films with Steve Carell to star, and Antti executive producing.

What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal. Until he is faced with the incalculable, after a series of unforeseeable events.

#TheRabbitFactor #OneSpreadsheetAwayFromChaos #BlogTour @antti_tuomainen @OrendaBooks
#RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours

After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from some dangerous men who are very keen to get their money back.

All improbable and complicated problems. But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, a happy-go-lucky artist with a chequered past, whose erratic lifestyle bewilders him. As the criminals go to increasingly extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

My Review

I often say there is very little out there that is totally original. Until I read The Rabbit Factor. Henri reminds me of a cross between the main character in The Rosie Project and Mr Spock. Except he’s not looking for love or any kind of illogical or logical connection, that is until he meets Laura Helanto. Henri is an actuary. His life revolves around mathematics and relationships just don’t compute.

Henri has one friend in his life and that’s his cat Schopenhauer. He tells the cat almost everything, though he leaves out some of the more sinister parts that involve the criminals his brother owed money to. According to Wikipedia, “Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher. He is best known for his 1818 work The World as Will and Representation, which characterises the phenomenal world as the product of a blind noumenal will.” I have no idea what that means and I expect the cat doesn’t either. But Henri does, because that’s how his mind works.

But let’s start at the beginning. Henri has lost his job as an actuary. He’s just not moving with the times. He can’t get his head round all the modern, team-building crap his boss spouts so he’s out on his ear. But before he can say ‘constructive dismissal’, his brother Juhani dies and leaves him an adventure park called YouMeFun. Henri’s idea of fun is drinking a beer while setting up a new spreadsheet. I doubt he’s ever even visited an adventure park let alone knows how one works, but he has no option than to give it a go.

Unfortunately he has also inherited the staff and a rum lot they are. Kristian wants to be the general manager but does he have the right credentials. Esa is the park’s head of security and his office needs fumigating. Minttu K is the marketing and sales manager. Her clothes are too tight, she’s so tanned she looks like David Dickinson’s love-child and she reeks of gin and cigarettes. Samppa is in charge of play, while Johanna runs the Curly Cake Cafe with precision and turns out cakes and snacks for the parents and children.

And then of course there’s Laura Helanto. She seems to find him amusing, which no-one else has ever done, and he is drawn to her in a way that is way out of his comfort zone.

The park has massive debts but according to the accounts it should be turning a profit. So where is the rest of the money going? We know from the very start that criminals are involved and that Henri has had an unfortunate and violent encounter with a thug and a giant rabbit’s ear. And that’s only the start. His attempts to solve the park’s financial problems are crazy and hilarious, while all the time he knows he is doing it, not for his brother, but for Laura.

I loved this book. It’s so refreshing to read something new and different and dark humour is probably my favourite genre.

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

About the Author

Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir ’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. A TV adaptation is in the works, and Jussi Vatanen (Man In Room 301) has just been announced as a leading role. Palm Beach Finland was an immense success, with Marcel Berlins (The Times) calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’. His latest thriller, Little Siberia, was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger, the Amazon Publishing /Capital Crime Awards and the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. In total, Antti Tuomainen has been short- and longlisted for 12 UK awards.

Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme. Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four ’s Book at Bedtime. Six titles have been short- or long-listed for the CWA Daggers. Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Stovell.

Explorers by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

It’s all about scientific integrity isn’t it? It’s that simple. But not when it gets personal.

Diana is working on a cure for osteo-arthritis when Edith sends out a press release for T7 which has only been tested on mice. It may not even work.

But Diana’s husband Henry has other plans for this miracle cure and it’s not exactly how one goes about things. Now how important is scientific integrity, especially when your husband is suffering?

Written by Barbara Jennings
Directed by Emmeline Braefield

Genevieve Swift as Diana
Helen Fullerton as Dame Edith
Tom Eastwood as Aidan
AJ Deane as Henry

Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions

Chasing Time by SYBS
Peacefully by E’s Jammy Jams
Lukewarm Hazy by Asher Fulero
Underwater Exploration by Godmode

The Theatrephonic Theme tune was composed by Jackson Pentland
Performed by
Jackson Pentland
Mollie Fyfe Taylor
Emmeline Braefield

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.

For more information about the Theatrephonic Podcast, go to, Tweet or Instagram us @theatrephonic, or visit our Facebook page.

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

The Lighthouse Witches by CJ Cooke

Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse.
A lighthouse that has weathered more than storms.

Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation. Coincidence? Or curse?

#TheLighthouseWitches #blogtour @CJessCooke @annecater @RandomTTours #RandomThingsTours

Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left.

Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth . . . But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

My Review

As soon as I read the blurb about Luna finding her sister Clover many years later, except she hadn’t aged at all in over 20 years, I was immediately reminded of a book called Some Kind of Fairytale by the late, great Graham Joyce. It’s a remarkable work of speculative fiction / magical realism and I prayed that The Lighthouse Witches would enthral me in the same way. It was quite an ask.

First of all let me say that this is a very different beast. In addition to Clover’s return, we have the disappearance of her other sister Saffy and their mum Liv. We have witchcraft and the burning of witches some 400 years prior to the current story, which incidentally is set in two more timelines – 1998 when the whole family apart from Luna disappeared (told from Liv’s point of view) and ‘now’, 22 years later, when Luna and Clover are reunited (told in the third person).

We start in 1998 when Liv is hired by a strange, remote man called Patrick Roberts, who wants her to paint the inside of a derelict lighthouse known as the Longing (great name for a book) with runes and diagrams, but also to add some artistic touches of her own. She will stay in the bothy close by, with her three daughters Saffy, Luna and Clover.

I really didn’t like Liv to start with and I didn’t like Saffy much either (though I can almost forgive the latter’s surliness as she’s only 15). Once I understood more about the history and superstitions of the remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, where they are staying, I began to warm to them both. The story is more complicated and certainly much darker than I expected and be prepared for some quite horrific events.

The origins of Lòn Haven (the island itself is fictitious) revolve around some of the worst witch trials and burnings of the late 16th and early 17th centuries in Scotland, when it was believed that places could be cursed by witches and all the terrible storms, plagues and deaths that occurred were related to these curses. But perhaps even stranger than this was the belief that when children disappeared, they were returned as ‘wildlings’ and should be destroyed. And so we have the basis for this unique and haunting story. Part Gothic horror, part mythology and part the strength of love, you won’t be able to put this down.

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

About the Author

C.J. Cooke is an acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist and academic with numerous other publications written under the name of Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Her work has been published in 23 languages to date. Born in Belfast, C.J. has a PhD in Literature from Queen’s University, Belfast, and is currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health. C.J. Cooke lives in Glasgow with her husband and four children. She also founded the Stay-At-Home Festival.

A Woman Made of Snow by Elisabeth Gifford

A gorgeous, haunting, and captivating novel of a century-long family mystery in the wild of Scotland, and one woman’s hunt for the truth.

Scotland, 1949: Caroline Gillan and her new husband Alasdair have moved back to Kelly Castle, his dilapidated family estate in the middle of nowhere. Stuck caring for their tiny baby, and trying to find her way with an opinionated mother-in-law, Caroline feels adrift, alone and unwelcome.

#AWomanMadeOfSnow @elisabeth04liz @CorvusBooks @annecater @RandomTTours #RandomThingsTours #blogtour

But when she is tasked with sorting out the family archives, Caroline discovers a century-old mystery that sparks her back to life. There is one Gillan bride who is completely unknown – no photos exist, no records have been kept – the only thing that is certain is that she had a legitimate child. Alasdair’s grandmother.

As Caroline uncovers a strange story that stretches as far as the Arctic circle, her desire to find the truth turns obsessive. And when a body is found in the grounds of the castle, her hunt becomes more than just a case of curiosity. What happened all those years ago? Who was the bride? And who is the body…?

My Review

This is one of the most beautifully written books I have read this year. Once again we have two timelines – Caroline, Alasdair and baby Felicity in 1949, being forced to live in Kelly Castle with Alasdair’s opinionated mum Martha, after their cottage in the grounds is flooded, and the mystery of who was Alasdair’s great-grandmother, for whom there is no grave, no pictures and whose name has been removed from the family tree.

In the original timeline 100 or so years earlier, we have Charlotte, an artist and rebel, her beautiful sister Louisa and Oliver, who is their best childhood friend. Charlotte and Louisa live at Kelly, but one day Oliver’s mother Sylvia decides they are not good enough to mix and they are told to leave. There is also Mary, regarded even lower in the society of the time, who goes to work in a factory.

A few years later, Oliver declares his love for Louisa to his mother’s horror, while Charlotte declares her love for Oliver. Sylvia bans both women both from the house. Oliver is incensed (as far as the lovely, gentle Oliver can be) and threatens to go away. And so he does. He signs up to be the surgeon on a whaling ship – the Narwhal – but doesn’t realise he’ll be gone for months. Oliver isn’t fully qualified as a doctor but the captain doesn’t seem bothered. Not the best start when he has to perform amputations for the first time.

Back to 1949 and Martha has asked Caro if she would like to research the family history, as Caro is finding being alone with a baby and not working lonely and frustrating. Not that she doesn’t love baby Fliss, but life was different then, no daytime TV, no Mumsnet or baby clubs and too far out of the way to join any if they did exist. And what a history she uncovers! Now I must at this point state that I actually grew to love Martha. Her snobbishness was of its time – we can’t always judge people by today’s standards – and she also did not have the benefit of learning about modern mother/daughter (or daughter-in-law) boundaries. Mothers were expected to dish out advice to the next generation and at times Caro can be rather too sensitive and pig-headed.

But I’ve forgotten one of the most important events – the body in Caro and Alasdair’s garden. Who is it and why is it there? While reading with my fellow Pigeons we all had our opinions, based on evidence or lack of it and occasional wishful thinking.

I loved this book and I say this as a vegetarian who winced at the killing of the whales, the poor seals coming up though the holes in the ice to be slaughtered for meat and skins and the caribou for their warm fur. I even winced at the constant eating of lamb by both generations, but I have to accept that this was how the Inuit survived and that wealthy people were lucky to have meat to sustain themselves after the war. OK twentieth century snowflake rant over.

Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours and  to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. She is married with three children, and lives in Kingston upon Thames. A Woman Made of Snow is her fifth novel.

Cold As Hell by Lilja Sigurðardóttir

With rights sold in 14 countries, Cold as Hell is the first in the riveting, atmospheric and beautifully plotted five-book series. An Áróra Investigation, from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.

Estranged sisters Áróra and Ísafold live in different countries, and are not on speaking terms. When their mother loses contact with Ísafold, Áróra reluctantly returns to Iceland to look for her. But she soon realises that her sister isn’t avoiding her … she has disappeared, without a trace.

#ColdAsHell@lilja1972 @OrendaBooks #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours 

As she confronts Ísafold’s abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Björn, and begins to probe her sister’s reclusive neighbours – who have their own reasons for staying out of sight – Áróra is drawn into an ever-darker web of intrigue and manipulation.

Baffled by the conflicting details of her sister ’s life, and blinded by the shiveringly bright midnight sun of the Icelandic summer, Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daníel, to help her track her sister ’s movements, and tail Björn. But she isn’t the only one watching.

My Review

It took me a while to work out who was who and what was what, but once I did, I loved every moment. We have quite a cast of characters, so it’s not really surprising.

Our main protagonist is half English/ half Icelandic Áróra, tall, statuesque, the troll (as her father called her) to her older, elfin sister Ísafold. Now I have to admit that I wouldn’t really like to be called a troll – I imagine being 12 feet tall with a hairy body and everyone screaming Wingardium Leviosa whenever I came near them (apologies to anyone who hasn’t read Harry Potter).

Ísafold has disappeared, worrying because her abusive, drug peddling boyfriend Björn has previously beaten her so badly she’s ended up in hospital on more than one occasion. Áróra doesn’t live in Iceland – she lives in England and so does their English mother, who is becoming increasingly worried. Áróra and her sister are not on speaking terms because of Ísafold’s relationship with Björn.

However, her mum insists that Áróra travels to Iceland to find her sister and so the mystery begins to unfold. The first thing she does is visit the other residents of the apartment where Ísafold lives and this is where it gets really interesting. First we have Grímur, a strange man who has a phobia about all bodily hair (possibly Chaetophobia) and shaves from head to foot every day, sometimes two or three times until his body is red raw. I still have no idea why, but maybe we’ll find out in the next book. Then there’s Olga who is housing an illegal immigrant called Omar, and of course Björn.

Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daníel, who is supposed to be her uncle but actually isn’t – the book can explain. He lives in an apartment with a garden, which he tends to lovingly, but there is one patch of weeds he can’t get rid of. His neighbour, who happens to be a drag queen called Lady Gugulu, says it’s because elves live there. It’s these touches of the sublime to the ridiculous that make me love this book so much. And I do also have a bit of a crush on Daniel – I hope I’m not proved wrong in the future.

And if all this isn’t enough we have a side plot in which Áróra uses her skills as a financial investigator, but I’m not even going to try to explain. Just read the book. It’s brilliant. I can’t wait for book two.

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

About the Author

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurðardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, her English debut shortlisting for the CWA International Dagger and hitting bestseller lists worldwide. Trap soon followed suit, with the third in the trilogy Cage winning the Best Icelandic Crime Novel of the Year, and was a Guardian Book of the Year. Lilja’s standalone Betrayal, was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. Lilja is also an award-winning screenwriter in her native Iceland. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme. Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four ’s Book at Bedtime. Six titles have been short- or long-listed for the CWA Daggers. Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Stovell.

The Lie She Told by Catherine Yaffe

All Kate Wanted Was A Peaceful Life. 
All Ryan Wanted To Do Was Destroy it.

Living in the remote Scottish Highlands under Witness Protection, life is finally happy for Kate Ward and her young son Joe, until someone from Kate’s past appears. Ryan Albright is the only person that knows all of Kate’s secrets, and what she had to do to escape her previous abusive relationship. Ryan is determined to complete the mission set for him by Kate’s ex-husband.

#TheLieSheTold #blogtour @CatherineYaffe Zooloo’s Book Tours @zooloo2008 #ZooloosBookTours

Systematically and violently, he pulls Kate’s new world apart with devastating consequences for everyone around him, including Kate who must face up to the lie she told.

My Review

Very fast paced as we move from one timeline to another and back again. It’s also a quick read. I never usually say this but it could have been a bit longer with more of Kate’s backstory such as how she met and married her ex-husband Darren.

Kate is like two different people – quiet and reserved living with her son Joe in the remote Scottish Highlands. I loved the idea of relocating to this wind-swept location, where she runs the local cafe, along with the elderly owner Jack Bruce, who has taken them both under his wing. But when we see her in the past, she is mixing with a group of undesirables, drawing her into their criminal lifestyle.

But back to the ‘now’ and Kate is muddling along quite happily, safe in her own little world. Then one day, she picks up a hitchhiker during a storm and it turns out to be Ryan Albright, a blast from the past, a man with whom she had a dalliance while her husband was up to no good. But Ryan is horrible, even worse than she remembers. He’s one of those lovable rogue types, handsome but shady (and a bit thick), except he’s not remotely lovable and gets less so by the day. Some of the things he does are beyond belief. But Kate is taken in by his charm.

The book follows Ryan’s devious plans which threaten to destroy Kate’s new life, but we also jump back in time to Kate’s marriage to Darren, her abusive ex-husband, an armed robbery and Darren going to prison.

Many thanks to @zooloo2008 for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the Author

Catherine Yaffe is a full-time writer of crime novels, based in the North of England. The Lie She Told is Catherine’s first novel with the theme of questioning how well we know those around us. Catherine lives with her husband Mark and her cats Jenson and Button – she’s also a big fan of Formula One!

Follow her at:

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Flight of the Shearwater (The Sturmtaucher Trilogy #2) by Alan Jones

Flight of the Shearwater is the second book in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy: a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.

‘With Poland divided between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Union of Soviet Republics, the increasingly confident Third Reich flexes its military muscles northwards into Denmark and Norway, while the rest of Europe watches anxiously over its shoulders.

General Erich Kästner, in his key role in the Abwehr, is fast becoming aware of the mass expulsion of Jews and other minority groups from Germany and from northern Poland, to the new ghettos of the Generalgouverment area of southern Poland, and has an inkling of what the National Socialists’ have in mind for Europe’s Jews.

As Holland and Belgium fall, and the British are routed at Dunkirk, barely escaping across the channel, the seemingly impregnable France collapses under the Wehrmacht Blitzkrieg, sealing the fate of millions of Jews, now trapped under Hitler’s rule.

The Nussbaums, thwarted in their attempts to escape to Denmark, desperately seek other routes out of Germany but, one by one, they are closed off, and they realise they have left it all too late…’ 

My Review

What an incredible book!

For me this was less personal as by now my Jewish mother was safely in England, evacuated with her mother to Cheltenham for the foreseeable future. My Polish father was in a POW camp in Siberia, from which he would eventually escape to join RAF Polish Bomber Squadron 300 in England, so I have no experience of relatives left behind as far as I know.

Flight of the Shearwater continues the journey of the Kästners – the relationship between Erich and youngest daughter Antje and their mother Maria and sister Eva declining all the time. This disagreement revolves around the relationship with their lifelong friends and housekeepers – the Nussbaums who happen to be Jewish. While I do understand that Maria and Eva are afraid of repercussions – who can say if any of us would have been brave enough in the face of the SS or the Gestapo – I can’t help feeling that in their case it was more about their standing in society and Maria’s relationship with the Countess and finding Eva a well-connected husband.

In the meantime son Major Franz Kästner is hatching a plot with his father and sister Antje, to remove the Nussbaum’s two children Ruth and Manny from Nazi Germany to a place of safety eg England. By sheer (or should it be shear) coincidence, Franz and younger brother Johann are asked by a friend of their father’s if they would sail his boat The Shearwater to Norway. What an opportunity this presents! Just two problems – how to smuggle the children on board and keep them hidden, and how to involve Johann in the plot. Franz, like Erich, has seen first-hand the unbelievable cruelty dished out to the Jews in Germany, as they are systematically stripped of all their rights, their homes, their savings, are forbidden to travel or work and frequently shot, tortured and shipped to relocation ‘camps’ in Poland. And we all know what that meant. But Johann is still torn between helping Franz and remaining with his comrades in the army.

We knew in book one that Poland had been annexed, along with Austria, Czechoslovakia and the Sudetenland, but Holland and Belgium have also fallen, the British have been routed at Dunkirk, and France has collapsed under the Wehrmacht Blitzkrieg, sealing the fate of millions of Jews, now trapped under Hitler’s rule. But Hitler has set his sights even higher. He’s determined to invade the Soviet Union – this is not yet known publicly – but Erich has inroads into the Reich’s future plans through his friend Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr. **

Without saying too much more or giving anything away, Franz and Johann begin the journey to Norway, hoping to detour to England and get captured or ‘lost at sea’. This will mean being picked up as deserters by the Royal Navy and spending the rest of the war in a POW camp. But at least Ruth and Manny will be safe. Both Erich and Antje will help but Maria and Eva must never know the truth. Unfortunately, they encounter the worst storm in a decade and so the flight of the Shearwater begins in earnest.

But that’s not all! We are introduced to two of the most hateful characters I have ever encountered in literature – even worse than SS Officer Rudolph Mey who viciously beat and raped his wife Lise in book one. They are Gestapo Kriminalassistant Heinrich Güllich and his sidekick, the snivelling rat Carl Meyer. Obsessed with proving that Ruth and Manny were smuggled out of Kiel on the Shearwater, Güllich will go to any lengths to find some evidence. But even more so he is determined to bring down the ‘Jew-loving’ General Erich Kästner, because if there is one thing he hates more than Jews it’s over-privileged rich people with friends in high places who think they are untouchable. I just wanted someone to shoot them both.

Just one final point. Some twenty or so years ago I attended the funeral of my wonderful and adored Aunt Joan. After the ceremony, I had a discussion with the Rabbi about my ‘Jewishness’, She told me that of course I was Jewish as Jewishness was passed down through the mother. When I asked her why she said it was because so many Jewish women were raped that their children often didn’t know who their father was. Now I know this is not the only reason. and I can’t fully substantiate what she told me, but I think she may have been referring to the Ashkenazy Jews in Europe and their treatment by the Nazis.

Rape of Jewish women plays an even bigger role in the second book and will remain the most harrowing aspect for me (and I suspect for all women). Some were prepared to allow themselves to be taken by soldiers of the SS to stay alive, while others would rather have died. However, in many cases, rape, often in front of the husband and children was used as a means of torture and I can’t bring myself to go into further details – it’s too upsetting.

**Canaris is a fascinating and real character. Initially he was attracted to the National Socialists because of their stand on communism, but eventually, together with his friend Hans Oster, they were trying to prevent another war in Europe. He was disillusioned by Hitler’s fanaticism – seeing Warsaw in flames brought him to tears – and hatred of Jews and other minorities, so he began to diarise events in a journal which he hid in a safe, along with all the incriminating memos he received from the party – his fear being that his wonderful country would be demonised by the rest of the world for decades to come. His ‘apparent squeamishness’ was noted by Heydrich and added to his file on the “political unreliability” of the Abwehr, which would eventually be disbanded in 1944. We now know that Canaris was a double agent, having a mistress who was a Polish spy based in Switzerland, Halina Szymanska, who passed information from him to the Polish government-in-exile based in London and he is also have thought to have met with MI6. This is how he was able to pass on information about the invasion of the Soviet Union – Operation Barbarossa – to Erich Kästner (in the book). He has also been linked to Valkyrie, the plot to kill Hitler on which the film of the same name was based, but sufficient evidence was not found against him.

About the Author

Alan Jones is a Scottish author with three gritty crime stories to his name, the first two set in Glasgow, the third one based in London. He has now switched genres, and his WW2 trilogy will be published in August 2021. It is a Holocaust story set in Northern Germany.

He is married with four grown up children and four wonderful grandchildren.

He has recently retired as a mixed-practice vet in a small Scottish coastal town in Ayrshire and is one of the RNLI volunteer coxswains on the local lifeboat. He makes furniture in his spare time, and maintains and sails a 45-year-old yacht in the Irish Sea and on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. He loves reading, watching films and cooking. He still plays football despite being just the wrong side of sixty.

His crime novels are not for the faint-hearted, with some strong language, violence, and various degrees of sexual content. The first two books also contain a fair smattering of Glasgow slang.

He is one of the few self-published authors to be given a panel at Bloody Scotland and has done two pop-up book launches at the festival in Stirling.

He has spent the last five years researching and writing The Sturmtaucher Trilogy.

Into The Lake by LK Chapman

Can she find the truth in time?

When Natalie reluctantly agrees to attend a school reunion, she hits it off with former classmate Josh – a boy she barely spoke to while they were at school together – and finds herself swept up in a whirlwind romance with him.

Then she receives the message: you can do better than marrying a murderer.

#IntoTheLake @LK_Chapman @annecater @RandomTTours #RandomThingsTours

As Natalie pieces together the tragic story of the teenage girl who drowned at Chedford Lake, she realises she has the perfect opportunity to clear Josh’s name. But it will mean putting herself in serious danger – and betraying someone she loves.

With Josh spiralling deeper into despair, and her own life torn apart by lies, can Natalie unravel what really happened before it is too late?

My Review

Well this turned dark! If you hadn’t read the blurb you’d think it was just another mystery romance, with sad goings on in the past.

Natalie was a model with a promising career. Then she had a car accident that left her physically and mentally scarred.

She is invited to a school reunion and reluctantly goes. She meets Josh who she barely remembers from school, but they are instantly attracted. They soon fall in love and move in together, planning to get married.

Natalie works with her sister-in-law as a wedding planner and life appears to be happy. She also has her own Vlog where she posts lifestyle stuff and photos of fashion. She never shies away from talking about her scars. Then one day it all goes horribly wrong. She receives the message: you can do better than marrying a murderer. And the messages get worse and more scathing, not just about Josh but about her scars and her appearance. Someone really has it in for her.

When Josh was in his teens, he was party to a tragic event when a young girl drowned at Chedford Lake and he was a suspect. Together with a difficult childhood – his mum and dad divorced and his mum re-married. Josh has to share a room with his step-brother Toby who bullies him relentlessly and also happens to be in a relationship with the girl who drowned.

So far so good. Natalie is determined to discover the truth, but then things start to get much darker until by the final few chapters, secrets are revealed that I never would have guessed. And there are people involved that you would never have suspected.

I loved Natalie. She is a very strong character who stays together through whatever life throws at her. Not so sure about Josh. Sometimes he was exasperating and I wanted to shake him. You wouldn’t want him to be your only friend in a crisis. I would just like to say that I am not sure that the way his mental illness is portrayed actually invites our sympathy, which is a shame. Reading other people’s reviews, they found him whiny and spineless, which in today’s world is a sad indictment of our attitude to mental health. I think he needed a more sympathetic touch. But Natalie loves him. The other characters, particularly Toby and Gareth were well-drawn and full of character.

What started off as a relatively slow burn exploded at the end and I loved the twists and surprises.

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

About the Author

LK Chapman writes psychological thrillers and suspense. She published her first psychological novel, Anything for Him, in 2016.

A chilling thriller about obsession, jealousy and revenge, Anything for Him has now become a three book series with two sequels (Found You & Never Let Her Go) creating the No Escape trilogy.

She has also written two standalone psychological novels, The Stories She Tells, and Into The Lake.

LK Chapman’s books are inspired by her studies in psychology, and she has always been fascinated by the strength, peculiarities and extremes of human nature.

As well as working as a psychologist, Chapman volunteered for mental health charity Mind before starting her journey as an author. It has been an incredibly exciting journey and she is so grateful for the support of her readers!


Twitter @LK_Chapman

My Top 8 Books of 2021 – part three

Here are my favourite eight books of the third quarter of 2021. So far this has been a good year for books if for nothing else, so it was a really difficult decision.

The Beresford by Will Carver

Firstly let me just say one thing – don’t get too attached to the characters, they may not be around long enough. Apart from Mrs May that is. She is about a hundred years old. She never leaves the building. Her day is always the same. She drinks cold coffee in the morning, wine in the day, takes an afternoon nap, prunes the roses and lies in the bath until “her wrinkles have wrinkles”.

I loved this book. The dark humour is at times hilarious, but I admit that I did wince at the matter of fact way in which the killings and disposal of the bodies are portrayed. Let’s just say I winced a lot. For instance, Abe has to dispose of artist Sythe’s body.

For my full review click here

The Black Dress by Deborah Moggach

I could totally identify with Pru. I like to think I’m a strong, independent woman, but if I found myself in her position, I feel I would be the same. Slobbing about the house, while the dust collects on the kitchen work surface (I’ll be living on microwave meals and cheese and crackers if I can be bothered to spread the butter), while the weeds grow waist high in the untended garden.

Because Pru’s husband of decades, the father of her children, had gone off to find himself on a spiritual journey, as you do in a middle aged, mid-life crisis.

For my full review click here

The Gathering Storm (The Sturmtaucher Trilogy #1) by Alan Jones

This book is staggeringly brilliant, the work, the research, the emotions it invokes and the horror. There were times when I gasped at what was perpetrated against not just the Jews, but also the Roma, disabled people, homosexuals and anyone who did not make up the perfect Aryan race. This included the rape and murder of young Jewish girls by drunken SS soldiers (one incident of which will stay in my head for a long time to come) and the burning of the synagogue in Warsaw, killing 200 Jews praying inside. I knew these things happened but it is described here in such terrifying detail, yet without embellishment or glorification. It doesn’t require any. It’s not Hollywood. It’s horror in its own right, a perfect example man’s inhumanity to man.

For my full review click here

The Rule by David Jackson

Absolutely brilliant. Funny, poignant and sad at the same time, this book has everything including murder.

Daniel is nearly twenty-three but he’s like a child, with his fixation on Adam-9, his favourite superhero, his love of comics and a chocolate caterpillar cake for his birthday. There is just one rule in Daniel’s life – don’t touch anyone because he doesn’t know his own strength and one hug could kill someone. Until it does. Another important thing about Daniel is that he doesn’t know how to lie.

For my full review click here

Stone The Dead Crows by Carrie Magillen

Three sisters. Two points of view. We don’t hear from Daisy because she’s been in a coma for three years. Younger sister Rose visits every week and sits by her bedside, talking to her and holding her hand, because people in a coma react to sound and touch stimulation like a familiar voice or favourite music, don’t they.

Maggie is on a sabbatical in a cabin in the woods with author husband Luc, 18-month-old Alfie and their dog Cairo. She’s been working to support Luc while he writes his second novel, but she’s stressed and needs a break. In fact she doesn’t want to go back at all. But then she sees a hooded man in the woods and she’s convinced he’s after her, stalking her.

For my full review click here

The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans

Another book that’s gone straight to my top books of the year. This book is so unique, amazing, heartfelt, sad and at times quite creepy. It revolves around the annual bee ceremony where the Hunter family and the whole community must follow the path to the old Chapel at Vanes to open the combs and taste the honey.

It all sounds highly risky and even more so this hot summer of 1989. August 31st is the 18th birthday of Joss and his twin sister Kitty and the bees have had to wait an extra two weeks and this had made them crosser than ever. We discover there have been accidents in the past. But it’s an obsession for Charles Hunter and his sister Ros – why is the ceremony so important to them?

For my full review click here

The Late Train to Gypsy Hill by Alan Johnson

I’m not usually a fan of books about modern-day spies, the Russian mafia and oligarchs. But The Late Train to Gypsy Hill is all of that but with added laugh out loud humour. The debut novel from former Home Secretary Alan Johnson is slick, fast-paced, wicked and hilarious.

Poor Gary, our hapless hero, who is more like a reject from The Inbetweeners than a budding James Bond, is drawn into a race against time, when the young woman he has admired every day, invites him to take the empty seat beside her. Fiddling with her mascara, she holds up her mirror and Gary reads the words ‘HELP ME’.

For my full review click here

The Whistling by Rebecca Netley

Following the deaths of both her father and her beloved sister Clara, 24-year-old Elspeth Swansome leaves her life in Edinburgh to take up a position as nanny to nine-year-old Mary on the windswept, remote Scottish island of Skelthsea. A withdrawn, silent child, Mary has lost both her parents and then her twin brother William died just days after her nanny Hettie disappeared without telling anyone she was leaving.

Mary is being cared for and educated by her aunt Miss Gillies. But there is no affection there and poor Mary is starved of love and emotional support. Hopefully Elspeth will be able to help her to overcome her grief and start to speak again.

For my full review click here

Rowena by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

Rowena. She just wants to make a phone call.

Poor Rowena is getting on a bit. She’s also rather bad-tempered, especially when she wants to call ‘her Colin’ and the phone doesn’t work. Strange, because someone already came to fix it.

And she can’t even call the repair man because – you guessed it – the phone doesn’t work.

But then someone else turns up and his solution is sensitive and unique. He doesn’t patronise her like the others. I love the idea, but you’ll have to listen to find out what he does. Tea and a Garibaldi anyone?

Written by Nigel Foster
Performed by Chloe Wade

Music: First Love by Wayne Jones
Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions

The Theatrephonic Theme tune was composed by Jackson Pentland
Performed by
Jackson Pentland
Mollie Fyfe Taylor
Emmeline Braefield

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.

For more information about the Theatrephonic Podcast, go to, Tweet or Instagram us @theatrephonic, or visit our Facebook page.

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

Afraid of the Shadows by various


Crime fighting duo, Tilly and Poe solve a mystery from inside a pantomime horse in an exclusive short by Gold Dagger winner, M.W. Craven. A psychopath takes Trick or Treating a step too far. And a woman’s dream of a quiet life is shattered by a knock on the door.

Afraid Of The Shadows is a collection of gripping – sometimes funny, always spooky – short stories from some of the biggest names in crime fiction.

From possessed sweaters to creepy wardrobes and disco shape shifters, there’s something for everyone in this Halloween bucket of short story goodies making it the perfect companion to snuggle up with as the nights draw in. Though be warned, you might want to leave the lights on…


Afraid Of The Shadows is brought to you by twenty bestselling crime and thriller writers who between them have topped the Sunday Times and Amazon charts, won the Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger Award, Gold Dagger Award and New Blood Dagger Award, the Bath Novel Award, the UK National Book Awards and the WHSmith Best Crime Author of All Time Award.

Special guests:
M.W. Craven
Peter James
T.M. Logan
Matt Wesolowski
Trevor Wood
Rachael Blok
Elle Croft (Shortlisted for the 2021 CWA Short Story Dagger Award)
Heather Critchlow
James Delargy (Shortlisted for the 2021 CWA Short Story Dagger Award)
Clare Empson
Jo Furniss
T.E. Kinsey
N.J. Mackay
S.R. Masters
Phoebe Morgan
Dominic Nolan (Shortlisted for the 2021 CWA Short Story Dagger Award)
Robert Scragg (Shortlisted for the 2021 CWA Short Story Dagger Award)
Victoria Selman (Shortlisted for the 2021 CWA Short Story Dagger Award)
Kate Simants
Adam Southward (Longlisted for the 2021 CWA Short Story Dagger Award)

My Review

Just for once I am going to start at the end. The final story, Strange Ink, a Poe and Bradshaw Story by MW Craven, is all about the crime-fighting duo Tilly and Poe, who are being interview by ‘two jokers’ (who Poe refers to as Marge and Homer), in an interview room that had ‘as much charm as a Dutch euthanasia clinic’. That just about sets the scene, as Tilly and Poe arrest a dangerous criminal while dressed as an eight-legged pantomime horse (Tilly and Poe not the criminal). I had arrived at work early and sat in the ‘quiet room’ with a cappuccino so I could read it, but I literally laughed out loud. Luckily I had the room to myself.

Strange Ink was ridiculous and crazy, but hilariously funny. It’s not the only one to figure tattoos either, though the other story was very different (and I have to admit beyond me).

If I attempted to review all of them, you’d be asleep by the end but I will try and pick out a favourite or two though most of the authors figure in my top writers.

Hidden by Victoria Selman is scary but still manages to include some dark humour as is typical of this author. For those of us who remember Planting Nan in the previous anthology, Raising Nan by James Delargy is written from the point of view of a five year old and it’s hilarious, especially the pee-pee (PPE) references and her mum’s relationship with Uncle Nick.

The Dark Without by Kate Simants is very dark indeed and also very sad. Quite different to the previous stories. In The Forgetful Wife by Phoebe Morgan, the wife talks to us, the reader, as in ‘I told you earlier that I’m a good mother, a good wife’. Definitely one of my favourites and really creepy.

Ghost Don’t Cry by Clare Empson is full of emotion as a dead wife attempts to remain in the lives of her daughter and her husband. This was again sad and brought tears to my eyes. Another of my favourites. And finally With The Others by TM Logan is very clever, dark and twisted. I didn’t expect the ending.

All in all, a mix of the sad, the preposterous, the hilarious, the scary, the bizarre and the downright surreal. Brilliant anthology yet again.

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

Further Information

Profits from the sale of Afraid Of The Shadows will be donated to the Barnardo’s Children in Crisis Covid Appeal

This delivers practical and emotional support to vulnerable children caught in a downward spiral of deprivation as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Children and families across the UK are increasingly in or on the brink of poverty as a result of coronavirus. The impact of the second wave is pushing a generation of the most vulnerable children into a downward spiral of deprivation. With your support Barnardo’s can deliver the practical and emotional support families in crisis need.

Kindle Edition, 269 pages published October 1st 2021 by The Criminal Minds Group and available on Amazon.

The Perfect House by RP Bolton

They’ve finally found their forever home. So why is it tearing them apart?

A fresh start
Ellie knows she has found her dream home – number six Moss Lane. The place she and Tom can settle down, raise their new baby and start again.

A dark secret
But why do their new neighbours think they’re so brave for moving in? Why are Ellie’s keys never where she left them? And why can Ellie hear strange noises in the night that Tom can’t?

A living nightmare
Suddenly their dream house no longer feels so perfect and when Ellie learns the truth about number six’s dark past, a truth that Tom has been keeping secret from her, she no longer knows who she can trust.

Has their perfect home become her worst nightmare?

My Review

I really enjoyed this book but I have a couple of reservations. I much preferred the ‘Now’ parts because I felt the ‘Then’ was too long. And I love a good haunting. I really hoped the ghosts were real (as far as ghosts can be) and I wanted her mum (who saw someone in the background on Facetime) to arrive and back Ellie up. Or someone else to see Mary and hear the baby.

Tom is a typical skeptic – not that Ellie really tells him what is going on – in fact I found their lack of communication quite annoying. There are a few red herrings but I’m not giving anything away. Ellie can be a bit difficult to sympathise with at times, but only because she won’t open up and seems to see everyone as trying to undermine her. Take any help where it’s offered, Ellie, and talk to people. You never know, they might even understand.

It’s a brilliant debut novel from a very promising author, but while the writing, the character development of the main protagonists, the tension and the suspense are all excellent, there were elements that could have been even better and we are left with a few unanswered questions at the end. It also needs a bit more light and shade to relieve the tension before it builds again. Just my personal opinion. But well done and I shall certainly look out for more from this author in the future.

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

About the Author

R.P. Bolton lives in Manchester with her partner, son and three lively rescue dogs. When she’s not reading, writing or walking the dogs, she’ll be at the gym, a concert or indulging in her passion for nature. The Perfect House is her debut thriller.