Paula Brackston – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome author Paula Brackston to the blog. Paula is the author of The Witch’s Daughter, The Winter Witch and The Midnight Witch.  Her new novel, The Silver Witch, is published by Corsair on 3 December 2015

Paula kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about The Silver Witch. 

The Silver Witch is set on Llangors Lake near the Brecon Beacons, and takes place in the present day and in the 10th century. Tilda Fordwells, a ceramic artist, moves to the area after the sudden death of her husband. The landscape and the lake seem to spark a dormant power in her. A thousand years earlier Seren the seer, shaman and witch, and lover of a Welsh prince, also lived on the shore of the lake. The book shows how these two women are inextricably linked, and their lives begin to twist and twine together through the story. 

2. The Silver Witch is the fourth book in the Shadow Chronicles, the others being The Witch’s Daughter, The Winter Witch and The Midnight Witch. What is the inspiration behind the chronicles? How many more can we expect?

I wanted to explore different types of magic in different historical eras. So far I’ve seen these stories in the 17th century, Victorian London, the First World War, 1830s Wales, Edwardian London, and now Wales in the 10th Century.

The Shadow Chronicles gave me the chance to create a variety of witches, all very different, but all with the common theme of being women of magic. I love the scope and the flexibility this gives me, and of course it is a very real opportunity to write about strong women overcoming obstacles in their lives.

3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel? 

I do plan, though those plans do change. I have a fairly firm idea of the actual story before I start, but I like to see not so much where the words take me, but where the characters take me. There are times when I definitely feel I am following them, rather than the other way around.

I enjoy the freedom of planning less, but it tends to result in a lot more rewriting, which is really the hard work. And I’m basically lazy, so I try to avoid that!

So by the time I actually write the first line I’ve probably already spent a couple of months or so mulling over the plot, growing the characters, and researching both the era and the magic.

I try to be disciplined about the writing itself – there are always deadlines rushing at me! Ideally I’ll write 1,500 – 2,000 words a day, four or five days a week. One day a week is spent on other being-a-writer stuff, such as blogs, interviews, social media in general, setting up signings or events, answering readers’ emails, helping with covers or copy, and so on. Then of course there is usually another book being edited or proof read, another being marketed, and another nascent idea nudging its way into my mind. 

I try to get the first full draft written in about seven months. Then the real work begins!

4. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?   

As I am currently writing two series of books, there isn’t a lot of non-writing time! I do the usual Mum things – taking my children to sports stuff, being their taxi driver, helping with homework. I love being in the garden or taking the dog out, but right now the weather is set to be sideways rain for a few weeks. And I read, of course! Lots and lots and lots. 

5. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?  

Good grief, that surely constitutes some sort of cruel and unusual punishment! Only one, you say? It’s hard to imagine not getting bored eventually. I would be very torn between two books that have had a huge influence on my writing.

The first is Candide by Voltaire. I read this when I was about fifteen and it really made me laugh. I was astonished at how witty and pacy and relevant a book could be to me, a teenager in the 20th century, when it was written by some extraordinary French guy in 1759.

My second choice would be Restoration by Rose Tremain. She is my absolute favourite living writer.  I remember reading this book and thinking, Wow! Imagine being able to write like that! I’ve been trying ever since.

6. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer? 

Well, this one had me thinking! It might be that I’d have come up with something different if you’d asked me last month or last year, but recently I was forced to think about this, so….. the question would be: 

Who do you write for?

I’ve come to realise that when I am working on a book in a series I do indeed consider my reader. I think it would be impossible not to keep in mind, with each successive book, who was it who read the last one, what did they enjoy about it, and will they get the same kick out of this one? I cannot think of a readership, as such. I can’t write for a mass. It’s much easier to focus on a single, eager, dedicated reader. It’s her (usually her, sorry fellas) I picture curled up in a squashy arm chair, or holding the book in one hand and her baby in another, or hunched over her eReader on the Tube, or listening to the audio book as she runs. And yes, it does influence my writing, because for the book to be complete it needs to have that reader. Otherwise I’m just shouting into the void.

Having said that, when I start out on something new, when I venture into unknown fictional territory, then I am not writing for a reader at all. Nor am I writing for myself. On those occasions I am writing for the story. For the story that is begging to be told, pushing to be born, moving my hands over the keys and setting my brain whirring in the middle of the night. 

So thank you readers; my books wouldn’t come to life without you. And thank you stories; without you I’d have nothing to offer my readers!

Thanks for answering my questions and appearing on the blog. 

My pleasure.

About the book:


“The Silver Witch is an enchanting tale of love and ancient magic set in the glorious Welsh landscape, past and present.

My mind is like the willow; it flexes and springs. My heart is a knot of oak. Let them try to wound me. Let them try.

One year after artist Tilda Forwells loses her husband, she is finally ready to move into the secluded Welsh cottage they were meant to be sharing together.

In the valley below her mountain home is a mystical lake which inspires a strange energy in her. She starts to experience potent dreams, visions, presentiments which all lead her to Seren, the witch and shaman who legend has it lived on this lakeshore in Celtic times.

As Tilda explores the lake’s powers and her own, her connection to Seren grows stronger. And when she comes under grave threat, she must rely on Seren and this ancient magic to save her.”

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Toppling the TBR pile – Pan Macmillan 2016 titles

So the next publisher to threaten my precariously balanced to read pile is Pan Macmillan. With imprints including Tor, Mantle, Pan and Picador they are bound to have a cornucopia of bookish delights next year.

So we shall start with Picador, mainly because theirs is the first catalogue I opened.

Roberto Bolano fans will be pleased to see that January brings with it a new edition of one of the last novels to be published by the author of 2666. A Little Lumpen Novelita, translated by Natasha Wimmer, tells the tale of Bianca. Orphaned as a teenage she becomes entangled in bad company. When her brother brings home two petty criminals to stay, her descent into criminal activity begins.

Also published this month are a collection of poems from John Kinsella, non fiction works from Ben Judah and a short story collection from Gerard Woodward.

February arrives and so does the new novel from award winning author China Miéville. The Census-Taker‘s intriguing premise sees a boy trapped in a remote house, left alone with a deranged parent. Will the stranger who knocks at the door, with his strange questions and meticulous records be his saviour.

Also published this month is collection of poetry from Ian Duhig.

Lover by Anna Raverat is published in March. Kate discovers her husband’s adultery by accident. Her home life unravels and her work life becomes demanding as she questions herself and all she believed to be true. Described as ‘a novel about the hand that life can deal you, and how to play it with grace’ this sounds an intriguing read.

Also published this month is a collection of essays from Rowan Moore and works of fiction from Jim Powell.

April sees the publication of the debut novel from US Garth Greenwell. What Belongs to You charts the emerging relationship of a teacher and young hustler Mitko, who he meets when looking for sex one balmy autumn day and what happens when the teacher finds he must keep returning to Mitko.

In Not Working, Claire has quit her job so she can find her true vocation. The trouble is she doesn’t know how to go about doing that. Lisa Owens novel has us asking questions of ourselves that haven’t dared be aired before and has Claire wondering how it is that everyone else has control of their lives when hers has run away from her.

Fans of Boy, Snow, Bird and Mr Fox will be delighted to hear that Helen Oyeyemi’s collection of short stories, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is out in April. An ensemble collection covering lost libraries and a city where all the clocks have stopped, characters will reappear in other tales after their own has been told.

Also out this month is a non-fiction travel title from Alec Ash and not one but two books from Clive James, a verse commentary on Proust and a collection of poems.

On to May and The Outside Lands from Hannah Kohler. Jeannie is nineteen and her brother Kip fourteen when their mother dies. Jeannie seeks solace in work and later a marriage to a man who shows her the world of wealth and politics. Kip falls into petty crime until he finds the Marines. Then in 1968, during the height of the Vietnam war, Jeannie and Kip find themselves caught up in events that lead to acts of betrayal that leave permanent effects.

All Involved was a big title for 2015. May sees the publication of the new novel from Ryan Gatiss. Kung Fu tells the tale of Jen B. She survives brutal MLK High School, just. She doesn’t complain, follows the rules and knows at least one form of martial arts. Then Jen’s cousin, world-famous Kung-Fu champion Jimmy, arrives at school. And everyone wants to fight him. The trouble is Jimmy has vowed never to fight again. His refusal has dramatic consequences .

The White Tiger author Aravind Adiga’s new novel, Selection Day is also published in May. Manju is fourteen. He knows he hates his father, admires his big brother, adores science and is good at cricket. There are however lots of things he doesn’t know, including who he should be. When he gets to know his brother’s biggest rival he finds he has to meet decisions that will challenge his sense of self and his world.

May also sees the publication of non-fiction from Tim Winton and a collection of poems from Denise Riley.

We get to June and see that Shelter by Jung Yun is published. Kyung Cho has spiralling debts and lives in a house with his wife that he can’t afford. His parents live in comfortably in an affluent part of town, filled with the trappings Kyung longs to give his family. During his childhood he may have had everything money could buy but didn’t get those things that come for free: affection and kindness. Then an act of violence means he has to take his parents in and he begins to question what his role is, his life begins to crumble and his anger fights to be released.

Also out this month is the new book from Emma Chapman, author of How to be a Good Wife. I loved her first novel and you can see my review here. The End of June charts the story of Rook Henderson, who is suddenly left a widower. He leaves his life behind and flies to Vietnam, where he hasn’t been for 50 years. Reflecting on the changed landscape, and chased by his son for answers, Rook also finds himself reflecting on his marriage and the effect his career as a photo-journalist had on that life.

June also sees novels from Megan Bradbury, Lian Hearn, Megan Abbott and Mark Watson.

Picador Classics will also see the following added to their list:

The Long View by Elizabeth Jane Howard – Antonia reflects on her life and marriage to Conrad, how her decisions both good and bad have effected her life and looks at her motivation behind them.

Trumpet by Jackie Kay – only on his death is jazz trumpeter Joss Moody’s secret revealed; he was a woman living as a man. The effect this has on his adopted son has far reaching effects and forces his widow to find sanctuary in a remote village in Scotland.

A House for Mr Biswas by V.S. Naipaul – born the ‘wrong way’ Mr Biswas has spent his life trying to get his independence. Rebelling against the strict family he has married into he takes on a series of jobs to allow him to get the one thing he wants: a home of his own.

The Discovery of France by Graham Robb

The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St Aubyn

2666 by Roberto Bolano

The Psalm Killer by Chris Petit

A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White

As for the paperback releases there are a whole shelf full of treats. In January we can get our hands on Mobile Library by David Whitehouse. Also out this month are Wilful Disregard by Lena Anderson, Blade of Light by Andrea Camilleri, All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer and The Way Things Were by Aatish Taseer.

There’s a February paperback treat for Nikolas Butler fans as the paperback version of Beneath the Bonfire is published.

Moving on to March those who have been eager to read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life but couldn’t face carrying the hardback with them will be pleased to know the more transportable paperback version is out this month. March also sees the paperback publication of Sarah Butler’s Before the Fire, Golden Age from Jane Smiley, The Not-Dead and The Saved and Other Stories by Kate Clanchy and The Ladies of the House by Molly McGrann. Onto April and Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum is released, along with The Making of Zombie Wars by Aleksandar Hemon and The Followers by Rebecca Wait. May sees the release of a few best sellers, starting with Cathy Rentzenbrink’s The Last Act of Love. All Involved by Ryan Gattis, Kent Haruf’s Our Souls at Night and Belinda McKeon’s Tender round up this month’s offerings. June and Your Father Sends His Love by Stuart Evers is released as is Island of Dreams by Dan Boothby, Three Moments of and Explosion: Stories by China Mieville and Villa America by Liza Klaussmann. Also out this month is Hemingway in Love by A.E. Hotchner, We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Love May Fail by Matthew Quick, Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson and The Year of Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota.

So now we come to Mantle and their offerings for the first half of 2016.

Alberto’s Lost Birthday by Diana Rosie is published in January. Alberto lost his birthday when he was a child during the Spanish Civil War. When his grandson finds out Alberto has never had a party, presents, cards or candles to blow out on a cake they set off to track down the missing anniversary.

Also published this month is a new novel from Andrea Camilleri. The Brewer of Preston is set in 1870s Sicily. The locals are not enamoured with the new Government representative, nor keen on his idea to produce an opera, The Brewer of Preston, in their new theatre. Plans are afoot to wreck opening night… Andrea Camilleri has been busy as another of his books is published in February. This time a collection of short stories published as Montalbano’s First Case and Other Stories.

February also sees the publication of  The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin. Janie’s son has nightmares. He’s scared of water. And he pushes her away screaming, saying he wants his real mother. She turns to someone who she thinks may have the answers but it may mean she looses her son in the process.

And so to March and The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis. An old lady dies alone. Days later a middle-aged woman arrives in the city, escaping her past. However, she begins to investigate the death of the old lady, and enriches her life in the process.

April arrives and brings with it Yvvette Edwards, The Mother. Marcia is travelling to the Old Bailey. She’s there to attend the trial of the boy accused of her son’s murder. As the trial takes place she becomes aware that the accused’s girlfriend, Sweetie, may hold the answers she needs. But Sweetie is scared of her boyfriend and so may not give the answers so easily.

On to May and the publication of The Watercolourist by Beatrice Masini. In Nineteenth Century Italy, Bianca, a talented watercolourist has been commissioned to paint the grounds of a villa. As she settles into her new home she develops relationships with the family and servants, and one housemaid in particular, who has intriguingly mysterious origins. But as she unlocks the secrets of the villa Bianca becomes aware of the dangers surrounding her.

Also published this month is The Trap by Melanie Raabe. Linda’s sister Anna was murdered twelve years ago, her murderer was never caught. But Linda, a famous novelist, knows who he is. He’s know become a famous TV reporter. Knowing no one will believe her if she accuses him outright she does the only thing she can do. She writes a novel about the murder. When the book is published she agrees to one interview. With him.

Ray Celestin’s eagerly awaited new novel (by me in any case), is published this month. Dead Man’s Blues sees the return Ida and Michael, the protagonists from the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award winning The Axeman’s Jazz. This time the action takes place in Chicago in 1928. A group is poisoned in an upmarket hotel. A rich white man is killed in a rough neighbourhood and a socialite disappears. Are these incidents connected? Is someone trying to bring down Al Capone, the unofficial ruler of the windy city?

And finally in June we have the publication of Chris Morgan Jones’ The Searcher. Private Spy Ben Webster has disappeared. His colleague, Hammer, promises his wife that he will find him. As he follows Webster’s trail Hammer becomes caught up in the danger that caused Webster to disappear.

Now we turn to Tor. If I’m honest I don’t read a lot of sci-fi or fantasy so I can’t get a sense for those that will be big news. So with apologies to all fans and authors I’m just going to detail the titles and authors. (A full synopsis of each will be on the What’s out when page when I pull my finger out and update it). So in January we have Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, Judged by Liz de Jager and The Human Division by John Scalzi. We then go to March when The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley is published. April bring the publication of The Stars Askew by Rjurik Davidson and May brings War Factory by Neal Asher and Lucy Hounsom’s Heartland. Another John Scalzi book is out in June, this time, The End of All Things. Last up is Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? by Paul Cornell.

The Macmillan imprint are bringing us Lucy Diamond’s The Secrets of Happiness in January. When Becca’s step-sister disappears she has to step in and help with her family. She comes to find Rachel’s life was not as perfect as it seems. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s The Tiger and the Wolf is available in hardback this month too.

In February they publish Cometh the Hour by Jeffrey Archer.

In March Gone Astray by Michelle Davies is published. After winning millions on the lottery the Kinnocks move to a gated community. But one day Rosie Kinnock goes missing and so Family Liaison Officer DC Maggie Neal is assigned to the case, whilst dealing with things from her past that threaten the present. In April Stay Dead by Jessie Keane is published as is Leviathan’s Blood by Ben Peek. David Baldacci fans can look forward to his as yet untitled novel being published this month too.

Joanna Courtney’s The Constant Queen, also out in April, tells the tale of Elizaveta, Princess of Kiev who meets her match in Viking Harald Hardrada. Together, in 1066 they plan to invade England and claim the crown.

May sees the release of Little Sister by David Hewson. The third Pieter Vos novel sees the Amsterdam detective investigate the disappearance of two girls who had been accused, 10 years earlier, of murdering the rest of their family. The case takes a different turn when the body of the nurse escorting the girls turns up on a beach and that someone is posing as the third sister, the sister who supposedly died 10 years earlier. There is also an as yet untitled Roy Grace novel from Peter James this month.

Finally to June and False Hearts by Laura Lam. When a woman is accused of murder her twin sister will do anything to get her released, including taking on her identity. Doing so she will discover a world of dangerous secrets that could be her undoing.

Pan will be published a bevvy of beautiful books. Here’s a little(ish) list of what to expect.

January and we have The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves, Hunted by Carla Norton and Starborn by Lucy Hounsom, Holding  Out for a Hero by Victoria Van Tiem in which 80s obsessed Libby finds herself being the unwilling participant of a 80s Intervention, The Walking Dead Invasion by Jay Bonansinga, What Became of You My Love by Maeve Haran and Misspent Youth and Fallen Dragon by Peter F. Hamilton.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby sees Mrs Watson and Mrs Hudson take on a case turned away by Holmes. Kerry Wilkinson fans will be pleased to hear that For Richer, For Poorer is out this month too (and Resurgence is out in May and Down Among the Dead Men is out in June). We also see published books from Winston Graham, Margaret Dickenson, Lillian Beckwith, S.L. Grey and Haken Nesser.

The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurant is out in March. A charming tale of Guylain, who works at a book pulping plant and who hates his job. Every day he rescues papers from the machine and each morning reads the saved pages aloud on the train, much to the enjoyment of his fellow passengers. One day he finds a diary and sets about tracing its own. You can read my review of this charming tale here. Also out are books from Malcolm Mackay, John Gwynne,  Robin Cook, Hans Olav Lahlum, Diane Chamberlain,  Tim Severin,  Clare Donoghue,  Kate Thompson,  Annie Murray and Pamela Hartshorne.

April brings titles from Lin Anderson, Melissa Daley, Adrian Tchaikovsky,  Lucinda Riley, Kylie Scott,  Annie Murray. Death in the Rainy Season by Anna Jaquiery is also out in paperback this month. The second Serge Morel novel sees the Parisian policeman in Cambodia, drawn into the murder of a French ex-pat. You can read my review of this great novel here.

May publications include Rebound by Aga Lesiewicz in which Anna risks everything for a sexual encounter with a man she meets on Highgate Heath. Is he linked to the recent attacks on women? A Little Local Murder by Robert Barnard sees Inspector George Parrish investigate a spate of poison pen letters and a murder in the small village of Twytching. Another of his novels, The Case of the Missing Bronte is also out this month and sees Superintendent Perry Trethowan confronted with an old woman who claims to have a missing Bronte manuscript. Is her subsequent attack related? Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll tells the tale of Ani whose currently controlled and perfect life hides a traumatic past. When she is invited to take part in a documentary to talk about a horrific incident at her High School she hopes it will help prove how she’s turned her life around. But the past comes back to haunt her and she wonders if the truth really will set her free.

Also out this month are books by Seth Patrick, Di Morrissey, Elaine Everest, Leisa Rayven, Naomi Novik, Mary Wood and The Lake House by Kate Morton.

Finally in June we can buy  books from Louise Millar, Lucy Diamond, Kirsty Greenwood, Zen Cho, Ruth Hamilton, Peter James and Jane Green. Also out is Minna Lindgren’s The Lavender Ladies Detective Agency: Death in Sunset Grove. Siri and Irma, inhabitants of Sunset Grove retirement community do the only thing there is to do when there is a suspicious death in Sunset Grove; set up a Private Detective Agency and investigate. Also out it The Salon by the Sea by Rachael Lucas. Isla’s life as the head stylist at an exclusive Edinburgh salon goes awry. Having no one to support her she moves to a remote island to help her cousin. Meanwhile Finn has just been hit with a reality check. It just so happens Isla arrives in his life at the same time…

So there you have it, the first 6 months of Pan Macmillan tied up in my not so neat bow. I know which ones I’ve my eye on. What about you?


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The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon – Review

Published by Borough Press

Publication date – 28 January 2016

Source – review copy


“England, 1976. Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands. And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…”

4.5 of 5 stars

Mrs Creasy has disappeared. Mr Creasy can be seen wandering the streets looking for her. Grace and her friend Tilly decide to look for Mrs Creasy. Whilst they are at it they are on the hunt for Jesus, who, the vicar has told them, is everywhere. But as they investigate it becomes apparent that the street has secrets that are about to be revealed, though they are keen for Mrs Creasy to return home, some of the other residents are not as eager.

From the first page I was captivated by this novel. It draws you in and I was soon transported to the heat wave of 1976. There is a slightly magical, whimsical edge to the story, as if it is softened by the heat of the time. The innocence of Grace and Tilly also lends itself to this. The reader gets to view the street and its inhabitants through both adult eyes and those of the 10 year old detectives. This adds layers to them, they become more rounded and whole but also more mysterious at the same time. The straightforward thinking and view of the world from Grace and Tilly lays bare the avarice and indeed cruelty adult actions can cause.

The vicar in one of his sermons talks about people being goats and sheep. Those who follow Jesus, believe in him and abide by the tenants of Christianity are the sheep, whilst those who sin are the goats. As the girls detect, they discover that in the real world those who appear to be sheep, who conform and are ‘normal’, and those who are goats, who are on the outside of societal norms, are not always as appears.

I really don’t want to go into the details of the story too much as it would take away from the delight of finding out for yourself. What you will get if you read this story is a tale filled with memorable characters, and one that evokes another era, even for those who weren’t around then.

As for the characters each one is so well drawn you can imagine them in their houses on the cul-de-sac, hiding behind twitching net curtains. The weather becomes a character, lending itself to effecting the mood of the neighbours, switching dramatically when the story requires. As for the street this too is a continually presence. It could be anywhere, this cul-de-sac of collusion. We never really find out its location, and that is the point. It could be anywhere, these could be your neighbours, your sheep and goats.

With this book Joanna Cannon has created two of the most delightful, endearing and entertaining protagonists and written a tale that wraps it self around you. It remains there even after you have turned the last page. At the time of writing this review the book hasn’t even been published yet but I am impatiently waiting for more from Joanna Cannon.

This is a tale of how secrets, lies and little actions can have lasting consequences. it is a coming of age tale, off how the innocence of childhood is fleeting and should be cherished. It is a tale of how we are all goats, each with our own issues, quirks and characteristics that make us who we are. Its just that sometimes some of us are goats in sheep’s clothing…

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The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas – Guest review by Louise Wykes

Today I have a guest review from Louise Wykes who has written this great review of The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas. The Secret of the Lake is published by Black Swan on 19 November 2015.


Amy’s always felt like something’s been missing in her life. When a tragedy forces the family she works for as a nanny to retreat to a small lakeside cottage, she realises she cannot leave them now.

But Amy finds something unsettling about the cottage by the lake. This is where the children’s mother spent her childhood – and the place where her sister disappeared mysteriously at just seventeen.

Soon Amy becomes tangled in the missing sister’s story as dark truths begin rising to the surface. But can Amy unlock the secrets of the past before they repeat themselves?”

I have to admit to have not having read anything by this author so was completely surprised and delighted to discover this was such a thrilling and exciting read so I certainly want to try more by this author.

It is the 1960s and Amy has left her father in England to go and work for the Laurents family in France where she works as a live in nanny and develops a beautifully close relationship with the whole family but especially the young girl Vivi.  Circumstances change when her grandmother becomes ill and she has to return to England to look after her.  However tragedy strikes for the Laurents family and Julia and Vivi end up having to return to England to live in an isolated cottage.  Amy returns to them both unquestioningly to help them adjust to the incredibly different life they have to get used to.   However Reservoir Cottage is filled with secrets and intrigue and strange things begin happening in the house and the only thing that can distract Amy is her blossoming relationship with Daniel, the son of a local landowner.

This is a wonderfully gothic story filled with menace from the past which is still being felt to this day.  The setting is beautifully described and I love the way that the lake itself becomes an integral part of the story and takes on a character of its own, ever changing with the seasons and not willingly giving up the secrets it has been witness to.

This book reminded me very much of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier in that it is atmospheric and chilling that the reader has no choice but to keep turning the pages to see what happens. I cared deeply about Amy and her relationship with Daniel was beautifully drawn.  I highly recommend this evocative, involving story with a mystery and a love story at its heart.  This would be the ideal book to read on a dark, winter’s night, though you may want to check your spare room before going to sleep!

You can buy the book here.


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Toppling the TBR pile – Harper Fiction 2016 titles

So the next publishers likely to cause the collapse of my TBR pile is Harper Fiction. Publishing under a number of imprints including Harper Voyager, Harper Fiction, Borough Press they have a bevvy of beautiful sounding books to tempt us with in the first half of 2016. Here I’ve highlighted a few, though a full list will be available on the What’s out when page.

January sees the publication of The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, the debut novel of Joanna Cannon. In the heatwave of 1976 1o year old Grace Bennett and her friend Tilly are searching for God, and the missing Mrs Creasy, amongst the residents of their street. Unwittingly their investigation reopens old secrets to the surface. What will the amateur detectives find out? Already generating great reviews on social media this is one to look out for. It also happens to be my current read at the time of writing this post so keep a look out for my review in the near future. (Borough Press)

Fans of Stuart MacBride will be pleased to hear that January also brings with it the publication of his latest novel to feature Duty Sergeant Logan McRae. In the Cold, Dark Ground sees McRae finds himself commandeered onto the Major Incident Team’s murder investigation by his former boss, DCI Steel. McRae soon realises not all is as it seems and then personal issues start to impinge the investigation. (Harper)

Fire Damage by Kate Medina, is the first in a new series. Featuring psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn, she joins forces with Captain Ben Callan when a body is found on the Sussex coast. What is the link between Jessie’s four year old client and the suspicious death of an officer in Afghanistan that Ben is investigating? (Harper)

If you like classic crime fiction then keep a look out for titles from The Detective Story Club. Established in 1929, this was the forerunner to Collins Crime Club. Titles to be reissued and published include: The House Opposite by J. Jefferson Farjeon, The Ponson Case by Freeman Wills Croft, The Mystery of Stow by Vernon Loder, The Crime Club by Frank Froest and George Dilnot, The Blackmailers by Emilie Gaboreau, The Terror by Edgar Wallace and The Leavenworth Case by Anna K. Green. (Harper)

In The Invisible Garden the body of a teenage girl is linked to that off another killing a month earlier. Is it the work of a killer or the Basajuan, a creature of Basque mythology? This is the first in the Baztan Trilogy by Dolores Redono. (Harper)

January will also bring with it new titles from Josephine Cox, Amanda Brooke, Debbie Johnson, Jonathan Freedland and Peter V. Brett.

February sees the publication of Missing, Presumed. Susie Steiner’s novel tells the story of Edith Hind who has suddenly vanished, leaving behind a streak of blood and her coat hanging up. DS Manon Bradshaw listening to the police radio at night hears of her disappearance and sees the case as her way of making her mark. (Borough Press)

The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker sees Helen Graham arrive at a tiny Yorkshire village. Her evasive behaviour attracts the attention of the villagers, the last thing she wants. Trying to bring memories to the surface to piece together her past, Helen doesn’t know who she can trust or what she can believe. (Harper)

Judith Allnatt’s The Silk Factory was inspired by a mysterious soot smell in a friend’s newly built home, one with no open fireplaces and the later discovery that the house was built on the site of an old silk factory. A story of how memories can bind people, The Silk Factory tells the stories of Rosie Milford who discovers a shocking secret from her childhood on inheriting a house and of Beulah Fiddemont, in 1812, who has secrets her master Septimus Fowler would do anything to obtain. (Borough Press)

The Dressmaker of Dachau by Mary Chamberlain is set during World War II. Ada Vaughan is ambitious and keen to escape family life. Stanislaus von Leiben is her chance to leave them behind. Persuading her to move to Paris. she is blind to the imminent threat of the Nazis. When they invade, Stanislaus abandons her. She is captured and forced to survive as a dressmaker. Her decision will come to haunt her. (Borough Press)

Lovers of the Bronte sisters will not be disappointed by Harper Collins titles in 2016. In February the paperback edition of Nelly Dean by Alison Case is published. A reimagination of Wuthering Heights, the story of Cathy, Heathcliffe and the other characters is told from the viewpoint of servant Nelly Dean. (Borough Press)

Also published this month are books from Dilly  Court, Francesca Haig, Kimberley Chambers, Peter Newman and Harry Sidebottom. Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien have a trio of treats with A Secret Vice and Beowulf (including the short story Sellic Spell) by the author and The Middle-Earth Location Guide Book by Ian Brodie.

March has another instalment for Bronte lovers. Reader, I Married Him, edited by Tracy Chevalier is an anthology of 20 short stories from writers such as Lionel Shriver, Sarah Hall, Helen Dunmore, Salley Vickers and Tessa Hadley. Using Jane Eyre’s famous line as a springboard the stories cover a wide range of tales including stories from Mr Rochester’s point of view and how Jane’s life continues after the closing pages. (Borough Press)

Tracy Chevalier’s At the Edge of the Orchard, also out in March tells the tale of James and Sadie, moving to Black Swamp, Ohio in 1838. Swamp Fever has killed 5 of their 10 children. This is the story of their life, the struggles they endure and also the story of their youngest son, who 15 years later is forced to confront the reason he left his life behind. (Borough Press)

Also published this month are books from Wilbur Smith, Mhari McFarlane, Camilla Lackberg, Ben McPherson, Brian Aldiss, Emmi Itaranta, Joe Abercrombie, Freya North, Kathleen Alcott and Sabaa Tahir.

April titles include Andrew Taylor’s Ashes of London. It is 1666. The Great Fire has consumed London, taking St Paul’s Cathedral in its destructive wake. A mummified body has been found in a tomb that should be empty, mutilated and with his thumbs tied behind his back, the sign of Regicide. Richard Marwood, government informer has been tasked with finding the killer. (Harper)

In Rob Ewing’s The Last of Us, a pandemic has wiped out the entire adult population of a Scottish Island. With only the children remaining, 8 year old Rona tells their tale of survival. (Borough Press)

Jax Miller’s Freedom’s Child sees it’s paperback incarnation being released in April. Freedom Oliver is a murderer, drunk, cop killer and fugitive. But she is also a mother, one who will stop at nothing to see the daughter she only knew for two minutes 17 seconds. (Harper)

Also published this month are new titles from Fern Britton, Lucy Foley, Jason Gurley, Kathleen Tessaro, Lucy Holliday, Bernard Cornwell and Robert Karjel.

May sees another re-imagination. Continuing with The Austen Project, Curtis Sittenfield turns her hand to a modern re-working of Pride and Prejudice, in Eligible. Lizzy Bennet is a magazine editor in New York. When her father falls ill she returns home with her sister Jane, to the family home in Ohio they thought they had left forever. They find a family in chaos, Kitty and Lydia are wild over a new fitness program, Mary is studying  yet again and Willie, their creepy cousin, paying the sisters far more attention than is comfortable. Then comes along reality TV star Chip Bingley and his prickly friend Fitzwilliam Darcy…(Borough Press)

A Hanging at Cinder Bottom, by Glenn Taylor is set in  West Virginia in 1910. Abe Baach and his lover, Goldie Toothman are to be hanged and the townsfolk gather to watch. Abe had left 7 years ago but returned to find his brother dead and his father’s saloon in shambles. He believes the same men may be behind both incidents. (Borough Press)

Solomon Creed is published in paperback in May. Simon Toyne’s new series starts with a bang as Solomon Creed flees the burning wreckage of a plane. He has no memories but has one name seared into his brain – James Coronado. Solomon has to save him, but how can he save a man who is already dead? (Harper)

Alexandra Brown fans will be pleased to hear that the inhabitants of Tindledale return in The Mystery of Orchard Cottage. April goes to Tindledale to stay with her great aunt Edith. She is dismayed to find the cottage and orchard that attaches it are in a sad state of repair, abandoned by Edith who is more concerned finding out the truth about the disappearance of her sister during WWII. April sets about righting this. With help from the inhabitants of Tindledale she begins to unravel the mystery and bring the house and orchard back to glory. (Harper)

Also published this month are titles from Lionel Shriver, S.J. Parris, Charles Cumming, Rosie Thomas, Neal Stephenson. Cynthia D’Apriz Sweeney, Tilly Bagshawe, Martin Edwards and Bonnie MacBird.

Finally we come to June. Louisa Young’s third novel to feature Riley and Nadine, Devotion, set in the 1930’s during the spread of Fascism, follows on from My Dear I Wanted to Tell You and The Heroes’ Welcome. (Borough Press)

The Marble Collector is the new book from best selling author Cecelia Ahern. Sabrina Boggs thought her life was ordinary until the day she finds her father’s collection of marbles.  Fergus Boggs can remember little of day to day living but has vivid child-hood memories. As Sabrina pieces together how her father’s collection came into being she learns how little she really knew of him. (Harper)

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam is out in paperback in June. In the after effects of the Great Depression Elsie Lavender’s sole memento of her glory days is her pet alligator, Albert. One day though her husband Homer issues an ultimatum, it is either him or Albert. And so they begin an epic trip to return Albert to his home in Florida. There follows an epic journey where they encounter everything from revolutionaires to Ernest Hemmingway. (Harper)

The Wolf Road is the debut novel of Beth Lewis. Set in a remote land all Elka has ever known is what she has learned from Trapper, a man who has looked after her since she was seven. Her world is shattered when she finds out Trapper is wanted for murder. And Magistrate Lyon wants to talk to Elka…(Harper)

Also published this month are books from Lauren Weisberger, Barbara Taylor Bradford, S.K. Tremayne, Mark Lawrence, Fionnuala Kearney, Lars Kepler, Jilliane Hoffman, Beatriz Williams, Natasha Walter and George MacDonald Fraser.

So there we have it, the first half of 2016 in books from Harper Collins. I know which ones I am eagerly awaiting. Which ones catch your eye?


Filed under Spotlight on Publishers

Cathy Bramley – Conditional Love – Cathy shares a recipe

Today I’m pleased to share with you a recipe from Cathy Bramley, author of Ivy Lane, Appleby Farm and Wickham Hall. Her latest book from Corgi, Conditional Love was originally self-published but is now revamped and out in paperback, having been published on 5 November 2015. You can find out more about the book below but Cathy has kindly shared a recipe for Banana Bread.

The following recipe will feature in the back of Wickham Hall, which comes out in January. But it’s the perfect recipe for this time of year, when it’s dark outside. In fact, Bella Bosworth, a Transworld Editor, makes it for Bonfire Night!

Banana Bread

You will need . . .

175g salted butter, softened

175g sugar (half light muscovado, half golden caster sugar)

2 free-range eggs

175g self-raising flour

100g walnuts, chopped

3–4 very ripe bananas (the browner, the better)

175g dark chocolate, in chunks

* Preheat the oven to 170oC (325oF/gas mark 3). Line the base and sides of a loaf tin (20cm x 12cm) with baking paper.

* Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, one by one, to the mixture, and then mix in the self-raising flour and walnuts.

* Peel the bananas and mash them with a fork. Gently fold the bananas and the dark chocolate chunks into the mixture, taking care not to overmix.

* Scoop the batter into the prepared load tin. Bake for between 1 hour and 1 hour and ten minutes, until golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. This may take a little longer – if so, you can cover the top with foil to prevent it from burning.

* Enjoy with a cup of tea!

Enjoy :-)

About the book:


“What surprises might life have in store for you?

A takeaway, TV and tea with two sugars is about as exciting as it gets for thirty-something Sophie Stone. Sophie’s life is safe and predictable, which is just the way she likes it, thank you very much.

But when a mysterious benefactor leaves her an inheritance, Sophie has to accept that change is afoot. There is one big catch: in order to inherit, Sophie must agree to meet the father she has never seen.

Saying ‘yes’ means the chance to build her own dream home, but she’ll also have to face the past and hear some uncomfortable truths…

With interference from an evil boss, warring parents, an unreliable boyfriend and an architect who puts his foot in it every time he opens his mouth, will Sophie be able to build a future on her own terms – and maybe even find love along the way?”

A totally charming, modern love story for fans of Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.


Filed under Uncategorized

Exclusive: Fahrenheit Press go ‘Transmedia’ – another first

Another first from Fahrenheit Press. This time they’ve gone ‘Transmedia’ What does this mean? Read on to find out…

Fahrenheit Press have certainly hit the publishing scene with a bang. They are shaking up how things are usually done. They are open about sales numbers and author deals, provide funny and granted sometimes rude interaction on social media and have a proclivity for random photo-shopping. Not content with being the first publisher ever to be allowed to sell a book on Amazon with no details as to the author or title Fahrenheit Press have brought us another first. Chris McVeigh, the brains behind the new crime and thriller publishers has worked his magic again. Having worked in the music industry Chris wanted a way to pull the two creative sides of his life together. And so he has, with a bang.

Collaborating with the band Blind Pilgrim he asked them to write a song for Fahrenheit Press. The result: Burn Again, which Chris describes as a ‘sleazy off-kilter bluesy number’, which fits the publishing company to a T’.  When Charles Kriel heard the song it inspired him so much that he wanted to integrate it into the story so he went back and rewrote one of the chapters to include the lyrics from the song, as he explains here;

“I’ve worked with transmedia concepts for years, building games that tell stories through every format possible. My biggest project was The White Island which featured 14 superstar DJs and was launched by Pete Tong. At the same time I’ve been pretty disappointed that publishing has been so slow to exploit technology, so when Chris told me about this opportunity I jumped at it.

I was listening to Burn Again when I reread chapter 4 and knew it would be perfect for the story. Fire is a theme throughout the book, as is Mel being a badass. 

And it fits Fahrenheit perfectly. They’re the only publishing house who would go along with an idea like this – releasing an entirely new edition of a book to include a song that didn’t exist when the book was first published. They’re doing things other publishers wouldn’t dream of. Some folks go on about thinking out of the box – Chris McVeigh doesn’t even know where the box is.”

The result of all this is that the Burn Again edition of Charles Kriel’s best-selling book The Lobster Boy And The Fat Lady’s Daughter is now on sale at Amazon. I have to say I love the idea of this. I may be the only person to do this but I often think of songs that would fit scenes in books, creating a sound track for the movie I’m playing in my head, if you will. That’s why this seems like the perfect plan. I believe it will make the story more rounded, more ‘real’, being able to listen to the song as Mel does.

The band are also clearly excited about this unique experiment as Stef Theodorou, bass player with Blind Pilgrim explains;

“When Chris asked us to write a song for Fahrenheit Press, we couldn’t wait to be a part of something so innovative. When we heard that Charles loved the song so much that he wanted to write it into his book we were blown away. Music has always been the perfect accompaniment to literature and to be the first band ever to write and record a song especially for a publisher to include in a book is just incredible!” 

In fact I’ve been lucky enough to be able to give it a go. I read the revamped Chapter 4 of The Lobster Boy and the Fat Lady’s Daughter whilst listening to Burn Again. And it seemed to me a perfect fit. It did seem to make the scene more real.  The sound of the song encompassed how I imagined the scene, gives you a sense of Mel, other than that described and gave me a hint as to how the rest of the novel will feel. A great amalgam of story and song and a great idea.

And what does the shy, retiring Mr McVeigh have to say about all this?

“Awesome ain’t it? 

It’s all so ‘meta’ it’s making my head spin. 

I’ve always had a Berlin Wall running between my work in the music industry and publishing but as I reread the new version of the book with the song playing in the background I suddenly had a vivid image of a bare-chested Charles Kriel, standing Thor-like, swinging a massive Blind Pilgrim shaped sledgehammer and busting that wall wide open. I knew right then that we had to make this happen.

Every author I know has an intimate relationship with music and every musician I know takes a lot of their inspiration from the books they read (yes, even the drummers – shut it you – comics are a kind of book). The convergence of Charles Kriel and Blind Pilgrim was almost entirely random but this all just seems like it was meant to be. For sure the universe is a minx, but in my experience she knows what she’s doing and it turns out she’s a minx with awesome taste in books & music.”

There you have it;

* A publisher commissions a band to write a song to publicise a book.

* The band record the song and release it as a single.

* The author loves it so much he writes the song into the book.

* The publisher releases a new version of the book with the song included.

* Life imitating art, imitating life, imitating art.

So you can now not only read the story but listen to its soundtrack too.

You can buy Burn Again here and watch the video here.

And The Lobster Boy and the Fat Lady’s Daughter is available here.


Filed under Spotlight on Publishers

TA Williams on the highs and lows of being a writer, excerpt and giveaway

Today I’m pleased to welcome TA Williams, author of What Happens at Christmas to the blog. He has kindly written a post about the highs and lows of being a writer.

Somebody asked me the other day what my favourite moment has been in my writing career. Looking back, there have been quite a few highs, although there have been a huge number of lows as well.

   Writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely pastime. It’s you against yourself. You sit at the keyboard and hope the words will flow. When it goes well, it gives you a real buzz. When you sit there for hours with very little to show for it, or when you read the two or three thousand words you wrote the previous day and realise they are rubbish, the result is depressing, to say the least. So… wannabe authors out there, prepare for setbacks because they will happen.

   So, with that caveat in mind, what about the highs?

Writing The End on the final page of my very first full length novel was pretty special. Nowadays, looking back over more than ten completed books, the sheer physical achievement of churning out 80,000 words is no longer such a big deal. But, as they say, you never forget your first time. Of course, as I now know, The End doesn’t really mean that at all. You send the manuscript off to your editor and, before long, it comes back to you and you are going through it again, taking out character A, making character B edgier or less up himself, moving the final scene from an ocean going yacht to a beach hut in Torquay or whatever. Then off it goes again this time to the copy editor, to return with words chopped out, grammar questioned and suggestions in red ink all over the place. So, The End; great feeling but short-lived.

Don’t let anybody tell you different; the hardest thing about getting a book published is finding a publisher. All right, nowadays you can self-publish and a lot of people are opting for that solution, particularly as it gives you total control over subject, style and, of course, price. But if you are trying to go down the traditional publisher route, firms taking on new, unknown writers are as rare as hen’s teeth. So, without doubt, a great, great moment for me was getting the email from my publishers telling me they had read my first book, Dirty Minds, and loved it enough to want to publish it. I rushed through to the bathroom where my wife was taking a shower and almost soaked the iPad in my excitement. Yes, that was something else.

In contrast, when my first book came out, then my second, and so on, I was less excited. Maybe because my books are currently all ebooks, there was less of a sense of achievement than I had expected. Yes, it was good to see the cover appear on Amazon. Yes it was good to see the book begin to rise through the rankings as people, not just my close friends and family, started shelling out real money to read my stuff. But it wasn’t as uplifting as that first email, specially after (in my case) many long years of beating my head against a brick wall trying to get people to read my stuff.

   And that brings us to reviews. You buy a toilet brush on Amazon. It works, You post a good, very good, or excellent review. You buy a book on Amazon and suddenly it’s a very different matter. A toilet brush is a toilet brush however you look at it. No two books are the same and no two readers are the same. When somebody leaves a bad review, it hurts. I have no doubt that even for the million-sellers in the writing world, it hurts. Yes, it’s inevitable…you can’t please all of the people all of the time… but that doesn’t help. All those long hours at the computer make your book a very, very personal thing. Just as any mother would be gutted if a total stranger came up and observed, ‘What a disgustingly ugly baby you have,’ so the effect of vicious criticism can be the same for a writer. 

   Which makes the good reviews so very, very special. When I read reviews, specially from people I know and respect, praising my work, it gives me a high that lasts all day. So, after all that, I have no hesitation in saying that the very best moments for me in my writing career so far have been those 5 star reviews that make you just sit back and grin to yourself. That’s really special.


About the book:


“For the perfect Christmas…

When career-girl Holly Brice learns that her estranged father has died, she decides to take a trip down memory lane and find out about the man she never knew. Arriving in the sleepy little Dartmoor village, she’s shocked to discover that she’s inherited the cosy little cottage she remembers so fondly, a whole load of money –and her father’s adorable dog, too!

Head to snow-covered Devon!

And as the first snowflakes begin to fall and Holly bumps into her gorgeous neighbour, Jack Nelson, life gets even more complicated! Men have always been off the cards for high-flying Holly, but there’s something about mysterious writer Jack that has her re-thinking her three-date rule…

A fabulous, feel-good festive read, perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Carole Matthews.”

And here’s an excerpt:

It was a stunning day – crisp, clear and with just a light offshore breeze. The sea first came into view in the distance beyond the broad expanse of sand dunes and beach that constituted Saunton Sands. The road then curled gently round the coast, offering magnificent views across the open cliff tops to the rocks and waves below. Visibility was so good, Jack was able to point out Lundy Island, lying twelve miles out in the Bristol Channel. Beyond that there was nothing until you reached southern Ireland and, from then on just the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the USA. 

The sea looked like a sheet of corrugated iron as it neared the shore, with row after row of waves rolling in. They came into the village of Croyde itself and Holly started seeing signs for surf schools, surf shops and even a campsite called Surfers’ Paradise. Malibu it might not be, but Croyde was clearly a British surfing Mecca, even on a day like today when the outside temperature was in single figures. As they drove down the narrow access road to the car park, they could both see majestic waves rolling into the bay between the rocky outcrops either side. Jack parked at the far side of the car park among a vast collection of old VW campers, clearly the vehicle of choice for the surfing community, and turned off the engine. The engine noise was immediately replaced by the raucous cries of seagulls and the regular crunch of waves hitting the beach a hundred yards below them. From where they were parked, they were able to look down between sand dunes and a café directly onto the beach.

‘Look at those waves! Magic Seaweed said it would be a five star day and, boy, were they right!’ He sounded like a little boy on his birthday.

‘Magic Seaweed?’ She smiled at him, happy to see his obvious excitement. 

‘The fount of all wisdom for surf dudes.’

‘So you’re a surf dude?’

‘I suppose I should really have a VW camper for true street cred, but the old Land Rover’s pretty close. And, of course, that’s an Al Merrick custom board tied to my roof. That’s worth loads of bonus points.’ He grinned at her. ‘Yeah, I’m a dude, or at least I like to think I am.’

‘This is the first time I’ve been with a dude. In fact, I’m not totally sure I know what a dude is, but so far so good.’ She gave him a smile. ‘So, if you’re a dude, what does that make me?’

He had no hesitation. ‘That makes you a babe.’ He grinned at her. ‘No question. Very definitely a babe.’

   Holly rather liked the sound of that, but she didn’t comment. Scruffy Land Rovers and outdoor pursuits hadn’t featured too highly on her list of essentials for possible boyfriends so far. Anyway, she thought to herself, one pretty normal prerequisite was that the man in question should at least appear to demonstrate some sort of romantic interest towards her. Jack Nelson, nice and friendly as he was, appeared to show as much affection towards her as he did to Stirling the dog. She dismissed the thought and glanced back down to the beach, absently reaching back over her shoulder to scratch Stirling’s ears.

What Happens at Christmas was published on 22 October 2015 by Carina.

And there’s more. You can win a copy of TA Williams’ What Happens in Cornwall via this rafflecopter competition. Good luck!


Filed under Spotlight on Authors

The Hunter of the Dark by Donato Carrisi – Review

Published by Abacus

Publication date – 5 November 2015

Source – review copy


“A new Italian literary thriller sensation from the prize-winning, record-breaking author of THE WHISPERER and THE LOST GIRLS OF ROME.

A brutal killer is on the streets of Rome.
He leaves no trace. And shows no mercy.

A series of gruesome murders leaves the police force in Rome reeling, with no real clues or hard evidence to follow. Assigned to the case is Sandra Vega, a brilliant forensic analyst, struggling to come to terms with the crimes and her own past. Sandra’s shared history with Marcus, a member of the ancient Penitenzeri – a unique Italian team, linked to the Vatican, and trained in the detection of true evil, means that the two are brought together again in the pursuit of a malignant killer.

Soon Marcus and Sandra notice the emergence of a disturbing pattern running alongside the latest killings – and every time they think they have grasped a fragment of the truth, they are led down yet another terrifying path.

A sensational new literary thriller from the bestselling author of The Whisperer, this novel captures the beautiful atmosphere of Rome and explores its dark and hidden secrets.”

4 of 5 stars

A young couple are brutally murdered in a remote setting. There are no clues and they were seemingly attacked at random. Police forensic analyst Sandra Vega believes that there is more to the scene and the murders than has been discovered. Her path crosses with Marcus, a Penitenzeri – a Vatican detective trained to detect evil. Together they are 0n a race against time to discover the identity of the Monster of Rome before he strikes again.

Having read Donato Carrisi’s first novel, The Whisperer I jumped at the chance to read his latest novel. I was aware that he writes mystery thrillers that travel along at break-neck speed, taking the reader on a race across Rome, to discover a killer, throwing red herrings and fantastic twists in on the way. I was not disappointed with The Hunter of the Dark.

This book soon gripped me and I found myself completely drawn into the story. The murders are horrific and Carrisi doesn’t shy away from that. Nor does he cushion revelations on other matters. This book is all about the evil that humans perpetrate upon each other and so tragic cases are mentioned to emphasis the point.

There is a back story between Sandra and Marcus, one that I wasn’t aware was covered in his second novel, The Lost Girls of Rome, which I have still yet to read. However, The Hunters of the Dark can be read and enjoyed without having read the first in the series. In fact its just made me want to go back and read it even more. Sandra and Marcus are both damaged characters, Sandra due to the death of her husband, which Marcus helped her with 3 years earlier. Marcus has deeper secrets, ones he doesn’t even recall. His memories only start from 3 years ago, just before he met Sandra. His training as a Penitenzeri is all down to his friend Clemente. He has no family, no other friends and is used to vanishing into the background. His true skill is he can feel evil. In effect he can put himself in the position of the killer, thereby gaining an idea as to intention and what drives the need to kill. This ability hints at what sort of person Marcus could have been before his memory loss. This is something that will no doubt continue through the series.

I enjoyed pitting my wits against Sandra and Marcus, deciphering the clues so I could deduce the killer before they did, that is after all part of the fun of reading crime fiction. There are conspiracy theories, corruption and cover ups to contend with. The story is based on the concept that without evil there can be no good and it is interesting how Carrisi deals with this and how little known aspects of the Catholic church are revealed. (Of course artistic licence is used but Carrisi has used real things, such as the Penitenzeri, as a base for his tale and he talks more about this at the end of the book.)

And of course there is Rome, a character all of her own. The modern city and the old merge and tell their own story. Having been to the Eternal City it was easy to imagine the scenes that emerged from the story. However the beauty of the book being set in Rome is that it is so iconic the places can easily evoked for those who haven’t been.

This is a fast-paced, gripping novel that has revelations, twists and turns galore. I can’t wait for the next book in the series but whilst I do I’ll go back and read The Lost Girls of Rome.


Filed under Reviews

Christopher Fowler – Q&A

Today I’m pleased to welcome Christopher Fowler to the blog. Christopher is the best selling author of the Bryant and May series. The latest instalment, Bryant and May: London’s Glory was published by Doubleday on 5 November 2015 and features a collection of short stories giving more insight into the detective duo. Christopher kindly answered a few of my questions.


1.       Tell us a little about Bryant and May: London’s Glory.
Conan Doyle started a tradition of writing up the missing cases of his consulting detective, and I thought it would be a nice idea for a Christmas compendium. I wrote up different types of investigations from period-set tales to locked-room mysteries and added other elements, like character studies and even the contents of Bryant’s bookcase. It was a lot of fun. We even put in a cutaway drawing of the crime unit’s building!

2.      As well as the popular Bryant and May series you have also written a number of other novels covering a range of things from horror to memoir. What are the benefits and down sides to writing a series and if you can pick, do you have a favourite?
The upside is coming home to characters you really like and exploring them more each time. The downside is keeping a record of everything you’ve done so far, and how all the characters interact. It’s also important to me that new readers can start anywhere without feeling lost, so I’m careful to make the books accessible.

3.       You’ve achieved many things in your career: a multitude of best sellers, a critically acclaimed graphic novel story, been nominated for and won many literary prizes, had your novels optioned by Hollywood heavyweights and had a short story made into a film. What do you think your greatest achievement is, one of these or the Christmas single or the James Bond stand in moment?
Let’s not talk about the Christmas single! Probably getting my memoirs Paperboy and Film Freak published in time for my mum to read them, to show her that I didn’t entirely go to waste! 

4.       Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?
They say writers are either mappers or gardeners. I’m definitely a gardener – chuck the seeds out and see what grows. It’s the best way to make your characters organic. The first draft usually takes about three months, but the most fun comes in the second draft, when I put in all the crazy character stuff. If I’m having fun with it, it goes much faster.
5.       There’s a quote on your website from Time Out that says ‘Christopher Fowler is an award-winning novelist who would make a good serial killer.’ What kind of serial killer would you be, a Dexter who kills the bad guys or a Patrick Bateman who just kills?
Neither; I’m afraid I’m a very gentle man and would be a rubbish killer. I’d be able to come up with a lot of good alibis though!

6.       If you could only read one book for the rest of your life what book would that be?
Blimey, a tough one, but for rereadability, probably ‘Our Mutual Friend’ or ‘Bleak House’ – or ‘Gormenghast’.

7.       I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. You must have answered a fair few questions during your writing career. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Nice one!
Nobody ever asks me what I’ve learned. I’ve learned to listen more and talk less, to have the courage of my convictions and never compromise. Nobody wants a tombstone that reads; ‘He delivered on time.’

About the book


“In every detective’s life there are cases that can’t be discussed, and throughout the Bryant & May novels there have been mentions of some of these such as the Deptford Demon or the Little Italy Whelk Smuggling Scandal.
Now Arthur Bryant has decided to open the files on eleven of these previously unseen investigations that required the collective genius and unique modus operandi of Arthur Bryant and John May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit – investigations that range from different times (London during the Great Smog) and a variety of places: a circus freak show, on board a London Tour Bus and even a yacht off the coast of Turkey.
And in addition to these eleven classic cases, readers are also given a privileged look inside the Peculiar Crimes Unit (literally, with a cut away drawing of their offices), a guide to the characters of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, and access to the contents of Arthur Bryant’s highly individual library.”


Filed under Spotlight on Authors