The Birdwatcher – William Shaw


The Birdwatcher was published by Riverrun on 19 May 2016 and is available to buy here

Sergeant William South has always avoided investigating murder. A passionate birdwatcher and quiet man, he has few relationships and prefers it that way.

But when his only friend is found brutally beaten, South’s detachment is tested. Not only is he bereft – it seems that there’s a connection between the suspect and himself.

For South has a secret. He knows the kind of rage that killed his friend. He knows the kind of man who could do it. He knows, because Sergeant William South himself is a murderer.

Moving from the storm-lashed, bird-wheeling skies of the Kent Coast to the wordless war of the Troubles, The Birdwatcher is a crime novel of suspense, intelligence and powerful humanity about fathers and sons, grief and guilt and facing the darkness within.

My thoughts

If you are looking for a crime read that is a little bit different, then The Birdwatcher is for you!

The place is the Kent coast. We meet Sargeant William South, a man who works in community policing. He has a massive secret. He is a killer. The story follows South as his friend and neighbour, Bob, is murdered. They shared a hobby of birdwatching and hung out together sometimes. South unexpectedly gets entangled in the murder investigation. He is asked to work with Alexandra Cupidi, a police officer new to the area. Cupidi has a quirky teenage daughter, Zoe. Will Cupidi and South work out who killed Bob?

South is lovely, the kind of man you would call a gentleman. Quiet and unassuming. A man used to being alone. He is not really an anti-hero, but a victim of circumstances. With flashbacks, we learn all about his early life in Northern Ireland in the late 1970s and how he came to relocate to Kent. We see how the death of his friend has hit him. He forms an unlikely bond with Cupidi and her daughter.

What is pretty powerful is the atmosphere, with a perfectly matched slow burning drama. It reeks of isolation. It is bleak. South lives next to a power station. This is not a place of beauty. Beauty is found in the pursuit of birds, in nature and in the sea. Birds are a passion for Bob and South. We get a real sense of the devotion that birders have.

Meet a birdwatching policeman, you won’t ever forget. Gorgeous and compelling. Recommended!




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City of Drowned Souls – Chris Lloyd


City of Drowned Souls was published on 6 February 2017 by Canelo and is available to buy here

When a child disappears, the clock starts ticking

Detective Elisenda Domènech has had a tough few years. The loss of her daughter and a team member; the constant battles against colleagues and judges; the harrowing murder investigations… But it’s about to get much worse.

When the son of a controversial local politician goes missing at election time, Elisenda is put on the case. They simply must solve it. Only the team also have to deal with a spate of horrifically violent break-ins. People are being brutalised in their own homes and the public demands answers.

Could there be a connection? Why is nobody giving a straight answer? And where is Elisenda’s key informant, apparently vanished off the face of the earth? With the body count threatening to increase and her place in the force on the line, the waters are rising…

Be careful not to drown.

The stunning new instalment of the gripping Elisenda Domènech crime thrillers for readers of Ian Rankin, Henning Mankell and Andrea Camilleri.

Previous books in the series: City of Good Death – Chris Lloyd and City of Buried Ghosts – Chris Lloyd

My thoughts

Hooray for another adventure for Elisenda, my favourite Catalan detective! City of Drowned Souls is the third outing for Elisenda Domenech. It follows on beautifully from City of Good Death and City of Buried Ghosts. I do recommend reading them one after the other.

For those of you new to this series, Catalonia is a mostly independent region of Spain. A good comparison would be Scotland, in the UK, from what I understand. They have their own police force, language and culture, such as the prominence of a local judge in the investigation of a crime. Elisenda Domenech runs the Serious Crime Unit, in Girona.

When we last saw Elisenda, she was struggling to deal with the tragic death of her young daughter. Her daughter was killed in a plane crash, along with her ex-husband a few years ago. She hears and sometimes sees visions of her little Lina. Elisenda finds herself on leave, being forced to go for bereavement counselling by her boss. However the disappearance of the teenager of a local controversial politician leads to Elisenda returning to the fold. There are also some rather violent burglaries happening in the area, that Elisenda is keen to solve.

The local politican is one Susanna Miravent, a woman who is anti-independence/pro Spain in the very independent Catalonia. Unusually, she had another son that went missing a few years ago and is now presumed dead. Miravent and her husband seem more interested in the results of the upcoming election, than worrying too much about the triviality of another missing child. What has happened to young Jaume Comas Miravent? Has he been taken for revenge or is something more sinister going on?

I just LOVE this series! It is one gorgeous bundle of crime filled delight, wrapped up in a sunny climate and sprinkled with Catalan culture. It feels like this series has really taken off, with City of Drowned Souls. This is the best story yet, Chris Lloyd. There is something for everyone; a stonking mystery or two with an ace twist, a cold politican, Elisenda and her counselling, loss and bereavement played out, plus more about politics of the region.

I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Elisenda. Over the course of the three books, I feel I know her. I like her! She deserves a little happiness. I am crossing my fingers for her, especially after that ending.

Fabulous! Chris Lloyd, your book rocked! I now have major withdrawal symptoms.



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Sweetpea – C. J. Skuse


Sweetpea is published by HQ on 20 April 2017 and is available to buy here

When she was good, she was very, very good. When she was bad, she was deadly.

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.

Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhiannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.

From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…

My thoughts 

I simply cannot get enough of black comedy. Black comedy, with a smattering of crime, is the bees’s knees. Sweetpea is blacker than a black thing. It’s quirky, hilarious, totally refreshing and bold.

Things you will do when reading Sweetpea:

  1. Laugh out loud
  2. Scare the cat laughing
  3. Laugh even louder
  4. Agree with some of Rhiannon’s thoughts
  5. Worry that you have a teeny bit of Rhiannon in you!

Sweetpea is Rhiannon’s journal, following her adventures through life. It is told in a dry witty style. She make lists of things that drive her around the bend or people she wants to kill. They are spot on! Hugely entertaining. Bloody marvellous. She has a dark side. From time to time, she kills people. She is kind to animals and children though. Probably best to be nice to her eh?! Give her whatever she wants, promote her at work and make sure you stay friends with her. Apart from that murdery inclination she is fairly normal, living with her boyfriend and dog and working as a kind of skivvy on the local newspaper.

This is just fabulous. FABULOUS! Sweetpea is a must read in 2017 for all fans of black comedy. Join in the love fest for Rhiannon, a girl who knows how to use a knife!

Recommended, if you want a guaranteed laugh!




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Born Bad by Marnie Riches – Blog Tour Exclusive Guest Post ‘Born Bad’s Manchester’ #BornBad


Welcome to the start of the #BornBad blog tour, in which we celebrate the start of a new gritty series for Marnie Riches. Hooray! Marnie is back on the blog today talking about Manchester, the setting for Born Bad.

Born Bad is published on 9 March 2017 by Avon and is available to buy here

What is Born Bad all about, you say?

A powerful, darkly comic novel set in the criminal underworld of Manchester from bestselling author Marnie Riches.

The battle is on…

When gang leader Paddy O’Brien is stabbed in his brother’s famous nightclub, Manchester’s criminal underworld is shaken to the core. Tensions are running high, and as the body count begins to grow, the O’Brien family must face a tough decision – sell their side of the city to the infamous Boddlington gang or stick it out and risk losing their king.

But war comes easy to the bad boys, and they won’t go down without a fight. So begins a fierce battle for the South Side, with the leading Manchester gangsters taking the law into their own hands – but only the strongest will survive…

Born Bad’s Manchester – City of Gritty Dreams

by Marnie Riches

With the first three George McKenzie thrillers already under my belt, when my publisher, Avon approached me, asking what I’d like to write next, I had initially wondered if I should be penning standalone thrillers. I knew that I definitely wanted to publish more George McKenzie stories. I love George and Van den Bergen, and the series has a loyal following of readers. But what else could I turn my hand and my imagination to? The wise folk at Avon suggested I write a series about Manchester. Why not? I am a Mancunian, born and bred. Leaving home at eighteen to go to university, I did spend some fourteen years living abroad and in the southeast. But I returned home to the northwest in the mid-noughties. It’s a city I know and love so very well, and there’s definitely Mancunian blood running through my veins – my family has lived here for generations in north Manchester and Salford. I’ve got the obligatory webbing between my fingers (not really, though that would help, given the weather). So, I said yes.

My imagination was immediately all fired up. Naturally, given Manchester has a reputation for being the most violent city in the UK, it made sense to write about gangsters, in a similar vein to Martina Cole and Kimberley Chambers. I realised, having grown up in north Manchester and now, living south-side, I wanted to create a series based on north vs. south conflict, since the two halves of the city are so very, very different. Born Bad was conceived.

So, who would run the south side? Paddy O’Brien and the O’Brien clan cover the south, from the fictitious area of Parsons Croft (adjacent to Moss Side) out towards Bramshott (a fictitious slice of footballer-belt on the north Cheshire/south Manchester border). Like a hefty chunk of Manchester’s population, Paddy would have an Irish heritage, and it made perfect sense to me that his brother, Frank, would be an erstwhile musician – part of Manchester’s legendary musical hall of fame – who now runs a super-club, called M1 House that is inspired, in part, by the fabled and much-mourned Haçienda. Where Paddy is a ruthless psychopath, wanting to distance himself from the abject poverty and violence of his childhood, Frank embodies that typical Mancunian friendliness and happy-go-lucky nature. The two brothers couldn’t be more different but in them, we have that quintessentially Mancunian mix of music, drugs and gun-power.

And who runs the north side? Well, north Manchester has very large thriving minority ethnic communities. I grew up on a rough estate near Strangeways and went to school in Cheetham Hill, so those areas – filled with bustling small businesses, devout Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Hassidic Jews, liberal Jews, Eastern Europeans, Africans, people of Caribbean descent and plenty of aspiring flash-Harrys, driving around in blinging premium cars, hoping that with a lot of hard work, they’ve escaped the poverty of their forefathers for good – were the perfect stomping grounds for my Boddlington Gang bosses, Jonny Margulies and Tariq Khan. The two childhood friends run their nefarious business from the commercial area behind Strangeways prison, using a legitimate company that imports and exports fancy goods as a front.

The glue between north-side and south-side is found in Gloria Bell and her son Leviticus. Gloria, an ex-cleaner, consummate hypocrite but one of life’s grafters, lives in Chorlton and is an elder at a gospel church in Parsons Croft. She is also the business partner of Sheila O’Brien, Paddy’s ex-model wife. Together, they run a cleaning company staffed by trafficked women. But Gloria’s estranged son, Lev, is a low-level dealer for the Boddlingtons. He lives on the beleaguered Sweeney Hall estate – a fictitious area of north Manchester that will ring with authenticity to anybody familiar with Higher Broughton and the parts of Cheetham that inspired it. Sheila, Lev and Gloria are central to the plot of Born Bad, where the stakes are impossibly high and the price of losing to your enemy is death.

Clearly, in real life, not every legitimate business man or woman, north or south, runs their company as a front for criminal activity. Manchester is chock full of caring, law-abiding citizens who bear the frequent rain and overcast skies with a fortitude and humour you often only see in the northwest. But it’s still a city of violence, drugs, gangs and shifty goings on. Our men’s prison – Strangeways, aka HMP Manchester – and Styal women’s prison are both bursting with folk who will bear testament to that. Very often, their crimes have been committed through poverty and desperation. Breaking the law might have offered a way out of the ghetto and an alternative to facing a lifetime of fruitless struggle and lack of opportunity.

So, it has been the true stories of many Mancunians’ daily struggles and very real areas of the city, where those people live hard lives, that have inspired the fiction of Born Bad. Manchester has always been a city that evokes tall tales about saints and sinners. It is a city of musical and sporting heroes. It is a city of ruthless killers and feral gangs. It is a city where many inhabitants face difficult choices; running the gauntlet in tough areas that are morally as grey as the skies that hang over us. For my part, as a crime-writer, Manchester is a gritty city of dreams. Born Bad is the first story in which I have tried to put my vision and version of my hometown into words. I hope readers will enjoy the highs, the lows and the laughs!

Check out my review of Born Bad Born Bad – Marnie Riches

Say hello to Marnie Riches on Twitter

Find Marnie Riches’ website

Buy the book on Amazon UK

Check out all of the blog tour for more #BornBad #Badchester love!

Blog tour (1)

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Cursed – Thomas Enger #blogtour #review


Cursed was published on 21st January 2017 by Orenda Books and is available to buy here

What secret would you kill to protect? When Hedda Hellberg fails to return from a retreat in Italy, where she has been grieving for her recently dead father, her husband discovers that his wife’s life is tangled in mystery. Hedda never left Oslo, the retreat has no record of her and, what’s more, she appears to be connected to the death of an old man, gunned down on the first day of the hunting season in the depths of the Swedish forests. Henning Juul becomes involved in the case when his ex-wife joins in the search for the missing woman, and the estranged pair find themselves enmeshed both in the murky secrets of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, and in the painful truths surrounding the death of their own son. With the loss of his son to deal with, as well as threats to his own life and to that of his ex-wife, Juul is prepared to risk everything to uncover a sinister maze of secrets that ultimately leads to the dark heart of European history.

Taut, chilling and unputdownable, Cursed is the fourth in the internationally renowned series featuring conflicted, disillusioned by always dogged crime reporter Henning Juul, and marks the return of one of Norway’s finest crime writers. FOR FANS OF Stieg Larsson, Gunnar Staalesen, K.O. Dahl, Jorn Lier Horst, Johan Theorin and The Bridge

My thoughts

Nordic noir is always welcome here. Thomas Enger brings us the fourth in his highly successful Nordic series, featuring investigative journalists, Henning Juul and his ex-wife Nora.

Jumping into Cursed without having read the previous three books in the series is not advised. I would have preferred to have engaged more strongly with the Henning side of the novel. I found myself struggling at times to work out what had driven Henning and Nora apart, as well as why he was so strongly following up leads on the terrible fire in his flat. Therefore I recommend getting your hands on the first books and devouring them.

Cursed introduced me to Henning Juul. Henning was working as a journalist, but is on sick leave. He is struggling to come to terms with the death of his child. This seems to be longstanding and unhealthy. As the book plays out, we see that his life has been devastated by the murder. He has lost everything. He appears damaged and rather reckless. He is prepared to take risks to discover the truth. He wants justice. His ex-wife Nora seems slightly more stable. She has moved on emotionally from Henning and is in a relationship with his colleague, Iver. She becomes involved in a missing person case, of someone she knew years ago. Hedda Hellburg has gone missing, having not returned from a retreat. How does it all link to the death of a Swedish man in the woods?

With a captivating storyline, a couple of rather curious protagonists with their tragic history and some sharp and bleak writing, it is easy to whiz through Cursed. It was a surprise to see journalists at the forefront, with a very different perspective on the missing person case. These were investigative journalists, with a keen sense of ferreting out the truth. No one can read this book without getting a profound understanding of the death of a child, for Hennings and Nora. Their relationship had a gorgeous sense of realism, as they still cling onto each other. Their story was as fascinating as finding out the truth about Hedda Heldburg.

This is Nordic crime to appreciate. A bleak world to devour. A beautiful puzzle to unravel!


Thomas Enger’s website

Thomas Enger is on Twitter

Buy your own copy on Amazon here

See what other bloggers have to say …#CURSED

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Born Bad – Marnie Riches


Born Bad is published by Avon on 9 March 2017 and is available to buy here

‘Gritty and gripping’ – Kimberley Chambers, No. 1 Sunday Times Bestseller

‘Fast-paced and enthralling’ – C.L. Taylor, author of THE MISSING

A powerful, darkly comic novel set in the criminal underworld of Manchester from bestselling author Marnie Riches.

The battle is on…

When gang leader Paddy O’Brien is stabbed in his brother’s famous nightclub, Manchester’s criminal underworld is shaken to the core. Tensions are running high, and as the body count begins to grow, the O’Brien family must face a tough decision – sell their side of the city to the infamous Boddlington gang or stick it out and risk losing their king.

But war comes easy to the bad boys, and they won’t go down without a fight. So begins a fierce battle for the South Side, with the leading Manchester gangsters taking the law into their own hands – but only the strongest will survive…

Previous books by Marnie Riches include: The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die which you really should have read by now!

My thoughts

Marnie Riches gained my attention with her rather excellent George McKenzie series. Now she is back with gritty tough Manchester noir. This is the sort of read that will put hairs on your chest. If you thought Manchester was all constant rain, 1990s Madchester music and Coronation Street, you were very wrong. Manchester is so much darker than that.

Born Bad introduces a new side to the northern city. We discover the criminal element, the organised crime and two gangs competing for dominance. On one side we have ageing gangster Paddy O’Brien and his downtrodden wife, Sheila. Paddy is a shady character, who thinks nothing of beating up his wife or engaging in a spot of casual adultery. On the opposing side, Tariq Khan and Jonny Margulies aka The Boddlington Gang rule. Paddy O’Brien plans to retire to Thailand and sell his crooked business to the opposition. Sheila is opposed to this move. This is mostly because of her success at running a crooked cleaning company.

Things do not go to plan, as Paddy has a health scare. Conflict starts to errupt between the two gangs. This leads to death and violence, with innocents caught in the crossfire. The Boddlington lot bring in their one man killing maching, The Fish Man. Ace name. Two gangs with escalating suspicion and tit for tat dealings, sounds like a recipe for disaster. Nothing is what it seems. People are being played. These are not very nice folk, in case you were wondering. You would not want to bump into any of them, in the pub or down Sainsburys. They are involved in drugs, guns and illegal traffiking. Foreign women are used and abused, as forced prostitutes. Anything illegal goes.

Slowly we get to know and understand these Manchester folk, with their strange sense of right and wrong. Plus Marnie Riches presents this subculture in a very accessible, slightly humorous way and twisted way. Dark humour maybe. Definitely maybe! I was particularly fond of Sheila and how she grew and developed. She has me very worried for a while!

Born Bad puts the bad in Manchester, a sort of Badchester. With the kind of ending that makes you sit up and spill your cuppa, I can see a few more adventures might be in store for these criminal classes. Seedy, dark and devilishly twisted. Recommended.



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Quieter Than Killing – Sarah Hilary


Quieter Than Killing is published by Headline on 9th March 2017 and is available to buy here

Sarah Hilary, winner of the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year, returns with a new DI Marnie Rome novel, QUIETER THAN KILLING. For fans of Val McDermid, Alex Marwood and Claire Mackintosh

‘Hilary is my drop-everything writer; always original, always bang-on psychologically, always gripping. I am a huge fan’ Alex Marwood

‘Tremendous’ Ian Rankin

It’s winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it’s personal.

Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing.

My thoughts

Sarah Hilary stormed onto the UK crime scene just a few years ago. Now DI Marnie Rome and her sidekick DS Noah Jake feel like they have been around forever. We have taken them to our hearts. Quieter Than Killing is book number four.

One of the highlights of this series is the twisted relationship between Marnie and her strange psychotic foster sibling Stephen. The more this is revealed, the more engrossed I become. I wish we could have more. Stephen was responsible for the death of Marnie’s parents, six years ago. He has a lovely skewed perspective.

This story is mostly about revenge and families, including those of Marnie and Noah. There appears to be a case of nasty vigilantism in the city. Three people have been badly assaulted, ending up in hospital. At the same time, a ten year old boy has been kidnapped and is being held in a house. Somehow this all links to Marnie. But how and why?

Sarah Hilary once again gives our favourites detectives a hard time. Noah has to deal with a younger erratic brother in trouble. Plus he gets himself hurt, in the action. Poor Noah. Marnie is forced to visit Stephen again, like Clarice Starling meeting Hannibal Lecter. Events conspire that she must return to the place where he committed his crimes. The home she grew up in, with all its memories. 

Quieter Than Killing hits all the right notes. Chilly and chilling. Powerful and terribly sad. A social commentary on how families can be hidden places of abuse. I actually felt sorry for the killer when revealed. It looks like there will be more to come with the wonderful Stephen/Marnie storyline. The end of the book hinted at trouble to follow. Terrific. I cannot wait! 

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