The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse.

I’ve been a little late to the party reading this thriller set in the Swiss Alps. Now I have, I can see why other bloggers have enjoyed it so much.It left me feeling chilled and genuinely claustrophobic. Elin’s brother Isaac invites her to celebrate his engagement to girlfriend Laure at a luxury hotel in Switzerland. The newly renovated hotel is Laure’s workplace and has a complicated history. An architectural triumph for the owner Lucas, the hotel was once a sanatorium for people with tuberculosis. Locals objected strongly to the project due to its position and liability to become cut off by avalanches, but there was also some disquiet about its history and the appropriateness of its new use. Elin and Isaac have a strained relationship, dating back to the accidental death of their little brother when they were children. However, she has been looking forward to trying again with Isaac and is excited to show her architect boyfriend Will around the hotel. Will is looking forward to relaxing with Elin after a tough year including her long sabbatical from work as a police officer. Elin is a detective, but isn’t currently working after an incident lead to her suffering flashbacks, panic attacks and other symptoms of PTSD. Can Will and Elin relax and enjoy their break, or will echoes of the past get in the way?

The author creates a edgy atmosphere immediately. We find out that Lucas’s business partner Daniel disappeared just as the hotel opened, thought to be swallowed up by an avalanche while taking his morning exercise. The remoteness is immediately apparent and I loved the way the author situates the hotel as a huge edifice almost doing battle with the surroundings. Guests can gaze directly out into the woodland and mountains. However, once the night falls and the lights are on, the hotel must be visible for miles. Guests can’t see out, but anyone could be looking in. The decor isn’t plush and ornate like a lot of hotels, but instead hints at the hotel’s past; almost like a luxury monk’s cell. There is nothing superfluous or showy about the bedrooms. There are also little glass display boxes where artefacts from the hotel’s archive are put on show. Elin doesn’t know whether they honour the past in a respectful way or whether they’re distasteful. There’s a real sense of the cold from outside, but also in the hotel’s decor. There’s nothing cozy or welcoming to offset the harsh weather.

It’s not just the venue that has a complicated relationship with the past. This whole visit is shrouded in secrets. Elin hasn’t told her brother that she’s taking a break from the police force. She also hasn’t told her partner Will about her previous friendship with Laure. Although it soon becomes clear that she’s not the only one keeping secrets. Her silence on certain subjects made me doubt her as a narrator creating an edgy reading experience. The venue seems to have tension built into its very foundations and I sensed something evil had happened there. Whatever had happened left an energy that rubbed off on the staff and guests. The author builds on the claustrophobic theme, by layering the imagery throughout the narrative. There is the history of patients literally struggling to breathe within these walls. Then there are Elin’s panic attacks, intensified by the scene where she is pushed into the plunge pool at the spa and struggles to force her way back to the surface. In flashbacks we learn of the tragic day at the beach when Isaac and Elin’s brother died, it’s always there simmering in the background and even Elin doesn’t seem to know the truth of what happened. There’s also the remote location, and the constant threat of avalanche. The author allows these feelings to build towards moments then describes moments of pure terror as an unknown assailant attacks, wearing a black rubber gas mask that makes a strange sucking and whistling noise. There were moments where I literally had to close the book and have a break with a cuppa!

There are a series of questions within the book, so there are a series of answers we’re chasing towards the end of the novel. Will we discover the truth of what happened when the hotel was Sanatorium du Plumachit? Will we find out what truly happened on the beach between Elin and her brothers? Who is behind the attacks at the hotel and what is their motive? The author has created a mystery that’s like a set of Russian dolls, moving from the present back to past events that still have a devastating hold on the here and now. The strange souvenirs left by the killer in glass boxes, are just like the exhibits from the archive, so there must be a link. I read the last few chapters in one go, because I simply had to know what was going on. There was a definite disregard for the next day that night as I was up till 3am racing through the revelations. I thought this was a brilliant thriller, full of atmosphere and with some genuine scares along the way. I absolutely loved it and would recommend it very highly.

Meet The Author

Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands. After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel. Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium. Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes. You can find Sarah on Twitter @SarahVPearse and Instagram @sarahpearseauthor

Country Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary

The word ‘quirky’ can be very overused, but it seems the most apt work for this fun murder-mystery novel where our detectives are Aubrey, a rescue cat, accompanied by Maudie, a ghost who appears to live up the chimney. This is the second in Alison O’Leary’s books about Aubrey, who lives with a young couple who seem to specialise in waifs and strays. The change of scene to a country setting, comes about because Jeremy is exhausted by St Frank’s, the difficult school he teaches at. When the chance of a school swap to a small village comes up, with country cottage, it’s too good to turn down. So, the couple, their foster child Carlos and Aubrey all make the move imagining a more peaceful life. However, village life is not always as peaceful as city dwellers might expect and it’s not long before Aubrey is sleuthing away.

At first I was a little bit sceptical about a story from a cat’s point of view, but it really does work. Aubrey is an intelligent, alert, and brave little fellow with a lot of respect and empathy for people and his fellow cats. He soon makes friends in the village, particularly with Trevor, but he always seems to know where a human needs him. It’s not long before there’s disconcerting news about a cat murderer who has already claimed a couple of victims. I loved how the cats come together to patrol the village and root out any unsavoury characters hanging round after dark. Aubrey is elected to talk the group of cats who reside at the recycling plant – the village cats decide it’s better that way because Aubrey’s new and has no history with them. He soon has them on side and cat watch begins. This isn’t the only dangerous individual around, at the village fete local the school master is attacked with a knife and dies from his injuries. Harold and his wife Lucinda are regarded by most villagers as eccentrics who run an alternative boarding school on the outskirts of the village. However, no one can think of a reason for anyone to do Harold harm. In fact, Carlos has surprised his guardians Jeremy and Molly, by showing a distinct interest in the flora and fauna of the countryside – albeit having more to do with the alluring Teddy, one of Harold’s pupils teaching him. She is one of only two pupils left since the murder and doesn’t relish leaving the rather loose and creative school philosophy she’s used to.

Jeremy becomes further embroiled through a shy, reclusive villager called Morris (another waif and stray) who most people think of as a scruffy, but amiable drunk. When suspicion falls his way, and local kids start to make a nuisance of themselves by throwing things at his house, Jeremy goes round and makes sure he’s okay. Aubrey visits him too, with Maudie in tow, and passes time by the fireside to give him some company. He finds that if he sits and gives people time, they tend to talk to him and all manner of secrets might be revealed. This mystery deepens with a lady who visits Morris, but also strolls up to the gate at Molly and Jeremy’s but never comes in. What is her link to the village and to Morris? Added I found myself wondering who Maudie is and whether she’s linked in any way? Neither did I trust Quentin – a rather loathsome individual given to pastel coloured cashmere sweaters knotted across his shoulders. He is the teacher who swapped his cottage and job with Jeremy, but did he have ulterior motives for doing so? I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure with Aubrey and I think anyone who has or loves cats would love this book. Just one question though – is it wrong that I was more invested in the cat killer than Harold’s murderer?

Meet The Author

I was born in London and spent my teenage years in Hertfordshire where I spent large amounts of time reading novels, watching daytime television and avoiding school. Failing to gain any qualifications in science whatsoever, the dream of being a forensic scientist collided with reality when a careers teacher suggested that I might like to work in a shop. I don’t think she meant Harrods. Later studying law, I decided to teach rather than go into practice and have spent many years teaching mainly criminal law and criminology to young people and adults.

I enjoy reading crime novels, doing crosswords, and drinking wine. Not necessarily in that order.

Buying Links:

Red Dog Shop: https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/product-page/country-cat-blues

Amazon: mybook.to/CountryCat

Publication date: 23 February 2021

The Other Daughter by Caroline Bishop.

You only get one life – but what if it isn’t the one you were meant to live?

‘When it finally arrived I was shocked to see it; to read the words Mum wrote about these women fighting for rights I know I take for granted. Mum was here. And while she was, something happened that changed the entire course of my life. Perhaps, if I can summon the courage, the next eight weeks will help me finally figure out what that was . . .’

When Jessica discovers a shocking secret about her birth, it affects every area of her life. Her grief leaves her struggling at work and home, and sadly affects her feelings about being a mother. She takes advice from her godmother to take a break and she leaves her London home to travel to Switzerland in search of answers. There she takes a job as a nanny while researching her mother. She knows her journalist mother spent time in the country forty years earlier, reporting on the Swiss women’s liberation movement. What she doesn’t know, is what happened to her while she was there. Can Jess summon the courage to face the truth about her family, or will her search only hurt herself and those around her even more?

The story is told across two timelines. Jess in 2016 is just separated from her husband and taking a sabbatical from work. She has discovered a secret about her birth and wants more information. She knows her mother travelled to Switzerland in 1976 to research their fight for women’s rights. Women only gained the right to vote in 1971 after a referendum and I have always found this surprising. Sylvie travels there on hard won expenses trip. Her boss fails to see the value in an article on women’s rights, but she wins him round. I understood Sylvie’s journalistic interest in how late this date was, so I was interested as she convinced her editor to send her out to Switzerland in pursuit of the story around women’s suffrage in the country.

There was a slow beginning to the book, and it took me a while to gel with the characters. I was so glad I stuck with it though, because this was a slow burner and I became really involved with this family’s story. I know from working as a therapist, how difficult it can be for people to cope with secrets from the past, or an absence of knowledge about where they’re from. It’s this knowledge that Jess is looking for, in order to feel grounded. However, I also know that revelations about our history and background can leave us feeling adrift. We build a narrative about who we are and where we’re from; if that is shattered our sense of self can be too. The author really shows psychological insight, weaving these personal histories into a historical narrative – how Switzerland has treated women, including their legal right to participate in the democratic process and even their rights over their own bodies. I think Jess is so well rounded. There are so many layers to her character, and the deeper historical background mean she felt so real to me. I felt so invested in her story.

The revelations that come through Jess’s digging, but also through Sylvia’s narrative, take us down a path towards the truth. However, truth and written history are often two very different things. I feel that the author is clearly making a point about how a country’s history is written with an agenda. Often minorities and their experiences are erased from history and we need to move beyond the official version of events. I was worried that the truth Jess so desperately needed might not be real and she would be shattered again. The author has so much skill at creating a sense of place, both at the Swiss end and in London. She slowly drew me in and I became so involved in these character’s lives. There were times when they brought a lump to my throat, my emotions were so invested. This is an incredible debut and I look forward to more from this talented writer.

Meet The Author

Caroline is a British freelance writer currently living in Switzerland.

​In the past 15 years or so she has written about travel, food and theatre for newspapers, magazines and websites including The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, BBC Travel, Adventure Travel, France magazine and others. She was also the editor of anglophone Swiss news site TheLocal.ch for two years, during which time she became fascinated with aspects of Swiss history and culture, particularly the evolution of women’s rights, which forms the backdrop to The Other Daughter, her debut novel. 

Visit Caroline’s website at http://www.carolinebishop.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @calbish and Instagram/Facebook @carolinebishopauthor

Smoke Screen by Jorn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger

It’s Oslo, New Year’s Eve and crowds are gathering for the annual fireworks display in the city square, when a huge explosion rocks the area and Oslo is put on terrorist alert. News and crime blogger, Emma Ramm, was down there hoping for some space from her boyfriend. Unfortunately Casper followed her, and was caught up in the explosion with fatal consequences. Instead of stopping and grieving, Emma becomes intrigued with another of the fatalities. Mrs Semplass is blown into the water off the quay and has suffered dreadful injuries. Police officer Alexander Blixx has rushed to help, and he brings Patricia out of the water but it is too late to save her. Ramm and Blixx have a past that will always connect them. He is something of a father figure to Ramm and his concern for her is touching, especially since she gets in his way so much. He also admires Ramm for what she can uncover and her tenacity when following the evidence, however much she treads on his toes. Yet she’s reckless at times and puts herself in dangerous situations which worries him. They both set out to investigate, not just the explosion but the coincidence.

They have come across Semplass before, her daughter Patricia was abducted many years ago, when she was only two years old. The crime remained unsolved and they never found Patricia, something that haunts Blixx to this day. Now that Ruth-Christine is dead, it is the last time Blixx may be able to look at this case again. When another familiar name comes up in the bombing investigation, Blixx suspects this is more than a coincidence and starts to dig. Blixx and Ramm begin parallel investigations in alternate chapters to each other; one hoping to find her boyfriend Casper’s killer, the other hoping to finally break a case that haunted him. They cross paths so many times, reaching the same conclusions, but using different methods. This is a very dark and complex case that will affect all of those concerned.

The characterisation was fantastic, each character was so immediately believable and whole. Emma is a dogged investigator, determined to find the truth whatever the cost to herself and unable to focus on the loss of Casper. She’d had doubts about the relationship before the explosion so she feels awkward. This is confused further when his parents try to look after her and take her back home with them for the funeral. When she finally agrees to stay with them she only manages 24 hours before wanting to be free, chasing her latest clue. It’s as if she’s unable to stand still or accept support from anyone, she prefers to stand alone. I loved how the author made even small characters sympathetic and interesting. A cleaner at the hotel where the bomber stayed really drew me in, first as she kept finding a ‘do not disturb’ sign on his hotel room door, but then in a tense scene as she walks home. She thinks she knows the missing man by his shoe laces, the pace intensifies as she hears someone behind her, the pace quickens and by the time she’s face to face with her pursuer my heart was racing!

The short chapters added to the pace and any switches between writer were seamless, as was the translation. The earlier chapters slowly set the story up and let us try and piece together the clues. The pace picked up considerably towards the end and I ended up reading very late at night to finish it. I’d made some correct guesses about what happened to Patricia Semplass, but I hadn’t fully worked out this complicated plot that neatly ties up all the loose ends. It was the perfect Scandi Noir novel: atmospheric, complex, dark and surprising. I finished the book with an immense sense of satisfaction and another series of novels to collect for my bookshelves.

Meet The Authors

Thomas Enger is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned (Skinndød) in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication. Burned is the first in a series of five books about the journalist Henning Juul, which delves into the depths of Oslo s underbelly, skewering the corridors of dirty politics and nailing the fast-moving world of 24-hour news. Rights to the series have been sold to 28 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Killer Instinct, another Young Adult suspense novel, was published in Norway in 2017. Rights have been sold to Germany and Iceland. Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.


Jørn Lier Horst is one of Norway’s most experienced police investigators, but also one of Scandinavia’s most successful crime writers. He writes engaging and intelligent crime novels that offer an uncommonly detailed and realistic insight into the way serious crimes are investigated, as well as how both police and press work. His literary awards include the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize, the Riverton Prize (Golden Revolver), the Scandinavian Glass Key and the prestigious Martin Beck Award.

One Night, New York by Lara Thompson.

At the top of the Empire State Building on a freezing December night, two women hold their breath. Frances and Agnes are waiting for the man who has wronged them. They plan to seek the ultimate revenge.

Set over the course of a single night, One Night, New York is a detective story, a romance and a coming-of-age tale. It is also a story of old New York, of bohemian Greenwich Village between the wars, of floozies and artists and addicts, of a city that sucked in creatives and immigrants alike, lighting up the world, while all around America burned amid the heat of the Great Depression.

It’s hard not to fall in love with Frances. It only took a few chapters and I was with her wholeheartedly – she simply feels so real. The narrative bounces back and forth from the top of the Empire State Building, all the way back to Frances leaving rural Kansas, but it is always Frances’s point of view we follow. As a poor girl in a thin dress and broken sandals she is noticed by a couple of bohemian types on the train, a photographer and journalist. They are looking for stories and characters that will appeal to a wealthy NYC elite, and poverty stricken farmers are making headlines as the Depression bites. They see something in Frances and want to photograph her, but she is meeting her brother at the station so she takes their card instead. We see her settled into Stan’s tenement flat, taking embroidery in for Mrs Bianchi next door. How does she go from this to contemplating an act of violence at the Empire State?

What we’re seeing is an awakening. It’s not so much a loss of innocence – I realise that went a long time ago when she relates the things she’s seen and suffered. In NYC, although she’ll still experience trauma, she also gains so much strength and self-knowledge. There’s an awakening that’s sensual as she learns to love the feel of fine fabrics on her skin and the joy of moving her body to music. She gains a love and understanding of art, responding emotionally to the most complex modern pieces as well as the photographs she takes with new friend Agnes. There’s also an awakening of sexual desire, something she has never experienced before.

The structure brings an amazing tension to the novel. We might think we’ve worked out what is going on, but it’s so much worse than I imagined. We are drip fed the events leading up to the present moment, and the author doesn’t reveal the man Frances and Agnes have lured to the building until right at the very end. The girls become friends before realising they are both affected by the ambitious men who will build this city. Women are disappearing and men have all of the power in this world. It is the resulting male privilege, such arrogance and certainty, that lures their victim to this precarious and windy place. Agnes and Frances are going to draw a line under this, a fatal one. It really chills to the bone when we find out the true extent of what these ‘disappeared’ women have gone through. Within this we also learn the reality of the Depression in Kansas, and the reality of Frances’s life with a brutal father, only curbed by the presence of Stan. I was so deeply sad for Frances. Dicky and Jacks constantly talk about Frances being wise beyond her years, with surprise. It’s no wonder, she’s been through so much.

This book really is an incredible debut with brilliant historical detail and decadent 1920s feel. The gap between the rural areas of the US and and up and coming city like NYC is wide, but we also see the massive poverty gap between NYC neighbourhoods from the Upper East Side into East Harlem. There’s a decadence here that’s evident from the parties at Jacks and Dicky’s home. These people are new money and the mix of bohemian artists, showgirls, businessmen and politicians is rife with exploitation. I was suspecting everyone of ulterior motives, wondering if anyone is untouched by the taint of money and debauchery. The wholesome and motherly Italian lady Mrs Bianchi gives an impassioned speech about leaving her homeland, only for her sons to be drunk and brawling every weekend. There’s a sense that the pinnacle of this age has been reached; this lifestyle cannot be maintained forever. By the closing chapters I was willing Frances to escape this terrible place, not unscathed of course, but at least alive and free to pursue some happiness with the person she loves. Once I’d finished, I found it hard to start a new book, because my head was firmly in NYC. My heart was still with Frances and that is always the sign of a great book.

Throwback Thursday! A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray.

Meet the Bradleys.

In lots of ways, they’re a normal family:
Zippy is sixteen and in love for the first time; Al is thirteen and dreams of playing for Liverpool. And in some ways, they’re a bit different:
Seven-year-old Jacob believes in miracles. So does his dad. But these days their mum doesn’t believe in anything, not even getting out of bed.

How does life go on, now that Issy is gone?

This book is truly beautiful, moving and insightful novel about a family dealing with grief. The Bradley family have lost four year old Issy, and Carys Bray tells their story through each family member in turn. Bray has personal insight into the Mormon church, although she’s no longer a member. That doesn’t mean that this is a grand criticism of the religion, what she does is use her insight to craft a family of faith coping with the worst thing that could happen to them. She takes us on the weekly Merry-go-round of family night, youth club, Saturdays writing sermons and church on Sunday. I was brought up in a similarly restrictive evangelical Christian background till I rebelled at 16. I have spent my whole life watching adults try to reconcile their faith in an interventional God, with tragic events in their lives. When people believed that God granted them the good weather for their BBQ, it was hard for them to understand why my Multiple Sclerosis hadn’t responded to their healing. This could go one of two ways: God had a reason for giving me MS or I didn’t have enough faith for their healing to work. This family experience similar feelings and treatment, as their comfortable and cosy religious world implodes.

What the author shows us, is that nobody is immune from grief. Dad is a bishop in the church, and since marriage outside the faith is discouraged, Mum is a Mormon convert. His standpoint, although written with great empathy, is the one I found it hardest to relate to. Possibly this is because of my religious bias, but it felt like he was trying to make sense of it too early in the grieving process. It can take years to be able to put such an enormous loss into context and be able to identify its effect on your emotions and choices. This is the immediate aftermath and Ian is trying to make sense of it in terms of God’s purpose. As a bishop he has the pressure of the ‘public’ face he has to maintain. He’s a leader so he can’t appear weak, doubtful or as if he’s questioning God. It’s quite a normal reaction to feel very angry with God. If you have given your life over to his work you could be forgiven for having questions: Why has this happened when I serve you? Why should I believe in you? If followers see that doubt or uncertainty, it could undermine their faith. The only way to rationalise this, in the context of his position, is to assume God is testing him – testing his faith like Job or teaching him something. While this might keep Ian’s public face intact, he could be experiencing a crisis of faith behind the mask. Even worse it could put him on a collision course with the rest of his family.

Wife Claire is simply overwhelmed, unable to maintain a private face never mind a public one. She retires to her bed, completely paralysed by grief. She finds herself asking all the questions Ian is avoiding and as a convert she has a different context through which she can view her grief in many different ways, instead of just one. However, as she stays in bed, the rest of the children are dealing with their grief alone. The faith they’ve been brought up in has failed them, they have been faced with mortality so close to home it raises fears of further trauma. Eldest girl Zippy is trying to hold everything together at a turbulent point in her own development. She tries to be Mum to her youngest brother, the beautifully drawn Jacob. Her brother Alma is disappearing into his football and dreams of playing for Liverpool. All the children find their father’s responses strange and unsympathetic, but feel abandoned by Mum. There’s also an anger developing. Their father is a powerful man in church terms, so how have their parents let this happen? Could it happen to them? Bray has written in these children’s voices with skill and empathy. She has thoroughly imagined what their inner language would sound like. Jacob’s concept of his faith as at least the size of a toffee bonbon. They were so real I wanted to gather them and care for them.

For me, this was a stunning first novel and catapulted Carys Bray onto my list of authors whose work I would buy without hesitation. Her understanding of family dynamics and construction of each character’s inner world is exquisite. She just ‘gets’ the psychology of grief and I wasn’t surprised to discover she has experienced personal loss. Her care for each of these people, and even the religion she has left behind, is so evident and I was left feeling an affinity for her as well as the characters. The death of someone in such a young family is like throwing a grenade into the room. I felt like this book was capturing that immediate aftermath where adrenaline is still running, your ears are ringing, you don’t know where anyone else is or even how injured you are. I remember that feeling – of being so lost, you don’t know how lost you are. Bray is a novelist of exceptional depth and skill. I have just bought her third novel and I’m so looking forward to immersing myself into another of her worlds.

Meet The Author


Carys Bray was brought up in a devout Mormon family. In her early thirties she left the church and replaced religion with writing. She was awarded the Scott prize for her début short story collection Sweet Home. A Song for Issy Bradley is her first novel. She lives in Southport with her husband and four children.

Her first novel A SONG FOR ISSY BRADLEY was serialised on BBC Radio Four’s Book at Bedtime and was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards and the Desmond Elliott Prize. It won the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award. Her second novel, THE MUSEUM OF YOU, was published in June 2016. WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT, her third novel, was published in May 2020. Carys has a BA in Literature from The Open University and an MA and PhD in Creative Writing from Edge Hill University.

Cover Reveal! Country Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary

This is the gorgeous new cover for Alison O’Leary’s new novel Country Cat Blues. I’m so excited for the second instalment in Aubrey’s life as a feline Sherlock Holmes. I’m glad to be on this month’s blog tour. I’m beginning to wonder what my two cats, Baggins and Hugo Agogo, might get up to as we move into the country next week.

When former rescue cat Aubrey moves to the picturesque village of Fallowfield with his owners and their foster son Carlos, he is keen to explore the delights of the English countryside. However, all is not as it seems among the villagers. The idyllic peace is shattered when a gruesome murder takes place at the village fete. Tensions run high as spectres from the past begin to emerge, and Aubrey is particularly upset when suspicion falls on Morris, who may be almost permanently drunk, but is also a good friend to the local cat population…

Can Aubrey restore the peace in the village and help clear Morris’s name? 

About the Author:

I was born in London and spent my teenage years in Hertfordshire where I spent large amounts of time reading novels, watching daytime television and avoiding school. Failing to gain any qualifications in science whatsoever, the dream of being a forensic scientist collided with reality when a careers teacher suggested that I might like to work in a shop. I don’t think she meant Harrods. Later studying law, I decided to teach rather than go into practice and have spent many years teaching mainly criminal law and criminology to young people and adults.

I enjoy reading crime novels, doing crosswords, and drinking wine. Not necessarily in that order

Buy Links:

Red Dog Shop: https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/product-page/country-cat-blues

Amazon: mybook.to/CountryCat

Publication date: 23 February 2021

Cover Reveal! Roses for the Dead by Chris McDonald.

I’m so excited to reveal the cover for Chris McDonald’s new novel in the DI Erika Piper series published by Red Dog Press. I’m a big fan of this addictive series and I’m looking forward to seeing what Erika does next.

2013 – Rockstar Johnny Mayhem sits on his bed, holding a bloody baseball bat. On the floor, clutching a lavender rose in her fist, is his wife, Amanda, who he has just beaten to death. Erika Piper knows this because she is one of the first on the scene. Mayhem is arrested and led away, screaming that they’ve got the wrong man. But the evidence is irrefutable and when Mayhem is sentenced to life in prison, no one is surprised.

Now – Thanks to new evidence, Johnny Mayhem is a now free man. During a television interview, he issues a thinly veiled threat to those involved in the original case before seemingly disappearing off the face of the Earth. When the body of Mayhem’s dealer is found, Erika Piper is pulled from the safety of her desk job and thrown into the hunt for the Rockstar. Can she find Mayhem before he can enact his revenge on everyone involved, including Erika? Or, has he been telling the truth all along? Did the police really get the wrong man?

It sounds brilliant! It’s out on the 13th April 2021. You can pre-order the book using the links below:

Buy Links: 

The Red Dog Shop https://www.reddogpress.co.uk/product-page/roses-for-the-dead

Amazon mybook.to/RFTD

Meet The Author

Originally hailing from the north coast of Northern Ireland and now residing in South Manchester, Chris McDonald has always been a reader. At primary school, The Hardy Boys inspired his love of adventure before his reading world was opened up by Chuck Palahniuk and the gritty world of crime. A Wash of Black is his first attempt at writing a book. He came up with the initial idea whilst feeding his baby in the middle of the night, which may not be the best thing to admit, considering the content. He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs. Whispers in the Dark was the second installment in the DI Erika Piper series, and Chris is currently working on his latest series, The Stonebridge Mysteries, to be published by Red Dog Press in 2021.

A Different Look at Love

This year Valentine’s Day is going to be a little different. I keep hearing it everywhere, especially on adverts trying to sell us goodies for a ‘stay at home’ Valentine’s Day. I have a strange relationship with holidays that expect us to do certain things (I refer to New Years Eve as ‘enforced jollity’) and Valentine’s Day is no different. At the very least I like my loved one to have a card on the day, somewhere I can write how much I love my partner in my own words. Other than that I’d rather we bought each other something we love – a book will be much more appreciated than a cliched gift, or we try and get something that’s more about our relationship and the in-jokes we have. He’s always called me ‘Wonder Woman’ because of what I manage despite my MS, so I have some lovely Wonder Woman Converse trainers and he has a Lego Wonder Woman who sits on his bedside table. Often we wait for a cheaper week to buy flowers and I really don’t do red roses. This year will be stranger than most because it’s the week we’re moving house. This year he has a framed print for the new house – two bumble bees, with tiny suitcases moving into their new home. I’m getting flowers when we’ve moved in so I can really enjoy them.

This year, what’s on my mind is that many people might be spending the day alone. When social media is full of people showing their cards and flowers, how hard must it be for those living alone or those recently separated or bereaved. I think the message of Valentine’s Day-to love each other- needs broadening to include other relationships. Love between friends, family, even the bond we have with our pets, all are very important to appreciate and not just because we’re in lockdown. We should appreciate this love all of the time. It might be nice this year to drop a card in the postbox to an elderly grandparent, a friend whose shielding or an Aunty whose just been divorced – they all need it. My life has been quite motivated by love and I was surprised to find my reading is too. I checked my Goodreads for last year, and I was so surprised to see how many were categorised as romance. Today though, in line with my thinking about Valentine’s Day – I thought I’d feature some books that are a bit unusual and are less of a conventional romance.

This book is the latest from a favourite writer of mine, Elizabeth Haynes. It’s probably the most conventional romance in my list, but it’s not just about two people. A love story between Rachel, who has run away from life, and Fraser who is hiding from his past. Yet, for me, the biggest character -that both people fall in love with-is the rugged landscape of the Isle of Must. At first Rachel wonders if she’s made a huge mistake, the island is bleak and rough. However, as the spring comes, it spreads its magic. Rachel falls in love with the island’s beauty; body and soul. I love that although this is a love story, it’s so much more than that. It’s a woman’s awakening into what her soul needs and who she really is at this point in her life. Fraser is an embodiment of the landscape, rugged and forbidding, until he too starts to reconcile with himself. Simply beautiful.

I absolutely loved this beautiful novel and I was totally wrong footed by it as well, because this is one book that really pushes the philosophy that there are many different types of love. Dannie has a very strict five year plan and goes after what she wants. With this focus she is now in the perfect apartment in the right part of Manhattan. She has secured the job she always wanted, and is engaged to the perfect man. So she’s shocked by a dream she has, that in five years time she is with a different man, in a loft apartment in a more ‘up and coming’ area. She’s also wearing a different engagement ring. She shakes off the dream, but it’s there in the back of her mind. Then, four and a half years later, she goes for a meal with her best friend Bella. Bella is Dannie’s polar opposite, but despite this they’ve been friends for a long time. Bella would never have a life plan. In fact Dannie has sometimes worried that she’s a bit flakey. She’s a bohemian, go with the flow, sort of girl and has been resolutely single for years. Now she’s bringing someone important to meet Dannie, but to Dannie’s horror Bella’s dinner guest is the man from her dream. How can she avoid the destiny that seems to have been planned out for her? I adored this book. It’s a beautiful love story, but was far from the one I was expecting as I read. It made me think about soul mates and how that doesn’t necessarily mean our romantic partner. Love comes from many different places and isn’t necessarily what or who we expect. Heart rending and beautiful.

Don Tillman has decided it’s time for him to find a wife, and being a professor of genetics he decides to take a scientific approach. Surely if he comes up with a questionnaire, designed to eliminate women with the qualities he dislikes, he should find the one? However, one thing he knows for sure. It will definitely not be Rosie. Don believes Rosie is an applicant for his questionnaire, but she would fail on several counts. She smokes and drinks, is a vegetarian and can’t be punctual. Thankfully she’s there to ask for his help in finding her real father. To say Don is a bit socially challenged would be an understatement and this really is a laugh out loud funny book. Watching him struggle through meeting women is brilliant. He hasn’t realised that love has a language all of its own.

I do enjoy a bit of magic realism and that’s exactly what we get here from the incredible storyteller Patrick Ness. George Duncan is an honest, decent and good man. He lives by himself and could be said to have a lonely life. One night, he is disturbed by a noise outside and wakes up. When he looks outside there is a large crane in his garden, shot through the wing by an arrow. George is very moved by the bird’s plight and goes outside to help. When the bird flies away he feels a loss, not knowing that his life is about to be transformed. The next day, while working in his shop, he meets a customer he’s never seen before; mysterious, but kind woman, called Kumiko. A tentative friendship begins, then blossoms as Kumiko takes George on a journey through art and storytelling. They fall in love and together create beautiful pieces of art, stretching George’s ordinary life into something rare and fantastical. However, there’s a part of Kumiko he feels he hasn’t reached and he wonders whether this enigmatic woman has secrets. His need to know the the occasional secret side of her, may be his undoing. Can we love someone, knowing they are never just one set thing? Ness creates a beautiful fable here, but also a deep meditation on life itself.

“Love who you love while you have them. That’s all you can do. Let them go when you must. If you know how to love, you’ll never run out’.

Daniel has ‘the memory’, an ability to recall past lives and loves. It is both a blessing and a curse. Daniel has spent many lifetimes falling in love with Sophia across continents, dynasties and centuries. Each time they find each other, despite different names and appearances, and Daniel remembers every lifetime. Yet it is a love that’s always too short. For every time they come together, they are painfully torn apart again. In the present day, under the guise of Lucy. Sophia is awakening to the lover’s shared past, but just as she understands their strong attraction and familiarity they may be torn apart again. How can they confront what always pulls them apart and finally change their ending?

Douglas Kennedy has a real aptitude for writing about relationships and I’ve been a fan since his debut A Special Relationship. Here we meet Harry Ricks, down on his luck and running away from life. His career is in pieces after his boss slept with Harry’s wife then conspired to ruin him. He has a poor relationship with his daughter, who despises him. He takes a rash decision and flies off to Paris, where he books into a hotel and burns through any savings. He’s close to destitution when he gets a job as a night security guard. He’s guarding warehouses for a bunch of gangsters, but turns a blind eye to what happens inside. Just as life seems at its worst he meets Margit and is immediately enchanted by her. She’s a handsome woman rather than pretty, but incredible sensual and oozes sexual energy. She challenges his morals and the guilt he feels. Margit becomes his muse. He starts writing his novel in earnest – 1000 words a day – and he feels his masculinity being restored. She controls when he sees her, which only makes him want her all the more. People who have been looming over Harry’s life start to have nasty ‘accidents’. However, as with all seemingly perfectly arrangements, perhaps Margit isn’t all she seems to be. Atmospheric, addictive and an exceptional twist at the end.

Emma Donohue’s latest novel is an incredible piece of historical fiction, but is also a love story. Set in Ireland, just after WW1, Nurse Julia Powers works in a maternity unit. On the day in question she has been placed in charge of an isolation ward where expectant mums have ‘Spanish’ Flu. Julia is usually assisting a senior nurse, but today staff are so stretched that she’s in charge, with only volunteer helper Bridie Sweeney. Bridie says she’s had the flu and would be only too happy to help. What follows is a difficult, visceral and heart rending depiction of child birth in Ireland 100 years ago. So many bleak elements make up this story from the details of difficult births, to women from the Magdalene laundries, and exhausted women on their twelfth birth. This isn’t an easy read. Yet there is love: between the women supporting each other, the overwhelming love of a mother for a child (even where the child’s conception has been violent and traumatic) but there’s also romantic love too. The women work together and grow together, their feelings developing throughout the day towards a gloriously tender moment. These book shows us the consequences of love and the sacrifices women are prepared to make in love’s name.

Set in New York, this is a story of people losing and finding each other. Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer is trying to find a cure for her mother’s loneliness. Believing she might discover it in an old book her mother is lovingly translating, she sets out in search of its author. Across New York an old man called Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer. He spends his days dreaming of the love lost that sixty years ago in Poland inspired him to write a book. And although he doesn’t know it yet, that book also survived: crossing oceans and generations, and changing lives. . . We have a brilliant depiction of old age in Leo, and his recollections of his boyhood in Poland are wonderful. There are several narrative strands woven together by the author, all based around the book ‘The History of Love’ but it is Leo’s story of his childhood love from the years before the Nazis came that stayed with me. Written beautifully, in such poetic prose, this is as much about the power of stories as it is about the power of love. It seems that it’s those who have lost so much in love, who value it most highly.

This novel is probably my most conventional choice and one of my favourites from last year. It quite literally broke me when I finished it in the middle of the night. Jennifer Jones’ life began when her little sister, Kerry, was born. So when her sister dies in a tragic accident, nothing seems to make sense any more. Despite the support of her husband, Ed, and their wonderful children, Jen can’t comprehend why she is still here, while bright, spirited Kerry is not.When Jen starts to lose herself in her memories of her sister, she doesn’t realise that the closer she feels to Kerry, the further she gets from her family. This is a wonderful depiction of married love, but also of familial love. Jennifer is torn between her love for her sister, her love for Ed and a mother’s love for her children. The way Ed supports Jen, and believes her when she says she can see Kerry, is a wonderful depiction of love and loyalty. I was so lost in this novel that I cried at the end.

Finally I want to give special mention to a book that spoke to me personally when I most needed it. It prompted me to do something that helped me through grief, when I lost the person I most loved in the world. I lost my husband in 2007, after a long illness, and I was utterly lost. Due to my caring role, I’d had no time for me or my own interests for a couple of years. I’d given up work and struggled to see friends. Jez couldn’t eat, drink, or even breathe without someone there 24/7. So after his funeral, I woke up one morning with all this time to fill and nothing to fill it with. I had lots of support but at the end of the day, when the door closed at night I was so alone. It wasn’t just me and Jez, but all the carers, Marie Curie nurses, and hospice staff who were with us all through the day – and four nights a week. I decided after a couple of months to get a dog and I found my cockapoo Rafferty a few weeks later. I collected him on New Years Eve and it was just in time. Suddenly that night I fell into a black pit of despair. I couldn’t bear entering a year where Jez didn’t exist. As the night wore on I felt so black that I had I not had my little bundle of fur next to me I might have taken drastic action. I started to write a memoir a couple of years later and that was when mum gave me this book.

This is powerful memoir which mixes honest, personal revelation with literature, history, and inspirational self-help, Bel Mooney tells the story of her rescue dog, Bonnie, who in turn rescued Bel when her world fell apart with the all-too public break-up of her 35-year marriage. It really is a story of survival, and also one of love. This is an account of six years in Bel’s life, from when she first acquired Bonnie from a rescue home, through Bel’s years of personal heartbreak and disappointment, and on to the happiness which she has now found in a new marriage and a new life, with the Maltese at her side all the way. This is a book about transformation and change, about picking yourself up and attacking life in the way that a small dog will go for the postman’s trousers – and about celebrating life, much as your canine companion will always celebrate your return, even from the shortest trip. This is engaging, entertaining, full of personal anecdotes and deeply It takes you on an inspirational walk with one very small but very remarkable dog – a dog who represents all that is best about dogs, and about we humans too. I know that the love I have for my dog is one of the strongest feelings I’ve had. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching my partner and my stepdaughters fall in love with him over the last couple of years. He’s now a family dog and he’s bonded us in a way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. I hope whatever loving relationships you choose to celebrate tomorrow, you have a lovely day. Valentine’s Day isn’t just for romantic love and we need all the celebrations we can get.

Me and Rafferty

Throwback Thursday! The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman.

Something very strange happened when I first read Paul Sussman’s book. I was up at night feeling unwell and made it half way through the novel without even taking a break. I had never read any of his books so as far as I knew this could have been a debut novel or one of hundreds. I launch straight into books without reading introductions, forewords or acknowledgements because I don’t like to be swayed by them. I don’t want someone else to tell me how to read a book, or in what context; I like to make up my own mind. I must admit on this occasion I was drawn in by the cover, but beyond that and the back cover blurb I knew nothing.


I realised half way through that I was reading with a smile on my face, despite feeling physically grotty! It made me smile because of the dark subject matter, the humour and sheer ingenuity of Raphael. I put it to one side and thought ‘I really wish my husband Jez had been around so I could read this to him’. He died 14 years ago and prior to his death he couldn’t read for himself. This is one of those books he would have loved. I then turned to the foreword and noticed it was written by Paul Sussman’s wife Alicky. I was so sad to read that she had been through the same loss I had, but amazed by the parallel. Jez couldn’t hold a book and couldn’t see to read for himself. He could get listening books but there were certain, funny, books that we liked to share so we could fall about laughing together. They would usually be ingenious, darkly comic and just a little bit naughty – rather like this one.

The character of Raphael Phoenix is irresistible. A cantankerous old pensioner, living alone in a castle, he decides that 100 years of living is enough. He has a plan and he also has a pill. He has had the pill his whole life since his birthday party with his childhood friend Emily. Emily’s father is a chemist and in his poison cupboard, among the ribbed glass bottles, is an innocuous white pill with a simple nick in one side. It has very particular ingredients that ensure an almost instant and painless death and it is the only thing he wants for his birthday so the pair replace the pill with mint of the very same size, with a nick from the edge to match. Raphael keeps the pill with him through his incredible life either in his pocket, in a gold ring or in more difficult circumstances, sellotaped under his armpit. He trusts his pill and knows that it will deliver the death he wants as he sits in his observatory, with an expensive glass of red wine (over £30 a bottle) watching the millennium fireworks. However, before then he has a story to tell us, several stories in fact, which take us through some of the most important periods of the 20th Century and he has a very peculiar way of splitting these stories into sections. He orders them according to the person he killed.

I had no idea what to expect and so I was surprised and charmed by this magical piece of work. It manages to be both, earthy and funny, but also incredibly poignant. You need to have a black sense of humour fir this one. Raphael is funny, but cantankerous and violent. The only two things he can depend on through his life are the pill and his friend Emily. Emily isn’t always by his side, but just manages to be there at the right times and seems to set his various destinies in motion. Raphael works backwards with his tales until the reader is desperate to know how all of these incredible twists and turns are set in motion and also whether his trusty pill will work so he gets the end he has been working so hard towards. I would read this if you enjoy dark humour and tall tales and like your narrators to be unreliable, as well as ever so slightly, morally ambiguous. It is darkly enchanting and I fell in love with it.

Meet The Author


Both the following posts are from Paul’s website:

For as long as I can remember, the two great loves of my life have been writing and archaeology (three if you include travelling in out of the way places, especially deserts). For many years I worked as a field archaeologist in Egypt, notably in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, and all my novels to a greater or lesser extent draw on my experiences excavating and living in Egypt and the Middle East. My main protagonist, Inspector Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor Police, is a composite of a number of people I know, and while his colourful adventures are products purely of my imagination, the world he inhabits is very much a real one. Through Khalifa I try to explore issues such as terrorism, contemporary Middle East politics, religion and government corruption, all against a backdrop of the extraordinary history and archaeological heritage of that part of the world. To find out a bit more about me and my novels, check out my website: http://www.paul-sussman.com.

Hello, this is Paul’s wife Alicky. As many of you know already, Paul died very suddenly from a ruptured aneurysm in May 2012. As well as being a talented author, he was a truly unique person – a brilliant Dad and adored husband. We all miss him so much. Paul finished putting together this website shortly before he died. He loved the design and was very excited about adding more photographs and writing his blog. I am keeping the site up to date with the latest news on his books – including the posthumously published novel – The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix – but am loathe to make dramatic changes so apologize for anything that may feel a bit disjointed.

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