Posted in Netgalley, Publisher Proof

The Therapist by Helene Flood.

Helene Flood has written a fascinating thriller about a therapist, set in Oslo. It’s complexity of character and their motivations probably comes from the fact that the author is a psychologist. Straightaway, I was invested and really excited me to get inside the character’s minds. Sara. and her husband Sigurd live in his family home, a large three storey house they’re currently renovating. Next door is a small addition to the property, housing Sarah’s office and therapy room. On this Friday, Sara is seeing three clients and then settling in for a quiet weekend while Sigurd is on a boy’s weekend away with his best friendS. At lunchtime he leaves Sara a message to say they’ve arrived safely at his family’s cabin and his friend is gathering firewood. She expects to speak to him that evening, so is shocked when one of his friends calls to ask where Sigurd is, as he hasn’t arrived yet. In the days following Sigurd’s disappearance Sara must cope with a very thorough detective searching her house and dissecting her relationship, an intruder breaking into the house, breaking the news to her distracted and narcissistic father, and constantly wondering where Sigurd has gone. On top of everything, she has clients to see.

The story is told in two narratives from Sara’s point of view. In one, we’re in the present day, experiencing the investigation and Sara’s interactions with family and friends in the wake of Sigurd’s disappearance. In the second we meet a very different Sara, as she first meets Sigurd, spends time with friends and makes the decision to move to Oslo. This Sara seems lighter mentally, she’s obviously younger but not by much, so what has changed? The past Sara seems to be enjoying life, despite a stressful clinical post with drug users. Sigurd is also completing his training in architecture and is incredibly busy. The distance between them is something she hadn’t anticipated, she knew they would both be busy, but thought the strength of their feelings would keep them on track. A brief interlude away at a festival with friends sees Sara’s mood lift completely. She starts to relax and enjoy herself. However, there will be secrets kept about this weekend that have huge implications for her future.

Present day Sara seems very controlled and reserved. The author creates this interesting gap between Sara’s interior world and the way she presents herself to the world outside. She is always thinking, analysing and wondering, but her conversation is minimal and gives very little away about how she feels. There’s something called cognitive dissonance going on here, a huge gap between the Sara she presents to others and how she truly feels. There are three core values a therapist should have when seeing clients: authenticity, non-judgement and prizing the client. Sara seems strangely detached from her emotions – still seeing clients even after Sigurd’s disappearance as if nothing’s happened. While this is great for continuity, it isn’t very authentic and I felt that instead of practicing authentically she is wearing her therapist’s role like a mask. Even before she knows about her husband, Sara’s thinking is very ordered. She has the day split into therapy hours, admin time, lunch until she can throw on some pyjamas and chill out. It feels like she’s listing tasks just to get through the day, mentally ticking it off seems like a habit borne out of anxiety or trying to keep motivated when depressed. I wouldn’t say she’s enjoying life much. Their home seems the same, with plans for a beautifully finished house, that are currently a list of tasks they can’t afford. In trying to achieve something ambitious and beautiful, they’ve made their current lives very uncomfortable and messy. The state of the house seems to get Sara down and Sigurd wants her to take on more clients so they have more money to get on with the plans. However, I don’t think Sara is in the mental state to cope with more therapy hours.

I loved the author’s creation of Sara’s narcissistic father, a professor and philosopher with controversial right wing views about crime, family and vigilantism. Sara describes talking to her father, almost like an audience with royalty. It’s so rare to have all his attention on you, it’s difficult just to be his daughter. He seems to give off the sense they should be grateful for his unwavering attention and if either daughter struggles to make use of the time, conversation soon turns to him, his work or one of the many students who seem to loiter round the house like acolytes. In fact Sara is so bewildered by his attention on this occasion she doesn’t tell him her devastating news, but instead debates something totally unrelated with him then goes home again. It’s no surprise that she keeps her vulnerabilities and worries to herself – there’s never been anyone interested in hearing them. Even her sister Annika, although she looks after Sara, drops into her role as lawyer as well as sister. This is partly to remind Sara how she’s being viewed by the police, to remind the police not to take liberties, but also to give herself a professional role to hide behind. It is only when one of Sara’s friends arrives and acts naturally by hugging her, that she even feels like crying.

As Sara starts to undertake her own investigation, secrets start to emerge about the couple’s life together. There has been some distance between them for a while. Her relationship with his family is not a warm one, with Sigurd’s mother resentful that they live in her childhood home – left to Sigurd by his grandfather. They don’t even attempt to look after h er and she foresees a long wrangle over Sigurd’s will. There were arguments at Sigurd’s work with differences in architectural perspectives, and who is the mystery blonde that sometimes wait for Sigurd after work? If his work on the Atkins house was finished long ago, why is it still in his diary and where is he really spending his time. The author keeps us brilliantly on edge with red herrings and reveals galore. We see the police through Sara’s eyes, which might explain why they seem curiously non-committal about everything. We never truly know how they feel about Sara or where the investigation is going. Obviously she is a possible suspect. However, there are points in the investigation, when Sara is sure there is an intruder at the house, where they seem indifferent to her worries and her safety. I was never quite sure whether Sara was the ultimate unreliable narrator and would turn out to be implicated in her husband’s disappearance. She seemed detached from the reality of it, even within the context that their relationship has deteriorated over time. The ending was a surprise and the double reveal was beautifully done, and very satisfying. I stayed up late to finish the last few chapters, because I was so hooked on the story. This was a psychological thriller I would definitely recommend.

Meet The Author

Helene Flood is a psychologist who obtained her doctoral degree on violence, revictimization and trauma-related shame and guilt in 2016. She now works as a psychologist and researcher at the National Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress. She lives in Oslo with her husband and two children. The Therapist is her first adult novel. It has been sold in 27 counties and film rights have been bought by Anonymous Content. Her second novel, The Lover, will be published in English in 2022.

Posted in Publisher Proof

Sleepless by Romy Hausmann.

Reading this book was a little like trying to get a knot out of a necklace chain, it seems impossible to unravel, until suddenly one move loosens it and the whole thing unknots very quickly. Our central character, Nadja Kulka, was convicted for a terrible crime in her native Poland, many years ago. Now she’s out of prison she’s looking for the simple everyday things that others have: a job, a nice flat to live in and eventually a few friends. She just wants a ‘normal’ life. She does make one friend. Laura Von Hoven is her boss’s wife and a beautiful woman, who’s very free spirited. When she asks for Nadja’s help, of course she wants to give her friend a hand. However, Laura has killed someone and wants Nadja’s help to conceal the body. Nadja doesn’t feel like she can refuse, showing how her earlier trauma, from the original crime and punishment, has affected her emotionally. She’s full of anxiety, awkward with people and easily talked into bad ideas. Nadja isn’t a likeable character at first, there’s a stand-offish, prickly sort of manner she has that keeps people at a distance. Yet, underneath these defences, she’s vulnerable and naive. When they find the perfect place to hide the crime, an abandoned cabin in the woods, the rest seems easy. However, their seemingly simple plan falls apart and Nadja finds herself in a game of cat and mouse. It’s a deadly game and one that’s stacked against Nadja, because she’s the perfect murderer as well as a perfect victim.

I was very disorientated at first by the disparate strands of this complex thriller. We have three separate narratives, two different narrators plus a set of letters that don’t sound like they belong. I thought there were three different people here, because the author of the letters feels different to the others. Unlike her novel Dear Child, these separate threads feel a long way apart and it’s impossible to make them diverge into one clear narrative. I found the chopping and changing too ‘bitty’. I would pick it up after a break and found I couldn’t pick up the thread without going and re-reading previous pages. It was only when I read a good third of the book that I really started to make sense of the story and these narrative voices clicked into place. However, after sitting back and thinking, I wondered if this confusion wasn’t deliberate? Haussmann doesn’t strike me as a writer who makes mistakes, I think her plotting and structure are very deliberate, so what is she trying to telling the reader with this complicated beginning?

In retrospect, I feel that the author likes to manipulate and control her readers. She was giving us the same experience as her characters, like we’re in the centre of a complicated web waiting for a spider to strike. I was exasperated with certain characters here and there, but I found myself willing Nadja to come out of this okay, despite her past and her faults. My advice is to keep reading; things become clearer and after that prepare to set aside a whole evening to finish the story in one go. The pace quickens, increasing the tension and rushing us towards a conclusion. By this point I was intensely invested in the characters and how this would play out. I wasn’t disappointed and Hausmann kept a few final twists in reserve, that I didn’t expect. This isn’t an easy read at first, but it’s clever and psychologically astute. I loved trying to work out who had the upper hand in the web of lies. So in the end, this book firmly places Hausmann as a must read author for me.

Meet The Author

Romy Hausmann was born in the former GDR in 1981. At the age of twenty-four she became chief editor at a film production company in Munich. Since the birth of her son, Romy has been working as a freelancer in TV. Dear Child is her thriller debut. She lives with her family in a remote house in the woods near Stuttgart.

Posted in Netgalley, Publisher Proof

The Perfect Lie by Jo Spain

This thriller kept me guessing and a couple of times, even had me going back to previous chapters so I could be sure of what I’d read! Our heroine is Erin Kennedy, an Irish girl working in publishing in NYC and living with her husband of three years out on Long Island. She narrates her story across two timelines: one is the present and Erin is on trial for murdering her husband, and the other is a year earlier around the third anniversary of her marriage to Danny, a detective from Long Island. Our second narrator is a younger woman called Ally, a PhD student and proctor at Harvard University. My confusion arose from how these characters related to each other and the author is clearly a master of telling her readers just enough to keep us reading, but not enough to ruin the later revelations, twists and turns – and there are plenty of them!

The Erin from a year before is a very different person and early on in a shock scene, Erin and Danny are starting their day at their sea front apartment when his partner turns up at the door. Ben has two uniformed cops with him and when Erin answers the door he is not his usual self. He apologises but tells her they are there to arrest Danny. Erin thinks this is some elaborate joke, but her confusion gives way to horror as she realises Ben is serious. However, instead of being confused, Danny looks guilty and scared as hell. Before Erin’s eyes Danny runs to their fourth floor balcony, apologises to her, and throws himself from the edge. Ben doesn’t let her see, and she stands a little distance away, watching with disbelief as a small crowd gathers and paramedics work on her husband. Although Ben spares her the final image of Danny, broken on the sidewalk, she already knows he’s head. Through shock, and that awful first numb state of grief, she forgets to ask why Ben turned up that morning to arrest his own partner, why they take away papers and his laptop, and exactly what Danny is supposed to have done.

Those questions do come later though, especially when Erin has that realisation, that she isn’t being afforded the same support she’s seen other police widows receive from the precinct and the other wives. It’s almost as if she’s been cut off and they’re embarrassed by her, most notably not turning up for the funeral. It doesn’t take long for her to realise she’s going to need a lawyer. The police’s attitude tells her that Danny must have been suspected of corruption, and she needs someone who knows the system. Firstly they need to find out whether she’s still entitled to a widow’s pension, but next she wants them to do some digging into exactly what Danny was being investigated for. Her journey has her asking so many questions and she starts to wonder whether she knew her husband at all. With a small trusted group of friends and her sister Tanya, she starts to piece together the truth.

By now you’ve probably noticed the glaring big question mark in this story; if Danny committed suicide, how is Erin on trial for murdering her husband? I’m not going to ruin the story for you all so I’m not going to reveal any more. This question, and many others do get answered eventually. The author’s timing, in choosing what to conceal, what to reveal and when, is absolute perfection.

It takes a while for Ally and Erin’s stories to intersect, so after every one of Ally’s chapters I was racking my brains to work out where they fit. Ally is writing her PhD on crime novels and as proctor she is charged with taking care of one student hall of residence on the campus. It’s an unusual role that seems to cover mentoring, mothering, but also showing students how to have a good time. In fact, Ally’s hall parties have become so renowned that girls from other blocks want to get in on the guest list – so many that they’ve had to place a restriction on the amount of invites they can have per girl. We meet her as she tries to support a girl called Lauren, an undergraduate, who has been the victim of a crime. Luckily, Ally knows someone who may be able to help, and she offers to bring her boyfriend in to help with results neither of them expect.

I did struggle to understand Erin at times and her decision making. Of course she’s in shock and shouldn’t be making decisions anyway, but there were times when I was screaming at her not to do something. There was an element of her drifting along, rather than making well thought out decisions. Her grief is complicated by the manner of Danny’s death, but also because she’s angry he made this choice to lie to her, leave her behind and leave her haunted by that final image of him disappearing over their balcony. I think her confusion over where to be and who to spend time with was well done. To be with his family is difficult because their grief is different and not complicated by betrayal. She is shunned by the other detective’s wives so seeing them makes her angry. She feels abandoned in a country that isn’t her own, and she gathers a disparate group of new friends who offer support. There’s Bud, the owner of their local bar, her new firecracker of a lawyer, Karla, Danny’s psychotherapist and a man called Cal who knew Danny. These people seem to keep her afloat, but I didn’t trust anyone and treated all of them with suspicion. In feeling angry and betrayed with the one man she thought she knew, and his police colleagues, is she in danger of trusting all the wrong people? I found her story entertaining, compelling and the author paced it well. This would be a great read by the pool this summer and you’ll probably find yourself reading it in a couple of sittings, because like me, you’ll want to know exactly what’s going on. This book is a rollicking good thriller, that I’m sure you’re going to enjoy this summer.

Posted in Netgalley

Left You Dead by Peter James.

I have long been a fan of Peter James’s Roy Grace series so I felt very lucky to get a sneak peek at his latest. I discovered the books when in hospital around six years ago and I spent a great ten days whipping through the novels one after another. Then came that horrible moment of regret that every bookworm experiences after a binge on one author – reaching the latest in the series then having to wait for them to come out! Luckily, we’re now getting the TV adaptation with the wonderful John Simm as Grace so I can dive into those now I’m up to date again.

We meet Grace at a settled point in life. He and Cleo living out in the country together with their son Noah and Grace’s son Bruno, dog Humphrey and even some chickens. That’s not to say there isn’t the usual everyday dramas, at work and at home. The novel opens as Grace has passed on evidence of police corruption to his friend and colleague from the MET, Alison Vosper. The evidence, if it checks out, should be enough to have his hated boss arrested, never to return. If it doesn’t check out, he will have trusted the word of a criminal to topple a man who isn’t shy about showing his animosity towards Grace. This could end his career in the Sussex force. On the home front Noah is entering the ‘terrible twos’ and both Grace and Cleo are juggling home life with two very demanding jobs. Grace’s most pressing worry though is his older son, who doesn’t seem to be settling and is morbidly curious about such things as Egyptian death rituals. Bruno is his son from his first marriage to Sandy, who disappeared without a trace several years ago leaving Grace facing a possible murder charge. She was hiding out in Munich, after living in several cults and having concealed the fact she’d had a son after leaving him. It’s no surprise that Bruno is mixed-up, but what is the best way to support him?

Our case is equally puzzling. Niall Paternoster reports his wife missing, claiming not to have seen her since the day before when he dropped her at Tesco to buy cat litter. On their way back from visiting a stately home, Eden had reminded him he’d forgotten the previous day. They bickered their way back to Brighton, but finding the car part overrun she suggested he stay in the car and she would pop in. However, she never returned and as the store closed a search failed to find her. Knowing that his wife had stayed with friends after an argument in the past, he hadn’t been worried until 24 hours later. Yet, the usual police enquiries fail to find Eden, she’s not captured on CCTV and in fact there’s no proof she was alive after the Thursday before their stately home day trip. Has Roy Grace found himself landed with the trickiest type of crime to investigate and prosecute – a so called ‘no-body murder’?

One of Peter James’s greatest strengths in this whole series is being able to write about the personal as well as the professional, whether it’s the minutiae of daily living or the deepest tragedies we can face. It’s quite shock when it happens in this novel and the author handles it beautifully, capturing that bewildering mix of emotions from shock, to the rawness of grief as well as the regrets and fears. As always Grace faces this with a copper’s brain – his first response is to think, rather than feel. He questions everything about the circumstances, how it could have happened, then the inevitable why and could he have changed anything? He also deals with it by throwing himself into his work. His grief is so enormous he can’t sit in it for too long, he needs a distraction and luckily Cleo understands this behaviour and lets him cope the way he knows best.

The case becomes more and more intriguing, as surveillance picks up a possible extra-marital relationship on the part of the husband. As well they discover a shallow grave with blood stained clothing and the neighbours describing a terrible argument between the couple. However, something just doesn’t smell right for Grace as they identify the woman having an affair with Eden’s husband is her boss. There’s also the matter of an easily discovered knife, seemingly left in haste. Is this one of those infamous small mistakes that catch a killer or is someone trying to set Niall up? The characters in this triangle are hard to like. Niall is mercenary, abusive and seemingly finds women with money who can support him. Eden’s boss is cold and unfeeling at best, but appears increasingly manipulative and suspicious. We don’t know Eden well, until a staggering twist part way through gives us more background on her character. Luckily we don’t need them to be likeable to be fascinated and compelled by Eden’s disappearance. It felt like being caught in a spider’s web, but not knowing who is the spider.

As always, it’s Grace who is the beating heart of this novel and it’s conscience. If the difficulties he’s facing just coping with his grief aren’t enough, there’s the constant tension surrounding his relationship with the Chief Constable. There are the petty everyday differences they have over the investigation (the CC would have scaled it back) and resources (taking away his surveillance team at a critical point in the investigation). Then, underlying it all, what if Grace has taken the word of a criminal to unmask the CC’s corruption, to find he’s been lied to? Every day that goes by with no news, Grace can see his career disappearing. Once he uncovers some vital paperwork that throws a new light on the Paternoster case, Grace is all business. The build up of tension towards the end of the novel is almost unbearable. The author puts his hero in terrible danger, as on a stormy night in a remote place the whole mystery is uncovered and the real mastermind is revealed. By this point I noticed I was holding my breath! It takes a great writer to make the reader feel real emotions alongside a character. Whether it’s the professional or the personal, I find myself willing him on and hoping that, not only does he solve the case, but that he gets home to Noah and Cleo safe and sound. I felt this, so deeply in this novel, especially as Grace himself ponders how he would cope if he lost anyone else important to him. I raced to the end of the novel, not just to see the case solved, but to see him safely home. Roy Grace is one of those rare characters who has burrowed his way into my heart. I look forward to whatever comes next for him.

Published 13th May 2021.

Meet The Author

Known for his fast-paced and gripping stories that thrust regular people into extraordinary situations, Peter James has proven himself to be one of the world’s most successful writers, delivering number one bestsellers time and time again. His Superintendent Roy Grace books have been translated into 37 languages with worldwide sales of over 21 million copies and 17 number one Sunday Times Bestsellers. His latest Roy Grace novel, Find Them Dead spent seven weeks at number one in 2020. The first two novels in the Roy Grace series, Dead Simple and Looking Good Dead, have been adapted for television by Endeavour’s Russell Lewis and the first episode aired on 14th March 2021.

Posted in Red Dog Press

Roses for the Dead by Chris MacDonald

What will I do without Erika Piper? This is the last of three novels featuring the detective and each one had me hooked at page one!



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.


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?

Our novel begins just as Erika is returning to work after maternity leave. She’s taken a back seat for her return role, providing admin support and for the first time doing a 9-5 desk job. This was a decision made by Erika and her partner, because now they have a baby it seemed safer to leave the stressful, late hours behind. Erika already has one thing getting her up in the night, so agonising about cases too, might be too much. I sensed that she was resigned to the decision rather than enthusiastic. I was surprised at how well Erika had taken to being a Mum, but she was always going to be a Mum with a difference. Within hours of starting her desk job, Erika is summoned upstairs by her new boss, who wants to know why someone with her skills isn’t doing the job she was trained for. She dangles a carrot in front of Erika by saying it can be for just this one this case if she wants, to see how it works for her, especially since she was there at the beginning. Erika is surprised to hear herself accepting the role, not because she doesn’t want it, but because she has jumped in with both feet before talking to Tom even. The logistics of childcare and breaking the news to Tom, came second and third behind how hungry she was to be back out there.

Our case is an old one for Erika. Rock star Johnny Mayhem was arrested by Erika for the murder of his wife, Amanda. It was an open and shut case, with Johnny clutching the bloody baseball bat. He has always protested his innocence and now, 7 years later, he is out, thanks to the testimony of a witness. A documentary maker who visited him in prison caught him making a clear and precise threat to the witness, for waiting 7 years to bring forward this information that could have freed him sooner. So, when the witness is found dead, clutching a lavender rose, Erika is on the case. This was a great mystery because it seemed such a cut and dried case, I couldn’t imagine it being anyone else but Johnny. Then the author starts throwing some red herrings into the case and even Erika keeps questioning; if Johnny did want to get his revenge, would he do it in such a public way and recreate the lavender rose calling card? Surely it would have made more sense to wait a while after returning from prison, to mix up the murder weapon and not draw attention with calling cards. Slowly, even though she was his original arresting officer, Erika starts to wonder whether Johnny is behind this at all.

I really enjoyed being in Erika’s company again and at this interesting crossroads of becoming a working Mum. I was so relieved when she threw aside the desk job and plunged straight into the investigation. The mystery is full of twists and turns, and I love the way the author has taken, what looks like an open and shut case, and turned it into anything but. The killer is very unexpected and I wasn’t sure the case would be solved at all. Finally, I am sorry that this is the final novel in the Erika Piper series. She’s a great, feisty and intelligent woman and makes a brilliant detective. I love that she’s so competent at work, and while not perfect, she’s more than coping at home too. Most importantly, she’s a woman I could imagine having as a friend and I would happily enjoy her company for a night out. I think she has more adventures left in her so I’m very sorry to see her go.

Meet The Author

Chris McDonald grew up in Northern Ireland before settling in Manchester via Lancaster and London. 

He is the author A Wash of Black, the first in the DI Erika Piper series, as well as the forthcoming second – Whispers In The Dark. He has also recently dabbled in writing cosy crimes, as a remedy for the darkness. The first in the Stonebridge Mysteries will be released in early 2021. 

He is a full time teacher, husband, father to two beautiful girls and a regular voice on The Blood Brothers Podcast. He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs.

Posted in Netgalley, Random Things Tours

The Lost Hours by Susan Lewis.

The latest Susan Lewis is a little different, in that it has all the usual family drama, but with the added element of a police procedural. The Crayce family live down in the south west of the country, on the moors in Devon and come across as a very privileged family. The land they own encompasses three houses, two lots of stables, a farm, a ménage and a shooting school. The family businesses allow eldest brother David and his wife Annabelle to send their children to private school, holiday abroad every year and be the envy of the locals. David and his brother Henry grew up in the main house, and were the basis of a local social group ‘The Moorauders’. Good looking and well off, this pair were the catch of the county. It raised eyebrows, and tempers, when David married an outsider, Annabelle- known as Annie. However, she is now part of the furniture and an irreplaceable part of the family’s business empire looking after the admin for the shooting school, farm and Julia’s horse and donkey sanctuary. Julia is Henry’s second wife and is probably Annie’s best friend, often popping across for coffee or to ‘cocktail me up’ at the end of a hard day. From a distance this family has it all, but is everything as perfect as it seems? When David and Annie’s daughter Sienna is picked up by the police for shoplifting a teddy bear, an ugly truth at the centre of the Crayce family comes to the fore.

Twenty years before, when David was engaged to Annie, the two brothers and their father went on an alcohol fuelled bender that ended in a party at the farmhouse. A few weeks later, local teenager Karen Lomax is found dead in an old railway carriage. A precocious teenager, who displayed a wild streak, died of a blow to the head and her murderer has never been found. Now that police have Sienna’s DNA sample, they are shocked to find a link to this old, unsolved case. One of the Crayce men left a trace of themselves behind, a sample of semen from Karen’s clothing shows a familial match to the Crayce’s. This puts David, Henry, and their father Dickie in the spotlight as suspects. Until their DNA is compared to the sample, the family will have to wait and in those two weeks, secrets and lies are revealed.

I found the novel a little slow at first, and having little patience with the champagne and pearls set, I found it hard to warm to the characters or their situation. So it really is down to the skill of this writer that I started to warm to Annie. I felt like she had gone through an awful lot with David, especially in the early years before the children. There were hints of psychological issues linked to David’s military service, which would have been around the time of the Balkan War. Annie describes sudden mood changes, a tendency to drink too much, nightmares and rages. While he had never physically hit her, she did worry about being in the wrong place when he had a nightmare. These episodes were the lost hours of the novel’s title. She had also struggled with his behaviour when drunk and there were even hints of his infidelity on these occasions. At the time of the farmhouse party they were very close to getting married, and there was a consensus in both families that if he messed up again she would call off the wedding. I felt like Annie was very used to listening to others, and making sure their needs were met, from the children and family to friends. Even her relationship with sister-in-law Julia is based very much on her arriving to have a drink and have her problems with Henry listened to. I kept waiting for her to have an epiphany and recognise her own needs in this nightmare, especially when the police’s focus starts to narrow.

My main concern was the voice that felt absent from the tale and I felt that was a deliberate choice on the part of the author. Murder victims don’t get to have a voice anymore and that’s what Lewis was trying to portray. The one person who had all the answers, couldn’t give them and had to rely on doctors and forensic experts to let us know what happened and at whose hands. However, we would never have her account or thought process and I really felt that absence, especially when old wine bar customers are saying she dressed provocatively or had fantasies that weren’t appropriate. Yet, there isn’t the same disapproval of the much older men who recognised and took advantage of her open nature and strong sex drive. There’s a deeply sad moment when her father says that they still loved her anyway, despite her wild side. I wanted to take him aside and say ‘of course you did and you shouldn’t have to apologise for that’. There was an obvious comparison between Annie and David’s daughter who was a similar age to Karen when she made her shoplifting mistake. The local police allowed Sienna to apologise to the shopkeeper and make financial recompense. Her family connections seemed to let her off lightly. Would Karen have been offered the same way out, if she had made a similar mistake? Karen paid for her teenage mistakes with her life. I think Lewis was pointing out the gender differences and the class differences in these areas. David and Henry, and to some extent their father, were living a teenage life full of parties, alcohol and risky sex, but they weren’t censured by those around them. Their women tended to forgive them and they didn’t lose their social or financial standing locally. It isn’t just a question of gender, but highlights the difference between land and property owners, and those who live in the suburbs or the council estates.

Our other ‘outsider’ is DS Natalie Rundle, new to the area and having to hit the ground running with this unexpected cold case, suddenly becoming red hot. She isn’t local so she doesn’t have the same preconceptions or the same loyalties. Without her, this case might never be solved, because she asks the difficult questions and never rules anyone out. In fact I didn’t expect the outcome, so the author was able to surprise me. Though when I thought about the themes I’d pulled out of the narrative, such as class, difference and wanting to belong, it did seem to fit. I found this novel successful because it was the usual ‘Aga saga’ we expect from Lewis, but with some edge. It questions whether these perfect lifestyles can ever be that perfect behind the scenes. It shows that where there is an ‘in’ crowd, there are those longing to join or feeling they just don’t make the cut. She also identifies an exploitation of young women from outside the posh clique. I think this is why the chapters beyond the murderer being unmasked are so important. They’re about different elements in this community coming together, creating equality and for a teenager like Sienna to remember and honour a young girl who went before her. Yes, these conversations are uncomfortable, but there’s an element of owning past behaviour and trying to make amends. Forcing themselves to be uncomfortable is the only way change will happen. This element of justice having to be served in the community as well as court, was an interesting one and really gave this novel the edge for me.

Meet The Author

Susan Lewis is the internationally bestselling author of over forty books across the genres of family drama, thriller, suspense and crime. She is also the author of Just One More Day and One Day at a Time, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol during the 1960s. Following periods of living in Los Angeles and the South of France, she currently lives in Gloucestershire with her husband, James and mischievous dogs, Coco and Lulu.
To find out more about Susan Lewis:

Posted in Netgalley

Nighthawking by Russ Thomas

Sheffield’s beautiful Botanical Gardens – an oasis of peace in a world filled with sorrow, confusion and pain. And then, one morning, a body is found in the Gardens. A young woman, dead from a stab wound, buried in a quiet corner. Police quickly determine that the body’s been there for months. It would have gone undiscovered for years – but someone just sneaked into the Gardens and dug it up.

Who is the victim? Who killed her and hid her body? Who dug her up? And who left a macabre marker on the body?

In his quest to find her murderer, DS Adam Tyler will find himself drawn into the secretive world of nighthawkers: treasure-hunters who operate under cover of darkness, seeking the lost and valuable . . . and willing to kill to keep what they find.

I live not too far from Sheffield and it’s a great city. As a family we’ve often popped on the train for a theatre matinee at The Crucible or The Lyceum. It’s my main gig venue too and in my younger days the City Hall and The Leadmill were regular haunts. I like the buzz of the city, the friendliness of the people and the chance to grab a bit of culture so close to home. So, when I was offered a proof of Russ Thomas’s new novel Nighthawking I jumped at the chance to read crime fiction based in the city. I hadn’t read his first Adam Tyler novel, so wasn’t sure what to expect, but I loved being shown this darker, criminal, underbelly of one of my favourite cities. There was a familiarity to the term ‘nighthawking’ too, because I’d recently read Elly Griffith’s latest Ruth Galloway novel The Nighthawks. The term refers to the practice of stealing archaeological artefacts, usually found by metal detector, under the cover of night. As someone who lives in a very rural area, I must admit I was a little creeped out by the concept of groups of men stumbling about in muddy fields in the dark. The archaeological aspect is at the centre of DS Tyler’s latest murder case. As the lead of the CCRU team, he selects cold cases for investigation. However, this case is reopened because the body of a young Chinese student is found buried within the Botanical Gardens. Curiously, she is found with two Roman coins over her eyes. Once she is identified as missing Sheffield University student Li Qiang – known as Chi- DS Taylor is tasked with finding her killer by reviewing the original missing person’s case closed months ago, just two weeks after her disappearance. At his side is DC Mina Rabbanni, a one woman powerhouse of intuition and initiative, but not above taking risks when it might lead to the truth.

In the background are a fascinating mix of possible suspects, from Chi’s own family, to other workers at the gardens, to university contacts and whoever had access to the very rare Roman coins found with her body. Interestingly, one man is both a volunteer at the gardens, but is also part of an amateur metal detecting group. The group’s leader encourages the detectorists in good practice, but a small group have been out detecting late at night and have stumbled on the find of a lifetime. A cache of gold Roman coins, potentially worth six figures if they could sell them on. However, usual practice is for the find to be declared, then the landowner would be due a share of any profits. The men decide to sell, but where would they find someone with the right contacts, knowledge of the black market, and who they could trust? The men split the coins for safekeeping, until they can find a way forward, so how did two of them end up buried with Chi. The team’s digging into Chi’s life uncovers some interesting potential leads. Her sister Juju lives in the city, with a new baby and her fiancé Rob. Ju is grief stricken by her death when they visit to inform her, but her fiancé had been in a relationship with Chi too, suggesting some animosity or tension between the sisters. I was keeping my eye on the fiancé too, because he seemed to pop up far too often and wasn’t always giving the full story. Chi had a complicated love life, including several sexual relationships, but no permanent partner. Also far from the model student, she seemed to be struggling at the university in her study of orchids, but yet religiously volunteered with the Botanic Gardens, suggesting a keen interest. Add to this a father who’s a Chinese diplomat and the pressures start to build.

I enjoyed that Tyler also had a lot going on in his personal life and seemed distracted, much to the concern of DI Jordan, his superior. CCRU is under scrutiny by Chief Constable Stevens – known as the Eel behind his back – and is in the firing line as cutbacks threaten the force. Tyler is still quietly investigating the apparent suicide of his father, and wonders if a local gangster might hold the key. There’s also his own brother’s disappearance weighing heavy on his mind. He’s stuffing up his relationship with Paul, who feels he simply can’t get his attention, even to tell him their relationship is over. Added to this Tyler takes a homeless teenager under his wing and goes out of his way to help him get a roof over his head. Tyler keeps his emotions and worries to himself and isn’t really one to share, but with everything bottled up is his eye on the case as much as it should be? Mina is the stand out character for me, so full of life and enthusiasm for her job, she leaps off the page. With her superior officer often AWOL, she gets her teeth into this case and won’t let go. Her intuition is telling her there’s something wrong with the original missing person’s case. There are barely any notes in the file, normal checks weren’t carried out and many people were not even interviewed. The original investigating officer is on long-term sick leave, but Mina has to ask the question; why was it assumed Chi had run off with a secret boyfriend and with what evidence? It looks like they simply didn’t care, but Mina suspects there may be more to this than a single officer not doing her job.

Somehow, Thomas weaves all these disparate threads and characters together beautifully. Drip feeding the reader information a little at a time and dropping the odd red herring along the way. The pace was perfect, even the minor characters felt interesting and fully rounded ( the new pathologist, Emma, is a real highlight) I would never have guessed what was going on or who was behind the murder, so it was a surprise. I thought Thomas was so clever in keeping those longer narratives bubbling along underneath the surface of the primary case. Tyler’s unexpected meeting with an old gangster – the Ronnie Kray of 1960’s Sheffield – moves the story of his father’s death along a little, ready for the next book. The hints at Mina’s background and it’s possible clash with her work as a police officer is touched upon, but I would be interested to see how that develops. I would also love to see more of her double act with Emma the pathologist. Then there’s the politics of policing, the potential fireworks over Mina’s findings and CCRU’s future going forward. Thomas took me to familiar places but placed them in a completely different light. He showed me the difference between a city as I would see it and as a police officer sees it, and that gap in perception is often what makes personal relationships so difficult. I’m really looking forward to getting to know Tyler better and to enjoying more of such well-paced crime fiction; rich in character, setting and storyline.

Published by Simon and Schuster 29th April 2021.

Meet The Author

RUSS THOMAS was born in Essex, raised in Berkshire and now lives in Sheffield. After a few ‘proper’ jobs (among them: pot-washer, optician’s receptionist, supermarket warehouse operative, call-centre telephonist, and storage salesman) he discovered the joys of bookselling, where he could talk to people about books all day. Firewatching is his debut novel.

Posted in Random Things Tours

The April Dead by Alan Parks.


In a grimy flat in Glasgow, a homemade bomb explodes, leaving few remains to identify its maker.

Detective Harry McCoy knows in his gut that there’ll be more to follow. The hunt for a missing sailor from the local US naval base leads him to the secretive group behind the bomb, and their disturbing, dominating leader.

On top of that, McCoy thinks he’s doing an old friend a favour when he passes on a warning, but instead he’s pulled into a vicious gang feud. And in the meantime, there’s word another bigger explosion is coming Glasgow’s way – so if the city is to survive, it’ll take everything McCoy’s got . .

I was lucky enough to be on the blog tour for the third book in Alan Parks’s Harry McCoy series, so it was a real treat to be able to read this one straight away, back to back. This is real Sottish Noir at its best as we follow a new case for Harry, in the crime ridden streets of 1970s Glasgow. I visit Glasgow a lot, and love its galleries, architecture and museums but this isn’t touristy, post-City of Culture, Glasgow. This city is grimy and dangerous, plagued by violence from criminal and sectarian gangs. Harry grew up in these rough, tenement areas of the city and it’s where his friendship with Steve Cooper started; back in their childhoods way before Harry became a police officer, and Stevie went in a very different direction. Harry’s loyalty to his old friend, means that he’s there at the prison gates when Steve gets out after a six-month stretch inside. Steve’s position as the boss of a criminal enterprise means he has to pick up where he left off – looking for whoever betrayed him. Loyalty is vital to an organisation like Steve’s and he won’t rest till he knows where the leak is. No matter how much he still feels like the big crime boss he always was, things have changed. Harry drops him at his old council flat knowing that even his own loyalty may be called into question.

The case Harry investigates is one of a bombing, not that unusual in the 1970s as the sectarian troubles in Ireland spread over to the mainland. However, the IRA’s targets are usually more illustrious than a flat in Woodlands. The only casualty seems to be the bomber with his remains scattered around the property. This is usually a job for Special Branch, so Harry is shocked to find it falls to him, and his sleep deprived colleague Wattie, to investigate. Wattie has become a father and is an easy target for DCI Murray. Murray thinks Wattie isn’t up to the job and Wattie begs McCoy for support, especially when the DCI piles a murder investigation on top of his other work. To make things worse for Harry, the prime suspect in the murder is Steve Cooper. Harry is well and truly in the middle, trying to keep the peace and his loyalty to many different people at once. His main concern is that there will be a bigger bomb, a more public target, and a long list of casualties. When this happens, Harry finds his loyalties called into question again, this time from a Special Branch officer who thinks McCoy may have connections to the IRA.

This investigation will lead Harry into the past, and a history of British military atrocities committed as the empire collapsed and beyond. The bomber follows an old army leader with murderous loyalty, and Harry stumbles across terrible hidden truths. The dark, atmospheric house in the country will stay with me, it’s terrible secrets never known until now as Harry uncovers evidence of torture and killing. Have these horrible acts ended though? Or is someone still carrying out killings in this terrible place? As if Harry doesn’t have enough to do, he’s also charged with finding a missing son of an ex- naval captain. Donnie Stewart was based in Scotland following in his father’s footsteps in the navy, but now he’s gone AWOL. His father travels to Scotland from retirement in America, keeping the pressure on Harry to leave no stone unturned looking for Donnie.

There is so much going on here, and so many loose ends to chase. However, one of the things I love about this series is that the author doesn’t just focus on the plot. He puts the characters and the intricacies of their relationships front and centre too. The relationship between Steve and McCoy is particularly interesting, especially in this instalment where pressure is placed on them both. It’s very interesting to see how Harry balances his job upholding the law, with his loyalty to his friend. Steve drags him into the fight with another crime boss, trying to use Steve’s recent time in prison as a chance to muscle in on his patch. This stretches Harry to his limits and place some edge into their relationship. Yet there is still that sense of a long held friendship that allows some black humour to creep in, even when the stakes are high. McCoy has a similar rapport with his colleague Wattie, but also some sensitivity too. He empathises with Wattie’s position as a new dad, and shows his concern. This is a sensitivity that spills over into his dealings with Donnie Stewart’s father too. I had the sense this wasn’t just being a good police officer, it was a softer side to Harry that maybe had something to do with getting older. What I loved most though is the author’s love of the wonderful city of Glasgow, in all its dark and dirty 1970s glory. He highlights the social injustices of the city, and the wry humour of its people. I would highly recommend this series to anyone who loves crime fiction and I look forward to May in the series.

Check out the other bloggers on the tour and their thoughts on The April Dead.

Meet The Author

Before beginning his writing career, Alan Parks was Creative Director at London Records and Warner Music, where he marketed and managed artists including All Saints, New Order, The Streets, Gnarls Barkley, and Cee Lo Green. His love of music, musician lore, and even the industry, comes through in his prize-winning mysteries, which are saturated with the atmosphere of the 1970s music scene, grubby and drug-addled as it often was. Parks’ debut novel, Bloody January, propelled him onto the international literary crime fiction circuit and won him praise, prizes, and success with readers. The second book in the Harry McCoy series, February’s Son, was a finalist for a MWA Edgar Award. Parks was born in Scotland, earned an M.A. in Moral Philosophy from the University of Glasgow, and still lives and works in the city he so vividly depicts in his Harry McCoy thrillers.

Posted in Damp Pebbles Tour

A Mirror Murder by Helen Hollick.

Today, as part of the Damp Pebbles blog tour, I’m sharing an extract from A Mirror Murder by Helen Hollick.


Life After School

Murder, when I was a naïve sixteen-year-old, was very firmly in my uncle and guardian, DCI Toby Christopher’s domain, not mine. But two years after leaving school, in the summer of 1971, a brutal murder was to change my life. For a second time.

    It is not the amount of blood pooling over the black and white linoleum, nor its copper-tang smell that clings, these many years later, to my mind or occasionally haunts a restless dream. The other smells are also there – but I’ll not dwell on those for the sake of the victim’s dignity. It is the hollow emptiness of the house that I remember. That stilled quietness, as if the place was suspended on pause, holding its breath – waiting. Waiting for the lonely coldness of death to be discovered, for the stunned silence to be disturbed by those who, by necessity, must intrude…

* * *

As a shy schoolgirl, I knew little of the world, my priority being to not make a fool of myself. Insecurities matter when you are an awkward teenager about to be let loose from the sanctimonious boredom of a girls’ school into the unknown of the grown-up world. My careers talk, in that final term of 1969, did little to boost my fragile confidence:

“What do you want to do when you leave school, January?” 

I had sat, staring blankly at the two prim schoolmistresses. No one except those in ‘authority’, or girls who didn’t like me (the feeling was mutual), called me ‘January’. To my family and friends I was Jan. Jan Christopher. I frequently cursed the day I was born because that was why I had been lumbered with such a stupid Christian name. My identical twin and I came several weeks too early, on the last day of January 1953, so we were named for the months we were conceived and born. I got January because I arrived first, my twin got June. I guess it could have been worse: hard to shorten February into a respectable-sounding nickname. 

June had died when we were three years old. I can only remember hearing incessant crying in a darkened room. She – we – had been ill. I don’t know what with, we never talked about it. I survived. She didn’t.

So, there I was, a gawky lass who hid behind her curtain of long, non-descript brown hair, trying my best not to be noticed by the girls who had confidence (the bullies), being asked by two teachers what I wanted to do with my life after I finally escaped the long, tortuous, horrid, lonely, hell years at school. (I’m paraphrasing.) I had no idea. My only ambition was to write. I was always writing, but real authors, I thought, were clever, intellectual people who went to university and got degrees and things. I had three minor exam credits: even obtaining those had been a miracle.

Reading was my other passion. Characters in books were more reliable than so-called friends who sashayed arm-in-arm with you around the playground one day, then stabbed you in the back the next. I preferred to retreat into fictional worlds. Even the ‘baddies’ of fiction were better friends than the spiteful two-faced trash of the ‘frilly-knicker brigade’.

As for that unhelpful careers talk: “I want to write,” I had mumbled to the two teachers.

“But you like reading, don’t you, January? I think a library is the best place for you.”

Which is why I found myself shelving books at the Branch Library in South Chingford, a north London suburb on the edge of Essex, where I was born and raised. And two years after leaving school I was still there, shelving books at the same library. (Although I had soon discovered not to be quite so quick about it.)

“Old Mrs Norris is in again, I see.” I said as I gave the empty book trolley a shove with my hip to roll it into its parking bay behind the counter. “I wonder what coupons she’ll cut from the paper today?”

Mrs Norris was a regular. She tottered in on the dot of a quarter past six every evening that we were open, a faded pink beret perched atop her grey hair, a red, string shopping bag always containing a small packet of McVitie’s digestive biscuits in her left hand, and an old black, plastic handbag, that was meant to look like leather, dangling from the crook of her right elbow. She looked about ninety, but from her library registration card, was only in her early seventies. She would heave her way through the wood and glass entrance door – a wretched thing on the inside of a small, square, lobby. Even us younger ones had a job to push that monster open and get through without it snapping at our heels as it swung back.

The old dear would smile at us, wave hello, and shuffle off to the carpeted reading area over in the upper left-hand corner of the single storey library. There, she would settle herself on one of the comfortable armchairs, nibble at her biscuits, (Caretaker Bert always moaned, because they left crumbs everywhere), and peruse the newspapers. She always left again at five minutes to eight, just before closing. The only thing different to when she had arrived, the packet of biscuits would be empty and all the supermarket discount food coupons would be neatly cut from the tabloid papers.

We knew that Mrs Norris was pilfering the coupons, but did it matter? She was obviously poor, and came into the library each evening to eat her biscuits in the warm, using our lighting and heating rather than her own. 

Approaching closing time was often a strain, depending on how busy we were. Inevitably, someone rushed in during the last ten minutes, determined to choose the right book to read, and taking ages about it. 

I glanced again at the clock. Was it moving? It didn’t look like it! 

Seven-forty. I heaved a few more returned books on to the trolley and looked up to see Mrs Norris leaving in a flustered hurry. How odd. She never left early. 

“Are you all right?” I called, but I don’t think she heard, because she merely muttered, “Oh dear, oh dear,” as she hauled her way through the equally as obnoxious ‘Out’ door. I noticed that she still had the packet of biscuits in her bag, along with the entire Daily Mirror newspaper, which annoyed me a little as it had an article about one of the ex-Beatles, which I’d wanted to read all day, but hadn’t found the chance.

It was Friday evening, looked like it was about to pour with rain, and I had a twenty-five-minute walk home, or a wait, equally as long, for the bus. But tomorrow was Saturday, my one-in-three weekends off. A whole two days to myself. 

Or so I thought.

A Mirror Murder © Helen Hollick

Helen Hollick.
Posted in Random Things Tours

Bound by Vanda Symon.

When the official investigation into the murder of a respectable local businessman fails to add up, and personal problems start to play havoc with her state of mind, New Zealand’s favourite young detective Sam Shephard turns vigilante..

The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation.

And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.

I really enjoyed this crime novel with an interesting lead character, a case with so many twists and turns, and an array of background issues to get my teeth into. Our detective Sam Shephard is a strong woman, adept at her job and extremely dedicated too. She lives with a friend, but is in a relationship with Paul, another detective in the squad. When they get the job investigating the murder of reputable local businessman John Henderson, they soon find a link to a previous case. Two well-known criminals are implicated in the brutal shooting, both of them suspected in the murder of their fellow officer Reihana, and attempted murder of Smithy, who is still struggling physically despite being back at work. They need to find the link between regular business and the less ethically sound dealings that has brought the business into the criminal underworld. However, they also need to make sure that all of their dealings with the case, including forensics and other evidence collecting, are squeaky clean. Smithy, and to some extent Sam, will have to be seen to take a back seat on this one. Besides, once the link is found, between the gangsters and Henderson, it should be cut and dried, but is it? Why did they leave his wife Jill bound to a chair, alive? It is possible that someone else in Henderson’s life have reason to kill him?

Sam finds herself impressed by their teenage son, who has had the presence of mind to film the crime scene on his phone before freeing his mother. She creates a good rapport with him and manages to get important evidence about their potential suspects and their business dealings with his father. Sam works with a lot of integrity and will not accept the easy answer, until she’s uncovered everything. She would love to find their suspects guilty, but has her own idea about the motive for this crime that goes against what they know so far. This puts her in contention with the DI and he is not happy, they’ve been butting heads a lot and he’s not going to back her theory. Sam may have to go it alone here and do enough to prove her theory, without him.

I really enjoyed Symon’s mix of the professional and personal in Sam’s life, it felt like a good balance between the two. Sam is trying to keep her relationship with Paul on the down low, but circumstances may be taking that decision out of her control. There was also an interesting family dynamic, as Sam’s father is brought to the hospital and will be discharged to a hospice. These are possibly the final weeks of his life, but it’s clear that her unpleasant boss DI Johns will be less than sympathetic. Even sending her out of state on an errand. Her Mum seems less than impressed with her dedication to her job. There’s clearly history between Sam and her Mum, who accuses her of not being there for her Dad. Sam protests that she will, but her Mum rejects her promise. Sam manages not to snap back knowing that her Mum is angry and scared about her husband and the future, it how long will she able to stay silent. The moment when she sits quietly with her father and whispers to him the one secret she hasn’t told anyone, was so moving.

The pace of the novel is great – one of those where the short chapters create that ‘I can fit in one more chapter before bed’ feeling. Developments come at us thick and fast, both in the case and in her personal life. What I loved is Sam’s absolute dedication to her job, and determination to uphold New Zealand’s laws. Often when female characters have struggles in their personal life, things start to fall apart at work. Not so for Sam, she is good at separating her work life from home life, despite her mother’s digs about her loyalties. I felt I was getting a fully rounded character, not the usual stereotype about strong, working, women who have a messy love life, divorces, a drinking habit. Although we get personal with her, I came out of the novel admiring a good detective, with a full professional and personal life. The fact that this stood out to me is worrying and says a lot about how professional women are still portrayed in fiction. The story kept my attention because it was full of small surprises, such as Henderson’s assistant Astrid, whose previous CV was unexpected. This led me to expect bigger twists and I kept on reading. The author left us a few loose ends too, and I’m a sucker for the unresolved bits. Plus now I’m already hooked into the next book!

Meet The Author

Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons. –This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.