Dark Hearts and Right Wrongs

Outcast‘ by Chris Ryan

After single-handedly intervening in a deadly terrorist attack in Mali, SAS Warrant Officer Jamie ‘Geordie’ Carter is denounced as a lone wolf by jealous superiors.

Now a Regiment outcast, Carter is given a second chance with a deniable mission: locate SAS hero-gone-rogue, David Vann.

Vann had been sent into Afghanistan to train local rebels to fight the Taliban. But he’s since gone silent and expected attacks on key targets have not happened.

Tracking Vann through Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Carter not only discovers the rogue soldier’s involvement in a conspiracy that stretches far beyond the Middle East – but an imminent attack that will have deadly consequences the world over . . .

As with most things in books, there are people who are sniffy about writers originating from ranks of the military. There is a snobbery around books which are designed to sell and to entertain people and this is doubled down upon if the writers have done something in a previous incarnation.

Chris Ryan, of course, had quite the life before he turned to writing thrillers. Any man who holds a Military Medal and can walk from Iraq to Syria whilst under fire deserves some form of attention.

It is this background, as part of the fabled Bravo Two Zero platoon which gives Ryan the authority to write the novels which he does. His experience in the ranks of the SAS which lend all of his thrillers the verisimilitude which so many other writers of “men of action” tales lack.

Here, however, protagonist Jamie ‘Geordie’ Carter finds himself caught up in a plot which might have come straight from the pen of Joseph Conrad – disgraced hero left to search for an outcast SA legend-gone-rogue.

That might, of course, be true only if Conrad had ever written a sentence like “the stiff afternoon breeze scraping through his dark hair, and wished to fuck he was somewhere else.” But, to be fair, this would have livened up the snoozeathon which is ‘Heart of Darkness’ no end.

There’s a healthy disrespect for authority and politician both officially and those in the rank and file which adds a layer of sympathy to the poor put upon hero.

Ryan has a control of the punchy sentence. Tension is built, backstory filled in. The point of these novels is to vicariously experience the snapping of bone and the crunch of boots on gravel and for all to be right with the world in the end.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outcast-Chris-Ryan-ebook/dp/B09SM14MPC

US – https://www.amazon.com/Outcast-Chris-Ryan-ebook/dp/B09SM14MPC

https://www.brownsbfs.co.uk/Product/RYAN-CHRIS/OUTCAST/9781838777616

Author Bio

Chris Ryan was born in Newcastle.

In 1984 he joined 22 SAS. After completing the year-long Alpine Guides Course, he was the troop guide for B Squadron Mountain Troop. He completed three tours with the anti-terrorist team, serving as an assaulter, sniper and finally Sniper Team Commander.

Chris was part of the SAS eight-man team chosen for the famous Bravo Two Zero mission during the 1991 Gulf War. He was the only member of the unit to escape from Iraq, where three of his colleagues were killed and four captured, for which he was awarded the Military Medal. Chris wrote about his experiences in his book ‘The One That Got Away’, which became an immediate bestseller. Since then he has written over fifty books and presented a number of very successful TV programmes.

Social Media Links  

Twitter

Chris Ryan and Zaffre Books

Bad Actors? Great Script

‘Bad Actors’ by Mick Herron

POLITICS IS A DANGEROUS GAME


In MI5 a scandal is brewing and there are bad actors everywhere.

A key member of a Downing Street think-tank has disappeared without a trace. Claude Whelan, one-time First Desk of MI5’s Regent’s Park, is tasked with tracking her down. But the trail leads straight back to Regent’s Park HQ itself, with its chief, Diana Taverner, as prime suspect. Meanwhile her Russian counterpart has unexpectedly shown up in London but has slipped under MI5’s radar.

Over at Slough House, the home for demoted and embittered spies, the slow horses are doing what they do best: adding a little bit of chaos to an already unstable situation.

In a world where lying, cheating and backstabbing is the norm, bad actors are bending the rules for their own gain. If the slow horses want to change the script, they’ll need to get their own act together before the final curtain. (Synopsis courtesy of Hachette)

Let’s be clear: Mick Herron is not the first writer to notice the similarities between actors and politicians. Indeed, the peerless Yes Prime Minister included this little interchange:

Sir Humphrey Appleby: You know what happens when politicians get into Number 10; they want to take their place on the world stage.

Sir Richard Wharton: People on stages are called actors. All they are required to do is look plausible, stay sober, and say the lines they’re given in the right order.

Appleby: Some of them try to make up their own lines.

Wharton: They don’t last long.

Now, regular readers of Herron would shudder if a phrase like “they don’t last long,” because few if any characters in his work do last long and the more beloved, the more in danger they are. You have been warned.

I suspect that the literati are coming for Herron. He’s just too good to be allowed to continue without snark and insults from lesser writers. Having a high budget adaptation of your work, one so faithful as to appear slavish, starring two of the best actors in the UK today (Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott-Thomas) as well as supporting characters played by top quality talent like Saskia Reeves and Samuel West?

No danger. The critics are sharpening their knives in the cheap seats.

For me, though, let them come. He can take it in the same way Lamb breaks limbs for sport. Herron is the best prose stylist working today, bar none. In fact, for me he’s funniest writer since the one and only master: PG Wodehouse. That’s the highest praise I can give and there’s no hyperbole in it. His greatest secret, of course, is that he is not a comic novelist. He’s a thriller writer with plots to enthral who just happens to have a sense of humour drier than badly made couscous and a pen as fluid as an oil slick.

Here, Herron is on sparkling form as ever. Tackling politicians in his oeuvre would, one might have expected legendary pantomime villain Peter Judd to the fore. Not so: here as the curtain rises it is the Dominic Cummings replacement, Anthony Sparrow, thrust into the spotlight.

This allows Herron to really break out the champagne lines:

“Sparrow wasn’t as high profile as his predecessor had been – it would have been challenging to maintain that level of unpopularity without barbecuing an infant on live television – but those in the know recognised him as a home-grown Napoleon: nasty, British and short.”

Also present is a cast of familiar household favourites. Claude Whelan returns to active duty, Diana Taverner, Roderick Ho, Lech Wicinski Catherine Standish, Louisa Guy are also all on the bill. And… is that… is that Shirley Dander in rehab like some form of Amy Winehouse record?

There’s even a cameo from a familiar face – but not one we’ve seen in the novels before. A perennial understudy forced onto the stage, if you will.

Then, of course, there is Jackson Lamb, the grotty gravitational force around which the entire Slough House orbits.

The devil may get all the best music, but the star turn gets all the best lines and boy-oh-boy does Lamb have yet another headline grabber here.

Covid exists in this world but I think it’s safe to say, Lamb is in fine form. Oh and terrorising Standish as ever like the one man culture war wrecking ball he is.

“She put the stool by the door; placed the sanitiser on top of it.

Lamb opened one eye. ‘Lubricant? Pretty optimistic for a staff meeting.’ He closed it again. ‘But I suppose it’ll give be a chance to swap these gender fluids I keep hearing about.’…

Lamb adopted a wounded pout. ‘What did I ever do to her?’

‘Broke her arm?’

‘She still on about that? Bloody snowflake.’”

Like all good playwrights, Herron likes structure to great effect; in fact aficionados of his work expect it. Here, the master uses structure even more than normal and the novel is no worse for that.

As the curtain closes, the reader is left with only some certain knowledge: Firstly, that Herron is the best in the business and long may his run continue when the quality is this high.

Secondly, that Apple TV+ really picked the right property to develop when they chose to let the Slow Horses out of the stable.

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?field-isbn=9781529378702&tag=hachetteuk-21

Blackwell’s: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/9781529378702

Book Depository (Free shipping to the US): https://www.bookdepository.com/Bad-Actors-Mick-Herron/9781529378719

Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/10403/9781529378702

Foyle’s: https://www.foyles.co.uk/all?advsearch=1&isbn=9781529378702&aCode=AFW&awc=1414_1652294215_49841d552e93c65d33eb53ee0852e906

Author Bio

Mick Herron is a bestselling and award-winning novelist and short story writer, best known for his Slough House thrillers. The series has been adapted into a TV series starring Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb.

Raised in Newcastle upon Tyne, Herron studied English Literature at Oxford, where he continues to live. After some years writing poetry, he turned to fiction, and – despite a daily commute into London, where he worked as a sub editor – found time to write about 350 words a day. His first novel, Down Cemetery Road, was published in 2003. This was the start of Herron’s Zoë Boehm series, set in Oxford and featuring detective Zoë Boehm and civilian Sarah Tucker. The other books in the series are The Last Voice You Hear, Why We Die, and Smoke and Whispers, set in his native Newcastle. During the same period he wrote a number of short stories, many of which appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

In 2008, inspired by world events, Mick began writing the Slough House series, featuring MI5 agents who have been exiled from the mainstream for various offences. The first novel, Slow Horses, was published in 2010. Some years later, it was hailed by the Daily Telegraph as one of “the twenty greatest spy novels of all time”.

The Slough House novels have been published in 20 languages; have won both the CWA Steel and Gold daggers; have been shortlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year four times; and have won Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz prize. Mick is also the author of the highly acclaimed novels Reconstruction, This is What Happened and Nobody Walks. (Biography courtesy of https://www.mickherron.com/landing-page/mick-herron-about)

You can read my previous reviews of some of Herron’s earlier novels, Slough House here and Joe Country here

For all things Mick Herron, there is no finer place on the internet than Jeff Quest’s Barbican Station. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spywrite  

They Ain’t Heavies – They’re Brothers

‘Blood Pact’ by Heather Atkinson

To survive, they’ll need to stick together…

After the defeat of the rival Gordon and Thompson families, the Blood Brothers’ reputations as feared lieutenants of the McVay clan are firmly established. The Gallowburn has become an untouchable stronghold in their capable hands.

However, danger rears its head in another form – Jamie’s deadliest foe, Cameron Abernethy. Still fighting to be released from prison, Cameron decides to use the Lawson family, the Blood Brothers’ biggest rivals, to discover his daughter’s whereabouts.

With his enemies getting closer, and the police on his tail too, Jamie has some impossible choices to make. This is his last chance to live the life he’s dreamed of with the woman he loves, but first he’s got to make sure he’s not caught or killed…

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3KhTlf2

The opening instalment of Heather Atkinson’s Gallowburn series of crime novels, ‘Blood Brothers’, came out in December 2020. When I reviewed it, I noted that her publisher – Boldwood Books – were an interesting independent publisher making some interesting moves and that Atkinson was definitely one to watch.

I think by now, she must be a jewel in the crown.

Atkinson writes fast: usually people see this as a negative but in her case this is the fourth instalment in the series in just two years. Producing novels at a rate of one every six months is some going.

And clearly, you would expect a diminution in quality – but Atkinson is not declining. The dialogue is still punchy, the punches are still punchy as well and she lays the pipe of plot with aplomb.

Characters from previous novels, events which took place in seemingly insignificant moments in earlier books, are all threaded through the story.

It is, in the best sense of the word, like a soap opera. By now, we know the Blood Brothers, we know their families – we also know their enemies and the danger they are in as the Gallowburn estate remains as treacherous as ever to navigate.

For authentic Glasgow gangsters, crunching action and a sense of stepping back into a comfortable set of characters it’s a pleasure to revisit, readers will be very satisfied.

You can read a review of the third novel in the series here:

Author Bio –

Heather Atkinson is the author of over fifty books – predominantly in the crime fiction genre. Although Lancashire born and bred she now lives with her family, including twin teenage daughters, on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. Her new gangland series for Boldwood, set on the fictional Gallowburn estate in Glasgow begins with the title Blood Brothers and was published in December 2020.

Social Media Links

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/booksofheatheratkinson/

Twitter https://twitter.com/HeatherAtkinso1

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/heathercrimeauthor/

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/HeatherAtkinsonNews

Chow Down All Over the World

‘Cook it Eat it Live it’ by Jo Kenny

‘Cook it Eat it Live’ it is written by Jo Kenny, food writer and owner of GirlEatsWorld.co.uk.
In this first publication, Jo offers readers a vibrant and varied collection of recipes inspired by both travel and family ties to the UK, Japan, Guyana, the Caribbean.


This delicious collection of every day recipes satisfies appetites for light bites, indulgent dinners, fresh sides and delicious desserts.You’ll find a spectrum of dishes from rich, earthy flavours to fresh aromatics giving you meals to enjoy year round. All recipes are firm favourites in Jo’s own household and cooked regularly. This is family style, every day inspiration to ensure no more boring dinners.

Recipes are punctuated with stories of travel, food inspirations and a personal philosophy of enjoying food unapologetically. Cook it Eat it Live it is about finding happiness in the little things and injecting some joy into every day life through wholesome, exciting meals.

Purchase Link – http://mybook.to/cookiteatitliveit  

Cookery is one of those things – like book blogging I suppose – which has exploded in the age of social media. Wonderfully easy to post on Instagram, those who have travelled about a bit are able to share their food in easy snaps at the click of a phone camera.

Whilst this hasn’t exactly improved people’s experiences of being in restaurants – a sea of camera lenses maketh not the most entertaining scene for dining – it has opened up worlds of food previously not available to the every day person.

Enter Jo Kenny. With ten years at the forefront online sharing of food via her website, GirlEatsWorld.co.uk, here Jo has published a cookbook with vibrant variety, covering a great many culinary corners of the globe.

Richly illustrated with photos from her own travels, the recipes are laid out in sensible order and the intervening prose is light and bubbly.

This is a book for people who want a decent standard of cooking and are interested in the world around them. This is not a book for people who have the desire to sous vide everything and spend their time trying to operate liquid nitrogen in the comfort of their own kitchen: it is all the better for that.

Practical, real world cooking for the culinary adventurous. That will do me.

Author Bio

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Jo is a food writer from Bedford, living with her husband Alex, newborn son and Kimchi the cat. Her website GirlEatsWorld.co.uk was founded in 2012. Starting out as a personal space to capture cooking and food adventures, it has evolved into a public hub for recipes, cooking guides and food inspiration. Jo is passionate about fresh ingredients eaten joyfully, intuitively and adventurously.

Social Media Links – 

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/kingsleypublishers/?hl=en-gb

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/jogirleatsworld/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/kingsleypublis1

The Clue’s All There…

‘Mollie Mack, Private Detective’ by Linda Dobinson

Mollie is excited!

She has been a private detective for six months, and FINALLY a BIG case has landed on her desk. If she solves it, it will make the papers and make her agency famous. She needs to give it her full attention; but she already has three cases she is working on. And when she gets an unexpected lead in her oldest case, she HAS to run with it.

Completely coincidentally, I saw a headline this morning which read, “Each generation get the Nancy Drew it deserves”.

This struck me as apt, although Nancy Drew is a name to me rather than a lived memory. In the gendered 80s, the Hardy Boys were my go-to American kids investigates crime fare as the teen detective of the female persuasion were not offered to young boys.

And here we have Linda Dobinson introducing Mollie Mack, Private Detective. A lead character with a passion for crime fiction – she’s read all the Sherlock Holmes and the Agatha Christie – and criminal psychology and who, alongside her trusty feline companion Clarabel she’s got her own detective agency.

What is better, is that this is the sort of novel which ought to be acceptable to readers of any gender and which parents will enjoy reading to their youngsters.

Mollie Mack looks for excitement in a place synonymous with nothing but glamour and excitement: Basingstoke.

Dobinson has crafted a charming tale which should appeal to the amateur sleuth in us all.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Molly-Private-Detective-Linda-Dobinson-ebook/dp/B09NL5Y8Y1/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Molly-Private-Detective-Linda-Dobinson-ebook/dp/B09NL5Y8Y1/

Author Bio –

Linda Dobinson was born in Croydon but grew up in Barbados – endless sunshine and never too far from the beach. She has worked in fashion, the motor industry, and been a PA.

In the 90s she picked up her pen and started writing poetry. Her work has appeared in poetry magazines, and for two successive years she had poems selected for the anthologies Southern England and South-West England. Her second collection Encounter reached the top of Amazon’s poetry charts. Since then she has started writing middle grade novels and has discovered that immersing herself in a plot is a great distraction from a pandemic.

Social Media Links –

https://goodreads.com/author/show/6077640.Linda_Dobinson

https://www.instagram.com/baspoet/

www.amazon.co.uk/Linda-Dobinson/e/B00J0ZVZ14/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Giveaway to Win a Kindle copy of Mollie Mack, Private Detective (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494483/?

Doomed Dancers in the Crucible of History

‘Edith and Kim’ by Charlotte Philby

To betray, you must first belong…

In June 1934, Kim Philby met his Soviet handler, the spy Arnold Deutsch. The woman who introduced them was called Edith Tudor-Hart. She changed the course of 20th century history.

Then she was written out of it.

Drawing on the Secret Intelligence Files on Edith Tudor-Hart, along with the private archive letters of Kim Philby, this finely worked, evocative and beautifully tense novel – by the granddaughter of Kim Philby – tells the story of the woman behind the Third Man. (Synopsis courtesy of https://harpercollins.co.uk/products/edith-and-kim-charlotte-philby)

Occasionally a novel comes along which lives up to the hype. Charlotte Philby has made a career writing novels which live in the space between contemporary literary and the espionage genre.

She has explored the roles of women and the structural inequalities which lead to poor choices and dangerous paths for her characters in contemporary capitalist societies.

And now she has gone back in time. Back to the time of her grandfather’s recruitment by the NKVD and back to the time when Edith Tudor-Hart was photographing and recruiting the young and the idealistic to her cause and being instrumental in creating the most important spy ring of the twentieth century.

What follows is a novel of quite stunning ambition and scope. Philby takes us on the journey of Tudor-Hart as she encounters the turbulent unrest of Austria in the 20s, the Bauhaus, England as class struggle rears its head in the most obvious fashion and on to the sad ending which a life of having to hide your choices seems to lead to with inevitability.

Charlotte Philby is a novelist of rare scope and talent but here she employs her enthusiasm for split narratives to weave a tapestry through time and her characters which lends a spiralling inevitability to the outcome without ever being dull.

‘Edith and Kim’ is many things: a novel of rare scope in time and historical significance; an elegiac wander through the dream world of espionage and the impact of decisions taken in youth which echo through the decades; an increasingly rare epistolary novel, intercut with domestic security services’ reports. It is also a tale of a much over-looked figure in the history of spying, marginalised by her gender.

Finally, it is a novel which promotes Philby fully to the top ranks of writers in the field working today. “A novel only [insert name of writer her]” is an oft used trope in promoting literature.

But this is a novel only Charlotte Philby could have written. The heady mix of her personal history, her understanding of the societal issues which render women – especially talented and “difficult” women – ripe for expunging from the record make this a triumph of a piece.

Author Bio

Charlotte Philby left The Independent in 2014 – where she was an editor, reporter and columnist for eight years and shortlisted for the 2013 Cudlipp prize at the Press Awards. She has worked as a contributing editor at Marie Claire, written freelance for publications including The New Statesman, Tatler, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Sunday Times, ELLE, Red, and more. Philby has also been a guest on Front Row, Woman’s Hour, NPR’s Note to Self podcast, Free Thinking, and Loose Ends, as well as presenting documentaries for The One Show and the World Service. A speaker at literary festivals from Cheltenham to Chiswick, she is currently working on a new major podcast for 2022. (Adapted from https://charlottephilby.com)

Purchase Links:

https://www.waterstones.com/book/edith-and-kim/charlotte-philby/2928377082536

https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Edith-and-Kim-by-Charlotte-Philby/9780008466374

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Edith-and-Kim-Audiobook/B09RMNB8CX

Social Media Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/philbywrites

Instagram: http://instagram.com/charlotte_philby

A Pearl Coming Up With A Diamond

‘The Chair Man’ by Alex Pearl

Michael Hollinghurst is a successful corporate lawyer living a comfortable, suburban life in leafy North West London. But on 7 July 2005, his life is transformed when he steps on a London underground train targeted by Islamist suicide bombers. While most passengers in his carriage are killed, Michael survives the explosion but is confined to a wheelchair as a result.

Coming to terms with his predicament and controlling his own feelings of guilt as a survivor conspire to push him in a direction that is out of character and a tad reckless. In a quest to seek retribution, he resorts to embracing the internet and posing as a radical Islamist in order to snare potential perpetrators.

Much to his surprise, his shambolic scheme yields results and is brought to the attention of both GCHQ and a terrorist cell. But before long, dark forces begin to gather and close in on him. There is seemingly no way out for Michael Hollinghurst. He has become, quite literally, a sitting target.

On the morning of July 7th 2005, I was waiting to catch a flight to Venice. News began to filter through that something terrible had happened in London. One of my best friends lived in north London and was working out towards Heathrow.

As the BBC News began speculating about power surges and explosions on the Tube, I watched in horror as the route my friend, Dan, took every day was highlighted by the ashen-faced presenters.

Then an exploded bus was shown. Also on his route.

My phone began lighting up. There are a bunch of us: the same age, the same year at school – we speak every day. Richard phoned. “I can’t get a hold of Dan.”

“Me neither.” Texts went unanswered. Phone calls fizzled out. We realised that the mobile phone networks had been shut down in order to avoid remote detonations.

My partner at the time was flapping. “Do we fly? What are we going to do? Aren’t all the trains cancelled?”

I had no answers.

At 09:30, the phone rang. “What?” snapped a fairly cheesed off Dan, whose phone had almost combusted with the number of calls and messages.

“Where the fuck have you been?”

“I walked to work. It took ages. What’s the matter?”

Never been so delighted to hear the crabbit Cockney in my life.

And here we have a novel which uses this as the catalytic event of the main characters life. Alex Pearl has crafted an exciting thriller which sees his protagonist Michael Hollinghurst ensnared in all sorts of dramas, trapped between a terrorist cell and the security services.

The novel opens with one of the most surprising events I can remember in a thriller and Pearl is very good on the daily issues and inconveniences experienced by the disabled.

Overall, a thumping good read with a white knuckle conclusion.

Purchase Links

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-chair-man-alex-pearl/1136672496?ean=2940164005511

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1009862

https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-chair-man/id1503252665

Author Bio –

Alex’s first novel ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds’, a darkly humorous urban fantasy, written for children and young adults, was initially published by PenPress in 2011. It has since become a Kindle bestseller in the US. In 2014, his fictionalised account of the first British serviceman to be executed for cowardice during the First World War was published by Mardibooks in its anthology, ‘The Clock Struck War’. A selection of his blog posts is also available in paperback under the title ‘Random Ramblings of a Short-sighted Blogger.’ In 2019, his psychological thriller, ‘The Chair Man’ that is set in London in 2005 following the terrorist attack on its public transport system, was published as an ebook by Fizgig Press. The paperback followed in 2020.

Alex lives in NW London with his wife and terribly spoilt feline.

He is quite possibly the only human being on this planet to have been inadvertently locked in a record shop on Christmas Eve.

You can visit his website at http://booksbyalexpearl.weebly.com

Social Media Links – https://linktr.ee/AlexPearl

Sweet Poisons and Perfumes

‘Poison at the Village Show’ by Catherine Coles

With the war finally over the residents of Westleham village are trying to reclaim a sense of normality and the upcoming village show is proving to be a popular event!

Newcomer, Martha Miller, has high hopes for the village show. Since her husband Stan left for work one day and never returned, some of the villagers have treated Martha with suspicion – why would a good man like Stan simply up and leave? Was it something Martha did?

All Martha knows is that she’s hoping that she can win people over and hopefully they’ll but her delicious homemade plum gin, too and she’ll be able to make ends meet.

But as glasses of Martha’s gin are passed around, disaster strikes. Alice Warren, Chairwoman of the village show slumps to the ground after taking a sip. It’s clear she’s been poisoned!

Martha is shocked, but not surprised, when fingers of suspicion once again point her way. Determined to prove her innocence, Martha sets about trying to find the real culprit. But who would kill Alice and why?

Ably helped by the new vicar, Luke Walker, Martha quickly tries to get to the bottom of this mystery. But with the villagers closing ranks it quickly becomes apparent that the only person with a motive is Martha herself….

Will Luke and Martha discover who is behind the poisoning before it’s too late?

What is it about the English country village which breeds such malice, mistrust and murder in the novel?

Well, Miss Marple is always banging on about the village being a microcosm of wider society, its foibles, human failings and all too universal facets of greed, lust and the green-eyed monster which mocks the milk it feeds upon.

In ‘Poison at the Village Show’. Catherine Coles introduces a cast of characters beset by all of the usual accoutrements of country life, only here with the added delight of collapsing village worthies at – as the title suggests – the annual village show.

Any novel which combines country mysteries, dogs and petty village intrigues is worth investigating in my mind.

Grantchester with a quietly feminist ethos was the phrase which kept leaping to mind as poor Martha fights to clear her name, attempt to find out what happened to the long gone Stan and maintain a sensible conversation with her loving companion hound, Lizzie.

If you too have experienced the stilted small talk of the annual village fete, then ‘Poison at the Village Show’ will entertain and trigger memories of Victoria sponges gently warming in the sun of the vicarage garden like a Proustian memory.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3freNRj 

Author Bio –

On the #MondayBlog today, a review of @CatherineColes 'Murder at the Village Show'. Thanks as ever to @rararesources and

The daughter of a military father, Catherine was born in Germany and lived most of the first 14 years of her life abroad. She spent her school years devouring everything her school library had to offer! Catherine writes cosy mysteries that take place in the English countryside. Her extremely popular Tommy & Evelyn Christie mysteries are set in 1920s North Yorkshire. Catherine lives in northeast England with her two spoiled dogs who have no idea they are not human!

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/CatherineColesAuthor

Twitter  https://twitter.com/catherinecoles

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/catherinecolesauthor/ 

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/CatherineColesNews

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/catherine-coles?list=about

Boldwood’s IG account – https://www.instagram.com/bookandtonic/

Here and No

‘Then and Now’ by RJ Gould

Sandy is about to retire following an illustrious career as editor of an upmarket fashion magazine.

Michael can’t retire, he thinks his work to explain the dangers of climate change is far too important.

Jonathan is considering retiring from running his fundraising consultancy.

These three were the best of friends at university before a tragedy wrecked their friendship. They haven’t spoken since.

Fifty years on, they arrange to meet at a reunion. Having reminisced about student life during a wild and self-indulgent era with its heady mix of free love, drugs and ground-breaking music, they share their life journeys since the Swinging Sixties – the successes and failures, the happiness and despair, and their optimism and fears for the future.

The reunion is drawing to a close. Dare they tackle the incident that tore them apart, an event that has brought guilt for so many years? If they are to have any chance of reconciliation they have to, but the clock is ticking.

I first encountered the work of RJ Gould last year when I reviewed his novel ‘Dream Café’ (Very good, by the way, would recommend.) https://pajnewman.com/2021/09/06/catering-to-the-romantics/

A fellow male aficionado of the romance genre, both that novel and this one allow Gould to explore the hope and bittersweet experiences which beset lives as people grow, develop and get older.

Here the protagonists are coming towards the end of their careers – or not as the case maybe – and are wrestling with the way society views the Baby Boomers as well as fallout from a long buried event from their youth.

Oddly, perhaps the text which ‘Then and Now’ most reminded me of, however, was ‘Our Friends in the North’. Gould is a jolly writer and one who’s characters burst with joie de vivre but there is a lovely tonal shift in the characterisation which allows him to explore the melancholia and less upbeat experiences of life too.

Having said that, I think Sandy is my favourite. She’s a lovely character. A successful woman, downing champagne and exactly the sort of life and soul of the party person it would be fun to share a glass or two of fizz with.

‘Then and Now’ is another engaging outing from Mr RJ Gould.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/R-J-Gould/e/B006QLQZ8S

US – https://www.amazon.com/R-J-Gould/e/B006QLQZ8S

Author Bio –

R J Gould writes contemporary fiction about relationships, using a mix of humour and pathos to describe the tragi-comic life journeys of his characters. Then and now is his seventh novel, following The Engagement Party, Jack and Jill Went Downhill, Mid-life follies, The bench by Cromer beach, Nothing Man and Dream Café. He is a member of Cambridge Writers and a rare male member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Before becoming a full-time author he worked in the educational and charity sectors.

R J Gould lives in Cambridge.

Social Media Links –

Website:                          http://www.rjgould.info

Twitter:                            https://twitter.com/RJGould_author

Email:                               rjgould.author@gmail.com

Facebook:                       https://www.facebook.com/RJGouldauthor

Instagram:                        https://www.instagram.com/rjgould_author             

Goodreads                     https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6432126.R_J_Gould