Soft in the Middle – Hard on Top

‘Melting in the Middle’ by Andy Howden

Long-listed for the Exeter Novel Prize, Melting in the Middle is a literary comedy about redemption and second chances, played out amid the madness of modern life.

For Stephen Carreras, life is in turmoil. His career with Britain’s worst chocolate company is heading for the rocks when it’s taken over by US confectionery giant Schmaltz. He’s just turned forty, he’s messed up on marriage and is struggling to keep a toehold in the lives of his monosyllabic teenage children.

Then he meets Rachel, who dances to a very different beat. She challenges him to do good among the carnage that surrounds him. But to do so, he must confront his past and work out all over again what really matters

Andy Howden’s debut novel is described as literary comedy and it certainly has kudos and pedigree with its long listing status for the Exeter Novel Prize.

Howden is clearly a writer to watch. His prose has an easy flowing charm which put this reader in mind of the late, great Peter Mayle – and I mean this as  compliment

‘Melting in the Middle’ has the same set up as a Mayle novel and the same gentle dissatisfaction of a man who is seemingly okay – job he quite enjoys, private life a bit wonky – which is then disrupted by outside forces and saved by the love of an enticing new woman in his life. It is a combination designed to release as many endorphins as… well, as nice piece of chocolate on a day when you need it.

Howden’s story does appear to have been heavily influenced by the takeover of Cadbury’s by American company Kraft from 2010 and he uses this as the disruptive event which forces Stephen to take stock of his life.

‘Melting in the Middle’ is a pleasing novel which will alleviate the gloom of a lockdown afternoon and leave you looking forward to more from the selection box of this new author on the block.

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Debut author Andy Howden

Author Bio –

Born in Yorkshire, Andy Howden read English at Sheffield University before a career in marketing, including working for a multi-national company in London and Paris. This novel was long-listed for the Exeter Novel Prize as ‘funny, poignant and uplifting’ and sprang out of a MA in Creative Writing at St Mary’s University in Twickenham. Andy lives in South West London with his wife and has two grown up children who have left home but fortunately keep popping back to see him.

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Twitter: @andy_howden

Turning Over a New Leaf

‘Eleven Days in June’ (The Little Leaf Series, 1) by R. Gibson Colley

Devon, 1985. Dan is 20, lives in a sleepy village and works in a small DIY shop. He likes numbers and hero worships Lord Nelson. But he finds ordinary people difficult to understand and he’s certainly never kissed a girl. His mother mocks him, and he misses his father and he pines for Ollie, his only childhood friend who truly understood him.

But, despite it all, Dan thinks he’s happy enough. Until one June day, the beautiful and mysterious Libby walks into his shop – and into Dan’s life.

Libby’s sudden appearance turns Dan’s ordered existence upside down. But Dan soon realises that Libby isn’t who she seems. Who exactly is she? What is she hiding, and, more importantly, who’s that threatening man always looking for her?

In trying to help Libby, Dan comes to realise what’s missing in his own life, and, in turn, appreciates what’s really important…

One of my pet peeves with novels set in the past is when they fetishize the details of the period and conform to all of the stereotypes. Everyone in the 60s is a hippy, everyone in the 80s wearing colour contrasting shirts and getting blitzed on cocaine while chanting “Loadsamoney” like a Harry Enfield satire.

Just one of the reasons to like this charming little tale, therefore, is the deft way in which Gibson Colley treats his period setting with a light touch.

The central character of Dan is quite content with his job in the hardware store (“I always have to reorganise the screws”) and his love of Lord Nelson until Libby arrives with her feminine wiles and turns his world upside down.

This is a sweet, gentle little novel which is more smile-inducing in its humour than laugh out loud funny. However, it is a good natured, gem of a period piece which wears its world lightly and will alleviate any lockdown gloom.

I look forward to the next instalment of the The Little Leaf series.

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Author Bio – I was born one Christmas Day, which means, as a child, I lost out on presents. Nonetheless, looking back on it, I lived a childhood with a “silver spoon in my mouth” – brought up in a rambling manor house in the beautiful Devon countryside. It’s been downhill ever since.

I was a librarian for a long time, a noble profession. Then I started a series called History In An Hour, “history for busy people”, which I sold to HarperCollins UK.

I now live in London with my wife, two children and dog (a fluffy cockapoo) and write historical fiction, mainly 20th-century war and misery, and humorous books set in 1980s England.

Dark Hearts and Trauma

‘Gordon Square’ by Tracey Martin-Summers

On a cold blustery November night, Detective Sergeant Mike Brugge and his partner Detective Constable Mel Bailey come across a girl, age unknown, in the parkland in Gordon Square. She was frail, malnourished, dirty and covered in excrement.

What had happened to this girl?  Why was she covering down, shielding her eyes from the light, with a look of horror on her face? She appeared to be non-coherent, totally unengaged and would not speak to anyone. Nothing could penetrate the world where her soul had taken solace.

Mike and Mel set out to find out where she had come from and what had been per plight.  Revealing hypnosis sessions allow them to glimpse some of her pain suffering.  Follow their story deep into the horrors that unfold, causing chaos and turmoil among their own lives.

The detectives are about to discover a horrific, gut-wrenching story, that spanned over four decades. But will it end?

Secrets, lies and the dark side of humanity abound in Tracey Martin-Summers’ debut crime novel, ‘Gordon Square’.

The location of Gordon Square is never explicitly geographically placed, but Martin-Summers’ plot driven, atmospheric writing allows the reader to be swept along into the dark lands of the worst of human nature.

This is a dark and terrifying world where traumatised people are often at the mercy of their own worst instincts and misery is handed on, generation to generation. It has the unhappy ring of verisimilitude to it as well, which is sad.

Martin-Summers’ style is one of dialogue-driven plot propulsion using the characters to examine the impact of cruelty and prolonged suffering on people and the evil that we do to each other.

A punchy, well-crafted crime story heavy on atmospherics and the dark heart of human nature at its worst, alleviated by the power of love – especially between friends – which raises a potentially grim milieu to be a satisfying read.

Debut author Tracey Martin-Summers

Author Bio – Tracy was born in Harrow Weald, Middlesex in 1964, growing up in a loving family home. She married her first husband in 1990, has two grown up children and a granddaughter.

She studied a variety of topics via module learning, embarking on City and Guilds and NVQ courses, ranging from a brief spell in hairdressing to administration and now works for a utility company in North West London.

Tracy has numerous hobbies consisting of landscape painting to landscape gardening and always likes to paint the scene, even if it’s changing the colour scheme, yet again, within her home.

Tracy has always enjoyed writing and used to write short stories for her own children’s amusement but it has only been in the last few years that she has taken this more seriously and has gone on to write her debut crime detective novel, ‘Gordon Square’.

Tracy Married her second husband in 2014 and now lives in Bedfordshire in a sleepy hamlet where she writes whenever she gets a spare moment.

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A Pastry Brush With Death

‘A Brush With Death’ by Fiona Leitch

Jodie NoseyParker is back!

When a body turned up at her last catering gig it certainly put people off the hor d’oeuvres. So with a reputation to salvage, Jodies determined that her next job for the villages festival will go without a hitch.

But when chaos breaks out, Jodie Parker somehow always finds herself in the picture.

The body of a writer from the festival is discovered at the bottom of a cliff, and the prime suspect is the guest of honour, the esteemed painter Duncan Stovall. With her background in the Met police, Jodie has got solving cases down to a fine art and she knows things are rarely as they seem.

Can she find the killer before the village faces another brush with death?

The second book in the Jodie NoseyParker cosy mystery series. Can be read as a standalone. A humorous cosy mystery with a British female sleuth in a small village. Includes one of Jodie’s Tried and Tested Recipes! Written in British English. Mild profanity and peril.

I recently reviewed the first of this series and, as I said then, I do have a soft spot for a cozy crime.

‘A Brush with Death’ picks up fully where the opening installment left off. Having left the Met, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is still down in Cornwall and trouble is never far away.

Leitch is a charming observer of small town mores, in fact the opening line: “Whatever you do, don’t call it a fete,” is the sort of thing which people who have lived in small villages where appearances matter, will certainly recognize.

As Parker goes about trying to find out who has bumped off the guest of honour at the definitely NOT a fete, Leitch reintroduces us to the light hearted ways of her catering detective, this time in a narrative sprinkled with even more pop culture references spanning the decades (“TerminatorAbigail’s Party”)

In lockdown, many people appear to have returned to Agatha Christie or the cozy crime genre to take advantage of escapism in its purest form. Leitch is becoming one of the best at taking the minutiae of village life so beloved of the Golden Age legends and putting a humerous modern spin on it.

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Author Bio –  Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. Her debut novel ‘Dead in Venice’ was published by Audible in 2018 as one of their Crime Grant finalists. After living in London, Hastings and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

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Sherlock on the Case

‘Preserved’ by Fiona Sherlock

The cover of Fiona Sherlock’s latest novel ‘Preserved’

She’s stuck in the past, the killer wants to immortalise his future. When a local farmer announces on social media that he has discovered a bog body in Ardee, the world’s historians are keen to explore the secrets of the life and grisly death of the victim. Antique journalist January Quail is fighting to keep her newspaper job and uncovers far more than she bargained for.

The victim is actually a recent murder, and January uses her nose for the truth to investigate the County Louth town. From shopkeeper to the publican, everyone is a suspect, but when the Gardai can’t find the killer, can January?

Once she sets down the liqueur glass, January gains the confidence of the lead garda investigator. Within days, the case unravels into a much more dangerous situation with a killer on the loose.

Despite the risk, January is electrified that this newest discovery has come at the perfect time to inject some colour into her flailing career. January relinquishes her old ways to fight for survival, abandoning her antiques column and vintage corsets to solve a cryptic crime that has the experts puzzled. This woman who longs to lives in the past must now fight for her life in the present.

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Author Fiona Sherlock. Dressed like Miss Marple

Author Bio –

Fiona Sherlock is a crime writer from Bective, in Ireland. Her murder mystery games are played across the world.  She also writes poetry and prose but cannot stay away from a good murder.  After spending a decade in Dublin working in public relations and journalism, she moved to the country for mid-day fires and elderflower champagne.

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Aunty (and niece) on the Case

The cover of ‘The Invisible Case’ by Isabella Muir

‘The Invisible Case’ by Isabella Muir

Narrator: Bridget Eaton

Heartbreaking tragedy or cold-blooded murder…?

An Italian stranger arrives in Tamarisk Bay and brings with him mystery and intrigue….

It’s Easter 1970 in the seaside town of Tamarisk Bay. Amateur sleuth and professional librarian, Janie Juke, is settling into motherhood and some quality time with her family. When her Aunt Jessica is due back from Rome after nine years travelling around Europe, she arrives back in town with a new Italian friend, Luigi, and the whole family soon get embroiled in a tangle of mystery and suspicion, with death and passion at the heart of the story.

As time runs out on Luigi as prime suspect for murder, Janie has to use all of her powers of deduction in the footsteps of her hero, Hercule Poirot, to uncover the facts. Why did Luigi come to Tamarisk Bay? What is the truth about his family?

As Luigi’s story unfolds, tragedy seems to haunt the past, present and unless Janie acts fast, possibly what is yet to come.

If you love Agatha Christie style twists and turns, or are a fan of Call the Midwife, Endeavour, Inspector George Gently and all those great 60s characters, then you will love this Sussex Crime series.

The third of Isabella Muir’s Janie Juke mysteries is ‘The Invisible Case’. Set in the fictional Sussex seaside town of Tamarisk Bay, this novel begins with the return from Italy of Janie’s aunt, Jessica, with her young Italian travelling companion, Luigi.

Janie Juke is a charming protagonist. A part time librarian and full time busy body, Janie is building up a reputation in Tamarisk Bay as the go-to person when people need a little help.

Ably supported by her lovely young husban1d, her blind father and, this time, her aunt, Janie has a supportive home environment for sniffing out clues and plenty of time to indulge her hero worship of Hercule Poirot.

So far so good. For me, however, the biggest plus of the novel is Jessica. The free spirited aunty who helped raise Janie, her return from nearly a decade travelling offers another element to the story and is a live wire character who Janie can investigate alongside and spark off.

The biggest negative of the novel is Luigi. Whilst it is always interesting to have an unsympathetic character, Luigi is such a whiny, despicable man/child that you not only don’t care if Janie clears his name, you absolutely long for her to have him go to the gallows – abolition of hanging not withstanding.

‘The Invisible Case’ is a quick read, cheerful in aspect and faithful to its cosy crime heritage and wearing its love for Agatha Christie and Golden Age of crime fiction lightly.  

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Author Isabella Muir

Author Bio –

Isabella is never happier than when she is immersing herself in the sights, sounds and experiences of the 1960s. Researching all aspects of family life back then formed the perfect launch pad for her works of fiction. Isabella rediscovered her love of writing fiction during two happy years working on and completing her MA in Professional Writing and since then has gone to publish five novels, two novellas and a short story collection.

The Invisible Case is the third book in her Sussex Crime Mystery series, featuring young librarian and amateur sleuth, Janie Juke. Set in the late 1960s, in the fictional seaside town of Tamarisk Bay, we meet Janie, who looks after the mobile library. She is an avid lover of Agatha Christie stories – in particular Hercule Poirot – using all she has learned from the Queen of Crime to help solve crimes and mysteries. All three novels are now available as audiobooks.

As well as three novels, there are three novellas in the series, which explore some of the back story to the Tamarisk Bay characters.

Her latest novel, Crossing the Line, is the first of a new series of Sussex Crimes, featuring retired Italian detective, Giuseppe Bianchi who arrives in the quiet seaside town of Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, to find a dead body on the beach and so the story begins…

Isabella’s standalone novel, The Forgotten Children, deals with the emotive subject of the child migrants who were sent to Australia – again focusing on family life in the 1960s, when the child migrant policy was still in force.

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Sealing the Deal

‘A Deadly Deal’ by Simon Fairfax

Moneymakers are king, no matter their methods. When an honest man stumbles into their world of deceit, will they drag him down to destruction?

London, 1986. Rupert Brett is eager to make his mark. But even though he’s newly qualified to tackle jobs within the cutthroat property brokering industry, his ambitions are blunted when he must face off against ruthless competitors. And with his career on the line, he finds himself adrift in the murky waters of insider trading where knowledge is the real currency.

Clinging to his ideals but beginning to realize how deep the corruption goes, Rupert’s unprepared when a group of hard-nosed developers frame him for murder. With few friends and the law on his tail, his only way out may be a bargain with the devil.

Can the young surveyor thwart his enemies’ plans in time to save his reputation and his life?

‘A Deadly Deal’ is the immersive first book in the Deal Series of historical crime thrillers. If you like conflicted characters, rich period details, and complex plotting, then you’ll love Simon Fairfax’s gritty page-turner.

The cover of ‘A Deadly Deal’ The first novel in the Rupert Brett series from Simon Fairfax

A Deadly Deal’ is quite a high wire act by Simon Fairfax. Selling Chartered Surveying as a potentially exciting, high octane route for an international man of mystery sounds like a tougher sell than a “cosy” cupboard in Zone 5 with subsidence.

Add in a setting in the 80s, complete with all the chrome, coke and boisterous sexism inherent to our memories of the decade, the brash barrow boys getting rich quick and the crass fixation on money for money’s sake and that’s going to repel some readers and finally, select a hero called “Rupert” with his public school vowels.

There are going to be readers who don’t want to give this a chance.

And yet, they are wrong. Fairfax writes well. The novel opens with a sudden twist of violence in a Bristolian night and he does manage to keep the pace up.

Those City Boy clichés of their setting don’t detract from the novel and it was refreshing to revisit a time when property in the capital was not solely owned by money laundering kleptocrats.

For anyone looking for a commercially minded, rip roaring read of a man forced to use his skills in a high octane race against time, Simon Fairfax may just have the goods to seal the deal.

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Author Simon Fairfax

Author Bio – As a lover of crime thrillers and mystery, I turned what is seen by others as a dull 9 – 5 job into something that is exciting, as close to real life as possible, with Rupert Brett, my international man of mystery whose day job is that of a Chartered Surveyor.

Rupert is an ordinary man thrown into extraordinary circumstances who uses his wit, guile and training to survive.

Each book is written from my own experiences, as close to the truth as possible, set against world events that really happened. I go out and experience all the weapons, visit the places Rupert travels to, speak to the technical experts and ensure that it as realistic, as possible allowing you to delve deep in to the mystery, losing yourself in it for a few hours.

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Death A La Carte And Served with Aplomb

‘Murder on the Menu’ by Fiona Leitch

The first book in a NEW cosy mystery series!

Still spinning from the hustle and bustle of city life, Jodie NoseyParker is glad to be back in the Cornish village she calls home. Having quit the Met Police in search of something less dangerous, the change of pace means she can finally start her dream catering company and raise her daughter, Daisy, somewhere safer.

But theres nothing like having your first job back at home to be catering an ex-boyfriends wedding to remind you of just how small your village is. And when the bride, Cheryl, vanishes Jodie is drawn into the investigation, realising that life in the countryside might not be as quaint as she remembers…

With a missing bride on their hands, there is murder and mayhem around every corner but surely saving the day will be a piece of cake for this not-so-amateur sleuth?

The first book in the Murder on the Menu cosy mystery series. Can be read as a standalone. A humorous cosy mystery with a British female sleuth in a small village. Includes one of Jodie’s Tried and Tested Recipes! Written in British English. Mild profanity and peril.

The cover of Fiona Leitch’s first book in the new Nosey Parker series, ‘Murder on the Menu’

I do have a soft spot for a cosy crime. I know that the beauty of the crime genre lies in its ability to hold such fundamentally different writers as, for recent examples from this blog, Liz Mistry and her gritty crime dramas straight out of Bradford, the latter day Enid Blyton represented by Tessa Buckley  and the, frankly bonkers, charm of Syl Waters and her guina pig detective together under one banner, with something for everyoizlne.

Here Fiona Leitch has managed to create another version of a frightfully nice world – except for the corpses, naturally.

Moving back down to Cornwall after having left the Met, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is greeted by a place which has not changed much since she grew up there. Ex-boyfriends are still there, mothers hover with tea on offer and people’s the ex-wives of characters’ drive HGVs up and down the country “with just [a] dog – a Pomeranian called Germaine – for company”. It’s adorable.

It doesn’t take long for the bodies to begin piling up, a man who Jodie used to care about is accused and this catering investigator is putting her skills to good use clearing his name.

If you are looking for an enjoyable romp, this is a nippy, zippy tale with a talented writer with a nose (geddit?) for characters in search of some TLC.

Come back next week for a review of Nosey Parker Book 2: A Brush with Death

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Author Fiona Leitch

Author Bio –  Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. Her debut novel ‘Dead in Venice’ was published by Audible in 2018 as one of their Crime Grant finalists. After living in London, Hastings and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

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Unravelling the Mistry of Bradford

‘Dark Memories’ by Liz Mistry

Three letters. Three murders. The clock is ticking…

When the body of a homeless woman is found under Bradford’s railway arches, DS Nikki Parekh and her trusty partner DC Sajid Malik are on the case.

With little evidence, it’s impossible to make a breakthrough, and when Nikki receives a newspaper clipping taunting her about her lack of progress in catching the killer, she wonders if she has a personal link to the case.

When another seemingly unrelated body is discovered, Nikki receives another note. Someone is clearly trying to send her clues… but who?

And then a third body is found.

This time on Nikki’s old street, opposite the house she used to live in as a child. And there’s another message… underneath the victim’s body.

With nothing but the notes to connect the murders, Nikki must revisit the traumatic events of her childhood to work out her connection to the investigation.

But some memories are best left forgotten, and it’s going to take all Nikki’s inner strength to catch the killer…

Before they strike again.

The cover of Liz Mistry’s ‘Dark Memories’

Liz Mistry has made a career out of her Bradford-based detective stories. It is fair to say that cheerful, they are not. This is crime fiction as gutter-level grime with drug addicted prostitutes with blackened stumps for teeth.

If you’re looking for “cosy” crime, then Mistry probably isn’t for you. However, if you want well plotted, sparsely written, taut thrillers with some truly nasty villains, then Mistry is for you.

DS Nikki Parekh is a very grounded guide to the investigation, a woman of complex emotions – Mistry is a top notch writer of anxiety and the need to escape from pressurised situations.

As a novelist she is also constantly growing in confidence. Here, we slalom between narrators, first person and third person to entice, excite and conceal the motivations of the protagonists.

And, it is fair to say, Parekh and her partner DC Sajid Malik, do have a lot on their plates. They are still processing the trauma of the trafficking case which comes in the book which precedes this one, as well as tackling a killer who is picking the victims off and experiencing an unnatural gratification – blood spattering on their lips described as “erotic” at one stage a particularly effective way of unsettling the reader.

This novel is sure to be a firm favourite with anyone who wants to go down, down to the neglected areas of Bradford, down to the seedy underworld in which Parekh and Malik ply their trade, down into the well-crafted, excitingly well-plotted, hard bitten novels of Liz Mistry.

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Bradford-based author Liz Mistry

Author Bio – Born in Scotland, Made in Bradford sums up Liz Mistry’s life. Over thirty years ago she moved from a small village in West Lothian to Yorkshire to get her teaching degree. Once here, Liz fell in love with three things; curries, the rich cultural diversity of the city … and her Indian husband (not necessarily in this order). Now thirty years, three children, two cats (Winky and Scumpy) and a huge extended family later, Liz uses her experiences of living and working in the inner city to flavour her writing. Her gritty crime fiction police procedural novels set in Bradford embrace the city she describes as ‘Warm, Rich and Fearless’ whilst exploring the darkness that lurks beneath.

Struggling with severe clinical depression and anxiety for a large number of years, Liz often includes mental health themes in her writing. She credits the MA in Creative Writing she took at Leeds Trinity University with helping her find a way of using her writing to navigate her ongoing mental health struggles. Being a debut novelist in her fifties was something Liz had only dreamed of and she counts herself lucky, whilst pinching herself regularly to make sure it’s all real. One of the nicest things about being a published author is chatting with and responding to readers’ feedback and Liz regularly does events at local libraries, universities, literature festivals and open mics. She also teaches creative writing too. Now, having nearly completed a PhD in Creative Writing focussing on ‘the absence of the teen voice in adult crime fiction’ and ‘why expansive narratives matter’, Liz is chock full of ideas to continue writing.

In her spare time, Liz loves pub quizzes (although she admits to being rubbish at them), dancing (she does a mean jig to Proud Mary – her opinion, not ratified by her family), visiting the varied Yorkshire landscape, with Robin Hoods Bay being one of her favourite coastal destinations, listening to music, reading and blogging about all things crime fiction on her blog, The Crime Warp. 

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Twitter @LizMistryAuthor


Who Can Unlock Our True Selves?

The cover of Ashleigh Nugnet’s novel blurring fact and fiction, ‘Locks’

‘LOCKS: A Story Based on True Events’ by Ashleigh Nugent

“1993 was the year that Stephen Lawrence got murdered by racists, and I became an angry Black lad with a ‘chip on his shoulder’.”

Aeon is a mixed-race teenager from an English suburb. He is desperate to be understand the Black identity foisted on him by racist police, teachers, and ‘friends’. For want of Black role models, Aeon has immersed himself in gangsta rap, he’s trying to grow dreadlocks, and he’s bought himself some big red boots.

And now he’s in Jamaica.

Within days of being in Jamaica, Aeon has been mugged and stabbed, arrested and banged up.

Aeon has to fight for survival, fight for respect, and fight for his big red boots. And he has to fight for his identity because, here, Aeon is the White boy.

In some ways, it can be difficult for a privileged, white, liberal, middle class man to review a novel like this, (not that it’s ever stopped those of us from that category sharing our tuppence’s worth, it has to be said).

Presumably, the starting point is to acknowledge that I have never shared the awful experiences of racism which are shown in this wonderful novel by Ashleigh Nugent. You find yourself saying, “It wasn’t that bad then was it?” and, one suspects that the answer is, “Yeap! And worse…” To not know that is to come face to face with privilege, race and class in the UK of the 90s.

For those of us who have that good fortune, it is the Liverpool-based reminiscences which punch hardest. Nugent has crafted a narrative which jumps between his memory of growing up as a mixed race boy in Liverpool and the disorientating “foreignness” of his trip to Jamaica.

The division for our lead character, Aeon, between being the “white” man in his father’s homeland and the “black” man in his own homeland.

There are also some rather charming narrative passages where Aeon narrates his own Joseph Campbell ‘Hero’s Journey’ as taught to him by a primary teacher.

This novel enjoys blurring fact and fiction, memoir and fable. It is a sensory journey through a vividly reproduced Caribbean experience filled with the shockingly mundane reality of violence, the paranoia of mixing drugs and alcohol and the stress which comes with trying to find an identity – something which all teenagers remember.

I must be of a similar age to the character of Aeon (and, by extension, Nugent), perhaps a few years younger. But I remember that explosion of gangsta rap, the visceral thrill of hearing oppression articulated and a lid being lifted on a life you didn’t know existed.

Aeon is captivated and tries to live the life. It is well worth your time finding out whether he makes it out the other side.

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Author Bio –

Author, playwright and campaigner, Ashleigh Nugent

Ashleigh Nugent has been published in academic journals, poetry anthologies, and magazines. His latest work, ‘LOCKS’, is based on a true story: the time he spent his 17th birthday in a Jamaican detention centre.

‘LOCKS’ won the 2013 Commonword Memoir Competition and has had excerpts published by Writing on the Wall and in bido lito magazine.

Ashleigh’s one-man-show, based on ‘LOCKS’, has won support from SLATE / Eclipse Theatre, and won a bursary from Live Theatre, Newcastle. The show has received rave audience reviews following showings in theatres and prisons throughout the UK.

Ashleigh is also a director at RiseUp CiC, where he uses his own life experience, writing, and performance to support prisoners and inspire change.

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