Date for Your Diary: Hunting for a Reading Pleasure

‘A Date To Die For’ by Evie Hunter

The start of brand-new Cozy Crime series! Welcome to Hopgood Hall.

An unlikely duo…

When investigative journalist, Alexi Ellis, falls victim to cutbacks, she and Cosmo, her anti-social feral cat, head for beautiful Hopgood Hall, where they plan to lick their wounds in the boutique hotel run by her old friends, Cheryl and Drew Hopgood.

A missing woman…

But when she arrives Alexi discovers Cheryl and Drew both distraught. Their close friend, Natalie Parker, who recently settled in the area, has gone missing. Alexi’s sure the woman has just taken a trip somewhere, but she still has a nose for a story and agrees to look into it.

A case to solve!So too does ex-Met Police detective turned private eye, Jack Maddox. Natalie Parker had been using his sister’s online dating agency and Jack needs to find her before his sister’s business is ruined.

Reluctantly, Alexi, Jack – and Cosmo! – join forces to find out what happened to Natalie. But soon they discover secrets that someone desperately wants to make sure are never revealed!

Perfect for fans of Faith Martin, Frances Evesham and Emma Davies.

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I think most of us have been there, haven’t we? Escaping to the metaphorical arms of friends when our business or personal life has gone the way of all things?

And there’s something especially true with journalists: fat can twist on a dime and what was once pearls can become swine overnight with little in the way of warning.

When that happens to Alexi in Evie Hunter’s ‘A Date to Die For’, there is at least the comfort of having a mysterious disappearance to investigate, alongside her protective giant cat and private eye, Jack Maddox.

All good clean fun. I’ve read some of Evie Hunter’s work for Boldwood before, and she is a writer with real talent. Hunter weaves her tales with satisfying twists and turns and, although on the face of it this novel has a fairly traditional structure: mysterious disappearance, lovely rural location, small-ish cast of suspects, Hunter handles her ingredients like the competent authorial chef she truly is.

If you like a modern turn on traditional fare, then ‘A Date to Die For,’ will leave you pleasingly sated and is an excellent novel for this time of year as the gloom of winter is lifting, let Hunter take you on a tour.

Author Bio –

Evie Hunter has written a great many successful regency romances as Wendy Soliman and is now redirecting her talents to produce dark gritty thrillers and cozy crime for BoldwoodFor the past twenty years she has lived the life of a nomad, roaming the world on interesting forms of transport, but has now settled back in the UK. 

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Secrets and Students by the Seaside

‘A Notable Omission’ by Isabella Muir

A 1970s debate on equality is overshadowed by a deadly secret…

Spring 1970. Sussex University is hosting a debate about equality for women. But when one of the debating group goes missing, attention turns away from social injustice to something more sinister.

It seems every one of the group has something to hide, and when a second tragedy occurs, two of the delegates – amateur sleuth Janie Juke, and reporter Libby Frobisher – are prepared to make themselves unpopular to flush out the truth. Who is lying and why?

Alongside the police investigation, Janie and Libby are determined to prise answers from the tight-lipped group, as they find themselves in a race against time to stop another victim being targeted.

In ‘A Notable Omission’ we meet Janie at the start of a new decade. When we left Janie at the end of ‘The Invisible Case’ she was enjoying her new found skills and success as an amateur sleuth. Here we meet her a few months later, stealing a few days away from being a wife and mother, attending a local conference on women’s liberation to do some soul-searching…

“My daughter Lucy wishes to spend her next long vacation on a kibbutz. Or perhaps I should say, as she’s at the University of Sussex, another kibbutz.” (Jim Hacker, Yes Minister, season 2)

There was something in those red bricks, wasn’t there? Sussex had the reputation alluded to in that episode of the greatest sitcom ever (fact: not opinion. Honest) My own alma mater, Stirling, was the place where the Queen was egged. Malcolm Bradbury and Tom Sharpe built literary careers on skewering the absurdities of the new universities and their idiosyncrasies.

And here, Isabella Muir reintroduces our heroine, Janie Juke librarian-turned-amateur sleuth Janie is a young Miss Marple, here married and back on the prowl as she attends that famously louche institution, thrusting the stifling Sussex atmosphere of the respectable classes with those long haired, rebellious students.

Picking up mere months after The Invisible Case,, Muir continues her rich vein of form. Rattling along and wearing the writer’s love of Agatha Christie on her sleeve, the crime fighting duo of Juke and reporter Libby Frobisher are always welcome on the winter nights.

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Isabella is never happier than when she is immersing herself in the sights, sounds and experiences of family life in southern England in past decades – specifically those years from the Second World War through to the early 1970s. Researching all aspects of life back then has formed the perfect launch pad for her works of fiction. It was during two happy years working on and completing her MA in Professional Writing when Isabella rekindled her love of writing fiction and since then she has gone on to publish seven novels, six novellas and two short story collections.

This latest novel, ‘A Notable Omission’, is the fourth book in her successful Sussex Crime Mystery series, featuring young librarian and amateur sleuth, Janie Juke. The early books in the series are set in the late 1960s in the fictional seaside town of Tamarisk Bay, where we meet Janie, who looks after the mobile library. She is an avid lover of Agatha Christie stories – in particular Hercule Poirot. Janie uses all she has learned from the Queen of Crime to help solve crimes and mysteries. This latest novel in the series is set along the south coast in Brighton in early 1970, a time when young people were finding their voice and using it to rail against social injustice.

As well as four novels, there are six novellas in the series, set during the Second World War, exploring some of the back story to the Tamarisk Bay characters.

Isabella’s love of Italy shines through all her work and, as she is half-Italian, she has enjoyed bringing all her crime novels to an Italian audience with Italian translations, which are very well received.

Isabella has also written a second series of Sussex Crimes, set in the sixties, featuring retired Italian detective, Giuseppe Bianchi, who is escaping from tragedy in Rome, only to arrive in the quiet seaside town of Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, to come face-to-face with it once more.

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.

Find out more about Isabella and her books by visiting her website at:

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Questions and Answers with Tim Parks

You can read a review of Tim Parks’ latest novel, ‘Hotel Milano’ here:

You can buy Tim Park’s latest novel Hotel Milano – and support the blog – by purchasing the book from

PAJNewman (PAJ): ‘Hotel Milano’ tackles Coronavirus head on and is set in a very specific time period. Yet, most novelists I’ve spoken to recently, say they have decided to try and skirt the pandemic. When did you know you were going to base your latest work so directly in this time frame and, I suppose, what was the thing which drew you to it as a topic?

Tim Parks (TP): Well, I’d beg to differ. Neither Coronavirus nor Covid are mentioned in the book. Nor does the word lockdown occur. Yes there is an epidemic, yes people find their movements drastically restricted. But the only thing that interested me was the dramatic situation that this circumstance allowed me to explore: an older man, who doesn’t follow the news, suddenly finds himself isolated, then forced into a relationship with people of a different ethnic community whom he would never otherwise have met, in a drama that immediately presents itself as crucial for their survival. It was this existential drama that interested me. Not a grand novel about the pandemic. It’s too soon for that I suspect and anyway it wouldn’t be my kind of novel.

PAJ: How was your own pandemic? Did you adapt fairly well to lockdown?

TP: Like everyone else I hate being shut in the house. But for the purposes of the book, what mattered was understanding just how fragile normality is, how swiftly the circumstances of your life can change.

PAJ: In terms of the novel, it has a first person, stream of consciousness narrative. Do you begin from a position of wanting to write in that form or, for you, does the story dictate the narrative?

TP: For many years, Frank, an ageing journalist, has refused to follow the news in whatever form. Newspaper, radio, TV, internet. He’s isolated and he’s sought isolation. Hence what happens is an even greater surprise to him. Given this situation, the first person seemed the way to go. I imagined it this way. A person locked in their own private world. It is not a ‘stream of consciousness’ in the Joycean sense. Joyce wrote in third person and includes a lot of passive perceptions that waft through the mind. The first person in ‘Hotel Milano‘ is very much a man debating with himself. What we get is what he consciously articulates. But I always have fun playing with the way the voice works. It’s one of the pleasures of writing.

PAJ: Based on reading some of your previous, non-fiction works, it appears to me like there are a number of biographical parallels with your own life. Are those resonances important for you as a novelist?

TP: For sure one can imagine things more easily when there are parallels with your own experience. One can play with turns your life might have taken and so on. It’s rare to find a good novel where the author doesn’t have some intimate knowledge of the places and people in the story.

PAJ: It seems like a novel of the now, encompassing loneliness, the migrant crisis, the role of the news in the narratives of our lives, grief and the virtue of caring for others. Were these threads you planned to explore or is there a more organic discovery as you were writing Frank’s journey?

TP: My novels aren’t essays. Perhaps they dramatize phases in the arc of a life. In this case old age. One of the things that most perplexes me in Milan is how separate the various ethnic communities are, how little we meet each other or know about each other. We presume this or that about the lives of others, but it’s another thing entirely to be forced to engage with people in dramatic circumstances. Frank suddenly finds himself in a position to do something noble, but dangerous, this when he’d presumed his active life was over. What would a situation like this feel like? How will Frank respond?

PAJ: You have a varied career as a man of letters, encompassing roles as a university professor, translator, reviewer, writer of non-fiction and celebrated novelist: do you have a favourite role and what dictates your next project?

TP: My ambition was always to be a novelist. Then I realized that it’s much more fun to write a range of things, and to teach and translate, though I’ve given up teaching now. Life is richer if one keeps it varied. And all these professions feed into each other. Generally what determines the next project is the requirement that it be refreshingly different from the one before. You could think of some kind crop rotation. I leave the novel field fallow for a year or two, then come back to it. But novels remain ‘the ambition’.

PAJ: Following on from this, do you have a “typical” writing day?

TP: Write in the morning. Go to the gym at lunch or early evening. Other stuff in the afternoon. But nothing’s fixed. There are times when I’ll write all day and others when I’ll drop it for a week.

PAJ: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

TP: I know so little about the situation for a first-time writer these days. What matters above all, I think is a profound sense of vocation, a determination to keep learning and improving and trying. I had written five or six novels before I was published.

PAJ: Obviously at least two of your non-fiction books – ‘A Season with Verona’ and ‘The Hero’s Way’ have required enormous time and commitment just in order to complete gathering the raw material for. Were they enjoyable and are they artificially dreamt up or things which you would have done organically without the objective of a book at the end?

TP: I have never done anything in order to write a book about it. But when I decide to write a book about things I’ve planned to do anyway, I might start getting more deeply involved than I would have done anyway. In the end, the thought, Perhaps I could write a book about this walk (‘The Hero’s Way‘), allows me to engage in the whole adventure much more intensely. In the same way, I read more excitedly and carefully when I know I’m going to write a review about a book, or an essay on its author. Life and writing are wonderfully mixed up for me.

PAJ: On the subject of ‘A Season with Verona’, to a certain subset of readers, this is still perhaps the work you are best known for in the UK. Now 20 years old, I was wondering do you still support the club and are you still able to make it to games? Do you ever re-read your older work?

TP: I live in Milan now, so I’m hardly a regular at the Bentegodi. But I certainly keep my eye on Hellas and watch anxiously for each result. A melancholy habit this year. Only very rarely do I pick up an old book of mine and look at a couple of pages. Perhaps because I have to mention it in an interview or at a presentation. I like to stay focused on what I’m doing now.

PAJ: Books like ‘Italian Neighbours’ and ‘An Italian Education’ can now seem like postcards from the moon to UK-based readers post-Brexit. As a long-standing Brit-abroad, how do you reflect on the changes to your country of origin?

TP: I’m not sure I understand this question. There was no free movement of people in Europe when I arrived in Italy. I had to fill out endless forms, apply for permission every three months. Today, I see plenty of people around me in Milan who have come from non-EU countries, Britain and the USA included. The days of travel are not over. Nor is my affection for Britain, though I wouldn’t claim to ‘understand’ the place, having been away so long. It’s always a great pleasure to me when I go back for a few days.

PAJ: What is the question you wished interviewers and readers would ask but never do?

TP: Really, I have no such wishes. One hopes readers will find one’s books a pleasure. The aim is always to intrigue, to establish an intimacy, to keep the reader guessing about what the story is most deeply about. Perhaps because the greatest pleasure for me as a reader is the book that stirs the greatest activity of mind. As for interviewers, they must ask what they want to know. Fortunately it’s not a police interrogation and I don’t have to make sure my answers are consistent.

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Born in Manchester in 1954, Tim Parks grew up in London and studied at Cambridge and Harvard. In 1981 he moved to Italy where he has lived ever since. He has written nineteen novels including Europa (shortlisted for the Booker prize), DestinyCleaverIn Extremis and, most recently, Hotel Milano.

During the nineties he wrote two, personal non-fiction accounts of life in northern Italy, Italian Neighbours and An Italian Education, books that won acclaim and popularity for their anthropological wryness. These were complemented in 2002 by A Season with Verona, a grand overview of Italian life as seen through the business and passion of football, and Italian Ways, on and off the rails from Milan to Palermo. 

A regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books, in recent years he has been publishing a series of blogs on writing, reading, translation and the like in the New York Review online.

Aside from his own writing, Tim has translated works by Moravia, Pavese, Calvino, Calasso, Machiavelli and Leopardi; his book, Translating Style, which analyses Italian translations of the English modernists, is considered a classic in its field. (Biography adapted from

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