When Ann-Marie Ross murders her abusive husband and feeds him to the pigs, she thinks she’s got away with murder and secured the future of her Scottish cider farm. But she soon finds herself having to keep more than one deadly secret to protect those closest to her. As four women embrace their new-found independence, Ann-Marie is tormented by the threat of discovery. A darkly comic tale of murder, friendship and Love.
Lorraine Turnbull’s ‘Mum’s the Word’ will probably get listed under the cozy crime or black comedy genre. And this is fair enough. It is darkly comedic, Turnbull has a love of the contrast and ironies of living and it does have the sweet, “oh well, never mind,” aspect which can make cozy crime so easy to read.
What is also has – especially if you’re a reader in rural Scotland who also has to care for an ill, elderly parent – is a sense of dismay at the way that society has trapped the women in this novel.
“Used” is the word which keeps coming to mind: for their inheritances, for their cooking, for their patience, for their bodies. It is a darkly comic novel, but it is just dark in its view of human nature and how society has trapped people in dependency and misery.
This is not to make ‘Mum’s the Word’ sound depressing or po-faced. It is a romp of rare humour and entertainment, with a Glaswegian’s eye for the humour of the macabre detail. After all, there’s more fun at a Glasgow funeral than an Edinburgh wedding. Just ask Ann-Marie Ross…
Author Bio – Lorraine Turnbull was born in Glasgow where she lived until 2005 when she and her family moved to Cornwall to run a smallholding. She relocated to France in 2017 where she continues to make cider, writes books and learns French.
This is the opening passage of Rat Island. It captures how I experienced the maelstrom of 1995 42nd Street in Manhattan and gives a pen-picture of the novel’s protagonist, Callum Burke, and his past.
For a review of John Steele’s ‘Rat Island‘ click HERE
Callum Burke was late for the Chinese taxidermist’s murder. He shoved a Camel between cracked lips and sparked his Zippo then leaned against the wall next to the subway entrance on 42nd. He lit the cigarette like a fuse. His watch read eight-twenty.
A handsome drunk black guy in khaki pants and a busted-up jacket caught his eye and sauntered over, flexing and weaving through pedestrians like the booze in his system had liquefied his bones.
‘Excuse me, man, you got thirty cents?’ Alcohol fumes seeped through Callum’s tobacco cloud.
‘No, I don’t have any change.’
‘Thirty cents, man. I just need thirty cents for my bus to Chester.’
‘Sorry. No change.’
‘Alright. God loves you anyway, man.’
The drunk lurched off as a Latino girl in a PVC miniskirt with a sweet face and glazed eyes strolled up.
‘Hey, baby. You all by yourself?’
‘Just like the song.’
‘You want some company? I got a half hour to spare.’
A wired, scrawny white youth made a move after the girl tottered away.
‘Hey, man, you got the time?’ His voice was drowned by the stream of traffic heading to and from 8th Avenue. Callum cocked his head toward the youth as a siren howled from somewhere behind Port Authority.
The youth leaned closer. ‘You got the time?’
Callum checked his watch. ‘Uh, it’s – ’
‘I got blow, speed, crack, H. What you need?’
‘No, I’m good.’
‘It’s aaaaall good, man’
Callum pinched the bridge of his nose. A cop was standing on the corner fifteen feet away working hard not to notice the wicked business going down on his patch. The buildings of midtown rocketed skyward, swallowed by low rags of cloud oppressing the early evening bustle of the streets. A tide of gossip, questions, information and bawdy profanity assaulted him. Before, in the other metropolis of Hong Kong, it had been just as raucous but most of it was Cantonese backwash, white noise he filtered out. Now it was rushing him, penetrating his skull and cannoning around in his head.
‘Thirty cents, man? Port Authority’s just across the street.’
The black man reappeared on his right, face bathed in yellow from a neon sign declaring, In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him.
‘I told you already,’ said Callum.
‘Hey baby, you busy?’
‘You wanna’ get high?’
‘You wanna’ fuck?’
‘What time is it, brother?’
Callum dropped the spent smoke on the sidewalk and ground it out with his boot. He sparked up another and imagined himself through their eyes: the hustlers, the hookers and pushers. He looked younger than his twenty-nine years, despite the dark two-day growth on his face. A thatch of unruly black hair cut short and a nose skewed by a couple of prime shots in the ring. A wide mouth and a funny accent, maybe Irish but not like that comedy Top-O’-The-Mornin’ brogue people put on for St. Paddy’s. Heavy black brows over affective hazel eyes that were tender or playful or flinty at the whim of his moods.
Those eyes were his greatest tell.
The cop had crossed 42nd Street and disappeared downstream among the mass of citizens heading toward Penn Station on 8th Avenue. Callum took in the parking lot opposite, Port Authority Bus Terminal diagonal, the huge Camel mural across 8th to his right, and wondered how long he could live with this noise and fury.
Amid the chaos, a beautiful woman dragged a small child by the arm toward the subway entrance where Callum stood. Her hair was darker than shadow, her skin amber under the lights of the city, like she was sculpted from gemstone. She was East Asian but looked nothing like Irene Chu. Yet her face as she swept the child into her arms pulled Callum back to Hong Kong and his estranged wife. The child burrowed her head deep by her mother’s neck and Callum felt the memory leave a cold crater in his chest as he thought of his daughter, how Tara would do the same. Tara’s hands could barely meet as they encircled his neck back then.
The mother and child passed him by on 42nd and disappeared down the steps to the subway and he felt a part of him descend with them.
Callum pulled hard on the cigarette. That was his problem – he always went hard. Drank too hard. Gambled too hard. Maybe he loved too hard, now that his family was gone. He’d blown it with them and almost blown it with his job.
And now he was in New York.
He’d been here once before, a short trip with Irene but that had been the Empire State Building, Central Park and museums. This, tonight, was low cloud crawling through midtown, the buildings monoliths scattered with pinpricks of light. Rain was close. He dropped his smoke.
He scratched his head. No one likes to watch a man murdered but Callum couldn’t duck this one, so might as well get it over with. It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen plenty of bodies. But this time, he’d watch the Chinese taxidermist’s life snuffed out while he sat with a coffee and a cigarette. As he turned to enter the subway, he checked the change in his pocket and snorted.
PRAISE FOR RAT ISLAND AND JOHN STEELE:
‘A nonstop thrill ride… a lyrical, super read filled with plenty of intrigue, action and suspense and sent against an exotic and seldom explored corner of crime fiction’ Gerald Posner
‘RAT ISLAND speeds and thrashes with the dangerous energy of the Manhattan streets which are so vividly recalled’ Gary Donnelly
‘John Steele writes with grit, pace and authenticity’ Claire McGowan
Author Bio –
John Steele was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1995, at the age of twenty-two he travelled to the United States and has since lived and worked on three continents, including a thirteen-year spell in Japan. Among past jobs he has been a drummer in a rock band, an illustrator, a truck driver and a teacher of English. He now lives in England with his wife and daughter. He began writing short stories, selling them to North American magazines and fiction digests. He has published three previous novels: ‘RAVENHILL’, ‘SEVEN SKINS’ and ‘DRY RIVER’, the first of which was longlisted for a CWA Debut Dagger award. John’s books have been described as “Remarkable” by the Sunday Times, “Dark and thrilling” by Claire McGowan, and “Spectacular” by Tony Parsons. The Irish Independent called John ‘a writer of huge promise’ and Gary Donnelly appointed him ‘the undisputed champion of the modern metropolitan thriller’.
It’s the year 2000 and 78-year-old Mickey O’Rourke has been a Los Angeles PI for a very long time. He’d thought he’d seen it all until the disappearance of porn star Jeffrey Strokes sends him from the sex-filled studios of the San Fernando Valley to the desperate streets of Compton where Mickey’s final case becomes his biggest test.
Flash back to 1998 and struggling hair salon employee Jemeka Johnson, suspecting boyfriend Ray-Ray of infidelity, follows him one night from their East Compton home to what turns out to be a drug deal gone sour where a twist of fate finds Jemeka tossed onto a dark and dangerous path—one that offers huge reward for someone bold enough to seize it.
Meanwhile, in 1999, tired of robbing small-town diners and shooting bad dope in filthy motel rooms, newlyweds Richie and Alabama return to LA in search of the perfect score.
Paths cross and past meets present as bad decisions hurtle toward worse consequences—and no one will ever be the same. (Synopsis courtesy of http://www.philipelliottfiction.com)
It was one of those slow burning books for me. When I had begun it, I had been sampling the movie references like a wine connoisseur ticks off flavour notes on the tongue: there’s a Heat, here comes a Reservoir Dogs. Do I detect a soupcon of Jackie Brown? I do. Notes of Pulp Fiction laced with TheGodfather, Baby Driver, No Country for Old Men and Get Shorty? It arrives on the tongue with gusto.
It is then interesting to read the second in Eliott’s Angel City series which also arrives with a Pulp Fiction-esque series of disparate storylines swirling and coalescing around the same milieu of pimps and whores and drug deals gone wrong.
What is also clear is that Eliott has also taken the time to really continue building his craft. What ‘Nobody Move’ did so well was make you care about the characters once you got past the movie spotting tapestry game. What ‘Porno Valley’ does here is subtler – it is an initially slower moving novel which swirls to a crescendo – and takes the time to reflect on the effect of poverty and violence on these communities.
I’m not going to lie: for all the slick dialogue, believable bathetic characters and evocative setting, especially early in the novel, I did find the three timelines a little hard to keep track of at times. However, the characters are so visceral that it is better to just let the story sweep you along and let all be revealed in the fullness of time.
In short, this is an excellent read from a writer brimming with confidence and with something to say. The continuation of the Angel City series is becoming a highlight of the literary calendar for me and I look forward to following Eliott’s progress with interest.
It you want to read an exclusive extract from ‘Porno Valley’, selected by the author, you can find it here: Extract
Philip Elliott’s debut novel ‘Nobody Move’ won Best First Novel in the Arthur Ellis Awards. Follow-up Porno Valley is out in August, 2021. Feature-film screenplay The Bad Informant is currently in development with Passage Pictures. Born in Dublin, Ireland, Philip lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his wife and spoiled pug where he is never not listening to rock ’n’ roll. (Biography courtesy of http://www.philipelliottfiction.com)
You can read a review of Simon Conway’s new novel, ‘The Saboteur’ here
PAJNewman (PAJN): Jude Lyon is back and, once again, confronted with his nemesis Guy Fowle. I know last time you spoke about these characters representing your principled side and your inner psychopath and, this time out Fowle is even more dastardly than before. Do you see a long-term Bond/Blofeld, Smiley/Karla ying and yang relationship between these two?
Simon Conway (SC):It all depends whether one of them kills the other. I haven’t decided.
PAJN: Guy really is a villain – do you ever find yourself writing a chapter featuring him and think, “what’s wrong with me?!?” He certainly seems to be getting more evil as the books go on. I can’t see an emotional heart opening change in his behaviour any time soon but perhaps I’m being too harsh?
SC: Never. I refer you to the narrator of my second novel Rage who says: “There were so many things wrong with me I’d become frightened of drawing up a list of them, for fear of what I might learn.”
I like to believe in the possibility for redemption but for Guy Fowle it is hard to see what form that might take.
PAJN: The novel obviously has echoes of Covid with the vast majority of London being confined to their homes. Will Covid play a part in your future work do you think? And was it quite nice to play with parts of it, like the lockdown, but not have to deal with the dreary reality so much.
SC: I think that there is a place for COVID drama but I’m not sure that it’s what my readers are looking for. If it plays a part in my writing it will either to be through deliberate echoes – empty streets, deserted airports and overcrowded hospitals – or as a recent historical event.
PAJN: When we spoke last, you had taken about 18 months to write The Stranger. This novel is appearing much sooner and a great chunk of it was (I believe) written in combat zones. Would you mind speaking a little about how that works for you and how you manage to concentrate when doing such a difficult and dangerous day job?
SC: It’s not easy to balance a job that would consume very waking hour if you let it and the dogged business of writing novels. When it works, writing is a good way of switching off and relaxing. When it doesn’t, I can go days or weeks without writing and I feel like I’ve become slack and unmoored. I am fortunate that my job has allowed me to travel to some very interesting locations and meet memorable people. It is clear that has influenced my writing.
I did some of the final edits of The Saboteur in the evenings when I was in Libya last October. It’s not safe to go out at night so perfect for editing.
PAJN: In terms of Jude and Guy, do you think they will be back for a third outing? If so, do you have anything planned yet or are you working on anything different at the moment.
I’m working on a third instalment.
PAJN: The Saboteur is (I think this is correct) your seventh novel. Are you finding it easier to write as you get further in or is each a challenge in a different way?
SC: Yes, I think that it is becoming easier to write. I’m more confident of my skill. I spend less time agonising over the edit and as a consequence I’m more assured with the knife.
PAJN: The Stranger garnered some outstanding reviews and this must have been really pleasing. Has that changed how you approached the sequel and are you now under greater pressure for this instalment?
SC: I suppose I feel some pressure to keep up the pace.
Simon Conway has worked for The Halo Trust since 1998 clearing landmines all over the world.
PAJN: Does seeing landmines which have been placed indiscriminately by both governments and non-state actors, sometimes just to terrorise a populace, colour your view of human nature? Can you maintain a positive view of the world with the things you see in this role?
SC: It’s not an easy question to answer. By nature, I’m an optimist. I believe that it is possible to make the world better with sustained effort. I’ve seen evidence of that but my writing seems to tap into a more cynical and world-wearier vein. I worry that most people would burn their neighbour’s house down if goaded into it. That’s why those in power carry such a huge responsibility not to feed peoples’ worst prejudices.
PAJN: June this year saw an appalling loss of life in your team in Afghanistan. I was obviously so sorry to read about it and can only imagine how difficult it must have been. Is there anything practical that readers of yours can do to help and how are things out there now?
SC: In June this year eleven of my colleagues died in an attack on a remote demining camp in Baghlan Province. Later Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack although it was more likely an armed robbery that went wrong.
We are all very concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and the safety of the two and half thousand HALO staff there, however we have been clearing mines and saving lives in Afghanistan for thirty years, including under Taliban rule, and we have weathered tough times before. Just because we don’t have troops there anymore doesn’t mean that the west can just give up on Afghanistan. No good will come of that. It is important that our government recognises that. Tell your MP!
Slightly less serious questions:
PAJN: What colour is Monday?
SC: Monday is blue, obvs
Who had the idea of coming up with a whisky to go with the advanced reader copies? Because it’s a superb idea!
SC: My editor at Hodder, Nick Sayers, is responsible for the whisky. He is being mysterious about how he acquired them.
PAJN: Last time I asked you what was the question you wished interviewers and readers would ask but never do and your answer was “is it possible to entertain and inform”. Has lockdown and the success of The Stranger altered the questions you get asked and how readers treat you?
SC: I have no idea why I thought that was a good question. I certainly don’t know the answer.
Simon Conway is a former British Army officer and international aid worker. He has cleared landmines and the other debris of war across the world.
As Co-Chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition he successfully campaigned to achieve an international ban on cluster bombs.
He is currently working as Director of Capability for The HALO Trust.
He lives in Edinburgh with his wife the journalist and broadcaster Sarah Smith. He has two daughters. (Biography courtesy of http://www.simonconwaybooks.com)
You can read an exclusive Q&A session with Simon Conway here
The terrorist Guy Fowle has escaped from prison.
Jude Lyon of MI-6 has been saved from a Syrian ambush by his lover – and enemy? – Julia Ermolaeva.
A mysterious Russian has been murdered in London and his thumb cut off.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made an unfortunate social connection at a party, which he hopes he can keep secret.
And suddenly, the world is literally going up in flames.
Jude needs to start putting together the pieces of this jigsaw and quickly, because someone is putting into play a terrifying Russian plan to disable and destroy the UK. Once it has begun, it is designed to be impossible to stop.
Bad enough if that someone is the Russian government. Worse if it is the psychopathic genius Fowle, otherwise known as The Stranger. (Synopsis courtesy of www.hachette.co.uk)
When I reviewed Conway’s initial instalment in this series, ‘The Stranger’ in August 2020, I wrote that it “should propel Conway into the very first rank of thriller writer’s working today.”
I went on to include Conway amongst the top triumvirate of thriller writer’s working today alongside Charles Cummings and Jeremy Duns. Unarguably, ‘The Saboteur’ both confirms this position and propels him further to the very pinnacle of espionage writer’s working today.
Conway’s plot begins in the aftermath of the destruction wrought by psychotic sociopath Guy Fowle on an unprepared London at the end of ‘The Stranger’.
After a daring escape, Fowle manages to get hold of a Russian Doomsday teeing up the most deadly of foes to continue wreaking havoc and also setting up a confrontation with the ying to his yang, our own damaged hero, Jude Lyon.
The main characters of ‘The Saboteur’ are drawn into an exciting death waltz, like John Le Carre’s Smiley and Karla filtered through a big budget Hollywood action thriller from the good old days when Tony Scott was tilting cameras and spraying bullets around.
There is also more crash, bang, wallop than in the first novel too, for those who enjoy that sort of thing. The original outing was a slow burn with a horrifying twist of explosive violence spattered throughout it: this adventure sees reams of blood flowing from day one with Lyon struggling against a ruthless enemy and almost all the decks stacked against him.
Conway’s background allows him to write about the violence with predictably bone-jarring verisimilitude but – and perhaps more importantly from a character development and depth of reading enjoyment point of view – is equally strong on the aftermath of terrible acts on people forced to endure unimaginable suffering.
This is quite simply the spy thriller release of the year so far and I strongly urge you to get hold of a copy as soon as you can.
If you are interested in learning more about Simon Conway, you can read an exclusive Q&A with the author here.
When Detective Inspector Nathaniel Thomas is presented with an anonymous letter and three unexplained deaths in less than twenty-four hours, he realizes that his idyllic home village Crottendorf masks a turbulent reality. Summoning his trusted colleague, DS Ann Collins, Thomas begins to unravel what quickly becomes an overwhelming mountain of conflicting evidence.
So many secrets. So many lies. So many attempts to cover things up.
All is not as it first appears and it proves a lot harder to pin down the killer who prides himself on being more than one step ahead of the DI.
A deeply rooted family tragedy, greed and vengeance are at the core of this crime novel. The twists and turns of Sophomania leave you wondering to the very end who the real murderer is—or if there may actually be more than one killer on the loose in the anything-but-sleepy village of Crottendorf.
I love crime fiction set outside the UK – and, after the last two years – the escapism of which my mother would have referred to as, “a nice murder” is of benefit to us all.
I’ve written in these pages of some of my favourites Martin Walker, Donna Leon and a pairing I’ve not written about as yet, the parents of Scandinoir, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (who I will get to at some stage, honest)
But my knowledge of German literature – crime and otherwise to be honest – is scant. So, Danielle Zinn’s second novel Sophomania immediately appealed.
This synopsis driven attraction was soon rewarded by the arrival of a mummified thumb which sets our hero, Detective Inspector Nathaniel Thomas, off on the track of the rapidly expanding body count in rural German village, Crottendorf.
Zinn spins a pleasingly pacy yarn with a likeable, hulking 6ft 7 tall, detective just trying to get by in the world of murder and lingering trauma from past experience.
Oh, and a tip from a novice gardener to another, just be patient Nathaniel. The plum tree will be fine with patience.
Danielle Zinn is a German author, born and raised in a small village in the Ore Mountains, Germany where not only her debut crime novel Snow Light is set but also her second book, Sophomania.
She holds a BA (Hons) degree in Business and Management from New College Durham/UK and has settled down in Leipzig where she works as a Financial Controller at an IT Consultancy.
She was introduced to the world of English literature and writing from an early age through her mother – an English teacher. Over the last years, she circumnavigated the globe and loves visiting her friends scattered all over the world.
For generations, Rich Gundersen’s family has chopped a livelihood out of the redwood forest along California’s rugged coast near Damnation Grove, a swath of ancient redwoods on which Rich’s employer, Sanderson Timber Co., plans to make a killing. In 1977, with most of the forest cleared or protected, a grove like Damnation – and beyond it 24-7 Ridge, named for the diameter of its largest redwood, a tree Rich was born to harvest – is a logger’s dream.
It’s dangerous work. Rich has already lived decades longer than his father, killed on the job. Rich wants better for his son, so when the opportunity arises to buy 24-7 Ridge – costing all the savings they’ve squirreled away for their growing family – he grabs it, unbeknownst to his wife, Colleen. Because the reality is their family isn’t growing; Colleen has lost several pregnancies. And she isn’t alone. As a midwife, Colleen has seen it with her own eyes.
For decades, the herbicides the logging company uses were considered harmless. But Colleen is no longer so sure. What if these miscarriages aren’t isolated strokes of bad luck? As mudslides take out clear-cut hillsides and salmon vanish from creeks, her search for answers threatens to unravel not just Rich’s plans for the 24-7, but their marriage too, dividing a town that lives and dies on timber. (Synopsis courtesy of www.ashdavidson.net)
I’m still learning about gardening. It is creeping up on me; to be honest somewhat like the weeds which would be allowed to run rampant over the garden if I was left to my own devices.
Last night I was reading Damnation Spring in the garden. In an adjacent field there is a Scot’s Pine. These trees, endangered, indigenous, slow growing has stood for at least 400 years. It predates the forest of larch which overlooks us and was used for logging, it predates our little house – by about three centuries – and it predates the rowan trees and cherries we have planted and nurtured in our own garden by about 390 years.
And none of those Scot’s would come within logging distance of the 24:7 redwood described in Ash Davidson’s beautiful novel, Damnation Spring.
Selected by Vogue as one of their ‘Best Books to Read this Summer’, Davidson’s debut arrives in the UK with some serious traction behind it.
It does not disappoint. American novels do not lack for characters chasing their destiny through hard to pin down goals. The story of Rich Gundersen’s history with the mightiest redwood in the forest; the dawning realisation that, perhaps, all is not right with the land that is all his family has ever known is startling. Moving, concerning, relevant to an age beset by climate concerns and told through the simple elegiac prose of a writer who has crafted her work to best effect.
These are simple people but not in a patronising way. They have the same multi-layered concerns of us all and, in Colleen there is a good hearted and brave woman determined to save her family, preserve her marriage and solve the issue of her multiple miscarriages. Indeed, at some stages, Damnation Spring reads like Erin Brockovich meets Deliverance via Moby Dick and Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods.
D.I. Fierce always gets his man, but can he get his woman?
Actor Leonard Lupine is sick of his life, both on and off-screen, so when his agent suggests a luxury villa holiday in Croatia he leaps at the opportunity to escape. What he doesn’t realise is that his greatest mystery of all is waiting to be solved on the tiny island of Brač.
Does he have what it takes to follow the clues to love? ♥
You know how it is: sometimes you pick up a novel because you think, “well, I need to read something and this will fill a space,” and your expectations aren’t high but it’s the holidays and what else you going to do?
So, full disclosure – this was the attitude with which I approached ‘Clueless in Croatia.’ Not dismissive or grumpy about needing to read it, but with a half-hearted distraction.
Well. Boy, do I love being surprised and delighted? Joy Skye has crafted a charming world, vividly conjured and one in which the prose is as enticing as the seas off Croatia which I now long to dive into.
Leonard Lupine is the sort of conflicted arse one might expect to find in a romantic comedy and Skye does a lovely job of lampooning and satirising the personas and absurdities of influencer culture.
Likewise, down to earth young widow Isabella is lovely counterpoint to Lupine. Her genuinely tragic backstory contrasting with his poor-little-rich-boy, but-Mummy-I-don’t-want-to-be-typecast-as-a-tv detective-with-only-all-my-money-to-count first world problems schtick.
So, we have an exotic location, a contrasting pair of confused but essentially loveable central characters and a smattering of supporting characters – the children primarily – who speak more sense than most of the adults put together. Which also adds a nice verisimilitude to the proceedings.
In short, ‘Clueless in Croatia’ was just what the post-lockdown Summer ordered – I’m off to dream of swimming in lagoons, eating an entirely cuisine from a country I’m yet to discover and also to research Joy Skye’s other novels.
I now feel less clueless about Croatia – and far more excited to visit. Joy is certainly an aptly named author. Bravo!
Joy lives on the seductive island of Corfu with her four dogs and an embarrassing number of cats.
Her many years working in the tourist industry on this sunny isle and her love of all things literary inspired her first novel Corfu Capers which recently hit the #1 spot in Parenting and Family humour much to her delight.
She loves to cook, dance and drink wine, usually at the same time, and is currently working on book number three, due to be released later this year.
She also loves to travel, absolutely anywhere, and is looking forward to jumping on a plane!
Lord Aldermaston’s having a bad day. A falling hanging-basket has killed the town’s mayor, and a second narrowly missed him. His wife wants him to build her new greenhouse in three days, and some nutter is sending him death threats.
This isn’t the quiet life he expected as the new Marquess of Mortiforde.
It’s the annual Borders in Blossom competition, and Mortiforde is battling with Portley Ridge in the final. But this is no parochial flower competition. The mayor’s mishap looks like murder, and there’s another body in the river. Someone desperately wants Portley Ridge to win for the fifteenth successive year.
So when a mysterious group of guerrilla gardeners suddenly carpet bomb Mortiforde with a series of stunning floral delights one night, a chain reaction of floral retaliation ensues.
Can Aldermaston survive long enough to uncover who is trying to kill him, and why? And can he get his wife’s greenhouse built in time?
My god, did I enjoy this novel. I like a cheeky cozy crime at times and I read the synopsis and thought, I have to get myself some of that. But it far exceeded my expectations.
Blooming Murder is, essentially, what would happen if Gardener’s World had an illicit love child by Midsomer Murders via the work of Tom Sharpe. And it’s all the better for it.
Whaley is clearly an accomplished writer and has a strong track record of non-fiction. His first foray into the fantastical has clearly given him licence to run wild. In the afterwards, he notes that there is a version of this nearly 40,000 words longer – he was right to cut and, in future, could potentially prune the buds of his ambition even further.
But this is a minor quibble – local mayors are being dunted on the head by descending hanging baskets, a newly appointed Lord of the Manor is struggling to come to terms with his new position in village life and his wife is chopping up his camouflage netting and disappearing at all times of the day and night.
With bodies dropping like flies, a competitive flower competition and sexually voracious horticultural judges parading around, Blooming Murder skips along reaching a crescendo of exceptionally entertaining mayhem.
I, for one, can’t wait to read any subsequent outings in the Marquess of Mortforde Mystery series as and when they come. If you like your aristocrats eccentric and your cottage cheese in a very unsual serving suggestion, this novel is for you.
Author Bio – Simon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Blooming Murder is the first in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.
Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)
The mutilated body of a young female is found in a popular recreation ground in Leeds city centre. DI Ziggy Thornes and his team are at once assigned to close the case.
With little to no forensic evidence left at the scene at first Ziggy struggles to put the pieces together. When a second body turns up in the same place, Ziggy starts to feel the pressure from his bosses and the media as fear spreads through the city.
Realising that victims have been held captive prior to their deaths, Ziggy delves deeper and relentlessly chases down every lead, taking him close to breaking point.
When the investigation leads him dangerously close to home, will time run out before the tangled web of evil he’s uncovered destroys everything he holds dear?
I called the novel one in which “few people…are quite what they seem and motivations are as grey and murky as an autumn day in Gairloch… A psychological thriller which manages the powerful balance of nipping along at pace but also lingering in the reader’s minds…a psychologically complicated novel which doesn’t shy away from the pain that violence and its consequences causes.”
Which sounds about as verbose as I normally am.
The follow up, ‘The Web They Wove’ is both a standalone work perfectly capable of standing on its own merits, as well as expanding on the character of DI Ziggy Thornes, a comparatively peripheral character from the first book.
Here Thornes is on home turf in Leeds, leading an investigation which gets first professionally, and then, potentially, personally dangerous.
Yaffe is a talented writer who really does manage to produce prose which flows and moves the story along at the same time. She is clearly making moves to support other up and coming writers too and this branching out in police procedural novels promises more is going to be heard from the emerging psychological thriller writer.
Author Bio – Catherine Yaffe is a full-time writer of crime novels, based in the North of England. ‘The Web They Wove’ is Catherine’s second novel and continues the theme of questioning how well we know those around us. Her debut novel ‘The Lie She Told’ in October ‘20 was received with widespread acclaim, and so far, has gained over 50 five star reviews across Goodreads and Amazon.