The Deepings Literary Festival 2017


I have just had a brilliant couple of days. I live in a small village, Deeping St James, attached to a small market town, Market Deeping, with the villages of Deeping Gate, West Deeping and Deeping St Nicholas all close by. Over this bank holiday weekend is the first ever Deepings Literary Festival and although I’ve only been able to experience the first two days, they’ve been amazingly good and I wish I’d had chance to do more.

Thursday 27th April


On Thursday evening I went along to the Festival launch at Market Deeping library (the library that refused to die when it was threatened with closure). Local dignitaries and authors came and children from one of the primary schools performed for us.


Smashing celebratory cake!

Friday 28th April

On Friday 28th April I was honoured to be asked to interview Alison Bruce, author of the Cambridge series of Gary Goodhew crime thriller books, all of which are available for purchase here.  I have recently reviewed Alison’s Cambridge Black here.


After a quick photo shoot at the library (thanks to my husband Steve), we went across to the event at The Iron Horse Ranch House which was sold out and Alison was a brilliant interviewee. We ran out of time way before the audience had run out of questions.


We were also treated to some fantastic singing by Rachel Eyre who entertained us with songs from the 1940s, 1950s and musical shows.


After the interview, Rachel continued to entertain us whilst Alison was inundated with audience members buying copies of her books and waiting to get them signed. Thankfully, Tim from Walkers Bookshop in Stamford was on hand!


At the end of the event I was surprised by a gift from the festival committee as a thank you for taking part – it turned out to be a fabulous bookish notebook – just right for a blogger and bookworm.


my notebook

Saturday 29th April

On Saturday I had signed up to hear Karen Maitland, author of The Plague Charmer speak about ‘Plague, Pottage and Poison’, the background to this novel.



Now, I have a confession. I was sent a proof copy for review of The Plague Charmer way before it was published in October last year and I’ve never got round to reading it. Having heard Karen’s utterly brilliant talk I shall definitely be starting it as soon as I can. The Plague Charmer is available for purchase here.


There were wonderful homemade cakes at the venue (I had the chocolate fudge cake) and refreshments being sold to raise money for Cancer charities and I even got to ask a Karen a question.

Plague Charmer

The Plague Charmer is available for purchase here.

Following Karen’s talk I didn’t have time to stay to hear the others in the same venue as I was winging my way across to Lilli’s Tearoom to have lunch with Erica James.


Erica is a prolific author and it was a real privilege to have lunch and hear speak and answer our questions. All of Erica’s books are available for purchase here, but I was able to buy, and have signed, Song of the Skylark, her latest. It was such a pleasure to meet an author I’ve long admired. You can read my review of another of Erica’s books, The Dandelion Yearshere.

song of the skylark

Even lovelier than expected for me was I was able to meet up with authors Julie Stock and Karen Aldous (and Karen’s husband) and have a chat with them too. I have previously interviewed Karen for Linda’s Book Bag and you can read that interview here.


Just waiting for the tea and cakes to turn up too!

the vineyard in Alsasce

Julie’s book, The Vineyard is Alsace, is available for purchase here, and you can find all Karen’s books here.  Karen even signed a bookmark for me too.

0ne moment at sunrise

Immediately after the Erica James event I went hot-foot along to the library for a Read Dating event with 10 authors, being organised by Liz Waterland who runs the U3A book group to which I belong and, without whom, the library would be closed.


Liz checking to make sure we’re all moving on at the right time!


Jane Isaac

It was frenetic afternoon, dashing from one author to another to hear about their books and so good to meet up with lovely Jane Isaac again. I’ve reviewed another of Jane’s books, Beneath the Asheshere and will be reviewing her latest, The Lies Within, on the blog on 10th May.


The Lies Within by Jane Isaac is available for purchase here.

I also got to speak with almost all the following authors:

Carlton King


Black Ops is available for purchase here.

Ted Barnes


Granddad’s War is available for purchase here.

Carol Browne


Being Krystyna is available for purchase here.

You can read a previous Linda’s Book Bag post from Carol here.

Ferrel E. (Darren) Calpin


Expecting the Unexpected is available for purchase here.

Michael Cayzer


50 Miles From Anywhere is available for purchase here.

Emma Lannigan


belifehappy: give. play. love. learn is available for purchase here.

Richard Pike


Do Not Forget Me Quite is available for purchase here.

Ros Rendle


Ros’s books, including Flowers of Flanders, are available for purchase here.

Lizzie Steel


A Life More Complicated is available for purchase here.

It really was a brilliant afternoon and I overheard another attendee sum up how I felt when she said, ‘I’ve had a wonderful time!’ Even better for me too was the fact that Jane was able to come back home with me for tea and cake!

with Jane

If you’d like to see what you missed across the weekend have a look at the Deepings Literary Festival website! I would like to thank all the organisers who have put in so much hard work to make the first Deepings Literary Festival a huge success and I can’t wait to be involved in the next one!

An American Decade by Richard Aronowitz

An American Decade

My grateful thanks to Karen Bultiauw at Accent Press for a copy of An American Decade by Richard Aronowitz in return for an honest review.

An American Decade was published by Accent on 3rd April 2017 and is available for purchase through the publisher links here.

An American Decade

An American Decade is a novel that connects the current political climate with that of the tumultuous 1930s; a decade in which the world was changed forever.

After the death of his wife, Christoph leaves Germany in 1930 and eventually finds success as a singer on Broadway. As the decade unfolds he witnesses the rapid rise of American organisations sympathetic to Hitler. The ominous presence and popularity of these far right groups become a constant reminder of his inaction. As the human horrors of Nazism close in he is forced to act and sets sail across the Atlantic in search of a hidden piece of his history.

Evocative, heartfelt and beautifully written, An American Decade is a must-read novel for those who recognise the enduring impact of history and human frailties.

My Review of An American Decade

Widowed at 30 after only a few months of marriage, German Christoph heads to New York to make a new life, leaving more than just memories behind in Germany.

I can’t say that I enjoyed An American Decade. This is not because it isn’t beautifully written, evocative and intelligent, because it is all those things and more. I didn’t enjoy it because it made me face some terrible truths about our society and our world in a way that made me think not much has changed. I know this will sound mad, but reading An American Decade made me think of eating high quality bitter chocolate when I’m used to Dairy Milk. I appreciated its quality but I found the message hard to swallow.

Even at the moments when he redeems himself, I despised Christoph who is the personification of humanity’s ability for stasis and self-deception. His selective presentations of the truth and his justifications for inaction as being best for others, mirror the way in which the world of the 1930s stood by and watched the rise of Nazi-ism. Christoph is a creation of genius by Richard Aronowitz.  At the same time as I wanted to shake Christoph until his teeth rattled, I had a horrible feeling that, had I been him, I may have behaved very similarly in my treatment of Miriam and Anne, withholding full truth and effectively deceiving myself. Christoph’s edited letters to Miriam made me fume. However, I also fully understood why he behaved as he did and that is what made An American Decade so ensnaring. Brutalised in the trenches of WW1, Christoph cannot bear to think history will repeat itself and not all of his impotence is self-inflicted.

The sense of place and time is so cleverly done. We have a picture of America and Germany painted through ideology as well as physical description so that there is an intensity to the settings that echoes through the pages like Christoph’s voice through the concert halls. The descriptions of New York took me back to the brief time I lived there so effectively. Using popular culture, newspaper reports, letters and Christoph’s first hand experiences the reader is given a vivid and searing view of the times. It is not a comfortable picture and the more Christoph achieves the American Dream, the more the contrasts work so effectively.

An American Decade is a disturbing book. I’m not sure I’ve entirely come to grips with it and reading it has left me feeling perturbed and actually quite anxious. It has made me think and question both my own personality and the world around me now, as well as in its past. Unsettling, perfectly crafted and beautifully written An American Decade is a troubling book. I think you should read it and decide for yourself!

About Richard Aronowitz

Richard Aronowitz

Richard Aronowitz was born in 1970 and grew up in rural Gloucestershire. His debut novel, Five Amber Beads, was published by Flambard Press in 2006 and his second novel, It’s Just the Beating of My Heart, was published by Flambard Press in 2010. His third novel, An American Decade, is published by Accent Press and Five Amber Beads will be republished by Accent Press in June 2017. He is married with one son and lives in Oxford.

You can follow Richard on Twitter and visit his website. You’ll also find him on Facebook.

The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins

The night visitor

Crikey, am I grateful to Hannah Robinson at Quercus for an advanced reader copy of The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins in return for an honest review.

Published in e-book and hardback by Quercus on 4th May 2017, The Night Visitor is available for pre-order here.

The Night Visitor

The night visitor

Professor Olivia Sweetman has worked hard to achieve the life she loves, with a high-flying career as a TV presenter and historian, three children and a talented husband. But as she stands before a crowd at the launch of her new bestseller she can barely pretend to smile. Her life has spiralled into deceit and if the truth comes out, she will lose everything.

Only one person knows what Olivia has done. Vivian Tester is the socially awkward sixty-year-old housekeeper of a Sussex manor who found the Victorian diary on which Olivia’s book is based. She has now become Olivia’s unofficial research assistant. And Vivian has secrets of her own.

As events move between London, Sussex and the idyllic South of France, the relationship between these two women grows more entangled and complex. Then a bizarre act of violence changes everything.

The Night Visitor is a compelling exploration of ambition, morality and deception that asks the question: how far would you go to save your reputation?

My Review of The Night Visitor

TV historian Professor Olivia Sweetman has a new book out and is riding high, but all is not as it seems.

Oh my goodness! The Night Visitor is just my kind of read. I love a psychological thriller and The Night Visitor has every element that I adore, from almost Gothic symbolism to characters that put me in mind of some of the most damaged women in literature such as Dickens’ Miss Havisham and Du Maurier’s Mrs Danvers.

I so want to mention specific images or phrases but I know that this will spoil the read for others. Suffice it to say that The Night Visitor is meticulously planned, down to the smallest word so that every nuance, every phrase, every full stop adds depth and quality to highly intelligent and utterly hypnotising reading. The title itself is just perfect, there being different interpretations throughout the narrative and I’m unsure which version of ‘the night visitor’ image I found most disturbing. Omens and portents pepper the text adding layers of suggestion.

From the first moment, as Olivia is standing at a vertiginous height to deliver her book launch speech, I was hooked, on edge as I read and totally captivated. The quality of the language is so flawless that a simple, seemingly innocuous word can shock the reader completely. I had to keep putting down the book, breathing and giving myself a break, before being compelled to read on. I think what is so good about The Night Visitor comes from what isn’t written, as much as what is. Lucy Atkins understands the power of suggestion and she doesn’t resolve everything fully so that the reader’s own imagination contributes to the enjoyment in the book.

The two main characters, Olivia and Vivian, are absolutely outstanding creations. Neither woman is likeable and yet they both draw in the read so that it is impossible not to want to know what happens to them. They are the living embodiment of ego, obsession, deception and manipulation. What I found so awful is that it is easy to see just how we deceive ourselves and create our own self-serving truth and morality.

I also really appreciated the scientific elements underpinning (and I use that word advisedly!) the narrative. Coleopterology, academia, publishing and the media are all themes explored convincingly and sometimes uncomfortably in ways that would not let me tear myself away.

Readers who want a beautifully crafted, meticulously planned and gripping psychological thriller that makes them think, need look no further. Lucy Atkins’ The Night Visitor delivers everything those readers could possibly want and more. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

About Lucy Atkins

lucy atkins

Lucy Atkins is the author of three acclaimed novels: The Night Visitor (May 2017), The Missing One (2014) and The Other Child (2015), published by Quercus. She has also written, co-written or ghost-written seven non-fiction books including the Amazon nuber one selling parenting title, First Time Parent (Collins).

Lucy is a book critic for The Sunday Times and regularly appears on BBC radio Oxford’s Book Club. She was a feature journalist for many years for UK newspapers including The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times, The Sunday Express and magazines such as Red, Woman & Home, Psychologies and Grazia. Lucy lives with her family in Oxford, UK.

You can follow Lucy on Twitter and visit her website.

Giveaway and Review of Ice Cold Alice by CP Wilson


My grateful thanks to the author C. P. Wilson for a copy of Ice Cold Alice in return for an honest review.

Published by Bloodhound today, 20th April 2017, Ice Cold Alice is available for purchase here.

I’m absolutely thrilled that C.P. Wilson has kindly provided an e-copy of Ice Cold Alice to give away internationally and a paperback in the UK. To enter, see the bottom of this blog post.

Ice Cold Alice


They thought that they had all the power, until she took it from them.

A killer hunts abusive spouses, blogging about their sins post-kill. Soon the murders and the brazen journaling draws the attention of Police Scotland’s CID. This killer works with surgical preparation, precision and skill, using a unique weapon of her own and never leaves a trace of evidence behind.

Edinburgh’s DI Kathy McGuire, nearing the end of her career, begins the hunt for the murderer as a media frenzy erupts.

But McGuire might have met her match…What has led this killer to take the law into her own hands? Is the woman accountable really a cold-hearted killer or a desperate vigilante?

My Review of Ice Cold Alice

Highly successful and wealthy writer Alice Connolly is definitely not all she seems and the bodies mount up!

Ice Cold Alice opens in a violent and dramatic manner and maintains the pace throughout. However, that is not to say that there isn’t contrasting tenderness, especially between Bobby and Kathy, to provide light to the shade which only serves to make all the scenes more effective. Indeed, Bobby is essential to providing a balance in the depiction of men and I found him a wonderfully convincing individual.

There are so many elements to Ice Cold Alice that create a really good read. The attention to detail (while a bit too visceral for me at times) with appropriate vocabulary means that the reader believes completely in what is read. The word play of Alice’s blogger alias Tequila Mockingbird with its literary connection is clever and the quotation from To Kill a Mockingbird, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it‘, kept going through my head as I read. The book title is also so cleverly chosen as Alice uses ice blades in her attacks but is also as detached and ‘ice cold’ as she can be in her approach to ridding the world of abusive men.

And it is the theme of abuse that is so well explored. Whilst Alice tracks down, researches and kills men who are abusing their partners, there are other levels of abuse too, such as the sexist treatment Kathy receives from fellow male police officers at the start of her career and the violence meted out by the police when they themselves are attacked. Even Kathy abuses Bobby in a sense as she puts her career in front of her family. With these elements in mind, Ice Cold Alice asks the reader to consider what kind of punishment or retribution is acceptable. Reading Ice Cold Alice made me question what justice really means as Alice is a calculating and violent murderer, but I wanted her to succeed and get away with her crimes. That didn’t make for a very comfortable consideration of my own character!

Alice’s personality is at the heart of the book as C.P. Wilson gradually uncovers who she is and why she behaves quite as she does. I think I would have preferred a more linear plot line, but that is a matter of personal taste, and the ‘Then’ sections are compelling in their ability to help the reader understand Alice’s motivation.

Ice Cold Alice is a powerful and persuasive read that gets the pulse racing. I really enjoyed it.

About C. P. Wilson

Mark wilson

C.P.Wilson is the Crime Thrillers pseudonym for Mark Wilson, the Amazon-bestselling author of eleven works of fiction and one non-fiction memoir. His short story Glass Ceiling won first prize in May, 2015 on Spinetingler’s Short story competition and will be included in Ryan Bracha’s Twelve Nights at Table Six. dEaDINBURGH reached the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2014 and is a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards, 2015.

Mark currently teaches Biology in a Fife secondary school and is founder of Paddy’s Daddy Publishing, a company he set up to assist Indie-authors. He writes in his spare time, in lieu of sleep.

You can visit Mark’s blog and find him on Facebook . You can also follow Mark on Twitter.



For your chance to win an e-copy (open internationally) or a paperback (UK only) of Ice Cold Alice, click here. Giveaway closes at UK midnight on Wednesday 26th April 2017.

The Sender by Toni Jenkins

the sender

Almost a year ago I went to a blogger and author meet up in Edinburgh organised by fellow blogger Joanne of Portobello Book Blog where I met lovely Toni Jenkins, author of The Sender. Toni kindly sent me a copy of The Sender along with an envelope bearing a question mark with instructions not to open it until I’d read the book.

As many of you know, life got the better of me last year (see here) and I’ve been taking off April from my usual blogging in order to catch up with books that have been sitting on my TBR for ages. Although Toni wrote a fabulous guest post in a letter to her younger self all about writing for Linda’s Book Bag that you can read here, I’m ashamed to say that it is only now that I have got round to reading The Sender.

The Sender

The Sender front cover png

Can an inspirational card from a secret sender really help change your life? For Abby, Kat, Patti and Tessa, it seems to hold that extraordinary quality. The card instructs each woman to hold it in their possession for six months before sending it on, with an invitation to meet the sender two years from the date of its inception.

From Edinburgh to Glasgow, York to Cambridge, the card is sent on a journey to impart its magic.

But who is the sender and what was their motive? And why were they the chosen ones?

My Review of The Sender

When the sender realises that Abby is in dire need of support, they send her an anonymous card with a four leaf clover attached and instructions to hold on to the card for six months before sending in it to someone else.

What a lovely concept for a novel. Recipients receive an anonymous card containing a good luck symbol, a four leaf clover, that they retain for six months and then send on so that there is love, hope and support weaving around the world just when those receiving the card need a boost most in their lives. I thought this was such a smashing idea.

In effect The Sender is a series of novellas that are connected through the women sending on the card. Each would stand as a highly entertaining story in its own right but Toni Jenkins cleverly weaves the strands of their stories together until the point the main characters all meet and have a ready made friendship and support group.

There is an eclectic cast of characters so that there is someone for every reader to relate to. I especially liked Rina and Flo, who, whilst at opposite ends of the age range, were women I felt I’d have liked to know in real life.

The themes encompassed are those that we will all have encountered at some point. Those themes of grief and friendship resonated particularly for me and I really felt that The Sender was a book I should have read sooner so that I could have had benefit from its hope and optimism. Other concepts explored include adoption, infidelity, divorce, business, success, illness, childbirth, travel and so on, so that what Toni Jenkins has done is create in microcosm an entire world where readers can identify with something that affects them. The Sender provides a positive experience through an engaging narrative where characters have real-life struggles. I liked too the sense of mystery at wondering who had sent the original card.

The Sender reminds readers that, in an increasingly hostile and violent world, there is still the power of love, hope and friendship. I’m so glad I’ve read it.

About Toni Jenkins

Newspaper photo

Toni’s passion for writing began when she was 9 years old and bored on a long car trip. With a notebook and pen in hand, she began writing comedic poems to pass the time and discovered a great love of playing with language and personifying objects, creating Walter Wall who yearned to travel and Debbie Drawing Pin who feared being typecast!

Over the years she ventured into short stories and began collecting and writing quotes, amassing hundreds of them since her childhood. Finally, in her early thirties, she took the plunge and wrote her first novel, cementing her desire to write contemporary fiction.

She lives in the city she fell instantly in love with in the mid-nineties, and is proud to call Edinburgh and the UK her home.

You can find out more about Toni and read an extract from The Sender on her website. You can follow Toni on Twitter and find her on Facebook.

Sending on The Sender!


In the spirit of The Sender, I would like to pass on my signed copy to someone recommended by a reader of Linda’s Book Bag. If you feel someone you know (and you can email me their address) deserves to receive The Sender please comment below. I’ll put the names in a hat on 30th April and draw out the winner. Once I have the recipient’s address I’ll send them The Sender along with a lovely handmade card that Toni sent to me. They won’t know where the book has come from.

The American Girl by Rachael English

The American Girl

Regular Linda’s Book Bag followers will know that I’m AWOL from blog tours, guest posts and interviews this month whilst I try to read some of the books that have been sitting on my TBR for ages.

The American Girl, by Rachael English is a relatively new addition but as Rachael has been kind enough to send me a couple of her books in the past I thought I’d begin with her latest novel. I cannot thank her enough for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

The American Girl is available now in e-book and for paperback pre-order here.

The American Girl

The American Girl

Boston 1968. Rose Moroney is seventeen, smart, spirited – and pregnant. She wants to marry her boyfriend. Her ambitious parents have other plans. She is sent to Ireland, their birthplace, to deliver her daughter in a Mother and Baby home – and part with her against her will.

Dublin 2013. Martha Sheeran’s life has come undone. Her marriage is over, and her husband has moved on with unsettling speed. Under pressure from her teenage daughter, she starts looking for the woman who gave her up for adoption more than forty years before.

As her search leads her to the heart of long-buried family secrets, old flame Paudie Carmody – now a well-known broadcaster – re-enters the frame.

From Boston to rural Ireland; from Dublin back to Boston, The American Girl is a heart-warming and enthralling story of mothers and daughters, love and cruelty and, ultimately, the embrace of new horizons.

My Review of The American Girl

When Rose finds herself pregnant at the age of 17 in 1968, society will not accept the situation and her parents send her away. These actions will reverberate through the decades.

Oh my goodness I loved this book. Everything about The American Girl made it just the kind of read I adore. I’m sure there’s something in the water in Ireland that makes for natural storytellers as Rachael English certainly knows how to create a plot that holds the reader completely enthralled. I genuinely felt devastated when I’d finished as I didn’t want the story to end. The American Girl was one of those books that made me resent normal life when it prevented me from reading it.

Firstly, the plot of The American Girl is brilliantly constructed with shocks and surprises along the way and a devastating insight into the mind set of the 1960s. Although I could understand the actions of Grace and Ed I simply couldn’t forgive them and this set up my emotional engagement with the whole of the story so that I felt completely invested in what happened to Martha.

The quality of Rachael English’s writing is just gorgeous. She balances a lightness of touch with humour through absolutely pitch perfect dialogue so that the emotional elements are heightened further. The variety of paragraph and sentence length gives a naturalness that I found utterly beautiful and absorbing. The deftness of description added depth to make the characters and settings so realistic that I could hardly bear to tear myself away from them.

It is the characters that make The American Girl such a wonderful book. These are not two dimensional sketches on a page, but real and warm people who engendered a whole range of emotions in me as a reader. Cat gave me hope and entertainment. I loathed Rose’s parents without mercy and found myself far less forgiving and accepting of them than she is. I loved Martha without reservation, even when I felt she didn’t always behave perfectly as in her desire to run her daughter, Evanne’s, life. I was so angry with the treatment of the girls in the convent that I almost felt murderous towards the nuns. Indeed, it was the exploration of the roles of women that drew me in to The American Girl so unfailingly. I could see my own flaws, hopes, desires and needs reflected even though I have no experience of similar situations. Rachael English has held up a mirror to the souls of women that I found held me in thrall. I was completely captivated.

I genuinely loved The American Girl. Part love story, part tragedy, part social history, it is a book that will remain in my heart for a very long time.

About Rachael English

rachael english

Rachael English is the author of three novels: Going Back which was shortlisted for the most-promising newcomer award at the 2013 Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards, Each and Every One which like Going Back was a top five bestseller in Ireland, and, The American Girl.

Like many authors, Rachael also has a day job and is a presenter on Ireland’s most popular radio programme, Morning Ireland.

You can follow Rachael on Twitter and find her on Facebook.

The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton

woman at no 24

Earlier this year I was invited to a fabulous event by Books and the City TeamBATC where I met Juliet Ashton (and other authors) and received a sample of The Woman at Number 24 in my goody bag. You can read all about that event here.

I am thrilled that since then the lovely team at Simon and Schuster have kindly sent me the finished book in return for an honest review. The Woman at Number 24 will be published on April 20th 2017 and is available for pre-order in paperback and e-book here.

The Woman at Number 24

woman at no 24

When your marriage falls apart, the last place you’d want your husband to move to is downstairs. Unfortunately for Sarah, up in the eaves at number 24, her ex-husband now lives one floor beneath her with his new wife. Their happiness floats up through the floorboards, taunting her.

A child psychologist, Sarah has picked up great sadness from the little girl, Una, who lives with her careworn mother three floors below, but is Sarah emotionally equipped to reach out?

The Spring brings a new couple to the house. Jane and Tom’s zest for life revives the flagging spirits, and Sarah can’t deny the instant attraction to handsome Tom. Having seen at first hand what infidelity does to people, she’ll never act on it … but the air fizzes with potential.

The sunshine doesn’t reach every corner of number 24, however. Elderly Mavis, tucked away in the basement, has kept the world at bay for decades. She’s about to find out that she can’t hide forever.

Juliet Ashton weaves a story of love, friendship and community that will move you to laughter and to tears.

My Review of The Woman at Number 24

Divided into flats, number 24 has some interesting characters including Sarah, whose ex-husband Leo lives with his new wife Helena in the flat below.

I think one word will suffice for my review of the Woman at Number 24  – wonderful. Or maybe fantastic. Or possibly outstanding. Hmm. As you can tell, I utterly adored this read.

What I loved was the sense of traditional unities so that there was a wonderful coherence to the story. I loved the fact that there was a straightforward time scale that flowed effortlessly because of the quality of the writing. The unity of place at Number 24 gives a fabulous structure with most of the action taking place there so that the house almost becomes a character in its own right.

As for the characters, they are so brilliantly wrought. Leo brought out the worst aspects of my own personality and I really did feel quite violent towards him so that slapping his face would have given me considerable pleasure. I did have to remind myself that these are actually characters and not people I really know. Mavis is a triumph, but you need to read the book to find out exactly why as to explain would spoil the read. I so wanted Sarah to be happy, and in common with the other characters, she seemed totally plausible and real. The letter from her father broke my heart. Juliet Ashton writes so well that even Mikey the hedgehog and Peck the parrot were vibrant and real.

However, it is the plotting that is the triumph here. Yes, The Woman at Number 24 fits the genre of women’s fiction perfectly, but it exceeds it too. Juliet Ashton’s plot is sublime and so clever. Of course there are predictable outcomes for some in the house but for others she uses a masterstroke of surprise. I really want to explain why but I mustn’t spoil the story for other readers.

The themes presented are mature, thoughtful and totally, totally absorbing. Our relationships with others and how we impact on one another are elements that are written about seamlessly in the context of the narrative and yet seem to transcend the confines of the story so that I couldn’t stop thinking about them when I wasn’t actually reading The Woman at Number 24.

I’ve found it quite hard to review The Woman at Number 24 because I loved it so much. Basically I just want to move in to number 24 too so that I can meet these wonderful people in person! I thought The Woman at Number 24 was amazing.

About Juliet Ashton


Juliet Ashton is just one of the nom de plumes of writer Bernadette Strachan who also co-writes musicals with her composer husband Matthew Strachan. Juliet has a daughter and dogs!

You can follow Juliet Ashton on Twitter and visit her website.

Cambridge Black by Alison Bruce

Cambridge Black

My grateful thanks to Helen Upton at Little Brown for a copy of Cambridge Black by Alison Bruce in return for an honest review and to help me prepare for interviewing Alison at the first ever Deepings Literary Festival, more details of which can be found here.

Cambridge Black is the latest in Alison Bruce’s DC Goodhew series and was published by Constable, an imprint of Little Brown, on 23rd February 2017. Cambridge Black is available for purchase in e-book and hardback (and paperback pre-order) here.

Cambridge Black

Cambridge Black

A cold case waits to be solved . . . and a killer waits in the wings.

Amy was seven years old when her father was arrested for murder. His subsequent trial and conviction scarred her childhood and cast a shadow over her life until, twenty-two years later, new evidence suggests he was innocent and Amy sets out to clear his name.

But Amy is not the only person troubled by the past. DC Gary Goodhew is haunted by the day his grandfather was murdered and is still searching for answers, determined to uncover the truth about his grandfather’s death and find his killer.

But, right now, someone is about to die. Someone who has secrets and who once kept quiet but is now living on borrowed time. Someone who will be murdered because disturbing the past has woken a killer.

My Review of Cambridge Black

An arson attack in 1991 forms the basis of secrets and lies that reverberate for more than the next two decades.

I haven’t read any of the previous DC Goodhew books and I have to say that didn’t affect my enjoyment at all as Cambridge Black works perfectly as a stand alone, although I would now like to go back and read them all because I enjoyed it so much and I would like to find out more about what brought DC Goodhew to his present position and relationships.

Cambridge Black has an incredibly well crafted plot so that I was kept guessing right to the end and making the connections between three seemingly disparate plots was hugely entertaining. I thought the way in which all the strands came together leading to what appears to be the final book in the series was extremely clever. The ending is so fast paced I had to make a conscious effort to slow down my reading to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Characters are varied and complex and I had to work quite hard to keep tabs on all the relationships which was an element I really enjoyed.  Alison Bruce doesn’t patronise her readers, but has a sophisticated style that gradually reveals layers of deceit and untruth so that readers find out what is happening in tune with those in the narrative. I also thoroughly enjoyed the naturalistic quality of the direct speech and the small details that brought the text alive. I could picture the Cambridge settings so vividly.

Characters show the full range of human emotion, but in Cambridge Black it is revenge, deceit and anger that are so well defined. Whilst I found some actions totally reprehensible I could understand exactly why those involved behaved the way they did.

I felt Cambridge Black was a sophisticated, intelligent, well written and entertaining thriller that held my attention from the first word to the last. I only wish I had encountered DC Goodhew sooner and I’m looking forward to asking Alison more about him soon!

About Alison Bruce

alison bruce

Alison Bruce is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. Her previous DC Gary Goodhew novels are published by Constable & Robinson. A fan of vintage clothes and the rockabilly music scene, for two years she wrote and presented a monthly 1950s music feature on BBC Wiltshire Sound.

Alison Bruce has also written two non-fiction books, Cambridgeshire Murders and Billington, Victorian Executioner, both published by the History Press.

You can follow Alison on Twitter and visit her website.

My Sister and Other Liars by Ruth Dugdall

my sister and other liars

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to go to a fantastic event Oceans of Words at Waterstones in Nottingham and you can read about that here. When I was there I met Ruth Dugdall and invited her on to Linda’s Book Bag. I’m delighted that Ruth agreed to be interviewed and she will be joining me on 1st May 2017 when her latest novel My Sister and Other Liars will be published. Ruth very kindly gave me a copy of My Sister and Other Liars for review.

My Sister and Other Liars is published on 1st May 2017 by Thomas and Mercer and is available for pre-order here.

My Sister and Other Liars

my sister and other liars

Sam is seventeen, starving herself and longing for oblivion. Her sister, Jena, is mentally scarred and desperate to remember. Between them, they share secrets too terrible to recall.

Eighteen months earlier, Sam was still full of hope: hope that she could piece together Jena’s fragmented memory after the vicious attack that changed their family forever. But digging into the past unearthed long-hidden lies and betrayals, and left Sam feeling helpless and alone in a world designed to deceive her.

Now, in a last bid to save her from self-imposed shutdown, Sam’s therapist is helping her confront her memories. But the road to recovery is a dangerous one. Because Sam has not only been lying to her doctors: she’s been hiding dark secrets from herself.

My Review of My Sister and Other Liars

On the Ana ward, anorexic Sam has no real reason to live, but as she slips toward the point of no return, memories come to the surface that can change her life.

Ooh, My Sister and Other Liars is a cracking read. It took me a while to appreciate just why the setting of a ward for anorexic girls had been chosen, but that is all part of the intelligent way the plot is constructed. Ruth Dugdall is forcing the reader to confront uncomfortable truths along with those, both girls and staff, on the ward. She explores so effectively how and why the girls there have made the decision to starve and it doesn’t always make for comfortable reading. In fact, it was the uncovering of this world about which I knew very little that made My Sister and Other Liars such a compelling read for me. I think Ruth Dugdall must have been meticulous in her research. I can’t really mention all the themes without spoiling the read but they build to create a read that goes beyond being merely an entertaining narrative into providing intelligent considerations.

I thought the plot was extremely good.  I did work out the denouement, but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment at all because the writing builds tension and there is no guarantee that Sam will uncover the truth she so craves and which is destroying her physically and emotionally. I found the atmosphere created was often claustrophobic and frequently brutal and I kept wanting to read just one more chapter so see what happened.

At the beginning I found Sam an unlikable character and she didn’t gain my empathy even though she had my sympathy. It took me a while to warm to her, but again it was the quality of the writing that drew me in and altered my perceptions until I was completely on her side.

A further aspect that deserves mention is the skilful way in which Ruth Dugdall creates a sense of place. I could picture the town, the ward, the Pleasure Park so clearly and yet the effect was subtle too so that it never felt contrived. I thought that aspect of the writing was so good.

I wouldn’t say I necessarily enjoyed reading My Sister and Other Liars, because of the disturbing nature of some of the themes and events, but I found it irresistible. It’s a really good thriller that I can recommend completely.

About Ruth Dugdall

ruth dugdall

Ruth studied English at university and then took an MA is Social Work. Following this she worked in the Criminal Justice System as a social worker then as a probation officer. Part of this time was spent seconded to a prison housing serious offenders. She continues to work within the Criminal Justice System, most recently in Luxembourg.
Ruth’s novels are informed by her experience and are “authentic and credible”.

You can follow Ruth on Twitter, visit her website and find all her books here.

Penance by Theresa Talbot


My grateful thanks to the author Theresa Talbot for a copy of Penance in return for an honest review and an ENORMOUS apology that she has waited over 18 months for me to get round to reading it! Some of my excuses for the delay are documented here.

Penance was published by Strident in October 2015 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.



Oonagh O’Neil has a challenge on her hands – and her head over a toilet bowl.

TV journalist and media darling Oonagh O’Neil faces danger and chaos when an elderly priest dies on the altar of his Glasgow church. His death comes as she is about to expose the shocking truth behind the closure of a Magdalene Institution. The Church has already tried to suppress the story. Is someone also covering their tracks?

DI Alec Davies is appointed to investigate the priest’s death. He and Oonagh go way back. But their friendship counts for nothing when Davies suspicions falls on Oonagh’s married lover. Oonagh now faces the biggest decision of her life. But will it be hers to make? What secrets lie behind the derelict Institution’s doors? What sparked the infamous three-day riot that closed it? And what happened to the three Maggies who vowed to stay friends forever?

From Ireland to Scotland.

From life to death.

My Review of Penance

When Father Kennedy drops dead in the middle of mass, there are repercussions that echo back decades.

I thoroughly enjoyed Penance. What I loved about it was the quality of the plotting. I really appreciated the way in which all the strands were drawn together to a highly satisfactory conclusion and I was especially impressed by the way I thought I had it all worked out but had only managed partially to guess what was really going on. The events set in the 1950s made for very uncomfortable reading and gave me a real insight into the lives of unmarried mothers at the mercy of society and the institution of the church at the time. I was so drawn in to the story that I simply put life on hold and read the whole book in one sitting. Without spoiling the plot, there is one incident that made me feel we haven’t moved on much since Thomas Hardy wrote Tess of the d’Urbervilles and I felt there were echoes of his writing in Penance.

I thought the characterisation was excellent. Whilst Oonagh belongs to an environment with which Theresa Talbot is familiar so that there is credibility to her, Oonagh is not an idealised version of the author. Oonagh has flaws, deviousness and a stubborn streak that means she doesn’t always behave well or even rationally, but every one of her actions is absolutely believable and the writing draws in the reader so comprehensively that I went from from finding Oonagh an unattractive character at the start to one for whom I had the highest regard at the end as if she were real.

Whilst both character and plot deserve high praise, what most appealed to me about Penance was the range of themes, and moral and social issues, raised by the narrative. The story is highly entertaining but it also made me think. Our desperate need to belong and be loved as individuals is there, as is the right to life and abortion debate. Theresa Talbot explores what is morally justified and how history can be manipulated and distorted so that sometimes we can lose sight of what makes a crime and what is forgivable. Other themes include adultery, homosexuality, the media, religion and prostitution so that there is much to ponder whilst enjoying a cracking story.

As a result of the easy and flowing style, Penance is a thoroughly entertaining read and I heartily recommend it – I just wish I’d read it sooner.

About Theresa Talbot

Theresa talbot

Theresa Talbot is a freelance writer, journalist and radio presenter, perhaps best known as the voice of Traffic and Travel on BBC Radio Scotland and as the host of The Beechgrove Potting Shed. Prior to working with the BBC she was with Radio Clyde and the AA Roadwatch team. Theresa worked in various roles before entering the media as an assistant in children’s homes, a Pepsi Challenge girl and a library assistant. She ended up at the BBC because of an eavesdropped conversation on a no.66 bus in Glasgow. Her passions include rescuing chickens, gardening, music and yoga.

You can follow Theresa on Twitter and visit her website.