Spotlight: Shadows by Jackie McLean

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Originally I began Linda’s Book Bag simply to share my thoughts about the books I read. However, I have found that taking part in getting the word out about a new book is just as exciting so I’m delighted today to be participating in bringing the latest DI Donna Davenport book, Shadows, from Jackie McLean to your attention.

Shadows will be published by Thunderpoint on 19th October 2017 and is available for pre-order here.


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A body washed up on Arbroath beach echoes a previous murder. Now a third woman is missing. For DI Donna and her new team, it’s personal. 

When DI Donna Davenport is called out to investigate a body washed up on Arbroath beach, it looks like a routine murder inquiry. However, it doesn’t take long before it begins to take on a more sinister shape.  There are similarities with a previous murder, and now a woman who is connected with them goes missing.   For Donna, these events become personal, and added to the feeling that she’s being watched, she is convinced that Jonas Evanton has returned to seek his revenge on her for his downfall.  Fearing they may be looking for a serial killer, the trail leads Donna and her new team in an unexpected direction.  Because it’s not a serial killer – it’s worse.

Moving from Dundee to the south coast of Turkey and the Syrian border, this is a fast-paced novel about those who live their lives in the shadows and those who would exploit them.

“Not for the first time, Donna found herself wondering how the hell she had ended up in a situation like this.”

Whilst you’re waiting to read Shadows, you might like to read Toxic, available for purchase here.



In the Scottish university city of Dundee, life and all its complications are proceeding much the same as usual.

The recklessly brilliant DI Donna Davenport, struggling to hide a secret from police colleagues and get over the break-up with her partner, is in trouble with her boss for a fiery and inappropriate outburst to the press.

DI Evanton, an old-fashioned, hard-living misogynistic copper has been newly demoted for thumping a suspect, and transferred to Dundee with a final warning ringing in his ears and a reputation that precedes him.

And in the peaceful, rolling Tayside farmland a deadly store of MIC, the toxin that devastated Bhopal, is being illegally stored by a criminal gang smuggling the valuable substance necessary for making cheap pesticides.

An anonymous tip-off starts a desperate search for the MIC that is complicated by the uneasy partnership between Davenport and Evanton and their growing mistrust of each other’s actions.

Compelling and authentic, Toxic is a tense and fast paced crime thriller.

About Jackie McLean


Jackie lives in Glasgow with her partner Allison and their dog Loopy.  She has a varied background, including being a government economist, a political lobbyist, and running a pet shop.  She is in and out of prison a lot (in her current job with social work services). Toxic was her first crime novel, introducing DI Donna Davenport, and was shortlisted in the Yeovil Literary Prize before publication by ThunderPoint Publishing Ltd.  The sequel, Shadows, is about to be published, and she has begun work on the third book in the DI Davenport series (Run).  She runs Get Writing Glasgow, which is a kind of weight watchers for writers, hosted by the Waterstones at Braehead.

You can find out more by following Jackie on Twitter and finding her on Facebook.

Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech

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I’m just thrilled to be part of the celebrations for Maria In The Moon by Louise Beech on publication day, as Louise is such a lovely person whom I’ve met on several occasions. Here you can read all about an event earlier this year in Nottingham where Louise spoke alongside other inspirational authors. I have also reviewed another of Louise’s wonderful books, How To Be Brave here.

Maria In The Moon is published by Orenda Books today, 30th September 2017, and is available for purchase here.

Maria In The Moon

maria in the moon

A stunning, beautifully written dark drama by the critically acclaimed author of How To Be Brave and The Mountain in My Shoe.

Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.

With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges… and changes everything.

Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

My Review of Maria In The Moon

Catherine Hope volunteers at a flood crisis phone line, but it might be Catherine herself who needs the support more.

I was so apprehensive about reading and reviewing Maria In The Moon, because I was afraid it might not live up to expectations. However, I finished it feeling bereft. I simply didn’t want it to end. In a way there isn’t much of a plot. Catherine, called Katrina for the purposes of the help line, answers some calls and regains some missing memories from her ninth year. But oh my goodness there is emotion, depth and artistry in the writing.

I think it says something about the exquisite skill in Louise Beech’s penmanship that I didn’t much like Catherine and her spiky personality to begin with, but by the end of the novel when I had learnt as much about her as she had learnt about herself, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else but holding her in a comforting hug. The characters in Maria In The Moon are flawed, human and so real that I could imagine bumping into them in the street. I loved that Catherine has the last name Hope as this positivity underpins the awfulness of so many of the events that are revealed, leaving the reader feeling emotionally exhausted but ultimately uplifted by the experience of reading Maria In The Moon.

I thought the conceit of how we write our own life’s narrative was beautifully executed. That we edit our memories in the same way an author edits a story until we have something we can bear to read is handled with mastery by Louise Beech. Indeed, I found the writing accomplished, engaging and terribly moving so that I experienced almost a sense of pain as I read.

Maria In The Moon is a book that thrums with poetic honesty and the truths of life and I loved it.

About Louise Beech

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Louise Beech knew from being small that she wanted to write, to create, to make magic.

Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism. Her debut novel, How to be Brave, was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015.

When she was fifteen Louise bet her mother ten pounds she’d be published by the time she was thirty. She missed this self-set deadline by two months. Her mother is still waiting for the money.

You can follow Louise on Twitter and visit her website.

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Maria in the Moon - Blog Tour Poster

An Interview with Kate Moretti, Author of The Blackbird Season

Blackbird Season

I’m thrilled to have a copy of The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti on my TBR ready to take on holiday soon. Even more exciting is the fact I get to interview Kate all about The Blackbird Season. It’s almost a year to the day since Kate was last on Linda’s Book Bag, celebrating the UK release of The Vanishing Year with a smashing guest post all about why we love crime novels that you can read here.

The Blackbird Season was published by Titan on 26th September 2017 and is available for purchase here.

The Blackbird Season

Blackbird Season

Where did they come from? Why did they fall?

In a ​quie​t​ town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community. Beloved coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the​ ​reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a student, Lucia Hamm. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are ​having an affair, throwing the town into an uproar and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life. And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only have one suspect: Nate.

Nate​’​s coworker, Bridget Harris, is determined to prove his innocence. Bridget knows the key to Nate​’​s exoneration and the truth of Lucia​’​s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of ​t​h​e missing girl’s journal.

The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti​’​s signature chillingly satisfying twists and turns.

An Interview with Kate Moretti

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Kate. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and The Blackbird Season in particular.

Firstly I’d like to know, why do you write?

All different reasons! To entertain myself and others. To figure out something that bothers me: usually a societal phenomenon. To explore something that fascinates me. To create a story, a setting, a character. To create in general.

When did you realise you were going to be a writer?

After I wrote my first book! As a kid, I was a voracious reader but writers were far away people, who were maybe very famous and rich and probably lived in castles. Attainable careers were teachers, scientists, nurses, doctors, vets. I believed this until I was 35! When I sold my first novel, I thought maybe it was possible that writers were actually people, too, who maybe lived in regular houses (and sometimes got paid very little) and still had to take out their own garbage.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about The Blackbird Season?

The Blackbird Season is about a teacher who is accused of an affair with a student who goes missing. It’s told from the POV of the teacher, his wife, his colleague and the student. I loved playing with the line of guilt and innocence here and also the way perception plays such a huge role in the pivotal events of our lives.

Your writing is renowned for its twists and turns. How do you manage your plotting?

I feel like my process varies for each book. In The Vanishing Year, the idea for the book, the first seed of story that I had was the twist at the end. For The Blackbird Season, the characters came to me, almost fully formed. Particularly Nate. He wasn’t based on any one person that I knew, but he felt alive to me. I could envision him and see his decision making process, this sort of clueless and self-absorbed interiority that is both common and somehow covert. The plot changed enormously, in the first initial drafts, Nate and Bridget had an affair. The remnants of that are still there, which is always a funny thing about revisions. You can’t erase it all, almost like it really happened.

Logistically, I’m kind of a mess. I don’t keep track of my plots in spreadsheets and they change a ton over time. I keep a running summary of things that happened “today” meaning the current writing day. Then I record what I think will happen next (it always seems to change). It’s kept as a document in my Scrivener file so I can see the whole plot “at a glance” (if by glance I mean several pages long!). The Blackbird Season was a particular challenge for me because the birds acted like a pivot point between the before and after.

Whilst you write thrillers, there often seems to be an underlying theme of identity in your work. Why is this?

I feel like we become a lot of different people in our lifetime. We are constantly learning and growing and changing and every few years, I have a minor identity crisis. I don’t think I’m alone in this but I also kind of enjoy it. Sometimes that “On this Day” feature will pop up on my Facebook and I hardly recognize the person who wrote a status five years ago. I like that! I’m intrigued by the different ways people handle this inevitable growth. I also think fear drives a lot of terrible decision making and ultimately terrible decision making is the basis for any good suspense novel.

Many people suffer from a fear of birds. Is this something that affects you and why did you choose to feature birds at the start of The Blackbird Season?

I don’t like birds! They’ve always seemed incredibly, terrifyingly smart to me and the way their eyes dart around and their heads twitch is objectively creepy. I’m glad I’m not alone. ALSO. Growing up, my bedroom was in the attic of house surrounded by very tall pine trees. I was nest level hundreds of birds, who, if you don’t know, wake up very early in the morning. I did a lot of cursing at birds on Saturdays in my teen years. However. I did not kill a thousand fictional birds for some kind pathological revenge against a species! I had to use a phenomenon that would bring a reporter and not muck up a human plot (for example, I couldn’t use a secondary murder, it would get to convoluted!). I liked the idea of this Hitchockian backdrop in this depressed community.

Psychological thrillers like The Blackbird Season are incredibly popular amongst readers. Why do you think they appeal to us so much?

I don’t know! They appeal to me too. I like to think that the thin line between a good, moral person and someone we’d usually judge harshly is mostly luck, circumstance and maybe even money. But I’m always amazed by how many people believe they are, truly, superior! For me, that’s the hook, the draw. Seeing myself in someone who is down and out, seeing what decisions I might make differently and how there’s a hairline breadth between our lives. I’ve answered the phone while driving, but I’ve never hit a child. I’ve left a candle burning by mistake, and I’ve never had a fire. I’ve turned my back for a moment, and my child has never been kidnapped. This is luck! Yet, we judge. For me, the attraction to psychological suspense is in that small space: when we, the morally superior, are suddenly thrust into these larger than life experiences.

If you could choose to be a character from The Blackbird Season, who would you be and why?

OH GOD. None of them? Maybe Alecia. I feel like by the end of the novel, she’s coming into her own. She’s accepting her son. She’s unsure about Nate but I have no doubt she’ll stop, figure out her own path, chart accordingly and take no prisoners.

If The Blackbird Season became a film, who would you like to play Nate and Bridget, and why would you choose them? 

I have a Pinterest board for this! I chose Maura Tierney as Bridget, Simon Baker as Nate and Amy Adams as Alecia.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

Suspense, first and foremost. Some literary fiction — the newest it books of the year, to see what all the fuss is about. Some old classics now and then that I’ve missed. Sometimes a light, funny read (I’m reading The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn right now and have cackled out loud quite a bit!). Anything with solid writing and great characters!

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that The Blackbird Season should be their next read, what would you say?

It’s Halloween! Why wouldn’t you want to read a book about abandoned mills, a dying town, a thousand dead birds, and a murder?

That’s more than 15 though….

Thank you so much, Kate, for your time in answering my questions.

About Kate Moretti

Kate Moretti

Kate Moretti is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Thought I Knew YouBinds That Tie, and While You Were Gone. She worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, but now writes full time. She lives in eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.

You can find out more about Kate Moretti by following her on Twitter, visiting her website and finding her on Facebook.

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Wool Is In My DNA…: A Guest Post by Poppy Dolan, Author of The Woolly Hat Knitting Club

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I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for The Woolly Hat Knitting Club by Poppy Dolan today. I have a personal reason for wanting to support this book as you’ll see further down after Poppy’s lovely guest post.

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club was published by Canelo on 25th September 2017 and is available for purchase here.

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club

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Finding happiness one stitch at a time

When Dee Blackthorn’s brother, JP, breaks both wrists not only is he in need of a helping hand – or two – but the knitting shop he owns can’t function. Sisterly duties take Dee away from her demanding job and she is unceremoniously fired amidst rumours of inappropriate behaviour. Dee is certain that her hot-shot nemesis, Ben, is behind it all but has no proof.

When Dee bumps into an old friend who is new mum to a premature baby she convinces JP to enlist his knitting pals to make lots of tiny woolly hats. Then Ben turns up denying involvement in Dee’s sacking and she ropes him into helping the knitting cause.
But before long Dee’s good intentions backfire and she risks losing her friends, her family and Ben, who’s turned out to be not so bad after all…

Wool is in my DNA…

A Guest Post by Poppy Dolan

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club

I’ve always loved anything crafty: I was that nerd in the lunchtime cross-stitch club at school and I’m not sorry. Never really being refined enough to class as ‘arty’, I loved any kind of craft that meant I could assemble something that (if you screwed your eyes up in the right way) would look lovely. If you can hot glue gun it or stitch it or turn it into a pom pom, I’m there.

So when knitting suddenly came back into vogue in the noughties, it had my name written all over it! I bought a beginner’s kit to knit a really thick, chunky scarf and away I went. It was slow going and to start with I somehow managed to accidentally double the number of stitches I had on my needle. I still don’t how know. But eventually I had a long, cosy scarf that I proudly gave to my mum. And being my mum and being really kind, she wore it.. From there I’ve knitted all sorts – tea cosies, hats with animal faces, toys and even a draft excluder! I love the challenge of a new pattern and seeing something come to life on my needles. And there is nothing better than when someone sends you a picture of them wearing or using one of your creations.

While I was writing The Woolly Hat Knitting Club, my beloved granny passed away.. She’s in the dedication for the book. In reflecting on all the wonderful things about her – she was a demon Scrabble player, an excellent cook and always looked at the glass half-full – I realised that I get my insatiable crafting appetite from her. She was from a generation where knitting wasn’t so much a hobby as part of your homemaking skills, but she definitely put the fun in knitting! When I was little, she made me a My Little Pony cardigan – the pony even had a long pink wooly mane and tail. It was amazing and I loved it; I’ll never forget it. And even when her eyesight began to fade, she switched to using really fluffy, sparkly yarns so that if she slipped a stitch it wouldn’t matter so much. She was creative and industrious, a truly inspiring woman. And so maybe knitting becoming fashionable again was just the excuse I needed to start down my own woolly path and carry on our crafty family DNA. Now, each time I pick up some yarn to start a new hat or scarf or toy zebra, I spend a minute thinking about my gran and how I think this would make her very happy indeed.

(Your post actually brought a tear to my eye Poppy. It will be our first time without my wonderful Dad for his birthday on 1st October and it was he who taught me to knit as a child over 50 years ago. I think I might need to knit something in his memory.)

About Poppy Dolan

Poppy Dolan

Poppy Dolan is in her mid thirties and lives in Berkshire with her husband. She’s a near-obsessive baker and a keen crafter, so on a typical weekend can be found moving between the haberdashery and kitchenware floors of a department store, adding to her birthday wish list. She has written three novels: The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp, There’s More to Life than Cupcakes and most recently The Bluebell Bunting Society. The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp made it into the Amazon top 100 bestseller chart, so clearly someone other than her mum must have read it. She’s currently working on her fourth novel – it’s about friends, siblings and crafty things – and drinking far too much tea.

You can follow Poppy on Twitter @poppydwriter and find her on Facebook.

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10 Reasons We Should All Celebrate Life: A Guest Post by Curly Martin, Author of Cancer Free for 20 Years

Cancer Free

I don’t think I know anyone whose life hasn’t been touched by cancer either from their own first hand experience or that of a friend or family member.

Consequently, when I was asked by Teresa at The Book Publicist if I would be willing to review Cancer Free for 20 Years by Curly Martin, I jumped at the chance. I’m also thrilled that I have a wonderfully inspiring guest post from Curly on Linda’s Book Bag today.

Published by Achievement Specialists Ltd in 1st July 2017, Cancer Free for 20 Years is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

Cancer Free for 20 Years

Cancer Free

“Inspiring, uplifting and funny read.”

Full of tips,tools, techniques,and the secrets Curly Martin used to overcome cancer. How she now lives a passionate, exciting, healthy, wealthy, happy life.

Curly Martin was diagnosed with breast cancer, and an aggressive form of lymphatic cancer in 1992 and she was given nine months to live. At that time she became homeless and was unemployed. This book is all about her fascinating and funny 20 year journey from cancer to coaching. Her story tells of her passage through the conventional medical approach consisting of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This is rapidly followed by funny tales of her experimenting with alternative therapies, sampling some weird concoctions and cultivating unusual remedies.

10 Reasons We Should All Celebrate Life

A Guest Post by Curly Martin

Years ago, I was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given just 9 months to live. So I know what it means to appreciate and celebrate life, because I do it every day. But you don’t need to wait for a significant emotional or physical event to kickstart your daily appreciation of life.

Here are 10 good reasons to get started. Who knows, you might be lucky enough never to experience a life-changing emotional or physical event – but you can still reap the rewards of celebrating life! If you don’t have all the 10 reasons in your life you must celebrate the ones you do have with double the enthusiasm.

You are alive! This is the most important reason to celebrate every morning. Many successful people across the world start their day being grateful for the day ahead. Spend the first 5 minutes of your day fully appreciating your life.

Family. Having family members to support you, and to share your joy and happiness with, will give you confidence and inner strength. If you are lucky enough to have family, celebrate them and tell them you love them often.

Friends. If you have even one friend you are rich indeed. Celebrate your friendships, because sharing good things enhances your own pleasure. And when you share sad or difficult times with someone else it reduces the pain and impact. It really is true: ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.

Seeing. If you have the gift of sight you have a massive reason to celebrate. With your eyes you can see all of life’s splendours in Technicolor; you can stimulate your mind by reading books, looking at works of art, or just enjoying a movie.

Hearing. With the ability to hear, you can enjoy wondrous experiences: the joy that music brings, the sound of wind in the trees, the sound of waves crashing on the beach, the sound of your loved ones telling you about their day. You can even celebrate the sound of silence.

Touching. To experience touch is a very powerful reason to celebrate life. You are able to feel the softness of an animal’s fur, the heat of passion, the coolness of water as you enjoy the rain on your face, the lightness of the sun’s rays on your skin.

Singing. Celebrate your voice by singing your favourite song, by telling someone how much you appreciate them, by saying thank you.

Smelling. Celebrate being able to smell the roses, a newly-baked cake, freshly-cut grass, coffee percolating or your favourite perfume.

Tasting. How wonderful to be able to taste a glass of good wine, the taste of a spicy meal, or the lips of your loved one.

Freedom. Having the freedom to choose what you want to do, and being free to do it, needs to be celebrated every day – as there are many people in the world who do not have this luxury.

Celebrate your life and celebrate the fact that you can celebrate it!

(What fantastic advice Curly!)

My Review of Cancer Free for 20 Years

From that gut wrenching moment when cancer is diagnosed, Curly is not going to give in to the 9 months to live diagnosis and over 20 years later she shares her experiences.

My own husband was diagnosed with malignant melanoma a few years ago, having seen his GP, a GP specialising in skin cancer at our local hospital, the consultant specialising in skin cancer and the surgeon who removed the enormous birth mark on his arm, all of whom told him it was fine, only to find he had a Level 1B melanoma. This means that I approached Curly Martin’s Cancer Free for 20 Years with curiosity and interest and I immediately found they were both fully rewarded.

From the moment I read the first sentence I knew I was going to love Curly Martin’s style. It’s light, bright, conversational and thoroughly down to earth.

Structured into short well written chapters with succinct summing up that helps reinforce the messages, Cancer Free for 20 Years is hugely accessible.

The tips included are utterly brilliant and frequently quite obvious if only we stopped for a moment in our busy lives to think more slowly and rationally. I shall definitely be employing the ‘negative thought shredder’. There are quite a number of techniques and processes which might be termed alternative and even slightly wacky, but what I enjoyed about their inclusion is that at no time does Curly insist they are perfect panaceas. She is always at pains to point out that things are suggestions that have had a cumulative impact in her own model of her life and may not translate perfectly for others. She does not make outrageous claims that if you do exactly as she says you will be miraculously cured of cancer, but simply shares her thoughts and what has worked for her. This has the effect of making her book more authentic to me.

I read with a smile on my face as Curly’s sense of humour and witty asides made me feel as if I were chatting with a friend rather than reading a book.

Whilst this may be a book about dealing with cancer in your life, it is so much more. Curly’s no nonsense advice is equally applicable to any aspect of your life. I feel uplifted, renewed and inspired having read Cancer Free for 20 Years.

About Curly Martin

Curly Martin

Since her terminal cancer diagnosis, Curly Martin has become an international bestselling author of The Coaching Handbook Series of books. She is a highly sought-after international speaker, a pioneer of life coach training and the founder of a very successful training company, Achievement Specialists Limited.

She intuitively combines her personal experiences with accepted methodologies and cutting edge innovations, to create exciting, very entertaining and effective approaches to living a healthy, happy and successful life.

You can follow Curly on Twitter @CurlyMartin and visit her Achievement Specialists website.

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Blogger tour poster design Cancer Free


Publication Day: A Guest Post by Mel Sherratt, Author of She Did It

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Many Linda’s Book Bag readers know I delude myself that one day I’ll finish my own novel. Despite the fact that I’ve contributed to over 20 non-fiction books, I’d love to know what it felt like to have a novel published.

Just recently, lovely Mel Sherratt released her latest thriller, She Did It and so I asked Mel if she’d tell me a bit about what happens to her on publication day. I’m delighted to share Mel’s response with you today. This is a welcome return of Mel for me as I have previously reviewed her novel The Girls Next Door here and have another review of one of Mel’s books, this time writing as Marcie Steele, The Second Chance Shoe Shop, here.

She Did It was published on 19th September 2017 and is available for purchase here.

She Did It

Sherratt_SHE DID IT_ebook_2

Work colleague. Friend. Killer.

From the million seller author comes a standalone gripping psychological thriller.

A successful businesswoman, Tamara enjoys her champagne lifestyle to the full. At least, that is the front she displays to the world. As well as being lonely, she’s running out of money. A promising new member of staff brings the injection of fresh blood needed to win the contract that will turn things around. Working for Tamara is a perfect ruse for Esther. But, along with fake references and qualifications, she also has a plan for revenge. Sensing Tamara’s vulnerability, Esther uses their acquaintance as a way of getting close to someone who hurt her in the past. Tamara is keeping things secret. Esther has a dark side she is trying to hide. For both of them, lying is a habit.

But when mistakes begin to catch up with Esther, and people start dying, Tamara realises she’s chosen the wrong person to trust as a friend.

Publication Day!

A Guest Post by Mel Sherratt

Publication day in the Sherratt household is always a frantic time. What with a blog post to put out, a website to update, newsletters to send, various social media posts to add and share, saying thank you to everyone messaging me and sharing the news. Oh, and a four hour Facebook party with a giveaway every half an hour… I think I sat down at half past eight, missing half of Bake Off and had to silence my notifications. It’s so much fun – and I wouldn’t have it any other way – but it is exhausting.

It’s always frantic though and it never gets any easier. My latest novel, She Did It is my fourteenth published book. I’m delighted (and shocked in a good way) to have sold over one million books over the past six years. So you’d think that I’d be used to the stress and the anxiety by now. Maybe the nerves will calm down.

Not a chance.

The worry begins almost immediately. Will this one live up to my other books? Will it appeal to new readers? Will past readers like it? Has my style become too familiar or have I left it so far behind that it won’t be recognisably ‘me?’ All these thoughts ticks away inside my head. That doubting fairy is forever on my shoulder.

In pings a review – it’s a good one, phew!

Of course I want every book that goes out to be well received. I want this book to be better than the last one – as I hope I get better with each book I write. I hope it won’t disappoint my many readers who love my grittier stuff, like The Estate Series or DS Allie Shenton.  Will this one live up to my other books?

She Did It is only my second standalone psychological thriller. It’s also the only novel I’ve set in London. I’ve wanted to write this book for a few years now but had contracted books to deliver first. Yet even though I loved writing it, I’ve been concerned that my loyal readers might not like it as much. It has my voice but not the normal gritty background that I write about. But I wanted to try something different.

Luckily it’s been received well so far.

This book is self-published too. Had I realised how much things had changed since I last self-published two years ago, I might have been a bit more prepared. Everything has moved on so much in terms of the technology I used before. It’s moved on in a good way as things are much more polished now and systems in place are easier to us, but that in itself still took me a while to learn.

Now it’s all about that fuzzy brain feeling. When I’ve let the book go after working tirelessly on it for months. When I think I don’t have it in me to write another. When writing book after book starts to feel like a chore.

And then I see something on the news. Or I hear a snippet of a conversation. And I start thinking what if… and I’m on to the next book without another glance.

(And we’ll all look forward to that next one too, Mel!)

About Mel Sherratt


Mel writes gritty crime dramas, psychological suspense and fiction with a punch – or grit-lit, as she calls it. Shortlisted for the prestigious CWA (Crime Writer’s Association) Dagger in Library Award 2014, Mel’s inspiration comes from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante, Mandasue Heller and Elizabeth Haynes. Since 2012, all of her crime novels have been bestsellers, each one climbing into the kindle UK top 20 and she has had several number ones. Mel has also had numerous Kindle All-star awards, for best read author and best titles.

Mel also writes contemporary fiction under the name of Marcie Steele –Stirred with Love was published in September 2015, The Little Market Stall of Hope and Heartbreak in December 2015 and The Second Chance Shoe Shop in April 2016.

Mel lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer) and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for some of her books.

You can find out more on Facebook, by visiting Mel’s website and by following her on Twitter. You’ll find all Mel’s books for purchase here.

Location and Writing: A Guest Post by Elka Ray, Author of Saigon Dark

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I was recently introduced electronically to Elka Ray, author of Saigon Dark, by Henry at Crime Wave Press and when I realised Elka lives in Hoi An, a place I visited a couple of years ago on an amazing trip to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, I had to find out how her location has affected her writing.

Saigon Dark is available for purchase here.

Saigon Dark

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Good and bad. Life and death. Some choices aren’t black and white.

A grief-stricken young mother makes a rash decision, then spends the next decade living a lie. She’s rebuilt her life and is starting to feel safe when she gets a note: ‘I know what you did’.
Can she save her daughter from her dark secret?

Location and Writing

A Guest Post by Elka Ray

After high school, I spent six months backpacking around Southeast Asia. It was 1989 but feels like light years ago. That trip sparked a fascination with this region that led me to study Journalism and Asian Studies at university in my native Canada. After school, I moved to Vietnam “for one year”. I arrived with five-hundred dollars and a backpack, knew no one, and was – looking back – utterly clueless.

This was long before email and the internet. To call home, you had to go to the central post office, wait in line, fill out a half dozen forms and – if there was power – spend six bucks a minute yelling into a dumbbell-sized receiver. Way beyond my budget.

To save twenty-five dollars a month I avoided the nascent tourist ghetto and rented a room in the distant Chinese quarter. Set over a soup restaurant, the room reeked of rancid grease and was infested with rats and roaches. Every time a truck rattled past, dust and paint would flake off the ceiling and stick to my sweaty body below. Aircon? Forget it. There was one painfully slow ceiling fan.

I was so broke I bought a second-hand bicycle from a cyclo driver. At least once a day the chain or a pedal would fly off. Back then, somebody would always stop to help. Being young and blonde helped.

Fast-forward twenty-three years and I’m still here. I didn’t plan it this way. En route I’ve acquired an endlessly optimistic husband, entertaining children and inspiring friends. I’ve switched from journalism to writing fiction, which was always my dream.

Some of my fiction is set in Southeast Asia. You’ve probably heard the writing advice: Write what you know. I know this region. But stories don’t just arise from the known. They come from things that make you stop and go: “Whoa. WTF?” Stories grow from questions.

Two years ago, after two decades of living in big cities, my family moved to the beach, near Hoi An, in Central Vietnam. My life is very quiet. I work, play with my kids and go to the beach. It suits me perfectly.

You might think this peaceful existence would be the kiss of death for crime writing. In fact, it’s been the opposite. I had two books released last year, the psychological suspense novel Saigon Dark and a collection of short crime stories, What You Don’t Know: Tales of Obsession, Mystery & Murder in Southeast Asia. I’m currently working on another psych suspense, this one set where I grew up, on the West Coast of Canada. While it’s not set in Asia, the story grew out of my move to the beach. It follows a couple who relocate to the countryside in hopes of a healthier, less stressful lifestyle – cue evil laughter…

About Elka Ray


Elka Ray is a UK/Canadian author and illustrator based in Hoi An, Vietnam. The author of Hanoi Jane, Elka also writes and draws an expanding series of children’s books about Southeast Asia, including Vietnam A to Z, 123 Vietnam! and The Warrior Queens.

For adults, Elka focuses on crime fiction and mysteries. Her short stories have appeared in Monsoon’s Crime Scene Asia: Asia’s Best Crime Fiction 2014 (Hong Kong); New Asian Fiction (India) 2013 and Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction (Singapore) 2014. Her travel writing has run in a wide range of publications, including Fodor’s, Forbes, Executive Traveller and Persimmon Asian Arts. Elka holds a Canadian degree in Journalism and Asian Studies and a Canadian diploma in Creative Writing. She has a sporty husband and two kids, and also works as a magazine editor.

You can find out more about Elka on her website, on Facebook and by following her on Twitter.

It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In by Mawson

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When Mawson’s guardian got in touch and asked if I’d like to review Mawson’s book It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In I simply couldn’t resist as, despite approaching my 60s, I’m a real sucker for a teddy bear.

It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In was published on 22nd June 2017 by Obscura and is available for purchase here.

It’s a Bright World to Feel Lost In

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Are you feeling a little lost? Got that ‘left in the spare room’ emptiness about you? Mawson does too.

He sits atop his cushion and ponders about baffling things.

The world is a funny place for a curious teddy bear to live in. Friends approach him about their own dilemmas. They seek instant answers that will make everything all right. Mawson does his best. But after he ponders deeply, most things remain for him just as baffling as they were before.

Take a moment out of your day to pawse with him and explore the world. For the many frazzled readers who feel, secretly, much the same, he offers the comfort that the world is a bright place to be.

My Review of  It’s a Bright World to Feel Lost In

There really are so many things in life for a bear to ponder.

Right, a couple of things to get out of the way first. If, as I suspect many will initially think, this is a book for children then I would have criticisms because of the fairly random use of upper case letters and some of the bear-like spellings in the pictures which undermine my sense of what is perfect modelling for literacy. And It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In could easily be shared with children and their own bears to help them feel safe and loved.

However, It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In is actually more a book for adults. Substitute the word bear for human or person and you have a book that provides solace in loss, friendship in loneliness and an understanding of what it means when someone you love is no longer with you.

I really liked this book. It is essentially a picture book for grown ups and I loved the quality of the photographs and the variety of bears included. I also really appreciated the emotional sentiments in the writing. Life is indeed very often baffling and I think we’ve all experienced ‘the aching sound of being searched for’ in our lives at some point.

It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In is a book about optimism, searching for new adventures and making the most of life and love. I can imagine a parent whose child is starting school or university sobbing over this book and I loved the concept that a bear can listen when no-one else will. It might sound ridiculous, but It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In brought a tear to my eye.

If you’re looking for a gift for someone who is struggling with life at the moment, I think It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In would make a wonderful present.

About Mawson


Mawson used to be a Bear-About-Town. However, these days he sits on cushions and ponders about Baffling Things. he has a guardian to help him with the typing in his books as it’s rather tricky when you only have paws!

You can find out more about Mawson on his website and by following him on Twitter @MawsonBear where you’ll also find his guardian @BaffledBearBook.

Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith


I’m trying really hard not to accept new books to read as my TBR is enormous, but when Mary Smith told me I could read her collection of short stories, Donkey Boy and Other Stories, in the bath without becoming wrinkly I couldn’t resist!

Donkey Boy and Other Stories was published by King Street Press on 21st September 2017 and is available for purchase here.

Donkey Boy and Other Stories


Shot through with flashes of humour the stories here will entertain, amuse, and make you think. Mary Smith’s debut collection of short stories is a real treat, introducing the reader to a diverse range of characters in a wide range of locations. A donkey boy in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse.

My Review of Donkey Boy and Other Stories

With under 80 pages, Donkey Boy and Other Stories can fit into any reader’s busy life.

What a little gem this book is. There’s a super variety of stories packed with atmospheric and entertaining writing containing both pathos and humour. Mary Smith manages to convey clear and distinct voices for each of her brilliant characters, from a Pakistani boy to an elderly Scottish woman. What I liked so much about every one of them is at I felt I knew them instantly and understood them completely but without the author imposing her own judgement on them as they make their way through life.

I loved the unifying themes across each of the stories too. Whilst each story has its own unique identity, Mary Smith explores themes that encroach into all our lives, from poverty in third world countries, through domestic abuse to mental health, grief, fear, love and disability. She does so with skill and finesse, never preaching, but conveying a wonderful sense of humanity for the misrepresented, lost and lonely and for those living unconventionally or outside social norms. I enjoyed every single tale, but especially the last in the book, The Thing in Your Eye, with its slightly supernatural undercurrent as Molly sees ‘Nasties’ in strangers’ eyes. The opening story, Donkey Boy, set in Pakistan also made me think about my own behaviour as I shall be travelling to India next year and will obviously be tipping those I come into contact with.

I really appreciated Mary Smiths wonderful craft in creating a sense of place, time and person so that although these are brief stories, each has a completeness and there’s real satisfaction in reading them.

I found Donkey Boy and Other Stories a moving, engaging and beautifully written collection that has the ability to touch the reader, make them thankful for their own life and to make them think. I’m delighted to have read it.

About Mary Smith

MAry Smith

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

You can find out more about Mary and her writing on her website, on Facebook and by following her on Twitter.

Extract and Giveaway: The Year of the Gun by Chris Nickson

The year of the gun

You all know how much I love an historical novel and I’m thrilled that today, thanks to lovely Leah Grant at The History Press, I am able to share an extract from The Year of the Gun by Chris Nickson with you. Not only that, if you live in the UK you can enter to win your own paperback copy of The Year of the Gun at the bottom of this blog post.

Published by The History Press on 1st September 2017, The Year of the Gun is available for purchase here.

The Year of the Gun

The year of the gun

1944: Twenty years after WPC Lottie Armstrong was dismissed from the Leeds police force, she’s back, now a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps.

Detective Chief Superintendent McMillan is now head of CID, trying to keep order with a depleted force as many of the male officers have enlisted. This hasn’t stopped the criminals, however, and as the Second World War rages around them, can they stop a blackout killer with a taste for murder?

An Extract from The Year of the Gun

Why are there suddenly so many Americans around?’ Lottie asked as she parked the car on Albion Street.

‘You can hardly turn a corner without running into one.’

‘Are you sure that’s not just your driving?’ McMillan said. She glanced in the mirror, seeing him sitting comfortably in the middle of the back seat, grinning.

‘You could always walk, sir.’ She kept her voice perfectly polite, a calm, sweet smile on her face. ‘It might shift a few of those inches around your waist.’

He closed the buff folder on his lap and sighed. ‘What did I do to deserve this?’

‘As I recall, you came and requested that I join up and become your driver.’

‘A moment of madness.’ Detective Chief Superintendent McMillan grunted as he slid across the seat of the Humber and opened the door. ‘I shan’t be long.’

She turned off the engine, glanced at her reflection and smiled, straightening the dark blue cap on her head.

Three months back in uniform and it still felt strange to be a policewoman again after twenty years away from it. It was just the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps, not a proper copper, but still… after they’d pitched her out on her ear it tasted delicious. Every morning when she put on her jacket she had to touch the WAPC shoulder flash to assure herself it wasn’t all a dream.

And it was perfectly true that McMillan had asked her. He’d turned up on her doorstep at the beginning of November, looking meek.

‘I need a driver, Lottie. Someone with a brain.’

‘That’s why they got rid of me before,’ she reminded him.

‘Too independent, you remember?’ McMillan had been a detective sergeant then: disobeying his order had put her before the disciplinary board, and she’d been dismissed from Leeds City Police. ‘Anyway, I’m past conscription age. Not by much,’ she added carefully, ‘but even so…’

‘Volunteer. I’ll arrange everything,’ he promised.

Hands on hips, she cocked her head and eyed him carefully.

‘Why?’ she asked suspiciously. ‘And why now?’

She’d never really blamed him for what happened before. Both of them had been in impossible positions. They’d stayed in touch after she was bounced off the force – Christmas cards, an occasional luncheon in town – and he’d been thoughtful after her husband Geoff died. But none of that explained this request.

‘Why now?’ he repeated. ‘Because I’ve just lost another driver. Pregnant. That’s the second one in two years.’

Lottie raised an eyebrow.

‘Oh, don’t be daft,’ he told her. He was in his middle fifties, mostly bald, growing fat, the dashing dark moustache now white and his cheeks turning to jowls. By rights he should have retired, but with so many away fighting for King and Country he’d agreed to stay on for the duration.

He was a senior officer, effectively running CID in Leeds, answerable to the assistant chief constable. Most of the detectives under him were older or medically unfit for service. Only two had invoked reserved occupation and stayed on the Home Front rather than put on a uniform.

But wartime hadn’t slowed down crime. Far from it. The black market had become worse in the last few months, gangs, deserters, prostitution. More of it than ever. Robberies were becoming violent, rackets more deadly. Criminals had guns and they were using them.

And now Leeds had American troops all over the place.

‘Back to Millgarth,’ McMillan said when he returned, balancing a brown paper bag carefully in one hand. ‘If nothing’s come up while we’ve been gone, you can call it a day and get off home.’ Good, Lottie thought. The Co-op might have some tea left; she was almost out. She didn’t hold out much hope for the butcher by this time of day, though. At least it had been a bountiful year in the garden: plenty of potatoes and carrots and a decent crop of peas and marrows. One thing about all this rationing, she hadn’t gained any weight since it started. If anything she’d lost a little; clothes she’d worn ten years before still fitted.

She followed McMillan into the station and up the rickety wooden staircase, gas mask case banging gently against her hip. Why she bothered with one, she didn’t know; most people had stopped carrying them. On the landing a poster read Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases, the words so faded they were almost invisible. His office was the second one along a corridor where the old linoleum curled at the edges and the paint flaked under the fingers.

‘Quiet for once,’ McMillan said as he inspected his desk.

‘Close the door.’


‘Chop chop.’

She did as he ordered, then watched him reach into the paper bag and draw out two eggs. Real, fresh eggs. When was the last time she’d seen any of those?

‘Go on, take them. They’re for you. When I saw Timmy

Houghton he gave me four. Or don’t you want them?’

Lottie scooped them up carefully, swaddled them in a hand- kerchief and placed them in her handbag.

‘Of course. Thank you.’ She didn’t know what to say. He had a habit of doing things like this. A little something here and there. A pair of stockings, some chocolate. Even a quarter- pound of best steak once that tasted like a feast. In the three months she’d been working for him she felt spoilt. It was his way of thanking her.

At the bus stop she cradled her bag close, miles away as she dreamed of the eggs, maybe with a sausage and some fried bread. The kind of breakfasts they had before the war. So many things had changed after Chamberlain spoke on the radio. Most of all, her life: two days later Geoff was dead from a sudden heart attack at work.

He’d left good provision for her. The man from the Pru came and explained it all. Insurance would pay off the mortgage on the house they’d bought in Chapel Allerton. There was an annuity as well as a pension from his job as an area manager at Dunlop. She’d never want for anything.

Her life was comfortable. Even Geoff ’s death, even the war, couldn’t seem to shake her out of it. She was sheltered, numb. Lottie burrowed into it, hid in it. She was just too old to be called up for war work. Everything seemed easier that way. Until McMillan knocked on her door and turned her life upside down.

And she couldn’t remember when she’d been so grateful.

About Chris Nickson

chris nickson

Chris Nickson has written since he was a boy growing up in Leeds, beginning with a three-paragraph school essay telling a tale of bomb disposal when he was 11. Since then Chris had enjoyed telling stories. Along the way came diversions into teenage poetry, and his other great love, music, as both a bassist and then a singer-songwriter-guitarist.

At 21, Chris moved to the US, and spent the next 30 years there, returning to England in 2005, and finally full circle to Leeds.

You can find Chris Nickson’s books here.

You can follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisNickson2 and visit his website. You’ll also find him on Facebook.

Giveaway – A Paperback Copy of The Year of the Gun

The year of the gun

For your chance to win a paperback copy of The Year of The Gun by Chris Nickson, click here.

UK only I’m afraid. Giveaway closes UK midnight on Sunday 1st October 2017.