A Publication Day Interview with Michael Lilly, Author of Pond Scum

Pond Scum

Although I don’t have time to read every book that comes my way, it doesn’t stop me being absolutely fascinated by them. That’s the case with Pond Scum by Michael Lilly. Sadly I didn’t have time to add it to my TBR but I am thrilled that Michael agreed to tell me more about Pond Scum in interview and I would like to thank Kelly Pike at Folk PR for putting us in touch with one another.

Published today, 26th January 2018, by Vulpine Press, Pond Scum is available for purchase here.

Pond Scum

Pond Scum

My name is Jeremy Thorn, and I’m a serial killer.

Jeremy ‘Remy’ Thorn is a detective from a small town in Oregon. He does his job well and keeps to himself. A past of trauma and abuse, and a compulsive need for balance have shaped him into the person he is today: a decisive, effective killer.

His routine is simple but trustworthy.

Step one: Find two targets. The first, an abomination of a human being whose only contribution to the world is as fertilizer. The second, a detriment to society, perhaps a sidekick or accessory.

Step two: Kill the first. Frame the second.


After his latest, and most personal kill, all seems to be going well. He makes it home by morning and continues with his plan as normal, with each perfectly timed maneuver all mapped out. But to his horror, he finds that the man he was trying to frame—a hotshot detective from a major nearby city—has been called in to work the case. And what’s worse … he’s privy to the truth.

An Interview with Michael Lilly

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Michael. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Pond Scum in particular. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Thank you for having me! I’d love to. I was born and raised in Utah, United States. It’s a fairly conservative area, and I think this influenced my upbringing in a big way, but the opposite way you’d expect. I’m gay (surprise!) and came out when I was a teenager, which created quite a lot of conflict, both internal and external, for me and those in my life. I think these factors largely propelled my desire to write. To dispel any rumors that may arise from the content of my book, no, I was not abused in any way. In fact, much of my family has had an active role in raising awareness for and putting a stop to child abuse locally, nationally, and even internationally.

(How interesting that sexuality has impacted on your desire to write.)

Why do you write?

There’s too much going on in my head. If I write it down, it helps me organize those thoughts. Often, those thoughts are philosophical or thought-provoking in nature, so I use Remy and the gang as sort of props to act out these hypotheticals.

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

Oh dear. Not until I finished my first draft, honestly. I had this piece of work and didn’t know what to do with it (other than edit until my fingers bleed!), so I started researching what steps to take in order to publish traditionally. I had no idea whether my book would be considered by agents or publishers (and even still, I have trouble believing I am where I am). But feedback from friends, family, a supportive agent, and a wonderful editor have gone quite far to stem those doubts.

(So many authors describe a similar experience.)

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

The easiest part of writing, I think, is the one that makes everyone fall in love with the idea of it. That first rush you get after you conceptualize a new story, characters bursting into being in your mind, and the infinite possibilities of plot and suspense and interesting dynamics. There are no rules in the first page, right? Conversely, the hardest part is taking that wonderful start and patting it out to a full-on story. When you’re in the middle of the book, you’ve created something, so everything you write from then on must adhere to the thing you’ve created, barring some major plot twisting. And those are fun, too! But still, it can be a bit challenging to continue producing content after you’ve established so many rules and dynamics.

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

Ha! I do most of my writing at my night job. As I mentioned above, while I was writing Pond Scum, we were allowed to have our laptops at work. When this permission was repealed, I wrote Roadrunner entirely by hand, and almost exclusively at work. It takes a bit of forced routine to get oneself to look forward to writing, but now, the sensation of putting pen to paper is one I crave, so it ended up working out.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Pond Scum?

Jeremy Thorn, or, as he’d have you call him, Remy, was born into a life of trauma and abuse. I wanted to explore the oft overlooked nuances of mental illness and trauma, while simultaneously delivering an engaging and satisfying tale, and thus Pond Scum was born. If I may say so, I’m quite pleased with how the book turned out, and I think I managed to pull off what I set out to do.

Your protagonist Jeremy ‘Remy’ Thorn is both serial killer and detective. How did you manage to create such a complex individual?

Actually, the character sort of coalesced on the page in a sort of free write I did. Being the wordy sort that I am, I had a bit of sentence and phrasing stuck in my head (there’s a bit about the nip in the air in the prologue, foretelling the coming Thanksgiving season), so I sat down to write that out. After I created the setting, Remy and the bloody glove came into being, and all at once, it emerged. For all I know, Remy had been waiting to be written for years.

Remy is very much the product of his upbringing. To what extent do you think we are all affected by our past life?

Of course, there’s always the argument of nature vs. nurture, but at the end of the day, we sit down and do one of a few things. Perhaps we reflect on that day, or we anticipate the following one. Maybe we pour ourselves a cup of tea and immerse ourselves in television, books, video games. In any case, we’re either thinking outwardly about the world and its products or absorbing them. I think we don’t realize exactly how much we are products of our lives – past and present, and anticipation of the future. This concept can also be argued, of course, as two people with similar histories end up having vastly different outcomes, but again, we need to take into account the small differences, those little taken-for-granteds that slip our minds too often.

You’ve had some major struggles in your own life. How far has writing Pond Scum been a cathartic experience or a difficult one for you?

It was almost purely cathartic. Of course, in the more emotional moments, it was difficult to put onto the page, but even then, I felt a special brand of cleansed afterward. I’ll reiterate that my own struggles certainly haven’t been the same as Remy’s, but in the way that he’s built and the way that he handles his problems, he and I are very similar. For example, I wrote a not-small bit about his obsessive-compulsive rituals, and these are the exact rituals I myself had when I was in high school. To get that out was painful, but the pain brought with it that sort of numb healing sensation afterward, and I’ve felt just the slightest bit purer for it.

(I’m so glad it has been a positive experience Michael.)

The subject matter underpinning Remy’s early life is traumatic. Why did you choose to explore such themes through your writing?

As I’ve mentioned above, my family and I have had roles confronting and fighting against child abuse. In addition, my father is a counselor and works closely with children (often with trauma and abuse), using play therapy techniques. While I haven’t pursued psychology in higher education, I took a couple of classes in high school, and the fascination has always been there. For the past four years, I’ve been working with high-risk teen girls at a behavioral treatment center, and have had the opportunity to build relationships and rapport with them. As such, I’ve been able to get a close-up and heartbreaking look at the effects of trauma and how it influences the mind. In a study conducted within the facility itself, 78 of 80 patients had disclosed having been subject to some sort of trauma, and the other two were suspected of having had trauma, but simply not opening up about it just yet.

(That sounds like immensely important work.)

Pond Scum is the first in your Darkthorn series. How do you manage the plotting for a series?

I had originally planned to write just the single book, but after it ended, I found myself missing Remy! Just as I finished writing Pond Scum, my night job banned computers, so I figured it was pretty good timing to put a halt to it, but one night I was overcome with the need to write, so I grabbed a few sheets of paper and my trusty pen, and set to work on what became the prologue to Roadrunner. As I neared the completion of the latter, I foresaw this sentiment (I’m smart like that), so I left it quite open at the end while still wrapping up the main storyline. This gave me plenty of room for mystery and draw in the third installment. I am aware that all good things must come to an end, however, so I’ve spent a lot of time bracing myself emotionally for Remy’s story to come to a close.

Pond Scum has a cover that suggests there is more happening beneath the surface than might at first be realised. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

Actually, I’ll admit that I had relatively little influence on the art. The stipulations I set forth were that I wanted the constellation Orion incorporated (See him there, in the upper right corner? Love that guy,) and that it was fairly dark. The use of the pond must have been a collaboration of my editor and the artist, and I absolutely adore it. Indeed there is more going on underneath the surface, and that in itself is largely what needed to be conveyed. The title and cover art are attention-grabbers, but sufficiently vague to get potential readers to ask, “Why?” So I suppose, in essence, the goal is to force them to ask questions without allowing them the answers. We’re tricky marketers like that.

If you could choose to be a character from Pond Scum, who would you be and why?

Beth! She’s confident and smart and I love her (no hetero). When I first introduced her in the prologue, I didn’t intend for her to have such a big role in the book, but as I continued to describe her character, I fell in love with her, and I couldn’t just let her sit in the background.

If Pond Scum became a film, who would you like to play Remy and why would you choose them?

That’s a difficult one. I wanted Remy to be subtly handsome, but if we’re taking it to Hollywood, I definitely wouldn’t mind a Mark Wahlberg or Chris Evans type playing him. Just as long as he manages to deliver the funny bits genuinely. I think those are important parts to Remy’s character, and I hope they’re not overlooked or discarded when my audience reads them.

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

Anything well-written, really. Coming of age young adult dramas, horror, fantasy, crime, suspense. Sci-Fi is one genre I have difficulty getting interested in, but even then, if I start reading a book, I usually have difficulty putting it down.

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

Treat your mind to the twisted, complex crime fiction it’s been craving with Pond Scum.

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

Thank you for the opportunity to share about my book!

About Michael Lilly

m lilly

Michael Lilly is from the States, born and raised in Utah. Much of the inspiration for Remy comes from Lilly’s own experience growing up with mental health issues, many of which were associated with his fear of coming out in the LDS church. Today, Lilly uses his experience to help others in need, working in a behavioural treatment centre for high-risk teen girls. Lilly’s father is the founder of the non-profit Bikers Against Child Abuse.

You can find Michael on Twitter @AuthorMLilly and Facebook.

One Day Only Giveaway: The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

The Cottingley Secret

I’ve been involved in all kinds of blog tours and promotions since I began blogging, but I love this one from Harper Collins for The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor. No guest post, no interview, no extract, but a chance for one lucky UK person to win a paperback copy of The Cottingley Secret and a box of fairy related gifts including some sparkling wine, a jar of fairy lights and some fairy dust filled hanging glass ornaments.

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All you have to do to be in with a chance to win a box like mine is head over to my Twitter feed @Lindahill50Hill and retweet one of my tweets about this giveaway by midnight tonight for your name to go into the hat. A winner will be drawn at random tomorrow Saturday 27th January 2018.

Please note that this is open to UK readers only and is run by Harper Collins independently of Linda’s Book Bag.

Published in paperback by Harper Collins on 25th January 2018, The Cottingley Secret is available for purchase here.

The Cottingley Secret

The Cottingley Secret

1917: When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, announce they have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when the great novelist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, endorses the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a sensation; their discovery offering something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript and a photograph in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story of the two young girls who mystified the world. As Olivia is drawn into events a century ago, she becomes aware of the past and the present intertwining, blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, will Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

About Hazel Gaynor

Hazel Gaynor

Hazel Gaynor is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of A Memory Of Violets and The Girl Who Came Home, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. Her third novel The Girl From The Savoy was an Irish Times and Globe & Mail Canada bestseller, and was shortlisted for the BGE Irish Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year.

Hazel was selected by the US Library Journal as one of ‘Ten Big Breakout Authors’ for 2015 and was a W H Smith Fresh Talent selection in spring 2015. Her work has been translated into several languages and she is represented by Michelle Brower of Aevitas Creative Management, New York.

You can follow Hazel on Twitter @HazelGaynor, find her on Facebook or visit her website.

Wartime: A Guest Post by Rachel Malik, Author of Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves

Miss Boston cover

I’m just delighted to be part of the paperback launch celebrations for Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik. I’ve been hearing so many great things about Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves and am so thrilled to have a copy waiting for me on my TBR. Today I’m bringing you a guest post from Rachel all about wartime and the background to teh book.

Published by Penguin, Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves is already available for purchase in ebook and hardback and will be released in paperback on 1st February 2018 here. 

Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves

Miss Boston cover

One day in 1940 Rene Hargreaves walks out on her family and the city to take a position as a Land Girl at the remote Starlight farm. There she will live with and help lonely farmer Elsie Boston.

At first Elsie and Rene are unsure of one another – strangers from different worlds. But over time they each come to depend on the other. They become inseparable.

Until the day a visitor from Rene’s past arrives and their careful, secluded life is thrown into confusion. Suddenly, all they have built together is threatened. What will they do to protect themselves? And are they prepared for the consequences?


A Guest Post by Rachel Malik

Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves spans 20 years but the wartime setting especially important. The novel begins in the South of England in June 1940: most of France has surrendered to Germany and British soldiers have just been rescued from Dunkirk.  Elsie Boston, one of the two main characters, is under no illusions about how badly the war is going.  Britain faces defeat – no one can know what is going to happen. I wanted the novel to open at a moment of real uncertainty, the kind that may make characters retrench and close in on themselves or take risks they never would in ordinary life.

Elsie and Rene Hargreaves, the Land Girl who comes to work on Elsie’s smallholding, Starlight, are far from the action in some ways. Elsie has been working the land all her life – there’s no novelty for her in the work – and she’s been working alone for some years so she can teach Rene.  Starlight Farm, at the top of a hill on the Lambourn Downs is relatively isolated and the two women have very little contact with other locals. This gives them a kind of freedom but they both feel part of the war effort – Rene especially (she has her reasons for this).  The war is frightening but also exciting, often both at the same time.

Only last night there had been bombing, heavy enough, far enough away to have them rush out into the dark. They had climbed to the very top of the hill, and turning their backs on Lambourn and the valley, they had watched the bright come and go and heard the rumbling and spitting of the bombs like distant weather. Unable to do anything but stand and wait, they watched as a glow built slowly on the horizon – Portsmouth or Southampton … They had felt jittery and oddly excited but then a plane shrieked over Inkpen Hill….

Women’s contribution to WW2 and the Home Front in particular is now well-known. Rene and Elsie are part of this: they work hard to produce food for the country, listen attentively to the news on the wireless, take public information posters seriously.  They are always on the lookout for the enemy, but the enemy isn’t always where you expect to find it.  Whilst the war created new opportunities for women, it also, predictably, created anger and anxiety. In the novel, the local landowners are angered by Elsie’s independence and because she has managed to secure a Land Girl – this stokes much older resentments. In the first third of the novel, it’s the locals Rene and Elsie need to look out for.


There are wonderful films and photographs of women at work on the home front, heroic or cosy: Amazonian women driving tractors with the sun in their hair, the Women’s Institute making jam for the nation. They make great viewing and were an important part of my research but they were also the official picture, patriotic, intended to inspire, promote hard work, loyalty to the cause.  In many contemporary dramas which feature Land Girls, churlish men and older women are gradually brought around.  But these aren’t the only stories.


War Agricultural Executive Committees were set up in each county (‘County War Ags’), mainly made up of local landowners, to co-ordinate the agricultural war effort. Between 1941 and 1943 the National Farm Survey assessed farms throughout England and Wales for their productivity. On the basis of the results, farmers might be offered resources or required to change land-use or grow different crops. Most harshly, they could be evicted if they were thought not to be managing their land efficiently. Historians now estimate that more than 2,500 tenancies were terminated during the war (and many more farmers probably quit under pressure). Quite often, these farms were acquired by local landowners who added to their acres. The survey usually included a visit to the farm by an outside expert. In the novel Rene and Elsie prepare anxiously for this visit determined to make a good show, not knowing that he wasn’t the person who would be making the decisions …

VE day is famously captured by the footage of the celebrations in London. The energy and sheer happiness of the crowd is exhilarating, but for many the picture wasn’t so simple. Rene and Elsie spend VE day in the country. Relieved that the war is over and keen to watch people celebrate and enjoy themselves, they are also uneasy. Many changes are coming. The years after WW2 brought all manner of attempts to reassert older gender conventions. In cities there was some possibility of escape from these, but in the countryside and if you were working class it was far, far harder. Meeting by chance, because of the war, from different places and with apparently nothing in common, by 1945 Rene and Elsie have forged a powerful bond and are trying to find a new way of living. Will the future be able to accommodate them?

What a fascinating post Rachel. Thank you. 

Rachel has also provided links to some amazing resources if you’d like to see more.


Try the Women’s Land Army website for lots more detailed information about the WLA and some wonderful images:

For more information on the National Farm Survey which offers a huge amount of information about the agriculture at this time and which could be an invaluable family history resource, start at here.

For more information about the evictions, see Short, Brian, Watkins, Charles, Foot, William and Kinsman, Phil The National Farm Survey, 1941-1943: State Surveillance and the Countryside in England and Wales in the Second World War.

Sarah Waters’s novel The Night Watch (2006), set between 1941 and 1947, shows the very sharp differences between wartime and the aftermath.  The UK TV series The Bletchley Circle (2012 and 2014), set in 1952-3 and starring Anna Maxwell Martin, explores the struggles and confinements of post-war life for many women.

About Rachel Malik


Rachel Malik was born in London of mixed English and Pakastani heritage.She studied English at Cambridge and Linguistics at Strathclyde. For many years Rachel taught English at Middlesex University.

You an follow Rachel on Twitter @RachelMalik99 and visit her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Tour Poster

Extract and Giveaway: A Stranger in the Cove by Rachel Brimble


I’m delighted to be supporting Brook Cottage Books in bringing you A Stranger in the Cove by Rachel Brimble. I have a lovely extract from the book and a £20 or $20 Amazon gift certificate giveaway to celebrate the recent publication of A Stranger in the Cove.

A Stranger in the Cove was published by Harlequin on 1st January 2018 and is available for purchase from Amazon UKAmazon US and Barnes & Noble.  

A Stranger in the Cove


Mac Orman is on a mission. When he discovers his recently deceased father had been searching for his birth mother, Mac aims to finish the job by finding the grandmother he never knew. His quest leads him to Templeton Cove—and a firecracker of a woman who instantly jump-starts his tortured heart.

For Mac, Kate Harrington is the most tempting kind of distraction. But their sizzling connection comes with a side of suspicion for Kate, who doesn’t trust this brooding stranger in her town. Mac arrived with no plans to stay, but as he falls for Kate, he wonders how he could ever possibly leave.

An Extract from A Stranger in the Cove

Oh, for the love of God. The man’s smile was slow, soft and as sexy as hell. It was like an invisible aphrodisiac on her newly ignited libido. She took another sip of her drink, her heart  racing and her body on fire. He looked at her as though he had X-ray vision…or the ability to make her want to strip without the request even passing his lips. Every inch of her body was intensely aware of him and she didn’t like it. Not one tiny bit. Good looks and even better bodies were not to be trusted. This guy could be just as much of a cheater as her ex. Even more so, if his killer smile was anything to go by. She couldn’t imagine a woman not being affected by it. So why did she want to keep looking at him?

He leaned his elbow on the bar and faced her. “So…” He took a sip of his drink. “Do you live around here?”

Feigning nonchalance, she sat straighter on her stool and drew forth as much of a welcome attitude as she could. It wasn’t this stranger’s fault he’d attracted and intrigued her in one very dangerous blow. “Yes.”

He smiled. “That’s all I get?”

“That’s all you get.” She returned his smile, her body relaxing a little. His voice was rich and deep and had the same warming effect on her as a shot of whiskey on a cold night. “That is, until I know a little more about you.”

“Shoot.” He drank. “Ask me anything you want.”

“Okay…” Her gaze dropped frustratingly to his mouth, most likely quashing her

nonchalance in a heartbeat. She shifted on her seat and lifted her gaze to his…although his eyes were by no means a safer option. She cleared her throat. “What brings you to the Cove?”

His gaze locked on hers and the seconds ticked by. His blue eyes darkened as his smile

faltered.  Kate raised her eyebrows, curiosity whispering through her. “Was that not a good question to start with?”

He flitted his focus to the band once more. “I’m looking for work.”

She frowned. “In Templeton?”

“It’s as good a place as any, isn’t it?”

She hazarded a guess that the shift in his tone was meant to induce a throw away question, to make her believe it was no big deal why he was in Templeton. Little did Mr. Bad Boy know, she was blessed—or sometimes cursed—with the innate ability to read between the lines, to sense when something wasn’t quite right with people or situations. Her senses pinged to high alert with this guy at the sudden stiffness in his body, the way his jaw had set. His easy demeanour of a moment before had been replaced with clear defensiveness.

About Rachel Brimble

Author pic - 2017(1)

Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. After having several novels published by small US presses, she secured agent representation in 2011. Since 2013, she has had seven books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and an eighth coming in Jan 2018. She also has four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical Press.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

She likes nothing more than connecting and chatting with her readers and fellow romance writers. Rachel would love to hear from you!

You can find Rachel on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @RachelBrimble, or on Instagram and visit her website or blog and find her on Goodreads.


A Stranger in the Cove Tour Banner

For your chance to win a £20 or $20 Amazon Gift Voucher, click here.

Please note this giveaway is run independently of Linda’s Book Bag.

A New Map of Love by Abi Oliver


I can’t believe it was April 2017 when Abi Oliver’s A New Map of Love first arrived on my TBR and I would like to thank Abi for sending me a copy in return for (a very belated) review. Today is the paperback release of A New Map of Love and I’m delighted to be able to share my review at last. Even better, I have a smashing guest post from Abi that explains just how George, the protagonist in A New Map of Love, came about.

A New Map of Love is published by Pan Macmillan and is available for purchase here.

A New Map of Love

George Baxter has settled for a comfortable life, content as the years unfold predictably – until Win, his wife of twenty-six years, dies.

With his loyal dog Monty by his side, George throws himself into his work as an antiques dealer. His business is at the heart of the village and all sorts pass through the doors, each person in search of their own little piece of history.

When George meets local widow Sylvia Newsome, he imagines a different kind of future. But life has more revelations to offer him. Over the course of an English summer George uncovers some unexpected mysteries from his past, which could shape his tomorrows . . .


A Guest Post by Abi Oliver

‘Here he sat, George, Oswald Baxter, alone with his unfortunate initials and ridiculous dog. Alone with no compass in this explorer’s blizzard, all landmarks effaced…’

I wanted to write about mid-life. About the time when for a lot of us the paths we have walked for a decade or several begin to crumble and disintegrate under our feet. The map is torn up. Life can be disorientating and start to lose shape.

But I also wanted to write a book set in the loveliness of an English summer, about a country antique dealer such as my own father was in the 1960s.

Enter George Baxter.

Where do the characters we write about come from? Some have to be hacked out with a pick and shovel. Others march out as if from behind the curtains of a stage and demand to be central to the action. George Baxter was one of those.  He is no one I know personally, yet he has elements of a number of men I have known while being insistently himself.

The novel opens with George, on a snowy day in February 1964, dashing away from his wife’s funeral because he just can’t face seeing everyone. Sitting on the snowy downs with his food-obsessed Bassett Hound, Monty, beside him, he toasts his dead wife, Win, a good woman who he feels deserved better than him.

Because, while finding no fault with Win, he has always craved more – more life and adventurousness, more in the way of love: just more.

A New Map of Love takes place through the long hot summer of George’s search for the kind of love he suspects exists but which he knows he has never had. George is a man of conventional assumptions. Lunch means sausages. Men and women meet and marry – and in a marriage, the woman does most of the emotional work.

But now he is on his own and the women he meets are not at all like the women he is used to… Kindhearted but hapless George is in for some surprises.

And George himself has a past, which is also about to supply further revelations…

It was a great pleasure writing A New Map of Love. In the past I have written about harder lives – wars and tragedies – and I wanted to write something happier, more querky and fun. There are moments in the book which are definitely a tribute to H.G Wells’s A History of Mr Polly another story in which general disgruntlement with life turns to joy. I love the combination of very singular English characters and the celebration of the landscape. I do hope some of you will enjoy it.

My review of A New Map of Love

Newly widowed George Baxter finds he is somewhat out of practice when it comes to women!

I so enjoyed this lovely book. Abi Oliver has created a world where the rhythms of life, nature and society hark back to a gentler age so that reading A New Map of Love feels like a nostalgic and wistful homecoming.

I thought the settings were wonderful. The 1960s are so well evoked through the musical references and the terrible dilemmas George has in balancing chivalry with emancipation. Vera in particular embodies the new spirit of the age whilst George really doesn’t have a clue which of the many women he encounters following Win’s death can be relied upon or who are genuine. I enjoyed meeting all the people between the pages of A New Map of Love. Yes, there are villains, but they are loveable rogues rather than psychotic murderers of so many books and I was frequently reminded of P. G Wodehouse as I read. I thought George was a triumph. He’s genuine, warm and not a little foolish so that I felt I wanted to protect him as he feels his way to a new life after Win. It makes such a change to read about those not still in their first flush of youth and to have them portrayed as real people who retain emotions and desires.

Abi Oliver has a super writing style so that there is great humour in A New Map of Love. It isn’t hilarious side splitting prose, but there’s a wry and familiar drollness and irony that is infectious and I found myself chuckling frequently. However, what I appreciated most was the attention to detail. The antiques of George’s world are vividly described so that I could picture them incredibly well, but for me it was the natural imagery that helped make A New Map of Love so beguiling. I felt transported back to the landscape of my youth.

If you’re a lover of hard boiled crime thrillers then Abi Oliver’s A New Map of Love is probably not for you. If, like me, you’re looking for a gentle book with loveable characters that will transport you to a more benign and serene era, then you’ll love it.

About Abi Oliver

Hungerford Bookshop 30.6.17 2

Abi Oliver has spent much of her life in the Thames Valley. She studied at Oxford and London Universities, has worked for a charity, as a nurse, on Indian Railways and as a writer. She has also raised four children and lives in Purley-on-Thames.

You can follow Abi on Twitter @AbiWriterOliver and visit her website. You’ll also find Abi on Facebook.

Staying in with V. S. Kemanis

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You know, this new feature of Staying in with… on Linda’s Book Bag is introducing me to a whole range of new to me authors and books and it’s so exciting. Today I’m delighted to welcome V. S. Kemanis to stay in and share some book news with me.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying in with V. S. Kemanis

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, V. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

It’s a pleasure to be here, Linda!

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought along Deep Zero, my newest legal suspense novel—release date is January 25! My protagonist, prosecutor Dana Hargrove, gives us a lot to talk about. She’s a strong and smart woman handling the most difficult criminal cases, but she shows her vulnerability when the demands of her job conflict with her family life. Maintaining a balance between the personal and the professional was the greatest challenge I faced in my own legal career, and it’s a consistent theme in my novels. Dana’s work is fascinating and ever changing with the stages of her life. In previous novels, she’s an assistant district attorney in New York City in 1988 (Thursday’s List), 1994 (Homicide Chart), and 2001 (Forsaken Oath). Deep Zero is set in 2009, when Dana is the newly-elected district attorney in a suburb of the city, where she lives with her husband, attorney Evan Goodhue, and their two teenagers, Travis and Natalie.

(Ooo! So that means tomorrow is your book birthday. Happy publication day for Deep Zero.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Deep Zero?

Dana’s new administration is under siege! A number of controversial cases converge at once: murder, cyberbullying, assault, and prescription narcotics peddling.

Further complicating things, Dana’s parenting comes under fire in the media when her children are drawn into a criminal investigation. She struggles to take the ethical high road in every case, even when love and loyalty to her family pull her in a different direction.

In Deep Zero, you can expect to feel the high emotions experienced by people on all sides of the criminal justice system: victims, defendants, witnesses, investigators, attorneys, and judges.


Forsaken Oath, was described as “clever, immersive… Kemanis, a talented weaver of scene and exposition, keeps the reader engaged with each new twist and bit of evidence, [and] successfully spins a number of subplots simultaneously” (a Kirkus Reviews recommended title).

(I think that sounds like something we can all relate to as so many of us try to find balance in our lives.)

What else have you brought along and why?

I’ve brought along the fixings for two steaming mugs of hot cocoa! Let’s get a fire going in the fireplace, settle into easy chairs, and sip slowly as we chat about Dana’s criminal cases. Deep Zero takes us to the Hudson Valley north of New York City, where an arctic cold snap provides the chilly setting for murder and mayhem. Perhaps I chose cocoa instead of a hot toddy for our winter drink this evening because, as you’ll see, things get pretty bad for some of the characters in Deep Zero when alcohol adds fuel to the fire!


(Actually, I much prefer hot chocolate to alcohol so I’m with you on that one!)

I’ve really enjoyed hearing about Deep Zero V. Thanks so much for staying in with me to talk about it.

Deep Zero

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It’s one a.m. Do you know where your teenagers are? Prosecutor Dana Hargrove makes it a point to know. But one night, in the dead of winter, she should have known more.

In February 2009, Dana is the newly-elected district attorney of a suburban county north of Manhattan, where she lives with her husband, attorney Evan Goodhue, and their two teenage children. The Great Recession has seen a rise in substance abuse and domestic violence. It’s also the era of burgeoning social media, an intoxicating lure for wayward and disaffected teens who find new methods of victimization: a game to some, with no thought of the consequences.

During an arctic cold snap, the body of a high school student is discovered, lodged in the ice floes of the Hudson River. People are crying for justice, but there doesn’t seem to be a law that fits. Days later, in one hellish night, Dana’s children are sucked into a criminal investigation against several of their classmates, making her a convenient target for community outrage.

In Deep Zero, the fourth standalone legal mystery featuring the dynamic prosecutor, Dana walks the tightrope like never before in her tricky balance between professional ethics and family loyalties.

Deep Zero is available for purchase here.

About V. S. Kemanis


V.S. Kemanis has had an exciting and varied career in the law and the arts. As an attorney, she has been a criminal prosecutor for county and state agencies, argued criminal appeals for the prosecution and defense, conducted complex civil litigation, and worked for appellate judges and courts, most recently as a supervising editor of appellate decisions. Ms. Kemanis is also an accomplished dancer of classical ballet, modern jazz, and contemporary styles, and has performed, taught and choreographed in California, Colorado and New York.

Short fiction by Ms. Kemanis has been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Crooked Road Volume 3 anthology, and several noted literary journals. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America. Her award-winning short fiction is available in four collections, and her legal suspense novels feature prosecutor Dana Hargrove who, like the author, juggles the competing demands of family with a high-powered professional career in the law. Learn more about the inspiration for her work in the video, The Dana Hargrove Novels. You’ll find all V. S. Kemanis’ books here.

You can find out more about V. S. Kemanis by following her on Twitter @VSKemanis, and visiting her website.

Shoeless Child by J.A. Schneider

Shoeless Child

When J. A. Schneider’s novel Her Last Breath was published Joyce kindly wrote a guest post for Linda’s Book Bag giving advice for aspiring writers that you can read here.  Unfortunately, with my father dying in hospital I simply didn’t have time to read Her Last Breath so when Joyce asked me if I’d like a copy of her latest novel, Shoeless Child, in return for an honest review I was thrilled to accept.

Published today in e-book and paperback, Shoeless Child is available for purchase here.

Shoeless Child

Shoeless Child

A little boy has seen a horrific murder but is too traumatized to speak. Detective Kerri Blasco struggles to connect with him…

Charlie Sparkes peeks out to see his mother and another young woman brutally shot. Hysterical, the brave child bolts into the cold November night for help. He screams and cries, only to fall into more trauma.

Homicide Detective Kerri Blasco is called to the murder scene. One woman lies dead next to the blood soaked rug where Rachel Sparkes was seriously wounded. With little memory of the attack, she has been taken to the hospital – but where is her child? He too, Kerri discovers, now lies in a hospital bed, mute and traumatized in a fetal position, refusing even food and water.

Charlie must have seen what happened. Kerri’s heart aches for this piteous little boy and she struggles to help him; struggles, too to find the monster who did this horrible crime. “It’s your kind of case,” Sergeant Alex Brand, Kerri’s boss and partner tells her, stepping up police urgency when another innocent is shot, and then another…

Kerri Blasco finds herself more emotionally obsessed with this case than with any other, despite clear and onrushing danger to herself…

My Review of Shoeless Child

A brutal murder sees Charlie traumatised but as he’s the key to the murderer Kerri Blasco needs to get through to him.

My goodness! I think it says something about the powerful nature of Shoeless Child that although I’d only read a few pages before bed, the story invaded my dreams. From the first page, reading Shoeless Child felt like being on an out of control roller coaster, so fast is the pace and the thrill. Several times I realised I was reading with an elevated pulse rate.

I thought the short, sharp chapters were inspired as they lent pace and momentum to the read and had the effect of making me think I’d just read one more, and one more and one more until I had gobbled up the entire book.

Initially I found the many characters a little bit confusing, but once I had settled into the rhythm of the story they became clear and distinct so that by the end of Shoeless Child I was particularly heavily invested in Alex, Kerri, Rachel and Charlie. Again, I’m impressed by J.A. Schneider’s writing because I don’t usually like children in fiction yet she made me care what happened to Charlie. That’s a real achievement!

As I read I changed my mind several times about the identity of the killer and found the final reveal very satisfying. I also really appreciated the insight into the frustrations and successes of the homicide team. The dialogue, procedures and descriptions made for a vivid and interesting, as well as hugely entertaining, narrative.

Shoeless Child is fast paced, riveting and compelling. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Joyce Schneider


J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine, a wife, mom, and reading addict. She loves thrillers…which may seem odd, since she was once a major in French Literature – wonderful but sometimes heavy stuff. Now, for years, she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine, forensic science, and police procedure. Decades of being married to a physician who loves explaining medical concepts and reliving his experiences means there’ll often be medical angles even in “regular” thrillers that she writes. She lives with her family in Connecticut, USA.

You can find out more about J.A. Schneider on her website, on Goodreads, by following her on Twitter and on Facebook. All of Joyce’s books are available here.