The Juniper Gin Joint by Lizzie Lovell

Juniper Gin

My enormous thanks to Kate Straker at Atlantic and Allen and Unwin Books for a surprise copy of The Juniper Gin Joint by Lizzie Lovell in return for an honest review.

The Juniper Gin Joint was published in the UK on 5th July 2018 and is available for purchase through the links here.

The Juniper Gin Joint

Juniper Gin

It’s been a tough year for Jennifer in her seaside Devon town. Her kids have left home for pastures new and her husband has left home for another woman.

Home alone with her eccentric home-brewing father and a Jack Russell, she is just getting her life back on track when her job at the local museum is threatened by her first love and nemesis, Councillor David Bourton, who intends to sell the beautiful old building to a pub chain. But help is at hand from her colleagues: Jackie, a former Greenham warrior, Tish, a flamboyant historian, and Carol, mega-flirt. Plus newcomer and former campaigner, Tom Bassett. Who happens to be a widower. And quite sexy. And also the owner of a Jack Russell.

The key to saving the day and putting the town back on the tourist map could lie just within reach, when reaching for a cold gin and tonic that is. Mother’s Ruin to some, gin is the making of Jennifer when she comes together with her friends and family to save the museum and open an artisan distillery in the basement.

With its debauched local history of smuggling, can gin be the town’s saviour and bring love back into Jennifer’s life?

My Review of The Juniper Gin Joint

Life has been tricky of late for Jennifer and it isn’t about to get any easier!

I loved The Juniper Gin Joint. There have been several books with similar titles and themes in recent times, but The Juniper Gin Joint is a cut above the rest because of the smooth quality of Lizzie Lovell’s writing and the sheer joy of having a slightly older cast of characters as Jennifer approaches her 50th birthday. In fact, I gulped down this book in one sitting  – rather like I might attack one of Jennifer’s dad’s gin concoctions!

There’s such a feel good atmosphere to The Juniper Gin Joint. By the very nature of the genre it’s obvious that things will work out somehow, but the journey to getting there in Lizzie Lovell’s writing feels natural, mature and completely engaging. It’s also very funny at times too so as well as enjoying a captivating story I was entertained and made to laugh – and shed a little tear once or twice too. There’s romance and relationships, corruption and identity, sexuality and infidelity so that I really do think this lovely book has something for everyone. Each chapter has the perfect hook to lead the reader on.

Jennifer’s narrative voice is strong and clear and it feels as if she is talking directly to the reader. I truly felt I knew her as a friend by the end of the book. All the characters complement the plot and one another – even the animals so there is a smooth and enticing quality to the book. I certainly wouldn’t mind bumping in to Tom on occasion…

The Juniper Gin Joint is never going to be ranked as classic literature in the realms of Tolstoy or Dickens, but as an example of its genre – feel good, fabulous fiction just perfect on a sunny afternoon or next to the fire on a chilly winter’s evening – it is just perfect. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more as I absolutely loved it. Wonderful stuff.

About Lizzie Lovell


Lizzie Lovell was born and brought up in the West Country and now lives in an old house in the seaside town of Dawlish with its red cliffs and dodgy railway line. She has three adult children, two of them yet to fly the nest. She can be found walking the Devon lanes with her Tibetan Terriers. Or drinking gin.

You an follow Lizzie on Twitter @lizzielovellgin. You’ll also find her on Facebook and can visit her website.

Discussing An Oriental Murder with Jane Bastin


It’s my very great pleasure to be supporting fellow blogger and tour organiser Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources on the An Oriental Murder blog tour.

An Oriental Murder

Rachel has arranged for me to spend an evening discussing An Oriental Murder with author Jane Bastin.

Staying in with Jane Bastin

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Jane. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?


Hi , I’ve brought my recently published detective novel, An Oriental Murder along to share with you.

What can we expect from an evening in with An Oriental Murder?

The book should take you deep into the world of Istanbul, a world that tourists might never see. Having lived in Turkey for the past 34 years, I have tried to inject the novel with a strong flavour of the place. It is a beautiful city but it is not just the beauty of the typical tourist attractions such as Topkapi and the Blue Mosque. It is a confused city, uncomfortable at times in its own skin. It moves between the conservatism and mysticism of the east and the libertarian freedom of the west but can’t quite make up its mind. I hope that the city comes across as a major character in the novel.

(I love Istanbul. I found it exactly as you say Jane – a complete mix of past and present, ease and tension. An Oriental Murder sounds as if it would transport me back there.)

An evening with the novel should also introduce to the reader the character of Sinan Kaya, an attractive detective who does not quite fit. A maverick, one who indulges in the local cuisine before following up leads, Sinan Kaya should envelope you in the world that he inhabits. Although the plot is about the murder of the Prime Minister and other civil servants, it mirrors the byzantine complexities of modern Turkey. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

(Sounds good to me! Thanks for telling me all about it Jane.)

What else have you brought along and why?


I have brought a selection of mezzes which are traditionally eaten before a meal like an appetiser but can often be as much as a main meal. For example, I would love you to sample some wrapped vine leaves with some delicious pine nuts rolled in rice, herbs, spices, fennel , parsley, tomato and olive oil.

(No persuasion needed here Jane. This is my kind of food!)


What about having a taste of these titbits: courgette flowers freshly picked and stuffed with rice or some wild herbs soaked in  olive oil and lemon.

(Oh! My allotment is overflowing with courgettes Jane. Let me give you some to take home at the end of the evening.)

If you’re feeling adventurous how about trying some fried pastry rolls stuffed with white cheese and parsley which are known as sigaraborek or as I have seen translated in some menus ‘cigarette pastries’! My book takes you through a menu of different Turkish foods as my main character, Sinan Kaya is obsessed with food and will stop everything if he spots a delicacy . One of the reasons why he is so attracted to Bea in the novel is that it gives him an opportunity to sample their famous menu!

And now you’ve made me hungry as well as desperate to read An Oriental Murder! Thanks so much for staying in with me Jane. I’m looking forward to reading you as soon as I can!

An Oriental Murder


The PeraPalas hotel in Istanbul, Turkey plays host to the Agatha Christie Writers’ Congress when real life imitates fiction. The bodies of the Prime Minister and his occasional mistress are found dead in one of the hotel’s locked rooms surrounded by bodyguards. Seemingly, no one could get in or out, and yet…

Inspector Sinan Kaya is convinced that foreign agents are culpable, and that the murders are linked to the recent spate of killings of Turkish government officials.

Within this complicated, crime riddled city, Sinan Kaya’s moral compass never falters. Not concerned with threats of dismissal from the force, he cuts his own path through the investigation, determined to uncover the truth.

An Oriental Murder is a tale of espionage and murder set against the backdrop of beautiful Istanbul, the ancient city where east and west meet.

An Oriental Murder is available for purchase here.

About Jane Bastin


Jane is a storyteller, writer, traveller and educator. Having lived and worked for over thirty years in Turkey, Jane has amassed a breadth of experiences that have led to the writing of the Sinan Kaya series of novels. Of course all characters and events are fictitious!

Fluent in both English and Turkish, Jane writes in both languages and has had a range of articles published in Turkish periodicals and magazines alongside British newspapers.

Jane now divides her time between rainy Devon and sunny Turkey.

You can follow Jane on Twitter @JaneJanebastin and find her on Facebook. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

An Oriental Murder Full Tour Banner

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

the curious heart of Ailsa Rae

Just after I began blogging I was privileged to host a wonderful guest post (here) from Stephanie Butland on Linda’s Book Bag about how her writing had evolved over time. This was just as The Other Half of My Heart was published and I reviewed that wonderful book here. Then, just over a year ago I was involved in the cover reveal for Stephanie’s Lost For Words (though I accidentally published the post a week early and have never quite recovered from the embarrassment.)

Today, with enormous thanks to Emily Burns for sending me a surprise copy, I am reviewing Stephanie Butland’s The Curious Heart of Alisa Rae.

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is available for purchase here.

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae

the curious heart of Ailsa Rae

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live.

She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that – just in time – saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But . . .

Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point and she wants to find her father.
Have her friends left her behind?
And she’s felt so helpless for so long that she’s let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. She barely knows where to start on her own.

Then there’s Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn’t make it. And now she’s supposed to face all of this without him.

My Review of The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae

Ailsa has waited 28 years for a new heart and getting one may not be the panacea for all ills she imagined.

Oh. This is so good. The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae could so easily be saccharine or mawkish as a result of its subject matter but because of the wonderful quality of Stephanie Butland’s writing it is neither, but rather is an honest, uplifting and riveting read. Indeed, there is considerable humour through what could be bleak moments and I especially liked the dynamics between Ailsa and Seb.

I loved meeting Ailsa, Seb and Hayley in particular although even the more minor characters have a vital and interesting part to play in the story. Lennox in particular adds depth to Ailsa that she simply wouldn’t have if we didn’t see her relationship with him. I think it was particularly the wonderfully natural dialogue that made these people come alive for me. Stephanie Butland knows how to use an unfinished sentence to perfection so that the reader feels the full brunt of emotion without her characters having to spell out their feelings. Ailsa is so real to me because of her flawed personality, her need for affirmation and her less than perfect physical appearance. She is no different to any one of us, save perhaps for her transplant, and this is the crux of the matter. Having her life saved doesn’t bring instant happiness and fulfilment any more than life does for the ordinary person.

And that theme of transplant and donating organs is so brilliantly handled. I’ve carried a donor card since they were introduced and feel strongly we all should but Stephanie Butland never preaches. She merely presents the thoughts of her characters and allows her reader to make up their own mind about the validity of becoming a potential donor. I think her writing is all the more powerful as a result.

Although the concept of organ donation is a strong and engaging theme, for me the essence of The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae and the most powerful aspect is Ailsa’s need to grow up and become truly ‘herself’ and an independent woman. I loved the thought that the past might shape us, but we can shape our future.

I thought The Curious Heart of Alisa Rae was a lovely book. Reading it made me experience a range of emotions and ultimately gave me optimism and a genuine feeling of warmth. I really recommend it. Oh, and also, I recommend looking to join a tango class. I’m off to find one near me!

About Stephanie Butland


Stephanie Butland lives in Northumberland, close to the place where she grew up. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and loves being close to the sea. She’s thriving after cancer.

You can follow Stephanie on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her website.

Staying in with Mark Zaslove

Final Cover

One of the wonderful aspects of being a blogger is being in at the start of a whole new reading adventure. Author Mark Zaslove has a brand new series starting and he’s here on Linda’s Book Bag to stay in and tell me more today.

Staying in with Mark Zaslove

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

Thanks, Linda – I’m a stayer-inner at heart so I appreciate the invite.The outside world is overrated.

(Ha! You might be right there!)

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

Final Cover

I’m sharing my thriller/suspense/humorous novel Death and Taxes: Tales of a Badass IRS Agent which was published on June 12 (just a few days after my birthday), because it’s fast, fun, and was a hoot to write.

(Oo. Belated Happy Birthday to you and Death and Taxes: Tales of a Badass IRS Agent.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Death and Taxes: Tales of a Badass IRS Agent?

Hmm, you can expect the unexpected, for example, when our IRS agent hero Mark Douglas needs to ask for help from a Texas cattle billionaire with a very cowish lifestyle.  Here’s Mark’s description of the billionaire’s unusual mode of transportation:

Take it from me, ’cause I’ve seen it all in my capacity as IRS over-the-shoulder-peek-a-boo auditor extraordinaire: luxury was a sliding scale thing. To some, three hot meals of Mickey D’s quarter pounders with Supersize fries and a ceiling with upstairs neighbors thumping around on at 2:00 a.m. was the Ritz. To others, anything short of a gold-plated Rolls with a custom license plate that read, “SWNKY,” simply “will not do, dear.” Then there was Jim Walker’s private jet. Jesus in a leopard-skin pillbox hat.

First, it was painted, shined and waxed Black Angus black. We were talking stealth black, the black between stars black, the total absence of color black. Lettered—in black—on the side of the plane was the corporate name: Tiny Beef Enterprises. Only readable when the light hit it just right. And it had horns. Big ol’ horns on either side of the cockpit. Ostensibly radar bubbles, but they sure looked like cow horns to me. Don’t know how the FAA let him do that, but I guessed money not only talked, it mooed.

Or Mark’s running commentary on a rather dimwitted money launderer who was definitely not the brains of the family:

It was Desmond Gloucester’s wedding anniversary. His tenth wedding anniversary. The “tin” anniversary. Tin? Who thought of that one? One of the original Puritans over on the Mayflower? And why did it not surprise me that his wife divorced him immediately afterward? “You giveth me tin? Thy stuff’s on the frontal lawn; I’m callingeth a solicitor.” Did we even use tin for anything anymore? Not like we had tin cans, or tin pans, or Tin Men. But I was rambling. Modern gift selection recommended for your tenth: diamond jewelry! Since when did an Oprah-raised, Redbook-in-the-supermarket-checkout-line- reading, I-want-a-separate-bank-account wife married more than three minutes want anything less than diamond jewelry? Ten years? She was ready to get a hunk of allotroped carbon that gave her carpel tunnel of the wrist just holding it up. Ten years? It better be set in platinum as well, or “sweetie” wasn’t doin’ any salami hiding until he manned up. “No rock, no rock ’n’ roll.”

So, expect the weird and wonderful.

(I think you may well have proved your point Mark!)

What else have you brought along and why? 

I brought some pics to share of the “yang” to my writing “yin.” I work ALL THE TIME doing scripts for Hollywood (and Tollywood, not mention many parts of Europe and China).  TV, movies, video games, and I like it, but to get my head right sometimes I need some solitude and heading out to the mountains to do astrophotography lets me go off-the-grid/no bars on the phone and just sit under the stars and take pretty pictures of the universe.

(That sounds the perfect way to relax.)

So, here’s my astro-imaging rig at a trailhead parking lot where I set up (note the Kindle):

Astro Rig

(That makes my camera looks every so slightly inadequate Mark…)

And here are some images I took over the last few years.

This is M31 the Great Andromeda Galaxy, a spiral galaxy that lies about 2.5 million light-years from me and maybe a few feet closer to you.


(Wow – what an image!)

Then there’s NGC 7000 the North American Nebula (don’t it look North Americany?), which is a big ol’ cloud of interstellar gas glowing away all hydrogen. A bunch of dust between it and us is absorbing some of the light, which gives it the distinctive shape. This baby lies within our own galaxy.

NGC 7000

(I can see how doing this makes you switch off from the day job Mark. Just the images are giving me perspective about my place in the world.)

And this is one of the very first images I took when I got back into astrophotography (did it as a kid): Barnard 33 the Horsehead Nebula (the little horsey thingie) and NGC 2024 the Flame Nebula (the bigger flameythingie). More gas and stars and nebulosity.

Horsehead - 180

So, this is what I do to clear my head between furious bouts of writing: go out to the mountains and hang under the Milky Way with no disturbances (except the occasional woodland creature trying to mooch booze off me) and snap digital pics of the heavens. Exciting, huh?

It certainly is. I’ve loved seeing these photographs. Thank you so much for bringing them along and for staying in with me to chat all about Death and Taxes: Tales of a Badass IRS Agent. I’ve really enjoyed our evening.

Death and Taxes: Tales of a Badass IRS Agent

Final Cover

Death and Taxes follows Mark Douglas, an ex-Marine turned IRS agent, who, along with auditing the weird and the profane, also spearheads weekend raids with his locked-and-loaded gang of government-sanctioned revenuers, merrily gathering back taxes in the form of cash, money order, or more often than not, the debtor’s most prized possessions.

Things turn ugly when Mark’s much-loved boss and dear friend Lila is tortured and killed over what she finds in a routine set of 1040 forms.

Enlisting his IRS pals – Harry Salt, a 30-year vet with a quantum physical ability to drink more than humanly possible; Wooly Bob, who’s egg-bald on top with shaved eyebrows to match; Miguel, an inexperienced newbie with a company-issued bullhorn and a penchant for getting kicked in the jumblies – Mark hunts down the eunuch hit man Juju Klondike and the deadly Mongolian mob that hired him as only an angry IRS agent can. There will be no refunds for any of them when April 15th comes around. There will only be Death and Taxes.

Death and Taxes: Tales of a Badass IRS Agent is available for purchase through these links.

About Mark Zaslove


Mark Zaslove, author of Death and Taxes: Tales of a Badass IRS Agent, is a writer/director/producer of both live-action and animated movies and television. He creates content for all major studios, including Disney, Universal, Paramount, and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing/producing, and a recipient of the Humanities Prize (for writing about uplifting human values in television and movies), he also writes short fiction and has served as a senior editor on various magazines. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, he lives with his teenage son in Los Angeles.

You can find out more by visiting Mark’s website, following him on Twitter @mark_zaslove or finding him on Facebook.

Write What You Know: A Guest Post by Mary Smith


Earlier this year I had the privilege of staying in with lovely Mary Smith to discuss her book No More Mulberries in a post you can read here. I have also been lucky enough to read and review (here) Mary’s short story collection Donkey Boy.

I have so enjoyed Mary’s writing and she is such a wonderful supporter of Linda’s Book Bag, that when I heard she had a new book out with photographer Keith KirkSecret Dumfries, I just had to invite her back to the blog. Today Mary has kindly written a guest post all about writing what you know and even better, it’s Mary’s birthday today so happy birthday Mary!

Secret Dumfries is available to buy on Amazon or directly from the publisher, Amberley Publishing.

Secret Dumfries


Dumfries, in south-west Scotland, has a long history, much of it well recorded. However, as with most places there are more than a few secrets hidden away.

First referred to as the Queen of the South by local poet David Dunbar in 1857, the name stuck and was later adopted by the local football team. Not many know that this makes it the only football team in the world mentioned in the Bible.

Darker aspects of the town’s history include the burning of nine witches on the Whitesands in 1659 and the last public hanging of a woman in Scotland, Mary Timney, was held in Dumfries in 1862. There are tales of plague victims being exiled to Scabbit Isle, of murderers and grave robbers.

Not all its secrets are so dark: there’s Patrick Miller and his introduction of turnips courtesy of King Gustav III of Sweden, and the exiled Norwegian Army making its home in Dumfries during the Second World War. And what is the significance of the finials depicting telescopes and anchors on the railings along the Whitesands?

Local author Mary Smith and photographer Keith Kirk take the reader on a fascinating journey through the town’s past, unearthing tales of intrigue and grisly goings-on as they provide a glimpse into some of the lesser-known aspects of the town’s history.

Write What You Know

A Guest Post by Mary Smith

All writers are familiar with the ‘write what you know’ adage.  It doesn’t mean you have to have been confronted in real life by an axe-wielding murderer to know how such a situation would feel. We’ve all experienced fear (whether it was being bullied at school or being driven round corkscrew bends up a mountain by a heroin addicted driver) and a writer’s imagination can take that emotion, gear it up a few notches and slip it into the axe-wielding murderer scene.

Non-fiction writers are also expected to write what they know. Amberley Publishing contracted me to write Secret Dumfries in collaboration with photographer Keith Kirk because of my knowledge of local history. I’ve already worked on two titles for them – Dumfries Through Time and Castle Douglas Through Time.  

Dumfries is the main town in Dumfries and Galloway in south west Scotland, where I live. It’s a town I know fairly well, though I would never dream of claiming to know all about it. However, as a journalist the ‘write what you know’ adage has an addendum – ‘if you don’t know jolly well go and find out.’ In the newsroom jolly might not have been the word used.

I was excited to have the opportunity to use more of the local knowledge I’d gained while researching the previous books but best of all was the chance to discover the less well known stories about the town. I loved learning about some of the people of Dumfries, many of whom really deserve to be better remembered.

One of my favourites is Blin Tam the bell-ringer. Thomas Wilson was born in 1760 and lost his sight after contracting smallpox when still a small child yet, by the time he was twelve years old he had taken on the role of bell-ringer at the Midsteeple. He kept the job for sixty-three years, supplementing his income by becoming a skilled wood turner, making kitchen utensils for the town’s housewives. He cut his own peats, grew his own vegetables and cooked for himself. Strangers meeting him often never realised he was blind. It is said he rang the bell over 100,000 times and only once, in all those years, was known to make a mistake.

It was thanks to self-taught astronomer Robert Louis Waland, who made the 61-inch reflecting telescope used in mapping the moon for the Apollo programme that Neil Armstrong knew where he was when he landed on the moon. Another favourite Doonhamer (the name given to those born and brought up in Dumfries) is Miss Jessie McKie the first and only woman to be granted the freedom of the burgh. She did a huge amount for the town: gave land on which the library is built, money to widen the bridge into town, built a public laundry and bath house, provided a granite horse trough, which reads, ‘A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast.’ She was also for a time proprietor of the Theatre Royal, Scotland’s oldest working theatre.

057 (Custom)

Silver burgess casket presented to Miss Jessie McKie

A chapter of the book is called Remember to look up! to encourage people to raise their eyes from their mobile phones to look up at the remarkable carvings on the old sandstone buildings, or to see the very rare fire mark, which indicated the building was insured against fire. Keith, who usually photographs wildlife, used his long lenses to show the fine details not usually noticed.

090 (Custom)

My favourite and perhaps the quirkiest story is about the rhinoceros, which presides over a busy road on the outskirts of the town. I’d always known it was there – you can’t miss it – but not the story behind it. Schoolchildren had been asked for ideas to brighten up the area and decided a rhinoceros should be put on top of the bus shelter. An artist was commissioned and it became a well-known landmark until the bus shelter was removed when the road was widened. Unfortunately, the new bus shelter had a curved roof and the rhino couldn’t be placed on top. Unhappy Doonhamers made their views known. The matter was resolved by building a pretend bus shelter with a flat roof and the rhino – which had miraculously had a baby while in storage – was brought back.

Aware that many residents of Dumfries are very knowledgeable about the town’s history was a bit daunting. They’d be quick to let me know if I’d got things wrong but what has been really satisfying is the number of people who’ve said, “Well, I never knew that before.”

Thanks so much for this fascinating post Mary. You’ve made me want to visit Dumfries, and perhaps more importantly, made me want to discover more about my own area by looking up more frequently!

About 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 @marysmithwriter.

No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister

No Further Questions

My enormous thanks to Jenny Platt at Penguin for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for No Further Questions by Gillian McAllistair and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

No Further Questions was published in by Penguin in e-book on 2nd July and is available for purchase through the links here.

No Further Questions

No Further Questions

The police say she’s guilty.
She insists she’s innocent.

She’s your sister.
You loved her.
You trusted her.
But they say she killed your child.

Who do you believe?

Original, devilishly clever and impossible to forget, this is a thriller with a difference. You won’t be able to tear yourself away from the trial that will determine both sisters’ fates.

My Review of No Further Questions

With her sister Becky on trial for killing Martha’s daughter Layla, Martha doesn’t know what to believe.

Oh my goodness. What a thrilling read. I was captivated from the very first word and put my life on hold because I could not tear myself away from No Further Questions. It is an absolute corker of a book. I read it over a weekend and found myself awake in the night between the two days trying to decide what had happened to Layla and how I felt about the evidence presented. Gillian McAllister is such a clever, and indeed, devious writer because she makes the reader almost become Martha in the court room, contemplating the witness statements and the evidence base. I felt tense the whole time I was reading and I’m sure I suspected every character of having caused Layla’s death at some point.

Gillian McAllister is also incredibly skilful in making the reader realise they could easily find themselves in a similar situation and in making them question who really is to blame in such circumstances so that not only is No Further Questions a fantastic and exhilarating read, it is also a morally challenging one that makes the reader think and assess their own approaches in life. Had I been one of Becky’s neighbours would I have behaved as they did, or differently? I honestly don’t know and am left feeling quite disturbed as a result. No Further Questions is not a book I’ll forget in a hurry!

The plot and structure are just perfect. As Becky’s trial forms the backbone of the story, we get the details through a range of narrators including Martha so that it isn’t clear who is reliable. This adds to the tension and atmosphere in a manner that I found so effective. I want to say all kinds of other things about the plot but I can’t for fear of ruining this magnificent story for other readers. Let me just say it is fabulous as is the overall quality of the writing.

I thought No Further Questions was utterly brilliant and I simply cannot recommend it highly enough.

About Gillian McAllister

gillian mcallister

Gillian McAllister has been writing for as long as she can remember. She graduated with an English degree and lives in Birmingham, where she now works as a lawyer. Her debut novel Everything But The Truth was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller. You can find out more about Gillian on her website and by following her on Twitter @GillianMAuthor.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

No Further Questions poster

Staying in with Roger Thompson


I’m such a wildlife fan as regular Linda’s Book Bag readers know. This year so far I have been to Uganda to trek to see chimpanzees and gorillas in the wild and to India to look (successfully) for tigers. Later in the year I’m off to Indonesia in the hope of seeing Komodo dragons. Consequently, when Roger Thompson got in touch with me I had to invite him onto the blog to spend an evening in.

Staying in with Roger Thompson.

Welcome to a fellow wildlife enthusiast Roger. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

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


I’ve brought along my latest book, No Word for Wilderness: Italy’s Grizzlies and the Race to Save the Rarest Bears on Earth, which details the plight of the rarest bears on earth. They happen to live only 50 miles from Rome, and they are, to everyone’s surprise, virtually completely vegetarian. I’ve brought it along because these bears need our help. There are only 50 of these special bears left.

(My goodness. I didn’t even know they existed. You must tell me more.)

What can we expect from an evening in with No Word for Wilderness?

The book is a fast-paced adventure through Italy, where you meet scientists advocating for the bears, park directors who survive mafia assassination attempts, and local Italians whose livelihoods are linked to the survival of the bears. There is also a remarkable story of one bear that travels to Germany and, in 2006, disrupts the World Cup, the greatest sporting event in the world—this year’s World Cup already almost over.

(Sounds exciting.)

What else have you brought along and why?


I’ve brought along two things. One is an enamel pin given to me by the director of Abruzzo National Park, home of Italy’s rare bears. I had interviewed him a couple of times for the book, and he was a gracious host. The other is a little statue that captures the spirit of these bears. My hope is that the book helps us all rethink our relationship to wild animals of all sorts, but especially bears, which are too often seen as simply dangerous. We need to make room in our imagination for visions of grizzlies that are different than what we already have.

(Those must be very special possessions, Roger)

I feel so ashamed I had no concept of these bears and their plight and am delighted to have been here to tell me more about them and your book No Word for Wilderness Roger. Thank you so much for staying in with me.

No Word for Wilderness


Fifty miles outside of Rome live the rarest grizzlies on earth.

In Italian, there is no word for wilderness. Yet in the mountains of Italy, brown bears not only exist, they are fighting to survive amid encroaching development, local and international politics, and the mafia. This meticulously researched and eye-opening book tells the incredible stories of two special populations of bears in Italy–one the last vestige of a former time that persists against all odds, the other a great experiment in rewilding that, if successful, promises to change how we see not only Italy but all of Europe.

The Abruzzo bears of central Italy have survived amid one of the oldest civilizations on earth–but now, with numbers estimated at as low as fifty individuals, they face a critical future as multiple forces, from farmers to the mob, collide within their territory. The Slovenian bears of northern Italy, brought to the Alps at the turn of the century, have sparked controversy among local and international interests alike. The stories of these bears take readers on a spectacular journey across Italy, where we come face-to-face not only with these fascinating species but with embattled park directors, heroic environmentalists, innovative scientists, and a public that is coming to terms with the importance of Italy’s rich natural history.

Award-winning author Roger Thompson has traveled throughout Italy documenting the history and current crises of these bears, and the result is an engaging and in-depth examination that resonates across all endangered species and offers invaluable insights into the ever-evolving relationships between human and non-human animals in a rapidly changing world.

Published by Ashland Creek Press, No Word for Wilderness is available for purchase here.

About Roger Thompson


Roger Thompson is Director of the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Stony Brook University. His first book, Beyond Duty, a co-written best selling Iraq War memoir, went through 5 printings in its first 5 months of publication and was shortlisted for an Oprah show. It was covered by the New York Times, the Dallas Morning News, NPR, and other major media outlets. Thompson lives in New York.

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