Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn by Kit Fielding

Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn

My enormous thanks to the lovely ladies at Team Bookends for sending me a copy of Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn in return for an honest review.

Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn will be published by Hodder imprint, Coronet, on 8th August 2019 and is available for pre-order here.

Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn

Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn

Six women, one aim and the stories they never told.

Each week, six women of different ages and from varying backgrounds come together at The Bluebell Inn. They form an unlikely and occasionally triumphant, ladies darts team, but it is there hidden stories of love and loss that in the end binds them.

There is the Irish widow with a heartbreaking secret; the young daughter of a gypsy family experiencing love for the first time; a cat woman alone with her memories who must return to the place of her birth before it’s all too late. Their unspoken stories are ones of heartache, dull marriages, abusive relationships, lost loves and secret hopes.

These displaced women know little of each other’s lives, but their weekly meetings at their local pub weave a delicate and sustaining connection between them all, a constant that maybe they can rely on as the crossroads in their individual lives threaten to overwhelm.

Raw, funny and devastating, all of life can be found at the Bluebell.

My Review of Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn

Six women meet at The Bluebell Inn every Thursday to play in a darts league.

When I picked up Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn I confess I thought I was about to read a perfectly readable chicklit novel written by a woman. I had no concept that the author was male and that Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn would be a moving, intimate and wonderful portrait of six very different, yet simultaneously very similar, women.

I’m not a great lover of multiple viewpoints or of narratives that have several timescales, but in Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn they are exquisite and completely magical. I was utterly captivated by every word. This is such a wonderfully written book because each individual first person narrative is distinct and affecting.

Every single one of the women is clearly and sympathetically drawn, even when she is flawed and behaving badly. I felt less that I was reading about them, and more that I was sitting in The Bluebell Inn on a Thursday night eavesdropping their conversations and their inner most thoughts. I loved each and every one of them and now I’ve finished the book I miss them.

Kit Fielding has woven so many believable strands into Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn that there truly is something for every reader. There’s death, love, political activism, abuse, passion, and above all an overwhelming sense of living, depicted here so that I hated being away from the book. It called to me so compellingly that my life went on hold until I had devoured every word. There is fabulous humour balanced so poignantly with deep feeling that Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn vibrates with raw and vivid emotion and life.

Far from being the perfectly pleasant chick lit I thought I was about to read, Thursday Nights at the Bluebell Inn is a novel that completely transcended my expectations. I found it funny. I found it emotional. I thought it was wonderful.

About Kit Fielding

Kit Fielding

Kit Fielding was born to a large family in the late forties. His father took agricultural work to provide for them all and they moved often, in part due to Kit’s mother who found it difficult to settle for any length of time, a legacy from her traveller roots. Kit left school at 15 to help earn money for the family. He took on various labouring jobs. He’s now happily married, but still struggles with restlessness; he lives in a caravan somewhere by the sea.

Introducing @ChapterCatcher

chapter 1

Given that Linda’s Book Bag is all about sharing the book love, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a brand new quarterly magazine, Chapter Catcher, which is designed to promote reading. I’d like to thank Nicole for sending me the launch issue. I’m delighted to review it today; even if that is an irony as Chapter Catcher isn’t a review magazine, but a presentation of extracts, stories and poems that readers can dip into, with the idea ‘that readers should do their own reading’ without being told what others think about the pieces they read.

A list of Chapter Catcher stockists is available here, but you can also subscribe and receive your own copy here.

Chapter Catcher

chapter 1

The brain child of John, Lord Bird and Phil Ryan, the duo behind The Big Issue, Chapter Catcher‘s mission is:

  • Supporting local bookshops through sales and greater footfall and awareness.
  • Supporting local libraries (partnering with Save Our Libraries campaign groups across the UK)
  • Creating partnerships with existing campaign groups to raise the standard of literacy across the UK.
  • Promoting a greater variety of literature from around the world, expanding upon the canon and broadening literary horizons.
  • Providing a platform to aspiring writers.
  • Visualising storytelling and bringing books to life.

My Review of the Launch Issue of Chapter Catcher

I’ve spent the whole of my adult life promoting reading and literacy and think Chapter Catcher is just wonderful; a cornucopia of bookish delight.

The first half a dozen pages concentrate on a literacy and literary news digest with helpful web addresses as well as articles and spotlights. I couldn’t agree more with John Rickets about the importance of libraries in his piece on Our Cultural Inheritance.

The remainder of the magazine is a smorgasbord of reading pleasure. Divided into sections that include Contemporary, Rediscovered, Classic, Non-Fiction and works In Process, authors included range from Stephen Fry, through F. Scott Fitzgerald to Dante and Mary Jean Chan so that there is a pleasing balance of familiar, established, writers set alongside new and innovative ones. I particularly loved Max Porter’s Crow and Border by Kapka Kassabova. Indeed, this latter proves that Chapter Catcher is already achieving what it aims to do. I normally read little non-fiction, but Border has sparked my interest in a book that would otherwise have passed me by.

Within the pages of this magazine are pieces that can be read as the fancy takes the reader. They are just the right length for a break in the evening after work, for example, or during a lunch break, or when the baby has just gone down for an afternoon sleep perhaps. I can imagine Chapter Catcher bringing joy to many when they simply don’t have the time or the inclination to read a complete book. Equally, I can envisage readers eagerly visiting bookshops and libraries to hunt down full copies of the texts they have encountered here.

However, I wouldn’t limit Chapter Catcher to just readers. There’s opportunity here for art lovers too as the pages are adorned with attractive artwork and photography and writers can not only read as writers, they can, in this issue, hone their creative skills by entering a writing competition to win dinner with a famous (mystery writer); which intrigued me as I didn’t know if the author’s identity was a mystery, whether they write mystery books or both! And that sums us Chapter Catcher for me – it leads the reader (and writer) down different avenues, to discover new and exciting aspects of books and literacy. Writers are also encouraged to submit their work for inclusion in future issues so that there is real opportunity for this initiative to go from strength to strength, broadening its own readership whilst enhancing the readership for an increasing range of authors.

I’d urge you to get involved with this initiative because I think it’s a fabulous concept. You can visit the Chapter Catcher website here, or follow Chapter Catcher on Twitter via @ChapterCatcher or the hashtag ##ReadWiderDeeper. You’ll also find Chapter Catcher on Facebook and Instagram.


Witches Sail in Eggshells by Chloe Turner

witches sail

Before I began blogging I rarely read short stories unless I was going to have to teach them in the dim and distant past. In recent times, however, I’ve begun to realise what a wonderful experience it can be to delve into a short story anthology and I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to Dave Borrowdale at Reflex Press for a copy of Witches Sail in Eggshells by Chloe Turner in return for an honest review.

Witches Sail in Eggshells was published by Reflex Press on 11th June 2019 and is available for purchase here where you can also read a sample story.

Witches Sail in Eggshells

witches sail

‘Witches sail in eggshells,’ I heard Meg say from behind me, and I looked back. She was pounding the shells, hard, with the palm of her hand on the flat of a knife.

Bewitched by ‘the sort of girl who’d batter your heart like a thrush with a snail on a stone’, a woman overlooks the one who really loves her.

A seaside community is overwhelmed when the sea begins to expel its life forms. But the villagers would rather raise the sea wall, whatever the cost, than confront their past mistakes.

A woman’s beloved garden withers as the baby inside her flourishes. When the pregnancy reaches its end, the progeny is not as she expects.

A widower feels like his life might have been a quiet nothing, but he’ll end it with the flight he’s always dreamed of. Even that fails, but instead of indignity, in the attempt he finds peace.

Perceptive, intriguing, and beautifully told, Chloe Turner’s debut collection explores the themes of love, loss, the little ways we let each other down, and how we can find each other again.

My Review of Witches Sail in Eggshell

Seventeen short stories of life, love and longing.

When I picked up this volume I had intended to read one of the stories from Witches Sail in Eggshells each evening, but as soon as I’d read Hagstone, the first in Chloe Turner’s collection, I was so enchanted I had to devour them all. It was if the hagstone of that first tale had cast a spell and I was unable to put down this remarkable book. I have only one complaint about Witches Sail in Eggshells and that is that any aspirations I might have about writing have been completely undermined by the exquisite beauty of Chloe Turner’s language. It is unparalleled and very few writers I have read create such grace and magic in their work.

Whilst I imagine many hours have gone in to crafting and polishing these literary gems, they never feel contrived but instead are silky smooth and extraordinary examples of writing at its most perfect. Each one, without exception, left me reeling, intrigued and mesmerised so that I felt them internally as much as read them. I know this will sound probably bonkers (and I may have been affected by the magical realism of some of the stories) but I felt as if I wanted to peel the words from the pages and shower in them to get them closer to me in the most essential way I could. I read passages aloud because I felt they were more like poetry than prose – they are luminous with meaning and emotion.

Each story is very different from all the others with action and events totally belying the brevity of length. I discovered entire lifetimes and traveled time and geographical distance as I read. There are themes of love, loss, spite, revenge, power and much, much more, providing a narrative for every reader and every change in their emotional state. Yet at the same time, there are links and echoes that make for an immersive and rewarding reading experience. There’s something almost antediluvian, for example, in the references to water and the sea that pepper these stories because Chloe Turner has captured the very essence of humanity in its most raw state; we all come from water.

I have been sitting some time, trying to find words to convey what it is about Witches Sail in Eggshells that I have found so gloriously moving and astounding, but have come to realise I don’t have the vocabulary to express how I feel about Chloe Turner’s stories. I am genuinely thrilled to have discovered her writing because my life has been enriched by it. Whether you’re a reader who wants to be entertained or a writer who wants to hone their craft, I cannot recommend Witches Sail in Eggshells highly enough. It’s magnificent.

About Chloe Turner


Chloe Turner grew up in London and then Bath, attending St Paul’s Girls’ School, London and Clifton College, Bristol. After reading Archaeology and Anthropology at Churchill College, Cambridge, she qualified as a chartered accountant. She now lives in a village near Stroud, Gloucestershire, with her family and some chickens. Chloe won the Fresher Prize for short story in 2017, and has twice been awarded the Local Prize in the Bath Short Story Award. ‘Waiting for the Runners’ was selected for inclusion in the Best British Short Stories 2018 anthology (Salt Publishing).

You can follow Chloe on Twitter @TurnerPen2Paper for more information.

@CapitalCrime1 Announces Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards Shortlists


A few weeks ago I was delighted to help announce the brand new Capital Crime coming in September and the brain child of David Headley and Adam Hamdy. You can read that post here.

Now, Capital Crime is pleased to announce the shortlists for the 2019 Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards. The awards are a celebration of the crime and thriller genre and in a UK festival first, recognise excellence in film and television as well as books. The shortlists were decided by Capital Crime’s advisory board of authors, industry leaders and reviewers, but readers will have the final say on who wins in each category.

David Headley, co-founder of Capital Crime said, ‘Capital Crime is all about the readers. With panels focused on entertaining and engaging, and events and parties that are open to all, it was only natural we give readers the ultimate say over who wins our awards.’

Capital Crime has invested in an innovative voting system which gives festival passholders the ability to decide their favourite books, film and TV series. The Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards are decided by real crime and thriller fans.

Adam Hamdy, author and screenwriter, and co-founder of Capital Crime said, ‘Amazon leads the way in technology innovation and it’s fitting that our awards make use of new technology to put the power in the hands of crime and thriller fans.’

Capital Crime festival pass holders will be able to vote for the winner in each category from today until 19 September 2019.

Hatty Stiles, Senior Marketing Manager, Amazon Publishing, said, ‘We’re delighted to be sponsoring the Capital Crime Reader’s Awards, and excited to be part of this new festival that celebrates the crime and thriller community. As soon as we heard about Capital Crime’s innovative approach and stellar line-up, we were eager to be involved.’

The winners of the awards will be announced at Capital Crime on Saturday 26th September at a gala reception that marks the close of the festival.

The 2019 Amazon Publishing Readers’ Award Nominees are:



Jane Casey – Cruel Acts

Anthony Horowitz – The Sentence is Death

Ragnar Jonasson – The Island

Philip Kerr – Metropolis

Ian Rankin – In A House of Lies



Steve Cavanagh – Twisted

Mick Herron – London Rules

Gregg Hurwitz – Out of the Dark

Manda Scott – A Treachery of Spies

Matt Wesolowski – Changeling



Oyinkan Braithwaite – My Sister, The Serial Killer

Lesley Kara – The Rumour

Laura Shepherd-Robinson – Blood & Sugar

Harriet Tyce – Blood Orange

Holly Watt – To The Lions



Amer Anwar – Brothers in Blood

Mark Edwards – Last of the Magpies

Alex Michaelides – The Silent Patient

Liane Moriarty – Nine Perfect Strangers

CL Taylor – Sleep



Robert Galbraith – Lethal White – Read by Robert Glenister

Anthony Horowitz – The Sentence is Death – Read by Rory Kinnear

Catherine Steadman – Something in the Water – Read by Catherine Steadman

Stuart Turton – The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Read by Jot Davies

Harriet Tyce – Blood Orange – Read by Julie Teal



Edward Carey – Little

Will Carver – Good Samaritans

Will Dean – Red Snow

Jean Levy – What Was Lost

Matt Wesolowski – Changeling



Louise Candlish – Our House

Ray Celestin – The Mobster’s Lament

MW Craven – The Puppet Show

Erin Kelly – Stone Mothers

Ian Rankin – In a House of Lies



American Animals


John Wick 3

The Sisters Brothers






Killing Eve

Line of Duty


About Capital Crime

Capital Crime is an exciting new festival that celebrates all things crime and thriller. The inaugural festival takes place this September 26th -28th at the Connaught Rooms in London. Guests include Kate Atkinson, Robert Harris, David Baldacci, Ian Rankin, Ann Cleeves, Robert Glenister, Leye Adenle, Denise Mina, Anthony Horowitz, Abir Mukherjee and many more prestigious authors.

Capital Crime offers fans unprecedented access to their favourite crime and thriller creatives. Capital Crime is a celebration of books, films and TV and the line-up is an unrivalled mix of world class talent, rising stars and newcomers. Capital Crime is a must for fans of all things crime and thriller.

Panels of note include The Interrogation of Mark Billingham. The bestselling author is put through his paces by Graham Bartlett, an experienced police interrogator. Ian Rankin discusses The Human Cost of Crime with Don Winslow. And attendees can also look out for John Connolly, David Baldacci, Kate Atkinson and Lynda La Plante and Peter James all being interviewed about their respective careers.

The crime and thriller community is looking forward to Capital Crime. With many of them expressing their excitement about the upcoming festival.

Martina Cole (No Mercy – Headline – Autumn) said: ‘We have all been waiting for a London based festival like Capital Crime.  It’s fantastic to see such a diverse line up of crime and thriller writers taking part.  David Headley and Adam Hamdy have put together an amazing programme of events for the first crime festival in London and I’m thrilled to be part of it.’

Best-selling London based author Abir Mukherjee (Smoke and Ashes – Vintage – June) said: ‘London is one of the world’s great cities, the setting, and often the inspiration, for some most infamous true crimes and some of the world’s best loved fictional detectives. It’s the home of Scotland Yard, Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes and a natural location for a festival bringing together international fans and authors in a celebration of the very best and latest that crime fiction has to offer. It’s long overdue and I hope Capital Crime becomes a regular fixture in the crime fiction calendar.’

Capital Crime is a diverse, inclusive and socially responsible festival, running initiatives including social outreach to support students exploring a literary career, an innovative digital festival and the launch of their New Voices Writers Award. The festival is the brainchild of British screenwriter Adam Hamdy and Managing Director of Goldsboro Books, David Headley.

Tickets for the festival are now on sale here: and you can see the confirmed line up here.

Laying the Ghosts to Rest: A Publication Day Guest post by Beezy Marsh, Author of Her Father’s Daughter

In The Ruins

I can’t believe almost a year has passed and I still haven’t had chance to read Beezy Marsh who featured on Linda’s Book Bag when All My Mother’s Secrets was published in August 2018. You can read a fabulous guest post about Beezy’s own family secrets leading to her writing here.

Today Beezy returns to celebrate her latest novel Her Father’s Daughter with another fascinating guest post.

Her Father’s Daughter is published by Pan Macmillan today July 25th 2019 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Her Father’s Daughter

In The Ruins

When Annie marries Harry after years of heartache in a London slum she believes she’s found her happy ever after. But the horrors of the Blitz soon threaten everything they hold dear. The terrible sights Harry witnesses as an air raid warden bring back traumatic memories of his time during the First World War. Suddenly Annie finds herself struggling to cope not only with life in wartime and two little children, but also with a husband who seems like a stranger.

Kitty has always been protective of her little brother Harry. Hiding the scandal about their father from the world was the only way to survive as they were growing up in Newcastle. But when she discovers Harry too has a shocking secret, she is torn. Meanwhile Annie wonders why Harry refuses to discuss his life before their marriage and why she has never met his sister. Will the truth ever come to light?

From the bombed-out terraces of London to the docks of Newcastle, Her Father’s Daughter is a moving and poignant true story about the unbreakable bonds of family, and the power of love to heal the worst wounds.

Laying the Ghosts to Rest

 Guest Post by Beezy Marsh

When I was just a teenager, I discovered a family secret so shocking it inspired me to become a writer. More than thirty years later, I have finally laid the ghosts of the past to rest with my new book, Her Father’s Daughter.

Set in the poverty-stricken streets of London and Newcastle in the 1930s and the terrifying Blitz years of WW2, the story uncovers a terrible secret which binds two families who know nothing about each other.

I believe that ordinary lives are extraordinary and unpicking a web of lies on which my family was founded, that became very clear to me. The secret at the heart of my new book is a central thread which unites the storyline but the truth only emerges through the eyes of three women who are all facing their own challenges in the turbulent years of the early 20th century.

We meet Kitty, a feisty suffragette who becomes a journalist and makes sacrifices to keep the truth from future generations. Her little brother Harry is just a boy when they lose their father in the most horrendous circumstances and she vows to protect him, but can’t keep him safe from the horrors of World War One where he fights to regain the family honour.

Harry’s first wife, Ethel, has troubles of her own with her domineering father and her wish to better herself. When Harry takes her from the slums of Newcastle to the bright lights of London to find work, she seizes every opportunity she can – with terrible consequences for their marriage.

Broken by Ethel’s cheating, Harry finds love with caring laundress Annie but the London Blitz brings fresh terrors which reignite Harry’s troubled past. With three young children to raise and a war on, Annie fears she will lose everything and she can’t understand why Harry won’t allow her to meet his sister Kitty.

Most families love to tell tales about an eccentric old aunt or a relative who was determined to grow old disgracefully. But for me, the family history was genuinely very shocking.

The story that my granddad Harry used to tell about his father dying suddenly when he was young was a half-truth to say the least and that set me on the path for years of painstaking research. For reasons that only emerged as I wrote the book, it became clear that Harry and his sister Kitty had compelling reasons to lie. I didn’t judge them as I wrote and I hope readers will find the whole story and being immersed in those turbulent years of the early twentieth century, which I specialise in writing about, really gripping.

I won’t spoil the discovery for the reader but it’s fair to say that the two families at the heart of the book are now reconciled with each other and consider each other one big family. That is the kind of happy ending that is rare after such tragedy.

This sounds brilliant Beezy. With an extraordinary ‘ordinary’ family in my past too I can’t wait to read about your family very soon.

About Beezy Marsh


Beezy Marsh is an award-winning journalist, who has spent more than 20 years making the headlines in newspapers including Daily Mail and The Sunday Times. This was never going to be enough for a girl from Hartlepool, whose primary school teacher told her to give up her dream of becoming a poet and concentrate on being a nurse instead. Thirty years later, give or take, she became an author.

Family and relationships are at the heart of her writing and she is a firm believer that sisters, mothers and wives are the glue which binds everything together. She writes romantic fiction, as well as memoir and biography, including her book Keeping My Sisters Secrets, and somehow finds time to write a blog about her life as an imperfect mother to two young boys, in between tackling a never-ending pile of laundry and doing the school run. She is the author of Mad Frank and Sonsalongside the two sons of gangland crime boss, Frank Fraser.

You can find out more by following Beezy on Twitter @beezymarsh, and by visiting her website. You’ll also find Beezy on Facebook and Instagram.

The Spacesuit by Alison Donald and illustrated by Ariel Landy

the spacesuit

Fifty years ago when I was a child, my family had very little spare cash, but once a year my parents, my nine years older than me big sister and I would cram into a red Mini and make our way to Minehead where we would have a free week’s holiday with Aunt Mary and Uncle Colin who owned a guest house.

One of my enduring memories is the trip we made there in 1969. I can remember so vividly, pressing my nose to a television shop window to watch a news bulletin of the first ever moon landings. Grainy, flickering and fairly indistinct, those images have stayed with me for the last five decades.

Consequently, I was delighted when a surprise copy of the children’s book The Spacesuit by Alison Donald and illustrated by Ariel Landy arrived from Maverick Books in return for an honest review. I’d like to extend my thanks to Val for sending it to me.

The Spacesuit is published by Maverick in hardback and paperback and is available for purchase here.

The Spacesuit

the spacesuit

There is a competition to make the spacesuit for the first moon landing! Ellie, an ordinary woman, is asked to lead a team of other talented seamstresses. No one believes they can win, but they are determined to try.

Based on the incredible true story behind the spacesuit that astronauts wore on the first moon walk and the team of women who sewed it together.

My Review of The Spacesuit

How a competition led to the spacesuits used in the 1969 moon landings.

What a wonderful, timely book The Spacesuit is. It might be designed for children but it brought back so many memories from 50 years ago for me and introduced me to a whole new aspect of the moon landings I’d never considered before. Just who made those first spacesuits? Indeed, entertainment and nostalgia aside, there’s a vitally important message here. We know so much about the first man on the moon, but what about the women behind that achievement? Based on real people, in The Spacesuit we discover Eleanor ‘Ellie’ Foraker who was instrumental in creating the spacesuits used. The Spacesuit gives credence and status to all in a message so important to children. Similarly, I thoroughly appreciated the inclusion of those of different ethnicities in Ariel Landy’s colourful and enhancing illustrations.

There’s so much to discover in The Spacesuit as facts and figures adorn every part of the book, from the inside covers, and across the title pages to throughout the story so whilst it’s possible simply to read the book as an entertainment, with jeopardy making it exciting, so much can be learnt too. I had no idea that 21 layers were used in those first spacesuits, for example.

Facts aside, there are wonderful messages about perseverance, team work, doing your best and being proud of your achievements. Ellie’s childhood hobby becomes a career and ultimately a world changing skill so that children can see that their aspirations can be fulfilled regardless of their background. What could be better than that?

The Spacesuit offers something different every time it’s read. It has the potential for so many uses with children that I can see it forming the basis of home and school projects. How about researching those constellation patterns perhaps or playing with onomatopoeic language in the whir of the machines and where exactly is Texas on the map? There really is a wealth of material (forgive the pun) to be enjoyed here.

Finally, I love the fact that the book brings us right up to date with a code to scan for more information. The Spacesuit is a smashing book for children – of all ages!

About Alison Donald


Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, Alison now lives in Farnham with her British husband and 3 young children.  She works as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist and has over 10 years of experience helping children with special needs reach their potential.

Alison has been writing stories since she was a child.  After years of scribbling story ideas on envelopes and scrap paper,  Alison finally joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI-BI) in 2014 and with their support, her writing took off.

For more information, follow Alison on Twitter @alisondonald7 or visit her website.

About Ariel Landy


Ariel Landy is an illustrator and educator from New York City. Ariel began writing and illustrating stories as soon as she could hold a pencil and she never stopped. She currently lives in Harlem with her boyfriend and their dog, Sid.

For more information, follow Ariel on Twitter @ariellandyart or visit her website.

Invisible Blood edited by Maxim Jakubowski

invisible blood

My grateful thanks to Sarah Mather at Titan for a copy of Invisible Blood edited by Maxim Jakubowski in return for an honest review.

Invisible blood is published today, 23rd July 2019, and is available for purchase here.

Invisible Blood

invisible blood


A collection of seventeen brand-new crime stories from bestselling authors Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver, Stella Duffy, and more.

Open the files on an anthology of seventeen new crime stories to probe the brutal and complex hearts of criminals, and unravel the strangest of mysteries. Watch as a secretive group of intelligence community officers trace Jack Reacher through Heathrow in Lee Child’s Smile. In Mary Hoffman’s Fallen Woman, a journalist on the trail of a secretive drug lord gets caught up in the violent suicide of a young woman in Siena. And in Jeffrey Deaver’s Connecting the Dots, detectives follow the trail of clues in the brutal killing of a homeless man, wherever it may lead… Invisible Blood is a gripping collection exploring the compulsions of the criminal mind.


Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, Denise Mina, R.J. Ellory, Christopher Fowler, Stella Duffy, Ken Bruen, Lauren Henderson, James Grady, Jason Starr, Mary Hoffman, Cathi Unsworth, Bill Beverly, Lavie Tidhar, Johana Gustawsson, A K Benedict, John Harvey.

My Review of Invisible Blood

Seventeen stories and biographies from well known crime writers.

I’ll be honest. I haven’t read full length works by many of the authors featured in Invisible Blood which is why I wanted to read this book, but it means I don’t know how representative they are of their writing. To take that honesty a stage further, not all of the stories appealed to my reader taste and one or two felt slightly contrived and rushed as if they had been written too quickly for the volume.

That said, I found Invisible Blood an interesting and entertaining read. I wasn’t expecting the oblique approaches to crime that some of the authors took and I had anticipated a more visceral picture because of the book’s cover and the dripping blood motif at the start of every story. That’s by no means a criticism as I liked those less graphic tales most of all. In particular I enjoyed Borrowed Time by R’J’ Ellory because the ‘invisibility’ of the volume’s title has particular resonance and poignancy in this story. I loved the setting of this one too although you’ll need to read it yourself to see if you can guess why!

The themes of Invisible Blood range across countries and societies; with love, revenge, mental illness, suicide and abuse as well as expected murder all woven into them so that they often surprised me and made me think at the same time as entertaining me. My favourite in the collection was Johana Gustawsson’s In The Belly Of The Beast because she looks at relationships not just with others, but with our inner selves so eloquently too, so that I understood Marta and Anna only too well. This was the story I felt could easily become a full length novel because of the detail and depth it contains. I was very moved by In The Belly Of The Beast.

Invisible Blood is what I might call a Goldilocks book. For some it will be too violent, for others not violent enough and for the rest, just right. I think there is something within its pages for all readers, and especially those who don’t often read crime fiction as it is an effective way to discover the different styles of the writers with a view to reading their longer work. I thoroughly enjoyed the ability to read an entire narrative in a few minutes and this volume is a Godsend for those readers who are short on time, but who need high quality writing nonetheless. With an eclectic selection, Invisible Blood is definitely worth dipping in to.

About Maxim Jakubowski


Maxim Jakubowski is a noted anthology editor with over seventy volumes to his credit. A publisher for over twenty years, he was also the co-owner of London’s Murder One bookstore and the crime columnist for Time Out and then the Guardian. He is currently the Vice Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and a Sunday Times bestselling novelist in another genre.

You can visit his website for more information.

The White Scorpion by Rob Sinclair

The White Scorpion trio

When I first began blogging I met author Rob Sinclair who was just starting out as a full time writer. Since then I have been delighted to feature Rob on Linda’s Book Bag every year. Rob previously wrote a wonderful guest post about becoming a full time writer that you can read here and I have my review of Rob’s book Red Cobra, that you can read here. Last year Rob kindly stayed in with me to chat about The Green Viper in a post you can see here.

I was thrilled when Rob asked if I’d like a copy of the latest book in his James Ryker series, The White Scorpion, for review and I’m delighted to share that review today.

The White Scorpion was published by Bloodhound on 16th July 2019 and is available for purchase here.

The White Scorpion

The White Scorpion

Rule number one for an agent of the secretive JIA is to follow orders, no matter what.

But James Ryker has never cared much for rules. He only wants to do what is right.

Assigned to join a crew of elite security personnel in Chabon, Africa, Ryker’s mission objective is clouded by politics and obfuscation, and he knows only that to protect British interests in the region, he is to infiltrate the close protection team of the government of Chabon, a country with a dark and violent past.

Arriving in Chabon’s crumbling capital, Kilpassa, Ryker finds a country on the brink of civil war. A growing civilian rebellion threatens peace, with claims of atrocities committed by both sides, including the frail government run by enigmatic President Benyu – a former military general who took control of the country in a violent coup.

Drawn into Benyu’s inner circle, it soon becomes clear to Ryker that in Chabon, the lines between good and bad, and right and wrong, are nearly impossible to identify.

With a crisis of epic proportions unfolding before his eyes, Ryker knows one thing for sure: with or without the backing of his superiors, he must take drastic action, and quickly, or risk putting millions of innocent lives in danger.

My Review of The White Scorpion

James Ryker is back being put through his paces on a new mission.

Although The White Scorpion is the fifth in the James Ryker series of books and I haven’t read them all, it didn’t matter at all because this book can easily be read as a stand alone novel.

The White Scorpion opens in dramatic fashion and doesn’t let up for a moment until the very last full stop. I found it utterly intriguing to see how Rob Sinclair would take me from the prologue through the events of the previous few weeks that lead up to that point, and he did so with such skill that I am incredibly impressed. The plot of The White Scorpion is an absolute corker. It’s high octane, heart thumping and fast paced so that I found my pulse elevated and I could NOT tear myself away. The short chapters and the manner in which each one ends adds to the breathlessness experienced in reading Rob Sinclair’s magnificent story. I can’t understand why his James Ryker series hasn’t hit our screens yet as it is far better than anything of a similar vein that I have read.

Whilst The White Scorpion has more violence than the books I usually read, it never feels gratuitous. Rather, Rob Sinclair presents a realistic and vivid portrait of an unstable African country and the behind the scenes manipulations by international Western governments. The themes of corruption, power and state are all too believable so that as well as being a very exciting read, this book is an unsettling one too. I fear there is more veracity in Robe Sinclair’s writing than any of us might like to acknowledge. His portrayal of an African landscape felt very real to me too, and I was reminded of the places I have visited in Africa very evocatively.

It took me only seconds to fall back in love with Ryker who out shines any James Bond or Jack Reacher for me, but equally I found the other characters absorbing and intriguing. Not one of the fairly numerous cast felt bland or one dimensional. I wanted the working relationship between Ryker and Monroe to develop into a personal one because they felt so real to me. However, you’ll have to read The White Serpent to discover what, if anything, happens there!

The White Scorpion is a brilliant political thriller. I absolutely devoured it in two days because Rob Sinclair made me desperate to know what would happen next. I cannot recommend it highly enough – especially if, like me, this isn’t your usual reading genre. I’d urge you to give it a try because it’s fabulous.

About Rob Sinclair


Rob Sinclair is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling Enemy series and James Ryker series of espionage thrillers as well as the globetrotting thriller hit Sleeper 13. His books have sold over half a million copies to date with many reviewers and readers having likened Rob’s work to authors at the very top of the genre, including Lee Child and Vince Flynn.

Rob began writing in 2009 following a promise to his wife, an avid reader, that he could pen a ‘can’t put down’ thriller. He worked for nearly 13 years for a global accounting firm after graduating from The University of Nottingham in 2002, specialising in forensic fraud investigations at both national and international levels. Rob now writes full time.

Originally from the North East of England, Rob has lived and worked in a number of fast paced cities, including New York, and is now settled in the West Midlands with his wife and young sons.

You can follow Rob on Twitter @RSinclairAuthor, visit his website and find him on Facebook.

Instead by Sue Hampton


A while ago lovely Sue Hampton asked me if I would review one of her short stories that was about to be part of a new anthology and I was delighted to review The Pomegranate Flower. Little did I realise that Sue would be sending me a finished copy of her latest book, Instead, containing The Pomegranate Flower, with me quoted within its pages.

Now, I had considered simply announcing the details of Instead sharing my review of the one story and leaving it at that because, like all bloggers, I have more books than there are years left in my life to read them. However, I’ve read work by Sue before and I hoped I would enjoy the complete collection in Instead as much as I did Ravelled, my review of which you can read here. I was right. I did!

Sue has also written a super guest post for Linda’s Book Bag to celebrate one of her children’s books when The Lucy Wilson Mysteries: Avatars of the Intelligence was published and you can read that post here.

Instead is available for purchase here.



Instead is a new collection of short stories for adults to follow Ravelled and Woken.

There are stories set in the past and in the present, and you will notice a range of styles – but no fairy tales or fables this time, no fantasy or magic realism. With Instead I’m keeping it real. Whatever the arc, genre or seed of each story, I believe they all offer hope as well as humanity – because if we are to make a better world to share, then humanity is where hope lies.

My Review of Instead

An eclectic mix of stories and people.

Sue Hampton is an astounding writer. She takes the constrained boundaries of the short story in Instead and makes them into something magical. Within a very few words Sue Hampton draws in the reader and immerses them in the lives of her characters who feel real, human and flawed. This is such beautifully crafted writing that I can see myself returning to the collection time and again and finding something new each visit; a nuance, a meaning, a feeling that I may have missed the first time. The stories in Instead seem to operate on many levels.

Sue Hampton writes with what feels to me like great humanity. Occasionally there is a slight ambiguity in her stories giving the reader opportunity to decide their own interpretation and outcomes. I loved the balance of age, race and gender woven throughout making it feel as if Instead gives status and credence to all. The balance of sentence length, direct speech to exposition and the inclusion of so many aspects of real life from procreation to grief all add up to a gorgeously satisfying reading experience.

The plots of the stories in Instead could easily be full length novels because there is so much packed into them. Not a word is wasted and yet there is a texture of emotion, the senses and action that belies their length. The themes explored are so relevant to all, from poverty to friendship, infidelity to sexual identity so that all life is available in this slim volume.

Not only did I enjoy reading the stories, but I found the opinions of the reviewers shared after each one fascinating. It was as if Instead was my own personal book group where I was able to listen to a discussion as well as read so that this felt like a very interactive experience.

I always proclaim that I’m not overly fond of short stories. In Instead, Sue Hampton has proven me a liar. I loved this collection.

About Sue Hampton

Sue hampton

Sue Hampton writes for adults as well as children and teenagers, and across genres. An ex-teacher, she was inspired by the stories of Michael Morpurgo, because she witnessed their emotional power over young readers. Sue aims to write deep, compelling novels that will make people think and feel. Now a full-time author, Sue visits schools of all kinds and works with young people of all ages.

Many of her passions can be detected in her novels, which are all different, (often historical, futuristic, magical and funny) but have in common themes like love, courage, freedom and our right to be different.

Sue herself looks a little different from most women because she has alopecia, having lost all her hair in 1981. After writing The Waterhouse Girl about a girl with alopecia, she began going bareheaded and feels strangely liberated even though it isn’t easy. As an Ambassador for Alopecia UK she supports others with hair loss and led a team on Eggheads, winning £25K for the charity. Sue also lectures on the importance of fiction in school.

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

Expectation by Anna Hope


I last featured Anna Hope when The Ballroom was one of my books of the year in 2016. You can find out more about that here. I also have my review of The Ballroom here.

Consequently, I couldn’t resist breaking my self-imposed Netgalley ban to request Expectation and I was thrilled when my request was granted. I’d like to thank the publishers for allowing me to read it.

Published by Penguin imprint Doubleday on 11th July 2019, Expectation is available for purchase through these links.



Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.

Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?

The most razor-sharp and heartbreaking novel of the year, Expectation is a novel about finding your way: as a mother, a daughter, a wife, a rebel. 

My Review of Expectation

Three women, Hannah, Cate and Lissa, discover life doesn’t always provide what you expect.

Having adored The Ballroom by Anna Hope I was expecting fabulous writing and an emotional read, but this time the author has exceeded everything I wanted to produce a soaring, searing, portrait of love, loss, betrayal and friendship in Expectation. Reading Expectation has felt like a physical process. My heart feels bruised and my chest tight because every word and every moment in this superb book is imbued with depth and intensity. It is, quite simply, wonderful. The way Anna Hope writes, with such exquisite attention to detail, is an absolute joy to read. So often I was reminded of Thomas Hardy’s ability to create nature in her descriptions.

It’s going to be almost impossible to convey the way I feel about Expectation. I thought the plot was fabulous. I loved the peeling back of layers of time and personality so that I felt I was part of the narrative, coming to an understanding about life at much the same time as the characters. That said, the more I reflect on the book after finishing it, the more it seems to offer. I will be thinking about Expectation for a very long time.

I loved and hated each of the three women in turn, vascillating between the two, much as they do themselves. Hannah, Cate and Lissa are vibrant, alive and flawed. Their relationships with one another, their parents and their lovers are beautifully presented by Anna Hope, but more important is the way in which she explores their relationships with themselves. Expectation is a superb observation of how we often know ourselves even less than we know others so that it gave me so much more than perfect entertainment as I read. Expectation made me examine who I am, what I want and how others might be affected by me. It sounds like hyperbole, but I truly think reading Expectation is a life altering experience. Somehow I feel fractured by reading Expectation, but then repaired to be greater than I was before. It has been an almost physical experience because of the profound emotions so skilfully conveyed. The potency of Anna Hope’s portrayal of humanity is astounding.

In case you hadn’t realised, I absolutely adored Expectation. It is, without doubt, one of my books of the year. Anna Hope has an outstanding talent to carry the reader along with her narrative and characters until they are completely entranced. I was mesmerised.

About Anna Hope


Anna Hope studied at Oxford University and RADA. She is the acclaimed author of Wake and The Ballroom. Her contemporary fiction debut, Expectation, explores themes of love, lust, motherhood, and feminism, while asking the greater question of what defines a generation. She lives in Sussex with her husband and young daughter.

You can follow Anna Hope on Twitter @Anna_Hope and visit her website for more information.