Two Days with @CapitalCrime1 at #CapitalCrime19

CApital crime authors

When I was given a press pass to the inaugural Capital Crime festival this year I couldn’t believe my luck. I cannot thank the lovely folk at Midas PR enough.

I’ve already blogged about how Capital Crime, the brainchild of Adam Hamdy and David Headley, came about in a post you can read here, so today I’d like to say an enormous thank you to everyone who planned, participated in and helped run a fantastic couple of days. My only complaint is that I really needed to be cloned and in two places at once because the choice of panels was so stunning. For those who were not able to attend I thought I’d just illustrate the panels I attended and link to some of the authors who have appeared on the blog before by way of a small thank you.

Friday 27th September


Other commitments meant I wasn’t able to attend the launch night on Thursday where Ashley Harrison won the DHH Literary Agency New Voices Award, but 5.45 on Friday morning saw me leaping out of bed in order to get an early train to London. I certainly needed a cup of tea provided by Capital Crime partner Pan Macmillan when I arrived at The Grand Connaught Rooms. In fact I needed several cups all day!


Having picked up my badge and goody bag, my first task was to decide how to spend Friday at Capital Crime. You’ll see from the programme, it was difficult to decide:


One of the delights of the day was catching up with, and meeting new, bloggers and authors, but it was the panels that were so entertaining.


I first chose to go to The Influence of Agatha Christie, partly because Sophie Hannah attended my own local Deepings Literary Festival but I couldn’t attend that session because I was interviewing Elly Griffiths at the time!

I began making notes for this panel, fully intending to write them up for each session I attended, but I got so engrossed in the discussions I decided simply to enjoy the panels. You’ll just have to take my word for it that they were entertaining, interesting, enlightening and, very often, revealing!

You’ll find my review of Sophie’s Agatha Christie book The Monogram Murders here. One of Christopher Fowler’s stories appears in Invisible Blood, a short story collection I reviewed here. There’s also a review of one of Ruth Ware’s book, In a Dark, Dark Wood here.


Panel two for me was Crime on a Global Scale. Having met Vaseem Khan on a previous occasion and knowing he’d be brilliant I was not at all surprised when he introduced himself as Justin Troudeau! I still have Vaseem’s The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra on my TBR (I will get to is soon I promise!).


Despite the gravity of the title for this panel, it was extremely funny and the audience had a real treat. It was an enormous pleasure to me to meet Abir Mukherjee afterwards too as my U3A reading group so enjoyed his A Rising Man and you’ll find my review here.

You can also read an interview I did with David Hewson when Juliet and Romeo was published here, along with my review.

After that I hotfooted it to find out if we really are living in a spy thriller, partly because I haven’t read any of the authors yet, although I was delighted to come away from Capital Crime with a copy of Adam Hamdy’s Black 13 in my goody bag. Black 13 will be released on 23rd January 2020 and is available through Pan Macmillan’s links here.


This was a fascinating panel and it really does seem as if truth is stranger than fiction in the world of espionage!

The next session found me hearing about The Truth in Pieces because every one of the authors is on my TBR awaiting reading.


This panel members were witty, honest and entertaining. If I tell you that Belinda Bauer heard the news about her publishing deal as she was collecting pony manure from the field you’ll get an idea of the human and honest comments from the panel!


With a quick stop for lunch it was off to see Adam Hamdy interview the amazing Anthony Horowitz. In another life and many moons ago I had the privilege of writing teacher resources for Hodder for Anthony’s children’s book Raven’s Gate so it was a thrill to meet him and to suggest he might like to attend the Deepings Literary Festival in 2021!


More recently, I reviewed Anthony’s Sherlock Holmes story The House of Silk in a post you can read here. Anthony was so interesting, especially when illustrating how his Mr Robinson story went from idea to completion for the London Underground vending machine earlier this year. Hearing him read us that story too was a delight.


I have a confession here – which seems appropriate for a crime festival – I’ve never read Martina Cole. I have several of her books on my shelves, but hearing her speak with such passion and wit I have decided I need to rectify that matter immediately. Her determination to support other writers and those less fortunate in society was incredibly uplifting.


Similar themes were discussed in the next panel called The Human Cost of Crime.


Perfectly interviewed by Chi Chi Izundu, both Ian Rankin and Don Winslow were fantastic guests who spoke with enthusiasm and intelligence about their writing and society. I thought this session was sensational.

I so wanted to listen to Lynda La Plante, but as I’ve read so many of my next panel I simply had to hear them speak. Their books are fantastic and this was a lively and entertaining look at feminism as they asked the question Is Crime Fiction A Problem For Feminists?


Although Julie’s Her Husband’s Lover is still awaiting reading, you’ll find my review of Sarah Hilary’s No Other Darkness was one of the first ever posts on Linda’s Book Bag here. I was also delighted to host a fascinating guest post from Sarah about The Secret Life of a Crime Writer here.

You’ll find an extract from Colette McBeth’s An Act of Silence here and my review here as it was one of my books of the year for 2017. You can see those books here.

One of the books that will be appearing on my 2019 books of the year is Amanda Jennings’ The Cliff House and you can find my review here.


Next up was Torn From History. I’m a huge fan of Anna Mazola and you’ll find my review of her book The Story Keeper here. Anna presided over a truly spellbinding panel and I was amazed to hear the background to Simon Mayo’s latest book Mad Blood Stirring.


The final panel I was able to attend before dashing off to get my train back to Lincolnshire saw two of my favourite authors in conversation with Adam Hamdy. I haven’t yet watched Paula Daly’s Deep Water television series (although it is recorded) but I do have a review of Paula’s The Mistake I Made here and Clear My Name here.

My review of SJ Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep is here. You’ll have to forgive the quality of this review. It was my third ever blog post!


I found the insight into how a book becomes a film hugely enlightening and really loved this session.

Saturday 29th September

Saturday saw me up and back on the train for another packed day at Capital Crime.



My first event on Saturday morning was When Women Make Murderers which gave an interesting perspective on whether women write crime differently to men. With this devious panel I was quite relieved to escape the session alive!

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Sadly, thus far I’ve only read CJ Tudor but having listened to these women speak I will be adding all their books to my TBR! You’ll find my review of CJ Tudor’s The Chalk Man here and The Taking of Annie Thorne here.


Knowing the brilliant Orenda Books’ Karen Sullivan well, I simply had to attend her session on Chilled to the Bone, although this meant I couldn’t go to the session with RC Brigstock who’ve featured on Linda’s Book Bag here. I did get to meet up with them briefly in the bar later!


Although perhaps not the intended outcome of this session, there was considerable talk about puffins which was entertaining and surprising! Again, I have each of the featured authors on my TBR and following this session, I can’t wait to read them.

The next panel, Beneath The Surface was with a selection of authors whose books I adore or am desperate to read.


I have spoken frequently about Elly Grifiths on Linda’s Book Bag having been delighted to interview her at the Deepings Literary Festival and meet her on several occasions and you’ll find the link to when she has appeared on the blog here, with reviews of The Crossing Places here, The Janus Stone here, Smoke and Mirrors here and more recently The Stone Circle here.


Fiona Barton’s The Widow is a fabulous book that I have reviewed here and I’m devastated I haven’t read had chance to read any more from her since my blog took off.

Although I have only had chance to read and review here a short story, The Scrapbook, by Erin Kelly I have her books on my TBR and loved her Broadchurch television series.

Louise Candlish’s Those People is currently looking at me from the pile next to my bed. When I went to the launch for that Those People I suggested to Louise that she attends our next Deepings Literary Festival so watch this space! I reviewed her simply fabulous Our House here.


With MW Craven’s The Puppet Show one of the best crime books I’ve read this year (see my review here) I had to attend the next session where every one of the speakers spoke with humour, passion and realism. For those who don’t know, Steph Marland is also Steph Broadribb.


I found their comments about a sense of place in their writing a real inspiration and was delighted to have a quick chat with Dreda Say Mitchell afterwards.


It seems to me that I only manage to catch up with the fabulous Ayo Onatade about once every 12 months at a bookish event so I was delighted to attend the panel she led discussing The Wrong Side Of The Law.

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It’s far too long since I featured any of these authors on the blog, although you can read an guest post from Steve Cavanagh about a sense of place and character here from when The Defense was released and my review of Hariet Tyce’s Blood Orange here. Given all the panelists have worked in the law professions in some way, their insights were incisive but also incredibly funny. I particularly loved the anecdotes from their ‘other’ lives. What struck me most, however, was their level of compassion for the perpetrators of crime, providing a whole aspect to consider.

I next decided to hear about what it’s like In The Mind Of A Criminal.


It was disappointing that Rachel Abbott was unable to attend, but at least I’ve had the opportunity to ‘stay in’ with Rachel to discuss Come A Little Closer in a post you can read here. I’ve my review of Jenny Blackhurst’s Before I Let You in here, and of Mel Sharratt’s The Girls Next Door here. What struck me most about this session was Winnie M Li’s ability to speak about the rape she endured that led to her to write Dark Chapter.



I chose to attend High Octane Thrillers for the next session because it’s a genre I don’t often read and I thought it might be quite interesting. It wasn’t. It was completely compelling. The balance of human emotion to fast paced action that all the panelists spoke about left me desperate to read every word they’ve ever written. It’s time to broaden my reading habits I think!


The final panel I could attend before having to leave for my train was Changing Times.


Paul Burston’s The Closer I Get is, ironically given the title, edging to the top of my TBR. He’s now next to the bed! I’ve reviewed Mari Hannah’s The Insider here.


Coming from the white middle England spoken about so eloquently by this panel, I hadn’t fully appreciated the constraints of sexuality and race within publishing and found this session very enlightening.

It was with a rather heavy heart that I couldn’t stay for the rest of the Capital Crime festival but had to head off to get my train. It really was a stunning event, brilliantly and professionally organised, with excellent, well thought out and balanced panels. I really enjoyed every moment and cannot wait to attend the next one.

Again, I’d like to thank everyone involved for making this such a super couple of days.

In the mean time, I have a meeting on Thursday to plan the next Deepings Literary Festival for 2021. I wonder how many of these fabulous crime authors will be at that event too?

Cover Reveal: The Vagabond Mother by Tracey Scott-Townsend

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It’s a bitter sweet moment for me today as I help LoveBooksGroup reveal The Vagabond Mother by Tracey Scott-Townsend because I still have Tracey’s previous book, Sea Babies on my TBR awaiting reading and I know first had what a wonderful writer Tracey is so I wish I’d had time to read it before today. You can find out about Sea Babies here.

It’s two and a half years since I first met Tracey Scott-Townsend at an event called Oceans of Words, at which she was speaking and you can see my write up here. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Tracey properly and she’s so lovely that I had to invite her onto Linda’s Book Bag to tell me about one of her books, Another Rebecca, in a post you can read here. I have also had the pleasure of reviewing some of Tracey’s poetry in her anthology So Fast and you can read that review here.

Today, however, is all about The Vagabond Mother so let’s see what Tracey has in store for us this time.

The Vagabond Mother will be released by Wild Pressed books on 22nd January 2020 and is available for pre-order here.

The Vagabond Mother

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Not every Vagabond is a Castaway…

Maya Galen’s oldest son, Jamie, left home eight years ago after a massive row with his parents and now Joe, her youngest child and apple of her eye, has cut off all contact with them too.

Called to Australia to identify the body of a young man, Mayais given her son’s journal. After a sleepless night she decides that the only thing she can do is follow in Joe’s footsteps and try to discover her most basic human self.Eschewing a monetary lifestyle, from now on she must rely on her physical and emotional strength to survive.

Following Joe’s hand-drawn maps and journal entries,she travels from Australia to Denmark and beyond, meeting many other travellers along the way and learning valuable lessons.

Eventually a crisis forces her to return home and confront the end of her marriage, but also a new understanding of what family, in the widest sense, really means.

Exploring the big questions at the heart of human existence, The Vagabond Mother shares territory with books and films such as Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, The Way, starring Martin Sheen, Wild:A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

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Now doesn’t that sound wonderful?

About Tracey Scott-Townsend

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Tracey is the author of The Last Time We Saw MarionOf His BonesThe Eliza Doll and Another Rebecca. Her fifth novel, Sea Babies was released on 1st May 2019. Her novels have been described as both poetic and painterly. Her first poetry collection, So Fast was published in January 2018.

Tracey is also a visual artist. All her work is inspired by the emotions of her own experiences and perceptions.

Tracey is the mother of four grown-up children and now spends a lot of time travelling in a small camper van with husband Phil and their rescue dogs, Pixie and Luna, gathering her thoughts and writing them down.

You can find out more about Tracey by visiting her website, finding her on Facebook and following her on Twitter @authortrace.

Let It Snow by Sue Moorcroft

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Life got the better of me earlier in the year and I wasn’t able to take on a review of Sue Moorcroft’s summer book A Summer to Remember, so it is with extra delight that I am participating in the blog tour for Sue’s latest release, Let it Snow. My thanks to Sabah Khan at Avon books for inviting me to take part.

Sue is a regular here on the blog and you can see other Linda’s Book Bag posts with her in the following links:

Discussing One Summer in Italy

An interview with Sue Moorcroft

A guest post from Sue on over-sharing and my review of The Christmas Promise

A guest post from Sue on her fantasy holiday companions

My review of Just For The Holidays

A guest post from Sue on loving a village book

My review of The Little Village Christmas

My review of A Christmas Gift

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint Avon, Let it Snow is available for purchase through the links here.

Let it Snow

Let it snow

This Christmas, the villagers of Middledip are off on a very Swiss adventure…

Family means everything to Lily Cortez and her sister Zinnia, and growing up in their non-conventional family unit, they and their two mums couldn’t have been closer.

So it’s a bolt out of the blue when Lily finds her father wasn’t the anonymous one-night stand she’d always believed – and is in fact the result of her mum’s reckless affair with a married man.

Confused, but determined to discover her true roots, Lily sets out to find the family she’s never known; an adventure that takes her from the frosted, thatched cottages of Middledip to the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland, via a memorable romantic encounter along the way…

My Review of Let It Snow

With her marriage over, Lily is back in Middledip.

It’s such a joy to pick up a Sue Moorcroft book and know that you’re in for a treat as a reader. Let It Snow is the latest in a delightful series of books set in Middledip (with a wander off to Switzerland too) that is just perfect for a wintry afternoon, curled up in front of the fire.

Let It Snow has all the elements I’ve come to expect from this author. There’s a smashing storyline, this time with quite a dark aspect to it too, that is very satisfying. The settings are vividly drawn and transport the reader through brilliant use of the senses, so that reading Let It Snow is a surprisingly immersive experience. Music, food, scenery and so on create a landscape that is visual and multi dimensional. I especially enjoyed the aspects of the story set in Switzerland.

I love Sue Moorcroft’s skill in featuring many characters without them becoming extraneous or insubstantial. Each person in this story, Lily and Isaac especially, is a rounded and real person which makes Let It Snow feel as if the reader is observing and involved in the action and not just reading about it. With prejudice still so rife in our society, it was wonderful to have a lesbian relationship between Roma and Patsie that felt normal and natural, without being idealised or preachy. Their life is presented with its flaws and insecurities exactly like any heterosexual partnership which I found refreshing and appealing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the blossoming romance – and it’s frustrations – between Isaac and Lily. Sue Moorcroft has a deft touch at writing romantic scenes that is so realistic that the reader enjoys every moment. Through their developing relationship Sue Moorcroft provides so much more for a reader to enjoy, to ponder and to reflect upon. Our sense of identity, of loyalty, of independence are all thoroughly explored so that I wasn’t always certain quite how the narrative might resolve itself. And whilst Let It Snow is a perfect example of what might be called women’s fiction or uplit, it offers much more besides and I enjoyed it all the more because of its themes of family, work and relationships.

In Let It Snow, Sue Moorcroft has proven once again that she is a force to be reckoned with in writing this kind of fiction. I’m not normally keen on author endorsements for one another, but the quotation on the cover of Let It Snow really does sum up the book. Debbie Johnson is quite right. ‘Sue Moorcroft’s books really do have it all’ and Let It Snow is no exception.

About Sue Moorcroft


Award winning author Sue Moorcroft writes contemporary women’s fiction with occasionally unexpected themes. The Wedding ProposalDream a Little Dream and Is This Love? were all nominated for Readers’ Best Romantic Read Awards. Love & Freedom won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011 and Dream a Little Dream was nominated for a RoNA in 2013. Sue’s a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner, a past vice chair of the RNA and editor of its two anthologies.

The Christmas Promise was a Kindle No.1 Best Seller and held the No.1 slot at Christmas!

Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a creative writing tutor.

You can follow Sue on Twitter @SueMoorcroft, find her on Facebook and visit her website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:


Staying in with Zoë Folbigg

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After a manic year in 2018 I haven’t been staying in with authors in 2019, but I couldn’t resist asking Zoë Folbigg to stay in with me to celebrate the paperback publication of her book The Postcard. My thanks to Vanessa Aboagye at Midas PR for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Published by Aria, The Postcard is available for purchase here.

The Postcard

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The Postcard is the sequel to the bestselling novel The Note, based on the unbelievable true story of Zoë Folbigg and her Train Man. Zoe spent a whole year secretly admiring a handsome stranger on her daily commute. Deciding to do something frivolous on her birthday, Zoë made the first the move and boldly left him a note – only to discover he had a girlfriend. But months later, the man on the train got back in touch with Zoë to tell her he was single. From Train Man to beautiful Mark, the pair fell in love and the rest is history!

Adapting her heart-warming love story to page-turning fiction, The Note was Amazon Prime’s most downloaded book of 2018 and to date has sold over 230,000 copies across all formats. Her characters Maya and James inspired a whole phenomenon of women around the world giving notes to their secret admirers on their daily commute.

Now, in this hotly anticipated follow-up, Maya and James are embarking on another journey – this time travelling around the world. The trip starts promisingly with their friend’s opulent and romantic Indian wedding in Udaipur. But as their travels continue, Maya fears that ‘love at first sight’ might not survive trains, planes and tuk tuks, especially when she realises that what she really wants is a baby. And the trouble is, James doesn’t feel the same.

Back home, Maya’s best friend Nena is struggling with the reality of being a new parent. Little does Nena know that Maya risks losing the love of her life over her dreams of motherhood. Can Maya and James navigate their different hopes and dreams to stay together? Or is love at first sight just a myth after all…

Perfect for fans of Josie Silver and Marian Keyes, The Postcard continues the once-in-a-lifetime love story that readers so took to their hearts.

Staying in with Zoë Folbigg

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Zoë. Thanks for staying in with me.

Thanks for having me round Linda, it’s a total honour to be staying in and hanging out with you!

I rather think I might know the answer to this, but which of your books have you brought to tell us about and why?

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I’ve brought The Postcard – it’s my third book and was published this summer. It’s the sequel to my debut The Note, which came out in 2017 and was based on the true story of how I met my husband. I fell for him on our daily commute, but it took a year for me to pluck up the courage to give him a note, asking him out for a drink. When we (eventually!) got together, so many people said that our story sounded like a novel, that I decided to write it as one. And it went down so well and became a bestseller, my publisher asked for a sequel.

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What a romantic tale. I love the way you met. So, tell me, what can we expect from an evening in with The Postcard?

Well The Postcard picks up a year after The Note ends, and Maya and James are off on a round-the-world adventure. Again it’s based on a my own true-life story and the year-long trip my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I took in 2008. Expect a lot of colour and drama: Maya and James start in India at a big Bollywood-esque wedding, then travel to Thailand, Vietnam and Laos… The plan is to carry on to Australia, but they hit some serious bumps in the road. Both in terms of their relationship and some curveballs thrown at them along the way.

I MUST read The Postcard as soon as I can. I’ve been to India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Australia so I think I could be the perfect reader!

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it? 

I have a very sweet tooth, so I always take sweet treats when I’m visiting a friend, and tonight is no different.

I’m delighted to hear this as I have exactly the same taste!


The Postcard needs some appropriately exotic sweet treats, so I’ve brought gulab jamun, my favourite food from India. They’re made from milk solids and then condensed into a dough, which is deep fried and drizzled in a sweet syrup. They’re little balls of deliciousness – I’d say not a health food!

No, but they are so good to eat!


I’ve also brought a bottle of Seedlip, a botanical non-alcoholic drink, in my favourite variant, Spice 94. I’m not a big drinker: since becoming a mother my tolerance to alcohol is weak, but I’m sick of sugary fizzy drinks. Non-drinkers get a bit of a bad deal on a night out (or in!). But a measure of this mixed with a flavoured Fever Tree tonic (and a slice of dried orange peel) in a blousy balloon glass feels like a special treat – and the bonus is I can drive home too.

I’m not much of a drinker either and I’ve never heard of Seedlip Spice 94 so I shall be interested to share this with you in a bit.

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I’ve also brought some Green & Black’s (did I mention I have a sweet tooth?!). I’ve brought Sea Salt and Maya Gold variants, mainly because I was fuelled by Green & Black’s while writing The Postcard. Sea Salt replenishes me after a run (I know I know, I should eat avocados on toast or something). I go running in the morning after dropping my boys at school, so I can think about what I’m going to write that day, so naughtily I refuel on chocolate. And Maya Gold is a spiced chocolate with orange notes, that’s the perfect accompaniment to the Seedlip botanical drink.

I think you may just be the perfect guest Zoë. Non-alcoholic drinks, chocolate, sweet treats and books. What could be better? Thanks so much for staying in with me and telling me all about The Postcard. I can’t wait to read it!

Thanks for having me Linda.

About Zoë Folbigg


Zoë Folbigg is a magazine journalist and digital editor. Starting at Cosmopolitan in 2001 she has worked on number of other titles including Glamour, Daily Mail, Top Santé, ELLE, and Sunday Times Style.  Her debut novel, The Note was based on Zoë’s life story.

The Postcard is based on a very popular column in Fabulous magazine documenting Zoë’s year-long round-the-world trip with ‘Train Man’ – a man she had met on her daily commute.  They have since married, and Zoë lives in Hertfordshire with him and their two young sons.

You can follow Zoë on Twitter @zoefolbigg and visit her website for more information. You’ll also find her on Facebook and there’s more with these other bloggers:

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New Releases from @PenguinUKBooks


It’s a real privilege being a book blogger as I get to attend some wonderful events, meet authors, publishers and fellow bloggers and read the most amazing books that I can share here on Linda’s Book Bag.


Last evening I was delighted to attend a brilliant event celebrating Penguin‘s books for 2020 which was held in‘s lovely Bankside showroom in London. My enormous thanks to Georgia Taylor for inviting me.


I was delighted to return home with a copy of Tana French’s The Wych Elm in a special goody bag as this book has been in my sights for a while!


The Wych Elm was published by Penguin in paperback on 5th September and is available for purchase in all formats through the links here.

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One night changes everything for Toby. He’s always led a charmed life – until a brutal attack leaves him damaged and traumatised, unsure even of the person he used to be. He seeks refuge at his family’s ancestral home, the Ivy House, filled with memories of wild-strawberry summers and teenage parties with his cousins.

But not long after Toby’s arrival, a discovery is made: a skull, tucked neatly inside the old wych elm in the garden.

As detectives begin to close in, Toby is forced to examine everything he thought he knew about his family, his past, and himself.

A spellbinding book from a novelist who takes crime writing and turns it inside out, The Wych Elmasks what we become, and what we’re capable of, if we no longer know who we are.



Other novels were placed around the room so that bloggers could add copies to their goody bags and the lovely Penguin publicists told us a bit about recent and forthcoming 2020 releases, brimming with enthusiasm for the books. We were treated to wine and nibbles as we lounged on the glorious furniture, chatting all things bookish.

As well as Tana French’s The Wych Elm I was thrilled to receive copies of the following books:

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

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Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.

It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.

It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.

It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Told from the point of view of the people at the heart of it, from the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.

Published on 9th January 202 Three Hours is available for pre-order through the links here.

All the Rage by Cara Hunter

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History doesn’t repeat itself. Does it?

A distressed teenage girl is found on the outskirts of Oxford. The story she tells is terrifying: grabbed off the street, a plastic bag forced over her head, then driven somewhere remote and subjected to an assault.

DI Adam Fawley is doing the best he can to investigate, but the teenager refuses to press charges. All he can do is try to ignore the sickening feeling he’s seen something like this before…

But when another girl goes missing, Fawley knows his time is running out.

Because if he ignores the past any longer, this girl may not be coming back.

Out on 23rd January 2020, All the Rage is available for pre-order here.

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Again

Olive, Again follows the blunt, contradictory yet deeply loveable Olive Kitteridge as she grows older, navigating the second half of her life as she comes to terms with the changes – sometimes welcome, sometimes not – in her own existence and in those around her.

Olive adjusts to her new life with her second husband, challenges her estranged son and his family to accept him, experiences loss and loneliness, witnesses the triumphs and heartbreaks of her friends and neighbours in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine – and, finally, opens herself to new lessons about life.

You can get your hands on Olive, Again on 31st October through the pre-order links here.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

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One summer morning, a flight takes off from New York to Los Angeles. There are 216 passengers aboard: among them a young woman taking a pregnancy test in the airplane toilet; a Wall Street millionaire flirting with the air hostess; an injured soldier returning from Afghanistan; and two beleaguered parents moving across the country with their adolescent sons, bickering over who gets the window seat. When the plane suddenly crashes in a field in Colorado, the younger of these boys, 12-year-old Edward Adler, is the sole survivor.

Dear Edward depicts Edward’s life in the crash’s aftermath as he struggles to make sense of the meaning of his survival, the strangeness of his sudden fame, and find his place in the world without his family. In his new home with his aunt and uncle, the only solace comes from his friendship with the girl next door, Shay. Together Edward and Shay make a startling discovery: hidden in his uncle’s garage are sacks of letters from the relatives of the other passengers, addressed to Edward.

As Edward comes of age against the backdrop of sudden tragedy, he must confront some of life’s most profound questions: how do we make the most of the time we are given? And what does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?

Dear Edward will be published on 27th February 2020 and is available for pre-order here.

Keeper by Jessica Moor


He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes.
Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside.

When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide.

But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.

Will you listen to them?

Published on 19th March 2020, Keeper is available for pre-order here.


Now doesn’t that sound like a brilliant selection from Penguin coming up? I can’t wait to read them all.

I also came away with a couple of treats in my goody bag but there are no photos of them as I ate the sweets on the train home. The other was a PF 79 kiwi sheet face mask but I think an image of me wearing that might just be too much information. I suggest you stick with the books!

My enormous thanks to all the Penguin team for making me so welcome, for being so enthusiastic about the books and for a lovely evening. Happy reading!

The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare

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I’ve tried so hard to be strong and not accept books this year as I am still inundated, but occasionally I’m offered a book for review that I know is my kind of read and I can’t resist. Once such book was The Light in the Dark: A winter journal by Horatio Clare and I would like to thank Alison Menzies at Elliott & Thompson for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal is available for purchase here.

The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal

Light in the Dark pb.indd

As November stubs out the glow of autumn and the days tighten into shorter hours, winter’s occupation begins. Preparing for winter has its own rhythms, as old as our exchanges with the land. Of all the seasons, it draws us together. But winter can be tough.

It is a time of introspection, of looking inwards. Seasonal sadness; winter blues; depression – such feelings are widespread in the darker months. But by looking outwards, by being in and observing nature, we can appreciate its rhythms. Mountains make sense in any weather. The voices of a wood always speak consolation. A brush of frost; subtle colours; days as bright as a magpie’s cackle. We can learn to see and celebrate winter in all its shadows and lights.

In this moving and lyrical evocation of a British winter and the feelings it inspires, Horatio Clare raises a torch against the darkness, illuminating the blackest corners of the season, and delving into memory and myth to explore the powerful hold that winter has on us. By learning to see, we can find the magic, the light that burns bright at the heart of winter: spring will come again.

My Review of The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal

A personal view of the winter months.

My goodness. I think I may have just discovered a new to me favourite author. The Light in the Dark is a glorious read.

Horatio Clare’s attempt to find the positives in his winter induced depression, through keeping a winter journal, is a touching, honest and beautiful account that celebrates life even in the depths of despair. I think anyone who suffers seasonal winter blues through to full blown depression can dip into The Light in the Dark and find a passage that will lift their spirits and help them feel they are not alone in their suffering. Even though the author is honest in the editing he has done to remove the worst of his experiences from The Light in the Dark, I found this a compellingly truthful book that really touched me.

Horatio Clare’s writing is utterly, utterly, wonderful – ethereal at times. I think he might be the most poetic prose writer I’ve ever read. His descriptions of nature, especially birds and the weather, filled me with absolute joy. It truly lifted my heart to read his perfectly crafted language, especially when he created new compound descriptors or used vivid imaginative metaphors that painted images in my mind. This author has a skill beyond compare and I feel privileged to have read him.

I’ve finished reading The Light in the Dark feeling I have had a rich and stimulating experience. The Light in the Dark isn’t a just a beautifully written book. It is manna for the soul and an absolute joy to read. I loved it.

About Horatio Clare

horatio clare

Travel writer, memoirist and children’s author Horatio Clare was born in London in 1973. He read English at the University of York and later worked as a BBC radio producer on cultural programmes Front Row, Nightwaves and The Verb. As a freelance journalist he has contributed numerous travel pieces to newspapers and magazines, as well as to From Our Own Correspondent on BBC Radio Four.

Running for the Hills (2006), a memoir of his childhood on a sheep farm in West Wales, was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award, and received a Somerset Maugham award. Its autobiographical sequel, Truant: Notes from the Slippery Slope (2007), detailed his descent into and recovery from drug addictions and mental problems. He was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award in 2007.

Having lived in Palermo, he edited the anthology Sicily: Through Writers’ Eyes (2006), collecting works by D.H. Lawrence, Giuseppe de Lampedusa, Norman Lewis and others, with his own lyrical observations on the island’s rich culture and history.

His travel book A Single Swallow (2009) follows the migration of swallows from South Africa to South Wales, recording encounters with people along the way. In 2010 he won the Foreign Press Association Award for his feature Rock of Ages – Ethiopian Highlands. His novella The Prince’s Pen (2011) is a contemporary re-working of the tale of ‘Lludd and Lefellys’ from the Mabinogion.

He was awarded the 2015 Stanford Dolman Book of the Year for Down to the Sea in Ships (2014), an account of two voyages on container ships. His first book for children, Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot, published in 2015, was shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award. While continuing to travel the world, he divides his time between London, Wales and West Yorkshire.

You can follow Horatio Clare on Twitter @HoratioClare and visit his website for more information.

Violet by SJI Holliday


I love SJI Holliday’s writing with several of her books awaiting reading so I can’t believe it’s been two years since she featured on Linda’s Book Bag in an interview to celebrate Damsel Fly that you can read here. I previously reviewed Willow Walk here too. Today, I’m thrilled to share my review of Susi’s latest novel, Violet, and cannot thank the author enough for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

Published by Orenda, Violet is available in ebook now and paperback pre-order here.



When two strangers end up sharing a cabin on the Trans-Siberian Express, an intense friendship develops, one that can only have one ending …

… a nerve-shattering psychological thriller from bestselling author SJI Holliday.

My Review of Violet

Violet and Carrie develop a friendship that has greater consequences than they might imagine.

If I say that I sat down to begin reading Violet and barely looked up until I had devoured every word some hours later you’ll understand how good a book it is. SJI Holliday manages to imbue every word with an intangible, yet palpable, menace so that I was compelled to read on. I honestly had no idea which of the characters I might trust, who was a psychopath and who an innocent. This is brilliant writing.

I have to say something about the cover to Violet because it’s quite perfect for the narrative. Obviously I don’t want to spoil the plot for others, but as I read I wasn’t sure which perspective I could believe, there are several train lines and journeys both actual and metaphorical in the story and always something just out of reach for Violet like the vanishing point in the image.

The plot zips along with a pace that pulls in the reader and leaves them reeling. The story builds incrementally so that each chapter ends with an irresistible uneasiness or revelation that made my eyes widen and did not allow me to put down the book. My own self will deserted me under the spell of SJI Holliday’s writing.

I loved the almost film noir settings that gave an added edginess to the plot, but it was the characterisation that held me spellbound. SJI Holliday gets right under the skin of Violet, simultaneously making her appealing, unnerving and captivating. I felt as mesmerised by her as any of the others in the story do. As her relationship with Carrie developed, I experienced an elevated pulse rate and frequently found myself holding my breath. I was equally appalled and fascinated by Violet and Carrie’s desperate hedonistic use of alcohol and drugs because SJI Holliday made me understand the underlying reasons for their behaviour through her fabulous psychological narrative.

It’s so hard to review Violet without giving away anything that will spoil the read for others, so I’m just going to say that this is a fabulous book, totally captivating and completely unnerving. The writing is skilled, sophisticated and totally realistic so that Violet becomes an all too plausible story that might happen to any of us. I cannot recommend it highly enough as I thought it was fantastic.

About SJI Holliday


S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday grew up in East Lothian, Scotland. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize.

She has written three crime novels set in the fictional Scottish town of Banktoun, which are a mix of police procedural and psychological thriller. They are: Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly – all featuring the much loved character, Sergeant Davie Gray.

Her serial killer thriller The Deaths of December (written as Susi Holliday), featuring Detective Sergeant Eddie Carmine and Detective Constable Becky Greene was a festive hit in 2017.

Her spooky mystery The Lingering was released in September 2018.

Her latest book Violet – a psychological thriller set on the Trans-Siberian Express is out in September 2019.

You can find out more about SJI Holliday on her website and on Facebook and by following her on Twitter @SJIHolliday.

Daisy Daydream Bus Rhymes and Jokes by Sue Wickstead

Daisy Daydream

I haven’t been feeling well this week and so when a prize copy of children’s book Daisy Daydream Bus Rhymes and Jokes arrived yesterday from the author Sue Wickstead I thought I’d read it straight away to cheer myself up! My enormous thanks to Sue and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for sending me a copy.

Daisy Daydream Bus Rhymes and Jokes is available for purchase here.

Daisy Daydream Bus Rhymes and Jokes

Daisy Daydream

A book of poetry and rhymes with a bus twist. Together with a few tickets full of jokes to capture the imagination of young readers and get them to giggle along on the bus journey. Daisy Daydream the nursery Rhyme bus now has a few nursery rhymes of her own.

My Review of Daisy Daydream Bus Rhymes and Jokes

Daisy Daydream Bus Rhymes and Jokes is a little cracker of a children’s book.

I thoroughly enjoyed the rhymes and jokes presented for young children here. There’s a wealth of fun to be had, especially through the jokes presented in the form of bus tickets which is a brilliant way to feature them. Children will love retelling these to their friends and families.

The rhymes, poems and songs are delightful and offer much more than they first appear. They are terrific fun in themselves, but as many are based on well-known songs and nursery rhymes too, they afford the opportunity to explore the heritage of such language and to provide examples of how to play with and enjoy language. I’d love to think of children writing and sharing their own poems and rhymes and making up their own puns and jokes as a result of reading Daisy Daydream Bus Rhymes and Jokes.

The illustrations are just wonderful and complement the words perfectly. Daisy Daydream Bus Rhymes and Jokes is a smasher of a book. I loved it and I know the small person I’m going to be sharing it with will love it too.

About Sue Wickstead


Sue Wickstead is a teacher and an author and writes children’s picture books with a bus theme featuring a playbus.

For over 20 years, alongside her teaching career, Sue worked with the charity, The Bewbush Playbus Association; she painted the bus, worked in the groups, helped raise the profile of the project and its work and was part of the committee involved in raising funds to replace it with a newer vehicle.

This led her to write a photographic history book about it. Sue remembers that it really was a fun journey to be involved in. The bus really got into her blood and became a work of the heart. Having written the history book Sue soon found that many children had never been on a bus before, let alone a ‘Playbus’ and they wanted to know more. She began telling them stories about the bus and then decided to write a fictional tale. The real number plate for the bus was JJK261 and this gave him Jay-Jay the supersonic Bus his name. Jay-Jay the Supersonic Bus, came out in print in 2014. It is the story behind the original project and is his journey from a scrap-yard to being changed into a playbus for children to play in. 

This story has now been followed more picture books about buses. Daisy Daydream is the bus Sue painted. A Spooky Tale and The Christmas Play Rehearsal do indeed have a bus connection as well as links to Sue’s teaching journey. Sue undertakes events and author bookings and loves to share her stories, she is also ‘a patron of reading’.

You can follow Sue on Twitter @JayJayBus for more information, or visit Sue’s website. You’ll also find Sue on Facebook.

Postscript by Cecelia Ahern


When a surprise copy of Postscript by Cecelia Ahern arrived from the lovely folk at Harper Collins, I was completely thrilled. I read Cecelia Ahern’s P.S. I Love You when it was published in 2012 and even though I’ve read literally hundreds of books since I have never forgotten it. Receiving the follow up Postscript was an absolute joy and I would like to express my thanks to Liz Dawson and the team for sending me a copy.

You might like to read my review of Cecelia Ahern’s collection of short stories, Roar, here too.

Published by Harper Collins 19th September 2019, Postscript is available for purchase here.



It’s been seven years since Holly Kennedy’s husband died – six since she read his final letter, urging Holly to find the courage to forge a new life.

She’s proud of all the ways in which she has grown and evolved. But when a group inspired by Gerry’s letters, calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, approaches Holly asking for help, she finds herself drawn back into a world that she worked so hard to leave behind.

Reluctantly, Holly begins a relationship with the club, even as their friendship threatens to destroy the peace she believes she has achieved. As each of these people calls upon Holly to help them leave something meaningful behind for their loved ones, Holly will embark on a remarkable journey – one that will challenge her to ask whether embracing the future means betraying the past, and what it means to love someone forever…

My Review of Postscript

Holly’s life with Gerry isn’t quite finished.

I am utterly broken by Postscript. I have cried until my head throbs and my eyes are red reading this book. Cecelia Ahern has entirely undone me through the intensity of her writing because she has articulated so sensitively, so thoroughly magnificently, and with such humanity, how it feels to have loved someone unequivocally and lost them to a terminal illness. Her depiction of grief, of living with the proximity of death, of friendship, family and relationships pulsates with reality and truth. At the same time, she has created a positive and life enhancing narrative in Postscript that has left me feeling optimistic and somehow soothed.

Although Postscript is a follow up to P.S. I Love You, there is absolutely no need to have read that book to be enthralled by this one. Cecelia Ahern is such a skilled writer that she weaves Holly’s backstory into the narrative in a fluid and organic manner that works beautifully. Holly’s relationship with her deceased husband Gerry, her new life and her possible future are all perfectly balanced and explained. I found Cecelia Ahern’s writing thoroughly enchanting. The plot is glorious and heartbreaking in equal measure so that it is impossible not to feel Holly’s reactions and emotions as she feels them. I love the way the author crafts her writing. She understands the realism needed in direct speech and ensures descriptive sentences are poetic at times and stark and affecting at others so that it is akin to being on a roller coaster of emotion reading Postscript.

Holly is an incredibly realistic character. I didn’t feel as if I were reading about her, but more that I was reading about me through her. I genuinely felt an almost visceral connection as she struggled to be true to the self she had become in the seven years since her husband’s death. Of the others, Ginika was the person who gained my empathy most profoundly. Her feisty nature, despite her youth and educational background, made me want to hold her, support her and simultaneously made me glad to be alive.

Perhaps readers who have not felt the grief I have felt in recent times will have less of a reaction to Postscript, but I adored every word. I devoured the book over twenty-four hours because it felt like a bereavement to be away from it. It’s going to take me a while to recover from reading Cecelia Ahern’s Postscript and if I’m honest, I’m not sure I will get over the intense emotion I felt as I read.  I experienced deep grief and enormous uplifting optimism reading Postscript and cannot recommend it highly enough. What an amazing book and what a fabulous writer!

About Cecelia Ahern


(Image courtesy of Matthew Thompson)

Cecelia Ahern is one of the biggest selling authors to emerge in the past fifteen years. Her novels have been translated into thirty languages and have sold more than twenty-five million copies in over forty countries. Two of her books have been adapted as major films and she has created several TV series in the US and Germany.  She and her books have won numerous awards, including the Irish Book Award for Popular Fiction for The Year I Met You in 2014. PS I Love You was awarded two Platinum Awards at the 2018 Specsavers Bestsellers Awards, for UK and Ireland.

Cecelia lives in Dublin with her family.

You can find out more by following Cecelia on Twitter @Cecelia_Ahern, visiting her website and finding her on Facebook.

Say Say Say by Lila Savage

say say say

My enormous thanks to Flora Willis for sending me a copy of Say Say Say by Lila Savage in return for an honest review.

Published by Serpent’s Tail on 8th August 2019, Say Say Say is available for purchase here and directly from the publisher here.

Say Say Say

say say say

Ella is nearing thirty, and not yet living the life she imagined. Her artistic ambitions as a student have given way to an unintended career as a care worker. One spring, Bryn – a retired carpenter – hires her to help him care for Jill, his wife of many years. A car accident caused a brain injury that has left Jill verbally diminished; she moves about the house like a ghost of her former self.

As Ella is drawn ever deeper into the couple’s household, she is profoundly moved by the tenderness Bryn shows toward the wife he still fiercely loves. Ella is startled by the yearning this awakens in her, one that complicates her feelings for her girlfriend, Alix, and causes her to look at relationships of all kinds – between partners, between employer and employee, and above all between men and women – in new ways.

Tightly woven, humane and insightful, tracing the most intimate reaches of a young woman’s heart and mind, Say Say Say is a riveting story about what it means to love, in a world where time is always running out.

My Review of Say Say Say

Ella takes on a new client as she looks after Jill for Bryn.

I found Say Say Say an incredibly difficult book to read despite its brevity because it reignited my grief at my father’s stroke and prolonged death as I read about Jill. When we no longer knew what Dad understood, and before he lost the ability to make any sound at all, he would utter a sibilance so similar to Jill’s repetitive ‘say, say, say’ that at times I found it almost unbearable to read Lila Savage’s writing.

Say Say Say is a beautifully written, searing, intimate and personal portrait of Ella’s personality, of Jill’s suffering and of Bryn’s grief so that it is difficult to articulate my thoughts into a coherent review. The quality of language used is sometimes stark, frequently poetic and always compelling. There is almost as much meaning between the lines – in what isn’t written – as there is in what is on the page. Sometimes the sentence structure is quite difficult to follow and I loved that about the text. I had to reread and think precisely what the meaning was; just like Ella as she tries to understand herself and those around her. I thought this technique was brilliant.

The plot is marginal in Say Say Say. I can imagine those who are looking for fast paced thrilling writing not appreciating it at all, but what happens is far less important than the way Ella reacts as she struggles to understand herself. I can’t say I liked Ella, but my goodness I was given a profound understanding of who she is. I think my reticence to warm to her stems from Lila Savage’s incredible ability to lay bare human imperfection. She presents a portrait so unflinching, so acutely observed and somehow so tender that I felt an almost physical response. There were some uncomfortable echoes for me as a reader. Have I been as lacking in kindness to others as Ella feels she may have been for example?

Say Say Say is an unusual read. It is as if Lila Savage has looked into the soul of humanity and laid it bare on the page. I think Say Say Say will polarise readers. For some it will be the perfect book. Others will find it too uncomfortable a read. Some will want more action. I thought it was a finely crafted, emotional and fierce portrait of grief, loss and character that touched me completely.

About Lila Savage


Lila Savage is originally from Minneapolis. Prior to writing fiction, she spent nearly a decade working as a caregiver. Her work has appeared in The Threepenny Review. She is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner fellowship and graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2018. She lives in San Francisco.