Wednesday 20 March 2024



When Charley Varrick and his gang hit the Tres Cruces bank, they make two serious mistakes.

They got trigger-happy and they didn't realise whose money they were taking.

And when Damon Murray of the FBI arrived to take charge of the investigation, he began to wonder why a smalltown bank should be carrying so much money.

Then the Mafia stepped in  - to cover up their insidious connections with the bank. And to get their money back.

Loved it. I really enjoy reading late 60s/early 70s crime fiction paperbacks. Love the (often politically incorrect) covers, the smell and the feel of the pages, the wonder at whether many other copies of the book survive 50 plus years on (this one nearly didn't!) and also speculating on how many times this one has been thumbed and had its pages turned. 

Here we have a multiple POV look at the execution of a bank robbery and its aftermath. ie - the escape and subsequent investigation by various law enforcement agencies and the rightful owners - the mob - of the stolen cash. 

Really enjoyable. 

I liked the writing, and the characters - from the rookie cop with his insecurities and mother issues, to the FBI man who wasn't depicted as an a-hole and actually worked well with the local lawmen, to the main villain himself - Charley Varrick, and the mob lawyer trying to keep a lid on the situation for his bosses. 

Conflict, tension, action, intelligence and cunning, secrets, mistrust, ambition, control, romance - all figure. A bit like the everyday dramas normal people face at home and at work. Just this time with guns and criminals colliding with authority. 

Cracking story, decent pace, perfect length, satisfying ending.

John Reese is an author I know little about. I think I discovered this book after reading Brian Garfield's Hopscotch and subsequently watching the film with Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson. That Matthau film led me to another of his called Charley Varrick, which The Looters was filmed as. Obsessed as I am, I tracked down a copy of the film to watch sometime, plus another book by John Reese - Pity Us All. I'm looking forward to both. Reese wrote about 50 books in total, mainly Westerns. 

4 stars from 5

Published - 1968

Read - February, 2024

Page count - 208

Source - purchased copy

Format - paperback

Saturday 17 February 2024




Fukushima: when a series of disasters devastate Japan, three criminals are presented with the perfect opportunity for a jailbreak.

Last year I released a novel called Mika Ito and it told the story of love and dark secrets in the midst of a series of epic disasters. However, I really thought Mika’s father, Shinsuke Takahashi, deserved to have his side of the story told.

Giving Shinsuke the limelight in the original Mika Ito would have been wrong: it was Mika and Dylan’s story. But I kept returning to the idea, extending it to all the villains in the Mika Ito universe, and I made a promise that one day I would tell their story.

That day is today.

Red Shift is a novella that begins on the day of the Fukushima disaster and follows the Mika Ito timeline, but it tells the story exclusively from the villain’s point of view. It's both an exciting stand-alone novella and a companion to Mika Ito.

An okay story of villain's escaping from custody during an earthquake and an attempt by the leader of them to reconnect with his estranged daughter.

I think my main issue with the story was a lack of empathy for any of the characters and as such nothing that happened to any of them affected me as I read it. My overwhelming feeling was indifference.

If I had read the longer, connected novel - Mika Ito, perhaps I would have gotten more from the story, but maybe not. There were a few plot points in this tale which required a slight stretch of credibility to believe in, but as it was only a relatively short piece of writing as opposed to something that required more of a time investment I could overlook them without too much irritation.

Overall okay, but not great.   

2.5 stars from 5

Read - February, 2024

Published - 2022

Page count - 79

Source - copy from author courtesy of email sign-up to his page

Format - Kindle

Wednesday 14 February 2024



"A fresh and fierce new voice to crime fiction...a stunning book that takes the reader on an intense and harrowing journey that is truly unforgettable. Consider me a big fan."— Don Winslow, New York Times bestselling author of The Cartel, The Force and City on Fire

In the vein of GET OUT and RAZORBLADE TEARS, a powerful and propulsive noir thriller - with an unforgettable cast of characters - asks us to consider what would happen if reparations for African Americans were finally charged and exacted..... by force?

Nate Evers, a young black political activist, struggles with rage as his people are still being killed in the streets 62 years after Emmett Till. When his little cousin is murdered, Nate shuns the graffiti murals, candlelight vigils, and Twitter hashtags that are commonplace after these senseless deaths. Instead, he leads 3 grief-stricken friends on a mission of retribution, kidnapping the descendants of long-ago perpetrators of hate crimes, confronting the targets with their racist lineages, and forcing them to pay reparations to a community fund. For 3 of the group members, the results mean justice; for Nate – pure revenge.

Not all targets go quietly into the night, though, and Nate and his friends' world spirals out of control when they confront the wrong man. Now the leader of a white supremacist group is hot on their tail as is a jaded lawman with some disturbingly racist views of his own.

As the 4 vigilantes fight to thwart their ruthless pursuers, they’re forced to accept an age-old truth: "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."

Early days in 2024 and I've probably just read one of the best books I'll encounter all year.

Powerful, topical, exciting, thought provoking, angry, and - as we track the last hours of young, love struck Darius - upsetting.

Smoke Kings was an addictive read. I didn't want to put it down. From the get go I was drawn in to the tale and got slightly irritated when life interfered with me discovering what was going to happen next.

This tale had a bit of everything.... love, loyalty, secrets, trust, tension, ignorance, anger, history, violence and at its core; ugly, brutal, incomprehensible racism.

Great characters, fantastic writing, a compelling story, decent pace, and a fantastic outcome. It's a book that I want to press into the hands of other keen readers. Highly recommended.

Kind of hard to believe this is a debut novel from author, Jahmal Mayfield. I'll definitely be looking out for his next book. 

5 stars from 5! 

Read - February, 2024

Published - 2024

Page count - 402

Source - review copy from publisher, Melville House

Format - Paperback ARC

Sunday 11 February 2024


Synopsis/blurb ....

Car thieves and the chop shop that buys from them combine to create high-octane stories of hot cars, hot crimes, and hot times in Dallas, Texas.

In “The Cadillac Job,” loyalty beyond the battlefield sends Carly and Knuckles on one last mission to save a dying teammate.

When Carly isn’t slinging drinks at the local VFW, she boosts cars—a job much like the one she had on a vehicle recovery team in Afghanistan.

Except her team isn’t the same.

Sweets is dying. And the last time Knuckles scouted for a Mustang, he ended up at a dude ranch off highway 175.

Her commanding officer is different, too.

She no longer answers to Captain Shrader. She answers to Huey, and the consequences for disobeying orders are deadly.

Determined to save Sweets, Carly steals cars to pay for a lifesaving surgery. But progress is slow, and Sweets is running out of time—until the Cadillac Job. The payout is big. So are the risks. If Carly succeeds, Sweets lives.

My kind of story here. Our main characters; a tight group of ex-military who served together, stealing cars to order to raise funds for a life-saving transplant operation for one of their own. Added pressures of time, with the clock running down on Sweets, leading to some ill-judged choices. I'm a sucker for a story where the main POV or sympathies are with the outlaw or villain; where necessity leads a decent person down the crooked road.. 

Great writing, tight, lean prose. Hardly a wasted word with no extra padding or fluff. I was engaged throughout and the finale didn't let me down.

An enjoyable 90 minutes or so's reading!

4 from 5

Note to self. 

Try and cross paths with more from Stacy Woodson and get stuck into the second in the Michael Bracken/Down and Out Books' Chop Shop series - Joseph S. Walker and Run and Gun.


Read - February, 2024

Published - 2024

Page count - 69

Source - Kindle Unlimited

Format - Kindle

Wednesday 30 August 2023



It’s New Year and Iceland is still reeling from the effects of the financial crash when a notorious financier is found beaten to death after a high-profile reception at the President’s residence.

The police are certain they have the killer – or do they? Determined to get to the truth, maverick lawyer Stella Blómkvist isn’t so sure.

A stripper disappears from one of city's seediest nightspots, and nobody but Stella seems interested in finding her. A drug mule cooling his heels in a prison cell refuses to speak to anyone but Stella – although she’s never heard of him. An old man makes a deathbed confession and request for Stella to find the family he lost long ago.

With a sharp tongue and a moral compass all of her own, Stella Blómkvist has a talent for attracting trouble and she’s as at home in the corridors of power as in the dark corners of Reykjavík’s underworld.

Stella Blómkvist delivers an explosive mix of murder, intrigue and surprise, and is one of Iceland's best-loved crime series.

Murder at the Residence was a really enjoyable murder mystery, set in Iceland at the time of their financial crisis. There's an intriguing blend of cases for maverick lawyer Stella Blómkvist (our protagonist shares the same name as the author, though our author's true identity is a literary secret).

A missing woman; a murder of a high profile banker with a convenient patsy for the police; an incarcerated drug smuggler; a teenage rebel with authority issues and a decades old family secret which has been buried. Stella has her hands full picking through this little lot.   

Murder, drugs, pimps, politics, social unrest, police corruption, bankers, politicians, a priest, violence on the streets, the Reykjavik criminal underworld, friendships, alliances, secrets, media pressure, and amongst the busy case load a bit of time for some sex and possibly something more.

Great setting, an intriguing main character who I would like to read more about. She's gutsy, determined and capable, I like how she isn't intimidated by powerful forces. 

The writing was smooth and an easy read, which is testament to the translator's skill (hats off to Quentin Bates). The different strands of the plot were easy to follow and I enjoyed how they all came together, with only a smidgeon of coincidence to bind a couple of the elements. It's a busy book for 270-odd pages and there's a decent pace to the story without anything ever seeming rushed.

Overall - very satisfying and one I'd recommend to fans of Icelandic crime fiction.

One minor gripe, Stella's car - a Merc - is constantly referred to as a silver steed. I was irritated by the repetition of the phrase by the third occurrence. Another ten or so occasions just managed to properly annoy me. Why not call a car a car sometimes?

4 stars from 5

Read - August, 2023

Published - 2023

Source - review ARC from publisher Corylus Books

Page count - 270

Format - paperback

Monday 28 August 2023



Translator, Quentin Bates ruminates on the mystery of this Icelandic author's identity....

The 25-year mystery of Stella Blómkvist

 How do you keep a secret like this for twenty-five years in a country where one of the national pastimes is making sure that closely-guarded secrets are blown wide open in record time?

But the writer (or writers) behind the mysterious Stella Blómkvist have managed to keep themselves out of the limelight since the first in the series appeared way back in the nineties. It’s a hell of an achievement. Even Stella’s editor claims to not know the identity of the writer they’re dealing with.

It goes without saying that there’s been plenty of speculation about who writes these sharp, compact crime stories featuring the tough, smart lawyer with her frequently morally flexible approach to life and work.

At one time there was a rumour going around that the then-Prime Minister could be the power behind the Stella Blómkvist tales, but that one doesn’t add up. The names of one or two other public figures have been mentioned as potential candidates – possibly because people assume that politicians have all the free time needed to write novels when they should be working.

It doesn’t help that Iceland is a remarkably literate country. There’s no shortage of possibilities. So let’s narrow it down… The books have been appearing since the late nineties. In fact, the first Stella story appeared in the same year that Arnaldur Indriðason’s first novel was published, that’s back when there was nothing cool in Iceland about crime fiction. How times have changed. These days you can hardly throw a brick in Reykjavík without hitting a crime writer.

Before you ask, no, I don’t believe it’s likely that Arnaldur is Stella...

But whoever’s behind Stella has been doing this for 25 years, so it’s likely to be someone in their fifties or older. This is a person who knows their history and literature – and who also knows their onions when it comes to hard-boiled crime fiction.

There’s hardly a writer in Icelandic who hasn’t at some point or other been suspected of being Stella Blómkvist – and this little country has a lot of writers, so there’s a big field to choose from. The suspects have ranged from literary heavyweights – such as Guðbergur Bergsson and Auður Haralds – to those at the crime fiction end of the spectrum.

It’s something that pops up every time a new Stella novel is published. The speculation gets into gear on social media and then spills over into the mainstream media for a while – sometimes with a few new names floated – and then it all dies away again.

To start with, I was curious. I wondered who Stella Blómkvist’s creator could be. But now, a couple of books in (now that the next in the series has also been translated ready for next year) I’ve changed my mind.
Right now, I’d prefer to Stella to stay mysterious.


Corylus Book is a new venture aiming to publish exciting new voices translated into English.


Murder at the Residence

Stella Blomkvist

28th August 2023 | Paperback/ eBook | Corylus Books | £9.99/£3.49

Available for the first time in English, Quentin Bates has translated the first book in the second wave of Stella Blómkvist novels, Murder at the Residence.

Perfect for readers of Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indriðason, Gunnar Staalesen and Jussi


Iceland is still reeling from the effects of the financial crash when a notorious financier is found beaten to death after a high-profile reception at the President’s residence.

The police are certain it’s an open and shut case and that they have the man responsible – maverick lawyer Stella Blómkvist isn’t so sure…

The more she investigates, the murkier it all becomes. Secrets are uncovered that powerful people want to keep hidden, and a seedy trail of sex, murder, and blackmail leads Stella into a twisted maze of ruthless corruption at the very heart of government itself.

Stella Blómkvist is a hard-nosed, quick-witted lawyer with a dark past and a taste for whiskey and easy money. She will be plunged her into a violent political conspiracy which threatens Iceland’s very future…


It has been twenty-five years since the first Stella Blómkvist story was published and this long-running series continues to be a consistent bestseller in Iceland. What’s remarkable is that in a tiny community such as Iceland, the identity of the Stella Blómkvist (the author) who writes these sharp, sassy tales of the exploits of Stella Blómkvist (the lawyer) has remained under wraps.

The first book appeared in 1997 and the series continued for six books up to 2006, when Stella Blómkvist seemed to have retired. Then in 2012, Stella was back, angrier, more mature and better formed as a character in a continuation of the series. The latest appeared in 2022, bringing the total to thirteen to date.


Corylus Book is a new venture aiming to publish exciting new voices translated into English.

There has been endless speculation, and longstanding rumours that Stella is a leading politician, a well-known public figure, a much-loved children’s author. There’s hardly a writer in Iceland who hasn’t at some time or other been suspected of being Stella.


Quentin Bates (or Gráskeggur ‘grey beard’ as he’s affectionately known in Iceland) is one of a handful of British authors writing Scandi Noir set in Iceland, and who has a deep understanding of the country and its people. Having lived there for long periods and being married to a local for forty years has given him a deep insight into and affection for Iceland, all of which makes him more qualified than most to write about Iceland.

He’s one of the founders, with Yrsa Sigurdardóttir and Ragnar Jónasson, of the Iceland Noir crime fiction festival. As well as his own fiction, he has become increasingly busy in the last few years as the translator of Lilja Sigurðardóttir, Sólveig Pálsdóttir, Ragnar Jónasson and Óskar Guðmundsson – and now the mysterious Stella Blómkvist.

For further information, please contact Emily Burns | PR Director | 078709787611

Tuesday 30 May 2023



Synopsis/blurb ....

A gritty, fast-paced neo-noir that explores the consumptive nature of fame, celebrity, and motherhood through the lens of a driver lost in the gig economy.

A struggling songwriter and Lyft driver, Adam Zantz’s life changes when he accepts a ride request in Malibu and 1970s music icon Annie Linden enters his dented VW Jetta. Bonding during that initial ride, the two quickly go off app— over the next three years, Adam becomes her exclusive driver and Annie listens to his music, encouraging Adam even as he finds himself driving more often than songwriting.

Then, Annie disappears, and her body washes up under a pier. Left with a final, cryptic text— ‘come to my arms’— a grieving Adam plays amateur detective, only to be charged as accomplice-after-the-fact. Desperate to clear his name and discover who killed the one person who believed in his music when no one else in his life did, Adam digs deep into Annie’s past, turning up an old guitar teacher, sworn enemies and lovers, and a long-held secret that spills into the dark world of a shocking underground Men’s Rights movement. As he drives the outskirts of Los Angeles in California, Adam comes to question how well he, or anyone else, knew Annie— if at all. 

The Last Songbird is a poignant novel about love, obsession, the price of fame and the burden of broken dreams, with a shifting, twisting plot that's full of unexpected turns.

Intriguing, engrossing and entertaining. My reading mojo has vanished of late, but this one from Daniel Weizmann has gotten me back on the right path.

We have a captivating murder mystery in which the main character, a washed up, failed musician, Adam Zante investigates the death of his employer-cum-'friend', the 70s musical icon, Annie Linden. Zante spends as much time discovering who Linden was, as he does trying to unravel the circumstances of her death.

While he digs, Weizmann had this reader musing on the meaning of family, from both the perspective of our victim and the investigator, and by extension what it means to myself. The whole gamut of emotions are explored.... love, pain, regret, mistakes, callousness, indifference, anger, secrets, power dynamics, pettiness, punishment, connectivity and ties and bonds or the lack thereof and memories.

As well as an opportunity to indulge in some reflective naval gazing, Weizmann had me invested in discovering who did what and why. Zante's drip-fed discoveries, the little information nuggets were exposed credibly and had me believing in his abilities as a decent sleuth. I have my fingers crossed that Weizmann may have more Adam Zante books in the pipeline.

There's jeopardy in  our main player's his quest. He is attacked and threatened several times, as are some of the other parties, who are privy to some of Linden's confidences. So there is some violence, another fatality and a level of danger and action which ramps up the stakes a little bit more, before a fitting concusion.

Overall I really enjoyed this one. It had all the ingredients I like in a book. Pace, plot, a sympathetic main character, a decent setting and a believable outcome.

4.5 stars from 5

Read - May, 2023

Published - 2023

Page count - 336

Source - review copy from publisher, Melville House

Format - paperback ARC