Tuesday 31 July 2018


A couple from US author Liam Sweeny, not someone I've previously read and an oversight I need to address sometime soon.

From his website......

His first writing was Science Fiction/Fantasy, but it quickly transitioned into mystery, crime and noir. His work has appeared in periodicals and print publications such as Spinetingler Magazine, Switchblade, Pulp Modern, Thuglit, Shotgun Honey and So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library.

Sweeny’s most recent standalone work, a short story collection titled Dead Man’s Switch. and a detective thriller titled Welcome Back, Jack is available at most online retailers. A new collection, Street Whispers, is available from All Due Respect Books, and a sequel to Welcome Back, Jack will be released by Down & Out Books in August of 2018, titled Presiding over the Damned.

I'll take a rain check on his Sci-Fi and Fantasy but deal me in for his latest offerings.

Liam Sweeny's website is here

The Man (2012)

The lives of four men: a prophet and a cop from a small coastal town in Maine, a hit-man in the Big Easy and a mercenary in the jungles of Sierra Leone, are unfurled, nameless until they intersect on the bumpy, twisted highway of a permanent homecoming.

Street Whispers: Stories (2018)

An eclectic collection of pulp, grit and noir stories inspired by the Capital Region of New York, a rust-belt crossroads in the shadow of the city that never sleeps. Here’s a trip led by fat slobs in smoky, vomit-stained cabs, heading to the oasis of the strip club on a street lined with rusted out factories, ventilated with beer cans and rocks. No heroes and villains in these pages, just shades of grey and characters making choices between bad and worse.

Tales of woe and macabre, the profane and ordinary dance with each other in a building where the forgotten stay, passing their street whispers like bottles from the bottom shelf.




Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice's welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case - and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.

Not a book I had intended to read though with an approaching holiday, my current stash of books still in storage and the need to find something appealing to both my wife and myself, one that leaped off the shelf at the supermarket along with the sun cream. Not a bad choice either.

Two days to read it and if the four hour flight had been a bit longer, it might possibly have been less.

Australian setting which was a plus. Mainly a wilderness setting, but not the outback, with a few trips back and forth to the city.

A couple of cops, recently paired up in a financial crimes unit, one of whom Aaron Falk appeared in Harper's well-received debut, The Dry; the other a female partner. Neither of them with excess baggage or irritating compulsions or addictions. There's a good chemistry between them and levels of respect.

The crime - if indeed it is one. A missing women gone walkabout after a team-bonding exercise in the bush. Our two cops involvement stems from the fact that the woman is an inside source in an ongoing investigation into money laundering at the company involved in the exercise.

I did like the premise of this and the construction of the narrative which dips back and forth from the present and the status of the investigation and the timeline of the bush trek, involving five women with a brief crossover with the men's party on the same event. Harper had me hooked with the history and back stories both far-reaching and more recent between the five very different participants. Past area history with an infamous women killer who operated in the area also casts a shadow over events.

The women at the centre of our story, Alice Russell wasn't especially sympathetic and I could have quite happily disappeared her myself at certain points in the book. That said she has her own difficulties and pressing familial worries that mitigate some of her awfulness.

Our other four are a mixed bunch - a pair of sisters (might be twins, I forget and don't have the book to hand to check) one trying to get on with her career and resentful of the other one, Beth (I think). Beth has a checkered past comprising addictions and low level criminality and some transgressions against her sibling, which are proving difficult to forgive. The other two in the party are the sister of the company boss, herself possibly complicit in the alleged money laundering and with possible motive for harming Alice and the last, another needy individual, name escapes me but with a long history with Alice. Some shared memories and secrets and not all of them fond.

Before Alice disappears there's a lot of tension and an ever increasing desperation as the party goes off-track and bickers and bitches about the correct course of action to right themselves. Ironically teamwork is what is needed at this moment in time, but predictably is in short supply.

Why did she disappear and does she return?  I bought the ending, I liked how events transpired. I thought the conclusion was well executed and neatly wrapped up. I think I'd be happy to back-track and read Harper's The Dry (just as well as I found a recent bargain buy copy) and whatever she knocks out next. If it's another one with Falk and his work partner - happy days.

4 from 5

Read in July, 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 432
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback   

Friday 27 July 2018



For two decades Robert Stone made his living on the high seas. A modern-day pirate, he was a pioneer saturation oil field diver, involved in fishing, treasure-hunting and, more than anything else, smuggling, which brought him more money than he knew how to spend. Stone spent the last ten of his smuggling years in Africa, where he traded in illicit fuel. The murky waters of the Niger delta were his place of business as he operated in the most corrupt regime in the world, a place ruled by money and guns. Protected by the military, he bought diesel directly from refineries and sold his black cargo to legitimate and illegitimate businesses all over the world, making millions of dollars in the process until his smuggling empire came crashing down thanks to a friend’s betrayal and the US law enforcement. 

Chasing Black Gold is the incredible true story of Stone’s African fuel smuggling adventure. It is a tale straight out of Hollywood, one which throws the reader into a world where suitcases full of millions in cash are flown around the globe on private jets, where the corrupt practices of Third World governments and military regimes must be mastered, a world of numbered bank accounts and countries of convenience where living under false IDs and money laundering are all in a day’s work.

A bit of non-fiction to get my teeth into for a change and a bit of larger than life, Boy's Own modern day adventuring-cum-pirating. Robert Stone is definitely not a man who lets the grass grow under his feet.

The book covers Stone's business deals - legal, illegal and sometimes borderline - from 1988 until 1995, in various parts of the world - Nigeria, Brazil, New Orleans, Switzerland and a whole lot of other places besides. Short, snappy chapters, outline current events, business partners, friends and drop in elements of Stone's early history and his family life, such as it is.

Deep sea diving, oil fields, treasure hunting, marijuana smuggling, murky petrol dealing, bribery, corruption, acquiring sea vessels, negotiating deals, safety deposit boxes, fake passports, multiple identities, building a business - several times over - sometimes legitimate, running a fishing fleet and tankers, sailing the seas, evading the authorities, demanding money with menaces, incarceration and a lot more besides.

Initially I thought I was going to dislike the tone of the narration and thus the main character, but it soon settled down into an engrossing, though slightly improbable read. I say slightly improbable, which probably reflects my own level of risk-taking. Stone must have balls the size of coconuts and an incredible amount of nerve and chutpah to have carried off even a quarter of his claims.

Well-written, not bogged down in too much he said, she said narratives of incidents and events. It had a flow which enabled me to pick up the pace, especially towards the climax of the book as Stone's lifestyle comes under pressure. US authorities in the guise of various alphabet agencies are on his trail and friendships are under scrutiny. Someone in Stone's inner circle flips and an element of paranoia prevails. Our man, with the assistance of his lawyers has to negotiate his trickiest deal yet.

The book was originally published in 2015 and there is a brief afterword where Stone discovers and discloses which of his friends ratted him out. I would have enjoyed a slightly longer chapter which offered some detail on what he has been up to in the past 20 or so years. Does he still possess the drive and fire of his earlier years, or is he settled and happy, living a quieter life with his pipe and slippers?

A decent read and a welcome diversion from my usual fictional crime reading.

4 from 5

Read in July, 2018
Published - 2015
Page count - 320
Source - review copy from author, via Rachel's Random Resources
Format - Paperback

Thursday 26 July 2018



A failed marine, Judd can't believe his luck when Catriona falls for him. He lives in Minnesota; she's from Scotland. They work for the same company, they've messaged online for ages. But when they finally video chat, she turns out to be gorgeous. They may be thousands of miles apart, but they share a deep love of cycling and a passion for life. It's love at first sight.

Judd throws his meager savings to the wind and flies across the Atlantic to meet Cat in person. Together, they plan a bike trip through the desolate Scottish Highlands. Perfect for cycling. Camping out. Being alone. But soon Judd discovers there's more to Cat than meets her alluring brown eyes.

What Judd doesn't know is that someone is following them. Someone with sinister plans. Their lonely journey through the Highlands turns into a game of cat and mouse. Someone is making them ride for their lives. But who exactly is the hunter, and who is the hunted?

A bit different from previous books I've read from this author and no bad thing either. No one wants to read the same thing time after time. Man meets women over the internet, a bit of casual flirting ensues. Judd isn't too happy with his life in Minnesota, so heads for Scotland and Catriona. Catriona shares his love of cycling and could be his ideal match. Anthony Neil Smith goes all Mills and Boon with a passionate and fulfilling romance destined to end in a happy ever after. Yeah right.

Minnesota, Scotland, cycling, romance(s) - of the mental health issues, twisted variety, an unlikely friendship or brotherhood borne through shared military service, even if things didn't quite go to plan, loyalty, disappointment, unfulfilled expectations, and several life or death struggles for our four main combatants - the other two who you'll meet when you read the book for yourself.

Lots here to like - thrills, spills, violence, torture, woodland pursuits, Navy Seal survival skills on display, crossbow action, a decent pace and plot with fleshed out characters and back story that had me totally engaged. That the author delivered all this in under 200 pages was an added bonus.

Unsurprisingly things don't go well for all of our combatants. Not your regular guy meets gal love story.

4.5 from 5

Fortunately for me I have plenty more from Smith on the TBR pile.

Since the blog started I've enjoyed - All the Young Warriors (2013) and To the Devil, My Regards (with Victor Gischler) (2017)

Read in July, 2018
Published - 2018
Page count - 190
Source - review copy via Net Galley, courtesy of publisher Bastei Entertainment
Format - ePUB

Wednesday 25 July 2018


A couple from one of the Godfathers of British Noir - Ted Lewis and his Jack Carter series.

I featured a couple of his other books a few years ago - 2 BY TED LEWIS

Lewis penned nine books in his lifetime, died young - early 40s and is the subject of  Nick Triplow's painstakingly researched - Getting Carter. Everyone must have at least heard of the classic film Get Carter which was based on Lewis' novel Jack's Return Home

Looking forward to seeing how Carter gets on in these next two installments....

Jack Carter and the Law (1974)

The author of Get Carter returns to his greatest invention, a smooth-operating hardcase named Jack Carter, who is about to burn a city down in order to silence an informant

London. The late 1960s. It's Christmastime and Jack Carter is the top man in a crime syndicate headed by two brothers, Gerald and Les Fletcher. He's also a worried man. The fact that he's sleeping with Gerald's wife, Audrey, and that they plan on someday running away together with a lot of the brothers' money, doesn't have Jack concerned. Instead it's an informant - one of his own men - that has him losing sleep. The grass has enough knowledge about the firm to not only bring down Gerald and Les but Jack as well. Jack doesn't like his name in the mouth of that sort.

In Jack Carter's Law Ted Lewis returned to the character that launched his career and once again delivered a hardboiled masterpiece. Jack Carter is the ideal tour guide to a bygone London underworld. In his quest to dismantle the opposition, he peels back the veneer of English society and offers a hard look at a gritty world of pool halls, strip clubs and the red lights of Soho nightlife.

Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon (1977)

Jack Carter is not thrilled when his frustratingly unprofessional employers - London mob kingpins Gerald and Les Fletcher - force him to take a vacation. Jack doesn't like leaving the business in other people's hands, but the company villa in Spain promises sunshine and some time to plot his next move. Jack soon finds he is on anything but a vacation. The villa is already inhabited by a cowardly house steward and a knuckle-dragging American gangster. Jack has apparently been sent to protect the American, who has turned informant. There are few things that Jack Carter hates more than surprises. Informants being chief among them.

Tuesday 24 July 2018


Jack D. McLean's Confessions of an English Psychopath was on the blog yesterday The man himself was kind enough to answer a few questions for the blog.

Is the writing a full-time occupation or a side line-passion-hobby? If not, what’s the day job? 

I used to be a solicitor. I still do some legal work, though increasingly less as time goes by. Writing is on the verge of becoming my full-time occupation.

Have you always written?

In my youth I wrote prolifically, then I got children and other commitments such as a job and mortgage payments, and gave up. Now the kids have left home, I’m getting back into it.

From start to finish how long did Confessions of an English Psychopath take to write?

About six months part-time work. I was at it an hour or two a day, most days. That was the first draft. I’ve put in a lot more hours since, refining it.

Are you a plotter, or do you write on the hoof? Did Confessions of an English Psychopath end up as the book you envisaged at the start of the process? Is the title a hat tip at all to Robin Askwith and the 70s Confession films?

I like to begin with a premise which gives me a sense of direction, then I write on the hoof.  With COAEP, I began with the concept of a psychopath being recruited to a branch of the British Secret Service.  After that, I let the story take me where it would.

Somewhat surprisingly, given my working methods, it ended up how I wanted it to. I was aiming to create a character who’d dispense hyper-violence with charm and impeccable manners, much like John Steed in The Avengers.

The title is certainly a hat-tip to the seventies Confessions films, and, like them, also a nod in the direction of Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey.

What it has in common with those – besides the title – is a narrative format in which the central character takes you into his confidence, sharing with you intimate details of the bad things he’s done in life.

Are there any subjects off limits as far as your writing is concerned?

I doubt it. I’ve probably tackled most of the taboo subjects there are, including rape and paedophilia (in as yet unpublished novels). My approach, rather than to say something is off-limits, is to set my moral compass before writing about it.

Do you steal any traits from friends and family for your characters? Would they recognise themselves?

Too many of my friends and family read my books for me to risk doing that. I’d lose a lot of friends if I did! (But I can’t say I’ve never been tempted!)

I’m just embarking on COAEP, I’ve previously enjoyed Manchester Vice and a short story collection of yours – Dirty Noir – both with a foot firmly in the crime-fiction/mystery genre though MV definitely had some horrific elements. 

I’ve not tried your other work but you seem to have also dabbled in full on horror, though again from the titles, maybe some humorous undertones – Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse, Zomcats! And Thatchenstein. Do you have a favourite writing genre?

You’ve pretty much summed up what I like to write about and the genres I enjoy: crime/mystery/thriller/horror/humour.  I’m hard put to say which I like most, and often there’s crossover in my work – as you’ve observed.

I’d add that I’ve read a lot of pulp fiction, or fiction influenced by pulp, and I always stick to the conventions of pulp in my writing. By that I mean: I try to hook my reader in from the opening sentence and keep him (or her) turning the pages right to the end. To achieve that I employ (like the pulp-writers of old) a fast pace, lots of conflict, and an intriguing plot. I’m sparing on my descriptions of settings – I just sketch them in. For me, it’s all about the people and the scrapes they get into, and I think most readers would agree.

For any potential new readers – can you give a short pitch for each of your titles?

Oh dear – that’s the sort of thing authors dread – doing elevator pitches for their own work. I’ll try. Here goes:

Confessions of an English Psychopath

I hope you don’t mind if I quote Paul Brazill on this book: “Imagine a lethal cocktail of The Ipcress File, The Prisoner, Monty Python, and A  Confederacy Of Dunces, and you’re halfway there.”

Manchester Vice

A crime reporter called Brad Sharpe hooks up with Manchester’s most notorious serial killer. Then he makes an audacious bid to boost his flagging career. Soon you find yourself asking: who’s the bigger criminal, Brad or the serial killer?

Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse

Professor Ted Forsyth invents a machine called the Lazarus Engine. He hails it as a medical breakthrough, claiming it can bring the dead back to life. Indeed it does, but with unforeseen side-effects. When he raises the late celebrity chef Floyd Rampant from the dead, Rampant is turned into a sex-crazed flesh-eating zombie. Rampant creates an army of undead chefs to take over the world, using mankind as the key ingredient in their cordon-bleu meals. Can he be stopped before it’s too late?


President Adolf Doughnut builds a wall to keep the Mexicans out of the USA. Unfortunately it doesn’t keep the zombies out. They climb over it with the aid of ladders.

Desperate for help with his zombie problem, Doughnut flies to England to get advice from the British Prime Minister, who’s put it about that he’s wiped out all the zombies in England.

Unknown to either of them, the Prime Minister has a problem: a plague of zombie cats.

During their meeting, Doughnut, the PM, and their entourages are attacked by the zombie cats. Will any of them survive to tell the tale?


Wally Pratt, a member of a far-right group, inherits the house that was owned by the late Professor Ted Forsyth and with it the Lazarus Engine he invented. Intent on making a name for himself in politics, Pratt builds a creature from body parts that looks like the 80s politician Margaret Thatcher. He brings her to life with the Lazarus Engine and shows her non-stop footage of Thatcher in action. His creature takes it all in, and the former great tory leader is reborn. But unfortunately for Pratt, she is re-born as a sex-crazed flesh-eating monster….Thatchenstein!

Is mystery fiction, easier, harder, different to write than horror?

Different, yes. Easier or harder, no. Not if you’re doing it right, anyway. Of course there are brain-dead horror novels that are easy to write – so easy they should never have been written. Usually they just rely on gore and little else.

But when it comes to the good horror novels, often there’s little distinction to be made between them and mystery fiction.

Let me explain.

Many of the best books are like a game poker the writer plays with his readers. He knows what cards are in his hand, but he only shows a couple of them to the reader. The reader has to guess what he’s got, and the writer has to keep him guessing until the reveal.

This is by definite true of mystery fiction, but it’s true of a lot of horror writing as well. A crude example: if you’ve got a horror story in which some sort of fiend is killing people, you don’t want to let on what the fiend is on page one; far better to show the reader a few corpses first, and keep him guessing about what’s doing the killing. A sophisticated example: have you read The Watcher by Charles Mclean? There’s more mystery in that novel than in 99% of the books out there that call themselves mystery novels. Every time you think you’ve got to the bottom of what’s going on, something else happens and you have to reassess things. By the time you get to the end, your head is spinning.

So the take-home is: good horror is as technical, complex, and difficult to write as mystery fiction or any other form of fiction, up to and including literary fiction.

(On a personal note, literary fiction appears to be regarded as superior to commercial fiction. It isn’t. The best commercial fiction is up there with the best literary fiction; and the worst literary fiction is equally as unreadable as the worst commercial fiction. End of rant!)

What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?

That moment when a complete stranger pays money for one of my books then compliments me on how good it is.  Every time that happens, I feel great. I’ll never get over it!

What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going?

I’ve just finished a domestic noir novel called Love, Sick. It’s based on the premise that love makes people do terrible things, and all the relationships in it are dysfunctional.  As you might expect, the main characters do some pretty bad things in the name of love. I’m looking for a publisher for that.

I’m writing a second novel with similar ideas (tentatively called Love, Sick II). It’s looking good so far.

Is there a story behind your choosing to write under two different names – Jack Strange and Jack D. McLean – neither of which is the name your parents blessed you with?

Yes, kind of. My first published novel was Celebrity Chef Zombie Apocalypse. I didn’t want to put my name to it, because my surname is rather long (Komarnyckyj) and I didn’t think it’d fit too well on a book cover, especially given that the title of the book is rather long. I felt I needed something short and catchy. The ending of CCZA is loosely based on Dr Strangelove, so I decided to use the surname Strange. I chose Jack as the first name because it goes well with Strange.

When I got a new publishing deal with Creativia, they advised me that my kind of book would sell better with a different pen-name, a name more suited to a thriller-writer, so I changed the surname to McLean (because of Alistair Mclean – you no doubt remember him) and I gave myself a middle initial – D – because it sounds good. So I became Jack D Mclean.

What’s the best thing about writing and getting published?

Praise and money.

What’s the worst?

Criticism and poverty.

Who do you read and enjoy?

So much! I tend to like certain books rather than think in terms of authors. Here’s a list (not comprehensive) of my favourite books:

It Happened in Boston by Russel H Greenan

The Watcher by Charles McLean

My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

Sometimes I lie by Alice Feeney

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

One Lost Summer by Richard Godwin

A Case of Noir by Paul Brazill

Last 5 books you’ve read?

The Blind Rooster by Preston Lang

One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis

White Lies by Lucy Dawson

Last Year’s Man by Paul Brazill

Confessions by Kinae Minato

Is there one all-time favourite book you wished you had written?

It would be either It Happened in Boston by Russel H Greenan or The Watcher by Charles McLean. Unfortunately neither of them were bestsellers, so I might have to change my choice to a Harry Potter book or Fifty Shades of Gray!

Favourite activity when not working?   

Drinking and shooting the breeze with friends.

Last film that rocked you?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Any must watch TV in the Strange/McLean household?

So much!!

These are a few things me and the Mrs have enjoyed in recent years:

Ripper Street

Peaky Blinders

Line of Duty



Breaking Bad

The Handmaid’s Tale

Here’s one from way back:

Edge of Darkness

In a couple of years’ time, where do you hope to be with the writing?

Where I am now but with a considerably improved bank balance.

Many thank to Jack for his time.....

You can catch up with him at the following haunts...

Website: https://jackdmclean.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @jackstrange11


Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/961538.Jack_Strange

Here's a link for Confessions of an English Psychopath if you're that way inclined


Sunday 22 July 2018



After unscrupulous young Lawrence is recruited to work as an assassin for the British Secret Service, everything goes well - until he gains access to a locked room at his workplace, and uncovers a terrible secret.

Lawrence’s newfound knowledge forces him to choose between going on the run, or engaging in a life and death conflict with his employers.

James Bond meets Dexter Morgan in this savagely funny, twisted novel from Jack D. McLean.

Fast-paced throughout, Jack McLean serves up some great entertainment as Lawrence, his English psychopath with a flair for violence and persuasion is recruited to a secret branch of British intelligence. A paid job doing some cleaning, but not of the domestic interpretation.

Lawrence serves his masters well and rapidly becomes the star of the department, successfully concluding some difficult missions.  A long and glittering career with a job for life beckons, or does it? Lawrence embraces the work, but is still his own man though and flouts the rules of the department, consorting with a female colleague outside of working hours. Romance beckons possibly.

However curiosity killed the cat, the locked cupboard at headquarters is harbouring knowledge he feels he should be aware of. Another challenge which is conquered. Happy in his ideal job, the room offers up secrets which may indicate the feelings are not reciprocated by his employers.

A new mission awaits Lawrence. The last portion of the book reveals whether he is up to it.

Fast, funny, entertaining, gripping with a deadpan style of narration from the perspective of our extremely likable, extremely capable psychopath.

4.5 from 5

Jack D. McLean's work has been enjoyed before under his Jack Strange pseudonym - Manchester Vice and Dirty Noir.

McLean has his website here.

Read in July, 2018
Published - 2016
Page count - 239
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback.


Thursday 19 July 2018


A week away with the family and a chance to catch up on some reading while enjoying the sun and a few Doradas.

One read in progress finished off, seven more completed and the intro to another one started....

Jane Harper, Jack D. McLean, Adam Howe (ed.), Alex Segura, Alan Parks, Aidan Thorn, Mark Ramsden, Grant Nicol and a smidge from Les Edgerton

Jane Harper - Force of Nature (2017)

I hadn't planned on reading this but needed a book that would appeal to my wife as well and having picked up a cheap copy of her earlier, highly praised novel - The Dry - it seemed a good choice. Glad I did - an enjoyable trip to the Australian wilderness.

Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Force of Nature begs the question: How well do you really know the people you work with? 

When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path. 

But one of the women doesn't come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened. 

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?

Jack D. McLean - Confessions of an English Psychopath (2016)
I enjoyed an earlier book by the author - Manchester Vice and this was another entertaining outing with Mr McLean and a memorable lead character with a slightly strange way of behaving.

After unscrupulous young Lawrence is recruited to work as an assassin for the British Secret Service, everything goes well - until he gains access to a locked room at his workplace, and uncovers a terrible secret.

Lawrence’s newfound knowledge forces him to choose between going on the run, or engaging in a life and death conflict with his employers.

James Bond meets Dexter Morgan in this savagely funny, twisted novel from Jack D. McLean.

Adam Howe (ed.) - Wrestle Maniacs (2017)
I'm a sucker for short story anthologies and this one sounded quirky after receiving an invite to read it. It didn't let me down. I only had about three in the collection to finish as it was an ongoing read before the holiday.

A dozen dark fiction masters bring their twisted vision to the world of professional wrestling. Twelve original stories of crime, horror, humor, and taboo. Ohhh, yeahhh! This ain’t no kayfabe, baby. This is hard-hitting wrestling fiction that grips like a Camel Clutch, and pins the reader to the page for the count of one, two…THREE!

Includes a confrontational foreword by ring legend 'Pulverizing' Pat McCrunch (as told to Jeff Strand)… An all-new story starring Nick 'The Widowmaker' Bullman from James Newman’s wrestling noir, "Ugly as Sin"… And ex-boxer turned strip club bouncer Reggie Levine ("Tijuana Donkey Showdown," "Damn Dirty Apes") returns for another action-packed misadventure.

Original fiction by:
Jeff Strand
Tom Leins
James Newman
Eryk Pruitt
Adam Howe
Ed Kurtz
Hector Acosta
Joseph Hirsch
Duncan P. Bradshaw
David James Keaton
Gabino Iglesias
Patrick Lacey
and Jason Parent


Alan Parks - Bloody January (2017)
Probably the best of the holiday bunch. Looking forward to more from this author with a second due out early next year - February's Son.

An exciting, evocative first-in-series noir novel set in 1973 Glasgow, a city on the cusp of a heroin epidemic, featuring detective Harry McCoy.

When an 18-year-old boy shoots a young woman dead in the middle of a busy Glasgow street and then commits suicide, McCoy knows it can't be a random act of violence. With a newbie partner in tow, McCoy uses his underworld network to build a picture of a secret society run by Glasgow's wealthiest family, the Dunlops. Drugs, sex, incest; every nefarious predilection is catered to, at the expense of the lower echelon of society, an underclass that includes McCoy's best friend from reformatory school - drug-Tsar Stevie Cooper - and his on-off girlfriend, a prostitute, Janey. But with McCoy's boss calling off the hounds, and his boss' boss unleashing their own, the Dunlops are apparently untouchable. McCoy has other ideas.

Fans of McIlvanney's Laidlaw books and Oliver Harris' The Hollow Man, Ian Rankin's and Dennis Lehane's fiction, and TV shows like Idris Elba's Luther will find themselves thoroughly satisfied here.

Alex Segura - Silent City (2016)

First time outing with Segura, though I have most of his Fernandez series on the pile including one the author sent to me about a year ago, that shamefully I still haven't read. Enjoyable and gripping, though the main character did kind of irritate me. I hope he deals with some of his issues before I get to the second in the series

Pete Fernandez is a mess. He's on the brink of being fired from his middle-management newspaper job. His fiancee has up and left him. Now, after the sudden death of his father, he's back in his hometown of Miami, slowly drinking himself into oblivion. But when a coworker he barely knows asks Pete to locate a missing daughter, Pete finds himself dragged into a tale of murder, drugs, double-crosses, and memories bursting from the black heart of the Miami underworld - and, shockingly, his father's past. 

Making it up as he goes and stumbling as often as he succeeds, Pete's surreptitious quest becomes the wake-up call he's never wanted but has always needed - but one with deadly consequences. 

Welcome to Silent City, a story of redemption, broken friendships, lost loves, and one man's efforts to make peace with a long-buried past to save the lives of the few friends he has left. Silent City is a gritty, heartfelt debut novel that harkens back to classic PI tales but infused with the Miami that only Alex Segura knows.

Aidan Thorn - When the Music's Over (2015)

I've read a short story collection from Thorn before and enjoyed it - Criminal Thoughts. This one has sat on the pile for a while - so long in fact it has been re-issued recently along with Dread and The Mistake and all the other Number 13 Press titles by Fahrenheit 13

When Benny Gower murders his business partner few people doubt his good reasons for doing so. Unlike Benny, it’s not as if Harry Weir was popular. But he was the heir to Birmingham’s most violent and dangerous criminal organisation.

For Wynn McDonald, dragged out of retirement for the sake of his old gangland accomplices, motive doesn’t matter. All he cares about is tracking down the nightclub manager turned killer. But before Wynn can extract necessary vengeance he’ll need to turn over every stone on his way to finding answers. And not everybody’s going to be happy with the truths that come crawling out.

Praise for Aidan Thorn

"Moves along at a good pace, but the well-developed characters (Wynn in particular) make you savour, rather than gulp the pages down. It is a story filled with sub plots and depth, with equal parts menace and melancholy, beautifully written to a satisfying conclusion. Highly recommended." -Robert Cowan (author of The Search for Ethan)

Mark Ramsden - Dread: The Art of Serial Killing (2015)

A bit weird this one, but strangely compelling.

Mr Madden, Dickens enthusiast, muses with his beautiful and bohemian prisoner on possible endings to the famous author's unfinished final mystery. 

Mr Madden, spy, infiltrates a far right nationalist group in order to set up the thugs for something far more serious than their usual boozy street fights. 

Mr Madden, serial killer, sculpts his Candidates into bizarre and macabre artworks within the bare walls of his dungeon workshop.

And if he is to keep one step ahead of the police, the secret service and his own gory instincts, Mr Madden is going to have to find the answer to the one question that hangs over all our heads:

What would Charles Dickens do? 

Praise for Mark Ramsden

"This is a laugh out loud, erudite, sly, blood-and-gore-soaked evisceration of an England we would prefer to pretend does not exist, with a series of cut-throat observations and knock-out one-liners that would make even the best political satirist weep with envy. A set of finely-tuned characters tread the boards in a horrifyingly amusing, twisted, sex 'n' drugs-crazed examination of vengeance - both personal and state sanctioned. Oh yes, and did I mention that it's a love story?" -Lesley Ann Sharrock (author of The Seventh Magpie and Fatal Reaction)

Grant Nicol - The Mistake (2015)

Very enjoyable - a tale of three people, mostly with a dead girl at the centre of things.

Everybody makes mistakes. 

A mutilated body is found on a lonely street in Reykjavik. Detective Grimur intends to see that justice is done. 

Kjartan Jonsson vows that his daughter's killer will be punished. And that the punishment will fit the crime. 

Prime suspect Gunnar Atli desperately needs to prevent his own dark secrets from coming to light. And he's not the only one. 

Fine lines separate truth, justice and vengeance. Put a foot wrong, and any one of them could be making the biggest mistake of his life. 

In Iceland, the winter shadows grow long...

"A tense and atmospheric Nordic Noir. Another belter from Number Thirteen Press." -Paul D. Brazill (author of Guns of Brixton and A Case of Noir)

Les Edgerton - The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping (2014)

I've overlooked Mr E for too long now and time to remedy that failing. Not really started it yet just the introduction so far. Over four years since I read The Bitch - shit!

A mix of Cajun gumbo, a couple tablespoons of kinky sex and a dash of unusual New Orleans settings and you wind up with Les Edgerton’s latest romp fest!

Pete Halliday is busted out of baseball for gambling and travels to New Orleans to make his fortune hustling. Five years later, he’s deep in debt to bookie and in cahoots with Tommy LeClerc, a Cajun with a tiny bit of Indian blood who considers himself a red man. 

Tommy inveigles a reluctant Pete into one scheme after another, the latest a kidnapping scheme where they’ll snatch the Cajun Mafia King and hold his amputated hand for some serious jack. 

Along the way, Pete is double-crossed by Tommy and falls in love with part-time hooker and full-time waitress Cat Duplaisir. With both the Italian and Cajun mobs after them, a chase through Jazz Fest, a Tourette’s outbreak in a black bar and other zany adventures, all seems lost. 

Fans of Tim Dorsey’s character Serge Storms, and readers who enjoy Christopher Moore and Carl Hiaasen will enjoy this story.

“A hard-driving, relentless story with grab-you-by-the-throat characters.”—Grant Blackwood, New York Times bestselling author

Tuesday 10 July 2018



Award winning author Eric Beetner's latest novel begins with an abandoned truck, a dead body and a sack of cash. So begins a treacherous and twisty tale of escape and survival. A path of blood and destruction follow at every turn. It’s all leading to a showdown. Sometimes there is no escape without confrontation.

Another good time had with Eric Beetner and his tale of escape, family, rescue and revenge.

Jacy, a teenage girl, suffering abuse by her stepfather asks her brother, Nash to return to help her leave. Nash himself fled Noirville under a cloud after the death of the local sports star hero. Events are further complicated by the fact that the stepfather, Brian is also the corrupt sheriff of Noirville and in bed with a local drug gang.

The escape goes to plan, until it doesn't. A stop-off for a beverage, morphs into a fight for survival as the pair discover a truck, a corpse, a bag of cash and a murderer in quick succession. More bloodshed and death ensues and before too long Brian is on their trail, trying to cover his tracks and re-cement his position as top dog in Noirville.

Usual Beetner trademarks prevail; a strong pace, well written scenes of action and confrontation, a few splashes of humour and strong characters you root for, while still admiring the chutzpah of the villains. I was reminded of Jim Thompson's Lou Ford with his portrayal of Brian the abusive sheriff, though here Brian's true character is more obviously identifiable to those he comes into regular contact with.

A lot about family, sexual abuse, drug use, drug gangs, shared history and small town corruption. Underscored by love, loyalty and a determination to break free, exact some vengeance or die trying.

My kind of book.

4.5 from 5

I've enjoyed a couple from Mr B before - The Year I Died Seven Times and Over Their Heads (with J.B. Kohl)

Eric Beetner has his website here.

Read in July, 2018
Published - 2014
Page count - 119
Source - Purchased copy
Format - Kindle

Monday 9 July 2018



In Marti Green’s twisting novel of psychological suspense, twin sisters become engaged in a dangerous deception…

Mallory Holcolm is an unfulfilled waitress and aspiring artist living in a Queens boardinghouse when she learns something astonishing about her past: she has an identical twin sister named Charly she never knew existed.

Charly is a Princeton graduate, a respected gallery owner, and an heiress married to her handsome college sweetheart, Ben. Charly got everything she ever wanted. Everything Mallory wanted, too. And now having it all might be easier than Mallory ever imagined. Because Ben has reasons of his own for wanting to help her.

It begins with his startling proposal. All Mallory has to do is say yes.

But as their devious plan falls into place, piece by piece, Mallory learns more about her sister and herself than she ever meant to—a discovery that comes with an unexpected twist. A chilling deception is about to become a dangerous double cross. And it’s going to change the rules of Ben and Mallory’s game to the very end.

On the whole, an okay read which I enjoyed despite a few issues with the plot. I wasn't entirely convinced about some of the characters' behaviour either. That said, the author has an easy style which once I got into the narrative had me turning the pages fairly rapidly.

Our story in a nutshell. Two twins separated at birth, one - Mallory remained with her mother and was raised without luxuries in borderline poverty, actually no borderline about it. The other - Charly was adopted by mega-rich parents and had an opulent upbringing enjoying the best of everything.

Fast forward a bit, Charly's husband Ben is unhappy. He's been playing away and fancies a life with his mistress without sacrificing the money and lifestyle he has become accustomed to. He meets Mallory somewhat fortuitously and spins her a yarn about Charly's awfulness and convinces her to imitate Charly, so they can do away with her, drop in the long lost sister twin doppelganger and divvy up the wealth before going their separate ways. Mallory somewhat surprisingly agrees to the plan and off they go.

Needless to say there are a fair few twists and turns before things play out. The first half of the book offers events from Mallory's perspective and despite the author's best intentions, I wasn't too convinced by how quickly Mallory was persuaded by Ben's scheme. If she had a history of poorly made choices or petty criminality - eg stealing clothes or art supplies because of a lack of money, you could perhaps understand her being seduced by Ben's proposal. Albeit now making a far bigger jump than anything previously countenanced. But she hadn't.

Eventually we get to meet Charly in person and understand her relationships with her husband, her adoptive father and Grandfather and with money. Needless to say her depiction varies markedly from the skewed portrayal her husband offers us.

I did kind of feel a little bit cheated with the narrative; a feeling which is hard to articulate without spoiling things for anyone else wanting to read the book. We get along fine with Mallory's POV, but important events are concealed from the reader until such time as Charly's story catches up.

Lots to like overall, plenty of pace, plenty of back story and family histories and lots of deception, cheating, lying, secrets and betrayal. The book served up an interesting story line and the presentation of the identical twins was entertaining, with all their shared traits following separation at birth. 

The ending wrapped up all the loose ends, but was a little bit saccharine sweet and slightly hard to swallow. I think Disney might have a problem selling it. The flip-flopping behaviour of the main characters, both of them was a bit of a stretch and kind of undermined what came afterwards. There was a certain ambiguity about which sister could classed as the good twin. Neither probably.

Notwithstanding my pickiness, I did actually enjoy the book and was invested in how things played out.

On balance 3 from 5 - okay but not without a few blemishes.

Marti Green has her website here. She's written a few other books in addition to this one.

Read in July, 2018
Published - 2018
Page count - 263
Source - Net Galley read after an invitation from Rebecca at Mindbuck Media
Format - ePub. 

Friday 6 July 2018


A few more reads from the region and a couple each from Iceland, Finland and Denmark...

Lilja Sigurdardottir, Antti Tuomainen, Arnaldur Indridason,  Matti Ronka, Peter Hoeg and Leif Davidsen


Matti Ronka - A Man with a Killer's Face (2017) 
Not an author I know anything about. Written a few years ago (2002)  but only published in translation last year.

According to his dossier in the archives of the Soviet Special Forces (in which he once served), Viktor Karppa has the look of a killer . Except he really isn't one, notwithstanding his ability to sever a man s windpipe with his hand. Despite his messy, ambiguous past, Karppa now has an orderly life as an entrepreneur in Helsinki, and likes it just fine that way. His new girlfriend Marja, an academic, also prefers things as they are tranquil and uncomplicated. Karppa helps members of the downtrodden Ingrian community Russian-speaking ethnic Finns who have emigrated from their native Russia back to Finland adjust to their new surroundings. Thus his dream of a quiet life is regularly thwarted by Finns and Russians on both sides of the law who know too much about him. When he accepts a well-paid case to locate an antique dealer s missing Estonian wife, Karppa discovers the woman is also the sister of a notorious gangster. So begins his descent into an international criminal underworld with all the trimmings: drug lords, former KGB operatives and sundry other heavy characters. Suddenly nothing is as it was not least with Marja, who has become all too aware that her man s line of work is unlikely to bode well for a healthy relationship...

Lilja Sigurdardottir - Snare (2017)
Looks like my cup of tea, I think there's a follow on coming out later this year - Trap.

After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonia is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies.

Things become even more complicated when Sonia embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath the Icelandic financial crash.

Set in a Reykjavik still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

Antti Tuomainen - The Healer (2013) 
Another on spec punt.

One man's search for his missing wife in a dystopian futuristic Helsinki that is struggling with ruthless climate change

It's two days before Christmas and Helsinki is battling a ruthless climate catastrophe: subway tunnels are flooded; abandoned vehicles are left burning in the streets; the authorities have issued warnings about malaria, tuberculosis, Ebola, and the plague. People are fleeing to the far north of Finland and Norway where conditions are still tolerable. Social order is crumbling and private security firms have undermined the police force. Tapani Lehtinen, a struggling poet, is among the few still able and willing to live in the city.

When Tapani's beloved wife, Johanna, a newspaper journalist, goes missing, he embarks on a frantic hunt for her. Johanna's disappearance seems to be connected to a story she was researching about a politically motivated serial killer known as "The Healer." Desperate to find Johanna, Tapani's search leads him to uncover secrets from her past. Secrets that connect her to the very murders she was investigating...

The Healer is set in desperate times, forcing Tapani to take desperate measures in order to find his true love. Written in an engrossingly dense but minimal language, The Healer is a story of survival, loyalty, and determination. Even when the world is coming to an end, love and hope endure.


Peter Hoeg - Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow (1993)
Classic, I've heard people rave about this for years but not actually taken the plunge yet.

A little boy falls off a roof in Copenhagen and is killed. Smilla, his neighbour, suspects it is not an accident: she has seen his footsteps in the snow, and, having been brought up by her mother, a Greenlander, she has a feeling for snow.

Arnaldur Indridason  - Arctic Chill (2008)

On of the most accessible Scandi authors I've found.

On an icy January day the Reykjavik police are called to a block of flats where a body has been found in the garden: a young, dark-skinned boy, frozen to the ground in a pool of his own blood. The discovery of a stab wound in his stomach extinguishes any hope that this was a tragic accident. Erlendur and his team embark on their investigation with little to go on but the news that the boy's Thai half-brother is missing. Is he implicated, or simply afraid for his own life? The investigation soon unearths tensions simmering beneath the surface of Iceland's outwardly liberal, multicultural society. A teacher at the boy's school makes no secret of his anti-immigration stance; incidents are reported between Icelandic pupils and the disaffected children of incomers; and, to confuse matters further, a suspected paedophile has been spotted in the area. Meanwhile, the boy's murder forces Erlendur to confront the tragedy in his own past. Soon, facts are emerging from the snow-filled darkness that are more chilling even than the Arctic night.

Leif Davidsen - The Woman From Bratislava (2009)
Enjoyed something else by him a year or two back - Lime's Photograph

Kosovo, spring 1999 and the impossible happens: a NATO plane is shot down. Someone - perhaps a Dane - has leaked information to the enemy. Meanwhile Teddy, a Danish university lecturer visiting Bratislava, is called upon by a woman who claims to be his half-sister, and reveals that their father, thought dead since 1952, in fact lived on for years.