Friday 30 November 2018



Crime, noir and mystery short stories by Anonymous-9, Winner of Spinetingler Mag's Best Short Story on the Web, 2009. (She was nominated again in 2010.)

"The 1st Short Story Collection" by Anonymous-9 contains 11 of her very best. New York Times bestselling author T. Jefferson Parker praised her crazy-good sense of humor. But that touch of humor comes with an edge and a bite. The collection reflects Anonymous-9's hardboiled vision of a dark and violent world. This is a collection of her award-winning fiction for the very first time.

A short collection of stories from Anonymous-9 aka Elaine Ash and a decent finish to the month's reading.

In the 70 page collection we had......

Hard Bite - a refresher for me as I've read both of the longer works from Anon-9 - Hard Bite and Bite Harder. I can't remember what happened to gang of three - a cripple, a call girl and a trained killer monkey. Here our gang of three, mainly two continue to set the world to rights but not without a few missteps.

Tequila Spike - a concerned woman, a small girl, a feckless mother, a procession of worthless boyfriends, a plan to give the girl a future.

Claw Marks - some bar room and bedroom observations from a cat

Backseat Driver - a bar room pick up and an early morning leaving present

Mama Knew - marriage ain't all it's cracked up to be, but ...... To a widow the sweetest sound this side of heaven is a man snoring.

Organic Chicken Tortilla Soup with Chopped Finger Garnish - a trip to a restaurant, should have dialled out for pizza

Return of the Night of the Living Dead Zombie Monkey from Sunset Boulevard - a bit of a weird one with Cecil B Demille featuring

Killer Orgasm - a single woman with a plan for a man

Eating the Deficit - the future, bills to pay

The Master Bedroom - a boy with parent issues

M-N-S (n) murder-necrophilia-suicide - doing the devil's work, but not if your cv doesn't qualify you for the job

Notes and Quotes Acknowledgments Dedication - an interesting afterword offering snippets on the origins and evolution of some of the pieces in the collection.

 A fantastic collection that I sped through.

All were good, minimum, a few were great and a couple superb. Personal favourites - Hard Bite, Tequila Spike and Backseat Driver.

Well worth a look in my opinion.

4.5 from 5

Anonymous-9's fiction has been enjoyed in the past - Hard Bite, Bite Harder, Just So You Know I'm Not Dead, Crashing Through Mirrors 

Read in November, 2018
Published - 2011
Page count - 70
Source - owned copy
Format - kindle

Thursday 29 November 2018



It’s been said that hardboiled noir is a boys club. Well, not anymore. Switchblade: Stiletto Heeled is the ultimate women of noir anthology. Thirteen dire and gritty tales from some of the most prominent women writing in the noir genre today. Featuring: Sarah M. Chen, Lissa Marie Redmond, Cindy Rosmus, Susan Cornford, Tawny Pike, E.F. Sweetman, Bethany Maines, Carmen Jaramillo, Serena Jayne, Charlotte Platt, Sarah Jilek, Susan Kuchinskas, and Ann Aptaker. Edited by Lisa Douglass. These aren’t police procedurals or cozy murder mysteries. It’s all hard-as-they-come, no luck tales, featuring all women protagonists, and penned by all women authors. It’s about time.

In keeping with the all-female reading theme for November, this Switchblade anthology was a perfect fit and a bit of a change up from the longer works I'd been reading in the month.

In chronological order we had....

Editor’s Note


Cindy RosmusDishes, Dishes, Dishes - a restaurant kitchen, a mass of dirty pots and pans, some co-workers arguing and a big knife that ain't getting used for chopping vegetables ...

Ann AptakerRing, Buzz - a persistent phone call (or two), a gun, a decision, some chocolate ice cream and a reassessment of our options, the bloody phone again...

Susan KuchinskasConcrete Blonde - some sisterly love (not), a shakedown, an orgasm, a knife... 


Susan CornfordA Shot at Being Ordinary - referencing a female serial killer...


Tawny PikeDeadly Dance in Jacksonino County - the matriarch, her two sons, a criminal enterprise - a family concern, some dodgy cops that have to go, a gun and knife fight and one son launching a hostile takeover.....

Charlotte PlattStrong-armed and Dangerous - an old lady with chops, going out on her own terms....

Sarah JilekThe Amazing Dancing Pig - a children's birthday party, a tale about a tail, and some bloody payback...

Sarah M. Chen - Influencers - a pushy mother, dreaming of fame, fortune, celebrity and money through her kids, one dies, the other one better step up ......

Bethany MainesMayhem & Mahalo - card games, a rip-off, a violent confrontation and a big sister to make it alright....

Serena JayneCrazy Eights - a tale of betrayal in Vegas, an unreliable boyfriend ...

Carmen JaramilloA Sinner at the Hands of an Angry God - a Black Metal past, a new life, a blackmail threat and a problem solved....

E.F. Sweetman - Mouthbreather - the insurance game, a family business, a long-term plan, an idiot son, one humiliation too many, a fatal consequence....

Lissa Marie Redmond - Hardball - a new job, a set-up, an accommodation and a turning of the tables with some shiny recompense....

I really liked this collection and blasted through it in just over a day. No two stories the same...... knives, guns, cards, drugs, Vegas, sex, amputation, a restaurant, celebrity, insurance offices, an alley, an apartment and a whole bunch of women that ain't getting pushed around and who mostly come up smelling of roses.
Lisa Douglass (editor)

Of the contributors I've heard of more than a few and may have sampled their work at various on-line short fiction sites. Sarah M. Chen (Cleaning Up Finn) is the only contributor I've read at length.

Nothing sucked - all were enjoyed. Personal favourites were Charlotte Platt's Strong-armed and Dangerous and E.F.Sweetman's Mouthbreather, but they were all very good.

4.5 from 5

Read in November, 2018
Published - 2018
Page count - 176
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle

Wednesday 28 November 2018



Route 12 is two haunting novellas set in Appalachia in the seventies and eighties. These are stories of people down on their luck—a girl crippled by a bad dose of polio vaccine, a young pregnant woman with no one to turn to, a mother desperate for cash who makes a terrible mistake. 

In this debut book from Marietta Miles, God's country is as corrupt as any place on earth and trusting anyone is a dangerous proposition. 

Praise for ROUTE 12: 

“Miles rolls on instinct infused with raw talent, utilizing a palate of emotion to repaint what we thought was Southern noir, turning it into something new, something poignant, something entirely hers.” —Tom Pitts, author of Hustle and Knuckleball

Two novellas here, Route 12 and Blood and Sin

Route 12 was the stronger of the two in my opinion. Very dark, very bleak - early on you have a feeling of dread that things are not going to end well for our protagonists and Miles certainly delivers in that respect.

In a nutshell, two school friends, both outsiders cross paths with a recently released convict.

With more flesh on the bones though, it gives up glimpses of despair, neglect, abuse, incarceration, ill-treatment at the hands of the authorities, violence, loneliness, isolation, disability, troubled families, alcoholism. There's some temporary respite with friendship, hope, acts of kindness, loyalty, love, though those positive feelings are soon quashed at the hands of scheming, wickedness, rape, and worse, though an abiding sense of courage,with determination ultimately prevails, but not undamaged.

Strong, powerful, unsettling. Not a tale that I will forget quickly.

Blood and Sin is another powerful tale, but not one I'm convinced I totally understood. More troubled people, more frailties and weakness on display, more damaged individuals, one of them at the mercy of an evil, twisted man of God doing the Lord's work, adequately enabled by those around him. Not the kind of good deeds, charity and forgiveness of sinners that I associate with God and religion. One of our other characters, deserving of our sympathy, snaps and breaks and erupts in violence.

Overall - very enjoyable - which might not be most appropriate adjective to choose. 
Setting, pace, writing, characters, violence, darkness, with only a few glimpses of light.

4 from 5

My first time reading Marietta Miles but not my last. Well her other work May does sit on my reader.

Read in November, 2018
Published - 2016
Page count - 179
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle

Tuesday 27 November 2018


Two this week from one of the greats, Canadian author Margaret Millar.

Margaret Millar was unread by me until just last week, when I enjoyed her fantastic novel – Vanish in an Instant - recently re-published by Pushkin Vertigo.

Millar wrote over twenty novels in a career that spanned over 40 years. Her first Paul Pyre novel was published in 1941 – The Invisible Worm. Her last book, Spider Webs hit the shelves in 1986. She died in 1994.

From Fantastic Fiction website…… she worked as a screenwriter for Warner Brothers. She was active in the conservation movement in California in the 1960s and was named a Woman of the Year by the Los Angeles Times in 1965, and in 1982 she became a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America.

She was married to Kenneth Millar, better known as Ross Macdonald. Macdonald penned the Lew Archer series of novels.

I'm looking forward to enjoying more of her books in the future.

How Like An Angel (1962)

The True Believers lived in holiness and poverty in the middle of nowhere.

Joe Quinn had been a casino cop in Reno. He was not what you would call a religious man. Just down on his luck.

But for a night’s lodging and $120, Joe was ready to accept a new commission. From Sister Blessing of the Salvation. All he had to do was find a dead man.

“She is in the very top rank of Crime writers” – Julian Symons

Ask For Me Tomorrow (1976)

Gilly Decker is rich, fifty and married to a human vegetable. Cut down by a stroke on their honeymoon, Marco has given up. He hungers only for pills and thirsts only for the fluid in the hypodermic needle.

Gilly Decker has lost one husband and is about to lose another. Why then, should she send the bright young lawyer, Tom Aragon, to the wastes of Mexico to look for her first husband? It must be all of eight years since B.J. Lockwood took off with one of the servants – so is she after B.J.’s money, B.J.’s son, or sweet revenge – and can she foresee the deadly future? 

Monday 26 November 2018



A missing husband. A suspicious obituary. She’s not the only one hunting down a dead man’s footsteps.

As a divorcee, Angelina Bonaparte knows firsthand the lengths some men will go to escape responsibility. When a worried mother wants the private investigator to track down her missing husband, she’s eager to bring the deadbeat dad to justice. But even after she discovers the man’s obituary, she refuses to believe it until she sees the body. Tracking down the nurse who last saw him alive could be the missing puzzle piece to her client's broken family.

But as she digs deeper, she realizes there’s something darker at play than dodging child support payments. And she may not be the only one hunting the man down. To close the case and reunite her client's family, she must track down the missing husband without falling prey to the same ruthless hunter.

Honor Kills is the third book in the captivating Angelina Bonaparte Mysteries series. If you like bold female detectives, edge-of-your-seat suspense, and unexpected twists, then you’ll love Nanci Rathbun’s gripping novel.

My second outing with Nanci Rathbun and her fifty-something PI Angelina Bonaparte, and a more enjoyable experience second time around after reading Cash Kills earlier this year.

We have a missing persons case which has been unsolved for a few years and which is the only one Angelina never resolved. Her and intern Bobby, keep an eye open for death notices and the like in an effort to bring closure to her client and her family. One day out of the blue, one appears, but as far as Angelina is concerned it's a bit too convenient.

More digging follows, and like peeling layers from an onion, Angelina uncovers multiple identities and a man running, not so much from his family, but from a previous life before he met the women he loved. Trying to broker a deal between the man, his estranged family and his former employer's via her father proves complicated and unsuccessful. Things take a dark turn. There will be no happy ending for her client. Angelina now has a new focus on finding out who betrayed her.

I liked this one a bit more than the earlier book in the series, though at the time I read that I was a tad stressed. There's a likable quality to Angelina, she's tenacious, determined, honest to a fault and she gets the job done. We also experience the trials and tribulations of her personal life with her extended family and the serious relationship with her cop boyfriend. Here it is fair to say the course of true love never did run smooth. No pity party for Angelina though, she picks herself up, dusts herself off and carries on. There's a decent balance to the amount of professional and personal on display.

I enjoyed the investigation into our missing person, the peripheral characters we encountered along the way, the nuggets of information that were gradually uncovered, the help received from some serious and seriously capable contacts - encountered in our earlier book, the conversations with her father and the bruising encounters with her lawyer and his secretary. I did guess who gave the game away. I probably would have been more Old Testament in my desire to punish the guilty, Angie is a bit more forgiving and philosophical than I am, more mature.

Overall - enjoyable with a decent pace. Still maybe a bit too much information divulged regarding a fifty years plus lady's undergarments - I have a very delicate constitution!

4 from 5

Nanci Rathbun has written three mysteries so far - Truth Kills, Cash Kills and Honor Kills.

Read in November, 2018
Published -2018
Page count - 286
Source - Net Galley copy originally which expired, second copy from author.
Format - kindle

Sunday 25 November 2018




In Saigon, a grief-stricken young American mother switches her dead child for a Vietnamese street kid. Then she returns to the US. Good and bad. Life and death. Some choices aren't black and white

She remarries and starts to feel safe until she gets a note: 'I know what you did'. 
Can she save her daughter from her dark secret?

Very intense, quite troubling with a moral question posed for the reader, a life lived concealing an action which is understandable but rash and one from which there is no turning back. One which has consequences way down the line.

Lily is a single mother in Saigon, Vietnam. She has a decent job as a plastic surgeon. Her husband, Vinh left her when she was pregnant with their second child. His leaving haunts her dreams still. Their second child, a daughter has West syndrome and early on in our tale she dies. Lily panics and consumed by grief or guilt, probably both she buries her in the back yard. A second rash decision follows immediately after. The father of the squatters next door abuses his wife and children. Their young daughter is found by Lily seemingly abandoned, screaming in the street. After attempting to calm her and witnessing the cigarette burns on her body, Lily takes her and using her own daughter's passport flees the country with her young son in tow as well.

Life after a while returns to normality. A new job in Hanoi, a new man in her life, marriage and prosperity follow. The kids are happy, her son seemingly oblivious to his mother's secret, accepting of the impostor as his sister. Life for Lily is almost normal. She can almost forget.

Until a career move for her husband beckons and Lily, unable to confide her secret, reluctantly returns to Saigon. Old faces emerge from her past and all of them awake a dread in Lily. Her marriage hits a rough spot, her son has issues settling in a new school, her old housekeeper wants her job back, Vinh pays a visit, a former friend from her previous life proves to be anything but.... and a blackmail note arrives threatening to expose her dark secret.

Paranoia, isolation, secrets, a life constructed around a lie, all about to fall apart. It's hard not to root for Lily, despite feeling conflicted over her actions years ago. An unlikely alliance is formed to help her deal with the threat not just to herself but the sanctity of her family. A third party learns the secret from Lily herself and resolves to protect her. Their future beckons with even bigger secrets needing to be concealed but at what damage to the conspirators?

I quite enjoyed discovering who was threatening Lily, as there were several possible candidates, including at one point someone very close to home. My relief was palpable when that proved not to be the case. I don't think Lily could ever have recovered from that blow. Even now I wonder if she is just delaying the inevitable and a cataclysmic explosion is going to erupt way down the line. BTW - all my guesses were off, as the author cleverly sneaked one past me.

I enjoyed the Vietnam setting of the book. I have read a lot of fiction and non-fiction in the past about the Vietnam War and it was nice to revisit the country in more peaceful times, albeit with another struggle, admittedly on a much smaller scale taking place.

Enjoyable, tense, gripping, never dull, an interesting quandary - were her actions justifiable or not, what life would her "daughter" have had without Lily's intervention? I'm still pondering that one.

4.5 from 5

Elka Ray has written a couple of other books - Hanoi Jane and What You Don't Know. Saigon Dark was my first time reading her work.

Read in November, 2018
Published - 2016
Page count - 235
Source - review copy from publisher - Crime Wave Press (two years ago - sorry for the delay!)
Format - PDF

Saturday 24 November 2018



Virginia Barkeley is a nice, well brought-up girl. So what is she doing wandering through a snow storm in the middle of the night and covered in someone else's blood?

When Claude Margolis' body is found a quarter of a mile away with half-a-dozen stab wounds to the neck, suddenly Virginia doesn't seem like such a nice girl after all. Her only hope is Meecham, the cynical small-town lawyer hired as her defence. But how can he believe in Virginia's innocence when even she can't be sure what happened that night? And when the answer seems to fall into his lap, why won't he just walk away?

My first outing with Margaret Millar, but definitely not my last after this extremely satisfying read.

Claude Margolis is stabbed to death. Virginia Barkeley is found nearby covered in blood and confused. Virginia doesn't know what happened, she might have done it, but can't remember. Virginia's husband, Paul thinks she might have done it as well. Virginia's mother, Mrs Hamilton rushes to town and hires a lawyer Eric Meecham to help Virginia. Another man, Earl Loftus then confesses to the crime.

Virginia is in the clear, but Meecham like a dog with a bone, won't let it go and continues to dig, fearing that Loftus has been paid by Mrs Hamilton to take the fall. Loftus is dying from an incurable disease and shortly afterwards hangs himself in his cell. And still Meecham persists in asking questions. Millar slowly widens the cast of characters to include, Loftus' bereft landlady and shifty husband, Loftus' alcoholic mother and landlords, Virginia's husband who we only saw fleetingly initially, as well as his staff and Mrs Hamilton's travelling companion, Alice.

In the end we get most if not all of the answers Meecham is seeking, but it's the journey with Meecham that I enjoyed so much. There's a doggedness and a tenacity to his pursuit of answers, but it's done with such gentleness and humanity and with great consideration for the frailty and suffering and pain of others, that you can't help but be feel that sympathy yourself to all involved, including the guilty.

Along the way he has time to appreciate the charms of Mrs Hamilton's young companion ...

Then he turned his head and looked at Alice.........Some day, some remote day when he had surplus time and money, he might go to see her. She might be married, by that time, married and with a couple of children; a placid contented matron, shopping, going to the movies, lying in the sun. This projection into the future was so vivid, his sense of loss so acute, that he felt a tide of rage rise in him, rise and ebb, leaving a taste of salt.

You can't help but wish them a happy ever after, when the attraction proves mutual.

Superb writing, superb plotting, hugely sympathetic characters - even the rich mother who thinks money can solve everything, wonderful insights into the human heart, great observations, and I got bamboozled at the death, with the outcome - incorrectly guessing the guilty at least twice along the way.

Bloody marvellous.

4.5 from 5

Margaret Millar wrote over twenty five novels in her lifetime, which happily leaves me plenty more to discover. She may help cure me of my aversion to pre-1970s books.

Read in November, 2018
Published - 1952 (republished by Pushkin Vertigo 2018)
Page count - 256
Source - review copy from publisher (thanks to Tabitha Pelly)
Format - paperback

Thursday 22 November 2018



Keller Baye and Rebecca Brown live on different sides of the Atlantic. Until she falls in love with him, Rebecca knows nothing of Keller. But he’s known about her for a very long time, and now he wants to destroy her.

This is the story of two families. One living under the threat of execution in North Carolina. The other caught up in a dark mystery in the Scottish Highlands. The families’ paths are destined to cross. But why? And can anything save them when that happens?

(Jenny Morton Potts takes to the psychological thriller stage on an international canvass, and with a unique, bold voice.)

Another very good read with two very different but interesting slices of life from either side of the Atlantic, before an inevitable collision between our main characters. A collision planned by one, unexpected by the other.

Rebecca Brown is the youngest sibling of three and is being raised by her grandparents in a large house in a remote area of the Scottish Highlands. The Brown's parents were killed in a car crash and her father's parents are left to pick up the pieces. Rebecca's childhood is difficult. Only her Grandfather Ralph offers her attention at home; her grandmother Primmy - distant and resentful of the children's presence in their life, but seemingly more tolerant of and benevolent towards Rebecca's older siblings. As far as finances go, the older children have private educations, but the money doesn't stretch to offer the same facility to the youngest Brown. She has one friend at school.

In her isolation she craves details of her parent's lives and has an understandable curiosity about what happened to them. The subject is the elephant in the room, casting a dark shadow over the family, but never brought into daylight, never discussed anecdotally, no shared memories, no fond reminiscences and shut down as soon as Rebecca broaches the subject. Fragments of memory - real, imagined, exaggerated are all she has.

In the US, we have another individual with a troubled childhood. Keller Baye's father is on death row after his involvement in a bank robbery went wrong and some innocents were killed. After his dad's incarceration, Keller is sent to live with an aunt, who has even less interest in raising her nephew than Primmy has in her own grandchildren. Aunt Joya sure does love the money she gets for "looking after" Keller though.

Keller is not a nice person, though it isn't hard to feel sorry for him, especially at his treatment at the hands of his aunt. He resorts to stealing tins of food regularly to supplement the rations on offer at Joya's. This treatment eventually culminates in the loss of three toes to frostbite after being shut out of the house in freezing temperatures. Further humiliations follow in his school life. A violent  incident with a tramp which results in death, reveals Keller's capacity for violence, as well as a strong stomach for it. His father's execution is another sorry chapter in Keller's life.

I really liked the way the author sucked me into the two lives of our main characters, which unfold over a number of years. Gradually the connection between the two is revealed, little snippets here and there, a bit like peeling layers on an onion.

Eventually, Keller sets the wheels in motion for his long term plan of revenge for his father. Rebecca is in his sights. Before we're done she will know plenty about her family history.

Dual settings, with alternating narratives regarding our two troubled families, plenty of action and drama, some scenes of strong violence, interesting characters. I quite liked the two main protagonists, even though Keller has darkness in his heart. A better Keller could have existed, if chance and the choices of others had played out differently.

Tense, enjoyable, an easy writing style which had me hooked, with a decent pay-off at the end.

4 from 5

Jenny Morton Potts has several other novels to her name - Piano from a 4th Storey Window, Romy and Raphael, and Just.

Read in November, 2018
Published - 2018
Page count - 325
Source - review copy from author
Format - kindle


Another healthy bunch of additions to the ever-expanding collection in November - 3 purchased and 3 received from the publishers, lucky me!

Richard O'Rawe - Northern Heist (2018) - courtesy of Merrion Press

Spotted on a recent jaunt to Ireland for a family re-union, 46 years after the last one! The only fiction title published by Merrion Press thus far, many thanks to Myles McCionnaith for sympathetically reacting to my request.....

‘This was an IRA job, a Provisional IRA job, which would have been known to the Provisional leadership.’
Bertie Ahearn, Irish Taoiseach, December 2004. 

Or so Bertie thought…but James ‘Ructions’ O’Hare is no ‘RA man. Ructions O’Hare is no small-time, two-bit thief. When Ructions put together a crack team to rob ‘The National Bank’ in Belfast in November 2004, even he didn’t realise he was about to carry-off one of the biggest bank heists in British and Irish history. And he’ll be damned if the Provos are getting a slice of it. In Ricky O’Rawe’s stunning debut novel, as audacious and well executed as Ructions’ plan to rob the National Bank itself, a new voice in Irish crime writing has been unleashed that will shock, surprise and thrill as he takes you on a white-knuckle ride through Belfast and Dublin’s criminal under-belly. Enter the deadly world of tiger kidnappings, kangaroo courts, money laundering, drug deals and double-crosses. Northern Heist is a roller-coaster bank robbery thriller with twists and turns from beginning to end.

Tom Vater - The Monsoon Ghost Image (2018) - courtesy of Crime Wave Press (cheers Henry)
Tom Vater and Detective Maier are back, but I've not tried his earlier books yet. I think I have one of them on the pile somewhere! I'll ignore the OCD and start with this one!


The third Detective Maier mystery is a taut and crazy spy thriller for our disturbing times.

When award-winning German conflict photographer Martin Ritter disappears in a boating accident in Thailand, the nation mourns the loss of a cultural icon. But a few weeks later, Detective Maier’s agency in Hamburg gets a call from Ritter’s wife. Her husband has been seen alive on the streets of Bangkok. Maier decides to travel to Thailand to find Ritter. But all he finds is trouble and a photograph. 

As soon as Maier puts his hands on the Monsoon Ghost Image, the detective turns from hunter to hunted – the CIA, international business interests, a doctor with a penchant for mutilation and a woman who calls herself the Wicked Witch of the East all want to get their fingers on Martin Ritter’s most important piece of work – visual proof of a post 9/11 CIA rendition and the torture of a suspected Muslim terrorist on Thai soil. From the concrete canyons of the Thai capital to the savage jungles and hedonist party islands of southern Thailand, Maier and his sidekick Mikhail race against formidable foes to discover some of our darkest truths and to save their lives into the bargain.

John Shepphird - Bottom Feeders (2018) - purchased

A sort of new to me author, insofar as I've not read him yet, but have his Shill trilogy on the TBR pile

“I absolutely devoured this book, and still can’t believe it’s a debut novel…I’ll be waiting for whatever he writes next!” —Steve Hamilton, New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award–winning author

A page-turning whodunit set in the wilds of a remote movie ranch, Bottom Feeders describes the hapless Hollywood cast and crew that eke out a living working on low-budget fare.

Their ambitious TV movie needs to be made fast and cheap, but a brutal murder grinds production to a halt. An approaching forest fire forces everyone to evacuate. In the confusion not everyone gets out. Eddie is the alcoholic director, Sheila the vulnerable camera assistant, Tom the self-centered actor, and Sondra the spurned sheriff’s deputy. Who will survive?

Death comes sudden and silent. The camouflaged killer’s weapon-of-choice is a high-tech hunting bow capable of firing razor-sharp arrows four hundred feet per second. The mysterious assassin has an agenda. Those left behind must find out what it is and who is behind this bloody slaughter in the fight for their lives.

Stephen Mertz - Some Die Hard (1979) - Amazon purchase

On spec Amazon purchase after catching a bit of chat about the book on the net somewhere. My issue is a recent reprint after the author extricated himself (his book actually) from the clutches of a dodgy publisher, the tale of which also appears in the afterword.

Dead man flying! Ex-stuntman and private detective Rock Dugan faces the toughest challenge of his career. How was his wealthy client murdered while flying alone in a sailplane, in full view of all the suspects in the case? How will Rock survive when gangsters and crooked cops want him off the case? Which of the beautiful women involved in his client's murder can be trusted - and which may turn out to be deadly?

SOME DIE HARD is legendary mystery and thriller author Stephen Mertz's first novel, originally published in paperback more than thirty years ago and long out of print. Part hardboiled private eye yarn, part classic novel of detection (with a locked-room mystery unlike any other), SOME DIE HARD is pure entertainment, and Rough Edges Press is proud to make it available once again. This edition includes a new afterword by the author.

"One of my favorite writers . . . a born storyteller . . . Enjoy!"
--Max Allan Collins

Joel Mowdy - Floyd Harbor Stories (2019) - Edelweiss early reviewer site

Great cover, interesting premise - looking forward to it.....

The twelve linked stories in Joel Mowdy's first book take place in and around Mastic Beach, a community on New York's Long Island that's close to the wealthy Hamptons but long afflicted by widespread poverty. Mostly in their teens and early twenties, the characters struggle to become independent in various ways, ranging from taking typical low-paying jobs—hotel laundry, janitorial, restaurant, and landscaping work—to highly ingenious schemes, to exchanging sexual favors for a place to stay. A few make it to local community colleges; others end up in rehab or juvenile detention centers. However loving, their parents can offer little help. Those who are Vietnam veterans may suffer from PTSD; others from the addictions that often come with stressful lives.

Neighborhoods of small bungalows—formerly vacation homes—with dilapidated boats in the driveways hint at the waterways that open up close by. The beauty of the ocean beach offers further consolation, as does the often high-spirited temperament of youth. Joel Mowdy brings to his affecting collection both personal experience and a gift for discerning and lingering on the essential moments in his characters' stories. He intimately and vividly illuminates American lives that too seldom see the light.

Judith Rossner - Looking For Mr Goodbar (1975) - purchased copy

A book I liked the sound of after reading a Crime Reads post on 70s New York crime fiction - 10 GRITTY CRIME NOVELS THAT WILL TAKE YOU TO THE 1970S NYC OF THE DEUCE

Funny enough, I've read one of them, own another six, bought this and another one from the list - I'm batting 9 from 10.

Based on a harrowing true story, the groundbreaking #1 New York Times bestseller, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, is a story of love, power, sex, and death during the sexual revolution of the 1970s.

Theresa Dunn spends her days as a schoolteacher whose rigid Catholic upbringing has taught her to find happiness by finding the right man. But at night, her resentment of those social mores and fear of attachment lead her into the alcohol-and-drug fueled underworld of singles' bars, where she engages in a pattern of dangerous sexual activity that threatens her safety and, ultimately, her life.

Looking for Mr. Goodbar is "uncommonly well-written and well-constructed fiction, easily accessible, but full of insight and intelligence and illumination" (The New York Times Book Review). With more than four million copies in print, this seminal novel - a lightning rod for controversy upon its publication - has become a cultural touchstone that has forever influenced our perception of social rebellion and sexual empowerment.

Tuesday 20 November 2018


A couple this week from author, journalist and former BBC Newsnight presenter, Maureen Carter.

I've had a few from her Bev Morriss series on the pile for exactly 10 years and not read them yet. I bought the first three in this series on 20th November, 2008 Amazon helpfully tells me.
Hopefully it won't be another 10 years before I get to them!

Carter has written nine in her Bev Morriss series and five in her Sarah Quinn set of books. A lot of her work seems to be set in and around Birmingham, which is an area of the UK I've not encountered too often in my reading.

Her website is here.
She's on Facebook here
Catch her on Twitter@getcarter4

Working Girls (2001)

Just 15 years old ... brutalised ... dumped in a park ... throat slashed. Schoolgirl prostitute Michelle Lucas died in agony and terror. The sight breaks the heart of DS Bev Morriss of West Midlands Police and a cold fury consumes her.

Plunging herself into the seedy heart of Birmingham's vice-land she struggles to infiltrate the deadly jungle of hookers, evil pimps and violent johns. But no one will break the wall of silence

When a second victim dies Bev has to take the most dangerous gamble of her life - out on the streets.

Dead Old (2005)

Elderly women are being attacked by a vicious group of thugs in Birmingham. When retired doctor Sophia Carrington is murdered, it's assumed she is the gang's latest victim. But detective Sargeant Bev Morris isn't convinced. She is sure the victim's past holds the key to her violent death: that it's a case of terrifying revenged served cold.

Working Girls  - Amazon UK   US    CANADA  AUSTRALIA

Dead Old - Amazon   UK  US  CANADA  AUSTRALIA

Monday 19 November 2018



“A violent, funny, shockingly addictive debut…”

Once upon a time, Laura Park was a normal college sophomore with her best friend at her side. A year later, Laura was on a deserted road on the outskirts of Las Vegas killing a man. 

She didn’t expect to get away with it but she did with the help of a stranger named Simon who took her in, liquored her up, and broke her down. 

Soon the ambitious Simon introduces her to Frank Joyce, a man who would teach her how to become a stone-cold professional killer. 

Laura learns her deadly trade and earns her money. Twenty-six years old and she thinks she’s found her happily ever after. Sadly it all falls apart when Simon leaves her for another. Now some other woman, blonde and polished, all shiny and new, is living Laura’s happy life.

Heartbroken, but knife always at the ready, Laura waits for any opportunity to get Simon back. The question is, when she gets her chance, will she take it? 

In Laura’s world anyone can become a target, loyalties can shift in a blink of an eye, and when everyone is homicidal, people are definitely going to die. 

A debut novel from Nikki Dolson and an entertaining read about Laura, a professional killer and her relationships with her employer and former lover, Simon; her mentor and colleague, Frank and Simon's new wife, Marjorie.

Through the course of the novel, we get Laura's back story and how she came to be with Simon. We chart the progress of their relationship, we note the unevenness of their affair, the imbalance in the relationship, the control Simon exerts over Laura and we're privy to Laura's devastation at Simon's callous ending of the romance, whilst still retaining Laura as an integral part of his business - the business of killing people. Simon is Laura's achilles heel. She possesses enough self awareness to understand he's a turd, but she's obsessed, addicted and weak and unable to sever the work relationship if it means losing him completely. She's a puppy at his beckon call, with only minor bouts of disobedience.

Parallel to her Simon relationship, we also chart her progression from rookie assassin, to capable operative under the tutelage of Frank. Frank who is cruel, indifferent, loyal and a machine; well able to mask any feelings he may or may not have for Laura or ambitions he may have regarding his career. Frank, however has Laura's back and saves her skin on several occasions, during her on-the-job training.   

We also get to view the tension between the two women in Simon's life, their jealousy towards each other and the pressure on the marriage as Simon seems to tire of his wife after a period.

The relationship between the four, in between bouts of killing for hire is going to get messy before we're done. Three in a marriage is one too many, how about four?

I really liked this one, my kind of book. Characters, pace, Vegas setting mostly, and an interesting story arc. I'm hoping Nikki Dolson picks up where she left off with most of our characters in a future book.   

4 from 5

Read in November, 2018
Published - 2017
Page count - 165
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle

Sunday 18 November 2018







Tense and claustrophobic, an enjoyable murder mystery in a Kent hospital, set against a backdrop of German bombs during the Second World War.

Slightly confusing to begin with as I was quickly introduced to a plethora of characters in rapid succession, and unfamiliar acronyms for wartime medical corps - eg V.A.D. -  things soon settled down.

A man is brought into the hospital, a casualty of an air raid and he waits overnight for surgery the following day. His operation goes wrong and he dies on the table. An accident? Apparently not, as a second violent death occurs afterwards. The list of suspects is confined to our cast of nurses and doctors. Inspector Cockrill endeavours to get to the bottom of things.

I liked it without feeling like it was the best book ever. It's interesting how the book unfolds. We get the low-down and histories of our characters - unhappy losses of the past, grief, mortality, love affairs - current and previous, hopes for the future, unrequited feelings, casual cruelties, poor behaviour, kindnesses, friendship, loyalty, annoyances and slights and under it all - one of them a murderer.

Each character, discusses how they in turn could have done the deeds and their motives for such an act which is quite clever. They chat openly among themselves, while all the time Cockrill gently applies pressure on the group by having them confined, followed, watched, accompanied and eventually unnerved until the guilty reveals themselves.

Brand tempts the reader to try and guess the identity of the guilty. And I guessed wrong, though I did spot the significance of a loss to one of our characters and the connection to our first victim.

Enjoyable overall. Not too long, though it seemed to read longer than it actually was, particularly when I was orienting myself at the beginning. The second half of the book sped by. Nevertheless, despite my enjoyment of the book, I'm probably done with Christianna Brand.

3.5 from 5

Brand penned over 20 novels in her career, including six (maybe seven) with Cockrill at the helm. She died in 1988.

Read in November, 2018
Published - 1944
Page count - 208
Source - owned copy
Format - Paperback

Other thoughts on this one from blog friends.

Moira @ Clothes in Books - here
Tracy @ Bitter Tea and Mystery - here
Margot @ Confessions of a Mystery Novelist - here 

Saturday 17 November 2018



‘At your age, people expect you to be calm, dignified and sober... Disappoint them.’

Older, Wiser, Sexier brings together the best of Bev Williams’ cheeky but charming cartoons to create the perfect gift for that person in your life who may be getting on a bit but certainly isn’t past it.

A recent birthday present from someone with a generous spirit, but not someone who knows me particularly well. It's the kind of book you find in a card shop that you might browse, but you never read all the way through.

Well, I beg to differ - 20 minutes reading cover to cover while the home hairdresser attended to my wife and one of my daughters.

Cartoons on every other page with a couple of quotes opposite from the likes of Churchill, Groucho Marx, George Burns etc.

Gentle humour, nothing crude, the odd wry smile but nothing laugh out loud.

There's a couple I'll try and remember as I traverse the second half of my 50s...

"You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old." - George Burns

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

3 from 5

Read in November, 2018
Published - 2016
Page count  - 96
Source - owned copy
Format - hardback

Friday 16 November 2018



Vivien Lash has the life that everyone wants. A successful artist, with the perfect husband - a mysterious diplomat who adores her. She spends her time gleefully tracking her 'installation', which is what she calls her creepy neighbour. Spying on Strange Men begins as a comedy, illuminated by Vivien Lash's imaginative way of seeing the world. She doesn't so much have a habit of seeking out the grotesquely funny, she just seems to act as a magnet for it. Then all of a sudden, like a summer night in a strange city, the reader realises it's getting dark, and the surroundings that seemed amusing a few pages back, are suddenly threatening. What is Mr Lash really doing on all his foreign trips? Is Elvis the night porter as harmless as he first appears? And, while she's watching Creepy Neighbour, is someone watching her?

A short book, so a quick read, some great writing, some interesting character observations, a bit unsettling, a slightly confusing outcome which having read twice I think I've got the gist of - but who knows.

Our main character is married, but after receiving a photograph - presumably of someone her husband is involved with - she decides to kill him. I don't think the context of the photograph is ever fully explained though. In the course of plotting to kill him, or maybe just fantasising about it, she spies on a neighbour, whom she suspects of killing his wife. Someone is dead at the end of the book.

It's probably not the story that is going to remain with me though.....

And mad Tracey's right. There are worse things than being raped. There's always something worse........

   Being poor is worse than being raped. It lasts longer. It's more mundane. Being poor poisons you slowly. Rape at its best is quick and bestial. It's common to fantasise about it.
   But nobody fantasises about being poor. Who lies on their bed daydreaming about having no money? Being poor for too long makes it impossible to believe in dreams anymore. Even when they happen.
   But there are things you are allowed to say out loud. And others you are supposed to keep to yourself.

Mad Tracey being Emin, the thoughts our main character's. An unsettling passage, a thoughtful passage, a controversial passage.

Best book ever? No
Want to read more from Carole Morin? Hmm, undecided, maybe not.
Recommend it to others? Probably not.

3 from 5

Read in November, 2018
Published - 2012
Page count - 150
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback

Wednesday 14 November 2018



The man emerged from the mist, right in front of Cathy Weaver's car--running from killers who were closing in on him. Victor Holland's story sounded like the ravings of a man on the brink of madness, but his claim to be a fugitive was confirmed by the haunted look in his eyes--and the bullet hole in his shoulder. As each hour brings pursuers ever closer, Cathy has to wonder, is she giving her trust to a man in danger or trusting her life to a dangerous man?

My wife is a big fan of Tess Gerritsen's books, in particular her Rizzoli and Isles series. Whistleblower is a standalone I bought for her and pre-dates R+I by nearly 10 years. I've read a few from Gerritsen over the years, but couldn't claim her as a favourite of mine. I did enjoy this one though, probably more thriller than outright crime fiction, which - as the book progresses - develops into borderline romantic fiction.

It starts at a pace. Victor Holland is being pursued and Cathy Weaver after bumping him with her car, takes him to hospital, bullet wound and all. He has temporarily escaped from danger. Later that night, Cathy's pregnant friend is mistaken for her and murdered. Cathy is bereft and puzzled, not realising she herself was the target - the killer mistakenly believing Victor passed something onto her. Something he initially believes he has recovered from her car. Victor after recovering from surgery and fleeing the hospital knows better.

I quite like the lone man against THE MAN type thriller. In this case we have two strangers thrust together, forced to trust each other while their stop at nothing pursuers come ever closer to them. The raison d'etre for the whole episode? Victor Holland's employer has been developing a biological weapon illegally for a deniable US Government adviser. Holland's colleague was killed when he baulked at the project, getting some evidence to Victor before his death. Victor has the baton now and is the whistleblower and Cathy the innocent caught up in events because of the accidental RTA at the opening of our book.

I liked this one more than I expected to. It's an interesting premise which has characters trying to do the right thing, barely holding it together and ever increasingly paranoid in that they can't trust anyone, with big brother manipulating media and law enforcement to conspire in their capture with the propagation of fake news about Holland - Gerritsen about 25 years ahead of her time!

Great pace, very tense, chilling in places as the pursuit of Cathy Weaver (almost on a par now with Holland as an enemy of the people) has severe consequences for others of her name, decent characters, plenty of friendship and loyalty on display as well as dogged determination.

If I had one criticism it would probably be churlish, but the two main characters are drawn closer together and not unnaturally develop feelings for each other during the course of the book. We don't hear wedding bells at the outcome, but I'm guessing they aren't a million miles away. It's not one of my preferred reading traits, a burgeoning love story but here it was credible, just not something I go mad about personally.

Overall not too bad.

4 from 5

Read in November, 2018
Published - 1992
Page count - 256
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback

Tuesday 13 November 2018


Two this week from Alison Bruce, another author I have yet to try.

The Times like her - 'As always, Bruce produces a rewarding read.'

Sophie Hannah likes her - 'Alison Bruce is fascinating. Her imagination is always unpredictable and her writing is challenging and compelling.'

Hopefully I do too.

Bruce has written seven books in total in her DC Gary Goodhew series, of which these are the first and second. She also has a couple of non-fiction titles to her name as well as a standalone novel - I Did it For Us, which was published earlier this year.

I'm quite looking forward to these. I used to spend the odd weekend in Cambridge years ago, when my sister was training to be a nurse at Addenbrookes. Additionally I don't read enough police procedurals.

Her website is here.
She's on Twitter - @Alison_Bruce

Cambridge Blue (2008)

DC Gary Goodhew is intelligent and intuitive, the youngest detective at Cambridge's Parkside Station. When he discovers the body of a young woman on Midsummer Common, he is given the chance to work on a murder investigation for the first time in his career.

Soon the victim is identified as Lorna Spence. Richard Moran, her boyfriend and employer, has reported her missing and is distraught to discover that she has been killed. He claims that she was loved by his staff, and that she had no enemies. But it isn't long before Goodhew discovers many who wouldn't have minded seeing her dead, including Spence's high maintenance colleague, Victoria ,and Goodhew's reckless former classmate, Bryn.

They both swear that they have nothing to do with Lorna's death, but someone is lying. After another brutal murder, Goodhew knows it is time to use his own initiative to flush out the killer, even though it means risking his job and discovering the truth about the one person he hopes will be innocent.

The Siren (2009)

All it took was one small item on the regional news for Kimberly Guyver and Rachel Golinski to know that their old life was catching up with them. They wondered how they'd been naive enough to think it wouldn't. They hoped they still had a chance to leave it behind, but within hours, Rachel's home is burning and Kimberly's son, Riley, is missing.



Love Strike and Stone? Banks and Bosch? Read Crane!
Sgt Major Crane, a detective prepared to do anything it takes in the pursuit of justice. 

A collection of short stories including:

No Mercy - prequel to the bestselling Steps to Heaven #1 in the Sgt Major Crane crime series. Is crime ever justified? Would you be merciful if it came to it? Or would you take your revenge? Crane investigates a fire in which a man dies. Was it an accident or something more sinister? Crane won't stop until he finds the truth.

Who's Afraid Now is the prequel to Hijack the 6th Sgt Major Crane crime thriller. When Sgt Billy Williams finds local youths treating his parents with disrespect, well he just can't resist giving them a taste of their own medicine. Afterwards he boards a train home, only to find it's not the end, just the beginning...

"Excellent read from a slick pacey writer - leaves you wanting more!" Andrew Butler

Cartmell Rocks! This collection of short stories showcases Wendy Cartmell's fresh style and engaging prose. She presents a variety of situations of people caught in intriguing circumstances. The author delivers a twist to many of her stories in this collection.
Ed Benjamin Author

A short book offering a couple of hours of entertainment and a taste of Wendy Cartmell's work, with a couple of short stories and an intro to one of her longer books.

We have....

No Mercy ..... a case of arson with the death of a soldier to be investigated by one of Cartmell's series characters - Sergeant Major Tom Crane of the Military Police - well written, tight, a case of domestic noir, after a previous line of inquiry was eliminated

Who’s Afraid Now ...... Crane's assistant Sgt Billy Williams goes home for the weekend to find his parents and others on their estate suffering at the hands of some local scrotes. Enjoyable, but a bit too convenient with the outcome. If Williams can resolve this so easily, better get him onto Brexit, before sorting out the Arabs and Israelis. I liked Williams and I enjoyed the tale, but wasn't totally convinced by the believability of our outcome.

What If….? ...... an unhappy marriage, at least for one of the two, but things have a way of working themselves out, accidentally or otherwise - probably my favourite of the bunch.

Another Satisfactory Day ..... a smug, slimy, unscrupulous salesman gets his comeuppance

The Telephone Call ..... another tale of domestic strife, blackmail, kidnap and an unexpected  pay out

Steps to Heaven .... the first three chapters and an interesting start .......blurb below

A murdered family. A merciless serial killer. Can Crane stop the killings?
When a soldier is found to have killed his family in a brutal attack, Crane and his team of Military Police detectives are called in. As more deaths are uncovered, Crane is convinced there is a serial killer at work. But no one else is.
Can Crane uncover the connections between the deaths, in this riveting and gritty mystery?

Meet the Author ..... a bit about Wendy

I enjoyed this short offering, probably a fraction more than I expected to. Definitely an author I'd be interested in reading more from in the future, which I'm guessing was the author's hope when serving this one up.

Steps to Heaven and another of hers - Mortal Judgement sit on the pile.

4 from 5

Read in November, 2018
Published - 2014
Page count - 89
Source - purchased copy
Format - kindle