Tuesday 30 June 2020


Michelle Dunne, author of the brilliant While Nobody is Watching - thoughts on the blog yesterday here, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me on her reading and writing habits. 

I’m about to start reading your latest novel, While Nobody is Watching, soon to be published by BAD PRESS iNK. Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less?

Take a former soldier with PTSD and mix vigorously with the cities ‘troubled youth’. Add some addicts, a hooker and a menacing stalker and boil until the mixture explodes. The ending... you won’t see it coming.

Do you think it's your best work to date?

I do! I’m so in love with each and every character in this book, I really don’t know how I’ll leave them behind. I know for a fact that I'll be taking Lindsey Ryan along on my next adventure.

Did it end up being the book you envisaged when you sat down to commence writing it?

I didn’t quite know what I envisaged when I sat down to this one. I got a spark of inspiration for two characters, Lindsey and Frank (her German Shepherd dog). The youth centre and all the characters and storylines there just sort of happened, but they took the book in a direction I hadn’t anticipated and now I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

How long from the germ of an idea to completion did it take?

My first drafts always happen very quickly. When inspiration strikes, I’m in a mad rush to get it all down on paper, so usually about 3 months. But then I become very, very critical and the final draft ends up being a million miles from the first. This one took about a year in total.

Any doubts or major bumps in the road along the way? How difficult was it to find a home for the book?

Actually, for the first time, I had no doubts on this. I started submitting and early in the process I found BAD PRESS iNK, a new and, clearly from their website, different publishing house. Within a few weeks, Pat (editor extraordinaire) got in touch and following a chat via Skype, I knew that this was the right home for my baby and I wasn't wrong.

I believe it’s your third book to be published but your first in the suspense/mystery/crime field. Which one would you press into the hands of a new reader first?

It would depend on the person and what they want to get from a book at the time. The one thing that each of my books has in common is that they each lack the saccharine element. They're rooted in real life with real problems, but while The Turbulent Series (Did Someone Order Cactus? and It's Just Turbulence) appeal more to a female audience, While Nobody Is Watching is more of a thriller with a military twist and some younger characters who I feel bring another dimension to the book. This one has something for everyone, so would be easy to recommend to any reader.

Do you have a favourite of the three?

That’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is! I don't have a favourite! *Whispers out the side of her mouth* THE THIRD ONE!

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

I used to. Before I had a child. Now I just tote my laptop around with me and write whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself.

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters? Would they recognise themselves?

Short answer, no. But all of my characters have elements of people I know.  I’ve met so many real characters during my lifetime that I can write just about any type of person, good or bad or very different, and I'll be able relate them in my own head to someone I've come across in real life. People might recognise some of their personality in one of my characters, but generally speaking, they’re all fictional.

Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

I totally make it up as I go along. I'll have an outline of a story in my head, or in this case, strong characters and a theme (PTSD and mental health), but after that, I don't know what’s about to happen until it happens! Then I hone it and improve upon it in later drafts. I don’t know if I’d enjoy the process as much if I spent too much time planning.

Are there any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

I have one that’s been a bit of a labour of love for me, called Playing the Game. It's a fictional book based on my time in the army and with the UN. I actually began writing it out of annoyance after reading yet another very negative account of what it’s like being a woman in the army. My experience shaped me and was overall very positive, but I’d never seen a positive account written. I discovered pretty early that I’m not suited to non-fiction writing, so I wrote about a group of fictional characters (my military friends will recognise themselves and five others in each character), their day to day life and the challenges they face while serving at home and overseas. And of course the camaraderie that drags them through.

What’s the current project in progress?

I’m working on a follow-up Lindsey Ryan novel called The People Upstairs. It's a stand-alone book, but I did tell you that Lindsey Ryan would be coming along on my next adventure!

What’s the best thing about writing?

The escapism. You’re creating this whole other world and when you’re ‘in the zone’, you're there, living someone else’s life. Then your actual life comes calling and you have to try to tune back into the real world again. Until next time.

The worst?

When I'm really excited about where my story is going, but life prevents me from being able to sit down and disappear into it (for hours and hours and hours). I find I get a bit cranky around then.

Moving on...

What are the last five books you’ve read?

1) Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
2) Shantarum by Gregory David Roberts
3) The Guardians by John Grisham
4) The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter
5) Blue Moon by Lee Child


Who do you read and enjoy?

My taste in books is quite broad, but I love a good thriller, so Karin Slaughter, Lee Child, Patricia Cornwell – I'll pretty much buy their books without even reading the blurb. I know they’re gonna be good.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Where the Crawdads Sing – it’s stunning.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?

I do love taking a wander up a mountain. Nothing beats the cuppa at the top!

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?

I loved Hacksaw Ridge and pretty much anything directed by Clint Eastwood. I'll probably watch Baz Luhrmann’s Australia a few more times before I die too.

TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Dunne household?

I love a good series! Homeland was one of my favourites and I'll watch The Pacific and Band of Brothers from the start every time they roll them out again. Game of Thrones obviously, but I also love the lighter stuff like Chicago Fire, Grey’s Anatomy, Blue Bloods – stuff that you can switch off to for an hour.

What are the last three pieces of music you’ve listened to?

This is very random but 1) Creedence Clearwater Revival – Have you ever seen the rain 2) Maroon 5 – Sunday Morning 3) Sweet Child O’Mine (Sheryl Crow version)


What’s your favourite vegetable?

Roasted peppers.

When did you last have a physical fight?


Have you ever been thrown out of a bar or a club?


Do you have any tattoos?


What was your first pet’s name?

Nico (a fish)

Do you have any irrational fears?

Yes – fish. (I know... the irony)

 What’s your favourite holiday destination?

Anywhere. Literally. A holiday is a holiday as far as I'm concerned!

 When did you last tell a lie?

When I said that I'd never been thrown out of a club (and that I didn't have tattoos) :-D

Many thanks to Michelle for her time.

You can catch up with her at the following haunts

Twitter - https://twitter.com/NotDunneYet  

While Nobody is Watching is available now.

A semi-inflated football and a curious little girl.

They called it peacekeeping. For Corporal Lindsey Ryan it was anything but.

It’s been three years since that bright day in the Golan Heights and the explosion which killed two and changed the survivors forever.

Now Lindsey deals with the many problems of the city’s troubled youth, to distract her from her own. But as damp days turn to night the kids return home, or somewhere like it, and she returns to her own private war. One that exists solely for her.

Certain that she’s being watched and certain that she’s losing her mind, Lindsey battles with the demons of post traumatic stress, while a very real threat edges ever closer until she finds herself face to face with someone who wants nothing more than to finally help her to die.

And it’s the last person she ever could have seen coming.

Blue helmets and blurred lines - While Nobody is Watching delves into the dark world of PTSD and a battle scarred soldier struggling to find a place in her new world.



A semi-inflated football and a curious little girl.

They called it peacekeeping. For Corporal Lindsey Ryan it was anything but.

It’s been three years since that bright day in the Golan Heights and the explosion which killed two and changed the survivors forever.

Now Lindsey deals with the many problems of the city’s troubled youth, to distract her from her own. But as damp days turn to night the kids return home, or somewhere like it, and she returns to her own private war. One that exists solely for her.

Certain that she’s being watched and certain that she’s losing her mind, Lindsey battles with the demons of post traumatic stress, while a very real threat edges ever closer until she finds herself face to face with someone who wants nothing more than to finally help her to die.

And it’s the last person she ever could have seen coming.

Blue helmets and blurred lines - While Nobody is Watching delves into the dark world of PTSD and a battle scarred soldier struggling to find a place in her new world.

A powerful novel which I'm not ashamed to admit, brought me close to tears on several occasions.

I think the book worked for me on two levels. Firstly, there's a mystery to be solved. Lindsey Ryan, our main protagonist is in danger. Someone is out to get her. Lindsey initially has suspicions and a heightened spidey sense of being followed and the paranoia of maybe imagining it. Events escalate throughout the book, definite confirmation and increasing threats, vandalism and physical attack with a more permanent fate in mind for her from her enemy.

Initially reluctant to involve the police or share with her ex-army friends, during the course of the book, Lindsey comes to rely more on people and become less isolated and solitary, though she's still extremely private and independent. There are a few candidates for stalker-cum-killer which come in and out of focus throughout the book, before the identity of the actual threat is revealed. I enjoyed this aspect of the book and the plot held together. I was surprised by the culprit, but didn't feel as if the author had cheated on me in the set up. I just honestly hadn't considered them as a possibility.

The other elements of the tale which had a deeper affect on me was the generosity of spirit, the warmth, the compassion and the humanity on display from more than one broken and damaged character. And without sounding like a pseudo knit-your-own-yoghurt hippy there's also the healing powers of the countryside, the mountains, the fresh air, the exercise, the get away from it all peace of nature vibe, which from personal experience I can testify does wonders for mental health.

Back to the characters....

Lindsey herself, working with troubled and wayward youth...... guiding, supporting, mentoring, listening, caring - all maybe part of an unconscious therapy for herself, deflecting attention from her own problems and issues and giving herself time to heal. But how can you ask a teenager to trust you if you aren't willing to open yourself up to others?

Kathleen, the quayside whore, doing what she has to do to survive but retaining compassion for a broken soul.

Sheila, the kitchen help at the youth centre, devoted to the children and putting in long hours and hard miles for the sake of the youngsters. A mother hen to Lindsey, with a warm word or a harsh one depending on the circumstances.

Mr Hennessy, the kindly neighbour; Sinead, the Garda and her colleague; Jason - the caring paramedic; Adam - the gym owning ex-army best friend and guardian angel.... all offering friendship, love, support, advice, all non-judgemental and all proferred without calculating a return for their efforts.

Lastly, Frank the dog. Loyal, brave, obedient and sensitive to Lindsey's moods and what she needs. How can I not love Frank when our own family dog is the named the same. If only my Frank was like her Frank......

Lots to like here - a story with an interesting problem to be solved, some PTSD on the loose and at large, plenty of raw emotion and current day issues rearing their ugly heads... drugs, family problems, abuse, a lack of hope and direction, intriguing characters, a Cork setting and not over long.

4.5 from 5

Hopefully, Michelle Dunne will have a second Lindsey Ryan book coming down the pike at some point.

Read - June, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 213
Source - review copy received from publicist Wiley Saichek
Format - PDF read on laptop

Monday 29 June 2020


Irish author, Michelle Dunne's third book - While Nobody is Watching was published a couple of days ago. (It's very good!)

Michelle was kind enough to offer some insight into its origins.....

Behind the Book

While Nobody Is Watching came about quite by accident really and all because I got fired up about something else entirely!

Let me explain. My first ‘real’ job was that of infantry soldier in the Irish army. On my very first day as a recruit, I met some of the best friends anyone could ever ask for and my experiences, both at home and overseas with the UN were a mix of good, bad and crazy, but they amounted to the most positive learning curve of my life. The types of relationships that form in frontline services like the defence forces are second to none. They help shape the kind of person you become and they can inspire you in a million different ways.

My career as a writer came later and actually my first two books, Did Someone Order Cactus? and It’s Just Turbulence fall into the women’s fiction genre. Although my time in the army left a very positive impact on me, it never occurred to me to write about it… until I read a memoir written by an Irish female soldier, which told a very, very different story from mine. It was awful. Every page told of bullying and harassment and none of it surprised me. Not because I’d experienced much of it myself, though narrow minded bullies are everywhere, sadly. But the good massively outweighed the bad in my experience, and likewise it seemed for most of the women that I served with. The reason why this depressing account of life as a female soldier didn’t surprise me was because it seems only the negative accounts ever get told! This bothered me immensely and I got right up on my high horse about it. I had a little rant to an editor I was working with at the time, who suggested that I write it from another point of view, if it bothered me that much. So I did. Or at least, I started to.

Turns out, I’m not suited to non-fiction writing. I don’t tend to bank away details of who said what to whom and I feel those tidbits are too important to get wrong, so instead, I wrote another work of fiction, based on my own experiences with the army and UN, called Playing the Game. The characters were made up of all the different real characters I’d met through the years and I loved it.

Or at least I did until someone suggested that it needed a love interest or some kind of romantic angle and I stupidly listened. Before I knew it, Playing the Game was too far from where I wanted it to be, so I filed it away until such time as I can return to it with fresh eyes and bring it back to where it’s meant to be.

I decided then that it was time to take a break from writing and my resolve in this lasted all of fifteen minutes. Or as long as it took for me to make a cup of tea and have a scroll through my phone, because that’s when it happened. I clicked on a video about service dogs. Why wouldn’t I? They’re only the most amazing creatures on this planet. The owner of this particular dog, at first glance, didn’t look like the kind of person who needed any assistance at all. He was a big, burly guy whose good looks made it easy for him to have the confidence that he seemed to have. But when he started to speak, it became clear that the four legged wonder by his side was more than just a dog to him. The man was a US army veteran living with PTSD and his dog was his lifeline.

My untouched tea turned cold as two characters appeared, already fully formed, in my mind. One was a German Shepherd named Frank and the other, his owner, Lindsey Ryan, and because my mind was already filled with military characters at that point, it was no surprise that Lindsey was a former soldier in the Irish army, whose life is changed forever while serving with the UN, as the Irish have done for so many years. I opened my laptop and the book wrote itself. I believe that everything in life happens as and when it should and this combination of experiences and annoyances led me to writing a book that I otherwise might not have. And it’s a book that I love with all my heart.

While Nobody Is Watching delves into the dark world of PTSD and that of a former soldier struggling to find a place in her new world. But her new high risk lifestyle has gained her the unwanted attention of a menacing stranger and Lindsey is left to decipher which threats are real and who, other than herself, might want her dead.

While Nobody Is Watching - published by BAD PRESS iNK on June 27 PTSD awareness day 2020. For your copy, ask your local bookshop. Alternatively all Michelle Dunne books are available on Amazon and through www.michelledunnebooks.com

A semi-inflated football and a curious little girl.

They called it peacekeeping. For Corporal Lindsey Ryan it was anything but.

It’s been three years since that bright day in the Golan Heights and the explosion which killed two and changed the survivors forever.

Now Lindsey deals with the many problems of the city’s troubled youth, to distract her from her own. But as damp days turn to night the kids return home, or somewhere like it, and she returns to her own private war. One that exists solely for her.

Certain that she’s being watched and certain that she’s losing her mind, Lindsey battles with the demons of post traumatic stress, while a very real threat edges ever closer until she finds herself face to face with someone who wants nothing more than to finally help her to die.

And it’s the last person she ever could have seen coming.

Blue helmets and blurred lines - While Nobody is Watching delves into the dark world of PTSD and a battle scarred soldier struggling to find a place in her new world.

Sunday 28 June 2020



Vern is a dangerous man—he makes illegal exchanges safe. Until someone tries to rip off a drug deal he’s working and he gets blamed. Now both gangs involved are after him, including the one he works for. And he’s going to clear his name, no matter who he has to kill in the process.

Praise for VERN IN THE HEAT:

“Rob Pierce is one of the more imaginative literary voices in our new emerging era of noir.” —James Grady, author of Six Days of the Condor

“Rob Pierce is urban noir’s high priest from the mean streets.” —Joe Clifford, author of Lamentation and December Boys

“Rob Pierce is a new talent that cuts deep into the underbelly of society and rips the guts and heart out of his protagonist.” —Lou Boxer, Noircon

Third outing with author Rob Pierce after enjoying Tommy Shakes earlier this year and Uncle Dust prior to that. I enjoyed it but it's my least favourite of his so far.

All the usual themes that I enjoy were present....... a law breaker and outlaw as a main character, a drug deal going wrong, deceit and a double cross, beer, heat, some conflict at play and a few issues to be settled with thought, applied intellect, negotiation and no little measures of violence before our main man Vern gets things back into what passes for kilter in a gangster's world. Along the way he has old flame Deria as a partner..... sex, romance,  and maybe love for our modern day Bonnie and Clyde.

Decent story,  interesting characters, great dialogue, fast pace, Berkeley setting, and not over long.

I think what I was missing was some real empathy or connection that made me concerned with Vern and the overall outcome.

3.5 from 5

Read - May, 2020
Published - 2016
Pge count - 176
Source - purchased copy
Format - Kindle read

Saturday 27 June 2020



Matt Hodges is not a good husband. He’s unemployed, a drunk, and a compulsive gambler. His wife Lydia has basically written him off. However, with a small inheritance coming, Matt promised Lydia he’d not only pay for the cosmetic surgery she so craves, but that he’d also get them out of debt. Unfortunately for Lydia, as soon as the check is cashed, Matt heads for Reno to try his hand at high-stakes poker, and to stay as drunk as possible for as long as possible. Meanwhile, back home in Modesto, Lydia plots with a local violent criminal (who happens to be her new lover) to find Matt and get the cash for themselves before it’s all gone. What happens when they all finally meet in Reno will be our little secret, okay?

An entertaining one-sitting read of a book, following the misadventures of a train-wreck of a man breaking more promises to his wife and fecklessly embarking on another whirlwind gambling trip to Reno. A trip which is funny and sad, filled with incident and never less than entertaining. 

A marriage on the rocks, broken promises, comfort elsewhere with infidelity, though a better choice of partner might have been wiser, an inheritance, another poor choice fuelled by an overwhelming compulsion to gamble, a rescue mission launched - if the man's beyond saving, maybe the money isn't.

Addiction is ugly and whatever the poison, it's an illness that impacts greatly not just on the addict himself but the close family surrounding him. Never truer than here, with a myriad of casualties suffering the chaos that ensues from Hodges' trip to Reno.

Fast-moving, violent, irreverent, humorous but also serious and uncomfortable reading in places.

4 from 5

I've enjoyed a collection of short stories from Mike Monson in the past - Criminal Love and Other Stories in 2014. There's more from him on the pile.

Read - May, 2020
Published - 2014 originally. I read All Due Respect's 2015 edition.
Page count - 136
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback

Wednesday 24 June 2020



You might as well know this going in: Lawrence Block’s new novel is not for everyone. It’s recounted in journal form by its protagonist, and begins when he walks into a roadhouse outside of Bakersfield, California, and walks out with a woman.

And rapes and murders her.

But, um, not in that order.

Right. But it’s what he does with the rest of his life that’s really interesting…

Lawrence Block has been writing and publishing crime fiction for sixty years. He’s received recognition for lifetime achievement in the US and the UK. His books have won awards and occasionally show up on bestseller lists. Several of them have been fimed.

Here’s what he’s said about DEAD GIRL BLUES:

“I don't think it's terribly commercial. And there are elements that will put off a lot of readers.

“But, see, Dead Girl Blues doesn't owe me a thing. I hadn't planned to write it, so it doesn't have to bring in money to justify the time I spent on it. The book is its own justification. I'll publish it myself, on my 82nd birthday, and all of y'all can buy it or not buy it, read it or not read it, and like it or not like it.

“I've shown it to some friends whose opinions I trust, and they told me that Dead Girl Blues is one of the very best things I've ever written. And then they added that they could see where it might have problems.

“So I read it again last week, and I realized DGB was exactly the book I wanted it to be. And how often does that happen? And what more could an old man possibly ask for?”

A new Lawrence Block novel on his 82nd birthday, what more could a fan of his work want?

A confessional novel in the form of a journal, as a man recounts events of his restless youth when he murdered and raped a woman he met in a bar, before leaving behind that life and reinventing himself as a new man.

We look back at the monster and try and reconcile these events with the happily married man, with the successful business, the cozy suburban life, the well-adjusted children and the respect of the community.

In the reading of his journal, we are privy to more insight than the sanitised confession to his son and wife. The family are somewhat surprisingly undisturbed by his revelation. It's a marked contrast to I think how my own would react to me confessing to a murder I committed in my long distant past, based on previous conversations we have had.

The journal reveals a more sadistic and spirited predator, albeit one that has managed to exercise supreme self-control for the vast majority of his life. His consensual sex life with his wife and their shared fantasy offering release and catharticism for his urges.

In the lead up to the family news and story time, our man wrestles with a few dilemnas. His murder victim is the subject of a cold case investigation and his son has unwittingly set in motion a chain of events which may preface an unwelcome knock at the door.

Disturbing, yet enjoyable. I wonder what it says about a reader who can enjoy a book like this.

4.5 from 5

Read - June, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 218
Source - review copy from one of the author's assistants
Format - Kindle read on laptop

Tuesday 23 June 2020



‘Probably the best cop novel ever written’ Lee Child

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Cartel – winner of the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for Best Thriller of the Year – comes The Force, a cinematic epic as explosive, powerful, and unforgettable as The Wire.

Everyone can be bought. At the right price…

Detective sergeant Denny Malone leads an elite unit to fight gangs, drugs and guns in New York. For eighteen years he’s been on the front lines, doing whatever it takes to survive in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean.

What only a few know is that Denny Malone himself is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash. Now he’s caught in a trap and being squeezed by the FBI, and he must walk a thin line of betrayal, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all.

Don Winslow’s latest novel is a haunting story of greed and violence, inequality and race, and a searing portrait of a city on the edge of an abyss. Full of shocking twists, this is a morally complex and riveting dissection of the controversial issues confronting society today.

‘There won’t be a better cop novel this year than The Force by Don Winslow. Not next year, or the year after that, either’ Linwood Barclay

13 hours and 26 minutes of my life I'll never get back. Only joking.

It's been a few years since I read anything by Don Winslow, despite seeming to accumulate his latest books whenever they get released. Far too long really and a mistake I won't make again going forward.

The Force is pretty special ........ New York cops, an elite team let by a man with a massive ego and balls that he probably carts around in a wheelbarrow - Denny Malone. Malone and his crew are tough and charged with keeping the streets safe and they're dirty.

Complex, layered, and one which left this reader conflicted.

Lots of drugs, aggressive policing, independence, cop on skell action, CIs, mean streets, targets, pressure from above, rivalries, criminal gangs, race, family, loyalty, heritage, infidelity, team, friendships, dirt, corruption, suspicion, take-downs, murder, entrapment, conflict, dilemna, betrayal, separation, politics, neighbourhood, investigation and a zillion other things besides.

Not a lot of black and white, loads of grey on display, with plenty of compromises and accommodations and ambiguity. Malone is interesting as a character, but he's not particularly likable. He gets bad guys off the streets, but he fills his pockets at the same time. He inspires loyalty and his guys would run through brick walls for him. He's the alpha male in the pack with an ego to boot. He treats his wife appallingly, but professes to love her. He has enemies within and outside of the force and when his nuts are caught in a vice. He has a choice.... hobson's choice maybe.

One to read again in print at some point in the future. This audible version had a fantastic narration by Dion Graham. There's a real intensity and passion to his narration that puts you in the head of Malone and which drives the book forward.

As well as an examination of one man's choices and conflicts and weaknesses. There's also a wider look at how a police force operates within a community, how it serves those people and sometimes fails them.  How there's a real us and them mentality within the force and that the badge and motto to protect and serve, only goes so far and can be subverted to self interest - protect the force and close ranks. Similarly the City Hall powers operate in a bubble, concerned with appearances and presentation. Image more important than justice, fairness or truth.

I'm in slight disagreement with Lee Child and Linwood Barclay over whether this is the best cop novel ever. I think I'd go with Ellroy's LA Confidential ahead of this one. It's close though.

4.5 from 5

Read - (listened to) May, 2020
Published - 2017
Page count - 496 (13 hrs 26 mins)
Source - purchased copy
Format - Audible

Monday 22 June 2020



The Tyler Garrett Saga Continues…

Spokane Police Officer Tyler Garrett is a man of many different images. To the public, he is a once-maligned and now redeemed cop, the victim of public prejudice and city politics. To the Chief of Police and the Mayor, he is a good cop, falsely accused and thankfully back to work. To his wife, a man she no longer knows. And to those who know his secret, he is the most terrible thing any police officer can be—a traitor to his badge.

Clear of the controversy that surrounded him less than two years ago, Garrett is moving on and getting his life back in order. Meanwhile, Detective Wardell Clint remains on the hunt for any evidence against him that proves what Clint already knows—that Tyler Garrett is dirty. Clint has vowed to stop at nothing to bring down Garrett once and for all.

In the midst of Clint’s efforts, a rash of new city hall scandals break out, including a suspicious death, and Tyler Garrett inserts himself into the investigation. But he isn’t the only one. No one seems immune to being drawn into the web of dirty politics. Officer Gary Stone, assigned as a liaison to city hall, finds himself thrown into the midst of this maelstrom, struggling as his loyalties and ethics are challenged. The mayor, the chief, councilmembers, police captains, and news reporters all square off, each with their own agenda.

Before it ends, everyone will learn that it’s never the crime that causes downfall, but the following cover-up.

The follow on from the fantastic Charlie 316 and one I enjoyed nearly as much as its predecessor.

The events of Never the Crime still take place in Spokane, Washington and the cast of characters is similar to the previous book, with some new players introduced into the drama and some minor characters given more of a voice. My favourite, the incorruptible Wardell Clint, doesn't feature quite as much in the early stages of the book, but comes to the fore later on.

Similar in theme to the previous book...... dirty doings at City Hall, inappropriate behaviour, media outings, the court of public opinion, corruption, under the table payments, a teenage suicide, a hush hush investigation, a fake friendship, murder, press leaks, a female cop in command and trying to prove her worth, a patrol cop under pressure, inter agency cooperations, mental health issues, interactions in the community, complaints and career jeopardy, an ambitious politician, a slippery old foe - the mayor, the police chief and Tyler Garrett - the main player in the last book and an ongoing thorn in Wardell Clint's side.

Another fast read, another page turner and one probably best enjoyed after reading the first, Charlie 316, in my opinion.

Topical in tone with the behaviour of the police hierarchy and politicians exposed and under scrutiny, their motivations and scheming explored and examined from opposing viewpoints. We also see the daily routine of a good guy patrol cop, the decision making, the snap judgements, the frustrations, the balancing act between firm authority and over the line aggression, the fears, the bravery, and the doubts .

A satisfying read and again an over-riding and unresolved story arc still very much in play. Roll on book 3.

4.5 from 5

Charlie 316 the first in the series was enjoyed earlier in the month. Thoughts here.

Colin Conway

Frank Zafiro

Read - June, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 444
Source - review copy received from co-author Frank Zafiro
Format - Kindle read on laptop

Sunday 21 June 2020



Tyler Garrett is a model SWAT officer whose good looks, education and familial status add to that image. The fact that he is a black man in the predominately white Spokane Police Department only adds to the city administration's pride in one of their own. He's often pointed to as an example of the department's best and brightest - a young man on the rise.

One summer evening, Garrett stops a reckless driver. It's something he's done a thousand times except this time, gunfire erupts from a nearby house. As Garrett dives for cover, the driver turns and begins shooting as well. Garrett survives the ambush by killing the driver and chasing off the additional shooter.

The legend of Tyler Garrett grows and the community rallies around him.

Until the initial investigation determines the driver was shot in the back and his gun has somehow disappeared. Suddenly, the police department, city hall, and even the national news media are wondering just what happened that night? In a nation where police brutality dominates the headlines, Garrett's case has suddenly become a flashpoint.

Now, Officer Tyler Garrett must take matters into his own hands. Time is quickly running out for him to find the second shooter and to clear his name.

Gripping, complex, layered, and an absolute belter from Colin Conway and Frank Zafiro.

Murder, police, politics, conspiracy, control, career, ambition, power, media, manipulation, and a dozen more different threads running through this fantastic page turner.

From first page to last I was hooked and totally invested in this one. Plot, pace, character, setting and a resolution which while satisfying, leaves things unresolved as far as a few of the main players here are concerned.

Without wanting to go into too much detail, or in fact any regarding the plot, just when you think you know what's going on, the book takes off in a different direction causing you to reassess your previous assumptions.

I really enjoyed the dynamics at play, the politicking, the panicking, the eye of the storm, the efforts to control the story, the battle of wills between the mayor's office and his adviser with the police and the media; the in-fighting and suspicions between the mayor and his PR guy, and the mayor's assistant, the distrust and paranoia, the chess game with the department trying to think three or four steps ahead; the leaks, the unofficial briefings, the rivalries within the police, the inter-force cooperation, the scapegoating of the officer involved, the investigation, the publicity and the witch hunt and the accommodations, the compromises, the racial element of the case, the Dudley Do-right detective with the chip on both shoulders, the reporting, the assumptions, the pacts and the search for the truth.

I think this will be one of my top reads of the year without a doubt.

5 from 5

Never the Crime is the follow on to Charlie 316 and has just been published. I would say I'm really looking forward to it, but in truth. I've just finished reading it.

Frank Zafiro
Colin Conway

Read - June, 2020
Published - 2019
Page count - 400
Source - review copy received from one of the co-authors, Frank Zafiro
Format - Kindle read on laptop

Friday 19 June 2020



An arrest and conviction for trafficking ecstasy can be comical. The character-strewn path of corrections that followed is entertaining and enlightening. This is the story of a "book-learnin' smart-ass" who endured a three-year minimum-security tour of the slammer and lived to make fun of it. And who emerged a humbled and better man.

Lookout For Shorts is a departure from hardcore prison fare; it is gonzo and humorous in tone. Picture the worst cruise ship imaginable, full of guests from The Jerry Springer Show, that never reaches a port. Tales abound of inmate absurdities and administrative follies juxtaposed against the coarse subculture of lockup. Along the way, Phillips unflinchingly describes his drug-dealing days, a rehab stint, and his misspent youth.

We've all heard of Orange Is the New Black, the fish-out-of-water story that provided a glimpse into a fascinating micro-society. Lookout is similar but zips several steps further into humor. The main hazard the author faced was his head exploding from being immersed in a sea of weirdos and misfits. The nuttiness nearly made him forget about the ever-present threat of losing teeth and suffering fresh scars.

Culled from copious journals, most of this tale is prison-based. The story begins with the arrest of a Generation X slacker, for dealing drugs at a jam band concert. Description of an upscale rehab stint and living in an AA-based halfway house follow, then the incarceration hammer comes down. 

Recounting lockup, Phillips focuses on how the other other half lives and the light-hearted cynicism he found from being there. "If you ever wanted to be the smartest person in the room, just go to state prison for a while. You'll probably be that guy the whole time," quips the author, in Sedaris-like style. Still, he ends up deeply empathizing with his downtrodden fellow felons along the way.

Phillips described his odyssey thusly: "I spent most of my life lying around, killing time. This led me to the slammer, where I lied around, killing time. I ended up in prison because of a lack of dedication, patience, and my failure to postpone gratification. So after my release, I wrote a book, which requires enormous amounts of dedication, patience, and postponing gratification. It's a start!"

A prison memoir and one man's tale of his time incarcerated after a conviction for dealing drugs.  I kind of expected it to be a bit funnier than what it was, but obviously humour is subjective. That said it was a light read and not filled with doom, gloom and acres of grim.

I think what I liked was the author's acceptance of his arrest and imprisonment which almost came as a relief to him. There's no denial or fake protestations of innocence. He's a bit annoyed at the event which caused his arrest, a "friend" informing on him to the cops, but overall he's philosophical. It's the culmination of a life thus far lived fecklessly and littered with poor choices, driven by a lack of ambition or focus. He almost welcomes it as a chance to reset and start again.

Phillips recounts rehab before his sentence is passed, followed by his three years or so in the system and it's not overly exciting. By that I'm not dissing the writing, I mean his time in prison is boring...... no lock downs, riots, shankings, race wars or years locked up in solitary to recount. I suppose boring is harsh. When your freedom is taken away from you, your world shrinks and the mundane and trivial assume greater significance.

It's more little dramas ... bunk moves, different cell mates, characters - both annoying and genial, fleeting friendships, relationships with prison staff, nearly fights and disputes, resolutions, annoyances, the bartering system, moves to different facilities, the efforts to avoid a medium risk prison, rules infractions and consequences, power struggles over TV, race, hygiene, education, food and more mundane matters. There's also some reflecting on his relationship with his family and his father in particular.

Overall I liked it and wish the author well in his future years. For the author's sake, hopefully there won't be a sequel.

3 from 5

Read - June, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 290
Source - Book Sirens review site
Format - ePUB read on laptop



A man in hiding.

A gang of outlaws searching for retribution.

This is no time for cupcakes.

Today is Brody Steele’s first day as the new owner of The Red Herring, Pleasant Valley, Maine’s only mystery bookstore. The cute shop has a loyal customer base as well as an ornery cat.

Unfortunately, Brody doesn’t know the first thing about running a legitimate business, he doesn’t want to be in the small town, and he hates cats. On top of all that, he hasn’t read a book since high school.

When a cute woman walks into the store, he thinks his bad luck is about to change. But as she starts asking about the previous owner’s whereabouts, his safe new existence begins to unravel.

For Brody Steele is a man with a secret he must protect at all costs. The U.S. Government has invested a lot to keep it hidden, and his enemies will stop at nothing to expose him.

Does happiness or death await Brody in this charming seaside community?

If you like stories with a solid male lead, wonderfully odd characters, and a troublesome cat, then this book is for you.

The first of three in Colin Conway's new cozy series and one I really enjoyed.

A back drop of a bookshop and witness protection, only Brody's new life as a bookseller is compromised before it's begun. Played by his handler, there's a lot more going on in the small town than problems with an unruly cat, causing mayhem with his book shelves.

I liked the main character, Brody. In his former life he was a killer in a biker gang, before a threat to his mother, forced him to put blood family, before his biker family. Here he is trying to adjust to his new environment and think and act like a normal guy and lose the mindset of a killer. Not an easy task when a cop with knowledge of his true identity drops around to push a few buttons.

Along the way Brody connects with an attractive local cashier, romance might be in the air, falls foul of a mobster laundering money through an Italian restaurant, gets into a punch up with his heavy, fights off his wife's attentions, counsels his teenage daughter, has his identity shredded by an author and faces questions over the sudden disappearance of the former owner of the bookshop he's just taken over. His old biker chums dropping into town is the last thing he needs.

Busy, humorous, fun, with a decent plot, plenty of action and dialogue, and an interesting cast of characters, with differing motivations and agendas, mostly in opposition to the aims of our main man.

I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading more from this quirky series. Cozy up to Death is followed by Cozy up to Murder and Cozy up to Blood.

Colin Conway is also the author of 509 Crime series and co-author of the Charlie 316 series with Frank Zafiro.

4.5 from 5

Read - June, 2020
Published - 2020
Page count - 268
Source - review copy from author
Format - Kindle laptop read. 

Thursday 18 June 2020



“A dead body is a lousy way to end a first date.”

So begins In the Country of the Blind, a modern noir tale that takes readers into the world of former attorney-turned building superintendent Zach Brandis. When Zach abandoned his promising legal career, it confused everyone, including himself. Now, with no apparent purpose in life, he has time enough on his hands to get into some very hot water.

When Zach takes Cynthia Hull to dinner, murder and a confrontation with the cops are the last things on his mind. But when he walks her home, he finds himself face to face with New York’s finest, who are investigating the suspicious death of the actress’s roommate and friend, Alex Penworth. Maybe it’s because Cynthia is beautiful and vulnerable, or maybe it’s just because the cops rub him the wrong way, but Zach steps in to shield her from their persistent questions. In the days following, Zach finds himself increasingly tied up in knots over the case, and what starts as simple curiosity may end up putting the former attorney in grave danger.

Captivated by the puzzle of Alex’s death, Zach begins to play with the pieces. When Cynthia’s apartment is ransacked shortly the murder, it becomes clear that Alex was hiding something, something of value to someone. Looking into Alex’s mysterious activities in the weeks before his death, more questions begin to emerge: Why was Alex fired from his bartending job? Why is a beautiful undercover narc hanging around the bar where Alex worked, and trying to keep Zach away? Why do the cops seem uninterested in the inconsistencies in Alex’s autopsy report? As Zach puts the pieces in place, a picture of the victim begins to emerge: Alex, another lost soul, plagued by his past and the demons of the cult he escaped — a man who, like Zach, abandoned a promising career to struggle as a going-nowhere actor/bartender. Driven by his feeling of kinship with the victim, can Zach discover what ultimately led to Alex’s death, and still get himself out of harm’s way before it’s too late?

A dark and witty tale in the vein of John Sandford and Lawrence Block, In the Country of the Blind is a true page-turner, suspenseful from beginning to end. This character-driven thriller will have readers on the edge of their seats, driven, like Zach, to uncover the secrets behind the gruesome murder.

A lockdown book and my first ever You Tube reading/listening experience, as the author uploaded a couple of chapters a week of him reading his way through the book. I quite liked the experience and it was a decent accompaniment to some otherwise mundane desk duty. There's a certain intimacy about the author himself reading his book to you.

The story involves a sudden death and our main character Zach, immersing himself in to the investigation of the demise of a total stranger, Alex. Once I kind of bought into why he would do that, I was interested enough to stick with the book.

There's a question over whether the death of Zach's first date's flatmate is suicide or murder and his estranged family seem willing to let it go as a suicide. It's obviously not and our man with too much time on his hands starts digging into the victim's life.

Family rift, a cult, a job loss, upset, anxiety, criminal employers, friction with the police, a new relationship going nowhere, Zach's history, Alex's story, a different police investigation, a beating, stepping on police toes, a feisty female cop and some sparks, a few more twists and turns and a resolution.

I enjoyed the story but wasn't especially blown away by it, if I'm honest. I think the motivation for Zach's involvement and therefore the whole premise for the book didn't really convince me. To be fair the author worked hard to provide reasons for such a course of action, but I think I just put myself in the main character's shoes and thought.... nah, CBA with that.

Apart from that everything else was enjoyable. I quite liked the main character. He's intelligent, principled and slightly annoying. The support characters were convincing. There's a lot of pain and grief which surfaces during the book and Zach's investigation manages to reopen old wounds for those who maybe haven't quite put the past behind them. There's also a manipulative, controlling bad guy who I managed to take an instant dislike to. I guess the author did his job in that respect.

There's a bit of action to raise the tempo and pace a bit, both in the form of an attack on Zach and between the sheets with his new maybe girlfriend. In the end there's a final twist which I hadn't anticipated but which I was happy for.

Overall more to like than dislike, though I'm undecided as to whether I would want to read more about the character, always assuming there's a second book.

3 from 5

Read - May, 2020
Published - 2013
Page count - 316 (11 hrs 57 mins)
Source - You Tube author episodic uploads
Format - You Tube listened to on laptop

Tuesday 16 June 2020



A thriller loaded with international intrigue from mystery master Lawrence Block.

Struggling folksinger Ellen Cameron can't believe her luck. Not only is the State Department sponsoring her trip to West Berlin, but her agent has arranged for her to tour Ireland. It's just the break she needs. And better yet, she's meeting the friendliest and most interesting people on her trip, from a kind priest on the plane to a handsome American studying abroad.

But things - and people - aren't always what they seem, and her European adventure could turn out to be the type of international affair she never imagined.

Author's note: This book was originally published by Lancer Books under the pen name Anne Campbell Clark, a pseudonym I never used before or since. I'd been engaged to write a romantic espionage novel in the tradition of Helen MacInnes, and chose Ireland as a setting, being familiar with the countryside and with the folk music. I had a good time writing it, but, of course, that's no guarantee you'll have a good time listening to it. But I certainly hope you do.

A bit of romantic suspense from Mr Block this time and if I'm totally honest not one of my favourites from him. It was enjoyed up to a point, but I think the Irish accent adopted by the narrator when required sounded so palpably fake I spent more time inwardly wincing than paying real attention to what she was narrating. I suppose I'm so used to hearing the genuine article from relatives that it just kind of annoyed me out of all proportion. It's a shame because when she wasn't Irish I really liked her tone and I've enjoyed listening to PJ Morgan's narrations before. This one might have been better experienced in print as opposed to via Audible.

Narration quibbles aside, it's a bit different from other Lawrence Block books I've read. Romantic suspense fiction..... young American folk singer goes on tour to Ireland and Berlin via London and get caught up in some spy shenanigans, a few twists, a mugging, a plane journey, a bit of romance, some drink and song, a car chase or two, a shoot-out at a cave, a priest, and a young man who might become a significant other.

An okay story. I liked the backdrop of the old Emerald Isle and the history related by Block through song and conversation. It was interesting having characters who were alive and participated in events around the 1916 Easter Rising and the subsequent Civil War.

There's a naivety and likability to the main character though I couldn't claim total investment in her character. When she was in danger I wasn't fretting too much and if she had died, I don't suppose it would have bumped me out of the book. It might have made things slightly more interesting in fact.

Glad I've experienced it, at least I won't die wondering, but I'm afraid to say it's not one of his better books in my opinion. I do actually have a Kindle copy which I bought a year or four ago and forgot about. Maybe I'll leave it a year and see how it feels then.

3 from 5

Read - (listened to) May, 2020
Published - 1967
Page count - 236 (5 hrs 38 mins)
Source - Audible download code received from the author's assistant
Format - Audible

Monday 15 June 2020



Roseanna is the first book in the hugely acclaimed Martin Beck series: the novels that shaped the future of Scandinavian crime fiction and influenced writers from Stieg Larrson to Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell to Lars Kepplar.

On a July afternoon, the body of a young woman is dredged from a lake in southern Sweden. Raped and murdered, she is naked, unmarked and carries no sign of her identity. As Detective Inspector Martin Beck slowly begins to make the connections that will bring her identity to light, he uncovers a series of crimes further reaching than he ever would have imagined and a killer far more dangerous. How much will Beck be prepared to risk to catch him?

A re-visit to a book I read many years ago and one I think I enjoyed more second time around.

We have a cradle to grave investigation into the murder of an unidentified woman. I think what I liked about it was the depiction of the investigation where everything unfolds at a pedestrian pace as opposed to the turbo charged supercop energised and manically clearing the case with the suspect banged up before tea time.

Identification takes time, as does building a picture of the victim's life and actions. Eliminations, dead ends, frustration, cross-Atlantic cooperation, fruitless interviews all have a place. A line of investigation offers promise, another interview and a suspect emerges. Background checks, history, gut feeling and instinct, surveillance, teamwork, patience, inertia, inaction, a honey trap and finally some impetus and a few scary moments along the way before the inevitable conclusion.

I really enjoyed it. I liked the portrayal of the lead detective, Martin Beck, his interactions with his colleagues. There's a melancholy about him. He's devoted to his job, he's serious and intelligent and you sense a chasm between himself and his family. There's no real intimacy between him and his wife, despite her cheery efforts and desperation. He can't be bothered to pretend otherwise. Sadly, he seems to have no real affection or interest in his children. Maybe for some detectives marriage and parenthood is best avoided.

I liked the blend of the personal and professional and how one demanded more attention from the main character. I liked the realistic portrayal of a murder enquiry. I liked the diligence and persistence applied, when to give up would have been an easier option.

One down, nine to go. (Eight now as I've subsequently read the second in the series.)

Maj Sjöwall
Per Wahloo

4 from 5

Read - (listened to) June, 2020
Published - 1965
Page count - 288 (6 hrs 28 mins)
Source - Audible narration on You Tube
Format - a laptop listen

I think most if not all of the series is narrated on You Tube. I did enjoy the deadpan style of the storyteller.