Thursday 28 January 2021

Witness by Simon Maltman


 Pastor Tom is not your average priest. With problems at home and at work, issues with alcohol and a background with links to the paramilitary it's fair to say this Irishman's life is in a mess. Making connections with his past probably isn't his best idea (and trust me, he seems to have plenty of bad ideas) and 'Witness' charts his downward spiral as he desperately tries to do the right thing to save those that mean most to him.

 I'll be honest, I had some problems with this book - mainly with the character of Pastor Tom. He is not a particularly likeable chap and I really did not engage with him. Making bad decision after bad decision I felt like reaching into the pages and giving him a good shake. I didn't overly care about him and I feel I like to have some resonance with lead characters.

 On the plus side the supporting cast were a lot more fun even if they did often come across as a bit stereotypical Irish at times.

 As a general rule I enjoy Simon Maltman's books but Witness really didn't do much for me.

 Plenty of action but a lead I didn't care for so 2.5/5* (not great but not terrible)

Monday 25 January 2021

Beneath The Crimson Willow by Martin Niewood - an excerpt

On Friday I was asked if I would like to post an excerpt from Beneath The Crimson Willow by Martin Niewood, so I had a peep at the description on Amazon and, I must say, it certainly piqued my interest... 

Life on the run has been hard for Violet Noone and her family, and it's about to get harder. While pursued by the authorities and the Marked, a secret organization focused on revenge, Violet is approached by a mysterious stranger. She is blackmailed into solving the brutal murder of Georgina Givens, a victim of the poisonous compound, Unelse. The investigation reveals that religious, political, and corporate forces might be at play, although Violet can't rule out the possibility that Georgina's husband, Leonard, may be the murderer.
Georgina and her husband were no strangers to criminal schemes and Violet quickly uncovers the connection between the theft of valuable intelligence and Georgina's death. Pursuing each lead, Violet slips deeper into a world of conspiracy and lies and learns she can trust no one. Beset by their own demons, her family is unable to support her, forcing a seventeen-year-old Violet to accept unwelcomed truths about herself and face challenges well beyond her years.
This time, Violet is on her own. With her enemies closing in, she must unravel the mystery, retrieve the intelligence, and solve the murder. But can she do it before the Marked find her?

 So here for you now is said except;

An excerpt from Beneath the Crimson Willow

by Martin Niewood

Although outwardly ordinary, this house was filled with secrets. The mounted security cameras around the property were concealed in such a way that casual observers might not spot them. A thick layer of decaying leaves covered the ground, and the surrounding trees isolated the home from others in the neighborhood. Stepping over a metal hose, as we made our way to the back of the property, I followed Leonard’s movements carefully, recalling his previous disclosures about various snares. I spotted a small but explosive anti-personnel mine intended to deter intruders as we passed through the gate. 

Reaching the back door, Leonard swiped his band. Generally, a single swipe would allow access to one’s private residence, but Leonard and Georgina had installed a secondary security system involving an alpha-numeric code and an electronic keypad. Leonard tapped the buttons and the door clicked open. Turning the knob, we stood in a large but unimpressive kitchen. From our vantage point we could see most of the first floor. The kitchen led into a dining room and a small entry hall for the front door. Immediately to the left of the hall, was the living room and behind it a single bedroom and bath. Leonard and Georgina were either not good at their chosen profession or they hid their money elsewhere. One thing was certain, their ill-gotten gains were not spent on their home.

From the discolored ceiling, cracked windowpanes, and splintered floorboards, the home appeared to have suffered from years of neglect. Looking around at the kitchen sink overflowing with dirty dishes and unwashed laundry strewn around the floor, I suspected that after Georgina’s death, things went from bad to worse. The place was an absolute disaster. 

It was apparent that something had occurred in the small entry hall. Furniture had been knocked over, and broken picture frames, umbrellas, and various pairs of shoes and boots cluttered the floor. Glass from a broken mirror, coated with dried blood, crunched underfoot. There was a smear of blood on the baseboard and a splatter of some dark red secretion across the ceiling. The black, tarry slime that had poured out of Georgina’s eyes and ears had seeped into the floor and lay trapped between the uneven boards. It was obvious that Leonard had tried to wipe some of it up, but the slime had hardened and was now embedded in the grain of the wood.

Leonard caught me staring at the hallway. “Difficult to look at, isn’t it? My first thought was to clean it up and act as though none of this had ever happened, but I was too depressed to do anything.” Leonard stared down at the floor. “I couldn’t just leave her there, so I buried her body out back in the woods. It was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do.”

I heard the sadness in his voice whenever he mentioned Georgina. “I’m assuming this is where you found her? In the hall?” I walked over to the spot with the most dried blood and slime. “When you found her, how was she positioned?”

Leonard cleared his throat. “What does that have to do with anything?”

I leaned down to the ground, imagining the events before her murder. “I’m trying to get a sense of what happened. Can you walk me through everything you know about the night she was killed?”

Rubbing his chin, Leonard replied, “I had gone out for about an hour. I had a meeting downtown.”

“Who did you meet with?”

“That’s none of your business, and it has nothing to do with this.” Leonard stormed off, presumably annoyed by my question, but then returned as though nothing had happened. “I don’t get it. There’s no sign of forced entry and except for here, there’s no blood anywhere else in the house.” He stood there looking through the front window, scratching his thinning hair. “You see, one of the traps was set off, a nasty one at that. The intruder would have been injured and bled profusely, but there’s almost no blood inside the house. If the murderer was that injured, how did he clean up his blood before I’d returned? That would have required a team, but it’s clear that there was only one person because, as you can see, there was an intense struggle before she ingested the poison. I believe that multiple assailants would have tied her up and controlled her with ease.”

Pressing my fingers against my lips, “Okay, so we’re dealing with a single person that is most likely injured. They somehow get into the house without forcing the lock, then creep up behind Georgina when she is making her way to the kitchen. Why then? Is it safe to assume that she might have heard… Wait, what about the Caldwell cameras outside? They’re pretty high end, military grade—didn’t they catch anything?”

Leonard rolled his eyes. “Cameras were wiped clean. The only evidence I found was blood on one of the spike traps outside. I took a sample and sent it to one of my connections in the Foxglove police department to see if anything came up on their database. So far, there aren’t any matches to any known offenders.”

“You wouldn’t happen to keep any first aid stuff in your kitchen, would you?” 

“Yeah, why?” 

“I might be completely off, but what if Georgina knew her murderer? You said that neither the front nor back door was forced.”

“That’s right.”

“And the gate?”

“Locked,” Leonard responded.

“And all of the windows?”

“Nailed shut, so what?” 

“So, we know that the intruder set off a trap outside. Georgina surely would have heard the commotion and seen the intruder on your security cameras. Suppose she recognizes him or her and rushes to the front door to help them. Georgina brings the injured intruder into the hall and heads for the kitchen to get the first aid kit. As she turns toward the kitchen, the killer strikes, forcing the poison into Georgina’s mouth. She resists, causing the two to struggle, knocking down furniture, breaking items in the hall. After a few moments, the poison overtakes Georgina, who convulses in pain and dies, lying in a fetal position on her side.”

As I spoke, Leonard stared silently at the stained floor. 

So, what do you think? I'll certainly be reading this. Will you? 

There's Only One Danny Garvey by David F Ross


 Danny Garvey could have had it all. At 16 he left home to make his name as the football hero he was expected to become. His skills and footballing nous had the Premier League clubs after his signature but it never quite went his way and now he's back in his home village of Barshore coaching the local team. And to say they are bad is an understatement. 

 Don't be fooled or put off though by thinking this is just about football, there's a lot more to the story than that. 

 Thirteen years ago 'something' happened in Danny's life that left a dark cloud hanging over him. Barshore is filled with 'characters', which gives the story a good amount of humour and this balances out well with the darker flashbacks to 'the event'. 

 As for the team, will Danny get them playing well, can they avoid getting relegated even further down the league? Well, you'll just have to read this gem to find out. 

 The only thing people may have a problem with is that with Barshore village being in Scotland there are a few Scottish terms that aren't necessarily understandable to non-native readers but it's worth persevering with (I myself didn't have an issue with it, I read a lot of Scottish set fiction) 


 Thanks as always to Anne Cater for inviting me onto this tour and please, if you can, try and find time to look at the other reviews by the bloggers below

Friday 22 January 2021

Love Me Tender by Lorraine Mace


Love Me Tender is the fifth in the series featuring D I Paulo Stirling and, as usual Lorraine Mace doesn't make things easy for him. 

 Still grieving the death of a colleague in the last book Stirling is not really on top of his game. His replacement and Stirling don't get on so tensions run high even before a dead body, a disappearance and a drugs investigation there is plenty going on but the story does not get muddled. As always the characters are strong and although a lot of other crime fiction has passed through the BlogCave's door since I read Mace's previous novel in the series it felt like being back on comfortable ground from the off. 

 As gritty as I would expect from this author, the series goes from strength to strength 


One Chance by Terroll Lewis


Well, this was a tough read but at the same time a rewarding one too. Lewis was, as you can guess from the title, pretty deep in London's Gangland culture but after time in prison accused of murder (not guilty) he decided to turn his life around and this is his story. 

The gang sections are not pleasant reads, but they aren't supposed to be. What they do achieve is a kind of understanding of why so many young men follow that lifestyle whether through choice or chance. 

After his time inside Terroll sets up the Brixton Street Gym and The Block Workout Foundation, helping people from all walks of life improve their fitness and well being. The difference between the two aspects of Terroll Lewis makes for an interesting read although not always a comfortable one. It's worth a read though as this young man's inspirational journey of hope is a story that needs to be heard. 

Beyond Broadhall (The 86 Fix #2) by Keith A Pearson

 Beyond Broadhall is the sequel to the time travel novel The 86 Fix which I reviewed here earlier in the week. It is impossible for me to pass on my thoughts without spoilers for book 1 so if you haven't read that or are part way through it you might be better off coming back to this review later on. 

Right, here we go... 

 As The 86 Fix finished we were left on a bit of a cliffhanger. Craig Pelling had travelled back to 1986, spent a weekend their righting personal wrongs and decided, just as the clock to his return was ticking down that he wanted to stay in 1986. For this to happen he sought to run as far from his Commodore 64 (the time travel maguffin) as he could but his plan failed and he returned to the present where his problems were only just beginning. Craig wakes up in hospital to find he died at midnight on that Sunday night in 86 when he was sent back to the here and now. By all accounts he doesn't exist yet here he is.

 Beyond Broadhall doesn't have as much time travel as 86 Fix but that is mainly down to the fact that it covers Craig finding out the after effects of his actions in 86 and, trust me, they are not all good.

 This is the perfect companion novel to 86 Fix as the story flows seamlessly from one book to the next, to the extent that it feels more like one book in two parts rather than two separate books.

 By the end Craig kinda knows that what he changed in the past probably wasn't the best thing to have done and gets the chance to finally get things right. He does this by realising it's not the past he needs to change, it's Craig himself. 

 I really enjoyed The 86 Fix and Beyond Broadhall has extended that enjoyment. The best compliment you can give a book is that you miss it when the story is ended and you know your time in that world, with those characters is over. This book certainly achieved that.

Highly Recommended 


Wednesday 20 January 2021

The '86 Fix by Keith A Pearson


 Just imagine if you could go back in time and change the one thing you did that you feel gave you the life you now have. Would you take it?

 Craig Pelling is stuck in a loveless marriage, in a job he hates and is being forced out of that very same job by his former school bully (who hasn't changed). He is also very much out of shape, short on cash and rapidly reaching the end of his 40s. And he knows exactly where things went wrong for him. 

 One weekend back in 1986 a chance meeting with the then love of his life leads to him sorting out her young brother's computer problem and as a 'thank you' she takes him to her room for some 'fun'. The experience is a disaster and Craig is in a slump which leads to him not doing as well as he expected in his exams, to his poor career options, meeting and marrying Megan - you get the drift. 

 Due to an (as I thought) rather clever chance Craig gets to go back to that weekend 30 years ago and, with the lessons of 30 years of living, but in teenage Craig's body he sets out to guide his future down a better path. But can you predict the future even if you fix the past in your favour? 

 I stumbled across this book by chance as the author was a contestant on Radio 2's Popmaster last week. He said he was an author of "Low fantasy and Time Travel Fiction" so I looked him up on Amazon and decided to have a look at The '86 Fix as I was a teenager around that time too and thought the era would be good for me (and it certainly brought back memories - Um Bongo, Quatro, Texan bars, West End Girls, Commodore 64s). I'm certainly glad I did as this book has been an absolute joy, keeping me going for 'just one more chapter' several nights in a row. And then to find 'THAT' ending - well, it caught me out. I didn't know there was a second book but I bought it straight away and tore into it the same day. But more on that later in the week. 

 Before last week I had never heard of Keith A Pearson but going on this book and it's sequel alone he will be high up on my Must Read Authors List (MuRAL) 

 A highly recommended 4.9/5*

Monday 18 January 2021

Red Corona by Tim Glister


'British secret agent Richard Knox has been hung out to dry by someone in MI5, 

and while his former boss lies in a coma, he needs to find the traitor in their 


In Russia, top scientist Irina Valera discovers the secret to sending messages 

through space, a technology that could change the world. But a terrible 

accident forces her to flee.

Desperate for a way back into MI5, Knox makes an unlikely ally in Abey 

Bennett, one of the CIA’s only female recruits, realizing that Valera’s 

technology in the hands of the KGB could be catastrophic for the West.

As the age of global surveillance dawns, all three have something to prove.

Set against a backdrop of true events during the Cold War, RED CORONA is a 

smart, fast-paced spy thriller from a talented new crime writer.'

 This debut thriller from Tim Glister is one of my stand-outs from 2020. Felt, to me, like a old time Bond type story but with a more modern view point (ie the female characters aren't just there to look nice).

 Richard Knox has to find the Mole in MI5 after he can give no alibi for where he was the night his boss ended up in a coma and his time is running out. 

 Where the story really picked up for me though was with the Irena Valera character. She doesn't come across as a typical Russian thriller type. She has discovered a technology that could raise Russia's standing in both the Cold War and the Space War but is conflicted about how it will be used - until the decision is made for her and she has to flee. 

 The author does a good job with his location settings bringing both Russia and 60s London to life and the short punchy chapters make for a fairly quick and exciting read

4.1/5* Recommended 


Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me onto this Blogtour and to Point Blank for providing the copy. Please try and have a look at the other posts by the bloggers on this tour (below) 

Sunday 17 January 2021

The Dark Room by Sam Blake


Welcome to the Blogtour for Sam Blake's latest thriller, The Dark Room. 

Rachel and Caroline are women from two different walks of life brought together when they arrive in West Cork, Ireland and the country house, Hare's Landing. Rachel is a location scout from London while Caroline is a Crime Reporter from New York. They are both drawn to Hare's Landing for different reasons but as they start to look into their respective cases (one in the here and now, one a 30 year old mystery) it soon becomes apparent there are links between the two. 

This is mystery/crime fiction with a supernatural element so ticked my boxes straight away and the three main characters were individual enough,   Caroline and Rachel being from different continents and walks of life, to keep the story fresh throughout. 

The third main character? That wood be the house itself, Hare's Landing. Right from the off you get the feeling of something being 'off' with it and it doesn't disappoint, feeling almost alive with Dickensian vibes throughout. 

As you would expect, things ramp up quickly towards the end so don't expect an early night if you are reading in bed. 

This is, I believe, my first Sam Blake novel but it certainly won't be my last. 

4/5* recommended 

Thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me onto the tour (and sorry it's a day late). 

Please have a look at the blog posts by the other readers on this tour (below)