Tuesday, 3 October 2023

The Treatment by Sarah Moorhead #TheTreatment @semoorhead @canelo_co #BookReview


The future of law enforcement has arrived, courtesy of private health contractor Janus Justice. Their ground-breaking ‘Offender Treatment Programme’ has been hailed as the most effective way of tackling crime yet.

As offenders move through the four-tiered system, their needs are dealt with, each tier more drastic in its methods:

Tier One: Low-risk crimes. Physical therapy encouraged

Tier Two: Trauma and addiction. Emotional and psychological reasons for offending are examined

Tier Three: Aversion therapy & moral punishment

Tier Four: Siberia, where all hope is lost

But Grace Gunnarsson, one of Janus’ most highly regarded rehabilitation psychiatrists, has uncovered a terrible flaw in the system, one that is allowing people to get away with murder...

The Treatment by Sarah Moorehead was published on 31 August 2023 by Canelo. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

This review was originally published in the September edition of the National Federation of Occupational Pensioners magazine.

This speculative fiction novel is set in a future that really does seem possible. The current social issues facing the entire world form the basis of a story that is bold and quite terrifying. The author cleverly incorporates issues around climate change, the increasing advances in technology, and the criminal justice system in this novel that will shivers down the spine. 

Janus Justice are a private health contractor. They are carrying out an offender treatment plan that has divided the public. With many people pleased that offenders are facing severe treatments, there are also those who protest about the infringement of human rights. 

Tier One: Low-risk crimes. Physical therapy encouraged
Tier Two: Trauma and addiction. Emotional and psychological reasons for offending are examined
Tier Three: Aversion therapy & moral punishment
Tier Four: Siberia, where all hope is lost

Grace Gunnarsson is an old-school psychologist. She is filled with empathy for her patients, she is also the golden girl of Janus and is married to a reporter whose main aim is to ensure that the public are aware of what happens in the clinics.

Split between loyalty to her husband and the desire to ensure that patients get the most appropriate treatment, Grace is also hiding secrets from her past life. When she realises that the the Janus system has flaws, and people are getting away with murder, she puts herself into terrible danger to find out the truth. 

Sarah Moorhead tackles social issues whilst producing a high-octane, thrilling story filled with characters that the reader will love or hate. It’s a world that seems far away, yet it is probably nearer to our world than we realise. 

An exceptionally good read. Emotional, chilling and utterly devasting at times, but highly enjoyable too. 

Born in Liverpool, Sarah Moorhead has told stories since childhood and uses writing as bubblegum for her over-active brain – to keep it out of trouble. 
Fascinated by meaning, motivation and mystery, she studied Theology at university. 
Over the last twenty five years, apart from teaching in secondary school, Sarah has attained a black belt in kickboxing, worked as a chaplain, established a Justice and Peace youth group, and written articles for newspapers and magazines about her work in education and religion.

Monday, 2 October 2023

The Time of Cherries by Michael S Hollington BLOG TOUR #TheTimeofCherries #MichaelSHollington @BookGuild @RandomTTours #BookExtract


Burgundy, 1861.

Christine ‘Kiki’ Vellay, the daughter of vineyard workers, is forced to marry an older man in exchange for a piece of land. He abuses her. Seduced by a young naval cadet she plots to run away. When her husband is killed during the attempt, she finds herself wrongly accused of his murder.

Kiki is on the run.

On reaching Paris in disguise, Kiki discovers she is pregnant and takes on various jobs to survive. When her child is stolen from her, she begins a desperate attempt to find him. Her story takes her from imprisonment in the infamous Conciergerie, to a chateau in the Loire, back to Paris under siege – as a spy – during the Franco-Prussian war, culminating in a dramatic conclusion in the final bloody week of the Paris Commune.

A story of resilience in the face of immense hardship, The Time of Cherries is a gripping account of a woman’s instinct and longing for her child.

The Time of Cherries by Michael S Hollington was published on 23 August 2023 by The Book Guild. As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from The Time of Cherries by Michael S Hollington 

My family, the Vellays, have worked this land for generations as labourers. Everyone who lives in the town is in their own way dependent on the grape – from the priest who blesses the wine in church to the butcher and baker who provide us with sustenance. 

The crop is king. Men, women and children divine the sky at sunset and sunrise, gauge the drift of the wind, observe the rise and fall of the barometer, kneel in prayer on Sundays, all in fealty to the grape. A late frost, hailstones, tempest and snow can bring disaster – there, sent by God to test man in his quest for a decent drop to drink.
The land, the domaines, are owned by a handful of proprietors – men who control our lives, pay a man a miserable two and a half francs a day to sweat and toil on God’s own ground. To become a proprietor, you have to be born to it, or marry into it, or be of sufficient fortune to obtain it. Or by whatever means are deemed as necessary. 

One such proprietor was staring at my back. I was convinced of it. I dared not turn around to look at Junius Gerard lest the congregation saw me and shook their collective head. Only last week, he had turned in his saddle and smiled at me with his large brown eyes. Now, those eyes were on me again, on my back. His family were the owners of Domaine de l’Oubliette, an estate on the edge of the town. I had seen him over the years, high up on his horse and as ignorant of me as a cat is of God. 

Until now. 

Father Alberic stood and blessed the wine. I shifted down the pew with the rest of my family, convinced that everybody was looking at me. I knelt, felt myself tense when he placed the wafer on my tongue. The blood of Christ tasted acidic – in Meursault? I looked across at my sister Aliette and wondered again how different we were: she with her fair hair and blue eyes; me with my dark hair, brown eyes and olive skin. 

I followed Maman’s bulk as she clattered back to her pew. She was large, the child within her a surprise, as Alie was supposed to be the last of our generation of Vellays. Papa plonked himself next to me. He was large as well, and flushed. Hair gathered at his Adam’s apple; his collar tight against the flesh of his neck. I could see he was chafing to be away... for his Sunday drink. My brothers sat the other side; the male Vellays tended to stick together. 

My given name is Christine, after the saint whose feast day, the twenty-fourth of July, was the same day as my birthday. As an infant Alie had struggled with my name. ‘Kikine, Kikine,’ she would say. The family had settled on Kiki. 

Soon it was over, except the ignominy of walking up the aisle, of avoiding his stare. At last, I was outside in the warm spring air. I chanced a look behind me. Junius was there. Smiling, he waggled his fingers at me without raising his hand. 

Michael S Hollington qualified as a chartered surveyor. 
After spells in the City, Belgium and North America he spent the bulk of his career in Hong Kong, selling buildings on behalf of clients. 

He lives in London with his wife, Sarah. 

The Time of Cherries is his first published novel.

Friday, 22 September 2023

The Water Doesn't Lie by Kim Booth BLOG TOUR #TheWaterDoesntLie #KimBooth @RandomTTours #BookExtract


Even the water can give up its secrets...

When a body is found early on a Sunday morning fully clothed face down in a lake, initial enquiries tend to indicate a tragic accident has occurred.

Detective Sergeant Barry Dalton attends the scene and at first, with no visible marks or injuries on the deceased, all appears to be in order, but a post mortem on the body starts a chain of events that will expose dark secrets from the past that have remained concealed for many years.

DS Dalton and DI Gibb investigate and uncover a series of further deaths that certain people are at pains to be recorded as sudden deaths or accidents to assist the offender and to avenge the previous wrongdoings.

What is the reason why the circumstances of the deaths have been manipulated? Who is responsible and why? What are they trying to conceal?

The more enquiries Dalton and Gibb make, the larger the puzzle gets.

The trigger point to the enquiry lies in the water...

A crime story that will keep you guessing until the end.

The Water Doesn't Lie by Kim Booth was published on 22 June 2023. As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from The Water Doesn't Lie by Kim Booth 


 It was a cold and silent mid-February night in the boys’ dormitory at Lannercraig Children’s Home, on the outskirts of Glasgow. The moon shone through the partly closed curtains, lighting up the dark and dreary dormitory. Thomas Ferguson was asleep in his bed when he heard the familiar sound of the floorboards creaking, a sound he had heard so often that he knew from each creaking floorboard how far the person walking had travelled along the dormitory. 

The creaking stopped and he knew that it was his turn. Thomas, upon hearing the creaking boards, pretended to be asleep. The shadowy figure slowly pulled the blanket from between the mattress and the bedframe, and Thomas felt the hand travel from his leg up towards his torso, stopping at his groin. The hand began caressing his private parts. He heard the breathing increase in intensity as the figure fondled his genitals. It only took a few minutes for the hand to explore his body before it was removed. Thomas felt dirty and violated. The shadow moved away, and the creaking floorboards continued to expose the location of the intruder who was now making their way towards the entrance of the dormitory. Thomas opened his eyes to see if the others in their beds were awake. All were asleep or appeared to be, not making any movement. Quietly, Thomas slipped out of his bed and checked again to see if all the other boys in the dorm were asleep. 

He walked along the row of beds, stopping briefly to say a silent goodbye to his four friends with whom he had shared the previous three years of trauma. He began to carry out his plan. He found the strips of bedsheet that he had torn up earlier during the day. Thomas walked towards and entered the cold, uninviting bathroom. He entered a cubicle, closing the door behind him, and looked up towards the ceiling beam, an action he had taken so many times before, contemplating his escape. Now, he finally hoped to end his pain.

Standing on the toilet bowl he threw the tied sheet strips over the beam, and made a knot that travelled up to the roof. He then made a loop and stood on the toilet roll holder whilst placing the loop around his neck. He leant forward as his foot slipped behind him and he swung towards the cubicle door. Gasping for breath he swung backwards and against the wall of the cubicle. His body stiffened and his face contorted; tears began to run down his cheeks. Only a few more moments, he knew, as the swinging of his body began to slow. As Thomas drew his last breath, his body was left dangling in the shadow of the moonlight.

Kim Booth was born in Lincolnshire UK. After several jobs and a brush with the law decided to join the Lincolnshire Police where he served 35 years mainly in investigate roles.

These roles included many years as both as Detective Constable and Detective Sergeant in the CID. He went on to serve in specialist roles including the Drug Squad. 

He further specialized in a conducting surveillance in the Regional Crime Squad (later National Crime Agency) Detective Sergeant in Special Branch and later Detective Inspector Head of Special Branch. 

He then moved on the be Detective Inspector Head of the Economic Crime Unit of the Lincolnshire Police dealing with all types of fraud, money laundering, and internet crime. During this time he also supervised offences of pedophilia conducted buy offenders on the internet and the detention of suspects. 

After retirement he was retained to investigate a $350 million PONZI fraud and traveled to work with other law enforcement agencies in the Bahama US of A, Japan, Canada and New Zealand, He has over the years specialized in fraud investigation and been involved in many murder investigations including two serial killer enquiries, several kidnaps and extortion's, the successful investigation of the only murder by postal IED in the UK and the arrest and conviction of three contract killers. After leaving the police he worked as a Corporate Security Manager for a well know international holiday company for a number of years. 

Currently he has has started to fulfil and long standing intention to write true crime and crime fiction books. 

He lives in the city of Lincoln

Friday, 15 September 2023

The Murmurs by Michael J Malone BLOG TOUR #TheMurmurs @michaeljmalone @OrendaBooks #Gothic #Scotland #BookReview



In the beginning there was fear.
White-hot, nerve-shredding fear.
Terrifying premonitions of deaths.
And then they started…
The Murmurs…
On the first morning of her new job at Heartfield House, a care home for the elderly, Annie Jackson wakens from a terrifying dream. And when she arrives at the home, she knows that the first old man she meets is going to die.
How she knows this is a terrifying mystery, but it is the start of horrifying premonitions … a rekindling of the curse that has trickled through generations of women in her family – a wicked gift known only as 'the murmurs'…
With its reappearance comes an old, forgotten fear that is about to grip Annie Jackson.
And this time, it will never let go…
A compulsive gothic thriller and a spellbinding supernatural mystery about secrets and small communities, about faith, courage and self-preservation, The Murmurs is a startling and compulsive read from one of Scotland’s finest authors…

The Murmurs by Michael J Malone is published in paperback on 14 September 2023 by Orenda Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour. 

I have been reading Michael J Malone's novels for many years and he has never failed to impress me. The Murmurs is the first in the Annie Jackson Mysteries and paves the way for what is going to be one hell of a series of stories. 

Annie Jackson come from a family with a history. Many of the female members are afflicted with what was seen as a curse in days gone by.  Known as the Mumurs, it means that Annie, and her forbears have premonitions. They can see when a person is going to die. Not all people, just some people. It is a terrifying thing to experience as the person's face changes into just skull and bones and is accompanied by terrible murmurings. 

Annie has just started a new job in a care home when she experiences her first murmur. Or is it her first? Annie and her twin brother Lewis lost their parents tragically some years ago, and Annie has no recollection of her early years. Maybe she could always see death? 

Malone takes his readers into the wild, isolated highlands of Scotland, back to the small town where Annie and Lewis grew up. A town that is dominated by the Church, and is becoming famous due to the viral videos posted by the current Pastor .... a man who Annie was once close to. 

This is a complex, chilling gothic tale of mystery and murder. The author includes historical diary entries from Annie's female relatives which go a long way to explain how the murmurs have affected the women in her family. The witch hunts, the burnings, the terror, it's all there. 

What this author does so very well is to introduce new characters who initially appear to be bit-parts, but who become so central to the story. He gently builds up the anticipation, throwing in a few hints and many twists along the way. 

Chilling, atmospheric and so very original. Every single one of the characters are perfectly formed and the setting is beautifully portrayed. The beauty of the landscape hiding the evils of humans for so long.

An absolute joy and highly recommended by me. 

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. 

He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. 

His dark psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and is currently in production for the screen, and five powerful standalone thrillers followed suit. 

A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. 

Michael lives in Ayr, where he also works as a hypnotherapist.

Thursday, 14 September 2023

None Of This Is True by Lisa Jewell #NoneOfThisIsTrue @lisajewelluk @centurybooksuk @najmafinlay #BookReview


Celebrating her 45th birthday at her local pub, podcaster Alix Summer crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie is also celebrating her 45th.

A few days later, they bump into each other again, this time outside Alix's children's school. Josie says she thinks she would be an interesting subject for Alix's podcast. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life.

Alix agrees to a trial interview and indeed, Josie's life appears to be strange and complicated. Aix finds her unsettling but can't quite resist the temptation to keep digging.

Slowly Alix starts to realise that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it Josie has cajoled her way into Alix's life - and into her home.

Soon Alix begins to wonder who is Josie Fair really? And what has she done?

None Of This Is True by Lisa Jewell was published by Century on 20 July 2023. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I had deliberately avoided reading any reviews of this book before I picked it up, so went in having no idea of either the plot, or other reader's opinions. It's a fairly large book, my trade paperback has just under 400 pages, but I flew through it in a couple of sittings. It's a pacy and heart pounding read, filled with characters who the reader can never quite trust, and a plot that takes you on a journey of dark corners and twisty bends a plenty. 

Podcaster Alix Summers is celebrating her 45th birthday in a local gastro pub. Also there that evening, and also celebrating the same birthday is Josie Fair. They are birthday twins. 

Their birthdate and place of birth is the only thing that they have in common. Alix's podcast is popular, she's married to a wealthy man, she has a beautiful house and two perfect children. Josie, on the other hand is married to a much older man, her children are now adults and she has very little focus on where her life could go. 

Josie engineers another meeting with Alix, later that week and persuades her to meet, to discuss an idea that she has for the podcast. 

And so it begins. The podcast interviews are cleverly inserted into the narrative, along with extracts from a Netflix series of the podcast. Josie begins to tell her life story, but the style of the narrative means that the reader is aware that there are huge events yet to come. We just don't know what they are. 

Josie's life appears to have been one of horror. Neglected by her own mother and then groomed by the much older Walter, who becomes her husband, and then there's the daughter who has been missing since she was sixteen, and the older daughter who never leaves her bedroom. It's all very shocking, and before Alix is quite aware, she's in the thick of it all. 

This is such an amazing ride of a story. I felt real terror at times. There were characters that I despised, and then ..... I heard another side of the story ..... and then I changed my mind. However, what Jewell has done so cleverly is leave the reader wondering just how much of this is true?  Which of the characters are lying? Who is telling the truth?  It's clever and compelling and I was glued to the pages. 

There are some very dark issues dealt with, and some readers may struggle with the portrayal of some of them, however, for me, this just added to whole mysterious tension of the story. 

Highly recommended. 

LISA JEWELL was born in London in 1968.

Her first novel, Ralph's Party, was the best- selling debut novel of 1999. Since then she has written another eighteen novels, most recently a number of dark psychological thrillers, including The Girls, Then She Was Gone and The Family Upstairs (all of which were Richard & Judy Book Club picks).

Lisa is a New York Times and Sunday Times number one bestselling author who has been published worldwide in over twenty-five languages. She lives in north London with her husband and two daughters. 

X @lisajewelluk

Instagram @lisajewelluk

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

The Unpicking by Donna Moore #TheUnpicking @BadsvilleBroad @fly_press #BookReview #HistoricalFiction


"I had read enough mystery stories to know that girls who went out to meet strangers at night never came to a good end..."

Stirling, 1877. Lillias Gilfillan, a recently orphaned girl of sixteen, falls in love and elopes with a man who sees her as wealthy and na├»ve: ‘a little boat without its oars’. In a sea of rising debt and deception, Lillias must learn quickly, or drown.

Glasgow, 1894. Clementina knows little mercy living in a home for ‘wayward girls’. With the ‘Jingling Devil’ always lurking in the shadows and a child growing inside her, can she outrun him and save her best friend in the process?

Glasgow, 1919. Mabel is one of the first policewomen in Glasgow, on a mission to find a murderer. In doing so, she finds a web of corruption and now the ‘Jingling Devil’ wants her dead.

‘The Unpicking’ spans three generations of ‘hysterical women’ who take on systemic corruption and injustice, despite all odds.

The Unpicking by Donna Moore is published by Fly On The Wall Press on 27 October 2023. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review. 

I have been absolutely captivated by this beautifully imagined piece of historical fiction that concentrates on three women between 1877 and 1919. It is set in Glagow, a place that becomes another important character in the story. It really is a extraordinary story, often bleak and brutal, and never flinching from the corruption and injustices that women of that time endured, and lets face it, still do at times. 

In 1877 sixteen-year-old Lillias Gilfillan is recently orphaned and now extremely wealthy. Young, innocent and impressionable, she is swept off her feet by an older man who appears to be loving and kind. However, after a quick wedding, opposed by her Aunt, Lillias discovers far too quickly that it wasn't her looks or personality that was the attraction, but her bank balance. Urged on by a callous and greedy associate, her husband does the unthinkable, and Lillias faces a life that she could never have imagined. 

Seventeen years later, we meet Clemintina who lives in a home for 'wayward girls' in Glasgow. Clemmie is kind at heart, always looking out for her best friend; the young, shy Jeannie. However, both of them are targets of the 'Jingling Devil'; a man who causes pain and terror on behalf of some of the most wealthy men in the city. Clemmie needs to escape, to protect her unborn child, but how can she leave Jeannie?

Moving on another twenty-five years and Mabel is one of the first female police officers in the city. Scorned by her colleagues, expected to do little more than a secretarial role, she is determined to track down a murderer. However, she finds out far more than expected and once again, the Jingling Devil makes an appearance. 

Three wonderfully created female characters that readers will instantly connect with. Their daily battles against social injustices and the utter corruption of the wealthy are difficult to bear at times, emotionally challenging but always perfectly and sensitively created. 

The streets of Glasgow, with the assorted characters, and the sights and sounds come alive, and almost jump from the pages. The fear felt by each of the women, yet their incredible bravery and determination is visceral and so thought provoking. These are some of the best characters that I have met in a novel, alongside the alluring, descriptive writing and remarkable sense of place.  

A truly wonderful novel. Highly recommended by me. 

Donna Moore is the author of crime fiction and historical fiction. 

Her first novel, a Private Eye spoof called Go To Helena Handbasket, won the Lefty Award for most humorous crime fiction novel and her second novel, Old Dogs, was shortlisted for both the Lefty and Last Laugh Awards. 

Her short stories have been published in various anthologies. 

In her day job she works as an adult literacy tutor for marginalised and vulnerable women, facilitates creative writing workshops and has a PhD in creative writing around women’s history and gender-based violence. 

She is also co-host of the CrimeFest crime fiction convention and is a fan of film noir, 1970s punk rock and German Expressionist artists. 

The Unpicking is her third novel.

X @BadsvilleBroad

Tuesday, 12 September 2023

The Opposite of Lonely by Doug Johnstone BLOG TOUR #TheOppositeOfLonely @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks #TheSkelfs #BookReview


Even death needs company…

The Skelf women are recovering from the cataclysmic events that nearly claimed their lives. Their funeral-director and private-investigation businesses are back on track, and their cases are as perplexing as ever.

Matriarch Dorothy looks into a suspicious fire at an illegal campsite and takes a grieving, homeless man under her wing. Daughter Jenny is searching for her missing sister-in-law, who disappeared in tragic circumstances, while grand-daughter Hannah is asked to investigate increasingly dangerous conspiracy theorists, who are targeting a retired female astronaut … putting her own life at risk.

With a body lost at sea, funerals for those with no one to mourn them, reports of strange happenings in outer space, a funeral crasher with a painful secret, and a violent attack on one of the family, The Skelfs face their most personal – and perilous – cases yet. Doing things their way may cost them everything…

Tense, unnerving and warmly funny, The Opposite of Lonely is the hugely anticipated fifth instalment in the unforgettable Skelfs series, and this time, danger comes from everywhere…

The Opposite of Lonely by Doug Johnstone is published in paperback by Orenda Books on 14 September and is the fifth book in the Skelfs series. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

This review originally appeared in the September edition of the National Federation of Occupational Pensioners magazine. 

The Opposite of Lonely is volume five of The Skelfs series from Doug Johnstone. Whilst this is a series, this is also a fabulous stand-alone thriller set in Edinburgh and featuring three of the strongest and wonderfully created female characters in fiction. 

The Skelf women; Dorothy, her daughter Jenny, and granddaughter Hannah run a funeral director business in the heart of Edinburgh. They are also private investigator and over the years, their name has become famous throughout the city.

Strong and capable and assisted by a colourful and eclectic supporting cast of characters, the Skelfs have endured many things in the past few years, including a murderous ex-husband and an arson attack at their home. 

They are back, recovered and determined to carry on. In this tale there are cases that involve travellers at an illegal campsite, missing relatives and astronaut related conspiracy theories.  That is a lot to take on! 

Doug Johnstone’s writing is both darkly comic and seriously emotional. He throws so much at his characters, revealing the dark and dangerous parts of Edinburgh that are hidden from the tourist. 

There are so many relevant social issues raised, along with a wonderful look into the world of funerals and undertakers. 

Packed with colourful and perfectly created characters. There are those who the reader will love, and others who are devilishly despicable. There are scenes of violence and moments that will shock, but all are done so well, adding layers of depth to the story. 

This is a compelling story, told with empathy and compassion. The Skelf family are a unique and welcome addition to the world of crime fiction. 

Doug Johnstone is the author of sixteen novels, many of which have been bestsellers. 

The Space Between Us was chosen for BBC Two’s Between the Covers, while Black Hearts and The Big Chill were longlisted for the Theakston Crime Novel of the Year. 

Three of his books – A Dark Matter, Breakers and The Jump – have been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize. 

Doug has taught creative writing or been writer in residence at universities, schools, writing retreats, festivals, prisons and a funeral home. 

He’s also been an arts journalist for 25 years. 

He is a songwriter and musician with six albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. 

He’s also co-founder of the Scotland Writers Football Club and lives in Edinburgh with his family.