Friday, 31 December 2021

My Top Reads of 2021 #AmReading #TopReads2021 #FavouriteBooks2021 #BookBlogger

 


My Top Reads of 2021

I remember writing my Top Reads of 2020 post and saying that I hoped that we would never ever live though another year like 2020.

My hopes did not come true. For me, my family and my friends, this year has been one of utter devastation. We have been rocked to the core by losing loved ones and seeing those closest to us suffer. Sadly, for my little family, it is inevitable that the coming year will bring more pain and sadness.

Despite the often overwhelming feeling of despair, I have continued to read and shout about the books that I love. I have been able to grow my Blog Tour organising business and once again, I have been fortunate enough to work with some truly amazing books, authors, publishers and fellow bloggers. 

I read around 170 books this year, this includes the submitted books for the CWA International Dagger for which I am a judge. I have already reviewed most of these, either here on my blog, or for the Express.


A few statistics :

I've posted 148 book reviews on the blog this year

107 of these were by female authors, 38 by male authors and 3 were by various authors

Of these reviews, nine were non-fiction titles, 28 were debut books and 16 were translated into English from another language


As always, I rarely finish a book that I'm not enjoying, so to pick my top books out of so many that I've really enjoyed has, once more, been very difficult. 

As always, my list is split into three sections; I start with some of the 2021 books that I read in 2020. I mentioned them last year and hoped that they would be huge.

The second part is my list of  Top Books of 2021

Finally, I'll give a mention to some 2022 publications that I've read early.

I really think that 2022 is going to be another fabulous book year!

Enjoy! 

2021 books that I predicted would do well

At the end of last year, I'd read these 2021 books pre-publication, and predicted that they would do well. I'm still recommending them, twelve months later.  (click on the title for my full review).


The Push by Ashley Audrain - 7 January 2021 from Michael Joseph

The Last Thing To Burn by Will Dean - 7 January 2021 from Hodder & Stoughton

Daughters Of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson - 18 February 2021 from Mantle/Pan Macmillan

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles - 9 February 2021 from Two Roads

Everything Happens For a Reason by Katie Allen - 10 April (digital), 10 June (paperback) from Orenda Books 


My Top Reads of 2021

My Top Reads of the year are listed in order of reading. The list contains some favourite authors who pop up year after year, and also some debuts. I think it's a great list, with something for everyone. I heartily recommend all of these books.  (click on the title for my full review)


The Source by Sarah Sultoon published (ebook) 15 February (print) 15 April by Orenda Books
Gripping, emotional, eye-opening and so brilliantly written. Highly recommended by me.

You Me And The Sea by Elizabeth Haynes published 11 February by Myriad Editions
It transported me to a place that felt so much safer than our existing world. It's beautiful and wonderful and I recommend it highly

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin published 18 February by Doubleday
An utter and total delight. Wonderful characters who worm their way into your life and leave little traces on your heart.

How To Survive Everything by Ewan Morrison published 1 March by Saraband
A terrifying and harrowing novel, yet is is also deeply touching

Bound by Vanda Symon published 18 March by Orenda Books
Do not miss this, it's edge-of-the-seat drama that will satisfy any fan of crime fiction. Highly recommended.

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller published on 25 March by Fig Tree
Clever, sharp and irresistible, this is a novel that has to be savoured

Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz published 4 March by Orenda Books
Addictive, extremely hard to put down. Another fabulous chapter in what has become a favourite series of mine

Watch Her Fall by Erin Kelly published 1 April by Hodder
 It is so intricate, so tightly plotted and in my opinion, the author's best book to date. 
When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins published 5 April by Pan Macmillan
This is an accomplished, brutal and moving story, and comes highly recommended by me.

Boys Don't Cry by Fiona Scarlett published 6 May by Faber
This book is one that will evoke every emotion from anger, to compassion, despair and hope

Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins published 29 April by Harper360 UK
It's a complex and intricately woven story with hints of magical realism that reminded me at times of Alice Hoffman's work

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox published 17 June by Doubleday
It is masterfully created and it's a story that will stay with me for a very long time

Dead Ground by MW Craven published 3 June by Constable
Breath-taking, fascinating and gripping

This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech published 10 June by Orenda Books 
Wonderfully moving, emotional and very thought provoking. A book to savour and love. Highly recommended. 

Fragile by Sarah Hilary published 10 June by Pan Macmillan 
It is a superb mix of gothic tension, obsession, young love and disappointment, woven together masterfully

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau published 27 May by Harper360 UK
Full of sunshine, love, music and utter joy, Mary Jane is a stunning read that I would highly recommend. 


No Honour by Awais Khan published 19 August by Orenda Books 
This is a very special book. One that will stay with me forever, and one that I will re-read, for sure.

Love And Missed by Susie Boyt published 26 August by Virgo
An utter joy to read. A book that touched me deeply and one that I highly recommend. 

The Sound of Sirens by Ewan Gault published 28 October by Leamington Books
This is Ewan Gault's debut novel and it is stunning. Highly recommended from me, one of the best books I've read this year.

The Shadowing by Rhiannan Ward published 16 September by Trapeze
This is an excellent gothic mystery, with a hint of the supernatural

The Woman In The Middle by Milly Johnson published 14 October by Simon and Schuster
It's a warm, touching read and you'll be longing for Shay to find her own happy ending

The Leftovers by Cassandra Parkin published 1 October by Legend Press
A really stunning piece of writing, nuanced, uncomfortable at times but incredibly powerful. Highly recommended. 

The Red Monarch by Bella Ellis published 18 November by Hodder
It's intricately detailed, full of vibrant and vividly created characters and has such heart. 

The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen published 28 October from Orenda Books 
Death, a touch of violence, fraud and a tender emerging romance all combine to create the most magical story

The Quiet People by Paul Cleave published 25 November by Orenda Books
So very very intense, so dark and utterly compelling

Fall by West Camel published 9 December by Orenda Books
An author who uses words like an instrument, creating a symphony that will thrill any reader. 




Books to look out for in 2022 ....

I've already made a start on the 2022 books, and if the ones that I've read already are anything to go by, we are in for another outstanding book year.
Here are a few tips; books that I think will be huge next year. 


Some of these reviews have not  been published yet but I can assure you that I enjoyed every one of them. 


Should I Tell You? by Jill Mansell - 20 January 2022 from Headline

 Quercus

The Impulse Purchase by Veronica Henry - 3 February 2022 from Orion

How To Find Your Way Home by Katy Regan - 3 February 2022 from Mantle

Other Parents by Sarah Stovell - 20 January from HQ Stories 

Wahala by Nikki May - 6 January from Doubleday 

Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes - 17 February from Michael Joseph








That's 2021 over and done with. Thank goodness!

It's been a fabulous year for books, but honestly, not for much else!

I want to wish everyone the VERY BEST for next year and I really hope to see lots of lovely book friends soon.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone who reads my reviews and puts up with my book shouting.





Thursday, 30 December 2021

Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes #AgainRachel @MarianKeyes @MichaelJBooks #RachelsBack @PenguinUKBooks #BookReview

 


Back in the long ago nineties, Rachel Walsh was a mess.

But a spell in rehab transformed everything. Life became very good, very quickly. These days, Rachel has love, family, a great job as an addiction counsellor, she even gardens. Her only bad habit is a fondness for expensive trainers.

But with the sudden reappearance of a man she'd once loved, her life wobbles.

She'd thought she was settled. Fixed forever. Is she about to discover that no matter what our age, everything can change?

Is it time to think again, Rachel?


Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes is published in hardback by Michael Joseph on 17 February 2022. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, along with a fabulous box of goodies! 



Twenty-five years ago, Rachels' Holiday was published and there are millions of us who were overjoyed when we learnt that Marian Keyes had penned the sequel.  Whilst Rachel's Holiday was not the first book about the Walsh family; Watermelon takes that place and was published a couple of years prior to Rachel, there is no doubt that Rachel's Holiday was the book that really made us readers fall for the family.

Again, Rachel is an absolute triumph. It has everything that any Walsh family fan could wish for, and more. It is packed to the rafters with those familiar, hilarious sayings that are uttered by the magnificent Mammy Walsh, yet it will totally break the reader in places. Marian Keyes does not allow her characters to glide through life unscathed ... not at all. 

I cannot tell you what has happened since we left Rachel at the end of Rachel's Holiday, and it's almost impossible to tell you about the events in this new story. Yes, I'm being vague, but it is not for me to spoil the story, you really do need to discover for yourselves. 

I can tell you that Rachel seems to be in a very good place as the story begins; she has a great job as head counsellor at The Cloisters, she is in love, all of her family are around her and she's discovered a love for gardening. Addiction is a thing of the past, except for fancy trainers and a hankering after a Chanel handbag, but who doesn't share those loves?

It's a phone call that turns this story on its head. Readers will have come to some conclusions about things that may have happened in previous years, but that phone call confirms things. One very quick message will go on to make Rachel take stock of her current life, re-evaluate things that have happened in the past, and look very hard at where future Rachel may go. 

I can talk about Rachels 'ducklings'; her client group at The Cloisters. Keyes very cleverly incorporates the lives of those who Rachel helps so very well into this novel. Each of them have their own wonderfully created story, and each of them shines a light on some of the darkest of issues. It's an ingenious way of dealing with social issues that can shatter lives, whilst doing so with the warm and belly-laugh humour that the author is so good at. 

Again, Rachel is a wise and wonderful look at life today. It is incredibly perceptive whilst being so damn funny in places. I wept, I wept more than once. I also laughed so loud, I read out passages to my husband, I was totally and utterly bewitched by the story. It consumed every moment and I turned the final page with a little sob.

Thank you Marian Keyes. Thank you for bringing Rachel and the whole Walsh family back. What an absolute gift this is! 




Both critically acclaimed and commercially unstoppable, Marian’s fourteenth novel Grown Ups went straight to No.1 in hardback and paperback in four global territories: UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards Audiobook of the Year. 

Marian inspired and entertained countless readers, but also the next generation of writers too, as chair of judges for the Comedy Women in Print prize, a sponsor of the Curtis Brown Creative Marian Keyes scholarship, and most recently ran her own hugely popular Instagram Live series, which brought free creative writing courses to thousands of viewers. 
Marian also uses her position to raise some of the most challenging issues of our time, including addiction, immigration, depression, domestic violence and the Repeal the Eighth campaign. 

In addition to her novels, Marian has written two collections of journalism, as well as been the star of the second series of her hit show Between Ourselves aired on BBC Radio 4 at the start of 2021, and based on her bestselling work of nonfiction Making It Up As I Go Along. Marian is based in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin.


Twitter @MarianKeyes

Instagram @marian_keyes




Thursday, 23 December 2021

I Know What You've Done by Dorothy Koomson #IKnowWhatYouveDone @DorothyKoomson @headlinepg #Win #Prize #Giveaway #Competition @ed_pr

 


What if all your neighbours' secrets landed in a diary on your doorstep?

What if the woman who gave it to you was murdered by one of the people in the diary?

What if the police asked if you knew anything?

Would you hand over the book of secrets?

Or ... would you try to find out what everyone had done?

I Know What You've Done is the unputdownable thriller from the Queen of the Big Reveal.



I Know What You've Done by Dorothy Koomson was published in hardback by Headline on 8 July, the paperback edition is published on 30 December 2021. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I also have one paperback copy to giveaway to one reader today. Entry is simple, just click on the competition widget link on this blog post. UK entries only please.

GOOD LUCK! 


It is novels like I Know What You've Done that make me return time and time again to psychological thrillers, and especially to this author. I've been reading her books since 2007, and My Best Friend's Girl is one of the only books that I've read more than once.  Her novels have become darker over the years, with more of a noir feeling than the central themes of love that were there in her earlier books. However, she's absolutely brilliant at what she does and I flew through this novel in just over 24 hours. 

Acacia Villas is a street in a well-to-do area of Brighton. The large houses are arranged in a three-sided oblong shape. There are manicured gardens, sweeping stone steps and an assortment of inhabitants on the street. From the outside, it all seems pretty normal, with people going about their daily business, although there are certainly more of them around since the events of 2020 meant that they all stayed at home. 

Priscilla lives in the largest, grandest house on the street. The situation of 21 Acacia Villas allows her to see what is happening on the street. She has a good view of everyone, although most of them can't see her.

It's 1 June 2021 and Rae opens the door to find Priscilla on her doorstep. This is not the usual immaculately turned out Priscilla though. She's distressed, her hair is a mess, her make up is smeared and her clothes are crumpled. Priscilla thrusts a notebook into Rae's hands. A few moments later, Priscilla is on the pavement, unconscious with Dunstan, another of the Acacia Villas residents looking over her. 

This is just the beginning of a story that is complex, tightly woven and multi layered. Told through the voices of various Acacia Villas residents, with snippets from Priscilla's own thoughts, it's a mystery that is both bewildering to the local residents and also to the reader.

Dorothy Koomson has taken each house on the street and revealed their darkest secrets. It's so true that we never know just what goes on behind closed doors, and oh my goodness, this is a street full of hidden truths and dirty deeds. Some of the residents become aware that Priscilla knew far more about them than they are comfortable with and as the story unfolds, we see their desperation get greater and greater. 

Perfectly structured, with sharp snappy chapters told from various points of view, Koomson really keeps her readers on their toes. Unexpected surprises abound and please do expect the unexpected. 

This is so well paced, full of menace and packed with tension and with some of the most immoral and corrupt characters you'll find in a long time. Highly recommended by me. 




One copy of I Know What You've Done by Dorothy Koomson





Dorothy Koomson is the award-winning author of 15 novels and has been making up stories since
she was 13 when she used to share her stories with her convent school friends. Her published titles include: Tell Me Your Secret, The Brighton Mermaid, The Friend, When I Was Invisible, That Girl From Nowhere, The Flavours of Love, The Woman He Loved Before, Goodnight, Beautiful and The Chocolate Run.

Dorothy’s first novel, The Cupid Effect, was published in 2003 (when she was quite a bit older than 13). Her third book, My Best Friend’s Girl, was selected for the Richard & Judy Summer Reads of 2006 and went on to sell over 500,000 copies. While her fourth novel, Marshmallows For Breakfast, has sold in excess of 250,000 copies. Dorothy’s books, The Ice Cream Girls and The Rose Petal Beach were both shortlisted for the popular fiction category of the British Book Awards in 2010 and 2013, respectively.

Dorothy’s novels have been translated into over 30 languages, and a TV adaptation loosely based on The Ice Cream Girls was shown on ITV1 in 2013. After briefly living in Australia, Dorothy now lives in Brighton.

In 2019 Dorothy was awarded the Image Award by The Black British Business Awards to celebrate and honour her achievements.

For more information on Dorothy Koomson visit www.dorothykoomson.co.uk


Twitter @DorothyKoomson


Instagram @dorothykoomson_author






Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Everyday Kindness edited by L J Ross #EverydayKindness @LJRossAuthor #ShortStories @Shelter #CharityAnthology

 


Everyday Kindness is a charity anthology of short, fictional stories of kindness, edited by LJ Ross and published through her imprint, Dark Skies Publishing. 

These uplifting tales of hope and of small, everyday kindnesses are intended to be read daily, through the course of a year, to support wider, positive mental health goals and foster wellbeing through the act of reading tales of goodwill inspired by others. 

Featuring authors across the spectrum of literature, some international bestsellers and award-winning writers amongst them, this is a unique collection of words to inspire hope, in direct response to the Covid-19 crisis.

All proceeds from the book will be donated to Shelter, a charity that helps millions of people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness.



Everyday Kindness edited by L J Ross was published on 13 November 2021 by Dark Skies Publishing. I ordered my copy online.

All proceeds from the book will be donated to Shelter

Authors include: LJ Ross, Adam Hamdy, Alex Smith, Alexander Gordon Smith, Alison Stockham, Anne O’Leary, Barbara Copperthwaite, JD Kirk, CL Taylor, Caroline Mitchell, Chris McDonald, CK McDonnell, Claire Sheehy, Clare Flynn, Darren O’Sullivan, David Leadbeater, Debbie Young, Deborah Carr, Emma Robinson, Graham Brack, HM Lynn, Heather Martin, Holly Martin, Ian Sainsbury, Imogen Clark, James Gilbert, Jane Corry, Jean Gill, JJ Marsh, Judith O’Reilly, Kelly Clayton, Kim Nash, Liz Fenwick, Louise Beech, Lousie Jensen, Louise Mumford, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Marcia Woolf, Mark Stay, Marcie Steele, Natasha Bache, Nick Jackson, Nick Quantrill, Nicky Black, Patricia Gibney, Rachel Sargeant, Rob Parker, Rob Scragg, SE Lynes, Shelley Day, Casey Kelleher, Sophie Hannah, Leah Mercer, Victoria Connelly, Victoria Cooke, Will Dean.


The whole aim of this book, as well as to raise funds for a very important charity is to support your own wellbeing and mental health. It's designed so that the reader can read one of the stories each day, and each one is uplifting and hopeful. 

So far, I've read around twelve of the stories and so far, I'm really impressed. There are lots of authors in there who I'm familiar with already and a few new ones too. It's such a great collection of varied stories from authors who really know their craft. 

I will continue to dip into these stories, they are a joy and a distraction from the complete and utter madness that continues to surround us! 


LJ Ross is an international bestselling author, best known for creating atmospheric mystery and
thriller novels, including the DCI Ryan series of Northumbrian murder mysteries which have sold over 6 million copies worldwide.

"The Cove" (the first book in her new Summer Suspense Mysteries series) is available for ebook pre-order now!

Her debut, Holy Island, was released in January 2015 and reached number one in the Amazon UK and Australian charts. Since then, she has released a further twenty novels, all of which have been top three global bestsellers and seventeen of which have been UK #1 bestsellers. Louise has garnered an army of loyal readers through her storytelling and, thanks to them, several of her books reached the coveted #1 spot whilst only available to pre-order ahead of release. Her eleventh novel, The Infirmary, is a prequel story and is also available as a major Audible Originals audio-drama starring Tom Bateman, Kevin Whately, Bertie Carvel, Hermione Norris and Alun Armstrong.

In addition to her DCI Ryan series, Louise has created a new series of thriller novels based around the central character of ‘Dr Alexander Gregory’, whose work as a psychological profiler takes him around the world. The first three books (Impostor, Hysteria and Bedlam) were #1 bestsellers and were narrated in audio by the actors Hugh Dancy (Impostor & Hysteria) and Richard Armitage (Bedlam). She is also writing several standalone romantic suspense novels featuring strong female protagonists which will be available in 2021.

The novels are available to purchase in e-book, paperback and audiobook formats on the Amazon store, as well as in libraries and book shops around the world.

Louise was born in Northumberland, England. She studied undergraduate and postgraduate Law at King’s College, University of London and then abroad in Paris and Florence. She spent much of her working life in London, where she was a lawyer for a number of years until taking the decision to change career and pursue her dream to write. Now, she writes full-time and lives with her husband and son in Northumberland, where she enjoys reading all manner of books, travelling and spending time with family and friends.

Louise is a keen philanthropist, and is pleased to have supported numerous non-profit programmes in addition to founding several of her own, including the Lindisfarne Reading Challenge and the Lindisfarne Prize for Debut Crime Fiction.

If you would like to connect with LJ Ross, she would be very happy to hear from you:








Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Other Parents by Sarah Stovell #OtherParents @sarahlovescrime @HQStories @HarperCollinsUK @joe_thomas25 #BookReview

 


In a small town like West Burntridge, it should be impossible to keep a secret.

Rachel Saunders knows gossip is the price you pay for a rural lifestyle and outstanding schools. The latest town scandal is her divorce – and the fact that her new girlfriend has moved into the family home.

Laura Spence lives in a poky bedsit on the wrong side of town. She and her son Max don’t really belong, and his violent tantrums are threatening to expose the very thing she’s trying to hide.

When the local school introduces a new inclusive curriculum, Rachel and Laura find themselves on opposite sides of a fearsome debate.

But the problem with having your nose in everyone else’s business is that you often miss what is happening in your own home.




Other Parents by Sarah Stovell is published by HQ / HarperCollins on 20 January 2022. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 


This is Stovell's fifth novel. I've been reading her work since way back in 2009 and have enjoyed everything she's published. I've been really looking forward to seeing just what she's conjured up for her readers this time. 

So, it's dark; we could call it #SchoolgateNoir or #SmallTownNoir as it's set in a small town and the main characters are all connected to the local school. What it really is, is an insightful and often scathing study about women. About how they behave toward one another, about how much they hide and how much they allow themselves to really be true. It's about the effect of adult behaviour on young people and it's about bigotry and ignorance. It's also very very funny in places, with some characters who I secretly want to be just like (hello Rachel!), and some who I felt desperately sorry for and one who I just hated (oh dear Kate!).

Rachel Saunders is intelligent, outspoken and successful. She's a mother of three, lives in one of the nicest houses in town and has just replaced her long-term husband Will, also the father of her children, with her girlfriend Erin. This sent shock waves through the usually conservative, ordinary town and is destroying her relationship with her daughters, especially eldest Maia.

Stovell tells her story through the voices of five of the main players; Rachel, Jo (the head of the school), Erin, Laura and Maia. This is a great way to see all sides of what can be a grubby, uncomfortable story at times. Each character is created so very well, from Rachel with her determination to bring about equality in all parts of life, to downtrodden Laura - single mother to Max; a small boy with enormous needs.

The incident that sparks the biggest debate is when Laura and Kate (a pompous, vile, PTA mum) decide that they don't want their children to be taught about homosexual relationships. Their blinkered view is painful to read about, but anyone who reads the comments on social media will realise that their thoughts are widespread in this country, despite our inclusive laws and supposed acceptance of all. Obviously, Rachel takes this personally and the battle lines are drawn.

Whilst this is going on, sixteen-year-old Maia is dealing with her own insecurities. She's bright, beautiful and popular but is damaged by something she sees at home. Her only way of dealing with this is her own form of self harm; not the norm, but equally as damaging as taking a knife to her skin, and her actions opens up more heartache, especially for Jo, the head of the school. 

I could talk more about the developments in the plot and the issues dealt with in Other Parents, but I fear my review could become as long as the book itself! I will say that it is a gripping, entertaining read that I struggled to put down once I'd started. Stovell excels in creating female characters who are totally flawed at times. She doesn't shy away from bad behaviours and I think most readers may see a bit of themselves in at least one of the lead players in this story. 

This is a sharp, relatable, hilarious and heart-breaking novel that I will remember for a long time. Highly recommended by me. 






Sarah Stovell was born in Kent in 1977 and now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children. 

She has an MA and a PhD in creative writing and is a lecturer in creative writing at Lincoln University. 

She is the author of four previous novels, Mothernight, The Night Flower, Exquisite and The Home. 

Exquisite was chosen by The Times as one of the top 40 crime novels of the past 50 years.

Twitter @sarahlovescrime







Thursday, 16 December 2021

Dolphin Junction by Mick Herron #DolphinJunction @johnmurrays #ShortStories #BookReview

 


Mick Herron is 'Britain's finest living thriller writer' (Sunday Express) and author of the bestselling and award-winning Slough House novels. Dolphin Junction captures his trademark tension, humour, and suspense in the form of short fiction, collected here for the first time.

When a wife leaves her husband under suspicious circumstances, he sets off in search for her, unprepared for the guilty secrets he's about to drag back into the light.

A man is tempted by a luxury apartment with a top-of-the-range kitchen. But there is a heavy price to pay for this glamorous new life.

A couple go on a hike through the Derbyshire countryside, to ignore the fact their marriage is on the rocks.

And there is a peek into the past of Jackson Lamb, the boss of Slough House, as well as stories featuring the shrewd detective Zoƫ Boehm and her hapless partner Joe Silvermann.

Dolphin Junction displays Herron's craft for deftly plotted storytelling, dark wit, and memorable twists.


Dolphin Junction by Mick Herron was published on 11 November 2021 by John Murray in hardback. I bought my copy online. 

I really do need to read more by Mick Herron. I'm behind with his series and reading this collection of short stories has confirmed to me what a superb writer he is.  Eleven short stories in total, ranging from over 40 pages to just 10, these are an absolute joy to read. His writing is sharp and precise, with that touch of dry humour that always runs through his work. It must be very difficult to create a full story in such a short page span, but he's done it here and these really do work. 

Four of the stories feature Zoe and Joe from his Oxford series and Jackson Lamb from the Slough House series features in one of the others. It's always great to find characters that the reader already knows, however, even if you've not read any of his novels, you can't help but be entertained by these fleeting glimpses into the characters from them. 

My favourite of the collection is 'The Usual Santas', maybe because it is that time of the year, but oh, how I loved this stinging and funny tale of a collection of shopping mall Santas.

There's everything in here, including a nod to the horror genre, all have a fabulous twist and as would be expected, they can all be classed as crime fiction. 

I enjoyed this collection and would heartily recommend these stories to anyone who appreciates well written fiction with dark humour. This is an exceptional book, perfect for dipping in and out of, but beware, once you start, you may not be able to stop! 




Mick Herron’s Slough House novels have been shortlisted for eight CWA Daggers, winning twice, and shortlisted for the Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year three times. 

The first, Slow Horses, was picked as one of the best twenty spy novels of all time by the Daily Telegraph, while Joe Country, was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller.

Mick Herron was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, and now lives in Oxford.