Last Words by Michael Koryta – Book Review

Last Words

Last Words

Still mourning the death of his wife, private investigator Mark Novak accepts a case that may be his undoing. On same day his wife died, the body of a teenage girl was pulled from the extensive and perilous cave system beneath Southern Indiana. Now the man who rescued the girl, who was believed to be her killer, begs Novak uncover what really happened. The only problem is in small-town Midwest, cold cases stay cold.

Garrison is much like any place in America, proud and fortified against outsiders. So Mark is forced to delve beneath the town’s secrets, and more frighteningly match wits with the man who knows the caverns better than anyone. A man who seemed to lose his mind. A man who seems to know Mark Novak all too well.

The moment I read Michael Koryta’s So Cold The River I was hooked and I’m pleased to say that has never wavered, I’m not ashamed to say I’m a fan! A brilliant and intelligent author Koryta has this ability to grab you early on and never lets go until the final page ends and the book is closed, Last Words is another strong story and left me feeling similar thoughts after I’d finished So Cold The River. I didn’t want it to end but end it must.

You can’t help but have a myriad of emotions, Claustrophobia the principal one as Novak and Ridley, the book’s main characters, crawl in the confined and energy sapping cave system, known locally as Trapdoor. There were times I found myself shuddering at the atmospheric narrative, no more so than when Novak finds himself in the tightest of gaps unable to raise or lower his head for fear of hitting the top of his helmet or scraping his chin on the floor. You have a good feeling that things will turn out ok but there’s always that nagging feeling that things might not. I imagined myself crawling in the cold and wet and it frightened me, I’m not afraid to admit that! Sensational stuff.

Just like Trapdoor the book is alive to a plethora of options and the book appears to be along for the ride as much as the reader, often it felt like a living entity. With every chapter comes a revelation and you find yourself at the point of no return, there’s no going back until you come out at the other end when things are satisfactorily explained. That said Koryta leaves the door open on a few sub plots which leads me to the conclusion that things aren’t quite over for Markus Novak and his dearly departed wife. Let’s hope not anyway.

Characterisation is as strong as ever with Ridley Barnes and Markus Novak carrying the full weight of Last Words and Trapdoor. Barnes, accused of killing a young girl in the caves a decade earlier calls on Novak’s services to prove that he either did or didn’t kill the girl. The problem is he can’t remember. The pair are at loggerheads from the beginning and you never quite know if Barnes is guility or not. Stirring stuff!

If you’re looking for a psychological thriller that promises to keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering who is responsible and for what, then look no further. If you like that small adrenalin rush when reading claustrophobic passages then you’re in luck. Last Words delivers on both accounts.

  • Hardcover:448 pages
  • Publisher:Little Brown and Company (18 Aug. 2015)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0316122637 ISBN-13: 978-0316122634

Posted in Books, Michael Koryta, Psychological, Thriller Tagged , , , ,

Life or Death by Michael Robotham – Book Review

Life or Death

Life or Death

Why would a man escape from prison the day before he’s due to be released?

Audie Palmer has spent a decade in prison for an armed robbery in which four people died, including two of the gang. Seven million dollars has never been recovered and everybody believes that Audie knows where the money is.

For ten years he has been beaten, stabbed, throttled and threatened almost daily by prison guards, inmates and criminal gangs, who all want to answer this same question, but suddenly Audie vanishes, the day before he’s due to be released.

Everybody wants to find Audie, but he’s not running. Instead he’s trying to save a life . . . and not just his own.

Life or death is an utterly compelling and gripping read from start to finish and in Audie Palmer we have a character who is both fascinating and determined. Escaping from prison with one day left on his sentence sounds crazy to most people, what difference would 24 hours make – apparently a hell of a lot according to Audie. No one can understand his reasoning and we as readers can’t fathom his decision making as we initially do not hold the clues and know his reasoning.

Slowly but surely we delve deeper into Audie’s character and his past relationships and history and things begin to make sense, but the clever thing here is that Robotham doesn’t give the game away too early. You’re still guessing up to the end but piece by piece things begin to make sense and the complex web of lies and cover-ups are broken thanks to Audie’s dogged approach and FBI agent Desiree’s determination to discover the hidden truth. In fact the pair, although on opposite sides of the law are so well matched and even though she’s taken off the case she doesn’t let things go.

Full of wonderful characters the book is an engrossing read and I defy anyone not to read this quickly. It’s a real page turner if ever there was one. There’s no getting away from it, Audie is the main draw here, I for one experienced a range of emotions reading his story. I didn’t want the book to end!

Terrifically written Life or Death is one book you have to read in 2015!

Robotham just gets better and better.

  • Paperback:528 pages
  • Publisher:Sphere (16 July 2015)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0751552917
  • ISBN-13:978-0751552911

Posted in book reviews, Books, Fiction, Thriller Tagged , , , , ,

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton – Book Review

What’s the worst thing your best friend could do to you?

Admittedly, it wasn’t murder. A moment’s carelessness, a tragic accident – and two children are dead. Yours.

Living in a small island community, you can’t escape the woman who destroyed your life. Each chance encounter is an agonizing reminder of what you’ve lost – your family, your future, your sanity.

How long before revenge becomes irresistible?

With no reason to go on living, why shouldn’t you turn your darkest thoughts into deeds?

So now, what’s the worst thing you can do to your best friend?

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

Sharon Bolton is back with a bang with her second standalone thriller Little Black Lies, set in the Falklands during the John Major government, the book is as atmospherically haunting as you could ever imagine. This is writing at its very best.

It’s almost unimaginable that any writer could surpass her earlier work given that they are – as far as I’m concerned – at the top of their game but in Little Black Lies Sharon Bolton proves beyond doubt that you certainly can improve on perfection. A veritable tour de force, if I was stranded on a desert island and I could only take one book for company, I’d be gluttonous and kidnap the author so she could write more in seclusion but only I’d have the opportunity to read it! It’s never going to happen she’ll be glad to hear but of all the authors I’ve read over the last few years I can only think of one, maybe two, authors I’d hold in the same regard.

Told in three parts by three different narrators, each with their own distinctive style, the book follows Catrin, a woman struggling to come to terms with losing her three children and life on an island where secrets are a luxury and certainly not a given. In this first part the narrative is among the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, incredibly dark and not in the least uplifting this will leave an indelible mark. I was completely blown away by a character who has little to smile about and no desire to improve, it appears she’s given up all hope and given up on life.
The book moves along at a good pace with a flowing and well thought out narrative and the ending is both unexpected and emotional, it really takes you through a range of emotions and you never quite know the end result, Sharon Bolton has perfected this art over the years and you learn to go with the flow and see where it takes you!

I should also take time to mention another key aspect of this book and without it, the book wouldn’t work – The Falkland Islands. I’ve never given the Islands a thought in recent years but this book really gives a flavour of what life and the communities could be like, I just hope communication has improved in recent years and modems are a thing of the past! If you are interested in visiting then it will cost you £1200 by air, fortunately John Major isn’t is no longer in charge so things have progressed somewhat!!!

If this book doesn’t win any awards I’ll eat my hat and my kilt, unlike Lord Ashdown and Alastair Campbell in the recent general election who both refused, we certainly won’t need an exit poll to know this will be a bestseller – a little political commentary to bring this review to its natural conclusion! Go out and buy it, this is the closest many of us will get to the Falkland Islands!

• Hardcover: 400 pages
• Publisher: Bantam Press (2 July 2015)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 059306920X
• ISBN-13: 978-0593069202

Posted in book reviews, Books, Crime, Falkland Islands, Fiction, Thriller Tagged , , , , ,

Memory Man by David Baldacci – Book Review

Memory Man by David Baldacci

Memory Man by David Baldacci

When Amos Decker returned home eighteen months ago to find the bodies of his wife and only daughter, he didn’t think he could carry on living. Overwhelmed with grief, he saw his life spiral out of control, losing his job as a detective, his house and his self-respect. But when his former partner in the police, Mary Lancaster, visits to tell him that someone has confessed to the murder of his family, he knows he owes it to his wife and child to seek justice for them.

As Decker comes to terms with the news, tragedy strikes at the local school. Thirteen teenagers are gunned down, and the killer is at large. Following the serious brain injury Amos suffered as a professional footballer, he gained a remarkable gift – and the police believe that this unusual skill will assist in the hunt for the killer.

Amos must endure the memories he would rather forget, and when new evidence links the murders, he is left with only one option.

Serving as an introduction to Amos Decker, Memory Man is a terrifically absorbing read and a book I personally struggled to put down, but then David Baldacci has that natural ability to create engaging characters that give you little option but to have a vested interest in the outcome of the book and his protagonists.

Amos Decker has seen better days, following the murder of his wife and daughter, he’s let himself go. Homeless and destitute he sees no reason to continue. Out of shape, fat and carrying so much baggage, Decker wouldn’t appear at first sight to be your typical literary hero. But he is. Despite his troubles, as a reader, you want to bat for him. He’s someone who needs help but isn’t prepared to ask or accept it but as the book and storyline develops he slowly begins to change and we gain an insight into his mind and what could have been. It’s up to him how he moves forward, no one else.

It only takes a small event to change things and with the little credit he has on his credit card he cleans himself up, as best as he can, and starts to put a plan into action, investigating the death of his wife and child and helping the police and FBI with the murder at the school.

Full of twists and turns, entertaining imagery but an intelligent and complex narrative, Baldacci not only has a hit on his hands with Memory Man but with his leading protagonist, Amos Decker. I can see a long and bright future for Decker and his partner Lancaster and I for one can’t wait to see how the author develops this intriguing partnership.

  • Hardcover:368 pages
  • Publisher:Macmillan; Main Market Ed. edition (23 April 2015)
  • ISBN-10:1447277589
  • ISBN-13:978-1447277583

Posted in book reviews, Books, Crime, Fiction Tagged , , ,

Ghost Flight by Bear Grylls – Book Review

Ghost Flight by Bear Grylls

Ghost Flight by Bear Grylls

Haunted by his wife and son’s brutal abduction and murder, ex-soldier Will Jaeger runs to the ends of the earth to recover and to hide. But even there he is found, and compelled to undertake one last mission, and to confront a savage past he can barely even remember.

Jaeger agrees to lead an expedition into the Mountains of the Gods in the remote Amazon jungle. At the dark heart of this real life Lost World lies a mystery WWII warplane, one that harbours a secret so explosive its very discovery may tear the world asunder. Terrifying forces are hell-bent on keeping the warplane forever hidden. Unwittingly, Will Jaeger is going in against them.

But as Jaeger joins a team of former elite warriors – including ice-cool Russian operator Irina Narov – he senses that the air wreck also harbours the answer he so longs to uncover: the identity of his wife and son’s murderers.

In the first of a brand new adventure/thriller series Bear Grylls introduces Will Jaeger, a smart and charismatic ex-soldier who just happens to have a few things on his mind and it will come as no surprise to anyone that survival is uttermost in his thoughts. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Ghost Flight!

Held captive on a remote island in one of the world’s worst prisons, renowned for its brutality and an authority determined to inflict severe torture on enemies of the state, Will Jaeger is facing certain death. But let’s face facts, we know he’ll escape or there wouldn’t be a story but the opening chapters are so engaging that I had a vested interested in the protagonist.

The narrative is easy to read and the story flows well, there were a few repetitive paragraphs but I stress I’m reading a very early proof of the book and any inconsistencies will I’m sure be ironed out before publication later in the year. They certainly do not detract from what is an incredibly enjoyable and fun read. A cross between Indiana Jones and a whole plethora of action figures such as James Bond and Jason Bourne, Will Jaeger is a complex character who as the series develops, will no doubt grow but from the very opening salvos. We have the makings of a terrific action hero.

Jaeger is smart and clearly knows his stuff and as a team leader he exudes confidence. Stuck in the middle of an Amazonian jungle, he and his small group of ex-soldiers have to fight their way out of numerous tight corners using guile, wit and a well-developed survival instinct. They come face to face with spiders, piranha fish, huge caymans and the obligatory group of extremely nasty Nazi’s. It all lends itself for a gripping read and I for one wasn’t disappointed, this really is boys own stuff.

If you’re looking for an entertaining and easy read, a good story and a how to survive the most challenging of conditions then this is definitely the book for you. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and can’t wait to see what happens next as Bear leaves the door open at the end and you know full well that something’s about to happen in the future.


  • Hardcover:464 pages
  • Publisher:Orion (4 Jun. 2015)
  • ISBN-10:1409156818
  • ISBN-13:978-1409156819

Posted in Adventure, book reviews, Books, Fiction, Thriller Tagged , , , ,

Death is a Welcome Guest by Louise Welsh – Book Review

Death is a Welcome Guest

Death is a Welcome Guest

Magnus McFall was a comic on the brink of his big break when the world came to an end. Now, he is a man on the run and there is nothing to laugh about.

Thrown into unwilling partnership with an escaped convict, Magnus flees the desolation of London to make the long journey north, clinging to his hope that the sickness has not reached his family on their remote Scottish island.

He finds himself in a landscape fraught with danger, fighting for his place in a world ruled by men, like his fellow traveller Jeb – practical men who do not let pain or emotions interfere with getting the job done.

This is a world with its own justice, and new rules.

Where people, guns and food are currency.

Where survival is everything.

Thought provoking and engaging, Death is a Welcome Guest is an intelligently crafted book that plays with the mind conjuring endless scenarios all the while playing mind games with the reader. This is one of those books that you can’t help but imagine yourself caught in a similar predicament and throughout the experience  you do find yourself – as a reader – wondering how you’d cope if you were one of the survivors. Would you embrace the predicament or fall pray to survivor’s guilt. It’s a tough call.

This is the first book I’ve read by Louise Welsh and just happens to be the second in the Plague Times Trilogy series but it works well as a standalone. I’m not aware of any character connectivity between the first two books and fortunately never felt the need to have read the first one to take enjoyment out of this second instalment.

Characterisation is very well done and I did feel for Magnus McFall, a comic caught up in semi stardom and in the wrong place at the wrong time. McFall is sent to Pentonville prison to await his court date but during his time on remand the “Sweats” break and people fall by the wayside. Young, old, rich, poor, royal or pauper no one is immune and it’s every man, woman, child and dog for themselves.

Nothing is left to chance here, roaming empty streets at night under a military run curfew, deserted shops and hotels and the London underground crammed with dead bodies. Louise Welsh paints an horrific and atmospheric picture of a city under siege from an unseen force. No one can stop it, the government and military are in disarray and it’s left to the survivors to run a lawless society.

What gripped me more than anything were the little touches found throughout the book. With owners falling prey to the sweats who’s left to feed their pets? The pets become wild and will attack for food. It’s all very Stephen King! With no internet, facebook or twitter people resort to the old fashioned way of communicating, who’d have thought things could get that bad – imagine a life without email, ridiculous!

A wonderful and very quick read, Death is a Welcome Guest is certainly welcome on my bookshelf. It will leave you with questions long after you turn the final pages and put the book down for the final time.

  • Hardcover:384 pages
  • Publisher:John Murray (4 Jun. 2015)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1848546548
  • ISBN-13:978-1848546547

Posted in book review, Books, Crime, Fiction Tagged , , ,

The Tears of Angels by Caro Ramsay – Book Review

The Tears of Angels: An Anderson & Costello Scottish Police Procedural - An Anderson & Costello Mystery 6 (Hardback)Past crimes cause new murder in this tense and twisting psychological thriller A few days before the summer solstice a 92-year-old woman is found burned to death in her home. On the same day, a man’s mutilated corpse is discovered in a field, his arms ripped from their sockets, a Tarot card depicting The Fool inserted in his mouth. When the victim is identified as someone for whom the police have been looking for almost a year, detectives Anderson and Costello find themselves caught up in a case where nothing is as it seems. Was the dead man really responsible for three child murders? And what is the connection with the death of the elderly woman? The investigation leads to the tranquil shores of Loch Lomond where Anderson and Costello will finally uncover the shocking truth.

It has been close on five years since I last read a book by Caro Ramsay and I can’t for one minute figure out why it has taken me so long to pick another title up in the Anderson and Costello series, especially considering my enjoyment with this title. My first introduction to this rather intriguing coupling was with Dark Water, their third adventure and when I had the opportunity this week to take a look at the next in the series with The Tears of Angels I jumped at the chance.

It did take me a few chapters to find my feet with this book, there’s so much going on and a plethora of characters, both old and new, to reacquaint and discover, so many names in such a short space of time, witnesses, victims and police. Once I did, I found my footing and my pace never wavered, such is Ramsay’s storytelling and writing style.

The plot is intriguing and well thought out and developed. There are a number of shocks instore and more than a handful of brutal murders that will have you reeling! No one is safe and that’s what I like about an author who isn’t afraid to take risk and is not afraid to eliminate a character you think as a reader should run and run. The Tears of Angels isn’t all about our intrepid duo, Loch Lomond is a winner too and I lost count on the number of times I wanted to visit this part of the world while reading about murders and past crimes, Caro Ramsay certainly brought the area to life with an imaginative and compelling narrative.

As the story develops I was convinced I knew the truth, only to be shot down in flames at the end. I love books that do that to me, it doesn’t happen all that often but when it does, you know you’ve met your match!! Excellent writing, a great and complex plot and characters you both love and hate equally. I guess you can’t ask for more, maybe a return ticket to Scotland might help!

  • Hardcover:256 pages
  • Publisher:Severn House Publishers Ltd (29 May 2015)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0727885154
  • ISBN-13:978-0727885159

Posted in book reviews, Books, Crime, Scotland Tagged , , , ,

Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo – Book Review

Blood on Snow (Hardback)Olav lives the lonely life of a fixer.
When you ‘fix’ people for a living – 
terminally – it’s hard to get close to anyone.
Now he’s finally met the woman of his dreams.
But there are two problems.
She’s his boss’s wife.
And Olav’s just been hired to kill her.

Jo Nesbo does like his troubled protagonists and in Olav, a fixer for hire, he certainly has another one! Blood on Snow is a standalone story measuring just 200 pages and is over before you know it so if you’re looking for a quick Norwegian fix then look no further.

A dark novel by nature, it does have glimpses of light thanks mainly by his infatuation with Corina Hoffmann, his target. Olav’s voice is strong throughout and the short novel is insular but moves along at a fairly rapid pace. The narrative is typically Nesbo and is both poetic and descriptive, helping to pull the reader in from beginning to end.

Although an enjoyable novel this is no Harry Hole novel and doesn’t have the history we know and love but Olav is a curious character who does have depth. A dyslexic, he struggles with his writing and does appear to some to be a rather simple character but misjudge at your peril and you will pay the ultimate price. He does show glimpses of being a clever fixer without being overly intelligent and is ridiculed by those he comes into contact with.

There are a few nice and unexpected surprises towards the end as Nesbo wraps things up rather neatly and I couldn’t help but enjoy the references to The Snowman, a book that still remains one of my favourite novels I’ve read.

Slick, poetic and dark, Blood on Snow is an enjoyable short story, one that continues to keep the reader highly invested in Norwegian crime, something Nesbo does rather well!


  • Hardcover:208 pages
  • Publisher:Harvill Secker (9 April 2015)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1846558603
  • ISBN-13:978-1846558603

Posted in book reviews, Books, Crime, Jo Nesbo, Norway Tagged , , , , ,

A Song of Shadows – Charlie Parker – by John Connolly

A Song of Shadows - Charlie Parker Thriller (Hardback)Grievously wounded private detective Charlie Parker investigates a case that has its origins in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War.

Broken, but undeterred, private detective Charlie Parker faces the darkest of dark forces in a case with its roots in the second world war, and a concentration camp unlike any other . . .

Recovering from a near-fatal shooting and tormented by memories of a world beyond this one, Parker has retreated to the small Maine town of Boreas to recover. There he befriends a widow named Ruth Winter and her young daughter, Amanda. But Ruth has her secrets. She is hiding from the past, and the forces that threaten her have their origins in the Second World War, in a town called Lubko and a concentration camp unlike any other. Old atrocities are about to be unearthed, and old sinners will kill to hide their sins. Now Parker is about to risk his life to defend a woman he barely knows, one who fears him almost as much as she fears those who are coming for her.

His enemies believe him to be vulnerable. Fearful. Solitary.

But they are wrong. Parker is far from afraid, and far from alone.

For something is emerging from the shadows . . .

Charlie Parker is back for another adventure but this time things are very very different. As we’ve already seen (above), Charlie is recovering after being shot to pieces and to put it mildly, the private investigator is a little fragile. In A Song of Shadows it’s very much a case of two steps forward and one step back in his recovery. In a lot of pain and discomfort Charlie moves to the relative safety of small town Boreas to reenergise but as with all of John Connolly’s books, things don’t quite go to plan – fortunately for us!

When I read The Wolf in Winter last year I remember being blown away by Connolly’s overall characterisation but it was one character – a homeless man named Jude – that held me captive throughout, even though he was only in the book momentarily. If you haven’t read it then please do, hopefully you’ll take out of it as much as I did, it’s well worth a read.

This time around it wasn’t so much a character that held my attention but the poignant back story of the Holocaust, Nazi supremacy and concentration camps. Stirring stuff, the amount of research that must have gone into this book is mind-blowing, but one thing I can guarantee, it will make you think about the past.

I presented a radio documentary for the BBC in the second half of last year on the Holocaust and children affected by the depravity and interviewing survivors as I did, this book reopened many of those feelings and for me the book is quite an emotive read.

The first half of the book sets the scene with a terrific and free flowing narrative all the while laying a solid foundation for events covered in the second half of the book. There are numerous storylines floating around and it is a complex read, you certainly need your wits about you but one thing Connolly never fails to do is tie up all the loose ends and leave you wanting more when the final page has been read. He’s also quite adept at throwing in the odd red herring and surprise or two along the way.

One thing Connolly does well is balance the book with some well needed humour, Louis and Angel brought me to tears on many an occasion. I couldn’t help but smile each time they appeared and the partnership never fails to entertain and impress, they are without question a terrific duo.

So there we have it, yet another superb read from John Connolly. Haunting and emotive in parts yet humorous and thrilling in others. A well thought out storyline, Charlie Parker can do no wrong and neither it seems can his creator! Bravo!

  • Hardcover:448 pages
  • Publisher:Hodder & Stoughton (9 April 2015)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1444751484
  • ISBN-13:978-1444751482

Posted in book reviews, Books, Thriller, Thrillers Tagged , , ,

The Defence by Steve Cavanagh – Book Review

The Defence

The Defence

Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different.

It’s been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy.

Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if he wants to save his daughter.

Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible?

Lose this case and he loses everything.

I have to admit that I was curious to see where the author would take this book – The Defence by Steve Cavanagh – given the narrow confines of the story. Eddie Flynn, the protagonist, wakes up to find a bomb strapped to his person, he’s given two days to achieve a favourable result in court or his world ends, literally.

That’s all well and good if you’re allowed the freedom to research, investigate and call in favours but Eddie, under close scrutiny from the Russian mob, can’t make a single phone call or contact the police or feds for fear of retribution. I felt claustrophobic before I began reading and although the feeling does alleviate somewhat it’s a great feeling to have when you begin reading a new book. That feeling of “how the hell is he going to get out of this” more or less sums it up because when you think about it initially you can’t see a way out, it’s a hopeless case!

It’s impossible to go into too much depth with this review due to the nature of the story but what I will say is that I was entertained from the turn of the first page until its frenetic ending. It was never a case of will he or won’t he succeed it was how. It’s the strength of this how that makes the book so engaging and clever.

The narrative affords a rapid read, as does the storyline and supporting characters. I really felt for Eddie and loved him as a character and as a father, determined to succeed against all odds you find yourself rooting for him even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to!

Cavanagh clearly knows his stuff and the court scenes were as entertaining and realistic as any I’ve read before. Of all the chapters, one stood out which highlights his skill as a writer and a lawyer, the cross examination of the exotic dancer. Clever, sharp and relentless the observations and the turn around blew me away. Simple but oh so very effective!

So there we have it, a fast paced courtroom thriller that is so much more than a prosecutor, a defence lawyer and a ruthless defendant. This is one book I’d love to see made into a film.

  • Paperback:320 pages
  • Publisher:Orion (12 Mar. 2015)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1409152308
  • ISBN-13:978-1409152309

Posted in Action, book reviews, Books, Courtroom Drama, Legal Thriller Tagged , , , , ,

A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan – Book Review

A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan

A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan

When Inspector Akyl Borubaev of Bishkek Murder Squad arrives at the brutal murder scene of a young woman, all evidence hints at a sadistic serial killer on the hunt for more prey.

But when the young woman’s father turns out to be a leading government minister, the pressure is on Borubaev to solve the case not only quickly but also quietly, by any means possible. Until more bodies are found…

Still in mourning after his wife’s recent death, Borubaev descends into Bishkek’s brutal underworld, a place where no-one and nothing is as it seems, where everyone is playing for the highest stakes, and where violence is the only solution. 

With each turn of the page, the temperature in Bishkek falls, snow filled pages full of depravity, murder and a bitter chill that finds its way into the very soul of the reader. There are only two endearing aspects about the tale, Akyl Borubaev – a detective from the Murder Squad – and copious amounts of vodka available throughout, and not necessarily in that order! This is A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan.

Akyl Borubaev is struggling to come to terms with the loss of his wife Chinara a few months earlier and her ghost like persona haunts the book from beginning to end – and there’s a nice little twist at the end too, rather unexpected.

We were up on Ibraimova Street, just down from the Blonder Pub, on the unlit birch-lined path above the carriageway, where the moorzilki, the cheapest railway station whores, hang out in the summer, by the footbridge. Dumpy, surly women, big-bellied and chain-smoking, swigging cans of Baltika beer, dressed to depress in shapeless tee-shirts and tracksuit bottoms, easy down for instant access, easy up for a quick escape. No business ladies here now though, not at twenty below and more snow coming.

Our protagonist is hurting and each day is a chore as he tries to avoid the bottle of vodka chilling outside on the snow laden window ledge, inviting memories of his dearly departed wife and happier times. He goes about his business with pride and dedication, desperate not to fall into the trap of so many before him. Determined not to surrender and become corruptible, all he has left is his pride and his job.

This is a wonderful book and despite the bleak outlook and dark times that have befallen Akyl and Bishkek, the narrative is savage yet at the same time beautifully crafted. I had a smile on my face throughout and despite numerous murders – gruesome ones at that – and scenes of torture there’s something rather endearing about this tale.

Full of great characters, double cross, debauchery and murders that will guarantee to leave you breathless – they are rather gruesome – A Killing Winter satisfies on so many levels and I for one can’t wait for spring to arrive with Callaghan’s next book and Akyl’s new adventure.

Brutal, savage and unrelenting. Браво!!


  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (26 Feb. 2015)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1848669755
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848669758
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.2 x 24.5 cm

Posted in book reviews, Books, Crime, Fiction Tagged , , ,

Primitive Forensics – Article by Robin Blake


When my fictional 18th century coroner, Titus Cragg of Preston, investigates a suspicious death, he takes into account all the different kinds of evidence available to him, which means establishing the physical facts of a case and making deductions from those facts. When thinking like this, he is in effect practising an early form of what we call “forensic science”, in which he’s much encouraged by his modern young friend and informal assistant Dr Fidelis. But Cragg is a man of his time, in which hundreds of years of pre-scientific lore, of folk traditions and superstitions, also has to be reckoned with.

The Scrivener by Robin Blake

The Scrivener by Robin Blake

Enquiries by coroners in Cragg’s time were still governed to a considerable extent by popular belief in divine intervention. The old adage that “mordre wol out”, chillingly evoked by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale, derives from the idea that murder was so abhorrent in the eyes of God that sooner or later he always exposed and punished the murderer. Long ago physical trials by water or fire had been ways of hurrying the process up: if the suspects floated, or were not burned, they were not guilty, and vice versa.  By the 18th century such procedures had long fallen out of use, but popular superstition remained a factor in any body of evidence.

Reports that a ghost had appeared to someone could be taken as proof that the dead person was haunting his murderer, just as Banquo’s ghost returns to accuse Macbeth. As psychological side-effects of guilt, such hallucinations may be plausible evidence, but another technique, the bleeding corpse trial, had rather less basis in reality. Here a suspect would be made to grip the hand of the body under inquest and, if this caused the corpse’s wounds to bleed anew, it was taken as the touch of the murderer.

Careful examination of the body, and the position it was found in, had always been essential to the coroner’s procedure. Sometimes this has a modern ring to it, as in the way wounds were precisely mapped and measured. The famous 1593 inquest into the violent death of the playwright Christopher Marlowe was very specific in finding “a mortal wound over the right eye of the depth of two inches and of the width of one inch”. However the coroner’s examination also took note of less tangible things, such as the expression on the victim’s face. Some believed this was a significant pointer towards the manner of death: a placid face would rule out a violent murder whereas a look of stark terror made it an open and shut case for homicide.

One forensic experiment, devised in the late 17th century, had a quasi-scientific basis. This was used to answer a question that had always been of special interest to coroners: whether the death of a new-born baby occurred before or after its birth. A piece of the infant’s lung was dropped into water. If it sank, that was taken as an indication that the lung had never been inflated; if it floated, it was taken that the baby had breathed before it died. This test remained in use for most of the 18th century.

Increasingly ideas in “natural philosophy”, based on observation and experiment of a kind beloved of Dr Fidelis, competed for credibility with a vast core of pre-existing beliefs and superstitions that had accumulated  over thousands of years. Coroners like Cragg were therefore working at the very cusp of change between traditional and scientific forensics. It is what makes them such interesting figures.

(Robin Blake’s The Scrivener, the third Cragg and Fidelis mystery, is published by Constable in the UK. In the United States it appears under the imprint of Minotaur Books with the variant title The Hidden Man.) Follow Robin Blake on Twitter and for more information on his books visit

Posted in Article, Author, Books, Historical Fiction Tagged , , , , ,

Death of a Liar by M.C. Beaton – Book Review

Death of a Liar - Hamish Macbeth Murder Mystery (Hardback)

Death of a Liar – Hamish Macbeth Murder Mystery (Hardback)

Sergeant Hamish Macbeth is alarmed to receive a report from a woman in the small Highlands village of Cronish. She has been brutally attacked and a dangerous criminal is on the loose. but upon further investigation it would appear she was lying about the crime.

When the same woman calls Hamish back a few days later about an intruder in her house, he takes her claim with a pinch of salt – only this time it would appear she was telling the truth as her body is found in her home. and Hamish must sort through all her lies to solve the mystery of her murder.

An entertaining romp in the Scottish Highlands, Hamish Macbeth is back for his 30th adventure in Death of a Liar and he doesn’t appear to have aged at all, the writing and ideas are as fresh today as they were when they began with Death of a Gossip in 1985. Funny, charismatic and a real cad, Macbeth is one of those literary characters you simply devour and can’t wait to read his next adventure.

As reviously mentioned (above) a woman calls Hamish to report a crime, she’s been raped, but when Hamish investigates he discovers that the woman has a rather lengthy track record of lying. A short time later, a few cross words exchanged, Hamish receives another call that an intruder is in the house and is threatening to kill her. Macbeth being Macbeth puts the phone down and goes back to sleep, certain the woman is lying again. Little does Macbeth know that the woman for once is telling the truth.

Macbeth investigates her murder but is convinced that her death is linked to the disappearance of two new villagers in Lochdubh. What follows is an effortless and imaginative narrative, drawing the reader in to the host of characters, all with their own personality but it’s Macbeth most readers are interested and it’s easy to see why.

Hamish is his usual self, one minute he likes Dick’s company at the police station, the next he’s plotting how to get rid of him. Add to that his fickle attraction and interest to new and past romantic conquests and I’m amazed that poor old Hamish has time to do any police work! Beaton brings the area to life with a wonderful and descriptive prose, a prose that appears to rely on the ever changing weather for inspiration!

Another wonderful Hamish Macbeth adventure, simply put …..we want more!

  • Hardcover:224 pages
  • Publisher:Constable (5 Feb. 2015)
  • Language:Unknown
  • ISBN-10:1780331096
  • ISBN-13:978-1780331096

Posted in book reviews, Books, Crime, Fiction, Scotland Tagged , , , ,

Chocolate Pecan Cookies by Dominique Ansel

Dominique Ansel: Secret Recipes from the World Famous New York Bakery (Hardback)

Dominique Ansel: Secret Recipes

It doesn’t happen all that often but when it does, it takes your breath away!

The latest cook and bakery book to arrive is Dominique Ansel’s The Secret Recipes, creator of the world famous Cronut – published in the UK in March by Murdoch Books. For those who haven’t heard of this delightful delicacy it’s a rather ingenious cross between a croissant and a doughnut and although I’ve never had the chance to eat one, they do look incredibly tempting. An ideal combination meal of breakfast and brunch, lines form every morning at Dominique’s New York bakery to buy them.  Dominique includes a home version in his book in the advanced section, not the ones on offer in New York – I am yet to attempt it!

Let’s not mess about here; this is without doubt a beautiful book and one that will take pride of place on my bookshelf for years to come. The Secret Recipes is one of those books that oozes quality and I knew it was going to be a good book before I’d had the opportunity to open the cover and turn to the first page, it just feels right, it looks right! A go to book full of irresistible recipes and must bakes, the book takes into consideration three levels of home baker – beginner, intermediate and advanced so there’s something here for everyone and something for the beginner and intermediate to aspire to.

The one thing this book does – and I’ll certainly testify to this – is make you want to bake immediately. You’ll devour the recipes, make a few notes on a shopping pad and rush out to buy ingredients for your first attempt! That’s exactly what happened to me on Saturday! I am that man! Once I’d finished my gym session I headed to my local superstore and bought the ingredients required to make chocolate pecan cookies.

One of the interesting things about this book are the notes accompanying each recipe. Dominique encourages you to try new things and if something isn’t working with a recipe; don’t be afraid to try something different, the instructions guide you through each process from beginning to end in simple steps. The recipes are easy to follow and set out in such a way that as long as you read the recipe before you begin, gather everything you need then you won’t go far wrong!

This is what the chocolate pecan cookies turned out like, not too shabby!! …….

Chocolate Pecan Cookies from Dominique Ansel’s: The Secret Recipes

Chocolate Pecan Cookies from Dominique Ansel’s: The Secret Recipes

Cookies are fairly simple to bake but get it wrong and they are disastrous! Following the recipe for the chocolate pecan cookies I slightly adapted the recipe for the ingredients I had on hand. 60% or higher chocolate was substituted for 51% and chocolate drops substituted for pieces of chocolate (added towards the end of the mix). It didn’t matter and the overall flavour and result magnificent but I will be trying this again soon with a higher concentrate of cocoa. That said, I took them in to work this morning and the cookies were eaten within 10 minutes – not sure what that says about my colleagues but I haven’t killed anyone just yet!

One note about using chocolate pieces is that when you bite into the pecan cookie and hit a piece of chocolate, there’s no better sensation! Everyone who’s tried these cookies commented about the chocolate pieces so I think I’ll continue using misshapes! The book has definitely encouraged me to practice more and to try and improve, most of all it’s a good read and an enjoyable one.


I love making this recipe . . . because of its forgiving nature and utterly addictive results.

Skill Level Beginner

Time 15 minutes one day before; 20 minutes the day of

Yield 20 cookies (about 1¾ ounces/50 grams each)


Dark chocolate chips                             2 cups                                                              455 grams
(60% cocoa content or greater)

Unsalted butter (84% butterfat)       3 tablespoons + ½ teaspoon                   45 grams

Granulated sugar                                   1 cup + 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons  250 grams

Cornflour (cornstarch)                         ¼ cup                                                              42 grams

Baking powder                                        ¾ teaspoon                                                   3.75 grams

Kosher salt                                                ½ teaspoon                                                   1 gram

Whole eggs (large), lightly beaten   3 each                                                              3 each (150 grams)

Pecans, coarsely chopped                    ¼ cup                                                              55 grams

One Day Before – Make Dough

Melt 1½ cups (340 grams) of the chocolate chips (set aside remaining chocolate) in a double boiler: Fill a medium saucepan with about 3 inches (7.5 cm) water and bring it to a simmer. Place the chips in a medium heatproof bowl and place the bowl snugly over the water. Stir slowly with a heatproof spatula to ensure that the chocolate chips are completely melted and smooth before turning off the heat.*

Melt the butter in the microwave (about 30 seconds on high). Mix into the melted chocolate with the spatula. Keep warm over the hot water.

Combine the sugar, cornflour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the eggs and whisk until fully blended and the mixture resembles pancake batter. Use the spatula to make sure you incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled on the bottom or sides of the bowl.

Slowly whisk in the melted chocolate–butter mixture. (If it has cooled and begun to solidify, gently reheat it before incorporating.)

Gently fold in the remaining ½ cup (115 grams) chocolate chips and the pecans with the spatula.±

Transfer the dough to a shallow baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the batter, to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight to rest.

The Day Of Bake

Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) for conventional or 350ºF (175ºC) for convection. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Using your hands, break the dough into pieces the size of your palm (about 3½ tablespoons/50 grams). Roll the dough into balls and place them on the baking tray at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart from one another. Press gently on the top of each ball with the palm of your hand to make a thick disk. This dough doesn’t spread much, so the disks should be relatively close to the size of cookie you’d like.

Bake on the centre rack for 4 minutes. Rotate the tray 180 degrees and bake for about 4 minutes more. When the cookies are just beginning to crack on top but the dough is set on the edge and has a soft spot about the size of a 10-cent coin in the centre, remove from the oven.

Let the cookies cool on the tray for 5 to 7 minutes, to further set.

Remove the cookies from the tray and set aside. Reline the cooled tray with clean baking paper and continue with the remaining dough.

Serving Instructions All cookies are best eaten while warm. A glass of ice-cold milk helps.

Storage Instructions The dough can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator for 3 days
or frozen for up to 1 week. (Thaw in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking.) The baked cookies
can be kept in a closed airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Dominique Ansel’s: The Secret Recipes is published by Murdoch Books

Posted in Baking, Books, cooking, Kitchen, New York, Recipes Tagged , , , , , ,