Tuesday, 26 February 2019

My Jewish-themed Reads Part 3 - #JBW2019

This year, I'm an official book blog partner of Jewish Book Week in London (2 to 10 March 2019). There are still tickets available for various events - but with only a few days left to go before Jewish Book Week begins, you’ll need to be quick! Visit the website - http://jewishbookweek.com - for more details.

If you follow me on Twitter or follow Off-the-Shelf Books, you'll know that I'm writing Jewish-themed crime fiction and I've made it my mission to read more Jewish-themed books this year. While I won't read all of the books on my list before next weekend(!), I will still be reading them throughout 2019. Here are three more Jewish-themed reads - more to come soon!

To Kill the Truth by Sam Bourne 
Published in hardback by Quercus on 21 February 2019

Jonathan Freedland (Sam Bourne) will be speaking at Jewish Book Week on 10 March 2019, at 5 pm at Kings Place, London.

Publisher's description
Someone is trying to destroy the evidence of history's greatest crimes.
Academics and Holocaust survivors dead in mysterious circumstances. Museums and libraries burning. Digital records and irreplaceable proofs, lost for ever.
Former White House operative Maggie Costello has sworn off politics. But when the Governor of Virginia seeks her help to stop the lethal spiral of killings, she knows that this is bigger than any political game. 
As Black Lives Matter protestors clash with slavery deniers, America is on a knife-edge and time is running out. This deadly conspiracy could ignite a new Civil War - but who stands to gain most from the chaos?

My verdict
To Kill the Truth is certainly a thriller of the modern world. With clear roots in the David Irving trial, the book is filled with twists and turns, politics, technological warfare, fake news, racism/antisemitism and holocaust denial. It's a follow up to last year's To Kill the President (which I admit I haven't read), with a focus on pace and thrills to provide a high-octane rollercoaster read.

To book a ticket for Jonathan Freedland (Sam Bourne)'s Jewish Book Week event, click here.

The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl
Published in paperback by Orenda Books in March 2019 (ebook out now)

Publisher's description
In 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In a great haste, she escapes to Sweden, saving herself. Her family in Oslo, however, is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, who helped Ester get to Sweden. Their burgeoning relationship ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire.And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…

My verdict
The Courier is a literary spy thriller, perfect for John Le Carré fans, and a very welcome addition to the Nordic Noir genre ... So much tension bubbles away under the surface. But this is far more than just a thriller and a murder mystery. It's also a heartbreaking read, as Ester learns more about what happened to her family and her childhood friend. The ending brought tears to my eyes but also a strong sense of resolution. To read my full review, click here.

The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom by Beth Miller
Published by Bookouture in March 2019

Publisher's description: 
She followed her heart to change her life, but she didn’t realise how much she left behind…
Eliza Bloom has a list of rules: long, blue skirt on Thursdays, dinner with mother on Fridays, and never give your heart away to the wrong person. Nothing is out of place in her ordered life…
Then she met someone who she was never supposed to speak to. And he introduced her to a whole world of new lists:
New foods to try – oysters and sushi
Great movies to watch – Bambi and Some Like It Hot 
Things I love about Eliza Bloom
Eliza left everything she knew behind for him, but sometimes love just isn’t enough. Especially when he opens a hidden shoebox and starts asking a lot of questions about her past life. As the walls Eliza has carefully constructed threaten to come crashing down, will she find a way to keep hold of everyone she loves, and maybe, just maybe, bring the two sides of her heart together at last?

My verdict
The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom is a story of identity, love, choice and family. Eliza (or Aliza) Bloom runs away from her religious Jewish life to marry Alex, a non-Jewish man. Years later, her teenage daughter unlocks family secrets to reveal that moving on (and leaving the past behind) wasn't so straightforward after all. Eliza breaks the taboos and traditions of her religion to try new foods and new experiences, determined to please her new husband (who wants to introduce her to the 'wonders' of the 'real world'). This provides a good introduction to Orthodox Judaism (especially the more religious communities) for those who know little about it. It isn't always easy reading though, as Eliza struggles with her new identity and is torn between her old life (love for Judaism and her family, especially her grandfather, Zaida) and her new life (love for Alex and the excitement he provides). Some of her 'new experiences' did make me cringe, having been brought up with many of the Jewish traditions myself. This is an easy read, with a well-rounded mix of laughs, sensitivity and sadness. The book also raises interesting questions though, such as 'Is the grass always greener?' and 'Is it wise to make spur-of-the-moment life-changing decisions without knowing the full facts?'

So that's it for now! But I have many more Jewish-themed books on my list and will reading (and reviewing) them over the coming months. So do pop back to Off-the-Shelf Books for more updates!

Monday, 25 February 2019

BEST OF CRIME with Ella Drummond

Welcome to my latest BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


to share her BEST OF CRIME ...

It’s difficult to choose one and it probably changes with different books that I read, but I have to say at the moment it’s Lisa Jewell, her book Watching You was impossible to put down.

I recently watched Red Sparrow and loved Jennifer Lawrence’s character Dominika and how she paid back all those who’d used her so badly. I love watching a bit of inspired revenge being played out.

Breaking Bad. My son wanted me to watch it and I really didn’t think that it was my thing. One weekend he went away and left the first DVD series in front of my TV and I only began watching it so that I could honestly say I’d tried. But I was instantly hooked, and binge watched for 8 hours on some days. 

Villanelle from Killing Eve. I loved the calm way she killed people without any regret, they were simply contracts she had agreed to fulfill, as well as the ingenious ways she murdered each victim.

I have to say Hercule Poirot. I love the period, settings - which is probably why I ended up using an art deco house for My Last Lie – and his deductions. What’s not to love? 

A daffodil bulb (Narcissus). The bulb looks similar an onion and apparently two of them cooked and served with a meal would be lethal to an adult.

The most shocking death scene that I still haven’t recovered from has to be the death of Ned Stark in Game of Thrones. Why did they do that to him? Why?

It depends what I’m looking for to substantiate a plot thread that I want to include. But I don’t have a dedicated set of websites that I visit. For My Last Lie I’ve looked up anything from house plans for art deco houses of the twenties to ensure I have the right layout for the home in this book, The Briars. I’ve also looked up estate agency websites for photos of the insides of houses that might inspire something in my story. 

Allow yourself thinking time. It helps unravel plot twists. I also write an outline, not in detail, but one that reminds me where I intended going with the story. The story might change as I get to know the characters, or come up with a better plot twist, but an outline helps keep me going with the first draft.

Chocolate, I always eat too much, and Earl Grey tea, an endless supply.

Ella Drummond lives in Jersey with her husband and three rescue dogs. Described as ‘One to Watch’ by Good Housekeeping magazine when her debut WW1 novel, Broken Faces, was runner-up in the Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition and received a ‘Special Commendation’ in the Harry Bowling Prize. She was a finalist in the Contemporary Romance Category for the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards 2016. Her debut psychological thriller, My Last Lie, will be published by Hera Books on 20th February.

Find Ella Drummond on her website, on her Facebook page and on Twitter - @drummondella


Publisher's description
New beginnings. Old secrets.
Theo and Pilar. The perfect couple.
Successful, beautiful and very much in love.
Until a year ago - and the tragedy that nearly tore them apart.
When their baby died, a part of them died with him.
Now they’re trying to rebuild themselves, moving to a stunning house in rural Cornwall.
But someone knows all their secrets – and will stop at nothing to disturb their fragile peace. 
Theo and Pilar are about to learn that you can try to hide – but you can never outrun your past. 

My Last Lie was published by Hera Books on 20 February 2019

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Friday, 22 February 2019

The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon

The Ringmaster
By Vanda Symon
Published by Orenda Books (E-book - 18 February 2019; Paperback - 18 April 2019)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
Death is stalking the southern South Island of New Zealand...
Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigation, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, and Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus…
Determined to find out who’s running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending…

My verdict
I adored this book so much - it made me laugh, cry, grimace and cheer. The Ringmaster is the second book in this crime fiction series set in New Zealand. The writing is fabulous and, as with the previous book, Overkill, I was drawn straight into the story by the chilling prologue.

Vanda Symon writes with a distinctive style, with acute observations, vivid imagery, sharp witty dialogue and plenty of humour. I actually laughed all the way through the book - other than one scene that made me cry, but more on that shortly. Some crime novels could be set anywhere in the world, but The Ringmaster definitely brings the New Zealand setting to life. I found myself Googling locations, towns and even plant life, so that I could picture them as I read onwards.

Sam Shephard is a brilliant character and highly likeable. She's headstrong and determined and doesn't always do what she's told, which has a habit of getting her into trouble - especially in The Ringmaster, as her boss is giving her a very hard time. Sam is very 'normal' and, while she's far from perfect, she doesn't have any of the hang-ups often found in crime fiction protagonists. I love her friendship with her best friend, Maggie, which lightens up the darkness of the plot, and also her relationship with her parents and colleagues.

Not only are all of the characters in the book well rounded but they are also brilliantly described (both humans and animals). They all feel very real - I know this is the case due to the scene mentioned above that not only had me on the edge of my seat but also triggered tears.

In summary, The Ringmaster wowed me with its twisty journey, weaving various threads together, right through the shocking, and surprising, ending. This gripping series is a definite 'must read' for me - and anyone else who loves entertaining, humorous crime fiction with plenty of heart.

Aftershock by Adam Hamdy

By Adam Hamdy
Published by Headline (E-book & Hardback - out now; Paperback - 21 March 2019)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
Having survived the lethal Pendulum conspiracy, photographer John Wallace atones for his past mistakes.
DI Patrick Bailey clings to the hope that he can, at last, return to a normal life in London. 

FBI investigator Christine Ash - alone and paranoid - hunts down the remaining members of the ruthless Foundation organisation.

But when masked assassins strike at the heart of the UK government, a shocking new threat emerges that forces all three to reunite.

With time running out, they must defeat a lethal new adversary: a manipulative mastermind with sinister powers unlike anything they've seen before. 

My verdict
Wow, what a rollercoaster ride that was. I don't think the action stopped from beginning to end!

Aftershock is the third in a series. My advice is to read it after you've read the other two (Pendulum and Freefall). You really do need to understand the back story to get the most out of it.

Now about the book itself ...

As I've written above, the action doesn't stop and I felt quite exhausted by the end (in a good way)! Yet despite being an action-packed thriller, Aftershock is also a character-led story. Poor Ash, Wallace and Bailey - constantly in the firing line as the Foundation organisation attempts to hunt them down, and also battling with their inner demons, as the cat-and-mouse chase becomes increasingly personal.

The Pendulum series is well written and intelligently and cleverly plotted. It's entertaining (maybe far-fetched in places) but also a thought-provoking look at society, technology, government and the law.

I'm interested to see what's next for Adam Hamdy.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Author in the Spotlight - Kate Rhodes

It's been over two years since my last Author in the Spotlight feature. Today, I am delighted that KATE RHODES is taking part (and apologies to Kate for what became known as 'Vicki's Killer Question'). Ruin Beach is published in paperback by Simon & Schuster today (21 February 2019). 

Your Alice Quentin series is set in London. What prompted the switch to the Isles of Scilly for your new Ben Kitto series? 
London is my home town, so it was ideal territory for my first crime stories. I loved writing about such a huge, complex city, but felt tempted to try something different for my new series. I still wanted to set my books in a place I knew intimately and the Isles of Scilly were a logical choice. I’ve loved visiting them since my childhood. They seemed like the ideal place for a series of ‘closed room’ mysteries. The five inhabited islands lie in the Atlantic, west of Land’s End and haven’t featured in a crime series before. Bryher, St Agnes, Tresco and St Martin’s all have less than 200 permanent inhabitants, making them great terrain for crime stories that would rip a close community apart.

Community dynamic within a remote setting is very important in this new series - how did you make it feel so authentic? Experience or research, or both?
That’s a lovely compliment, thank you! Yearly holidays on the islands throughout my childhood helped a lot with authenticity. The islanders are also very friendly and inclusive towards visitors. I spent a month on the islands during 2012 and asked lots of questions, which people seemed happy to answer. I feel like I have committed the islands’ geography to memory after such a long stay, which was a bonus when plotting each book.

You began your writing life as a poet, which is why your novels are so beautifully written and also why your writing has lyrical rhythm. Why did you choose to write crime fiction?
I could be cynical and say that I wanted to pay my mortgage, because so few people buy poetry these days, but the truth is more complex. I loved reading crime from the age of twelve upwards, starting with Agatha Christie and then moving on to American noir. I think that great crime novels have all the style and precision of poetry, and it always thrills me when readers say they enjoy the flow of my prose.

Do you plot out the whole book before you start or just start writing and see where it leads you?
I write a one or two page synopsis and numerous character outlines before embarking, but sometimes things change radically. Characters can push themselves into the foreground unexpectedly, or I suddenly see a better twist and everything has to change. I can get bored if I nail everything down too tightly. A loose plan works best for me. So long as I know the beginning, the crisis, and the ending when I set off, everything usually works out fine.

Describe your writing style in 10 words or less? 
Clear and simple, with occasional outbreaks of poetry.

Do you have any strange writing habits? 
Too many to mention! I rarely start writing until the afternoon. My brain takes a long time to warm up, so I’ll procrastinate for as long as possible by doing the laundry, going to the supermarket, or taking a walk. I usually begin writing straight after lunch, then work solidly for five or six hours.

If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be? 
(AKA 'Vicki's Killer Question')
A Life of Crime and Lucky Breaks by a South London Girl.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Have more confidence. I think that 90% of writing is having the nerve to tell your tale. I waited until I was 38 before giving serious writing a try, too terrified to take the plunge.  

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Try to carve out a few regular time slots each week, so you get space to write. If you can join a writing group, or go on a course, that will help you develop your ideas. Also, don’t be afraid to take a few risks. It will help you enormously if you can make your book just a little bit different from what’s already available.

And lastly, why should people read Ruin Beach (and Hell Bay)?
If you enjoy crime novels set on tiny, remote islands, these books are for you. They’re also going to appeal to anyone who loves Cornwall’s dramatic scenery. The series has been optioned for TV, so if you read them now, you’ll be able to see how the production outfit that brought us The Fall and The Line of Duty interpret them on the small screen.

About Kate Rhodes
Kate Rhodes grew up in Greenwich, in South London.  Her first job was as an usherette at a London theatre, where she dreamed of becoming an actor and had the luxury of watching hundreds of plays without having to pay for a ticket. She studied in the UK and in Texas, completing a PhD then becoming an English teacher. Before her career as a crime writer began, Kate wrote two award-winning collections of poetry. Kate's favourite hobby is travelling with her husband Dave, an artist and short story writer. She lives in Cambridge, where she enjoys a view from her office of cows roaming across Stourbridge Common, and enjoys regular visits from her three grown-up step-sons. Kate is one of the original members of the influential crime writing group, Killer Women. She visited the Scillies frequently as a child and continues to return there.

Find Kate Rhodes on her website and Facebook page and follow Kate on Twitter - @K_RhodesWriter

Ruin Beach
Published by Simon & Schuster (21 February 2019

Publisher's description: 
The island of Tresco holds a dark secret someone will kill to protect.
Ben Kitto has become Deputy Commander in the Isles of Scilly Police. As the islands’ lazy summer takes hold, he finds himself missing the excitement of the murder squad in London. But when the body of professional diver Jude Trellon is discovered, anchored to the rocks of a nearby cave, his investigative skills are once again needed.
At first it appears that the young woman’s death was a tragic accident, but when evidence suggests otherwise, the islanders close ranks. With even those closest to the victim refusing to talk, it seems that plenty of islanders had reason to harm her. As the community remains guarded, Ben Kitto discovers that terrible secrets lie beneath the waters around Tresco, and the killer may soon strike again.
Everyone is a suspect.
Nobody is safe.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

The Shape of Truth and Lies Game (Rachel Abbott)

The Shape of Truth and Lies Game

Please note: I received an Advance Reader Copy from the author/publisher and the author/publisher has supplied the content for this blog post.

To celebrate the publication of The Shape of Lies, Rachel Abbott is playing a game of truth and lies. Play along, follow all of blog tour clues (this is the last day) to collect all the truths, and you could be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of The Shape of Lies.

How to play
Rachel Abbott has come up with two big lies and one absolute truth about her life. Can you channel her beloved detective, Tom Douglas, and detect the one truth? Pick carefully, then follow the blog tour to collect all the truths and enter the prize draw. Once you have all seven truths, email your answers to rachelabbottcomps@gmail.com.

Full T&Cs can be found here

About The Shape of Lies

This is Abbott’s ninth novel and it follows respectable mother, wife and head teacher, Anna Franklyn, who is driving to work when a voice on her favourite radio phone-in programme shatters every hope that she has escaped her dark past. The caller on ‘The One That Got Away’ claims to be her ex-lover, Scott, and in less than a week, he will expose her truth on air. But how is that possible when Scott is dead?

Meanwhile, Abbott’s much-loved detective, Tom Douglas, needs to find the killer responsible for two brutal murders and unravel Anna’s web of lies to discover what connects her to both bodies.

To read a review of the book, visit CrimeBookJunkie today!

Now play the game!
Now, read on to play The Shape of Truth and Lies game and be in with a chance of winning your very own signed copy.

A: I was the Executive Producer of the first interactive video version of Cluedo, starring Joan Sims and John Standing.

B: I worked on Coronation Street as a runner for two years after college and used to drink with William Roache, better known as actor Ken Barlow in the Granada bar every week.

C: I have developed a concept for a thriller gaming app which is currently being considered for production by Amazon.

Which one is the truth? A, B or C

Keep your answer safe, collect the other six truths and send all seven to: rachelabbottcomps@gmail.com

Follow the Blog Tour - to find the six truths

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

BEST OF CRIME with Fergus McNeill

Welcome to my latest BEST OF CRIME feature, looking at crime writers' top picks, from their favourite author and fictional detective to their best writing tip. 

Today I'm delighted to welcome 


to share his BEST OF CRIME ...

Erin Kelly is one of those authors who just always seems to deliver, and I’ve admired her books ever since her debut The Poison Tree. Some authors tell great stories, and some have a beautiful style of writing, but when you get both together then you have something special. 

There are so many to choose from, but I’m going to pick the original Dirty Harry movie. For me, it’s almost perfect – a wonderfully bleak anti-hero, a crazy-creepy villain, and a story that just keeps on raising the stakes. It even has a classic 70s soundtrack. I think the only thing wrong with it is the BRIGHT RED fake blood that those old films used. It looks like someone spilled a bottle of ketchup…

I love The Bridge, Columbo, Morse/Endeavour, Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes and Joan Hickson’s Miss Marple… but my favourite TV drama must be Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with Alec Guinness. Though not strictly crime, it’s very much a detective story, and I honestly can’t think of a better-made series.

A truly delicious villain from a darkly entertaining book is Mr Hemming from A Pleasure And A Calling. Mr Hemming is an estate agent who, over the years, has sold almost every house in the small town where he’s based… oh, and he’s kept a copy of EVERY key.

I think I have to go with Inspector Morse. Although there are obvious differences between the book and TV adaptations, he’s always a compelling character, absolutely certain of his hunches even though he’s prone to making mistakes. Despite the unlikable manner, there’s something very honest and very human about him.

One of the cleverest murder weapons I ever read about was the sniper rifle from Day Of The Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. What made it so special (spoiler alert) was the way the gun disassembled into a series of pieces which could be hidden inside a wounded war veteran’s crutches. This allowed the assassin to smuggle it through a tight security perimeter, and make his shot.

I wouldn’t say I have a “favourite” death scene, as I’m far too squeamish to enjoy the gruesome ones properly. But the death of Ratchett in Murder On The Orient Express has always been memorable – there’s something grimly satisfying about a wicked man meeting his end at the hands of those whose lives he ruined.

I like to know the places I’m writing about, so I often use Google Streetview. Parts of my most recent book are set in the Swiss city of Bern and I’d spent so much time walking the virtual streets that, when I finally went there for real, I had the most uncanny sense of déjà vu.

Getting started always seems the most difficult part of a day’s writing. To combat this, I’ve found that it helps to sketch out the action in a series of bullet points first, listing what each character will do and say. This is a quick and easy way to capture ideas and plan the rhythm of a scene. It also makes it less painful to discard things if they’re not working! Once I have my bullet points, I go through again, filling in any dialogue and noting any key bits of narrative. From there, it’s a lot easier to write up the draft text.

Coffee, coffee, and more coffee. And, if I’m working in a nice café, a good cinnamon Danish always helps.

Fergus McNeill has been creating computer games since the early eighties, writing his first interactive fiction titles while still at school. Over the years he has designed, directed and illustrated games for all sorts of systems, from consoles to iPhones.

A keen photographer and digital artist, Fergus lives in Hampshire with his wife and their very large cat. He is the author of the Detective Harland series (EYE CONTACT, KNIFE EDGE and CUT OUT) and the new thriller ASHES OF AMERICA.

Find Fergus McNeill on his website, on his Facebook page and on Twitter - @fergusmcneill


Publisher's description
‘What if the past came back to haunt you... but it wasn't the past you remembered?’
It’s 1953, and an optimistic America is shaking off the hurt of World War II. Russia is defeated and Germany is now an ally.
Former soldier Frank Rye is a small-town cop in rural Missouri, but the war has left him cynical and selfish. When his actions lead to the murder of a fellow officer, guilt drives him into a vengeful hunt for justice.
His search for the killer will drag him deep into his own past… to the wartime summer of 1944, when he was stationed in neutral Switzerland… to a clandestine world of love and lies.
To unmask the killer, he must uncover the truth about the war… and about himself.

Ashes of America is published on 19 February 2019.

Look out for more BEST OF CRIME features coming soon.

Click here to read more BEST OF CRIME features.

Monday, 18 February 2019

An interview with Chastity Riley by Simone Buchholz

I am delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz. Beton Rouge is published in paperback by Orenda Books on 21 February 2019.

An interview with Chastity Riley
By Simone Buchholz

—Good morning Riley.
—Good morning.

How are you today?
—I’m okay. A bit of a hangover maybe.

Were you drinking last night?

What did you have?
—Vodka spritzer.

—Vodka on the rocks with a slice of lemon, filled up with soda water.

Who invented that?

Do you drink every night?
—Almost every night.

Why these barrel-loads of alcohol?
—It’s my way of repairing the cuts in my heart.

How the hell does that work? I mean it’s alcohol not glue.
—Alcohol is glue mixed with desire. And believe me, it works.

Has it always worked for you?
—It‘s worked ever since my father shot himself with a gun.

Why did he do that?
—His heart was too broken to be repaired. My mother left us when I was two years old.

Where is she now?
—In Wisconsin, USA, I guess – maybe married to some asshole dentist.

Weird kind of motherhood.
—Do you think so?

—The only kind of motherhood I know, sorry.

Did you never want to be a mother yourself?
—Next question please.

—How old are you?
—Forty-six, but I feel like a hundred and ten.

—Seen a lot of violence.

—What kind of violence?
—Homicide, sexual violence, violence against kids, violence committed by kids, violence committed by society.

—What was the worst thing?
—A violent society is the requirement for any kind of violence.

Do you ever feel happy?
—Next question.

Please answer me. Please.
—Alcohol and sex make me feel better. And having friends.

Are your friends your family?
—Whatever family means.

And what does that mean to you – family?
—Being able to hold on to each other when you need to, and knowing you can do it without giving a reason. 

—For you, is your city, Hamburg, also like family?
—No. My city is my home, not my family. But if we’re talking about the sky above my city, let’s maybe call it Aunt Cloudy.

—Do you have any superheroine abilities?
—No more than anybody else – and no fewer, either.

—Are you a feminist?
—Am I a woman? What a shitty question.

Excuse me.
—It’s okay.

Describe your world in one sentence.
—You can blame FC St. Pauli for me being me.

Thank you for your time.

About Simone Buchholz
 Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award, and second place in the German Crime Fiction Prize, for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.

Find Simone Buchholz on Twitter - @ohneKlippo

About Beton Rouge

Beton Rouge
By Simone Buchholz
Published by Orenda Books (Ebook - out now; Paperback - published 21st February 2019)

Publisher's description
On a warm September morning, an unconscious man is found in a cage at the entrance to the offices of one of the biggest German newspapers. Closer inspection shows he is a manager of the company, and he’s been tortured. Three days later, another manager appears in similar circumstances.
Chastity Riley and her new colleague Ivo Stepanovic are tasked with uncovering the truth behind the attacks, an investigation that goes far beyond the revenge they first suspect … to the dubious past shared by both victims. Travelling to the south of Germany, they step into the elite world of boarding schools, where secrets are currency, and monsters are bred … monsters who will stop at nothing to protect themselves.

Here's a snippet from my review: 'Short chapters, snappy sentences, witty dialogue and succinct writing have created a fast-paced read - saying 'just one more chapter' to myself led me to read most of the book in one sitting.'

Read my full review here.

Follow the Blog Tour

Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz

Beton Rouge
By Simone Buchholz
Published by Orenda Books (ebook - out now; paperback - 21 February 2019)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
On a warm September morning, an unconscious man is found in a cage at the entrance to the offices of one of the biggest German newspapers. Closer inspection shows he is a manager of the company, and he’s been tortured. Three days later, another manager appears in similar circumstances.
Chastity Riley and her new colleague Ivo Stepanovic are tasked with uncovering the truth behind the attacks, an investigation that goes far beyond the revenge they first suspect … to the dubious past shared by both victims. Travelling to the south of Germany, they step into the elite world of boarding schools, where secrets are currency, and monsters are bred … monsters who will stop at nothing to protect themselves.

My verdict
Beton Rouge is another strong character-led novel from German author Simone Buchholz, lovingly translated by Rachel Ward. Following on from Blue Night, it again features feisty and tough public prosecutor Chastity Riley and a mystery to solve.

Beton Rouge isn't a particularly long book but there's a lot packed within its pages. Two unconscious men are discovered locked in cages outside the offices of a major German newspaper, both having been tortured and drugged. Plus there are flashbacks to boarding school students with bullying tendencies and plenty of secrets to hide.

Despite being a crime novel, it's so much more than that - in fact, at times the crime investigation takes a backseat, as Chastity reveals thoughts on her life, friends and drinking habits and also the modern world we live in. She's funny, sharp and very blunt and it's great fun being inside her head, especially when she's in a reflective mood. So while the book is dark, it's also full of humour and sadness too.

Short chapters, snappy sentences, witty dialogue and succinct writing have created a fast-paced read - saying 'just one more chapter' to myself led me to read most of the book in one sitting. Descriptions are vivid and rich, painting a colourful picture of of the German setting. I loved the chapter names - you'll have to discover these for yourself - all taken from a line or phrase from within the chapter itself.

Finishing Beton Rouge left me wanting more. I really do hope there is more to come!

Thursday, 14 February 2019

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient
By Alex Michaelides
Published by Orion (7 February 2019)
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher

Publisher's description
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet - and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can't bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.
Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia's silence goes far deeper than he first thought.
And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

My verdict
The Silent Patient managed to totally mess with my head. I have to admit that it's taken me weeks to get this review down on paper, and I still don't really know exactly what I want to say.

I often struggle with psychological thrillers unless they offer me something different. Well, I couldn't put this book down, reading it into the early hours. This was an unsettling experience, as the plot is filled with unreliability and secrecy, switching between Theo's narration in the present and flashbacks to Alicia's past. Theo is arrogant enough to believe that he will be the one to unlock Alicia's silence and to get her to talk again. I couldn't help but be mesmerised by his narrative - an unforgettable character.

This intelligent debut novel left me stunned by the end, kicking myself because I really didn't see the final twist coming! I can't give any spoilers, so you'll just have to read the book to discover what I mean.

I know it's only February, but The Silent Patient may well be one of the best psychological thrillers I'll review this year.

Follow the Blog Tour