Grave Danger – Alice James

More murder. More mayhem. More champagne.

Toni Windsor is failing at ‘happily ever after,’ but it really isn’t her fault.

All she wants is true love and the perfect wardrobe, but it doesn’t look like they are coming her way any time soon. Instead, there are murders to solve and zombies to raise, and she’s broken her phone again.

Worst of all, her shiny new boyfriend turns out to be a jerk; maybe dating a vampire wasn’t her best decision ever?

I was delighted to be asked if I’d take part in the blog tour for this book. Regular readers will have noticed that I’ve been doing far fewer tours in the last year or so. Therefore it takes a special book to tempt me out from behind the piles of books and onto a blog tour.

Grave Danger is that book.

It’s the second in the Lavington Windsor Mysteries, coming hot on the heels of Grave Secrets. The first book arrived at just the right moment and I absolutely loved it. It had everything; murder, mystery, zombies, politics, work, relationships, how to get blood out of clothing, necromancy, stylish zombies, the works.

So it was with some great excitement that I found myself with a copy of book 2: Grave Danger. More Lavington Windsor? Sign me up.

Following on hot on the heels of the first book, we find our plucky heroine, Lavington ‘Toni’ Windsor, estate agent by day, necromancer by night, back in action. There’s been a murder at the local school and Toni’s brother needs her help. Except Toni has enough problems on her plate with her crappy vampire boyfriend (sorry, he’s a terrible person/vampire) who seems ever more insistent on turning her into his vampire girlfriend (see?), and the Assemblage demanding more and more of her.

Oh yeah, you probably want to read the first book, erm, first. But you did that when I first reviewed Grave Secrets, didn’t you.

*stern look*

OK, fine. Go read it now. I’ll wait.

Right, while they’re gone (honestly, some people are such slackers) we can talk about book two. But if you’ve read the first book (well done you!), then you know just how good it was, and therefore should need very little encouragement from me to read it.

Where was I? Oh yes. Murder mystery, dead girl at school, our Toni gets called in to have a chat with her on account of being a necromancer and being able to do such things (just don’t forget the snacks, the undead get peckish). Oscar is being frankly awful and Toni is starting to get fed up with him.

Hijinks ensue.

The murder investigation forms the meat and bones of the story, with Toni discovering her place in vampire society as a thread running through the book. It was great to see more of how the world of the vampires worked here. Coupled with some fantastic secondary characters all doing interesting things for interesting reasons, and our lovely Toni’s delightful line in witty dialogue, Grave Danger is a splendid second instalment in what I hope will be the long-running Lavinton Windsor Mysteries.

Funny, dark, gory, love story with a side order of whodunnit. What more could you want? Hugely recommended, if you hadn’t guessed.

Book three is out later this year, and I for one can’t wait to read it.

Grave Danger by Alice James is published by Solaris, and is out in the UK on 25th May 2023. Many thanks to the publisher for the advance copy of the book for review.

More lovely bloggers will be sharing their thoughts about the book as part of the tour. If I haven’t convinced you (lord alone knows how you can resist after this), maybe they can. Go say hi. Take snacks.

blog tour poster for Alice James' Grave Danger

Beautiful Shining People by Michael Grothaus

A damaged young man meets an enigmatic waitress in a Tokyo café, and they embark on a journey that will change everything … an emotive speculative literary novel set in a near-future Japan

It’s our world, but decades into the future … an ordinary world, where cars drive themselves, drones glide across the sky, and robots work in burger shops. There are two superpowers and a digital Cold War, but all conflicts are safely oceans away. People get up, work, and have dinner. Everything is as it should be…

Except for seventeen-year-old John, a tech prodigy from a damaged family, who hides a deeply personal secret. But everything starts to change for him when he enters a tiny café on a cold Tokyo night. A café run by a disgraced sumo wrestler, where a peculiar dog with a spherical head lives, alongside its owner, enigmatic waitress Neotnia…

But Neotnia hides a secret of her own – a secret that will turn John’s unhappy life upside down. A secret that will take them from the neon streets of Tokyo to Hiroshima’s tragic past to the snowy mountains of Nagano. 

A secret that reveals that this world is anything ordinary – and it’s about to change forever…

There I was one evening recently, picking up book after book and bouncing off each in turn. I just couldn’t quite put my finger on what I wanted to read next. What was I in the mood for?

Then I remembered that I had a copy of the new Michael Grothaus book from Orenda Books on my kindle. I liked the sound of it – near(ish) future SF set in Japan, with a disgraced Sumo wrestler with an odd dog, and an enigmatic waitress. I’d also enjoyed Michael’s previous book Epiphany Jones a few years back.

Sure, let’s give it a go, I think to myself.

Beautiful Shining People is a book that just wraps itself around you and refuses to let go. I think I finally emerged blinking from it several hours later, and well past my usual bedtime (let’s just say I needed a LOT of coffee the following morning!).

It’s in part a love story, albeit an unusual one, meshed in literary science fiction. Like the title, this story is beautiful, the characters shine and you watch entranced as they come together, each with their own secrets and past, each trying to figure out where and how they fit in this strange new world. It’s a world of superpowers battling with deepfakes and AIs rather than conventional weapons. Of quantum computing and how it’ll change our society. Of Big Corporations and whether they’re good or bad. And how humanity is dealing with all of this.

The characters are extraordinary, yet very ordinary. John, a 17 year-old wunderkind brought to Tokyo by Sony, who wants to buy his revolutionary quantum code. Neotnia, the waitress from the tiny cafe that John stumbles across one evening and who will change his life forever. Goedio, the ex-Sumo wrestler whose life was upended by deepfakes and who now runs the cafe with his oddly spherical-headed dog, Inu.

Much like the Tokyo of the story, Beautiful Shining People is deeply layered, beautifully contructed and one of a kind.

Glorious. Hugely recommended.

Beautiful Shining People by Michael Grothaus is published by Orenda Books and is out now. Huge thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda for sending me an advance ebook to review.

The Vicar Man by Amelia Crowley

Dora is a barmaid.
Usually her life is fairly simple: she gets up, cleans the inn, feeds the chickens, argues with the increasingly obstreperous cockerel, listens to the woes of her fellow barmaid, avoids doing the laundry, and serves drinks to the motley crew of islanders who lurk about the taproom every night.
The same old routine, day in, day out.

Tonight, though, is different.

Tonight, just one week before the vernal equinox, after a catastrophically bad harvest the year before, a stranger has walked into the bar…

The Vicar Man is an utterly splendid historical fantasy, with a lovely line in folk horror and humour. A young, single, male priest turns up on the island a week before the equinox, and the villagers are looking for someone… special to help with the harvest.

Oh dear. Reverend Norman Portwhistle doesn’t quite know what’s about to hit him. And can the lovely Dora save the day?

I enjoyed this enormously, though it took me far too long to twig about the title! Loved the characters, especially Dora the barmaid. And the writing is witty, the plot engaging and it fair bounces along.

A delight to read, and well worth your time to check out!

The Hollows by Daniel Church

In a lonely village in the Peak District, during the onset of a once-in-a-lifetime snow storm, Constable Ellie Cheetham finds a body. The man, a local ne’er-do-well, appears to have died in a tragic accident: he drank too much and froze to death. 

But the facts don’t add up: the dead man is clutching a knife in one hand, and there’s evidence he was hiding from someone. Someone who watched him die. Stranger still, an odd mark has been drawn onto a stone beside his body. 

The next victims are two families on the outskirts of town. As the storm rises and the body count grows, Ellie realises she has a terrifying problem on her hands: someone – or some thing – is killing indiscriminately, attacking in the darkness and using the storm for cover. 

The killer is circling ever closer to the village. The storm’s getting worse… and the power’s just gone out.

A small village nestled deep in the Peak District. A body found frozen in the snow, and a storm on the way. The village is cut off, the lights start going out, and something out there is hungry…

Blimey, this book grabs you from the opening and doesn’t let go. It’s often brutal, very scary and utterly relentless. Ellie is a part of the very tiny police presence in the village, and whilst life is usually pretty quiet, things start going very wrong very quickly after the body is found. Throw in the local troublemaker family who the dead man was part of, and Ellie is suddenly having a very very bad day. And the sun is starting to set, and as Newt says in Aliens, they mostly come out at night. Mostly…

The horror lurks around the edges of the village as glimpses, slowly revealing itself. But there’s some pretty horrific stuff happening in the house of the dead man. The Harper family are a mightily unpleasant bunch, and at times I found myself rooting for them to meet their just rewards!

Overall, a good solid decently scary in places read with a great monster. If I have any criticism, it did drag a little in the middle for me, and could have been a bit tighter, but I enjoyed it. Well worth checking out if horror is your thing.

Just remember to lock the doors and windows…

The Hollows by Daniel Church is published by Angry Robot and is out now.

Fourteen years of this blog


A couple of weeks ago I posted on my Substack that I’d been blogging for twenty years.

Today, I realised that this little ol’ blog turns fourteen.

This will be post #991, which feels like quite a lot, though had I been more organised, I’d have got a few more reviews in and made it a nice round thousand!

Nothing much more to say. Fourteen years, eh?

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?

End of Story by Louise Swanson

It’s the year 2035 and fiction has been banned by the government for five years. Writing novels is a crime. Reading fairytales to children is punishable by law.

Fern Dostoy is a criminal. Officially, she has retrained in a new job outside of the arts but she still scrawls in a secret notepad in an effort to capture what her life has become: her work on a banned phone line, reading bedtime stories to sleep-starved children; Hunter, the young boy who calls her and has captured her heart; and the dreaded visits from government officials.

But as Fern begins to learn more about Hunter, doubts begin to surface. What are they both hiding? And who can be trusted?

Oh this book is amazing.

I loved Louise’s earlier books (writing as Louise Beech), this is her first foray into a dystopian sci-fi and boy is it a doozy.

It’s 2035 and fiction has been banned. Writing novels is a criminal offence. Even reading stories to children is punishable by law. As dystopian futures go, this is pretty bleak. The story of Fern, a once-famous author, and her move into secret work as a reader will draw you in, wrap you in this strange world leaving you wondering just how we got there, and how on earth it’s possible to come back.

Hard to say more without spoiling anything, so get yourself a copy of this brilliant book, a large cup of tea and settle down for the ride. It’s worth every illegally-written word.

The writing is beautiful, the setting horrific, and it finishes with an ending that’ll leave you thinking for days. Hugely recommended, and I for one cannot wait to see what Louise Swanson comes up with next.

End of Story by Louise Swanson is published by Hodder & Stoughton in March 2023. Huge thanks to the publisher for the advance copy of the book to review.

Needless Alley by Natalie Marlow

Birmingham, 1933. 

Private enquiry agent William Garrett, a man damaged by a dark childhood spent on Birmingham’s canals, specialises in facilitating divorces for the city’s male elite. With the help of his best friend -charming, out-of-work actor Ronnie Edgerton – William sets up honey traps. But photographing unsuspecting women in flagrante plagues his conscience and William heaves up his guts with remorse after every job. 

However, William’s life changes when he accidentally meets the beautiful Clara Morton and falls in love. Little does he know she is the wife of a client – a leading fascist with a dangerous obsession. And what should have been another straightforward job turns into something far more deadly. 

Set in 1930s Birmingham, and dripping with period atmosphere, Needless Alley is fabulous. William ‘Billy’ Garrett is a private enquiry agent, who specialises in helping men with divorces. For a suitable fee he’ll arrange a honey trap (ably assisted by his best friend Ronnie, an out of work actor) to get some incriminating photos and help the husbands get out of their marriages. But it all goes awry when he meets the beautiful Clara, the wife of one of his clients.

Gloriously gritty Brummie Noir with a real sense of place, the book takes in the highs and lows of Birmingham from the canals to the country houses, the tenements to the factories, and featuring a glorious cast of memorable characters, it’s a hugely impressive debut, and one which I highly recommend.

Needless Alley by Natalie Marlow is published by Baskerville and is out now. Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book to review

January/February roundup

Hello dear reader! How are you? It’s been forever. You look fabulous, as always.

I did mean to do a January roundup following my ‘How do you read so much?’ post, but then life got in the way (yes, I was reading more books), and before you know it, February has arrived (along with more books), and then you blink and it’s the end of the month and not only have I not done a January roundup, I don’t appear to have written very much at all this year.

Ooops. I blame Elden Ring (and Jackson Ford, who kept saying it was awesome) and appear to have lost *cough* hours into it already. Double oops.

It’s so pretty though. That’s me, about to go an investigate a castle to give a letter to some dude called Edgar (I think). I’m really not very good at keeping track of what’s going on and there’s no obvious ‘go here and do this’ list.

So yeah, been playing a LOT of Elden Ring and taking a bit of a break from the old blog/newsletter/everything. But I’m back! Cue fireworks/cake!

What have I been reading, I hear you ask? Well settle in kids, cos it’s a LIST. (the kind you don’t get in Elden Ring, grumble grumble). Super short reviews, might dive back in and write up some longer ones later!


It Ends At Midnight – Harriet Tyce [Wildfire, 2022]

Delightfully twisty thriller, starting (and ending, as the title suggests) at midnight on New Year. Seemed to be a good choice as I started it on 31st Dec and finished it on New Year’s Day. Full of unreliable narrators, kept me guessing until the very end. Enjoyed it a lot.

End of Story – Louise Swanson [Hodder, March 2023]

Oh this book is amazing. Loved Louise’s earlier books (writing as Louise Beech), this is her first foray into a dystopian sci-fi. 2035 and fiction has been banned. Writing novels is a crime. Reading stories to children is punishable by law. The writing is beautiful, the setting is horrific, and it finishes with an ending that’ll leave you stunned. Hugely recommended.

Needless Alley – Natalie Marlow [Baskerville, January 2023]

From a dystopian future to Birmingham, 1933. William Garret, private enquiry agent, specialises in helping men with divorces, but it all goes awry when he meets the beautiful Clara, the wife of one of his clients. Gloriously gritty Brummie Noir. A hugely impressive debut, and one which I highly recommend.

The Vicar Man – Amelia Crowley [2021]

Utterly splendid historical fantasy, with a lovely line in folk horror and humour. A young priest turns up on the island a week before the equinox, and the villagers are looking for someone… special to help with the harvest. Enjoyed this enormously, though it took me far too long to twig about the title!

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie

What’s there to say about this one? A classic Christie, one which gets talked about a lot. I’ve read shockingly few of Christie’s books. I enjoyed it, and had fun trying to figure out whodunnit, albeit unsuccessfully. Will I read more Christie? Sure.

The Devil Takes You Home – Gabino Iglesias [Mulholland, 2022]

Stunning. A father takes a job as a hitman to save his daughter and goes on a journey into darkness. Dark and bleak, but breathtakingly good. Not for the faint-hearted, but when I finished it, I knew that it will be top of my books of the year list, and I was only eight days into the year. It’s THAT good. If you read one from this list, read this one.

The Spare Man – Mary Robinette Kowal [Solaris, 2022]

Off into space for a locked room (well, locked spaceship) mystery. Tesla Crane is on her honeymoon on a space liner heading for Mars when there’s a murder and her new husband is promptly arrested. Cue lots of investigating, banter, cocktails, and the best dog, Gimlet. Delightfully entertaining.

The Daughters of Izdihar – Hadeer Elsbai [Orbit, January 2023]

First in a duology by debut author Hadeer Elsbai, set in an alternate Egyptian-inspired world featuring elemental magic and some seriously badass women fighting for their rights in a male-dominated world. Very much looking forward to book 2.

Grave Expectations – Alice Bell [Vintage, May 2023]

Enormous fun. Claire is a medium, Sophie her best friend, who also happens to be a ghost. And very sarcastic. A lovely murder mystery at an old country house with some brilliant characters, excellent banter and a cracking story. Fabulous debut, I shall be looking forward to what Alice Bell comes up with next.

Failure Is An Option – Matt Whyman [Vertebrate Publishing, 2022, Audible]

First non-fiction and audiobook of the year. Matt Whyman goes from being an average runner taking on the saturday morning parkrun to someone who runs ultras, and ultimately taking on the famed Dragon’s Back Race, a six-day event some consider to be amongst the toughest. Funny, honest and told with a wry sense of wit, I loved this book. Though I think I’ll stick to parkrun and the weekend trail run through the woods, I must admit I did look at a couple of longer running events…

Freeze – Kate Simants [Viper, March 2023]

A new reality TV show in the Arctic with a bunch of mostly unlikeable characters all vying for the win. What could possibly go wrong? Lots of things, that’s what. Who will win? And more importantly, will there be anyone left to claim the prize? Cracking thriller, pack your thermals!

Legends and Lattes – Travis Baldree [Tor, 2022]

Utterly delightful cosy fantasy. Viv the orc hangs up her sword (literally) and opens the first ever coffee shop in a little town. Not huge on plot, but a lovely cosy tale with characters you’ll come to love. I enjoyed it enormously.

The Other People – CJ Tudor [Penguin, 2020]

A missing child and a father’s quest to find her, even though the police think she’s dead. Fab suspense thriller dealing with love and loss, splendidly creepy. Loved it.

Phew! That was a lot of reading for one month. I don’t normally read that much, as is evidenced by…


Thirty Days of Darkness – Jenny Lund Madsen [Orenda Books, May 2023]

I was hugely fortunate to get a super-early sneak peak at this from the lovely Karen at Orenda Books, and appear to have been the first reader! Danish literary author Hannah is challenged to write a crime book in thirty days, so heads off to a remote village in Iceland. How hard can it be to write a mere genre story? Then there’s a murder, and suddenly everyone’s a suspect. Lovely vein of dark humour in here, enjoyed it a lot, and looking forward to book 2 already (and book 1 isn’t out for a couple of months!)

Games for Dead Girls – Jen Williams [HarperVoyager, March 2023]

Huuuge fan of Jen Williams’ books, so very excited to get my hands on an ebook proof of Games for Dead Girls. Played out over dual timelines, a macabre game in the past turned into tragedy, whilst present day Charlotte returns to the caravan park to research local folklore and uncover the secrets of what went on all those years ago. Stitch-faced Sue is a fantasticly spooky creation which will linger long after you’ve finished. Just hope she doesn’t come for you…

The Ugly Truth – LC North [Bantam Press, March 2023]

Melanie Lange has disappeared. A video shared on YouTube claims her father is holding her at a secret facility. He claims that she’s been admitted to a private medical clinic. Her friends say she’s been kidnapped. Who is telling the truth? Told through snippets of emails, transcripts of interviews and a Netflix documentary, you’ll change your mind a dozen times before you get to the end. Fascinating!

There we go. Sixteen books read across two months. Some to add to your watch lists, some to dive into now. Huge thanks to the publicists and publishers for the advance copies.

Have you read any of them? Any take your fancy?

Keep your eyes peeled for fuller reviews – and do let me know if there’s any you’d like to know more about!

On reading (a lot)

On the 9th of January I posted on FB that I’d just finished book #7 of the year, Gabino Inglesias’ superb The Devil Takes You Home.

A friend replied “7?! HOW?!”

Now I get this a lot, as I read a lot. Admittedly, the first week of January was a lot, even for me. Last year, for example, I read 52 books, and that’s the fewest I’ve read in a year for quite a while.

However, this doesn’t even come close to the number some of my #bookblogger chums get through! And they also regularly get the ‘how do you read that many/that fast?’ with a certain amount of incredulity on the part of the person asking, almost as if they can’t quite believe that it’s true.

It’s true. (I’m not for a moment suggesting that my friend didn’t believe me!)

Whilst this is an unusual rate for me personally, a few factors contributed.

I started the first book (Harriet Tyce’s excellent It Ends At Midnight) on New Year’s Eve (seemed appropriate), so finished it off in the morning of January 1st. Some would argue that I’ve not ‘read’ all of the book in 2023. Hush now.

I started book 2 (Louise Swanson’s equally excellent End of Story) straight away. I love her books, so dived in. Finished that on January 2nd, and onto…

Book 3 (Needless Alley, by Natalie Marlow). Finished that one on January 4th, early hours of the morning. By that point I’d discovered that I’d come down with Covid, so was off work sick, curled up on the sofa. I’d been send this book by the lovely folk at Baskerville, it’s out in February so I wanted to get through it in time for publication.

Book 4 was The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie. Started when I got up on January 4th, finished later that evening.

Book 5 was The Vicar Man, by Amelia Crowley. January 5th, read it in a day (sofa, blanket, hot honey & lemon). Fairly short book, enormously entertaining. Written by a friend’s partner and been on the shelf for a little while (sorry Amelia!)

Book 6 was The Spare Man, by Mary Robinette Kowal, read between January 6th and January 7th. Bit of a chunkier ebook, so took me a while longer. Enjoyed it a lot so savoured it a little. Gimlet is the Best Dog Ever.

Book 7 was Gabino Inglesias’ The Devil Takes You Home, which was just utterly stunning in its writing and kept me reading late into the night (well, the early hours of the morning of January 9th.

Things that helped me get through these books quickly:

  • January started with two days holiday
  • I had two days off sick with Covid…
  • …followed by a weekend when couldn’t go anywhere (see Covid excuse)
  • The kids were staying out of the way because of the twice-aforementioned Covid which meant (relative) peace and quiet on my sofa under a blanket (and cat)

I also didn’t watch much TV. Just curled up on the sofa and read.

I’ve read another two books since then, but the pace has slowed somewhat. The Daughters of Izdihar by Hadeer Elsbai took me until January 13th, partly because I was back at work that week, the book was much chunkier and I was taking my time with it. TV was on more and it’s harder to concentrate on the books.

Latest book is Grave Expectations by Alice Bell (started Friday 13th, finished lunchtime today, Monday 16th), which I happened across on Instagram (I think) and promptly ignored my ‘no more books from NetGalley until I clear the backlog’ rule to request it and the pesky publisher only went and approved the request.

It’s enormous fun, about Claire, a 30-something medium whose best friend Sophie died when they were both 17, but still hangs around and keeps telling Claire where she’s gone wrong. Murder mystery at a big old house, loved it.

So yes, I read a lot. Mainly by not doing a lot of other things. My reading rate will drop off, I’m sure, probably back to the one or two a week.

My friend commented that they read maybe a book a month. And that’s brilliant! It really doesn’t matter how much, or how little you read. Are you enjoying it? Then carry on.

But if someone says that they read 200, 300 books a year? Instead of not believing them, or grumbling that they “can’t possibly read that much”, or they “can’t be reading properly” or “must be skipping bits” or, heaven forbid “must just be reading [insert current genre snobbery here]”

Then maybe just keep it to yourself. They’re happy reading whatever it is they want to read, in whatever format it is they’re happiest reading books. People read in different ways, for different reasons. Maybe they don’t watch TV. Maybe they read fast. Maybe they’re got a library card and are not afraid to use it.

Let’s all just be happy reading. There are so many great books out there.

Books of the year 2022

Well, that’s 2022 almost done. Usually by now I’d have done my books of the year lists – one for crime, one for SF/fantasy and one for everything else.

This year I’m going to condense it all into one list. Hey, it’s my blog, my rules.

I read 52 books this year (assuming I don’t finish one between now and midnight on the 31st – possible but unlikely), which feels like a nice round number. A book a week is a lot for some people, not a lot for others. It’s the lowest total personally since 2016 when I read 31 books.

Can’t think why 2020 might have had so many books…

Anyway, we were talking about books that I’ve loved this year. Here then is an entirely unsorted list of some of the books I’ve really enjoyed in 2022.

A Sh*tload of Crazy Powers, by Jackson Ford

Teagan Frost is back with a bang. Ford cranks the dial hard up way past eleven, and you’d better strap yourself in for another high-octane ride. It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s even been paying the slightest bit of attention that I love these books, and they’ve been a regular feature on my books of the year list. No pressure if you’re watching, Jackson.

The Rabbit Factor/The Moose Paradox by Antti Tuomainen

I adore Antti Tuomainen’s books, so it’s no surprise to find The Rabbit Factor and the sequel The Moose Paradox on this list.. They’re Tuomainen’s best yet, with black humour at its finest, deftly handled. Quirky characters, a fantastic setting and just great, fun reads.

Incy Wincy, by RJ Dark

Incy Wincy follows on from RJ Dark’s first Mal and Jackie adventure, A Numbers Game. More glorious shenanigans as everyone’s favourite psychic/private investigator and his best mate Jackie. Hugely entertaining, cracking plot and superb characters. Book 3 please, RJ.

Little Sister, by Gytha Lodge

A young girl staggers out of the woods covered in blood, but she insists that it’s her sister they need to worry about. The fourth book in a series, but worked as a standalone and left me wanting more. Lodge deftly leads you down various paths, crossing and uncrossing narratives – a gripping thriller that I enjoyed enormously.

Into the Dark by Fiona Cummins

Regular readers will also be aware of my love of Fiona Cummins’ books, and Into The Dark is no exception. Cummins carefully delivers little snippets of information as the plot unfurls, and you’re often left questioning what you thought you knew as each chapter plays out. Who do you trust, when no-one seems to trust each other? Dysfunctional families, secrets, lies and mysterious goings-on. And a new police detective on the case with a bit of a dark past himself…

Taste: My Life through Food by Stanley Tucci

I listened to this book on Audible, narrated by Stanley Tucci himself. He’s a genial host, regaling us with tales and recipes and other stories from his love of food. Hugely enjoyable.

Dog Rose Dirt, by Jen Williams

I seem to have been a bit remiss with my reviews this year – I could have sworn I’d written a long, glowing review of Jen Williams’ foray into crime writing, but it seems that it’s got lost along the way. Suffice it to say that this is a superb specimen of a ‘true crime’ serial killer story which is very much worth your time checking out. Superb writing, taut plot and another which I whipped through at pace, always needing to know what happened next.

The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox

Hugely enjoyed this. I read a lot of crime books and love a good supernatural thriller and police procedural, so this was right in my ballpark. What if a detective has to solve his own murder? Superb.

Life Sentence by AK Turner

Another which seems to have slipped down the back of the review sofa. I loved AK Turner’s first book Body Language, featuring mortuary assistant Cassie Raven, whose has a special connection with her recently deceased clients. Life Sentence is another fantastic book, and I highly recommend you picking up both.

SOLO: What running across mountains taught me about life, by Jenny Tough

Jenny Tough (yes, her real name) ran across mountain ranges on six continents, solo and unsupported. This is an incredible set of adventures, beautifully written. There’s a short film about her runs that’s just been released, and I highly recommend both the book and the film. I met Jenny at the Sidetracked event in Leeds in October, and she’s just as fabulous in person as she comes across in her book.

Wolf Pack, by Will Dean

Another year, another Tuva Moodyson mystery. Another certainty for the books of the year list. Look, if you’ve not read any of Will Dean’s books, sort that out. Wolf Pack is the fifth in the series, and not the best place to start as there’s a lot of backstory. But once again, if you’ve read the first four, you need no encouragement from me. If you’ve not read any yet, get yourself to a bookshop!

The Redeemer, by Victoria Goldman

This is a great debut from Goldman and I really enjoyed it. The story is strong, well-plotted and kept me guessing (wrongly, of course) all the way. Great start to a series, looking forward to more!

And Your Enemies Closer by Rob Parker

And Your Enemies Closer is the follow-up to Rob Parker’s brilliant Far From The Tree. It follows on six months after the events of the first book, and from the opening page (can it have a first page if it’s an audiobook?) I was hooked. I even found myself sat outside my house in the car for a couple of extra minutes’ listening time. Parker has got a knack for creating compelling, flawed characters that half the time you’re rooting for, and the other half you’re wondering what on earth they’re doing. He’s also a dab hand at a dark, twisting plot and has some very creatively unpleasant ways for equally unpleasant people to get their just rewards. Superb

Truly Darkly Deeply, by Victoria Selman

Now you know that I do like a good psychological crime thriller, and that’s exactly what we have here in Victoria Selman’s excellent Truly, Darkly, Deeply. It’s a fascinating glimpse into fractured family dynamics and the possibilities of innocence and guilt, with a serial killer stalking the streets of London. Deliciously twisty.

Sundial, by Catriona Ward

This one snuck under the wire. I adored The Last House on Needless Street and Sundial was just as good. Part psychological thriller, part horror, it’s another incredible book following Rob and her daughter Callie as they go back to Rob’s childhood home of Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. There’s a creeping sense of dread that permeates the book as secrets and lies are gradually stripped back to an incredible finale.

Phew! Those were my books of 2023. Bit of a mixture, and I hope you find something in there to tickle your fancy.

Before I go, here’s a sneaky 2023 book that you MUST add to your list.

Children of the Sun, by Beth Lewis

Another of my all-time favourite authors, Beth Lewis has given us some incredible books. The Wolf Road is just stunning, and last year’s The Origins of Iris was wonderful. Dark, raw and startlingly original, it will linger long in the memory after you turn the last page. It took me a while to recover myself after reading. So it was with some trepidation that I embarked on Children of the Sun (out in May 2023, sorry you’re going to have to wait). Incredible book about cults and family and belief and loss. Lewis’s writing is, as ever, just beautiful. Hugely recommended.

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