A Loyal Traitor – Tim Glister

A Loyal Traitor by Tim Glister - book cover

It’s 1966. London is swinging, and the Cold War is spiralling.

Clear cut lines have faded to grey areas. Whispers of conspiracies are everywhere. Spies on both sides of the iron curtain are running in circles, chasing constant plots and counterplots. And MI5 agent Richard Knox is tired of all of it.

But when Abey Bennett, his CIA comrade in arms, appears in London with a ghost from Knox’s past and a terrifying warning that could change the balance of power in the Cold War for good, he has to fight to save the future.

He must also face an agonising choice: who will he believe, and who will he betray – his duty to his country or his loyalty to his friends?

A Loyal Traitor is the follow-up to Tim Glister’s 2021 novel, Red Corona. I must confess that I didn’t realise this when I was asked if I wanted to take part in the blog tour for the book, but you can happily (as I did) read this as a standalone. Though on the strength of A Loyal Traitor I’ll be jumping into Red Corona as soon as I can!

I loved this book. It’s a cracking spy novel with some definite shades of sixties-era Bond, with plenty of twists and turns and secret agent shenanigans. MI5 agent Richard Knox returns to London from a mission in Canada and meets a CIA colleague from his past, along with someone he thought long dead.

Great characters, solid action scenes, and a superb sense of time and place lift A Loyal Traitor above your regular spy novel. The wheels within wheels are intricately plotted but never confusing, and I found myself flicking through just one more chapter to find out what happened next.

A Loyal Traitor by Tim Glister is published by Point Blank in February 2022. Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, and to the publisher for an advance ebook to review.

The Goodbye Coast – Joe Ide #blogtour

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The seductive and relentless figure of Raymond Chandler’s detective, Philip Marlowe, is vividly re-imagined in present-day Los Angeles. Here is a city of scheming Malibu actresses, ruthless gang members, virulent inequality, and washed-out police. Acclaimed and award-winning novelist Joe Ide imagines a Marlowe very much of our time: he’s a quiet, lonely, and remarkably capable and confident private detective, though he lives beneath the shadow of his father, a once-decorated LAPD homicide detective, famous throughout the city, who’s given in to drink after the death of Marlowe’s mother.
 
Marlowe, against his better judgement, accepts two missing person cases, the first a daughter of a faded, tyrannical Hollywood starlet, and the second, a British child stolen from his mother by his father. At the center of COAST is Marlowe’s troubled and confounding relationship with his father, a son who despises yet respects his dad, and a dad who’s unable to hide his bitter disappointment with his grown boy. Together, they will realize that one of their clients may be responsible for murder of her own husband, a washed-up director in debt to Albanian and Russian gangsters, and that the client’s trouble-making daughter may not be what she seems.

Now, I must confess that whilst I’m familiar with Chandler’s iconic hardboiled private eye Philip Marlowe, it’s been a long time since I read any. So I was intrigued when I was offered the chance to read Joe Ide’s reimagined version, bringing the detective into today’s City of Angels.

And what a story it is.

The Goodbye Coast sees Marlowe following a couple of missing persons cases – the daughter of a Hollywood star who disappeared after her father was murdered, and the son of a British woman who has been taken by his own father. Then there’s gangsters, a bit of double-crossing, you get the idea. Basically all the good stuff you want in a detective novel.

I loved The Goodbye Coast, and Ide’s interpretation of Marlowe as a modern-day PI. Los Angeles is brought to shimmering life by Ide’s superb writing and you can feel the gritty streets, the faded glamour of Hollywood stars past their heyday, the urban sprawl of the city under Marlowe’s feet.

Ide clearly loves these characters and this city. I loved the sharp dialogue, especially between Marlowe and his father Emmet, a grumpy cop on leave because of his drinking. Then there’s the relationship between Emmet and Cody, the young runaway looking for a new start.

This is the first of Joe Ide’s books that I’ve read, but on the strength of this I’ll be checking out his others.

The Goodbye Coast by Joe Ide is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on 17th February 2022.

Many thanks to the publisher for the advance copy of Joe’s book to review, and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me to take part in the tour.

Books of 2022 – January

Hello lovely people. You’re looking rather splendid today. We made it out of January largely in one piece despite it lasting for about 300 days. But we’re now in February, the days are ever so slowly getting longer and brighter.

What better time then to turn our attention to books? I’ve been meaning to tidy up my TBR pile this year, and the aim is to get my Netgalley backlog down to manageable levels, but that hasn’t really happened this month.

Ooops.

Books read (5)

Great selection of books read this month.

  • Dolphin Junction – Mick Herron [Christmas present, hardback]
  • The Great Silence – Doug Johnstone [ARC, Orenda Books]
  • A Loyal Traitor – Tim Glister [e-ARC, Point Blank Crime, blog tour]
  • Windswept and Interesting – Billy Connolly [audio, Audible sub]
  • Truly, Darkly, Deeply– Victoria Selman [e-ARC, Netgalley, Quercus]

I loved Dolphin Junction. Huge fan of Mick Herron’s books, but his short stories are just superb.

The Great Silence is book 3 in Doug Johnstone’s Skelfs series, about three generations of women who run a funeral home and a private investigation business. This is the best one yet, and that’s a pretty high bar.

A Loyal Traitor is a cracking spy novel with undertones of Bond. I enjoyed it a lot, blog tour review up in February

Windswept and Interesting was, err, interesting. Narrated by Billy Connolly himself it was entertaining, though at times it felt a bit stilted. Then there are sections where he’s like his old self and going on a ramble and cracking up at the story, which was lovely to hear.

Truly, Darkly, Deeply was absolutely brilliant. I loved Victoria Selman’s Snakes and Ladders and this standalone had me gripped.

Books bought (4)

  • Iron Gold – Pierce Brown [ebook]
  • Dark Age – Pierce Brown [ebook]
  • And Your Enemies Closer – Rob Parker [audio, Audible sub]
  • Broken Girls – Joy Kluver [ebook]

I’ve got Iron Gold and Dark Age in hardback (signed) but haven’t got around to reading them yet as they’re both absolute chonks and it’s been forever since I read the first trilogy. I picked up the kindle editions as they’re much lighter in the hand. Plus they were on offer.

And Your Enemies Closer is the follow up to Rob Parker’s superb Far From The Tree. Narrated again by Warren Brown (of Luther fame), I’m very much looking forward to this.

Broken Girls is the new book by my bookblogger friend Joy Kluver. Always happy to support my writing buddies!

Books received (9)

  • The Reacher Guy – Heather Martin [hardback, signed, competition win]
  • Wheel of Time books 1-3 box set – Robert Jordan [paperback, Orbit Books]
  • The Goodbye Coast – Joe Ide [ARC, paperback, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, blog tour]
  • Quicksand of Memory – Michael J. Malone [ARC, paperback, Orenda Books]
  • River Clyde – Simone Buchholz [ARC, paperback, Orenda Books]
  • The Shot – Sarah Sultoon [ARC, paperback, Orenda Books]
  • The Interview – CM Ewan [hardback, Macmillan, blog tour]

Very excited to win a copy of The Reacher Guy, signed by Heather Martin.

The lovely Nazia at Orbit was kind enough to send me a box set of the first three books in the Wheel of Time series that’s been showing on Amazon Prime. Big chonky books too, should keep me busy!

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Joe Ide, and jumped at the chance to read The Goodbye Coast for the upcoming blog tour. Ide has taken Raymond Chandler’s iconic detective, Philip Marlowe and put him in LA, present day. Enjoying it enormously.

A book parcel from the lovely Orenda Books is always a splendid thing, and I’ll be adding these to my TBR, though I do feel a little guilty that I’ve not finished the last parcel yet!

Finally, CM Ewan’s The Interview looks fantastic – big fan of his books, especially his Good Thief’s Guide series, so very much looking forward to this


So, dear reader. That was January. Have you read any of these? Any catch your eye? Would love to hear what you think, and what you read in January!

when is a book not a book?

There’s a fairly regular discussion/argument over on the socials about what constitutes ‘reading’ a book.

Indeed, just the other day, a fairly prominent fantasy author (whose work I admire a lot, and therefore will not name) made a remark about people who read hundreds of books a year. How did they do it? Were those books, they mused, picture books? Do these people sleep, eat or work?

Cue the inevitable Twitter howls of outrage.

I read what I consider to be a fair few books a year. Sixty-two (or sixty-three, I kind of lost count what with being in the incredibly fortunate position of reading books pre-publication and some of those books not being on Goodreads).

I was having a conversation with a friend over Christmas, the conversation turned (as all good conversations do) to books and she counted how many books she had to read.

She counted them. She counted them on her fingers.

Six.

Six books.

And she’d read maybe six books last year too. I have more than that within arm’s reach of where I’m sat now. (27 – 17 unread, 10 read, I just checked. I’m nothing if not thorough)

So to her, my sixty-and-counting was a HUGE number. How did I do it? Do I sleep, or eat, or work?

And to me, 300+ is a huge number. But over the years of being a book blogger, I’ve come to know a lot of people who regularly read hundreds of books in a year. And yes, some of them don’t (or can’t) sleep. Some of them include graphic novels, or novellas.

But all of those people have one thing in common. They love books.

Some of them prefer to read a book rather than watch TV, for example. Five minutes spare time? Book. Waiting in the queue at the post office? Book. Tea in the oven? Book.

Driving in the car? Audiobook.

Ah, now there’s another fun topic.

Is listening to an audiobook the same as ‘reading’ a book? Does it, should it, count towards your number of books read?

Of course!

It’s just someone else reading the book for you, at a time when perhaps you can’t read it yourself. You’re still getting the story.

Now I love a good audiobook, with the perfect narrator. Car journeys, out walking the dog, cooking tea. A friendly voice telling you a tale.

Ah, but now what about this?

Over the past day or so I’ve been listening to ‘How To Kill Your Family’ on the BBC Sounds app. Bella Mackie’s darkly comic novel a young woman who set out to kill her estranged family in a variety of ways.

It’s a ten-part adaptation of the book, told in fifteen-minute chunks, so some two and a half hours. It’s enormously entertaining, and I’m enjoying it a lot.

But the unabridged audiobook (via Audible) clocks in at 10 hours 49 minutes. (see, I told you I was thorough)

Clearly I have not heard the whole story.

But have I ‘read’ the book?

What do you think?

*I do have the book on my kindle, and based on the abridged version, will definitely read it!

(This post originally appeared on my substack newsletter/blog, where I post semi-regularly about random stuff )

Rockdown in Lockdown – Adam Maxwell

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It’s not easy being a master criminal in lockdown. Almost all the rich people are at home with their valuables which makes it dreadfully inconvenient when you’re trying to rob them.

Catching up on box sets and ordering crap off the internet isn’t Violet Winters style and so she hatches a plan.

To pull of a socially-distanced heist.

Gathering her team together (over Zoom), she puts together a long-con wrapped in a heist and tied up with a bow. It’s perfect. Except for the bits that aren’t.

With a man planted on the inside, can Violet and the gang pull off an audacious robbery on a bunch of over-privileged celebrities or will the whole thing blow up in their faces?

Obstacles she can handle, but a social media star hell-bent on posting Violet’s picture online and a deranged Mixed Martial Artist with a grudge have changed the job from a walk in the park to a sprint over hot coals.

If she can just get everything back on track she might stand a chance…

…if she can’t she’s going to end up a dead body at the bottom of a lake.

Look out folks, Violet and the gang are back in town…

Well, they’re not actually out and about, per se, on account of the lockdown. And Violet gets bored when she can’t pull off any cunning heists, and Katie has been ordering things off the darker bits of the internet. Things that go boom. Clearly, something has to be done.

And Violet Winters is just the woman for the job.

I’m a huge fan of Adam Maxwell’s Kilchester books, from The Dali Deception to Kill It With Fire and onwards. Bizarrely (though not if you know Adam), Rockdown in Lockdown is book four in the series. Book 3 will be out at some point.

I’m assured it’ll all make sense.

Anyway, you don’t need to have read book 4 (or indeed any of the others) to enjoy Rockdown in Lockdown. Though you will be missing out on some splendid shenanigans (and you all know how much I love a good shenanigan).

I loved this book. It’s pure fun from start to finish. Violet and the gang are bored and decide that in order to relieve rich folks of their wealth, they need to pull off an extravagant heist – one involving a bunch of celebrities (and wannabe celebs) holed up in an expensive retreat. All goes to plan until naturally it doesn’t, and then the fun really begins.

Strap yourself in for another wild ride with Violet, Zoe and the inimitable Katie, who once again gets to hit people a lot. And that never gets old. Glorious fun.

You can read an excerpt from Rockdown in Lockdown at Adam’s website. Tell him I sent you.

Or you can buy a copy from Amazon (affiliate link – I might earn a tiny amount if you buy it, but you’ll pay the same)

Rockdown in Lockdown by Adam Maxwell will be out soon…

The 12 in 2022 Reading Challenge

If you’ve been around on Twitter or Instagram over the past couple of days, you might have heard of the 12 Reading Challenge. 12 months to read 12 books recommended by 12 friends.

Here’s what my friends recommended:

The Breach, by Patrick Lee. (@boliviafang)

Thirty years ago, in a facility buried beneath a vast Wyoming emptiness, an experiment gone awry accidentally opened a door. It is the world’s best-kept secret-and its most terrifying. Trying to regain his life in the Alaskan wilds, ex-con/ex-cop Travis Chase stumbles upon an impossible scene: a crashed 747 passenger jet filled with the murdered dead, including the wife of the [resident of the United States.

Though a nightmare of monumental proportions, it pales before the terror to come, as Chase is dragged into a battle for the future that revolves around an amazing artifact. Allied with a beautiful covert operative whose life he saved, Chase must now play the role he’s been destined for-a pawn of incomprehensible forces or humankind’s final hope-as the race toward Apocalypse begins in earnest. Because something is loose in the world. And doomsday is not only possible…it is inevitable. 

The House in The Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune (@JanetEmson)

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

She Lies In Wait, by Gytha Lodge (@DebbieAitchison)

On a scorching July night in 1983, a group of teenagers goes camping in the forest. Bright and brilliant, they are destined for great things, and the youngest of the group—Aurora Jackson—is delighted to be allowed to tag along. The evening starts like any other—they drink, they dance, they fight, they kiss. Some of them slip off into the woods in pairs, others are left jealous and heartbroken. But by morning, Aurora has disappeared. Her friends claim that she was safe the last time they saw her, right before she went to sleep. An exhaustive investigation is launched, but no trace of the teenager is ever found.

Thirty years later, Aurora’s body is unearthed in a hideaway that only the six friends knew about, and Jonah Sheens is put in charge of solving the long-cold case. Back in 1983, as a young cop in their small town, he had known the teenagers—including Aurora—personally, even before taking part in the search. Now he’s determined to finally get to the truth of what happened that night. Sheens’s investigation brings the members of the camping party back to the forest, where they will be confronted once again with the events that left one of them dead, and all of them profoundly changed forever.

Empire of the Vampire, by Jay Kristoff (@BookMoodReviews)

It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order could not stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains.

Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope: 

The Holy Grail.

Blood and Sugar, by Laura Shepherd-Robinson (@Dutiful_Murdock)

June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock – horribly tortured and branded with a slaver’s mark.

Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham – a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career – is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He’d said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing . . .

To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend’s investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family’s happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him.

And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford…

Seven Mercies, by Laura Lam & Elizabeth May (@Endalia)

After an ambush leaves the Novantae resistance in tatters, the survivors scatter across the galaxy. Wanted by two great empires, the bounty on any rebel’s head is enough to make a captor filthy rich. And the seven devils? Biggest score of them all. To avoid attacks, the crew of Zelus scavenge for supplies on long-abandoned Tholosian outposts. 

Not long after the remnants of the rebellion settle briefly on Fortuna, Ariadne gets a message with unimaginable consequences: the Oracle has gone rogue. In a planned coup against the Empire’s new ruler, the AI has developed a way of mass programming citizens into mindless drones. The Oracle’s demand is simple: the AI wants One’s daughter back at any cost. 

Time for an Impossible to Infiltrate mission: high chance of death, low chance of success. The devils will have to use their unique skills, no matter the sacrifice, and pair up with old enemies. Their plan? Get to the heart of the Empire. Destroy the Oracle. Burn it all to the ground. 

Black Stone Heart, by Michael R Fletcher (@Lena88191r)

A broken man, Khraen awakens alone and lost. His stone heart has been shattered, littered across the world. With each piece, he regains some small shard of the man he once was. 

He follows the trail, fragment by fragment, remembering his terrible past.

There was a woman.

There was a sword.

There was an end to sorrow.

Khraen walks the obsidian path.

Chasing The Boogeyman, by Richard Chizmar (@DianeMarx5)

In the summer of 1988, the mutilated bodies of several missing girls begin to turn up in a small Maryland town. The grisly evidence leads police to the terrifying assumption that a serial killer is on the loose in the quiet suburb. But soon a rumor begins to spread that the evil stalking local teens is not entirely human. Law enforcement, as well as members of the FBI are certain that the killer is a living, breathing madman—and he’s playing games with them. For a once peaceful community trapped in the depths of paranoia and suspicion, it feels like a nightmare that will never end.

Recent college graduate Richard Chizmar returns to his hometown just as a curfew is enacted and a neighborhood watch is formed. In the midst of preparing for his wedding and embarking on a writing career, he soon finds himself thrust into the real-life horror story. Inspired by the terrifying events, Richard writes a personal account of the serial killer’s reign of terror, unaware that these events will continue to haunt him for years to come.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by NK Jemisin (@gripthebrox)

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.

The Cabinet, by Un-su Kim (@FLSchwizer)

Cabinet 13 looks exactly like any normal filing cabinet…Except this cabinet is filled with files on the ‘symptomers’, humans whose strange abilities and bizarre experiences might just mark the emergence of a new species.

But to Mr Kong, the harried office worker whose job it is to look after the cabinet, the symptomers are a headache; especially the one who won’t stop calling every day, asking to be turned into a cat.

Rabbit Hole, by Mark Billingham (@Tangotastic)

Alice Armitage is a police officer. Or she was.

Or perhaps she just imagines she was.

Whatever the truth is, following a debilitating bout of PTSD, self-medication with drink and drugs, and a psychotic breakdown, Alice is now a long-term patient in an acute psychiatric ward.

When one of her fellow patients is murdered, Alice becomes convinced that she has identified the killer and that she can catch them. Ignored by the police, she begins her own investigation. But when her prime suspect becomes the second victim, Alice’s life begins to unravel still further as she realizes that she cannot trust anyone, least of all herself.

The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie (@LyndonMarquis)

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies. 

Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules. 

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it. 

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he’s about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glokta a whole lot more difficult. 

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

The Annual Migration of Clouds, by Premee Mohamed (@EllenDevonport)

In post-climate disaster Alberta, a woman infected with a mysterious parasite must choose whether to pursue a rare opportunity far from home or stay and help rebuild her community.

The world is nothing like it once was: climate disasters have wracked the continent, causing food shortages, ending industry, and leaving little behind. Then came Cad, mysterious mind-altering fungi that invade the bodies of the now scattered citizenry. Reid, a young woman who carries this parasite, has been given a chance to get away – to move to one of the last remnants of pre-disaster society – but she can’t bring herself to abandon her mother and the community that relies on her.

When she’s offered a coveted place on a dangerous and profitable mission, she jumps at the opportunity to set her family up for life, but how can Reid ask people to put their trust in her when she can’t even trust her own mind?


Bonus books, because some people recommended more than one


So there we have it. Lots of lovely books from lots of lovely people. Have you read any of them? Any take your fancy? Do you think I’ll get through them all in 2022?

Books of 2021: the rest

Well now. We’ve had my list of the best crime/thriller books, and my favourite sci-fi & fantasy. There were books which didn’t fit into either category, but which I want to shout about too.

The Twenty Seven Club – Lucy Nichol

The Twenty Seven Club is steeped in a lovely 90s vibe that is a real joy to read. Told from the point of view of Emma, a young woman from Hull who enjoys rock music, beers (and the occasional Drambuie or a little something… extra) with her best mate Dave down their local. She’s shaken by the untimely death of her rock hero Kurt Cobain at 27, and is filled with worry that she’s approaching that age. It’s warm, often funny, and a delightful dose of 90s nostalgia.

This is How We Are Human, Louise Beech

It wouldn’t be a books of the year list without a Louise Beech book on there. Beautifully and sensitively told, This Is How We Are Human is a story about love and life, of discrimation and difference, and the choices we make. It’s ultimately about being… human. Utterly brilliant, and be warned, it *will* make you cry.

The Origins of Iris – Beth Lewis

Lewis’ writing is just a joy to read. It’s 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. Then go read The Wolf Road, because that’s incredible too. I can’t wait to see what Beth Lewis comes up with next!


Then the non-fiction books I’ve enjoyed:

Peaks and Bandits – Alf Bonnevie Bryn

A short book, but packs a huge amount into its 117 pages. Young Alf Bonnevie Bryn decides to set off to Corsica to climb some mountains with his friend George in their Easter holidays from school in 1909. Our Norwegian hero and his Australian chum have more than a few adventures along the way, fording freezing rivers, rescuing cats from bathtubs, spreading fake money to make their own funds go further. And then there’s the fun with a snake called James, and an incident with a quart ceramic jar of Crosse & Blackwell marmalade that they persuaded someone to carry up a mountain…

Part of my subscription to Adventurous Ink, a book club covering the best in adventure, travel and nature books. Also highly recommended!

London Clay – Tom Chivers

A fascinating deep dive into what makes up London. The hidden rivers, the buried history, the layers upon layers that make up our capital city. The title suggests a book of geology, and whilst there is a seam of that running through the book, it’s so much more.

He explores the streets, pokes behind the construction boards and delves into the history of the city. It’s a book that I’m sure I’ll go back to next time I’m heading there. It’s more than just a series of places though. It’s also part memoir, with Tom Chivers’ own personal stories and history laced throughout.

The Storyteller – Dave Grohl

Finally an audiobook to recommend. Narrated by Dave Grohl himself, it’s an engaging and fascinating look at his life leading up to Nirvana and beyond with the Foo Fighters. I’m sure the book would be just as good, but having Grohl tell you these stories himself adds a little something extra. Hugely enjoyable.

Books of 2021 – sci-fi & fantasy

As 2021 starts to roll to a close, it’s time to pull together the list of books I’ve loved over the year.

We’ve already seen my 2021 picks of crime & thrillers, but if science fiction and/or fantasy is more your beverage of choice, this is the list for you. It’s a bit shorter than the crime list, I seem to have read fewer of these books this year!

As before, in no particular order, I hereby present my favourite sci-fi and fantasy books of 2021:

The Fall of Koli – MR Carey

Book 3 in M.R. Carey’s superb Ramparts trilogy. We followed Koli on his adventures from The Book of Koli back in April 2020, through The Trials of Koli late in September, and now to this final book, nigh on a year since we started. And what an adventure it is. Gorgeous writing, superb characters and a properly good finale. Hugely recommended.

These Lifeless Things – Premee Mohamed

A novella that’s just packed to the rafters with sublime writing. Told from two viewpoints – the invasion, where humanity was attacked by the ‘things’ and pretty much wiped out, and from fifty years later where an anthropologist delves into what happened. Superb.

Eye of the Sh*t Storm – Jackson Ford

Teagan Frost is back. Following on from The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind (hi, Teagan) and Random Sh*t Flying Through The Air (err, hi again Teagan), we find our psychokinetic heroine up to yet more and even bigger shenanigans. But our pesky Jackson Ford has cranked the dial all that way up to eleven on the action, peril and snarky internal monologue scales, probably cackling to himself at the same time. Oh, wait. He did that with book 2. Somehow he found the boss-mode setting on those dials. Strap yourselves in folks, it’s a wild ride.

A Deadly Education – Naomi Novik

Book 1 of Naomi Novik’s Scholomance, we have here a story about a school of magic. But we’re a world away from wands and wizards and pumpkin juice. Here there are no teachers, no rules, and the school is actively out to kill the students. Survival here is key, and the only way to leave is to graduate.

Glorious worldbuilding, monsters and magic and shenanigans aplenty. Adored this, and raced through it. Book 2 is out now, and I’m going in…

Call of the Bone Ships/The Bone Ship’s Wake – RJ Barker

Kind of a two-for-one deal here. You’re going to want to jump straight into Wake immediately after finishing Call. Barker takes us on a journey through turbulent waters, giant sea monsters, the incredible Gullaime and the adventures of our hero, Joron Twiner. I was assured that book 3 ended with kittens and balloons and a ‘they all lived happily ever after’, but seriously, where would the fun in that be?

It’s an incredible trilogy, and one which I highly recommend.

A Master of Djinn – P. Djèlí Clark

Cairo, 1912. Just not our Cairo. The Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities is on the case of the murder of a secret brotherhood. Agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi, fresh from saving the universe on a previous job, is sent to investigate. There’s magic and monsters and some very sharp suits. Glorious fun from the first page to the last. Highly recommended.

Trail of the Cursed Cobras – Barry Nugent

This is an absolute blast, and one of the most fun, enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time. Aimed at middle-grade readers (typically between 8 – 12 years old, and something I am very much not), it’s a cracking tale of adventure set in a North London comprehensive school the early 80s. Echoes of Grange Hill, mixed with a bit of the X-Files and maybe a dash of Scooby-Doo make this a properly fun read. One of my favourite books of the year.


So those were my sci-fi and fantasy books of the year. Have you read any of them? Agree, disagree? Got any that I should have on my list for 2022?

As ever, I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks to all the fabulous authors, publishers and publicists for sharing their books with me this year.

Stay tuned for the list of my favourite non-fiction and others!

Books of 2021 – crime & thrillers

As 2021 starts to roll to a close, it’s time to pull together the list of books I’ve loved over the year. Yes, I know that it’s not over, and there will be some more great books, but you might be on the lookout for some suggestions for a present for a loved one, or maybe yourself. Heck, even buy a book for your mortal enemy and/or personal nemesis. Everyone loves a good book, right?

I’m not doing a top ten, partly because they’re all really good and partly because there are 15 of them and OMG DON’T MAKE ME CHOOSE OK.

In no particular order, I hereby present my favourite crime/thriller books of 2021 are:

When I Was Ten – Fiona Cummins

I was lucky enough to snag an advance copy of Fiona Cummins’ When I Was Ten in 2020 and absolutely loved it. Alas, what with *waves hands* everything going on, it got pushed back to 2021. It’s bloody brilliant. And while you wait, go read Cummins’ other books.

Stone Cold Trouble – Amer Anwar

Last year Amer Anwar’s Brothers In Blood made it on the books of the year list, and January kicked off with more adventures for Zaq and Jags.  I settled down with a cup of tea to finish the last hundred or so pages, only to discover that my tea had gone cold.

Stone cold. (see what I did there?)

Yeah, it’s that good. I love the banter between Zaq and his best mate Jags, and it really makes this book stand out. Of course a book needs more than just a great pair of protagonists, and Anwar delivers another cracking read.

The Last Thing to Burn – Will Dean

Unforgettable. It’s a bleak book, set in a bleak landscape, but at every step of the way we’re rooting for Thanh Dao. Tiny slivers of hope keep her, and us, going.

It’s also an astonishing book, a world away from Will Dean’s Tuva Moodyson and her Swedish forest. And one where the subject may be too much for some. It’s a nail-biting, compelling, just one more page book, one where you’re willing Thanh Dao to get away from the very first page.

Unforgettable.

Slough House – Mick Herron

Mick Herron is one of those writers who make it look… effortless. He’s just got a way with a turn of phrase, a sentence dropped which is just… perfect. Slough House is full of those little gems. The gloriously foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, ever-flatulent, politically incorrect Jackson Lamb (soon to be appearing on our screens played by Gary Oldman) is back, and someone has wiped Slough House off the map and is picking off his Slow Horses.

He’s not happy about it. And you do not cross Jackson Lamb.

Far From the Tree – Rob Parker

Twenty seven bodies are found in an unmarked grave. Is this the work of a serial killer? DI Brendan Foley is on the case. Then it turns out that one of the dead is someone close to home, and what was initially ‘just’ a murder enquiry turns into something a lot more personal. I listened to the audiobook, superbly narrated by Warren Brown (DS Ripley from Luther), I loved every minute of the near nine-hour runtime. I’d plug my headphones in whilst walking the dogs, and must admit to going just once more around the block to get another chapter in.

Black Reed Bay – Rod Reynolds

A perennial favourite on my books of the year lists (don’t tell him or he’ll get a big head), Rod Reynolds has delivered a top-notch slice of contemporary American Noir on the shores of Long Island, present day.  I’m delighted to see that it’s just the first in a new series. I can’t wait to see what he’s got in store for Detective Casey Wray next. Superbly plotted, with Reynold’s customary mastery of place and character, it’s a cracking book.

Dead Ground – MW Craven

I love  Poe & Bradshaw, as I’m sure we all do. Washington Poe, the irascible detective sergeant who manages somehow to rub pretty much everyone up the wrong way.

Poe collected enemies the same way the middle class collect Nectar points

And his best friend, the inimitable Tilly Bradshaw. Suffice it to say that there are shenanigans, misdirections and twists as per usual. The case is bigger – involving not only MI5 but also the FBI, the stakes are higher, and it’s just a hugely enjoyable read.

A Numbers Game – RJ Dark

I read a lot of crime books. I assume you do too, if you’ve got this far down the list. But it’s refreshing to find one that manages to combine a lovely dark, twisty plot with a healthy dose of humour. I loved Mal and Jackie, the two leads with their long history and tenuous ‘friendship’.

The week started unseasonably warm for spring, and with my best friend sitting on top of me, threatening violence. From there it only went downhill.

Malachite Jones – ‘psychic’ medium (ably, if reluctantly, assisted by his assistant Beryl, who knows everyone and everything going on on the Blades Edge estate). Jackie Singh Kattar, respected businessman (just don’t ask what business, or you’ll find out he’s made you his business), sharp dresser and with a nice little line in motors. Best friends. And boy, do you want Jackie on your side when things go awry. And boy do things go awry. Huge fun.

Bad Apples – Will Dean

A second appearance in the list for Will Dean, and the fourth outing for our beloved Tuva Moodyson. Hoo boy is it good. I loved the first three books, so the bar was set pretty high. Bad Apples is the pick of the already very very good bunch*.

*[Sorry, enough of the fruity puns]

The Murder Box – Olivia Kiernan

I enjoyed this one enormously. It’s a clever game within an investigation that Kiernan neatly pulls off. DCS Frankie Sheehan believes that a murder mystery game sent to her is a birthday gift from a colleague. But there’s a striking resemblance between the game’s victim and the very real case of missing twenty-two-year-old Lydia Callin. Superb.

The Last House on Needless Street – Catriona Ward

The Last House On Needless Street absolutely blew me away. It’s astonishingly good. From the blurb you think you know what you’re going to get, and to a certain extent, you do. But there’s so much more to this book. It’s beautifully written, desperately tense at times, and goes to some very dark places indeed.

Brace yourself. Needless Street is a strange place, and the last house is stranger still.

My Heart is a Chainsaw – Stephen Graham Jones

A love letter to classic slasher movies, with a main character who lives and breathes the genre, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the movies, and who can spot the clues start to add up. Then the Final Girl arrives, and Jade must do whatever she can to help save the day.

It’s dark. It’s gory. It’s beautifully written, and uncomfortable to read in places. It’s also astonishingly good, though not for the squeamish!

The Christmas Murder Game – AK Benedict

This book is a huge amount of fun (though not for the characters!) A locked room (well, house) mystery where a bunch of people are stuck in an isolated manor house in Yorkshire in a snowstorm. Their aunt has left them a series of clues, one for each of the twelve days of Christmas. Each clue will reveal the location of a key, and at the end of the game, one of the family will inherit the house itself.

It reminded me of the movie Clue (and of course the game Cluedo) in that there was a lot of people who are suspects in one way or another, moving about the house trying to figure out answers. Huge fun trying to figure out the twelve clues as they’re presented to the players, though I’d have been rubbish at it as I didn’t get any of them!

The Good Thief’s Guide to Christmas – Chris Ewan

A late entry onto the list. I’ve been a huge fan of Chris Ewan’s The Good Thief’s Guide books since the start, and was delighted to get an early peek at this festive adventure. It’s a short story, but packs a lot in. Charlie Howard , mystery writer and professional thief, is in London for the holidays when his agent, Victoria, asks him to break into a jewellery shop to steal the perfect Christmas gift. Things naturally go awry. A fabulous festive caper.

Demon – Matt Wesolowski

Last, but by no means least, Matt Wesolowski’s latest episode of his superb Six Stories series. Scott King delves into the cold case of Sidney Parsons, a young boy savagely murdered by two of his classmates. Seven years later his killers are released. And now, strange things are afoot in the little village of Ussalthwaite. Six stories, six people telling their side of what happened. Wesolowski’s stories are always dark, but this is the darkest yet. It’s also the best in a very strong series.


So those were my favourite books of the year. Have you read any of them? Agree, disagree? Got any that I should have on my list for 2022?

As ever, I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks to all the fabulous authors, publishers and publicists for sharing their books with me this year.

Stay tuned for the list of my favourite science fiction and fantasy, then for the list of non-fiction and others!

Rockdown in Lockdown by Adam Maxwell – cover reveal & giveaway

The cure for all your Covid blues…

The Blurb

Violet Winters was a master criminal. A one-woman crimewave. Until lockdown happened. Now she’s stuck in the house catching up on box sets and ordering crap off the internet. 

And then she finds out about The Lakehouse. A former rehab facility, the residents have been thrown out and replaced with a roll-call of some of the most dangerously stupid celebrities in this hemisphere all indulging in a torrent of excess while the rest of the world cowers in their beds.

And that doesn’t sit well with Violet. 

At the centre of the The Lakehouse is a vault and inside… the combined riches of every one of these over-privileged idiots. Violet hatches a cunning plan to pull off an audacious robbery and begins by planting a man on the inside.

But when does anything ever go to plan? 

With a social media starlet hell-bent on revealing Violet’s identity to her millions of followers and a deranged MMA fighter on their trail things rapidly go from bad to worse.

If she can pull off the world’s only socially-distanced heist, it will be the stuff of legend.

If she can’t she might very well end up floating face-down in the lake.

Rockdown in Lockdown is the latest book in the Kilchester series. It mixes high-octane heist shenanigans with sharp, surreal wit. It all started with The Dali Deception, and went from there. They’re splendid fun, and highly recommended.

The Giveaway

Rockdown in Lockdown will be published on the 20th January 2022 and the author is giving away signed copies of the hardback edition (shipping anywhere in the world included). To enter all you need to do is visit Adam’s website https://www.adammaxwell.com/giveaways/rockdown-in-lockdown/ and everyone who enters will receive a free Kindle copy of the Kilchester Christmas short story ‘Come On Steal The Noise’.

Rockdown in Lockdown is available to pre-order now as an ebook, with real-book pre-orders arriving any minute! https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B09N4WT1TL

The Author

Crime writer. Idiot. Genius. Liar. Adam Maxwell is at least three of these things. 

Adam lives in the wilds of Northumberland with his wife, daughter and an increasingly irritated cat. If you wave to him there is every chance he will consider waving back.  You can find him lurking around on his website www.adammaxwell.com

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