Category Archives: Blog Tour

Out of the Ashes by Vicky Newham

HQ | 2019 (30 May) | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book

Out of the Ashes by Vicky NewhamOne Friday afternoon, elderly widow Rosa Feldman leaves her newsagents shop in Brick Lane to watch a flash mob form. It turns into a party with music and Rosa, like everyone else, starts to dance. One can almost forget that each of the gang members with the music players are wearing a dark mask. And then the soup shop across the road from Rosa’s shop bursts into flames and explodes. Rosa had seen the woman who lives there leave early that morning but her husband may still be indoors. It’s an inferno and people run for their lives. DI Maya Rahman and her sergeant Dan Maguire arrive on the scene to discover the shop contains the remains of two bodies, Lithuanian shop owner Simas and a woman whose identity is unknown. It seems that this is a shop of secrets. And what does the masked gang want?

Out of the Ashes follows on from Vicky Newham’s strong debut, Turn a Blind Eye and, if anything, Out of the Ashes is even better. Bangladeshi detective Maya is an intriguing figure and in this second book her character has settled. There are still occasional flashbacks to her childhood but there is a strong sense that Maya is now more comfortable in her skin and ready to get on with her life. Dan, by contrast, continues to have problems and there’s no sign of them easing. An Australian, his family is far away and he’s not finding the separation easy to handle. But the focus here is on the case at hand.

Vicky Newham brings this multicultural Brick Lane community to life. Many nationalities are represented and this makes it a sensitive crime to investigate. There are so many potential lines of inquiry to follow. Suspicions are thrown far and wide, especially as Maya discovers that so many of the people she interviews are connected. Maya can’t help becoming personally involved as she discovers the most vulnerable of Brick Lane who live such precarious lives. While there are several personal dramas being played out, it is all set within the context of this most infamous of London Streets which is under threat in so many ways.

Out of the Ashes is a novel packed with characters you feel for, especially Rosa Feldman and young Ali. And, although at times I feel that the narrative is a little earnest, this is because it’s full of heart and full of care for its characters. Brick Lane is such a fantastic setting for the book. I’ve read a fair few historical novels set down Brick Lane and it’s good to read a contemporary novel that brings it and its richly varied community into the present day. Vicky Newham is such a good writer. I’m looking forward to more.

Other review
Turn a Blind Eye

I’m delighted to post my review on the opening day of the Blog Tour! For other stops on the tour, please do take a look at the poster below.

Out of the Ashes blog tour

Stolen by Paul Finch

Avon | 2019 (16 May) | 456p | Review copy | Buy the book

Stolen by Paul FinchHomeless people have begun to disappear from the streets of Manchester, the kinds of people that society doesn’t seem to miss, despite repeated reports from Sister Cassie, an ex-nun who now wanders the streets. And then other people start to vanish – an elderly man out walking his dog after dark, a fit young woman out for a jog. Now the police have to take notice. Meanwhile sinister rumours are circulating around Manchester of a black van that patrols the streets. People are afraid. DC Lucy Clayburn is soon part of the investigation. She’s been looking at the theft of dogs in the area and the activities of a dog fighting ring. She suspects that everything might be connected and her bosses are inclined to give her a chance to prove it.

Unfortunately, there is a complication. Lucy’s father Franck McCracken, one of Manchester’s top gangsters, is interfering. Lucy’s been keeping him a secret. The time for secrets might be over.

Stolen is the third Lucy Clayburn novel by Paul Finch and it is an absolute corker! In fact, I think it’s my favourite of the three. It’s nigh on impossible to put down as the plot rattles along and it all begins with the creepiest of opening chapters. This sent shivers down my spine and may well keep me indoors as the moon rises. This fantastic chapter sets the tone for the rest of the novel and it’s maintained throughout.

Paul Finch is such a fine crime thriller writer. Like many people, I adore his Heck series but it may well be that the Clayburn books have now exceeded them, which is quite a feat. Lucy is a wonderful character. She has so much against her. It’s difficult to see how she could ever rise above the rank of DC, although she goes far and beyond what you would expect from that rank normally, in crime fiction at least. Lucy is a very likeable person and she lives in the shadow of a father, only recently discovered, she must deny. I’m no fan of gangster books at all but I do enjoy the relationship between Lucy and her father Frank. It’s tense and uneasy. It’s also dangerous and this adds such a frisson to the novels – and it reaches new heights here.

Aside from the business of Frank McCracken and his villains we have the story of the stolen people and this is a thoroughly engrossing mystery. The baddies are completely evil and rank high in my list of fictional baddies. There’s something a little pantomime about them but that doesn’t detract from their evil at all. This is frightening. It’s also very entertaining. The highlight, though, has to be Sister Cassie.

Stolen races along from start to finish. I read it late into the night, not wanting to put it down unfinished. I love Paul Finch’s books, you always know they’re going to be excellent, but Stolen is, I believe, the very best. I loved everything about it! Story, characters, creepiness, menace, scares, heart, baddies, setting, writing, the lot. The Lucy Clayburn series is now well established as one of the finest out there in the crowded world of crime fiction. It is not to be missed!

Other reviews
Hunted (Heck)
Strangers (Lucy)
Ashes to Ashes (Heck)
Shadows (Lucy)
Kiss of Death (Heck)
‘What seven things you should know if you want to write crime fiction’ – Guest post

I’m so pleased to post my review as part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of Stolen on 16 May. For other stops on the tour, please do take a look at the poster below.

Stolen Blog Tour Poster

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

HQ | 2019 (16 May) | 344p | Review copy | Buy the book

I Know Who You Are by Alice FeeneyAimee Sinclair is a TV and film actress on the brink of stardom. She is just finishing a movie in the UK and has an audition coming up with one of Hollywood’s top directors. For the moment, Aimee is one of those people who gets a double take in the street. But soon everyone will know her name. Everything is going so well. And then the day comes when Aimee gets home from work and discovers her husband Ben missing. He’s left his wallet, phone, keys, even his shoes behind, but Ben is gone. When she calls the police, she’s horrified to discover that they expect foul play, that she is a suspect. For it seems the police have had their eye on Aimee. They’re not the only ones. Aimee had been the victim of a stalker some time ago and Aimee now fears that the stalker is back. What do they want? And do they know something about Aimee’s past? It’s that which terrifies Aimee the most.

I was such a huge fan of Alice Feeney’s previous novel Sometimes I Lie, one of the best and twistiest psychological thrillers I’ve read, and I couldn’t wait to read I Know Who You Are. Alice Feeney is the master of the Unreliable Narrator and in Aimee Sinclair she has created another original and complex main character, who is both entertaining and largely unknowable. I loved the fact that Aimee is an actress. The perfect career for the Unreliable Narrator if ever there was one. And while this sets off all sorts of warning alarms, the novel doesn’t entirely develop in the way you think it might.

This is such a fun and entertaining novel. I really enjoyed the glimpses into Aimee’s acting world. Her position is fragile. Her reputation is paramount. Everything could end in a moment. And we meet the people who might make it end. This means lots of red herrings and false threads as this is a competitive world where nobody should be trusted. It’s hard not to feel empathy for Aimee, especially now that the ground has been pulled out from under her feet.

But there is more than one story in I Know Who You Are and the parallel tale set in the past is riveting. This is fantastic storytelling – it’s poignant, sad and horrific all at the same time and really demonstrates the skill of the author’s writing and plotting.

There is something rather bonkers about the way in which the story unwinds but nevertheless I Know Who You Are is a fun, light and fast psychological thriller that is hard to put down and very enjoyable to read. Alice Feeney really does come up with such brilliant main characters. I can’t wait to see who she comes up with next!

Other review
Sometimes I Lie

I’m delighted to post my review for the Blog Tour celebrating the publication of I Know Who You Are on 16 May. For other stops on the tour, do take a look at the poster below.

I Know Who You Are blog tour banner

The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver

HarperCollins | 2019 (16 May) | 422p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Never Game by Jeffery DeaverColter Shaw is not your usual private investigator. Neither would he call himself a bounty hunter but he is a reward seeker, just one who doesn’t necessarily do it for the money. His friends, each powerfully placed, seeks out new rewards for him to chase, more innocent people to hunt and rescue, to bring resolution to families. And while he waits for the next case, Shaw continues his own private investigation, travelling the US in his Winnebago, sometimes attracting the wrong kind of attention, sometimes feeling eyes on him. But for now, camped up in California, he is distracted by a new case.

A young girl has vanished and her father is distraught. He’s also poor and can barely afford the $10,000 reward he’s offering. The local police has no interest in what they view as a runaway. But, as Shaw follows the clues, he quickly identifies the scene of a crime. The girl has been taken. And she will not be the last. It all seems very similar to a famous and immersive video game, now distorted and taken to new heights of cruelty. But what does the Gamer want? The case will immerse Colter Shaw and Detective Standish in the obsessive, dangerous and competitive gaming world of Silicon Valley.

The Never Game begins a new series by thriller writer Jeffery Deaver and it is a cracking start! This is a very clever novel. It’s substantial and gives the author time to explore several levels of what is not only a complicated case but also a complex hero. It’s one of those crime thrillers with so much to fascinate and perplex the reader. For me, its main triumph is Colter Shaw. The more that is revealed about the extraordinary background and history of this remarkable and enigmatic man, the more hooked I became. The mysterious background is actually as mesmerising as the kidnapping case, if not more so. I loved the way in which Colter Shaw’s character grows before us. But it’s not fully explained. There is plenty more for future novels to explore.

The novel takes place in Silicon Valley and the countryside and coast of California. It’s an interesting place – rich and aspirational but also full of people struggling to find their way, as well as others who are lost in the alternate reality that the games provide. Jeffery Weaver explores this community and industry in intriguing detail – the people who design the games as well as the people who play them. Colter Shaw could have been a fish out of water. But he isn’t. The case is gripping and it’s also grounded in the lives of those affected by it. Family, friends, acquaintances, local communities suffer. Shaw speaks to them all.

Another element that I enjoyed is Shaw’s relationship with the local police, especially Detective Standish, who is such a fascinating character in her own right. I like the way in which the author spends time creating additional characters that we want to get to know.

I fell for Colter Shaw very early on in the novel and by its end I couldn’t wait to see him again. What a fascinating man he is! I want to know more about him and can only wonder what sort of ingenious and lethal challenge he’ll be faced with next.

I’m delighted to post my review as part of the Blog Tour celebrating the novel’s publication on 16 May and I’m even more honoured to be kicking the tour off! For other stops on the tour, please do take a look at the poster below.

Never Game blog tour

The historical inspiration for Stasi 77 – guest post by David Young

Stasi 77 by David YoungDavid Young’s latest novel, Stasi 77, was published by Zaffre on 18 April and it’s an absolute corker! It’s the fourth in a series set in 1970s’ East Berlin and East Germany which features police detective Major Karin Müller. I’ve loved all of them but I think that Stasi 77 is my favourite. It’s also the darkest, as the post below indicates. You can read my review here. To celebrate the publication, I’m delighted to present for the blog tour such a fascinating guest post by David Young in which he discusses the novel’s historical background.

The historical inspiration for Stasi 77

The clue to the year my latest novel is set in, is given in the title. Stasi 77 takes place in communist East Germany in 1977. But that’s true only up to a point – a lot of the action, and the real-life inspiration for the book, is from 32 years earlier. In the case of my protagonist, Major Karin Müller, that’s a whole lifetime ago – the year she was conceived.

What I’ve tried to do is explore the lasting effects of the Second World War on the East German state – a country that actually emerged from the aftermath of the war, and the division of a defeated Nazi Germany into zones of occupation. The Soviet zone was transformed in October 1949 into the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, the German Democratic Republic – a new socialist state, but still very much at Moscow’s beck and call.

The inspiration for Stasi 77 came from a Nazi massacre – sometimes considered the worst or most senseless single-day massacre they committed – which took place in the final weeks of the war, on what was later to become East German soil. You can easily find it on the internet although I’m not mentioning its name here, and in the book I’ve deliberately placed a dedication and maps from the time amongst the back matter to try to avoid spoilers.

That’s because I’ve moved slightly out of my comfort zone, and based my sub-narrative – through the eyes of a French slave labourer for the Nazis – very much on real-life events. Everything that happens to my fictional French character up until the point of the massacre, really happened to the labour camp prisoners – although it’s an amalgamation of first and second-hand accounts of different victims and survivors.

Where the fiction starts is in my extrapolation: what would happen if one of the survivors of the massacre (and there only were a handful) came back to what had become East Germany to wreak his revenge?

So my 1977 police case, led by Volkspolizei Serious Crimes Department head Karin Müller and her deputy Werner Tilsner, is pure fiction, bolted onto thinly-disguised fact.

I thought long and hard about the ethics of this. Should you create what is meant to be commercial fiction out of a horrific real-life event? In the end, I concluded that anything that serves to raise the profile of the massacre and its memorial site must be a good thing. If I’m wrong, I apologise.

The other thing I was interested in was what happened to Nazis in East Germany. The socialist state was avowedly ‘anti-fascist’: the Berlin Wall was even officially called ‘The Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart’ (or Barrier). A euphemism, of course, and few if any of the GDR’s citizens really believed it existed to keep fascists out, rather than imprison the state’s own population.

But did members of the Nazi party just disappear into thin air in the east, or become communists overnight? In Stasi 77, some of my Nazis become members of the East German secret police, the Stasi. And despite the fictional nature of the 1970s end of the story, the idea of Nazis being recruited in this way is rooted in reality. For example, Der Spiegel in 2014 published research about Auschwitz SS guard Josef Settnik and how the Stasi made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: his past in the SS would be forgotten if he cooperated with the Ministry for State Security and spied on members of his own Catholic community. There are several other examples. The article quotes Henry Leide of the Rostock branch of the Federal Commissioner for the documents of the State Security Service of the GDR as saying: ‘Nazi perpetrators had a great opportunity in the GDR to get away scot-free if they behaved inconspicuously or cooperated.’

At the end of the day, though, the novel is a piece of fiction. It’s also meant to be entertainment, despite its sometimes grim contents. My hope is that if readers are moved by it, they might seek out the real history for themselves. Or indeed include the Memorial at the massacre site on any trips to Germany, in order to pay their respects to the dead.

In these difficult political times in the UK, history is an excellent tutor of what can happen if intolerance, xenophobia and hatred are allowed to flourish.

Stasi Child
Stasi Wolf
A Darker State
Stasi 77

For other stops on the tour, please do take a look at the poster below.

Stasi Blog Tour Graphic

Dead Man’s Daughter by Roz Watkins

HQ | 2019 (4 April) | 384p | Review copy | Buy the book

Dead Man's Daughter by Roz WatkinsA ten-year old girl is caught running through the woods in the Peaks, heading towards the gorge Dead Girl’s Drop. She is in her nightdress and it’s covered in blood. She tells DI Meg Dalton that her name is Abbie and she lives in Bellhurst House, an intimidating, frightening Victorian Gothic house. It’s almost no surprise that Meg should find in a house such as this the body of a man, Abbie’s father, his throat cut. It looks like the work of an intruder but, as Meg dips deeper into this disturbing case, she learns that both Abbie and her father had heart transplants and Abbie is having nightmares which she believes are based on events in the life of her donor. Can this be connected to the murder? The truth could be more shocking than Meg could ever have suspected.

When I read The Devil’s Dice, Roz Watkins’ debut novel and our introduction to Meg Dalton, I knew that this was the beginning of something special and Dead Man’s Daughter is every bit as good. I love everything about these books so it’s not easy knowing where to start but a good place might be with Roz Watkins’ writing, which is fabulous. The author writes with such confidence, naturalness and wit that the characters and their world seems entirely believable and it makes the reader want to be involved. There are lines here that made me laugh out loud. Meg is our narrator and she’s a lovely person. She’s self-deprecating, very funny and she’s so caring and engaged with the world around her.

Meg Dalton is a triumph and the poor woman has much to contend with here in the rather unpleasant shape of her sergeant, Craig. This man is just not as capable as Meg, or indeed anyone else, and he hates the fact and, as a result, also hates Meg. The rest of Meg’s team, such as Jai, returns and they give Meg all the support she needs but, with Craig, they have an awful lot to put up with. Hard as it is for them, it’s very entertaining for us. I really enjoyed this non-relationship. Meg deserves a medal… Meg’s past isn’t about to go away and it haunts her here, but not in a way that dominates her character or the novel. But there is one aspect of her private life that is deeply moving and plays a significant role here and I love the way in which Roz Watkins handles it with such deep care. How could you not love Meg Dalton?

The story is fantastic. This is a perfect and genuine whodunnit in my opinion. There are plenty of red herrings and there is also that sense of something otherworldly and strange. There’s a feeling that anything might be possible and so the reader should just sit back and enjoy it. We are in an expert’s hands here.

I cannot praise Dead Man’s Daughter enough. I loved every page of it. I love the setting in the Peak District, always a favourite location of mine. I love the characters and I was completely immersed in the mystery. Above all else, I adore Meg Dalton. She knows how to make me laugh and she knows how to bring me to the edge of my seat. I really hope this series runs and runs because it is definitely one of the best and Meg Dalton is right up there with my favourites along with Roberta Steele, Logan McRae, Marnie Rome, Tony McLean, Kim Stone, Ruth Galloway, Kate Daniels and Ben Cooper. This is an exclusive club and Meg Dalton definitely belongs in it. I can’t wait for book three.

Other review
The Devil’s Dice

I’m delighted to kick off the Blog Tour with my review. For other stops on the tour, do take a look at the poster below.

Dead Man's Daughter blog tour

The Scandal by Mari Hannah

Orion | 2019 (7 March) | 432p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Scandal by Mari HannahIt’s just before Christmas when the body of a young man is found stabbed to death in a Newcastle street. DCI David Stone suspects a robbery gone wrong but, when DS Frankie Oliver arrives on scene, she gets a terrible shock. The dead man is Chris Adams a court reporter with the Herald. Frankie’s known Chris since they were children together. They were the best of friends. David and Frankie soon learn that Chris believed he was working on a case that would make his career. He suddenly left a group of friends in the pub. He was never seen alive again. Who was he meeting, what was the story he was investigating and who would kill to cover it up?

The Scandal is the third novel by Mari Hannah to feature Newcastle detectives Stone and Oliver. I’ve enjoyed all three – to be fair, I’ve enjoyed everything Mari Hannah has ever written! – but I do think that The Scandal might be my favourite of this series. As with all of the author’s novels, they stand out for their detectives. Kate Daniels remains one of my absolute favourites, but she has rivals in the shape of Matthew Ryan and now David Stone and Frankie Oliver.

Stone has now settled into his job back at home in the north east after years away working for the Met in London. Awful events drove him away from London but his mind is more focused now on the job in hand and on bringing his team together. He’s doing a good job and he has the full support of his DS, Frankie Oliver, who is the third generation to police this region. It isn’t easy for her to follow in their footsteps, especially as her father continues to demand the respect of everyone in the force and still has his ear close to the ground. But she’s managed it. Working from the bottom up, Frankie has made her role her own, although she’s the first to admit that her indomitable father does come in handy at time. She too has tragedy in her history, but she’s laid some ghosts to rest. Regrettably for Frankie, she’s about to get a new ghost to deal with – her childhood best friend Chris Adams.

The relationship between Stone and Oliver is so well presented and is just as important to the novel as the fate of Chris Adams. Mari Hannah is such a fine observer of human behaviour and interaction. Friendships and families, the young and the elderly, play a significant role and it’s especially sad to see how one family in particular has to deal with loss.

I love the meticulous investigating that forms the backbone of The Scandal. This is such a good police procedural. The case is built, step upon step, and we watch it form, becoming distracted at times by red herrings, but marvelling at how it all comes together. This isn’t, I’m pleased to say, a mystery dependent upon twists. This is an investigation built upon solid police work and intricate plotting. It’s a clever novel told very well indeed that builds carefully, resulting in a rewarding and immersive read.

Other reviews
Gallows Drop
The Silent Room (Ryan 1)
The Death Messenger (Ryan 2)
The Lost (Stone and Oliver 1)
The Insider (Stone and Oliver 2)

I’m delighted to post this review for the Blog Tour. For other stops on the tour, do take a look at the poster below.

Scandal Blog Tour poster

Shadows of Athens by J.M. Alvey

Orion | 2019 (7 March) | 376p | Review copy | Buy the book

Shadows of Athens by JM AlveyIt is 443 BC and Athens is at peace after decades of war with Persia. The city is being rebuilt in marble and its wealth is matched by its culture, which flourishes. Athens is also in a good mood. The Dionysia festival is shortly to begin which means five days of holidays as actors and singers compete in the city’s beautiful theatre to win glory for their patrons. The playwright Philocles is trying to focus on the job in hand, which is to win the comedy prize for the wealthy and powerful Aristarchos. It’s a stressful business, making sure that actors are prepared, with costumes and masks delivered, while fighting off the insults of rivals and appeasing the gods with frequent rituals.

The last thing Philocles expects is to find a man with his throat cut outside his front gate. His valuables, including a fine pair of boots, are untouched so this was no robbery. Philocles soon learns that the murdered man had been seeking him out, that the crime is part of something much bigger with significance for Athens. Philocles finds himself becoming the reluctant detective, working for Aristarchos to discover the truth. And he still has that play to present…

Shadows of Athens is the debut novel by J.M. Alvey and is, I suspect, the start of a new series of historical murder mysteries set in the relatively unfamiliar territory (compared to Rome) of ancient Athens. The historical setting is marvellous and the novel really succeeds in depicting a place and time that actually feels, at least to me, almost unknowable. It is so different, despite the patterns of human behaviour that repeat themselves, whatever the period of history, sometimes leading to murder.

The festival of Dionysus dominates Shadows of Athens and it is fascinating, as people travel from all over the Hellenistic world to enjoy the cultural displays. And yet it’s not that straightforward. Athens and its dominions are at peace but it comes at quite a financial cost. Dependent states and cities pay vast contributions to Athens to keep them safe when, for all the world, it looks as if this money is being turned into marble temples. There’s a rumbling of discontent and this adds another layer to the novel.

And then there’s the social history element of the book, which I found particularly strong. Philocles is in a relationship with a woman he loves but is most definitely not acceptable at his family’s dinner table. This is a world dominated by its social codes and religious rituals, challenges to these aren’t acceptable. And so women, foreigners (even people from the next city along the coast), and slaves do not enjoy the same privileges as the male citizens of Athens. Philocles’ household, though, shows a slightly different reality. He has a slave but this man is almost a member of his family, he fought alongside Philocles’ brothers in war. Philocles’ partner is a foreign woman, her skin is dark, she doesn’t hide it from the sun as Athenian women do. She stands out. It’s so interesting seeing the contrast between Philocles’ family and those of his brothers and his patron. Although the slaves in Aristarchos’ household play a similarly ambiguous role. Every male citizen is aware, though, that in order for a slave’s testimony in court to be permissible that slave must first be tortured. That’s the law but it’s not necessarily what one would ever want to happen.

The role of outsiders in Athens is a central theme of the novel. Despite the displays of civilisation, sophistication and culture, we’re made well aware that this is founded on success in war. Military triumph is equated with moral virtue and divine favour. This attitude is very hard for outsiders to come up against. Athenian citizens might be cultured and athletic but they’re also trained killing machines. This undercurrent of violence, which can be expressed in riot or murder, lurks in shadows throughout the novel. Philocles gets a battering more than once.

As we move around the glorious streets of Athens, there is so much to enjoy in this rich and vibrant depiction of ancient Athens and its festivals. This is fine worldbuilding and I think that the murder mystery itself is rather overshadowed by its setting. I also found it a little difficult to keep track of individuals through the pages. However, I liked Philocles and his household very much and I really enjoyed the scenes where we follow him in his day job as dramatist. There is a sense that Shadows of Athens lays the ground for future books and it does that job very well. I look forward to seeing Philocles again.

I’m delighted to post this review as part of the blog tour. For other stops on the tour, please do take a look at the poster below.

Shadows of Athens blog tour

Fleet of Knives by Gareth L. Powell – an extract (and it’s one of my favourite bits!)

Fleet of Knives by Gareth L PowellEmbers of War by Gareth L. Powell was one of the science fiction highlights of 2018 and the good news is that Fleet of Knives, the follow up, was published by Titan Books earlier this month. I’ve read it and it is fantastic – spaceships as much dog as they are machine, aliens (some of whom are the stuff of nightmares), battles, crew members we care about fighting to stay alive, and an enigmatic lethal force in the Galaxy that threatens billions. All this and more and I couldn’t read it fast enough. My review will follow shortly but, in the meantime, I’m delighted to post here an extract from early on in Fleet of Knives. And it’s one of my favourite bits! Sal Konstanz, Captain of the Trouble Dog, has discovered that she has more crew members than she might have thought, thanks to her multi-legged engineer Nod.


“What the hell was that?”
“What was what?” The Trouble Dog spoke via the bead in my ear. “Are you all right, Captain? Your pulse and respiration are spiking.”
“You’re damn right they’re spiking!” My mouth was dry. I could almost hear my pulse. I took a couple of wary steps back towards the exit, keeping my attention rigidly fixed on the hole into which the creature had disappeared. “There’s something loose down here.”
“Could you be more specific?”
“I only caught a glimpse.” I paused and swallowed, wishing I had some sort of weapon. “But it looked kind of like a spider.”
“A big spider. Tarantula-sized.”
The ship was silent for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I should have told you they were aboard.”
At her words, I felt a cold prickle run the length of my spine. “They? There’s more than one of those things down here?”
“There are eleven of them in your immediate vicinity. Two more elsewhere on that deck.”
I heard skittering footsteps and whirled around, just in time to see another of the creatures dart through the door, into the access way beyond. Now, if I wanted to retreat, I’d have to do so knowing there was at least one of them blocking my path.
“What are they? Where did they come from?”
“I think you should speak to Nod.”
“It brought them aboard?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes. I’ve signalled it, and it should be here momentarily.”
I was trying to look in every direction at once, hands raised defensively in case one of the critters leapt at my face.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Nod should be the one to explain.”
A limb appeared over the wiry rim of Nod’s nest, and I swallowed back a surge of panic. I’d never been particularly susceptible to arachnophobia—but then, I’d never previously been stuck in a hot, noisy and cramped engine room with eleven tarantulas.
“It’s all right. It’s nearly with you.”
“But there’s one climbing out of the nest. It’s—” I stopped speaking as the little creature heaved itself up onto the lip, and I got my first proper look at it.
The thing stood on five limbs. A sixth was raised in my direction, the fingers splayed like the petals of a flower. Leaning close, I could just about make out tiny, coal-black eyes regarding me from the centre of the palm. A little slit of a mouth opened and closed soundlessly.
“It’s a baby Druff!”
The youngster flinched at the sound of my voice. Its scales glistened like oil on water. It looked me up and down several times, as if trying to decide whether to investigate further or flee.
I spoke quietly, so as not to startle it. “Where did we get thirteen baby Druff?”
When she replied, the Trouble Dog managed to sound both amused and embarrassed. “Nod gave birth last night.”
“Gave birth?” I shook my head, feeling absurd. “You’re telling me our engineer got itself knocked up, and popped out thirteen little copies of itself?”
“I believe it happened the last time we were on Camrose.”
A grating swung aside on well-oiled hinges, and Nod slunk into the room. At the sight of it, the little one squeaked, and ran over to wrap four of its arms around one of its parent’s ankles.
“Captain.” Keeping its head low, it looked up at me.
I crossed my arms. “I think you’ve got some explaining to do.”

Other posts
Embers of War – a review
The recent boom in space opera – a guest post by Gareth L. Powell

I’m delighted to post this extract as part of the blog tour. For more stops on the tour, please do take a look at the poster below.

To Catch a Killer by Emma Kavanagh

Orion | 2019 (24 January) | 416p | Review copy | Buy the book

To Catch a Killer by Emma KavanaghWhen DS Alice Parr is first on the scene at a stabbing, it’s not long before she and the rest of her team understand that this is far more than a mugging gone wrong. Alice is changed by the attack. She holds the hand of the woman whose throat has been cut, only able to utter one word before she falls into a coma: ‘wolf’. Alice is determined to discover the identity of this woman and to catch the person whom, she’s more than certain, will prove to be a murderer. Alice’s boss and colleagues, especially her closest friend Poppy, worry for Alice. It’s not long since she survived a terrible fire. She carries the scars and the trauma. But Alice is not going to give this case away. But who is this victim? The clues she’s left behind will lead Alice on an extraordinary journey of secrets and lies, each more elaborate than the last. And watching it all will be the killer.

Emma Kavanagh is one of my favourite authors, and is one of the writers who got me back into reading crime fiction several years ago. I have much to be grateful to her for. Each of her books stands alone. They’re unusual, distinct and clever crime mysteries, asking questions about identity and relationships. To Catch a Killer demonstrates this yet again. But the first thing to mention is how beautiful the writing is. We spend much of the time in Alice’s head. And, despite the trauma of the recent fire, it’s an utterly believable place to be – Alice feels recognisable emotions, especially guilt and fear, and this is expressed by Emma Kavanagh with such feeling and empathy. I cared for Alice from the very beginning and this continued through the novel, enriching the real power of its complex and thoroughly satisfying plot.

That brings me on to one of the main reasons why To Catch a Killer stands out. It constantly shifts the ground from under the reader’s feet. So little can be taken for granted. But the plot is grown through the most fascinating detective work by Alice and her team as they follow an astonishing trail of clues. Alice is an instinctive detective. We see how she pulls things together, making leaps into the dark and discovering results. But there is a strong sense that understanding remains beyond reach, that the killer is always at least one step ahead and knows it. The reader constantly has to reassess their opinions. Yet it’s not done clinically – there’s emotion here, quite a lot of it. And we get completely involved in the story of this mysterious woman found so close to death by Alice.

A new novel by Emma Kavanagh is always such a treat and To Catch a Killer is especially good. It’s engrossing and extremely difficult to put down as we’re taken deeper and deeper into its layers of mystery. You might work out some of it, as I did, but there will be so much here to surprise you. I was left with an even deeper admiration for Emma Kavanagh’s skill than I had before. I’m not going to forget Alice in a hurry.

I’m delighted to review To Catch a Killer as part of the blog tour to celebrate its publication on 24 January. For other stops on the tour, do take a look at the poster below.

Other reviews
The Missing Hours
The Killer on the Wall