When Teddy Colne arrives in the small town of Rye, he believes he will be able to settle down and leave his past behind him. Little does he know that fear blisters through the streets like a fever. The locals tell him to stay away from an establishment known only as Berry & Vincent, that those who rub too closely to its proprietor risk a bad end.
Despite their warnings, Teddy is desperate to understand why Rye has come to fear this one man, and to see what really hides behind the doors of his shop.
Ada moved to Rye with her young son to escape a damaged childhood and years of never fitting in, but she’s lonely and ostracised by the community. Ada is ripe for affection and friendship, and everyone knows it.
As old secrets bleed out into this town, so too will a mystery about a family who vanished fifty years earlier, and a community living on a knife edge.
Teddy looks for answers, thinking he is safe, but some truths are better left undisturbed, and his past will find him here, just as it has always found him before. And before long, it will find Ada too.
Firstly huge thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for kindly sending me a copy.
I went into So Pretty with an open mind, I hadn’t really read much about this novel so when I started reading it, well let’s just say, from the outset unsettled me!
The opening page is the advert above, and Berry & Vincent’s shop is where most of the action takes place.
We follow the story from 2 points of view- Teddy, the son of a notorious serial killer, and Ada, a single Mum of Albie, trying to rise him away from an unloving Mother. Both are inherently lonely and lost, and both are damaged humans, from upbringings and well, life’s hand that they’ve been dealt.
The story starts slowly and builds with each page that you turn, in the small seaside town of Rye, on the South Coast of the UK. We learn things about both Teddy and Ada as we start reading through So Pretty, and the more you read the more creepy, gothic, and frankly bloody terrifying the novel becomes.
I really do not want to give away any of the explosive and utterly thrilling plots, but I will tell you once you start reading, you will not be able to put So Pretty down. And the darkness that lies in the quaint and beautiful Rye, will eek itself into your mind and give you sleepless nights! the way that Ronnie Turner has observed the minds of both Teddy and Ada and has then been able to express this in her writing is frankly a marvel! Her skill at making the reader feel very uncomfortable and unsettled is amazing. So Pretty is a dark, psychological thriller with short snappy chapters that are written in an almost poetic style, and each one will give you that creepy feeling of a gothic horror novel. And it culminates into a frankly terrifying and page-turning conclusion.
This is Ronnie Turner’s first novel and it is a total book banger, another superb find by Orenda books. I look forward to reading her next novel and having sleepless nights!
Scott Jericho thought he’d worked his last case. Fresh out of jail, the disgraced former detective is forced to seek refuge with the fairground family he once rejected.
Then a series of bizarre murders comes to light – deaths that echo a century-old fairground legend. The police can’t connect the victims. But Jericho knows how the legend goes; that more murders are certain to follow.
As Jericho unpicks the deadly mystery, a terrifying question haunts him. As a direct descendant of one of the victims in the legend, is Jericho next on the killer’s list?
From the award-winning author of The Outrage comes Killing Jericho, the gothic, helter-skelter thriller debut that introduces crime fiction’s first ever Traveller detective, Scott Jericho
Firstly a huge thank you to Abi at Bonnier PR for sending me a proof copy of Killing Jericho.
I can’t remember where I first saw the talk of Killing Jericho by William Hussey but as soon as I saw the cover, I just knew it was a book I needed to read and I’m so glad I have!
And from the very opening pages I was hooked! Killing Jericho is an absolutely unique and ground-breaking crime thriller. Not only is our main protagonist, Scott Jericho, a Traveller but he is also Gay, plus he used to be in the Police! The latter 2 things do not sit well within the Traveler society, but William Hussey has managed to describe exactly the impact on Scott Jericho’s life, that this has had and how fabulous to read a crime thriller AND learn about a section of our society that often sees prejudices and misconceptions. We meet Scott while he is living in a trailer at his dad’s traveling fairground. There has never been a Traveller detective in fiction until now, and in Scott Jericho, we have an amazing main character, he is damaged by his past but has the rare skill of being able to read people with aplomb, he is a complex but ultimately loveable character, I’ve fallen for him from this, the first book in an (i hope long!) series!
The plot and storyline are also superb, I’m not going to give too much away but it revolves around some seemingly unconnected killings, that seem to be connected to a century-old fairground legend. there is a marvelous array of characters, which really makes Killing Jericho a vibrant and lively novel, but the theme running through, death and murder, is almost gothic in its intensity.
Killing Jericho needs to be on every crime fiction fans list, it is written extremely well by William Hussey, you can feel his love and passion for his people (the son of a traveling showman himself) and it is an important book within the traveling community and also the LGQBT+ community, and I really hope that Killing Jericho wins prizes and gets the recognition that is so deserved. I’m almost welling up writing this because I really cannot explain how much I adore Killing Jericho, I’ve read many crime fiction books, but this one is a real gem, and I feel honored to be able to review it! I was gripped from the first page, and the plot is excellent, culminating in a hugely surprising ending (which I did not see coming!)
I am left bereft now I’ve finished Killing Jericho! I hope that we don’t have to wait too long for book two! A stunning and masterful read from a hugely talented author. Absolutely fabulous and unique 5-star read from me.
From the twelve-million copy bestselling author of the Lewis trilogy comes a chilling new mystery set in the isolated Scottish Highlands.
A TOMB OF ICE
A young meteorologist checking a mountain top weather station in Kinlochleven discovers the body of a missing man entombed in ice.
A DYING DETECTIVE
Cameron Brodie, a Glasgow detective, sets out on a hazardous journey to the isolated and ice-bound village. He has his own reasons for wanting to investigate a murder case so far from his beat.
AN AGONIZING RECKONING
Brodie must face up to the ghosts of his past and to a killer determined to bury forever the chilling secret that his investigation threatens to expose.
Set against a backdrop of a frighteningly plausible near-future, A WINTER GRAVE is Peter May at his page-turning, passionate and provocative best.
Firstly thank you so much to Jess at Ransom PR for inviting me to the blog tour and supplying me with a print copy of A Winter Grave.
Now I’ve only read one other book by Peter May ( I know !) which was Lockdown and I thought it was superb, so I was looking forward to A Winter Grave described as a “Crime Cli-Fi” novel…. I read the blurb and was already itching to start reading!
The novel is set in 2051 and revolves around a body being found in the Scottish Highland during ice and snow storms, where a lot of Scotland has been lost to rising sea levels because successive Governments had ignored the warnings. We follow the journey of Cameron Brodie, a veteran Glasgow Detective as he travels to the bleak inaccessible village of Kinlochleven and the events that surround him once he arrives to investigate the body that was found, who was an Investigative Reporter.
From the get-go, A Winter Grave is absolutely gripping and so visceral, in fact sitting here writing I can see the whole book running through my head like a movie. I mean, Peter May is a Bestselling author for a reason, but I believe A Winters Grave may be his finest novel.
It’s written with so much love and care, by that I mean, you can see Peter May cares about the planet, about finding a way to stop Global Warming and Climate Change, and his love especially of Scotland, his homeland.
The way he has written and described the journey Cameron Brodie has up to Kinlochleven is absolutely breathtaking, I mean you feel like you are traveling with him in the eVTOL ( You need to read A Winters Tale to find out what superb craft this is!), and from the start, even this is hazardous for our protagonist!
The storyline is just sublime, an absolute gem, that gives you shocks, surprises, and major OH NO moments in it, I loved the characters and the way they are written is exceptional, full of vim and empathy, Peter May is an artist at writing his characters!
I was a little worried about reading a book set in the future, as it’s not something I’ve read before, but I need not have been. There’s enough of the familiar to keep the reader invested and it really does work superbly well as a crime novel, but focusing on climate change.
You can see how much research Peter May has done with the turn of each page, and nothing is too technical or scientific that it would baffle the reader. And the attention to detail in the props and climate talk is again, exceptional.
A Winter Grave is a truly gripping bookbanger of a novel, I predict that this will be one of the biggest novels of 2023. You can always tell how good a novel is when you’ve read another couple of books afterwards, but the story is still vivid and dancing inside your mind! There is only one thing that I wanted, and that was a map of the Scottish area from now to how it had changed in 2051, but that’s just my thing, I love book maps!
A super 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star read from me, and a book that needs to fly in 2023!
Peter May is the multi award-winning author of: – the Lewis Trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland; – the China Thrillers, featuring Beijing detective Li Yan and American forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell; – the Enzo Files, featuring Scottish forensic scientist Enzo MacLeod, which is set in France. The sixth and final Enzo book is Cast Iron (January 2017, Riverrun). He has also written several standalone books:
May had a successful career as a television writer, creator, and producer.
One of Scotland’s most prolific television dramatists, he garnered more than 1000 credits in 15 years as scriptwriter and script editor on prime-time British television drama. He is the creator of three major television drama series and presided over two of the highest-rated serials in his homeland before quitting television to concentrate on his first love, writing novels. Born and raised in Scotland he lives in France.
His breakthrough as a best-selling author came with The Lewis Trilogy. After being turned down by all the major UK publishers, the first of the The Lewis Trilogy – The Blackhouse – was published in France as L’Ile des Chasseurs d’Oiseaux where it was hailed as “a masterpiece” by the French national newspaper L’Humanité. His novels have a large following in France. The trilogy has won several French literature awards, including one of the world’s largest adjudicated readers awards, the Prix Cezam.
The Blackhouse was published in English by the award-winning Quercus (a relatively young publishing house which did not exist when the book was first presented to British publishers). It went on to become an international best seller, and was shortlisted for both Barry Award and Macavity Award when it was published in the USA.
The Blackhouse won the US Barry Award for Best Mystery Novel at Bouchercon in Albany NY, in 2013
The gripping account of one historian’s hunt for answers as he delves into the surprising life of an ordinary Nazi officer.
It began with an armchair. It began with the surprise discovery of a stash of personal documents covered in swastikas sewn into its cushion.
The SS Officer’s Armchair is the story of what happened next, as Daniel Lee follows the trail of cold calls, documents, coincidences and family secrets, to uncover the life of one Dr Robert Griesinger from Stuttgart. As Lee delves deeper, Griesinger emerges as at once an ordinary man with a family and ambitions, and an active participant in the Nazi machinery of terror whose choices continue to reverberate today.
I saw this book and read the premise and was so intruiged I had to buy it!
I’ve always had a bit of an interest in WW2 and especially from the German point of view, no idea why, this book was a great read and kept my attention all the way through.
The story was so well researched by Daniel Lee, he went to extraordinary lengths to find out how a chair was found in the Czech Republic, to have a hoard of Nazi documents sewn into the seat, and how for 70 plus years they were only discovered when it was taken to an upholsterers!
I found it even more amazing that Daniel Lee is a Jew, so writing and trying to find out about the life of a former SS Officer was brave move and not without objection from his own community!
The book is as I’ve said, so well researched, I learnt a lot and I think Daniel Lee has managed to write a book describing the almost “normal” life of a man trying to live a life, with a family as a Nazi during WW2 and the effect this had on his relatives which still has an impact even today.
I found it a engrossing read, there are lots of research notes and photographs to help the reader navigate thru a pretty normal life, in terrible times. I do feel as a society we must learn from the past, and this means having the intelligence to read all accounts of peoples lives, weather they be deemed good or bad.
I shall be looking out for any other novels by Daniel Lee, a 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read from me.
Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. Evacuated from a secluded boarding school during a snowstorm, her coach careered off the road, trapping her with a handful of survivors.
Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She’s in a cable car stranded high above snowy mountains, with five strangers and no memory of how they got on board.
Carter is gazing out of the window of an isolated ski chalet that he and his companions call home. As their generator begins to waver in the storm, the threat of something lurking in the chalet’s depths looms larger.
Outside, the storm rages. Inside each group, a killer lurks.
And will anyone make it out alive? . . .
Firstly hugest of thanks go to CJ Tudor for kindly sending me a proof copy of The Drift.
Ever since I saw the very first promo for The Drift, I was hooked and just knew this would be a book that I would devour and enjoy….little did I know that I would be reading the PERFECT thriller and CJ Tudor’s most accomplished novel yet!
Firstly a couple of things, I adore snow, I adore snowy thrillers and reading The Drift, I was immediately taken into the snowy mountains and because of the way The Drift is written, I actually felt like I was there! This book is so visceral in its depictions of a place high in the mountains, in the future, where a world has been ravaged by disease and survival is the only way forward, it’s cold, it’s chilling and it’s creepy, The Drift has it all!
There are 3 settings in The Drift, we start with an overturned coach and a cast of characters who have survived this, lead by Hannah. Then we meet Meg, in a cable car stuck high above the frozen landscape and a claustrophobic setting and group of people and finally we meet Carter, in The Retreat, a place of safety from those who threaten the safety and survival in these dangerous and frankly scary times.
As always I’m not going to give the game away by telling you what happens BUT I will tell you The Drift will be a massive bestseller, it’s frankly bloody triumphant, the mixture of a frankly gripping and outstanding plot, with what could be any of our futures, in the coming years, and add to the mixture characters you will love and want to survive against all the odds, plus a dash of horror, sickeningly realistic gore and a creepiness that permeates the whole book…..I LOVED it, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read!
So in summing up, it’s a 5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 read for me ( actually it should be 500 stars!), The Drift needs to be on everyone’s list to read in 2023….in fact get it pre-ordered now and set yourself a couple of days aside because once you start you won’t lbe able to stop reading The Drift! A bookbanger and a masterpiece of thrill writing!
JW; I’d like to start by asking, have you always wanted to be a writer? And where did the idea for No Country For Girls come from?
ES; I’ve always loved writing and reading. At age twelve I would raid my parents’ bookcases for my dad’s Robert Ludlum and Dick Francis thrillers, and I remember thinking, one day at high school, ‘When I’m old I’ll be a writer.’ I didn’t start writing my first novel until I was forty, which twelve-year-old me would definitely have thought was old!
The idea for No Country for Girls came from the two protagonists Charlie and Nao, who appeared almost fully formed during a writing exercise. They had great chemistry and a lot of stuff to work out and I knew I wanted to send them on a road trip together. I’d been considering writing a Thelma & Louise-style road trip thriller and these two were the perfect characters for that story.
JW; How much research did you have to do for No Country For Girls, did you get to visit any of the places mentioned in the book?
ES; I did a fair bit of research online, as well as speaking to locals about particular aspects of the plot, setting, and characters. I’d been to almost all the locations in the book before and driven the road trip as far as Broome a few times growing up, so the setting was very alive in my imagination. I’d have loved to visit again while writing, but the pandemic got in the way of that. Instead, I traversed hundreds of kilometers in Google Street View and asked my West Australian family and friends to send me pictures, videos, and sensory impressions of the road trips they were doing in 2020. I did miss some things though! Termite mounds are one feature I realized I’d forgotten once we’d finished all the edits.
JW; How important to you was it to raise awareness of women’s issues in rural Australia, particularly First Nations Australians?
ES; I didn’t think about these aspects consciously but I can see why they emerged. I was in my early twenties working as a newly qualified veterinarian in rural Australia when Thelma & Louise was released, coming up against sexism and misogyny every day in my life and work. When I started writing and thought back to how much I loved that movie, I began to question how much the world had changed in thirty years.
There’s a line in the film when Louise says, ‘We don’t live in that world, Thelma.’ She’s talking about a world where victim blaming of women and girls doesn’t exist, and we still don’t live in that world. I wanted to write about two young women who are not powerful in their lives and give them the opportunity to fight back and find their freedom. This, along with the Cormac McCarthy novel No Country for Old Men, informed the title No Country for Girls.
In terms of the First Nations characters in the story, especially Nao, it was second nature to me to include this perspective. It doesn’t feel possible to write authentically about modern Australia and intimately about the Australian landscape, without writing from this point of view, even though it’s not my background. It also became increasingly important to me that I was writing two characters trying to connect across their difference. The world needs that so badly, for us to genuinely listen and communicate with one another whatever our different perspectives might be.
JW; Who would you like to see playing the parts of Charlie and Nao, and Warren when No Country For Girls is turned into a Movie!
ES; I so hope they make the movie. I’ll be beside myself with excitement if that happens. I can see Eliza Scanlen playing Charlie, Rarriwuy Hick playing Nao and David Wenham has always been Warren for me, right through from writing the earliest drafts.
JW; As a child growing up, were you an avid reader, or was television your thing? Do you have a favorite childhood book or television program?
ES; I did watch TV but books were what I escaped into the most. I loved pretty well anything with wilderness in it, both in the characters and the landscapes. I’ve talked about them before (notably in front of a sold-out crowd at the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate) but the Silver Brumby books by Elyne Mitchell were beloved books for me growing up, as well as Mary O’Hara’s My Friend Flicka and Green Grass of Wyoming. I loved losing myself in the big landscapes and heart-in-mouth drama of those stories.
JW; If you could go back in time, to one historical event, to witness it, what would it be and why?
ES; This is extreme but honestly the first thing that came to mind was the Big Bang. I mean, it’s the biggest thing that’s happened in the universe and none of this would exist without it. If I could have a front-row seat to that and survive it, like maybe from the Tardis, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
JW; What is your favorite book or books that you have read so far in 2022, and why?
ES; Three brilliant crime fiction debuts I’ve read this year are Wake by Shelley Burr, Better the Blood by Michael Bennett, and Breathless by Amy McCulloch, in each case because of an exceptional sense of place and the strength of the connection between the setting and characters, which is always what makes a book for me. In YA fiction I’ve recently finished The Eternal Return of Clara Hart by Louise Finch, a debut time-loop novel with an incredible voice that unpicks toxic masculinity. These books are all amazing reads.
JW; What is something you are passionate about aside from writing?
ES; Wildlife and wilderness. Spending time in nature, whether in the UK or Australia, is the one thing that never fails to remind me how rich and amazing life on this planet is. The wildness of one kind or another will always find its way into what I write. I’d probably be planting trees somewhere if I wasn’t writing.
JW; Do you have a favorite author or favorite book of all time?
ES; Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro has been my book of all time for years for its emotional devastation, and my crime novel of all time is Truth by Peter Temple. Both these books are filled with longing, which is always what fuels what I write.
JW; If you could invite four people to dinner, living or dead, who would you invite and why?
ES; This was a fun question. I’ve settled on four characters from crime fiction who I’d love to throw together and see what happens. Villanelle, Vera, V.I. Warshawski and Allie Burns. They’re all great female characters and between them, they have the perpetrator, detective, PI, and journalist covered so I think it’d be an interesting evening.
JW; If you were to be marooned on a desert island what 3 items would you take?
ES; Some high-factor sunscreen, a really good knife (no crime writer marooned on a desert island should be without one), and a huge box containing each of the debut novels I’ve been published alongside this year. That’s probably cheating, but there’s so much of life covered in these books. Reading them reminds me how different we all are, and what an achievement it is to get your first book out into the world.
JW; Do you have a hidden talent?
ES; I learned to fly when I was in my twenties and got my private pilot’s license. I’m not sure that’s a talent but I loved learning to navigate and read the weather as well as the technical aspects of flying. I didn’t have the money to keep it up, and neither did that feel like a sustainable thing to do in terms of the climate and environment, but it was a formative experience I’ll always be grateful for.
JW; Are you currently writing another book, and when will it be released?
ES; I am! I’ve had a few runs at two different books and I’ve now settled on one of them, a serial killer thriller set in Western Australia, again with two young women protagonists. A story that couldn’t be set anywhere else, it’s strongly influenced by the Claremont serial killer case in the mid-90s that haunted the neighborhood where I grew up. There’s still a lot of work to do and I’m way off having a release date yet, but I’m excited about the story and I love the two main characters.
Charlie and Nao are strangers from different sides of the tracks. They should never have met, but one devastating incident binds them together forever. A man is dead and now they are unwilling accomplices in his murder there’s only one thing to do: hit the road in the victim’s twin cab ute, with a bag of stolen gold stashed under the passenger seat.
Suddenly, outlaws, Nao and Charlie must make their way across Australia’s remote outback using only their wits to survive. They’ll do whatever it takes to evade capture and escape with their lives . . . Thelma & Louise for a new generation, No Country for Girls is a gritty, twisty road-trip thriller that follows two young women on the run across the harsh, unforgiving landscape of Australia
As a fan of Australian crime fiction, I was excited to start reading No Country For Girls.
From the very first chapter, the reader is thrown into a tense and gripping story. We meet the wonderfully sharp-edged Charlie and the calmer Nao during the night, they’ve never met before but when they stumble across each other they become allies after a brutal murder. We then follow their journey through rural Australia as they try to outrun the law in a dead mans Ute with a bag full of stolen gold ingots!
I mean the premise for the story is bloody superb, and it does not let up! I found No Country For Girls an exceptional book, so well written from the point of view of 2 girls from different sides of Australia by descent, the way Emma Styles portrays their inner feelings and thoughts is so perfect! Both girls have “backgrounds” that have molded them into the people they are now, and it shapes the whole novel and the outcome.
I was literally full of anxiety reading No Country For Girls, the plot weaves at a fast pace just like the girls across Australia, and there are so many shocking moments that will have you going ” oh no” out loud! As always I’m not giving any of the plots away, but if you like your thrillers dark, edgy and realistic then No Country For Girls is going to be a book for you.
I read this novel in 2 days so that tells you how superb it is, I had both girls, Charlie and Nao firmly in my mind, in fact even after finishing No Country For Girls, they are still vivid and alive in my mind!
A triumphant debut novel from Emma Styles, about friendship, hope and survival. I hope Emma Styles will be up there with the other big names of Australian Thrillers very soon. I am so eager for the next novel!
Newly-minted homicide detective Nell Buchanan returns to her hometown, annoyed at being assigned a decades-old murder – a “file and forget”.
But this is no ordinary cold case, her arrival provoking an unwelcome and threatening response from the small-town community. As more bodies are discovered, and she begins to question how well she truly knows those closest to her, Nell realises that finding the truth could prove more difficult – and dangerous – than she’d ever expected.
The nearer Nell comes to uncovering the secrets of the past, the more treacherous her path becomes. Can she survive to root out the truth, and what price will she have to pay for it?
First, thank you so much to Zoe at Headline for sending me the lush Proof of Dead Mans Creek.
Dead Mans Creek is the second book in Detective Nell Buchanan and Detective Sergeant Ivan Lucic series, so if you want to read them in order, The first book is Opal Country.
Upon opening the book I find a map, this always makes me excited, I’m a real sucker for maps in books, and I did indeed come back to it many times whilst reading Dead Mans Creek.
I have to say having read all of Chris Hammer’s novels I think this might just be his most accomplished and perfect crime novel. The storyline is brilliant involving present-day investigations into a skeleton being found in a reservoir where an eco-terrorist has blown up a dam, and also moving back in time throughout Dead Mans Creek to slowly give us the events that have led up to the body being found. The story is complicated and gripping, Chris Hammer has such a great way of describing his characters and making them so realistic they just jump off the page.
The setting for Dead Mans Creek is the fictional Tulong and the Millewa – Barmah Forest, and the way Chris writes the description of the Forest and its wildlife, creeks, and grassy plains is so magical, it really bought the pages to life, and you can see what a beautiful place it is in your imagination. It is a real place that Chris has visited and this tells by his writing.
The plot is intricate and involves 50 years of family history, and again this is written so so well, it’s easy to follow again to my surprise at the end of Dead Mans Creek is a family tree, which I found really helpful.
I was totally immersed in the story of Dead Mans Creek, I love Nell Buchanan’s character and Ivan Lucic, in Dead Mans Creek, we see newly promoted homicide Detective, Nell Buchanan lead the investigations in her hometown, and it gets pretty risky, in the end, she uncovers old truths that have been kept secret for so many years, and have a rippling effect on several families.
I loved Dead Mans Creek, and I loved that there are references to Martin Scarsden, and Chris Hammer’s other series of novels. I was gripped from the first page and as with every book I read by Chris Hammer, I didn’t want it to end! The ending was brilliant and I really think that this is the most perfectly written crime novel.
I will be giving Dead Mans Creek 5 stars, it’s a must-read when it’s released in January 2023.
Chris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. For many years he was a roving foreign correspondent for SBS TV’s flagship current affairs program Dateline. He has reported from more than thirty countries on six continents. Chris’s non-fiction book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award. Scrublands, his first novel, was published in 2018 and was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Debut Dagger Award, Best Debut Fiction at the Indie Book Awards, and Best General Fiction at the ABIA Awards. It has also been longlisted for the Ned Kelly Best Crime Novel of the Year. Scrublands was optioned for television by Easy Tiger (a FremantleMedia company). Chris has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Charles Sturt University and a master’s degree in international relations from the Australian National University. He lives in Canberra with his wife, Dr Tomoko Akami. The couple have two children.
JW; Thank you so much for being a guest on my Blog Loise, I adored Operation Moonlight!
JW; I’d like to start by asking, have you always wanted to be a writer? And where did the idea of Operation Moonlight come from?
LM; I have always wanted to be an author, but when I was growing up this was not a career option for people like me at all! I read ALL the time, and wrote stuff in private, but didn’t show anyone or tell anyone of my secret dream, for years and years.
The idea for Operation Moonlight came from three different ‘sparks’: the first was when a friend told me about a 110-year-old woman she knew who was determined to become the oldest person in the world (she’s the oldest in Britain at this moment in time). The second was when my mum told me about a social club called The Coffin Club (you can make your own coffin and reminisce and make friends at the clubs, all over the world); and the third was when I stumbled across the story of a female secret agent in WW2 who had died all alone in 2010 and no one knew about her secret past. I put all three things together, and Betty emerged!
JW; How much research did you have to do for Operation Moonlight, did you get to visit any of the places mentioned in the book?
LM; Research is why I write historical fiction – I absolutely love it! I read more than 200 books on the war etc, and I visited a lot of the places in my novel. I was born and brought up in Guildford, and my family own a narrowboat on the River Wey, so all that was relatively easy. I also visited Wanborough Manor and Beaulieu, and Arisaig up in NW Scotland. But the worst experience was jumping out of a plane! I knew I had to do a parachute jump in order to write Elisabeth’s chapter authentically. But I have a paralysing fear of heights, and I almost passed out from terror. But I survived!
JW; How important to you was it to raise awareness of women’s roles during WW2 and how that impacted their lives?
LM; One of the main reasons I wrote Operation Moonlight was because I strongly believe that the women who helped win the war should be properly remembered. I hope I’ve honoured the female SOE agents in my novel. My writing is always inspired by real women who did extraordinary things in the past, but whose stories have vanished into obscurity.
JW; Who would you like to see playing the parts of Elisabeth & the older Betty, and also Tali and Jo, when Operation Moonlight is turned into a Movie? (It SO needs to be!)
LM; I’d love Operation Moonlight to be made into a film. Maybe Judi Dench or Maggie Smith for Betty? I haven’t got a clue about any of the other characters, though, as I don’t watch much telly or many films…sorry!
JW; As a child growing up, were you an avid reader or was television your thing? Do you have a favourite childhood book or television programme?
LM; I read A LOT. But back in the 80s, there wasn’t the huge range of children’s books and young adult fiction that there is now, so I read a lot of stuff I maybe wasn’t quite ready for…and I also watched a lot of weird telly. Looking back, the children’s programmes that were shown were bonkers! I loved Monkey Magic, which was this utterly mad Japanese series about a human god called Monkey who lived on a cloud and had weird adventures with a bald female monk and another chap called Piggy who wore skulls around his neck. It was as strange as that sounds!
My favourite book as a child was probably Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I was a complete tomboy growing up (still am, actually), and I totally related to Jo March and her boyish ambitions.
JW; What is your favourite book or books that you have read so far in 2022, and why?
LM; So many! Loads of debuts this year have blown me away: No Country for Girls by Emma Styles, The Seawomen by Chloe Timms, The Hollow Sea by Annie Kirby, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook, Haven by Emma Donoghue, Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson, The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller, The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell, V2 by Robert Harris
JW; Do you have a favourite author or favourite book of all time?
LM; I love Sarah Waters. She is the queen of historical fiction in my opinion. But I can’t pick a favourite book of all time, there are too many that I’ve loved.
JW; If you could go back in time, to one historical event, to witness it, what would it be and why?
LM; What a brilliant question! I think I’d quite like to be transported back to 1666, to witness the days leading up to the Great Fire of London and the plague (from a safe vantage point). Not because I want to see our capital city burnt to the ground, but because I want to know what life was like back then, what it actually looked, sounded, smelled and tasted like. I’d love to talk to people on the street, sit in Parliament, walk along the Thames and find out how life was really lived back then.
JW; When you’re writing do you like silence or do you listen to music?
LM; A bit of both. I can’t have talking while I’m writing, so songs with lyrics are out. But I do listen to instrumental music that matches the mood of what I’m trying to write. For the book I’m currently writing, I’m listening to a lot of music from the Edwardian period, orchestral stuff, and also music from films like They Shall Not Grow Old.
JW; If you could invite four people to dinner, living or dead, who would you invite and why?
LM; Another brilliant question! Sylvia Pankhurst (because she has a cameo role in my next project, and her views on women’s suffrage and socialism would be really interesting to hear); Victoria Wood (because she was a genius, and made me laugh all the time); Ernest Shackleton (because I would question him in detail about how he survived such gruelling conditions in the South Pole, and what kept him going); a First World War soldier who actually fought in 1914 (because I want to know what it was really like then).
JW; If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
LM; The Antarctic, to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps. Before it’s too late.
JW; Do you have a hidden talent?
LM; I love these questions! I’m a ninja speller.
JW; Can you share a shelfie with us?
JW; Are you currently writing another book, and when will it be released?
LM; I am writing another book, but I can’t tell you much about it yet as nothing has been finalised. What I can say is that it’s inspired by two real-life women who achieved extraordinary things over a hundred years ago, but who have been largely forgotten about.
1944: Newly recruited SOE agent Elisabeth Shepherd is faced with an impossible mission: to parachute behind enemy lines into Nazi-occupied France and monitor the new long-range missiles the Germans are working on.
Her only advice? Trust absolutely no one. With danger lurking at every turn, one wrong move for Elisabeth could spell instant death.
2018: Betty is about to celebrate her 100th birthday. With her carer Tali at her side, she receives an invite from the Century Society to reminisce on the past.
Remembering a life shrouded in secrecy and danger, Betty remains tight-lipped. But when Tali finds a box filled with maps, letters and a gun hidden in Betty’s cellar, it becomes clear that Betty’s secrets are about to be uncovered . . .
Nostalgic, heart-pumping and truly page-turning, OPERATION MOONLIGHT is both a gripping read and a novel that makes you think about a generation of women and men who truly knew what it meant to survive.
I happened across Operation Moonlight whilst looking at books on Amazon, once I read the premise, I knew I would want to read it. So duly ordered it ( even though I’m not supposed to be buying books! ), and when it arrived was a gorgeous looking tome by a new author to me, Louise Morrish.
The novel is told from two timelines, 2018 when we meet Betty Shepherd the soon to be 100 year old slightly frail lady who lives in her family home of Weyside in Guildford, Surrey, with her lovely young Maurician carer Tali. The second timeline is during WW2, 1944 to be precise when we meet Elisabeth Shepherd and travel with her during her journey of secrets through 1944 & 1945.
So if you like the sound of the premise, you will love Operation Moonlight. It is written so well by Louise Morrish and it’s her debut novel ( it does not read like that!). The attention to detail describing Elisabeth’s adventures during WW2 is truly excellent, and for me, really visceral as most of the action takes place where I’ve lived and visited in the past! Maybe that’s what made the book more magical for me? Who knows, but the wonderful descriptions of what accounts for everyday life during WW2 are astounding, and so moving. Louise Morrish has a real talent for writing from the heart and making that character live through her words, a rare talent, especially in a debut author! Betty/Elisabeth just appeared off the page during both timelines so magically. You can tell that Louise Morrish has studied people of all ages and used that research in writing about Betty.
The story is gripping, and at times had me breaking out in a fit of nerves I did not expect several of the events that happened in fact I was shocked! Operation Moonlight is such an easy read even though it’s packed with historical facts, Louise Morrish really does know how to write a compelling read and keeps the reader engaged the whole way through.
I was left wanting more once I had finished, mainly because I loved all the characters so much. As usual, I’m not going to give any of the plot away, but having read a few Wartime books, I have to say that this is going to be up there as one of my favorites, and it’s a certain contender for my yearly top ten books!
I know I normally stick to crime fiction, as I’m obsessed with murder LOL, but I do love novels set during WW2, this has defiantly been one of my highlights of that genre. That it passed below my radar and hasn’t been talked about on Twitter etc is a travesty, I urge my fellow readers to go out and buy a copy now, you won’t be disappointed.
A glorious 5 stars from me…indeed I’d give it more if I could!
Louise Morrish is a Librarian whose debut novel won the 2019 Penguin Random House First Novel Competition. She finds inspiration for her stories in the real-life adventures of women in the past, whom history has forgotten. She lives in Hampshire with her family.