My #Review of #Chapter1 #MrJones’sSmokingBones by @iqbalacomics

Firstly thank you so much to Iqbal Ali for sending me the first chapter of Mr. Jones’s Smoking Bones, a comic.

Is anyone into historical mysteries featuring secret societies and occult magic rituals? Then Mr. Jones Smoking Bones is the comic for you.

The first chapter is very well written and really left me wanting more from this story. The story is set during Victorian times, and our main character is Mr. Barzakh, the opening chapter see him trying to “find” someone, maybe a former version of himself, by taking drug-induced “trips”, The artwork is really well drawn and being in black and white, it only adds to the atmosphere.

I was especially taken by the meeting between Mr. Barzakh and Queen Victoria! It really added to the mysterious storyline, and I like that there’s a lot left for us to imagine what is going to happen, as the storyline develops.

And the added inclusion of rituals, secret societies, and flaming skeletons had me gripped….I finished the first chapter and was left wanting more! Iqbal Ali is a talented writer and the artwork by Pricilla Grippa is really creepy and evocative.

I mean who doesn’t want to see 7 human skeletons fused together at the spine and the reasons behind it!?

If you like comics that are written about historical times and intertwined with horror and mystery then Mr. Jones’s Smoking Bones will be a must-read for you.

Iqbal Ali has written several other comics and they can be found on his website HERE, and if you sign up you will get free samples by email.

Iqbal Ali says “Mr. Jones’s Smoking Bones is my labor of love”, and it really has the feel of a comic that will be a success. I can’t wait to read chapter 2.

You can follow Iqbal Ali on TWITTER & INSTAGRAM

My #Review of #TheBleeding by @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks

Three women
Three eras
One extraordinary mystery…
 
1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.

1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.

2002, Quebec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation.

Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones they love…

The Bleeding is the first novel I have read by Johana Gustawsson, and after reading it, it won’t be my last!

Firstly a word about the actual hardback published by Orenda Books, it is a divine little beauty, the size of a paperback but in hardback form, with a glorious cover (Those who know me well, know I LOVE cover art) and beautiful sprayed edges…it almost had the feel of an old fashioned book, and it works SO well with the story! Such a keeper!

Now the novel is set in 3 time zones and we hear from 3 women who each tell us their story, at first I was unsure about this and how it would work but let me tell you it is absolutely sublime the way Johana Gustawsson has managed to weave the timezones and characters together. And the feel of this book is gothic, its gritty, and so vivid, there’s so much to the storyline but as you know I never give away spoilers (it’s SO hard with The Bleeding as I want to shout from the rooftops about it!) but if you like a bit of history, maybe some magic and witchcraft mixed with a modern murder and Police Investigation, then this is the book for you.

The Bleeding is an absolute little gem of a book, I couldnt put it down and it really got into my head. I loved the way it was written with such aplomb by Johana Gustawsson, in fact ive gone straight to order her previous books! A final word to the translation by David Warriner, who has again managed to make it read like it was written in English, trust me there is nothing lost in translation here! And the ending was utterly shocking and i had not guessed it would end like that at all!!!

So I am giving The Bleeding a rapturous 5 stars (if I could give it more I would), a bloody wonderful book! You must read it!!!

Born in Marseille, France, and with degrees in Law and Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series, including Block 46, Keeper and Blood Song, has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in twenty countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons.

You can follow Johana on TWITTER INSTAGRAM FACEBOOK

Johana Gustawsson has her own WEBSITE

You can buy The Bleeding HERE

#BlogTour #CodenameMadeline by @Silk_Scribbler @wearewhitefox @midaspr

A Mystic’s daughter flees Moscow on the eve of the Great War.
A French soldier lies wounded on the Western Front.
A German officer veers between loyalty and integrity.
An English courtesan reclines on a sea of books.

Each will make a journey that changes history.

The constellations will force the Mystic’s daughter to make an impossible choice. To remain at her harp as the shadow of war looms again – or join the top-secret Special Operations Executive (SOE). Babouli to her Sufi father, ‘Madeleine’ to the Gestapo, a lone mission to Occupied Paris promises to be the most hazardous of World War Two.

Inspired by real events, CODENAME: MADELEINE is the most unexpected spy story ever told. It teems with tigers, zeppelins, elephants, U-boats, angels, assassins, chessmen, cyanide, beetles, butterflies and Rumi. Revolving between Paris, London, Prague, India and Latin America, CODENAME: MADELEINE is a kaleidoscope of love, war, music, betrayal, poetry and resistance.

Occupied Paris, 1943

Noor’s pace quickened. The battered suitcase concealing her Mark II radio transmitter was heavy. Caught with a hidden transmitter receiver, she would be taken for immediate interrogation at Gestapo headquarters. Even the reinforced walls in the basement of 84 Avenue Foch could not shut out the screams. In extremis there was Plan C. Hidden in the button of her dress above her belt was a white pill stamped on both sides with red letters.

DANGER! KCN Scientific compound: Cyanide. The words of her handler had a reassuring echo. It will take about twelve seconds. On her lapel was a silver bird studded with jewel eyes – ruby, like the letters on the cyanide pill. She was the last radio transmitter left in Paris. Her predecessor, Denis Rake, had made an emergency stage exit. Any longer and he would have been sitting, arms clamped to a chair, in 84 Avenue Foch.

Noor exited Le Colisée on the Champs-Elysées, suitcase in hand. The café was approved by London. The coat attendant knew the password. Nothing about the two male contacts she left sitting at the corner table had aroused Noor’s suspicion. Their French was convincing, if hard to place. One, perhaps, took more than a passing interest in the reddish tint of her hair, though most was concealed under her cloche hat.

As she walked north along the Champs-Elysées, she noticed a man engrossed in a copy of Le Monde fold his newspaper. Another, on the opposite side of the Champs-Elysées, put on a pair of sunglasses. Nothing out of place on a warm October day, even in wartime. Despite the weeping blister on her heel, a strange euphoria came over Noor as she walked. London would be extracting her within twenty-four hours. She had succeeded, where others failed, in eluding the Gestapo. Gestapo units had been scouring the city for weeks like a plague of black beetles in search of a wireless operator who would vanish, like the tap of Morse code, into the ether.

She knew she was London’s only remaining eyes in Paris. She had refused orders to leave once before. Now even Georges Morel and the extreme fighters of the Paris Resistance said it was too dangerous to stay a minute longer.

Noor noticed splashes of colour returning to the drained Renoir of occupied Paris. The burgundy of a woman’s beret. The purple of a bougainvillaea entwined around the entrance of a florist. The pink of a ribbon around a box of pâtisseries. The weather was still balmy. She felt as if she were back at the Sorbonne, carrying her harp instead of a Mark II transmitter. The following afternoon she and her radio would be clambering aboard a Lysander sent by the phantom RAF squadron used to extract agents. Her inner harp strings, so long taut to the point of snapping, were beginning to release.

She cut through Rue Marbeuf. On the wall of a kiosk, she saw a reward for 200,000 francs for information in connection with the disappearance of a Gestapo officer last seen in the 5eme Arrondissement. Her heart quickened. That day she had jumped through Morel’s attic window when she heard the pounding on the porte d’entrée. As she walked, she felt a presence. The ruby eyes on her lapel glowed a deeper red. The man she had seen folding his copy of Le Monde was matching her pace. The man in sunglasses was visible in the reflections of the shop windows. Was it her imagination? She recalled the last Morse transmission from London. Be extra careful.

When a shadow crossed her heart, Noor would think always of her father’s words. In times of strife, Bābouli, always find and follow your breath. She focused on her lungs and initiated adhyam pranayama – upper chest breath. She felt her pulse steady. As she breathed, the same conflict stirred in the ventricles of her heart. Could she extinguish the divine light of life? Next to the transmitter was her treasured book: The Wisdom of Rumi. Her father, Inayat, had underlined one of the Sufi master’s sayings: ‘With life as short as a half-taken breath, plant nothing but love.’

She reminded herself that if she was caught and taken to 84 Avenue Foch, the Gestapo, in their black leather trench coats, would be planting nothing but hate. There was a saying among SOE agents. If you are taken for interrogation, smile while you still have teeth. Her mind spun. What could she use? Her .38 calibre pistol was in the safe house. The curriculum of Special Training School No. 5 also included unarmed combat. Even the peaceable mind of a mystic’s daughter had one mantra driven home like a sledgehammer. Everything is a weapon.

She could feel the softness of her cloche, so familiar it felt like part of her head. Hats were an obvious precaution. This one had a feature unknown to anyone except the F-Section technician who devised the fast-acting toxin for the tip of the hatpin. It was lodged three inches above her right ear. Noor moved the suitcase to her left hand. The footsteps behind her quickened. She could feel the brachial nerve in her right forearm twitch.

The gentle hand of a Sufi harpist was ready to sting like a scorpion.

Barnaby Jameson is a London-based barrister with expertise in counter-terrorism. He has been involved in some of the most notorious terrorist cases of the century including plots to overthrow governments, plots to assassinate MPs, terrorist bombings in the UK and overseas. His work has brought him into contact with clandestine agencies around the globe.
CODENAME: MADELEINE is based on real life agents of the most clandestine agency of WW2 set up in 1940 to carry out espionage and sabotage operations in Nazi-occupied Europe.
The book has a global canvas centred on France where Barnaby studied at university before reading history (haphazardly) Cambridge. Away from court, Barnaby is found kitesurfing in the Atlantic off Essaouira, Morocco, or in the wine-dark waters of the Aegean.

You can BUY Codename: Madeleine HERE

You can follow Barnaby Jameson on TWITTER INSTAGRAM PINTEREST

Barnaby Jameson Website HERE

My #Review of #TwoStormWood by #PhilipGray @PhilipGrayBooks @HarvillSecker

THE GUNS ARE SILENT. THE DEAD ARE NOT.

1919. On the desolate battlefields of northern France, the guns of the Great War are silent. Special battalions now face the dangerous task of gathering up the dead for mass burial.

Captain Mackenzie, a survivor of the war, cannot yet bring himself to go home. First he must see that his fallen comrades are recovered and laid to rest. His task is upended when a gruesome discovery is made beneath the ruins of a German strongpoint.

Amy Vanneck’s fiancé is one soldier lost amongst many, but she cannot accept that his body may never be found. She heads to France, determined to discover what became of the man she loved.

It soon becomes clear that what Mackenzie has uncovered is a war crime of inhuman savagery. As the dark truth leaches out, both he and Amy are drawn into the hunt for a psychopath, one for whom the atrocity at Two Storm Wood is not an end, but a beginning.

I really like novels that are set during WW1 or WW2 so I was excited to be able to start Two Storm Wood, especially as it’s part of my Backlog!

From the outset this book grabbed me, it’s a love story, a tragedy, a creepy thriller. The two main characters Amy Vanneck and her fiancé Edward Haslam are brought to life so expertly and the attention to detail in describing how they look and their inner minds, is frankly, amazing. The setting is France in 1919 but we also travel back in time and revisit the death fields of war, the descriptions of which are SO realistic, the violence of war is put on paper so skilfully by Philip Gray, and the mental torture that affected every soldier is laid bare here.

The story is vast and almost cinematic in nature as we travel through the abandoned battlefields with Amy in search of her missing fiancé, it is very clear to me that Philip did a ton of research into WW1 and this makes Two Storm Wood such an authentic historical thriller. The battle scenes are almost TOO well described!

It’s almost a strange thing to say, but I loved the storyline of Two Storm Wood, I mean strange in that, some of it is so visceral in its depictions of war, which we know is horrific, but it is not there for glorification, Two Storm Wood just balances love and horror so well. The thrilling conclusion had me literally with my jaw dropping!

I love that Two Storm Wood is almost a love letter to Philip’s Grandfather, who kept records and maps during his time fighting in WW1 ( for more information on this head to Philip’s website) All in all this is a fabulous novel, if you like historical thrillers with a creepy edge, then Two Storm Wood is for you!

A 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read!


Philip studied modern history at Cambridge University, and went on to work as a journalist in Madrid, Rome and Lisbon. He has tutored in crime writing at City University in London and serves as a director at an award-winning documentary film company, specialising in science and history.

Philip’s grandfather was a captain in the Lancashire Fusiliers and fought through the First World War from start to finish, losing his closest friends along the way. Years after his death, Philip came across a cache of trench maps and military documents that his grandfather had kept, and in which he had recorded the events that befell his unit. Philip was inspired to write his thriller Two Storm Wood when the pull of his grandfather’s legacy felt too strong to ignore.

You can buy Two Storm Wood HERE

Philip Gray’s website HERE TWITTER

#GuestAuthor #GilesKristian @GilesKristian author of #WhereTheBloodRunsCold published by #BantamPress @TransworldBooks 24.02.22

J; Thank you so much, Giles, for being a guest on my blog.

Thank you for hosting me

J; I’d like to start by asking, have you always wanted to be a writer? And where did the idea of Where Blood Runs Cold come from?

Reading the poems of Seamus Heaney for A-Level wove a spell on me. From that moment I knew I wanted to write professionally. I went off to university to do a degree in English Language and Literature but dropped out after just a few months to join a pop group. It was an incredible diversion, packed with extraordinary experiences. But, after four hit records and several years in the music industry, I got back on track with my ambition to become a writer. In 2003, I undertook a cross country skiing and igloo building trip in Norway. It gave me the idea for a thriller about a parent and child being hunted through the snowbound mountains. By the time I got round to writing it, I was living in New York and Raven: Blood Eye was on submission. Luckily, Transworld (Penguin Random House) offered me a publishing deal for my Viking trilogy and so I stuck my snowy thriller in a drawer and have been writing historical novels ever since. Then, after Lancelot and Camelot, which were both big, emotionally draining books, I needed to get my teeth into something fresh and different. It was the perfect time to dig my thriller out of the snow. After eleven historical novels, Where Blood Runs Cold is my first contemporary story and I’m excited to send it out into the world.

J; How much research did you need to do before writing Where Blood Runs Cold (without giving the plot away!)?

Well, I’ve spent time in the mountains of Norway, and as already mentioned, I got the idea from a ski touring trip, so much of it stems from experience. There’s always research, of course, but for this book it was a piece of cake compared with writing a historical novel, where hours of the day can be spent researching. With this book it was more like, what’s the most popular hybrid SUV in Norway? Or, what’s a popular brand of snowshoes? Or could a drone fitted with a thermal camera detect a body beneath the snow? These questions are easy enough to Google, whereas the historical stuff requires a library of reference books.

J; Who would you like to see playing the parts of Erik and Sofia Amdahl if Where Blood Runs Cold was made into a movie (I hope it is!)

Viggo Mortensen would make a brilliant Erik. As would Alexander Skarsgård. Sofia is more difficult to cast because her age is more specific, and I don’t know many young teenage actresses. Someone like Bella Ramsey (Lyanna Mormont in ‘Game of Thrones’ and star of the forthcoming series ‘The Last of Us’) would be good. As it happens, there’s already serious interest in the film adaptation of Where Blood Runs Cold, so perhaps we’ll need to think about this sooner rather than later. Would be a nice problem to have.

J; 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?

I didn’t read books as a child. The first book I read for pleasure was the Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore, which my mum bought me when I was thirteen and off school for several weeks with glandular fever. It blew my mind! Funny to think that if I hadn’t been poorly, I might not be a writer today. As for TV, I loved the series ‘Robin of Sherwood’. I still sometimes play the soundtrack by Clannad. As soon as I hear Robin (The Hooded Man), I’m a boy again.

J; What is your favourite book which you read in 2021?

The Gates of Athens by Conn Iggulden. Conn really knows what it is to be human, and this gives his writing such wisdom. Iconic figures from history, men such as Themistocles and Xanthippus emerge fully fleshed. Conn reveals their motivations and hopes, their fears, jealousies, and ideals, so that although they died two thousand five hundred years ago, they live and breathe again between the pages. If that wasn’t enough, there’s the prose itself, which is at once economical and beautiful. I was transported. I felt the Mediterranean sun on my face, smelled the sea on the air, stood on the rocky outcrop of the Acropolis, watched the hustle and bustle of Athenian life. I cared for the characters, and I wanted to cast my vote in the Assembly! It was all so vivid in my mind’s eye.

J; Which book that you have written are you the proudest of?

I’m most proud of Lancelot. I wrote that book whilst grieving the death of my father and it was hard. And yet, something of my soul poured into that book. My editor once said something along the lines of, ‘Giles, if you got knocked down tomorrow by the no. 27 bus, it would be OK because you’d have written Lancelot.’ In a way, I agree with him.

J; Do you have a favourite Author? Or a favourite book of all time?

My favourite author is Cormac McCarthy. I’ve never come across another writer with his powers of description. Books like All the Pretty Horses, Blood Meridian, and The Road are stunning examples of the craft. However, The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell holds a special place for me. That trilogy inspired me like nothing else, and I’m a huge Bernard Cornwell fan. When he gave me a cover quote for my first novel, I was overjoyed.

J; If you could go back in time, to one historical event, to witness it, what would it be and why?

I would go back to witness The Battle of Hastings. I’m sure that it would make for a traumatic and hideous spectacle, and I’d probably suffer PTSD after, but it was such a momentous battle, and given that the historical record presents it as a close-run thing, I’d be fascinated to see just how close it was. Because the Norman invasion had a huge impact on the social, cultural & economic life of the kingdom of England. The Normans brought Latin and French, castles, and wine. Culturally, whereas England had looked north to Scandinavia, now it looked to the south-east and continental Europe. The Battle of Hastings was one of those pivotal moment in history.

J; If you could invite four people to dinner, living or dead, who would you invite and why?

Harald Hardrada, because he was the greatest warrior of his age and I’d want to hear about all his battles. Beyoncé, because she’s a goddess. Elvis Presley, because his charisma would light up the room. King Charles II, because, as Horrible Histories puts it, he was the King of Partying.

J; If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I’d like to visit Moscow in winter. Maybe not right now, but some time. I’d also like to go to Alaska and drink beer in small town bar. Cold places appeal to me. As does beer.

J; What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

My grandma told me not to hide my light under a bushel. This was good advice for the painfully shy boy I was.

J; Do you have a hidden talent?

No, because of the aforementioned advice! Although, new readers might not know that I can throw an axe or two.

J; Are you currently writing another book?

I’m currently writing Arthur, the third book in my Arthurian Tales. I also have a cracking idea for another thriller, but that’s for another time.

During the 90s Giles Kristian was the lead singer of pop group Upside Down, achieving four top twenty hit records, performing on Top of the Pops as well as at the Royal Albert Hall, N.E.C. and Wembley Arena, and playing concerts on the same bill as such artists as The Spice Girls, Take That, The Backstreet Boys and Eric Clapton! As a singer-songwriter, he lived and toured for two years in Europe and has made music videos all over the world, from Prague, Miami, Mexico and the Swiss Alps, to Bognor Regis. To fund his writing habit, he has worked as a model, appearing in TV commercials and ads for Walls Ice Cream (he was a Magnum Man!), Canon Cameras and two brands of lager. He has worked as an advertising copywriter and lived for three years in New York, where he wrote copy for movie marketing company Empire Design but mainly worked on his first novel, RAVEN: Blood Eye
Giles, who is half-Norwegian, was inspired by his family history to write his first historical novels: the acclaimed and bestselling RAVEN Viking trilogy – Blood Eye, Sons of Thunder and Odin’s Wolves. For his next series, he drew on a long-held fascination with the English Civil War to chart the fortunes of a family divided by this brutal conflict in The Bleeding Land and Brothers’ Fury. Giles also co-wrote Wilbur Smith’s No.1 bestseller, Golden Lion. In The Rise of Sigurd novels – God of Vengeance, Winter’s Fire, and Wings of the Storm – he returned to the world of the Vikings to tell the story of Sigurd and his celebrated fictional fellowship. His Sunday Times bestseller, Lancelot, is currently in development for TV with a major studio. He followed Lancelot with Camelot, and now, Where Blood Runs Cold is his debut contemporary thriller.  

You can find Giles Kristian’s website HERE

Follow Giles on TWITTER INSTAGRAM FACEBOOK

My #Review of #TheChristieAffair by @NinadeGramont @MantleBooks

In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. Only I know the truth of her disappearance.
I’m no Hercule Poirot.
I’m her husband’s mistress.

Agatha Christie’s world is one of glamorous society parties, country house weekends, and growing literary fame.

Nan O’Dea’s world is something very different. Her attempts to escape a tough London upbringing during the Great War led to a life in Ireland marred by a hidden tragedy.

After fighting her way back to England, she’s set her sights on Agatha. Because Agatha Christie has something Nan wants. And it’s not just her husband.

Despite their differences, the two women will become the most unlikely of allies. And during the mysterious eleven days that Agatha goes missing, they will unravel a dark secret that only Nan holds the key to . . .

The Christie Affair is a stunning novel which reimagines the unexplained eleven-day disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926 that captivated the world.

I was so excited when I received a proof copy of The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont from Mantle books, thank you so so much!

As a child growing up in Surrey, I found out that Agatha Christie had abandoned her car at Newlands Corner, which was within 10 miles of where I lived, I was obsessed with what happened to her during those missing days and it fuelled my imagination looking for clues in her books. So when I say The Christie Affair was being published I knew I had to read it.

Although it is a work of fiction by Nina de Gramont, it is exceptional! The settings are so well described and the way the plot and storylines evolve is truly immense. Not a fast read, but a slow-burning storyline involving great heartbreak, abuse, love and of course murder.

I adored the feel of the story, it takes you away to an age between the Wars, so wonderfully, the thorough research of Agatha’s disappearance is very obvious. As are the other aspects of the storyline ( I can’t say more as I really don’t want to give anything away!), the descriptive writing of the settings throughout England, are just sublime.

I have to say that I didn’t guess the storyline until very near the end, which I loved, as it makes it a real mystery and it really is a lovely tribute to Agatha Christie.

If you like books based around historical occurrences, then this is for you, its just a marvelous book.

A terrific and enthralling read and another 5 Stars read for 2021.

About Nina De Gramont

Nina de Gramont (also known as Marina Gessner) lives in coastal North Carolina with her husband, the writer David Gessner. She teaches at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and is almost always in the company of her two dogs, Missy and Isabelle. She’s the author of the acclaimed Meet Me at the River, Every Little Thing in the World, Gossip of the Starlings, The Last September, as well as The Distance from Me to You, which has recently been optioned for a movie.

Nina’s Social Media LinksWebsite Twitter Instagram Facebook

My #Review of #TheShadowsOfMen by @radiomukhers @HarvillSecker

When Abir Mukherjee’s latest book arrived from the Postman, I spent 10 minutes jumping around the lounge in joy!

Set at a time of heightened political tension, beginning in atmospheric Calcutta and taking the detectives all the way to bustling Bombay, the latest instalment in this ‘unmissable’ (The Times) series presents Wyndham and Banerjee with an unprecedented challenge. Will this be the case that finally drives them apart?

‘An engaging, evocative thriller that captures the heat of Indian nights and heady days of a bygone era, without being sentimental or simplistic’ Janice Hallett, bestselling author of The Appeal

The Shadows of Menfinds the always reliable Crime Writers’ Association Dagger Award-winner Abir Mukherjee on fine form
‘ Financial Times

When Abir Mukherjee’s latest book arrived from the Postman, I spent 10 minutes jumping around the lounge in joy! I have been hooked on the wonderful adventures of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surrendranath Banerjee from reading the first book in the series, A Rising Man (see an earlier blog post).

We are now in 1923 Calcutta, and times are changing for the British Rulers, there’s an undercurrent of the uprising and amongst this, we find Suren in dire straits! I’m not going to give away the plot, but suffice to say that the book revolves around this event and the chaps trying to stop an all-out Religious war! Which affects Suren, Sam and all the usual characters who readers will know, the gorgeous and daring Miss Annie Grant and Lord Taggart among them.

I have read a lot of books in my life, but never have I read such a brilliant (that word isn’t really enough for how I feel!) series of books, that have taught me SO much about a historical period, as these books do. In The Shadows Of Men, Abir’s talent at taking the reader right there, right into the time, right into the fray, to feel what it must have been like and almost to experience it, is just frankly amazing and beyond my comprehension of how he can write like HE was there! I have always been fascinated with India, and wish I could have travelled there, the books take you there, you can smell the smells, taste the food, feel the oppressive heat or the steaming rain, Abir’s writing is poetic at times in describing the settings of 1920’s India. And to be able to write, with authority on the different faiths, and their peculiarities with such knowledge makes Abir, a once in lifetime Author, that rare mix of talent of a fantastic storyteller and a knowledgable historian.

However it’s not all seriousness, there are laughs, mixed in, Sam’s traditional British black humour to note! And I loved the introduction of another new Character, Miss Ooravis Colah, a fantastic and I’m sure ahead of her time woman.

In summing up, I must say that The Shadows Of Men is Abir’s best work so far, and to be fair, that’s high praise as the other 4 books were bloody amazing! As always I love the relationship between Sam and Suren and in this book we see their relationship start to shift, because of events and because of the times, but we are left with a cliffhanger that means that book 6 will undoubtedly move us into a different phase of their lives. I cannot wait… let’s hope Abir is writing away furiously now!! Thank you for your sublime talent Sir!

About Abir Mukherjee

Abir Mukherjee is the Times bestselling author of the Wyndham & Banerjee series of crime novels set in Raj-era India which have sold over 250,000 copies and been translated into 15 languages. His books have won numerous awards including the CWA Dagger for best Historical Novel, the Prix du Polar Européen, the Wilbur Smith Award for Adventure Writing and the Amazon Publishing Readers Award for E-book for the Year.
Alongside fellow author, Vaseem Khan, he also hosts the popular Red Hot Chilli Writers podcast, where every fortnight, joined by special guests from the media and literature, he takes a wry look at the world of books, writing, and the creative arts, tackling everything from bestsellers to pop culture.

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#Author #Chat #4 #Guest is @pamlecky #historical #fiction #writer extraordinaire focusing on #HerSecretWar

A huge thank you to Pam Lecky for being my 4th Guest Author on my blog, and for answering my questions….. Enjoy!

I’d like to start by asking, have you always wanted to be a writer? And have you always been drawn to the Historical novel?

Hi Jude, and thanks for having me on your blog.

No, it never occurred to me to become a writer, but the signs were there. I dabbled in poetry as a teenager (and yes; it was awful stuff!) and did some writing for a community magazine in my late teens, but I never imagined I’d eventually become a full-time writer of fiction. However, from an early age, books were on my radar.

My father was an avid reader and one of my earliest memories is of him bringing me to our local library to get my first library card. Again, my father read a lot of non-fiction history and loved to watch historical drama on the tv. I absorbed it all, and it certainly influenced my taste in books as I got older. When my father bought me the complete works of Jane Austen, that was it—I was hooked and raced off to read every classic I could get my hands on.

Did you have to do much research for the characters in Her Secret War?

Yes, I did, but thankfully, I love doing research. However, up to now, my books have been set in the late Victorian era, a time I’m very comfortable and familiar with at this stage. Luckily, I have always been fascinated by world wars and tend to watch anything related on TV, such as documentaries or movies. However, it was my agent’s suggestion that I explore writing a WW2 story with a strong Irish flavour. That made my antennae twitch. At the time, I was editing Footprints in the Sand, which is set in Victorian Egypt, so I had to be careful not to mix up my timelines and include Spitfires flying over the Great Pyramid or corset-wearing heroines in Blitzed London!

The greatest challenge was getting up to speed on day-to-day life. I knew a lot about the timeline and events of the war, but it was the nitty-gritty details of life in Britain on the Homefront during those terrible years that I needed to research. Basically, I had to read a lot and thankfully, there is an enormous amount of wonderful material out there, from eyewitness accounts to newsreels.

The plot and storyline of Her Secret War, is amazing and has many twists, how did you come up with the idea?

When I started to write the book, I knew only two things: it had to be an Irish story and it had to be an espionage novel. Essentially, the story is about spies and fifth columnists, and luckily, I came across a fantastic book by Tim Tate, Hitler’s British Traitors, which not only gave me a huge amount of background information but also threw up a few plot ideas too (always a bonus!).

Both my family and local history inspired Her Secret War. My mother and her sisters left rural Ireland to work in Britain during WW2. One aunt was following her boyfriend, who had joined the RAF, and she went to work in a factory making munitions. Another aunt wanted to study nursing, and my mother was a ‘clippie’ (bus conductor) on the Birmingham buses. Her Secret War is not their story, but there are glimpses of their experiences hidden amongst the fiction. The bombing of North Strand, which opens the book, happened only a few miles from where I grew up and as a young child, I passed the bombed-out sites regularly on the bus, knowing nothing about them. I was in my late teens before I learned of the bombing and the relevant history.

Who would you like to see playing the parts of Sarah and Rob if Her Secret War was turned into a Movie/TV Show?

It would have to be an Irish actress to play Sarah. I loved Niamh Walsh in Smother—I think she would do a great job. As for Rob, I think Oliver Jackson-Cohen would suit the role perfectly.

As a child growing up, were you an avid reader? Do you have a favourite childhood book?

I was an only child and spent a lot of time on my own, so I listened to a lot of music and read a huge amount. As a child, I was a fan of Enid Blyton books. The Secret Seven series was my favourite.

Do you have a favourite Author or favourite book of all time?

I greatly admire Georgette Heyer’s books—she was a wonderful writer. No one else comes close when it comes to writing romance, not least because she was a master of creating such wonderful, well-rounded characters and there is always humour in her books. My favourite book of hers is Faro’s Daughter. However, her detective stories weren’t as good. For that genre, my favourite will always be Dorothy L Sayers (who doesn’t love the characters of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane?).

How many books have you written, and which is your favourite?

I have now written six novels and one collection of short stories. It is always difficult to pick a favourite, but I really did enjoy writing the sequel to Her Secret War, which will be coming out in April next year. Her Last Betrayal follows on immediately from the first book and takes Sarah on quite a roller-coaster ride with plenty of action and a good old dollop of romance, too.

Do you play music when writing, and if so what’s your favourite?

Yes, I usually have music playing in the background, unless I’m doing line editing or proofreading when you must concentrate one hundred percent. What music I play really depends on my mood. The era I’m writing about can also be an influence. For instance, I played quite a bit of swing music while writing Her Secret War. Most of the time, it will be instrumental music that isn’t too distracting but great for setting a mood. I also find, when I hit those writers’ block moments, that it is listening to music and relaxing that usually helps.

What’s the greatest gift you’ve ever received?

The complete works of Jane Austen from my father, which still has pride of place on my bookshelf. It ignited my love of the classics and made me a huge fan of historical fiction too.

Are you currently writing another book?

I am in the final editing stages for two books. The third book in my Lucy Lawrence Series, The Art of Deception, is due for release in December, and Her Last Betrayal, the second book featuring Sarah Gillespie and MI5, is slated for release in April 2022. Currently, I am putting together synopses for future books, including a psychological thriller, which is an entirely new genre for me.

Pam is an Irish historical fiction author with Avon Books UK/Harper Collins. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, The Crime Writers’ Association and the Society of Authors. She is represented by Thérèse Coen, at the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency, London.

From an early age, Pam had a particular fascination with all things historical, from food and clothes to architecture and social history, so it is little surprise that her books are set against historical backdrops, from the late Victorian era right up to and including WW2.

June 2019 saw the publication of the first book in Pam’s historical mystery series – The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries. No Stone Unturned is a fast-paced adventure set in 1886 and was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Footprints in the Sand, the second book, set in Egypt, was published in March 2020 and won a Silver Medal in the Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the Year Awards 2020. Pam is currently working on the third book in the series.

Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion and was shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016 and longlisted for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award. Her Secret War a WW2 Historical Novel is the first book of two with Avon Books UK/Harper Collins and tells the story of an Irish girl who travels to England only to be caught up in the dark world of espionage, where lies and treachery reign

She is also rather fond of short stories and writes both contemporary and historical tales, all of which can be found on Amazon.

Pam is on Twitter HERE Pam is on Instagram HERE

You can contact Pam directly here – pamlecky@gmail.com.

My Review of Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee

Captain Sam Wyndham and his sidekick Surrender-Not Banerjee return in this prize-winning historical crime series set in 1920s Calcutta.

India, 1921. Haunted by his memories of World War I, Captain Sam Wyndham is battling a serious addiction to opium that he must keep secret from his superiors in the Calcutta police force.

When Sam is summoned to investigate a grisly murder, he is stunned at the sight of the body: he’s seen this before. Last night, in a drug addled haze, he stumbled across a corpse with the same ritualistic injuries. It seems like there’s a deranged killer on the loose. Unfortunately for Sam, the corpse was in an opium den—and revealing his presence there could cost him his career.

With the aid of his quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-Not Banerjee, Sam must try to solve the two murders, all the while keeping his personal demons secret, before somebody else turns up dead.

This is the third in the Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Suren ‘Surrender-not’ Bannerjee books, and so far it’s my favourite!

The story starts out with an action packed chase over the rooftops of Calcutta, involving Wyndham, a badly mutilated body and a raid on an Opium Den! It’s the best opening sequence so far in the series, Abir Mukherjee is the master of setting the scene, his detailed and descriptive prose pulls the reader in, and in Smoke and Ashes, never lets you go!

I’ve really only started to read Historical Crime Thrillers this year and I am SO glad I was recommended this series. It is now without a doubt one of my favourites. The characters of both Wyndham and Bannerjee are now fully rounded, and what started as a British Captain and an Indian Sergeant, working at arms length, has progressed to a great friendship, and with the narrative impeccably written surrounding them, the setting of Calcutta in the 1920’s, the fight for Indian Independance and the diminishing days of British Rule, Smoke and Ashes is chock full of thrills, Political Intrigue, Indian History and Wyndham’s personal struggles from fighting in the trenches of WW1.

There’s some hilarious moments that can now be enjoyed between Sam Wyndham and the ever quick witted Suren Bannerjee, and it’s easy to see that the author loves these two men, as much as I do.

As usual no spoilers here, but suffice to say, if you like Thrills interspersed with Indian History (and plots BASED around Indian History) and fantastic writing that makes you feel like you are actually there, in India, in the 1920’s, then look no further than Abir Mukherjee’s outstanding series of books.

I really couldn’t put this one down, the best so far. I am straight onto Book 4, Death In The East!

A 5 Star Read ( if I could give Smoke and Ashes 50 stars it wouldn’t be enough!)

Abir Mukherjee is the Times bestselling author of the Sam Wyndham series of crime novels set in Raj era India. His debut, A Rising Man, won the CWA Endeavour Dagger for best historical crime novel of 2017 and was shortlisted for the MWA Edgar for best novel. His second novel, A Necessary Evil, won the Wilbur Smith Award for Adventure Writing and was a Zoe Ball Book Club pick. His third novel, Smoke and Ashes, was chosen by the Sunday Times as one of the 100 Best Crime & Thriller Novels since 1945. Abir grew up in Scotland and now lives in London with his wife and two sons.

You can find Abir Mukherjee’s website here

1979 by Val McDermid (Allie Burns 1)

The shadows hide a deadly story . . .

1979. It is the winter of discontent, and reporter Allie Burns is chasing her first big scoop. There are few women in the newsroom and she needs something explosive for the boys’ club to take her seriously.

Soon Allie and fellow journalist Danny Sullivan are exposing the criminal underbelly of respectable Scotland. They risk making powerful enemies – and Allie won’t stop there.

When she discovers a home-grown terrorist threat, Allie comes up with a plan to infiltrate the group and make her name. But she’s a woman in a man’s world . . . and putting a foot wrong could be fatal.

Now I’m a massive fan of Val McDermid (should be DAME Val McDermid in my option!) , so I was hugely looking forward to reading 1979…. And boy, I was not to be disappointed!

The first in a brand new series, Allie Burns budding Journalist at the Clarion newspaper in Glasgow, sets a great pace from the first chapter!

A train journey on a cold snowy January day brings the first in a series of exciting events, that start a thrilling journey through births, deaths, gangsters, terrorists and drunken journalists, that gripped me from page one!

Setting a book in 1979, seems not so far in our past, but the attention to detail in explaining why it’s now a world away from today’s technological advances, was written so well, I actually felt I was there and it bought up some great memories for me. I always love that a writer can take us places in our own memory, whilst, at the same time, we travel with the fictional heroine! From Showaddywaddy to terrorist threats to strikes, the historical part of this novel has it all….it felt extremely genuine, and the reader can see how much effort was taken in researching this.

The storyline is brilliant, as always from Val McDermid, I was fully engaged and loved the fact that it was set in the world of journalism, especially because in 1979 (when I was 12, I wanted to be a journalist or a Police Officer…both of which never happened sadly) and it’s so authentic, or it felt that way to me!

In summing up, a fantastic start to a great new series, with some genuine OH NO moments! Immersive, thrilling, gripping, authentic with a hearty dash of Watney’s Party 7!

5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Val McDermid Official Website – https://www.valmcdermid.com/