All Detective Constable Edward Reekie had to do was pick up a dying prisoner from HMP Grampian and deliver him somewhere to live out his last few months in peace.
From the outside, Glenfarach looks like a quaint, sleepy, snow-dusted village, nestled deep in the heart of Cairngorms National Park, but things aren’t what they seem. The place is thick with security cameras and there’s a strict nine o’clock curfew because Glenfarach is the final sanctuary for people who’ve served their sentences but can’t be safely released into the general population.
Edward’s new boss, DI Victoria Montgomery-Porter, insists they head back to Aberdeen before the approaching blizzards shut everything down, but when an ex-cop-turned-gangster is discovered tortured to death in his bungalow, someone needs to take charge.
The weather’s closing in, tensions are mounting, and time’s running out – something nasty has come to Glenfarach, and Edward is standing right in its way…
Judefire33 rating for The Dead Of Winter
Firstly thank you so so much to Transworld books for sending me a proof copy of The Dead Of Winter.
Now I am a huge fan of Stuart MacBride, and absolutely adore his Logan MacRae novels, however in recent years Stuart has been writing more standalone novels, and The Dead Of Winter is one.
This is a bloody fabulous novel, this is Stuart MacBride back to the absolute top of his game and what he does best. From chapter one we are sent on a rollercoaster thrill ride, with Stuart’s normal dark humor and gritty realism, and this is by far one of his best novels since the Logan MacRae series. I read it at breakneck speed and laughed so much!
Our two main stars are Detective Constable Edward Reekie and his boss, Detective Inspector Victoria Mongomery-Porter, the opening chapter is a scene on a freezing day somewhere in the snowy woods in Scotland. It would appear that DC Edward Reekie is being buried in a shallow grave in the cold ground and that grave is being dug by none other than DI Victoria aka Bigtoria Montgomery-Porter….and that my dear followers, is the absurd setting that starts The Dead Of Winter.
From then on you will be taken thru an exceptional cast of characters who all live in the small sleepy quaint hamlet of Glenfarach….and no it’s not really an ordinary place as it’s full of rapists, gangsters, and murderers. There are security cameras everywhere here like big bugs in the sky stalking everyone as there is nowhere to hide. All the residents have their own little homes and all are electronically tagged and subject to a 9 pm curfew… sounds like a safe place right? Wrong, the fast-paced writing of Stuart Macbride takes you through an almost comedic set of murders and events that draw to a brilliant ending.
I absolutely raced through The Dead Of Winter and i love love loved it! The writing style that Stuart MacBride has is unique in the crime fiction genre, others try to do something similar but no one can write like Stuart MacBride does. The aplomb, that he writes murder and gruesomeness in one sentence and then sarcastic humor in another is exceptional. Having myself, worked for the Police for 12 years in the 1990s, I’m well aware of the dark humor used in extreme situations to lift the pressure, Stuart writes that in such a realistic way it’s superb.
This is a real gem of a novel, and in my opinion, Stuart Macbride’s best for many years, if you like gritty, dark, Scottish crime fiction with a dose of really dark humor thrown in then you need to rush down to the bookshop, and buy The Dead Of Winter, you won’t be disappointed.
A severed head is displayed on a stake. A crime so dark only one man is capable of solving it: Police Inspector William Wisting.
Before long, more bodies are found. Media frenzy sweeps the locals into a panic. And when Wisting’s investigation leads him to a deadly underground crime ring, he fears the whole town may be in danger.
But at the heart of it is just one man: The Night Man.
Their elusive leader. The man Wisting must find if he wants to stop the murders.
That is if The Night Man doesn’t get to him first . . .
As all my followers know, Jorn Lier Horst and Wisting are on the top of my favorite author and character list, so as always I was looking forward to reading The Night Man.
I have all the Wisting books that have been published in English and have read them all in the order that they have originally been published in Norway, However, The Night Man is actually book 5 in the series, so therefore it does read a little out of sync. This is my only minus point and I think that it should be made clear before readers dive in.
That said, the story and plot is excellent as always, the way Jorn Lier Horst writes the police procedural side is always so true to life ( something to do with him being a Detective with the Norweigian Police before becoming a novelist ), and I love that we get so deep into Wisting’s psyche with every book in the series. I don’t know why but I just really feel so much warmth for William Wisting as a character, he is such a lovely thoughtful Detective, who always goes to the ends of the earth for the victims of crime. He isn’t perfect, his relationship with his son, Thomas isn’t the best, but he is close to his daughter, Line who I also love… she is a journalist and has her father’s curious and analytical mind. From reading the first book in the Wisting series I totally fell in love with William, that is definitely down to the skilful writing of Jorn Lier Horst, and as an added bonus being set in my favourite Country, Norway, makes these one of my favourite reads.
Line features quite heavily in The Night Man, and as I’ve said it’s strange reading about what’s happening to her as this book is in the last compared to the last read of A Question Of Guilt. But her character is so well written by Jorn, I always find it amazing how male authors can portray female protagonists so well.I love Line to as she is an inquisitive and kick ass journalist, who won’t let things go….however sometimes this can mean trouble can find her!
The storyline follows the discovery of a child’s severed head on a post in the middle of Larvik, Norway. There are some quite gory descriptions of this that made my skin crawl haha, but that’s one of the reasons I adore Crime Fiction. We follow Wisting and his team on a journey through drugs and child exploitation from Europe to Afghanistan, on a quest to find the killer or killers.
The detail Jorn Lier Horst writes in his books is what always stays with me, the descriptions of the settings, the food being eaten, the insides of Norweigian homes, all are exquisite and totally make The Night Man sing with realism.
The ending leaves the reader wanting, but as I’ve said if you were to read the Wisting series in order – the next book being Dregs – it actually makes more sense. But as I love Wisting and also Jorn Lier Horst, it didn’t matter to me. It was a great read and another added to my collection. To help new readers I will list the Wisting series in order for you –
Key Witness (Org. Nøkkelvitnet, 2004)
Disappearance of Felicia (Org. Felicia forsvant, 2005)
When the Sea Calms (Org. Når havet stilner, 2006)
The Only One (Org. Den eneste ene, 2007)
The Night Man (Org. Nattmannen, 2009) – translated into English July 2022
Dregs (Org. Bunnfall, 2010) – translated into English by Anne Bruce, 2011
Closed for Winter (Org. Vinterstengt, 2011) – translated into English 2013
The Hunting Dogs (Org. Jakthundene, 2012) – translated into English 2014
The Caveman (Org. Hulemannen, 2013) – translated into English 2015
Ordeal (Org. Blindgang, 2015) – translated into English 2016
When It Grows Dark (Org. Når Det Mørkner, 2016) – translated into English 2016 (A prequel to the series.)
The Katharina Code (Org. Katharina-koden, 2017) – translated into English 2018
The Cabin (Org. Det innerste rommet, 2018) – translated into English 2019
The Inner Darkness (Org. Illvilje, 2019)- translated into English 2020
A Question of Guilt (Org. Sak 1569, 2020)- translated into English 2021
Boundless (Org. Grenseløs, 2021)
The traitor (Org. Forræderen, 2022)
I hope that this helps those readers who haven’t yet ventured into the Wisting series by Jorn Lier Horst, if you want to read gripping, tense, exceptionally well written police procedurals and thrillers, then I urge you to start collecting and reading this series.
I will also add that all the Wisting novels are written in Norwegian first, then translated into English, this is done so well, that one really doesn’t know they were not written in English first!
So my score is a sound 4 stars, and as always I wait for the next Wisting book to be translated into English!
Journalist Ben Harper is on his way home when he sees the flames in the churchyard. The derelict community centre is on fire. And somebody is trapped inside.
With Ben’s help the person escapes, only to flee the scene before they can be identified. Now the small town of Haddley is abuzz with rumours. Was this an accident, or arson?
Then a skeleton is found in the burnt-out foundations.
And when the identity of the victim is revealed, Ben is confronted with a crime that is terrifyingly close to home. As he uncovers a web of deceit and destruction that goes back decades, Ben quickly learns that in this small town, everybody has something to hide.
I was so excited to receive a proof copy from Sphere books, thank you.
In Eleven Liars we meet up with Ben Harper the local investigative journalist, and another crime for him to report on and ultimately due to his past, get involved in. On his way home one evening, he sees flames from a derelict community centre. He goes to investigate and sees someone inside, in the flames and from there the plot begins.
Centring around the hamlet of Haddley, this event has the town full of rumours and whispers, and as Ben Harper digs deeper he stumbles across truths and half-truths that also have an impact on his friend DI Dani Cash.
I love Ben Harper’s character, he is a young journo who has a sad history, but who is able to use his consummate people skills to get information from people that others cannot. He is a nice lad who people trust, and he is a very loveable character. I also love the frisson undercurrent between Ban and Dani Cash… theres going to be something happening there one feels (and hopes) in furture volumes!
The plot of Eleven Liars runs at full pelt from page to page, and it kept me reading day and night until the conclusion. An absolutely solid crime fiction novel, full of great characters and a really excellent plot line that also links into Twelve Secrets the first Ben Harper novel. I raced through it and was sad once I had finished it! Robert Gold has found a great formula for writing the Ben Harper crime fiction novels, and I look forward to reading many more.
BERLIN. JANUARY 1941. Evil cannot bring about good . . .
After Germany’s invasion of Poland, the world is holding its breath and hoping for peace. At home, the Nazi Party’s hold on power is absolute.
One freezing night, an SS doctor and his wife return from an evening mingling with their fellow Nazis at the concert hall. By the time the sun rises, the doctor will be lying lifeless in a pool of blood.
Was it murder or suicide? Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke is told that under no circumstances should he investigate. The doctor’s widow, however, is convinced her husband was the target of a hit. But why would anyone murder an apparently obscure doctor? Compelled to dig deeper, Schenke learns of the mysterious death of a child. The cases seem unconnected, but soon chilling links begin to emerge that point to a terrifying secret.
Even in times of war, under a ruthless regime, there are places in hell no man should ever enter. And Schenke fears he may not return alive . . .
Thank you so much to Jess Hunt from Ransom PR for inviting me to the Dead Of Night blog tour and sending me a copy of the book.
As I knew Dead Of Night was book 2 in the Berlin Wartime Series by Simon Scarrow, I decided to read Blackout ( book 1 ) first. And I’m so glad I did, as Blackout is a fantastic opener to the Kripo Inspector Horst Schenke series.
The story for Dead Of Night is set during the coldest of winters January/February 1940… and from the first page, the reader knows they are in for a thrilling read amongst the politics, in-house fighting, and mistrust of Berlin during the early days of WW2 and the rise in Nazism.
The way that Simon Scarrow writes is utterly compelling, he’s like my favorite History Teacher, because although Dead Of Night is a work of fiction, it is based on truth, and in his exceptional style, taught me to look at how working and living in Berlin under the threat of Hitler and his SS henchmen when one is just trying to do one’s job, becomes a minefield of difficulty. In our protagonist, Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke, we have a man who cannot fight due to an injury sustained whilst racing for the famous Silver Arrows Racing Team, so he has risen to the rank of Criminal Inspector with the Kripos, and he loves his job, and just wants to keep fighting the criminals, murderers and rapists and make sure they are caught and punished….sounds simple right? But during wartime in Berlin, nothing is simple, no one trusts one another, and Horst finds himself embroiled in a case that he has been warned off investigating, and when he continues to do so puts himself and those he cares about in grave danger.
I’m not going to give any more of the plot away, but let’s just say the speed of Dead Of Night and the storyline, are thrilling and utterly gripping, you will not be able to put it down. It also had me heading across to Google on several occasions to find out more about topics and people ( there are real Nazis in the books ) so as to add to the story.
If you haven’t read Blackout before you start Dead of Night, I would urge you to – it runs closely after the storyline in Blackout and several characters as important to the storyline and plot in Dead Of Night.
I loved Dead Of Night so much, and am a firm fan of The Berlin Wartime series by Simon Scarrow, I actually feel utterly sad now I’ve finished Dead Of Night! And that, my friends, is the sign of a superb book!
If you like thrillers and Police Procedurals set during WW2, then Dead Of Night is definitely for you, the research Simon Scarrow puts into his work makes for such a visceral and realistic read, and it’s refreshing to have a different point of view with a Police Inspector who is German.
An easy 5-star rating for Dead Of Night and also for Blackout. I cannot wait for book 3!
Simon Scarrow is a Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author with several million copies of his books sold worldwide. After a childhood spent travelling the world, he pursued his great love of history as a teacher, before becoming a full-time writer. His Roman soldier heroes Cato and Macro made their debut in 2000 in UNDER THE EAGLE and have subsequently appeared in many bestsellers in the Eagles of the Empire series, including CENTURION, INVICTUS and DAY OF THE CAESARS. Many of the series have been Sunday Times bestsellers.
Simon Scarrow is also the author of a quartet of novels about the lives of the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte, YOUNG BLOODS, THE GENERALS, FIRE AND SWORD and THE FIELDS OF DEATH; a novel about the 1565 Siege of Malta, SWORD & SCIMITAR; HEARTS OF STONE, set in Greece during the Second World War; and PLAYING WITH DEATH, a contemporary thriller written with Lee Francis. He also wrote the novels ARENA and INVADER with T. J. Andrews. His thriller, BLACKOUT set in WW2 Berlin and first published in 2021 was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick.
The inspiration for ‘Dead of Night’ (in Simon Scarrow’s own words)
When I research the period covering the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, it is sometimes hard to believe the bald statistics concerning the number of people murdered by the regime, nor is it easy to comprehend the cold-blooded manner in which those responsible went about it. Sometimes the sheer scale and breadth of the horrors inflicted by the Nazis is almost impossible to contemplate, and it is necessary to break the atrocity down in a way that allows people to connect with the victims in a more personal and empathetic way. That was the approach I took with this novel.
In order to understand what became known after the war as the Aktion T4 programme, it is necessary to realise that this mass murder policy was the result of many years of conscious preparation, drawing on influences much wider than those located in Germany. A perversion of Darwin’s theories of evolution gave rise to a growing number of works by scientists and pseudo-scientists advocating the removal of ‘defective’ humans in order to take them out of the chain of heredity and thereby ‘improve’ humankind. Such notions were eagerly taken up across Europe and in the Americas and provided febrile encouragement to the political programme of Adolf Hitler and his followers as early as the mid-1920s, when Hitler was already advocating the elimination of those he regarded as ‘degenerates’ (‘degeneriert’).
When the Nazi party seized power in 1933, they wasted no time in imposing their ideology on Germany. Besides the suppression of the media, the arrest, torture and murder of political rivals and the removal of Jewish civil rights, one of the first measures put in place was compulsory sterilization of certain groups. This was imposed on a wide range of those deemed degenerate: gypsies, prostitutes, the work-shy, habitual criminals, mixed-race people and those with incurable mental and physical disabilities. That same July, Hitler intended to pass laws to enable the killing of patients diagnosed with mental illness but was persuaded that such a move was too controversial. Even so, in 1935 he let it be known that, in the event of war, he would introduce such a measure, since the public’s attention would be elsewhere and, in any case, in time of war, a few extra deaths would be easily missed amongst so many others. From 1937 a secret committee of the Nazi party was making plans for a euthanasia programme, seeding the notion through sympathetic articles in the Nazi-controlled press that portrayed the lives of people with disabilities as ‘life not worthy of life’ (‘Lebensunwertes Leben’).
The programme was activated in February 1939 when the father of Gerhard Kretschmar, a boy born with missing limbs, petitioned Hitler to have his son killed. The father had already approached a doctor in Leipzig asking him to end Gerhard’s life but the doctor had refused on the basis that he might as a result be charged with murder. Having reviewed the case, Hitler sent his personal doctor, Karl Brandt, to arrange the murder of the child at the end of July. At the same time Hitler authorised Brandt to oversee the creation of a euthanasia programme. A month later, Hitler put an end to the sterilization program. Things had moved on from preventing reproduction by the ‘degenerates’ to eliminating them altogether. In October, Hitler signed an order empowering doctors to rid society of ‘useless eaters’ (‘unnütze esser’) by granting them a ‘merciful death’ (‘barmherziger Tod’).
The programme was the responsibility of the Reich Committee for Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses, whose structure and purpose were kept secret from the general public. The overall head of the programme was Philipp Bouhler, an SS officer, and one of the first members of the Nazi party. The section of the programme concerned with children was under the control of an SS doctor, Viktor Brack, and based at Tiergartenstrasse 4, from which the later name Aktion T4 derives. From the start the emphasis of the programme was on killing, not children already in institutions, but those who were still living at home with their families, before moving on to the elimination of those already institutionalised. Parents were coaxed by doctors to entrust their children to institutions where they would, supposedly, be better cared for. Once the children had been removed from their homes, they were subjected to various treatments ultimately intended to kill them. Some were injected with drugs that would progressively weaken them, while others were starved to death. Their deaths were passed off as the result of natural causes. Often, the bodies were cremated to destroy the evidence, and the parents were only then sent news of the death of their child. Considerable efforts were taken to conceal the scale of the killings; for example Brack’s officials kept a map in their office with pins placed in it for each child, to ensure there were not any suspicious clusters and that the victims were evenly spread out.
Very soon there was pressure to increase the numbers of those being eliminated. The German forces in Poland had already been engaged in mass murder of patients with mental illnesses of all ages, and had first started using poison gas on Polish inmates transported to Posen. Chemical expert Albert Widmann was brought in from the Kripo’s forensic department to develop the most effective and efficient means of using gas (at this point carbon monoxide) to murder people, or, as they were described to him, ‘beasts in human form’. Widmann oversaw the construction of a test unit at Brandenburg prison, where patients diagnosed with mental illness were gassed in batches of fifteen to twenty. The process took approximately twenty minutes to kill them.
The programme was rapidly expanded across Germany and for some time it was kept secret from those not directly involved. But suspicion began to be aroused when the number of deaths in institutions for those with particular illnesses and conditions swiftly climbed and a number of doctors, coroners, judges and Catholic priests began to protest. The American journalist William Shirer was aware of the programme very early on, but only had concrete proof of its existence when he was contacted by a conscience-stricken official with the details in September 1940. Nonetheless, by a combination of denial, distraction, threats and ideological justification, the Nazi regime managed to prevent any effective opposition to the programme. By the end of the war, more than 80,000 people with disabilities had been murdered, over 5,000 of them children.
While the Holocaust is the most notorious crime committed by the Nazi party, it was through the euthanasia program that the Nazis first experimented with then perfected the means by which vast numbers of Jews, political opponents, gypsies, homosexuals and other victims were subsequently murdered. It was on the bodies of those helpless children that the most terrible atrocity of the twentieth century was built.
What was the fate of those responsible? Philipp Bouhler was captured by the Americans then committed suicide. Karl Brandt was tried and hanged in 1948, as was Viktor Brack. Albert Widmann escaped justice until 1959, when he was finally tried for his part in the programme and sentenced to six years in prison. He died in 1986. Even after the war, many of the doctors involved in the programme expressed their pride in what they portrayed as a process intended to improve the human race. In truth, all the above were the real ‘beasts in human form’.
It is worth remembering that the Nazis were not alone in imposing compulsory sterilization. As mentioned earlier, the cause of improving racial purity had gained advocates in many countries. Between the 1907 and 1939 the USA carried out over 60,000 compulsory sterilizations. In Europe, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway also embarked on similar programmes in the 1930s. In the case of Sweden, between 1935 and 1975, over 63,000 compulsory sterilizations took place. That is proportionately more, taking account of the relative populations, than Nazi Germany’s 350,000. It is clear that some seeds of Nazi Germany’s racial policies were sown in many other nations who were influenced by eugenics advocates from both ends of the political spectrum. We should not be so complacent as to assume that what happened in Nazi Germany could not be replicated somewhere else at another time.
I am sure that most people reading this account of the Aktion T4 programme will share my despair that such things are possible. How could such inhumanity as that underlying the Aktion T4 programme and the Holocaust have existed on so vast a scale? I can think of no greater horror than the fate of the vulnerable children who were murdered in cold blood by the Nazis.
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
Amongst the scholars, secrets and soporifics of Victorian Oxford, the truth can be a bitter pill to swallow…
Jesus College, Oxford, 1881. An undergraduate is found dead at his lodgings and the medical examination reveals some shocking findings. When the young man’s guardian blames the college for his death and threatens a scandal, Basil Rice, a Jesus college fellow with a secret to hide, is forced to act and finds himself drawn into Sidney Parker’s sad life.
The mystery soon attracts the attention of Rhiannon ‘Non’ Vaughan, a young Welsh polymath and one of the young women newly admitted to university lectures. But when neither the college principal nor the powerful ladies behind Oxford’s new female halls will allow her to become involved, Non’s fierce intelligence and determination to prove herself drive her on.
Both misfits at the university, Non and Basil form an unlikely partnership, and it soon falls to them to investigate the mysterious circumstances of Parker’s death. But between the corporate malfeasance and the medical quacks, they soon find the dreaming spires of Oxford are not quite what they seem…
An intriguing first installment of The Oxford Mysteries series by master crime writer, Alis Hawkins. Perfect for fans of Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Sarah Waters and Kaite Welsh.
Firstly thank you to Kate at Canelo Crime for very kindly sending me a proof copy of A Bitter Remedy.
When I saw the cover of A Bitter Remedy, I absolutely knew I needed to read it, especially as the colors match my brand!!
A Bitter Remedy is a historical crime novel, the first in a series, set in 1881 in Oxford at the birth of the women’s college movement. We follow our two main protagonists, Rhiannon “Non” Vaughan who is one of the first women to be allowed to study and go to lectures at Jesus College, Oxford, and Basil Rice, a Jesus College fellow who has a secret that he must keep hidden. Both are amazing characters, but they are far from the norm in Victorian society and find themselves investigating a strange death of an undergraduate.
The plot is superb in A Bitter remedy, and I adored Non, her fiesty, Intelligent, and gound-breaking character is amazing and I very easily loved her. Both Non and Basil are thrown into a world of propriety in the death of Sidney Parker and are drawn together to try to find out how and why he died and to get justice for him in a University that will do anything to keep things from the press and general public, in case it tarnishes their reputation.
Having never been to University, apart from a week’s Sales course over 30 years ago strangely at Oxford University, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t understand how University life was in 1881, especially for women. Alis Hawkins has obviously researched her history of women and how the female college movement started, and the setting is perfect for this novel.
I loved the intrigue, and the historical facts ( some had me scooting over to Google!) and I really felt I was actually there in the 1880s with Non and fighting her battles with her. I don’t want to give any of the plot away, but if you like historical crime fiction that is factual and also gripping, then A Bitter Remedy is going to be one to add to your reading list for 2023.
A brilliant 5 Stars from me, and I look forward to the second installment of The Oxford Mysteries.
Alis grew up on a dairy farm in Ceredigion. Her inner introvert thought it would be a good idea to become a shepherd and, frankly, if she had she might have been published sooner.
As it was, three years reading English at Oxford revealed an extrovert streak and a social conscience and she has spent the subsequent three decades variously working in a burger restaurant, bringing up two sons, working with homeless people, and – having trained as a speech and langauge therapist – helping teachers and families to understand their autistic children. And writing. Always. Nonfiction (autism related), plays (commissioned for production in heritage locations) and, of course, novels.
Initially fascinated by the medieval period, Alis began her crime and mystery career at Pan Macmillan with Testament, a novel set in a fictitious medieval university city. Part of Testament’s narrative takes place in the fourteenth century and part in the twenty-first which taught Alis that she is far more passionate about writing historical fiction than contemporary.
So she fast-forwarded four centuries from fourteenth South East England to nineteenth century West Wales to write a book based on Wales’s best kept historical secret: the Rebecca Riots. And then she fell in love – both with nineteenth century west Wales and her characters – and the result is the Teifi Valley Coroner crime series featuring visually impaired investigator, Harry Probert-Lloyd, and his chippy assistant, John Davies.
As a side-effect of setting her series in Ceredigion, instead of making research trips to sunny climes like more foresighted writers, she just drives across Wales to see her family.
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!
Erin McCabe is a New Jersey criminal defense attorney doing her best to live quietly in the wake of a profound personal change – until a newsworthy case puts her whole life at risk…
Erin McCabe has been referred the biggest case of her career. Four months ago, the son of a New Jersey state senator was found fatally stabbed in a rundown motel near Atlantic City. Sharise Barnes, a nineteen-year-old transgender sex worker, is in custody, and, based on the evidence against her, there seems little doubt of a guilty verdict.
As a transgender woman herself, Erin knows that defending Sharise will blow her own private life wide open and doubtless deepen her estrangement from her family. Yet she feels uniquely qualified to help Sharise and duty-bound to protect her from the possibility of a death sentence.
While Erin works with her law partner, former-FBI-agent Duane Swisher, to show Sharise acted in self-defense, the senator begins using the full force of his influence to publicly discredit them and their efforts to mount a defense for Sharise. And behind the scenes, his tactics are even more dangerous. For his son had secrets that could destroy the senator’s own political aspirations – secrets worth killing for…
Firstly I must thank Sarah at Verve Books for gifting me a proof of By Way Of Sorrow.
This is an absolutely bloody brilliant book! I’m not sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t this!! It’s an immensely well-written, groundbreaker of a book!
I’ve not read any American novels that are set in their criminal justice system, but it is written with what feels like a totally realistic and authentic edge. Our heroine is Erin McCabe and she is a criminal defense attorney in New Jersey. Working with her partner, Duane Swisher who is a former FBI agent, they get referred to a case that will be the biggest of both their careers.
Now I really do not want to give any of the plotlines or story away so I’m going to try not to! The case involves Sharise Barnes a teenage transgender sex worker who was arrested and seems guilty, based on the evidence, of murdering the son of a prominent New Jersey senator. And that’s where things start, this novel is so gritty and dark yet also laced with humor and compassion.
The narration of each of the characters is brilliantly written, and so emotionally charged and intense in parts, but so authentic! I really was amazed at the quality of the writing by Robyn Gigl, the handling of several sensitive scenes was thrilling and also emotive! And had me on the edge of my seat and anxious which is always the sign of a good writer!
I loved Erin McCabe’s character, she is a bloody sassy lady, and when things get tough she does not cower in the corner she fights and gets results in the courtroom and in life, and against the daily prejudice that she faces. She is such a wonderful fictional character, and so memorable, I totally see this being a long-running series and indeed it so needs to be made into a film!
The legal terms are written in such a way that anyone can understand what they mean and in fact, it’s a good insight into the American Justice system. I’ve always thought that legal thrillers can be a bit too staid and boring, but not By Way Of Sorrow, there are no down chapters, or page fillers here this is just a thrilling gripping page-turner from the start, in fact, I was gutted when it finished!
I really want to tell you the storyline, but I don’t want to spoil it for you, but if you want to read a legal thriller for the here and now, dealing with transgender issues, racism, misogyny, family issues, the American legal system, and corruption, then By Way Of Sorrow is the book for you.
If you are interested in transgender characters this is a must-read. I cannot wait for the next installment, if it’s as good as By Way Of Sorrow I will be so pleased! Thank you Robyn Gigl for your talented writing!
A super 5-star read and one that’s also important for today’s society, and has to be one of the thrillers of the year!.
Robyn Gigl (pronounced Guy-gull), the author of BY WAY OF SORROW and SURVIVOR’S GUILT, is an attorney, speaker, and activist who has been honored by the ACLU-NJ and the NJ Pride Network for her work on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community. Robyn is a partner at Gluck Walrath, LLP in Freehold, NJ, where she handles complex commercial and employment litigation. She has been selected as an NJ Super Lawyer since 2010 and as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in NJ in 2020 & 2021. Robyn is a member of the Board of Directors of Garden State Equality, NJ’s largest LGBTQ+ Civil Rights Organization. She is a graduate of Stonehill College and Villanova University School of Law. A frequent lecturer on diversity issues, she lives in New Jersey where she continues to practice law by day, and work on her next novel by night. Fortunately, she has a very boring social life.
Dr Ruth Galloway is called in when a child’s bones are discovered near the site of a pre-historic henge on the north Norfolk salt marshes. Are they the remains of a local girl who disappeared ten years earlier – or are the bones much older?
DCI Harry Nelson refuses to give up the hunt for the missing girl. Since she vanished, someone has been sending him bizarre anonymous notes about ritual sacrifice, quoting Shakespeare and the Bible. He knows that Ruth’s expertise and experience could help him finally to put this case to rest.
But when a second child goes missing, Ruth finds herself in danger from a killer who knows she’s getting ever closer to the truth…
It amazes me how sometimes we, as readers, miss some amazingly good book series, and the Dr. Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths is one of those for me.
I had seen the books on social media and years ago when I used to use a library but had never read them, then finally at the beginning of the year I saw a set of the first 9 books and I thought I must buy them to read, well they’ve been sat looking lovey in my bookshelf ever since! (I’m sure we are all guilty of this!)
So I started the first book with an open mind, and The Crossing Places did not disappoint.
It’s a fabulous opener to the series which I now know is loved by fans all over the world. Dr. Ruth Galloway is a slightly overweight Forensic archaeologist who loves nothing more than to find bones and search out what happened to the person they were, she also loves Bruce Springsteen and her cottage on The Saltmarsh. In the first book, we follow her on a hunt to find out whether the bones discovered on the site of a pre-historic henge are those of a missing local girl.
We meet the excellent cast of characters that surround Ruth in the series, the huge and intense DCI Harry Nelson, the slightly odd but lovely Cathbad, a druid and laboratory assistant at The University of Norfolk, (Ruth works here as a Lecturer), and Shona, Ruth’s better looking, lover of married men girlfriend.
The story is brilliant with a huge input of historical fact, folklore, and suspense. I loved the way the story climbs to a climactic ending and was really gripped all the way thru.
As an opening book to a series, it’s fabulous and I suspect the series and stories surrounding Dr. Ruth Galloway will get even better as I binge-read the books in order!
A Great 4 star read.
Dr Ruth Galloway’s forensic skills are called upon when builders, demolishing an old house in Norwich, uncover the bones of a child – minus the skull – beneath a doorway. Is it some ritual sacrifice or just plain straightforward murder? Ruth links up with DCI Harry Nelson to investigate.
The house was once a children’s home. Nelson traces the Catholic priest who used to run the place. He tells him that two children did go missing forty years before – a boy and a girl. They were never found.
When carbon dating proves that the child’s bones predate the home and relate to a time when the house was privately owned, Ruth is drawn ever more deeply into the case. But as spring turns into summer it becomes clear that someone is desperate to put her off the scent by frightening her to death…
I was really ready to find out what would be happening in Dr. Ruth Galloway’s life after reading the first book.
In the Janus Stone, we find out lots more about Ruth and her life ( I’m not going to give anything away here!), enough that her storyline is keeping me gripped alongside the latest case of old bones that are found in an ex children’s home.
The usual cast of characters is here and they are now starting to evolve which I just adore!
The storyline and plot are gripping and I raced through The Janus Stone, the plot builds to a brilliant ending and I thought it was really well written.
I find Elly Griffith’s style of writing really easy to read and almost dare I say it cozy ( I’m not a great lover of cozy crime I prefer gritty), but I think the skill involved in writing the great cast of characters and involving a good Police procedural around Ruth’ life is really clever.
Again I was not at all disappointed, indeed it took me 2 days to read! A 5-star read.
Elly Griffiths is the author of the Dr. Ruth Galloway books and the Brighton Mysteries. Last year I also published a stand-alone, The Stranger Diaries, and a children’s book, A Girl Called Justice. I have previously written books under my real name, Domenica de Rosa (I know it sounds made up).
The Ruth books are set in Norfolk, a place I know well since childhood. It was a chance remark of my husband’s that gave me the idea for the first in the series, The Crossing Places. We were crossing Titchwell Marsh in North Norfolk when Andy (an archaeologist) mentioned that prehistoric people thought that marshland was sacred ground. Because it’s neither land nor sea, but something in-between, they saw it as a bridge to the afterlife; neither land nor sea, neither life nor death. In that moment, I saw Dr. Ruth Galloway walking towards me out of the mist…
I live near Brighton with Andy. We have two grown-up children. I write in a garden shed accompanied by my cat, Gus.