Fever City by Tim Baker – a review BLOG TOUR

This was another free book that I picked up at the festival. It hadn’t really made it onto my reading radar until I had an email from the publisher inviting me to this blog tour. The description they sent intrigued me so I dug out my copy and I am delighted to be hosting the last stop of the Fever City Blog tour.

Fever City by Tim Baker is set around three different main story lines. It starts with the kidnapping of the son of rich businessman Rex Bannister. Private Investigator Nick Alston is asked to investigate and during this investigation he meets hitman Hastings. We then meet Hastings again in 1963 heading towards Dallas. The third of the three stories is set in 2014 when the journalist son of Nick Alston is researching the conspiracy theories of the 60s and looking at the assassination of JFK. The book switches backwards and forwards between the characters and their actions.

When I was at University I studied American History and have always been interested in the whole Kennedy era so mixing in some crime and some modern day meant this book was right up my street. Interspersed alongside the kidnapping plot we get to read about numerous historical characters that are synonymous with that time. Joe Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, J Edgar Hoover, they all make an appearance as we head towards the actual assassination.

This was a thoroughly fascinating novel that kept me gripped through to the end despite the rather long length (compared to my normal reading matter) There was a lot of mixing between time frames and viewpoints which took a while to get into. However once you got into it the book flowed easily and didn’t get as confusing as can sometimes be the case.

It is certainly not a book for the fainthearted as it doesn’t portray the romantic gentle Kennedy’s often seen. This is a much more hard boiled take on them, with some very violent scenes which is to be expected as soon as you get the know the characters a bit. Corruption, violence, mobsters – all those fascinating elements of 60’s America are covered here.

This novel cleverly mixes fact with fiction and creates an interesting mix of political thriller, historical conspiracy and family drama.  I would thoroughly recommend this novel for anyone with an interest in thrillers and the Kennedy assassination.

If you would like to find out more about the author then pop over to Crime thriller girl’s blog for a q and a.



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Quiet Neighbours by Catriona McPherson – a review

I have previously read and enjoyed a couple of novels by Catriona McPherson so when this came up on netgalley I jumped at the chance to get it.

The story revolves around three main characters. There is the quiet bookshop owner Lowell who has a mysterious collection of items he keeps under lock and key. He is a loner who spends his time in the dusty unorganised rooms of his book shop. Jude is a young women who has recently lost both her parents and is running away from something. She arrives at the bookshop and is soon employed to try and tidy it up. Finally there is Eddy who turns up saying she is the daughter of Lowell from a one night stand and that she is about to give birth to his grandchild. All three are hiding secrets.

This was an intriguing story but I have to say I don’t think this was anywhere near as good as The Child Garden. The story just seemed a bit too silly for my liking. The premise was good, three lives revolving around a bookshop with the hints of murder and crime. It sounds like it would be right up my street but unfortunately something just didn’t work for me.

Partly I think it was just a bit long, obviously this may change in the final edition out in April 2016. There just seemed to be a little too many coincidences and misunderstandings. It almost felt as though there were too many stories being thrown into one novel and could have worked better if it had been a bit shorter. The writing itself is, as always with Catriona MacPherson good and it keeps you hooked with the phrases and nuances used. Equally each of the characters as separate beings were interesting and kept me turning the pages. However the interaction between the characters didn’t always seem to work. I never really had a clear sense of how old they were although we were told that Lowell was in his sixties, and that Eddy was 18 but it just didn’t really work in my mind.

The end was good in that it wrapped up all the loose stories which I like, and I did enjoy the actual narrative but I was a little disappointed. Saying that it certainly kept my interest and I was keen to find out what the secrets were. I suspect I may have been expecting more crime which coloured my view at the end.

Overall if you like well written mystery novels with interesting characters then this is definitely worth a go and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for future novels by Catriona McPherson.


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Follow you home

When I’m out walking or running I like to listen to books. My latest ‘listen to’ audiobook has been Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid. As with all of her novels this is a great book. It even includes a character called Tamsin which I like to think she has named after my sister having seen her name on one of the numerous yellow post it notes that follow us round at the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writers Festival. One of the discussions between characters in Splinter the Silence is about the best way to follow people without being detected. Apparently when tailing someone it is best to always stay in front of the person and work out where they are going next.

Well the other day whilst out for a jog I thought I’d try this out, as the The Chopper appeared just as I was leaving my house. For years I’ve been watching this man walking up and down the street with a walking stick in one hand and a carrier bag in the other wondering where he is going. Therefore I decided to follow him to find out once and for all where he buries the bodies. We live next door to a small moor and field so there are plenty of places he could use but it is surrounded on all sides by streets and houses so I thought I’d easily track him.

As he set off slowly walking I jogged past the Chopper then stopped to tie my shoelace whilst surreptitiously watching which way he went. He went left so I ran straight on over the moor, coming out at the end of the road in front of him. Next he went right, not towards the shops as one would expect for someone carrying a shopping bag but heading as though to go out on the moor. I took off again this time along the path, ready to cut onto the moor. I turned the corner and saw him in front. Yet rather than turn he suddenly changed direction, heading along the path besides the field. I doubled back on myself and got behind him, as he took a swift last minute right turn away from the fields.

I was determined not to lose him. I’m out for a run after all, so how hard can it be to keep up with an old man with a walking stick. By this stage it was safe to say I may have been spotted (the fluorescent stripes down the side of my jacket were not doing me any favours here) but suddenly out of nowhere as I approach the entrance to the Moor, he appears on the other side of the gate. Skidding to a halt we are eyeball to eyeball. Now would be a good time for me to just simply say hello and run off, pretending I wasn’t following him after all. Yet I can’t do that, I’m on a mission.

He heads off again this time down the street towards the shops. Now in danger of losing him I speed up and cut through some houses to meet him at the other side. Just as he came into sight he turned again, this time heading back towards the moor. I took off back on myself towards the same Moor. But suddenly he’s disappeared. I know I’m a very slow runner, but how on earth can I be outrun by an old man with a walking stick?


I carried on for a few minutes but he had completely vanished. Heading home I rounded the corner and there he was. Seemingly just leaving his house and going shopping. Unless there are some secret passages I’m not aware of I have no idea how he managed to give me the slip and make it back so quickly. I’m beginning to think the Apple Drive body disposal gang goes further than first thought. I refuse to be beaten though and am going to try again, although next time I might have to ditch the fluorescent running jacket.


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Normal by Graeme Cameron – a review

Normal is another of the many books I picked up at the festival last year. The cover of this book is pretty unremarkable, a picture of a few dark trees. However this belies a rather disturbing little tale. Normal is about a normal man who goes about the day to day business of life, maintaining his garden, shopping for food. The only difference is that he is a serial killer.  He kidnaps women, keeps them in a cage in his basement and then kills them. This all works out fine for him, until he kidnaps Erica who he quickly realises is slightly more challenging than others.

I enjoyed this book, despite the rather grim subject matter. It’s a novel that is clearly going to have comparisons with the Dexter novels by Jeff Lindsay that I am a big fan of, yet there is something different. In this although we see the crimes through the perpetrator’s eyes we don’t actually get to know his name. This gives the book a very intimate feel as you are almost living it with him.

It would be wrong to say this is a comedy as the story itself is so disturbing it’s not going to be for everyone but I must confess it certainly made me chuckle. I thoroughly enjoyed the humour within it, and felt that actually some of the female characters were strongly developed enough to make this less one sided than is often the case in books written from a killers point of view.

I did find certain aspects of this book a bit frustrating, for example the killer doesn’t seem to go to work. This is almost a lost opportunity as it would have added to the feeling of this being a normal man with a weird hobby. You also don’t seem to find out the motives behind the crimes which I imagine will annoy some readers.

However I genuinely couldn’t stop reading this book once I started and luckily it was over the holiday’s so work didn’t get in the way for once. I would throughly recommend this if you are looking for something that is most definitely not normal.


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The Girl in the Red Coat – Q&A with Kate Hamer

A while ago I was lucky enough to read a copy of The Girl in the Red Coat which was the debut novel by Kate Hamer, my review can be found here. To celebrate the launch of the paperback version of the book I’m today taking part in Kate’s blog tour and managed to catch up with her to ask a few questions.

What was the inspiration behind the story in The Girl in the Red Coat?

It was twofold really. Firstly, it’s a book about the relationship between mothers and daughters. When I took a look at novels where this was the main feature they seemed very thin on the ground which seemed strange for such an interesting and potent relationship. Secondly, I kind of ‘saw’ Carmel – not in reality of course but in my mind’s eye. She was a little girl wearing a red coat, standing in a forest, lost. From that moment on I knew I wanted to find out what had happened to her.

I believe you attended a novel writing course whilst writing the book, did attending this influence you a lot? Did it change the plot of your novel at all?

The plot didn’t change at all but the course encouraged me to look at the book with a technical eye as well as the emotional one. I also met a bunch of brilliant people. Sharing your work can be hard but if you want to be published it’s essential. It was a great environment to do that in – everyone passionate about books and supportive but not afraid to say what they think.

What is your typical working day like?

I try to start by at least 9.30 to harness that morning energy. Of course everyone’s different but I’ve spoken to many, many writers who are the same, and for whom the mornings are the most creative buzzy time for writing. I start by going over work already written. I’m always tempted to read the novel right from the beginning but as I get further and further into it that becomes completely untenable as you’d spend the whole day reading! I carry on working until mid or late afternoon and then make myself go out for a walk. Sitting writing all day isn’t the healthiest of occupations! Sometimes, I’ll go for a walk anyway – if it’s really not working. I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep sitting there when it’s really not flowing. I find thinking time just as important as writing time.

What is your ideal afternoon off work?

I love window shopping – the business of other people, lights, fashion, window displays. For me it’s the perfect antidote to sitting in a room alone writing. Then it would be on to an early supper with friends or family – perfect!

That sounds like a perfect afternoon to me! Do you read a lot yourself and if so who are your favourite authors?

I read constantly but with always a slight anxiety that I will never be able to read absolutely everything I want to in one lifetime! I think reading is the most important thing for a writer to do. In terms of favourite authors that changes all the time depending on what I’m reading – at the moment I’m immersed in reading the Italian author Elena Ferrante. But I do have old favourites – Maggie O’Farrell, Edna O’Brien, Ian McEwan. I love unputdownable dark twisty thrillers such as Erin Kelly’s ‘The Poison Tree’ and it’s also great to read very new stuff – two that have really caught my eye that are being published this year are ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ by Joanna Cannon and ‘The Anatomy of a Soldier’ by Harry Parker. Both brilliant reads.

Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll have a look at those. If you were not a writer what would be your ideal job?

I fantasise about being a gardener sometimes, though generally when the sun’s shining so I’d be a rather fair weather one!

Finally what are you working on next?

I’m on the second draft of another novel. It’s a coming of age tale again, threaded through with the supernatural. These dark months over the winter have been great to get immersed in it.

Thanks very much to Kate for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions. I look forward to her next novel coming out.

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer is out now (Faber & Faber, £7.99)

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The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle – a review

This was a novel that I picked up at the festival last year, mainly because I liked the bright red cover with the snake on the front. The blurb itself didn’t give away a lot about the story so it ended up quite low down on my to be read pile. I recently saw a couple of good reviews of it which intrigued me so picked it up to give it a go. I’m very glad I did.

Roy is an aging con-artist who despite already being very comfortably off can’t help trying to fleece more people. He meets lonely widower Betty via internet dating and is soon worming his way in with her and her family. It’s not long before he moves in and starts dispensing financial advice. As this story moves forward we also start to see what happened to Roy during his life as we go backwards through his history.

The Good Liar was an utterly engaging read. I must confess it started off quite slowly and I nearly gave up during the first few pages, but it soon dragged me in. The story at first seemed as though it was just a simple story of a con artist attempting to take an innocent old women’s savings. Yet it soon became completely engrossing and much more than just a replay of a long con. Whilst at no point did I find myself having sympathy with Roy I did find his history fascinating as we follow him back through his lifetime.

The writing in the book is excellent and I found the twists and turns to be very clever. The switching chapters were easy to follow and once you got into the style of them it was a good read. I thought it was interesting that the flashbacks go backwards which added to the suspense.

It is very difficult to review this book without giving away the plot and for me part of the enjoyment was that actually I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen until I read it. Therefore I don’t want to spoil it for others by giving too much away. I can imagine it is going to be a big hit with book groups as it is a story that needs to be talked about and will divide opinion. However I thoroughly enjoyed it and whilst sadly the cover is no longer red, the snake is still there so I would definitely recommend picking it up.



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Even the dead by Benjamin Black – a review

I was recently sent a paperback copy of this by the publisher.

The novel starts with pathologist Quirke who is on sick leave and staying with his brother and sister in law. A body has been found in a car and at first it looks as though it was a suicide. However a visit from the assistant pathologist who is also the boyfriend of Quirke’s daughter, persuades him that things are not quite as they seem. Shortly after, Quirke’s daughter gets a visit from her old friend Lisa Smith who is pregnant with the dead man’s child. Lisa however, then goes missing and Quirke teams up with Inspector Hackett as the two cases start to merge.

This was the first of the Quirke novels I have read although it’s actually the seventh that has been published. The novels are set in 1950s Dublin and have also been made into a TV series.  I enjoyed this, as it was an interesting view of the rather seedy sounding dark side of Dublin. The whole story was interwoven with organised crime set against the background of the Catholic church.

I must confess that it took me a little while to actually get into this book. I suspect that is mainly due to me not having read the previous novels in the series so I didn’t know any of the background. However the story itself soon drew me in and the description of the City in this era was fascinating. Quirke as a protagonist was interesting. As tends to be the case in crime fiction he is flawed, a functioning alcoholic with few close relationships yet someone who is excellent at solving crimes.

The story was gentle rather than action packed but it would certainly be described as atmospheric and intriguing. There are lots of stories hinted at such as the affair between Quirke and his brother’s wife that clearly show the pathologist has led an interesting life.

Overall this was an enjoyable book and stands alone as a novel, although there is probably a deeper enjoyment to be had from reading the series from the start.



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