Thursday, 31 March 2016

Cold Calling by Russell Mardell

Still reeling from the break-up with the love of his life, insurance firm cold-caller Ray English has become a bit of a screw up. Cynical and withdrawn, Ray is aimlessly drifting through life in London with his long suffering best friend, Danny. However, once he is asked to reform his college band for a friend's wedding, Ray is soon forced to face up to his old life, and the hometown he had tried so hard to turn his back on.
Anya Belmont is a woman with a secret and a history that continues to shape her life. A coffee shop owner in Salisbury, Anya is successful, yet bored; married, yet lonely. She is also slowly being driven to distraction by her highly temperamental friend, the child-hating children's author Eva Cunningham.
Through fate, coincidence of just bad timing, Ray and Anya's lives begin to chage when Ray cold-calls Anya and the two strike up a seemingly innocuous conversation. Against their better judgement, their conversation is soon the start of a relationship played out over the phone.
But can there every be anything real in a phone call? 

Cold Calling by Russell Mardell was published in March 2016 through Matador Books.

Ray works in insurance. He cold-calls existing customers, just to make sure that they are happy with their policy, he's really not selling anything. Anya doesn't believe him, everyone knows that cold-callers want something from you, regardless of what they say.

Ray is a sad case. He's never recovered from the break up of his relationship - five years ago, yes, five whole years ago. He relates his feelings to his therapist. His best friend Danny knows the whole story, back to front, inside out. Ray doesn't like going out, or talking to people. Ray is a bit of a mess.

Anya is successful, She has a business, and friends and a huge secret. When Ray calls her, it's a really really bad time, but despite that, they click, and from there, an unusual and intriguing relationship begins.

Cold Calling is the story of their developing relationship and Russell Mardell's writing is sharp and witty. He has a keen observational eye, and his insight is shrewd and cleverly done. I didn't fall in love with either Ray or Anya, but I really did love their conversations, and whilst this is not the traditional romance story, it is romantic, but in a refreshing way. There's no overload of hearts and flowers in this tale, it's full of spark and sarky comments and characters who don't hold back in saying what they think.

Combine the blossoming relationship between the two lead characters with the past baggage that both of them are weighed down with and the result is a really funny, really clever and really entertaining read

A warm and wise, heart-felt romantic comedy.

Russell Mardell is a playwright, scriptwriter and filmaker based in the South West of England.

He is the author of four novels and a collection of short stories.

Find out more about Russell Mardell, and his work at
Follow him on Twitter @russellmardell


Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Night That Changed Everything by Laura Tait & Jimmy Rice *** BLOG TOUR ***

Rebecca is the only girl she knows who didn't cry at the end of Titanic. Ben is the only man he knows who did.
Rebecca's untidy but Ben doesn't mind picking up her pieces. Ben is laid back but Rebecca keeps him on his toes. They're a perfect match.
Nothing can come between them.
Or so they think.
When a throwaway comment reveals a secret from the past, their love story is rewritten.
Can they recover from the night that changed everything? And how do you forgive when you can't forget? 

Welcome to the BLOG TOUR for The Night That Changed Everything by Laura Tait & Jimmy Rice, published by Corgi, in paperback on 24 March 2016.

Ben and Rebecca. It's pretty obvious that despite the fact that in most things they are the complete opposite; Ben's likes tidiness, Rebecca leaves things laying around; Ben shows his emotions, Rebecca keeps a stony face, they really are the perfect couple.

There was that spark, the first time that they met, and the sparks that have flown in the following
eleven months, as they've grown to love each other. Things can only get better ... surely?

The Night That Changed Everything is narrated in alternate chapters by Rebecca and by Ben and is something of an anti-love story really. Although they talk about how they met, and how they fell in love, the main theme of the story is about how they split up, and why.

As Rebecca's voice is written by Laura Tait and Ben's by Jimmy Rice, they both sound very authentic. All too often a romance can be spoilt by one of the voices, almost as though the author can't quite get into the head of them. Not so with this book, this author partnership really works, and both Rebecca and Ben are very believable.

The break down of Rebecca and Ben's relationship has a huge impact on their close circle of friends, with some of them shouldering more of the blame and the fall out than others. The authors expertly capture the feelings of shock, numbness and guilt that affect the whole group and not just the lead players.

The Night That Changed Everything is an entertaining read, it's pretty smart and it is often funny, yet it also delves deep into relationships between lovers and between friends.

Laura and Jimmy became friends while studying journalism at Sheffield University, so sitting in pubs talking about life and love is something they've been doing for the last ten years. Now they write it all down, but little else has changed. Jimmy still tells Laura off for always being late, and Laura can still drink Jimmy under the table.

Their friendship survives because Laura makes tea exactly how Jimmy likes it (he once took a picture of his perfect brew on Laura's phone so she can colour match it for strength) and because Jimmy noted Laura's weakness for custard creams and stocks up accordingly.

Laura works as a journalist for Shortlist and Jimmy is a news journalist.

Follow them on Twitter @LauraAndJimmy


Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Missing by C L Taylor

You love your family.
They make you feel safe.
You trust them.
But should you ....?
When fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson goes missing in the middle of the night, his mother, Claire, is distraught, blaming herself. She's not the only one. There isn't a single member of Billy's family who doesn't feel guilty.
But the Wilkinsons are so used to keeping secrets from one another that it isn't until six months later, when an appeal for information goes horribly wrong, that the terrifying truth begins to surface.
Claire is sure of two things: Billy is still alive and her family had nothing to do with his disappearance.
A mother's instinct is never wrong. Or is it? 

The Missing by C L Taylor is published in paperback, by Avon on 7 April. The Missing is the author's third novel. Her first, The Accident, was published in April 2014, followed by The Lie in April 2015, my reviews of both of those books can be read by clicking on the titles above.

There have been comments online about the number of novels recently published that feature missing children. Some people have grumbled about it, saying that the subject has been overdone. I never really understand those sort of grumbles. Kids do go missing, all the time, more than we will ever hear about, and every one of them has their own individual story. So, for me, the increase in novels with this theme is only a reflection on what is happening in the world, and whilst the central theme may be similar, every book is different.

The Missing is a story about a child who has disappeared. But Billy Wilkinson is not a toddler, or a chubby cheeked pre-teen. He's on the verge of adulthood, a fifteen-year-old boy who isn't without his faults. He is rebellious and argumentative, life at the Wilkinson house is not all plain sailing, especially when Billy clashed with his dad Mark, or his older brother Jake.

For Claire, Billy's mother, these facts don't matter, because Billy is her little boy. Her second-born son, her baby, and he has been gone for six months, and she thinks that it is her fault.

The Missing begins six months after Billy disappeared. It is the morning of a planned TV appeal, the family are going to go public to make one more heartfelt plea for information. Surely someone, somewhere knows something? The day does not go to plan, and once again the Wilkinson family find themselves in the midst of unwanted publicity, voices are raised and cameras flash, but for the wrong reasons.

It is Claire's voice that CL Taylor uses to relate the story. She's a mixed up woman, looking for answers and someone to blame, and desperate to find her son. The stress and the pressure on their family has impacted on Claire's health, and she has started to experience terrifying episodes of dissociative amnesia, or fugues. She doesn't remember how she arrives in certain places, she cannot explain her behaviours, or what she sees. These fugues, coupled with the increasing suspicion about almost anyone that she comes into contact with are affecting the whole family. The Wilkinson family is slowly, but surely crumbling, and it is very difficult to believe that anything can mend them again.

Although The Missing is quite certainly a psychological thriller, it is also a no-holds barred examination of  modern family life. Claire is an average forty-something woman who spends her life juggling daily demands. Her home, her children, her children's relationships, her work and her husband. Claire's own needs are firmly at the back of the queue and only the sudden disappearance of her youngest son has allowed her to take stock on her life and see the truth ..... but not quite all of the truth .... that is revealed much later on, and the revelation is stunning, and heartbreaking and totally unexpected.

I've read all three of C L Taylor's novels and The Missing is my favourite by far. It is modern and totally up to date. The use of WhatsApp messages between the chapters is an excellent touch, and allows the reader to learn much more about Billy's character. There are dark and disturbing themes within this story, which reflect the changing times that we live in and the fact that teenagers today are able to access some pretty unsettling and very unsavoury information online, and this information can often have damaging effects on them.

There are times when The Missing is a difficult read, purely due to the subject matter, and certainly not down to the excellent writing, but is a very gripping story. It is very cleverly constructed, and I had absolutely no idea about what had happened to Billy, although I did suspect every character at least once whilst reading it.

Tense and gripping with a dark, ominous feeling that seeps through the very clever writing. The Missing is an excellent and haunting read, all praise to C L Taylor.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

C L Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son. Born in Worcester, she studied for a degree in Psychology at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle then moved to London to work in medical publishing as a sales administrator. After two years she moved to Brighton where she worked as a graphic designer, web developer and instructional designer over the course of 13 years. She now writes full time.

C L Taylor's first psychological thriller The Accident was one of the top ten bestselling debut novels of 2014 according to The Bookseller. Her second novel, The Lie, charted at number 5 in the Sunday Times Bestsellers List. Combined sales of both novels have now exceeded half a million copies in the UK alone. 

Her third psychological thriller, The Missing, is published by Avon in April 2016.

To find out more about the author and her writing, check out

Find her Author page on Facebook

Follow her on Twitter @callytaylor


The Long Count by JM Gulvin ** GUEST REVIEW FROM @BibliophileBC **

A Texas Ranger.  A burnt out asylum.   A disputed suicide.
'Leaving the door wide open he stepped out into the night. A brief glance left and right, he walked the shadows to the wheat fields and disappeared into the crop. No wind, no stars in the sky, just cloud the colour of smoke.'
In The Long Count, the first book of JM Gulvin's masterful new crime series, we meet Ranger John Quarrie as he is called to the scene of an apparent suicide by a fellow war veteran. Although the local police want the case shut down, John Q is convicinced that events aren't quite so straightforward.
When his hunch is back up by the man's son Isaac - just back from Vietnam and convinced his father was murdered - they start to look into a series of other violent incidents in the area, including a recent fire at the local Trinity Asylum and the disappearance of Isaac's twin brother, Ishmael. In a desperate race against time, John Q has to try to unravel the dark secrets at the heart of this family and get to the truth before the count is up.
Dripping with atmosphere and a sense of time and place. The Long Count is a page-turner and a psychological puzzle - for fans of Shutter Island and True Detective. 

The Long Count: A John Q Mystery by JM Gulvin is published by Faber & Faber in paperback original on 5 May 2016.

I'm really pleased to welcome Kate from Bibliophile Book Club here today as a guest reviewer. 

Kate's blog, The Bibliophile Book Club has been around for a couple of years, her favourite genres are crime, thrillers, mysteries and police procedurals.

The Bibliophile Book Club is also on Facebook, and you can follow Kate and her reviews on Twitter @BibliophileBC 

Here are Kate's thoughts on The Long Count by JM Gulvin:

The Long Count is a brilliant crime thriller. I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I first started the book as I only glanced at the blurb without really taking it in. Once I started, I didn't want to put it down. I devoured The Long Count in three sittings.

John Quarrie (John Q) is a Ranger and he reminds me of Jack Reacher and Walker, Texas Ranger at the same time. He is tough, honest and very quick with his guns if the situation arises. When he is called to the scene of a suicide of an Army veteran while on his way to another incident, he is all but convinced that it's not as simple as it seems. Quarrie suspects murder, but the local law enforcement disagree.

The Army vet's son Isaac, just having returned from Vietnam, is also certain that his father would never commit such an act. Together, John Q and Isaac find coincidences in nearby violent crimes and so they investigate the connection further, not realising that it will have dangerous consequences.

I don't like to divulge too much about plots, but suffice to say, this book is so well planned out. It is full of red herrings, beautiful descriptions of the American Deep South, moments where you find your pulse is racing a little because you just know something is going to be said or done. Honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed The Long Count. It has everything I look for in a book. It has a a really likeable character in John Q, there are plenty of little nuggets of information scattered around the book which only come together towards the end and it is also a fantastic appetite-whetting beginning to a series.

Regular readers of The Bibliophile Book Club will know that I'm a sucker for a good series, and if The Long Count is just the start, then I cannot wait for the next instalment. John Q is also one of my favourite characters that I've encountered so far in the books I've read this year.

Massive thanks again to the lovely Anne Cater for letting me review this hidden gem of a book that I'm so glad to have found.

Kate ~ The Bibliophile Book Club

Born in the UK, JM Gulvin divides his time between Wales and the western United States. He is the author of many previous novels, and was the ghost writer for Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's bestselling travel book Long Way Down. 

The Long Count is his first John Q mystery and he is currently at work on the follow-up.
He is married with two daughters.

Twitter @jmgulvin


Monday, 28 March 2016

My Life In Books ~ talking to author Dani Atkins

My Life in Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've invited authors to share with us a list of books that are special to them and have made a lasting impression on their life.

Please give a huge welcome Dani Atkins, my guest for My Life in Books here on Random Things today. 
Dani's latest book, Our Song, was published in January this year by Simon and Schuster. I reviewed it here on Random Things, it is a beautiful book, it's heart-breaking, and it made me sob.

Dani Atkins has published three novels in the UK;
Fractured (2013),    The Story of Us (2014),    Our Song (2015).

Here's a snippet from my review of Our Song, if you'd like to read the full review, please link on the link above:

"Our Song is a book that will remain in my memory for a long time. It shows how one single act of kindness can have a massive effect on so many people, and how one selfless act can change the course of many lives. Dealing with first love, and friendship, growing up and regrets, this really is a beautiful novel.'

My Life in Books - Dani Atkins

I seem to recall reading somewhere that the sense of smell is the most evocative of all of our senses. An aroma can transport you back to a particular time in your life. What I've discovered while compiling this list, is that books have the power to do that too.

I thougtht it was just the books and the much loved stories that had stayed with me, but it was more than that. Each book is pinned to a little piece of my past. This was a surprising and rather wonderful discovery.

Malory Towers by Enid Blyton  As a child I vividly remember reading and then re-reading, every one in this series of twelve books. To this day my obsession with them still surprises me, because as a total homebody (I once kissed the carpet in greeting when we returned from holiday), the idea of being "sent to boarding school" sounded to me like a prison sentence. In fact my mother (and I called her on this many years later) would use it as the ultimate threat "If you don't ... blah, blah, blah .. we are going to send you to boarding school." Shocking parenting, but it didn't diminish my love for these books one little bit.

And Then There Were None (Ten Little Niggers) by Agatha Christie  I had to double check my facts on this one, for when I first read it in the 1970s it was definitely titled the far less politically correct Ten Little Niggers. How things change. I wasn't a particularly cool teenager, and my best friend Lynn and I were always a little out of step with the 'in crowd'. One quirky trait we shared was our total obsession with the novels of Agatha Christie. We would buy, read and swap them between us. I favoured Miss Marple over Monsieur Poirot, but that's just a personal preference. So many books, so many grisly deaths. It's hard to remember who dunnit in any of them. This book, however, still sticks in my memory as being my absolute favourite of all her novels. In fact, writing about it now, I am starting to get the urge to re-read it.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck   This is the first book that I can remember crying over. That I loved it this much continually surprises me, because it was actually one of my set books for my English O Level (that's what you did before they"invented" GCSEs). As a teenager I was notoriously resistant to any book that could remotely be called worthy. Therefore, if it was on my reading list, I'd read it (because I had to), but I definitely wasn't going to enjoy it. Oh boy, was I wrong with this one. How could anyone not fall in love with the characters? At the heart of this book, when all else is stripped away, is the deep and enduring friendship of two men, one with very limited intelligence. Any scene when Lennie talked about the time when he would "get to tend the rabbits" could set me off. In fact, if you don't mind, just thinking about it has made me want to reach for a tissue.

The Stand by Stephen King  I love Stephen King's books. Well, certainly all of his early ones. I stick with him to this day, but if I'm ever asked to name my favourite, this is the one that wins by a mile. It is an epic masterpiece. And I'm certainly not alone in citing it as my favourite King novel. I remember reading in his book On Writing (which is almost like a bible for authors) Stephen King's own comment that it was a little depressing to have a united opinion that you did your best work twenty years ago.
Stephen King can describe a character so perfectly that you feel as though every small nuance of their personality is instantly understood. He does in a sentence or two, what it might take other authors pages to convey. His dialogue is practically perfect. He is an author who has clearly spent a great deal of time listening and observing. And it shows. He is a consummate master of storytelling, and if by chance, you have never read one of his books, then you need to rectify that. I envy you the discovery.

Diary of a Killer Cat by Anne Fine   I first took this book out of our local library for my children, having read many Anne Fine stories to them over the years. I renewed and renewed it, because I could never quite resist the urger to read it 'one last time'. Eventually, many years later, my adult children bought it for me as a birthday present. I read it again and loved it every bit as much as before. It is hysterically funny. I remember trying to read it out loud during a car journey, and literally not being about to continue because tears of laughter were running down my face. The cat who is the central character is without doubt the best feline to ever appear within the pages of a book.
True laugh-out-loud humour that I honestly can't remember any other book being able to achieve.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J K Rowling  When the Harry Potter phenomenon first burst onto the literary word, I was actually trying to write a children's book myself. Very wisely I decided not to read this book until I had finished writing mine. A very sensible decision, because if I had I would have been so disheartened by my own efforts. I would have thrown in the towel there and then. I became as obsessed as my own children were with every single book in the series. We owned them all, but I was third in the pecking order to get to read them: daughter first (super-fast reader) then my son and finally me. By the time it came to the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I think we all realised this system wasn't going to work for us. We all wanted to read it straight away, so three copies had to be bought.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes   My daughter recommended this book to me when it first came out, having read and absolutely loved it. I read the blurb, pulled a face and said "No thanks, I don't think it's for me." Obstinately (and stupidly because I hadn't even given the book a chance) I thought the subject matter would be too dark and depressing. I have no idea why I was so determined that I wouldn't enjoy a book that over five million people had clearly loved. Well, I have to eat those words now, because this book is wonderful. I cried when reading it. How could anyone not? I fell in love with the characters and the world Jojo Moyes created. The greatest compliment anyone can pay my book Our Song, is to say that it affected them almost as much as Me Before You. I'll take that one any day of the week.

Dani Atkins - March 2016 

Dani Atkins was born in London in 1958, and grew up in Cockfosters, a suburb of north London. She moved to rural Hertfordshire in 1985, where she has lived in a small village ever since where she lives with her husband, two (now grown-up) children, one Siamese cat, and a soppy Border Collie.

Dani has been writing for fun all her life, but following the publication of her novels Fractured (published as Then And Always in the US), and The Story of Us in 2014, now writes for work.

Connect with Dani on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter @AtkinsDani 


Sunday, 27 March 2016

Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary

The young girl who causes the fatal car crash disappears from the scene.
The runaway who doesn't want to be found, she only wants to go home.
To the one man who understands her.
Gives her shelter.
Just as he gives shelter to the other lost girls who live in his house.
He's the head of her new family.
He's Harm.
D I Marnie Rome has faced many dangerous criminals but she has never come up against a man like Harm. She thinks that she knows families, their secrets and their fault lines. But as she begins investigating the girl's disappearance nothing can prepare her for what she's about to face.
Because when Harm's family is threatened, everything tastes like fear ..... 

Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary is published by Headline, in hardback on 7 April 2016, and is the third in the DI Marnie Rome series.  The first; Someone Else's Skin was published in August 2014, followed by No Other Darkness in April 2015.

DI Marnie Rome and her partner DS Noah Jake find themselves in the midst of one of the most intriguing and frightening cases of their careers. A road traffic accident, caused by a mystery girl who stepped out in front of a car. The girl has vanished, but in her wake there is a trail of destruction, and horror and mystery.

Sarah Hilary takes the reader down two paths; we accompany Marnie and Noah as they try to unravel the increasingly complicated case. We are also privy to the dark and sordid events that are unfolding nearby. Young girls are disappearing, and it's not too long before the link between them, and the accident are made, but how are they linked, and where are they?

Tastes Like Fear is elaborately plotted, it is full of twists and turns, nothing is quite as it seems. Every time you think that you know where the story is leading, you find that you've actually been cleverly taken up the wrong path, and Sarah Hilary throws a curve ball once again. My mind was racing, my brain felt quite fried, I was absolutely hooked by every unexpected direction that I was led in.

Marnie Rome is a multi-layered character. She's strong, intelligent and capable, but she is also consumed by her own personal demons. Her life sometimes mirrors those of both the victims and the perpetrators in the cases that she works on, and the themes running through Tastes Like Fear are remorse and redemption, and how each individual deals with events from the past. Sarah Hilary cleverly aligns Marnie's history with the unfolding story, which allows our heroine to have a deeper understanding of why things happen, yet also make her think deeply about her past and how she is going to start to deal with it.

Tastes Like Fear buzzes with tension, it is the sort of book that makes your jaw ache as you grind your teeth with nervous anticipation. Sarah Hilary's writing is astute and detailed, there are horrific events and abhorrent characters within this story, yet there is absolutely nothing gratuitous within it. The author leads the reader to the events and characters and allows us to to take over from there, it is the imagined horror of the situation that she paves the way for, and we do the rest.

It sounds strange to describe a novel that has such dark and disturbing subject matters as beautifully written, but it really really is. There are metaphors and descriptions of place, person and events that are quite breathtaking. The pace is perfect, the characters are developed so very well, it is unflinching and engrossing.

I am a huge huge fan, Tastes Like Fear is a triumph; brutal, honest and quite brilliant.

My thanks to the publisher, Headline who sent my copy for review.

Sarah Hilary lives in Bath with her daughter, where she writes quirky copy for a well-loved travel publisher. She's also worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. An award-winning short story writer, Sarah won the Cheshire Prize for Literature in 2012.

This is the third in the outstanding Marnie Rome series that started with Someone Else's Skin, Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year, Observer Book of the Month selection and World Book Night selection for 2016, and No Other Darkness.

Find out more about Sarah Hilary, follow her Blog
Find her Author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @sarah_hilary


Saturday, 26 March 2016

In Place of Death by Craig Robertson *** GUEST REVIEW ***

A young man enters the culverted remains of an ancient Glasgow stream, looking for thrills. Deep below the city, it is decaying and claustrophobic and gets more so with every step. As the ceiling lowers to no more than a couple of feet above the ground, the man finds his path blocked by another person. Someone with his throat cut.
As DS Rachel Narey leads the official investigation, photographer Tony Winter follows a lead of his own, through the shadowy world of urbexers, people who pursue a dangerous and illegal hobby, a world that Winter knows more about than he lets on. And it soon becomes clear that the murderer has killed before, and has no qualms about doing so again.

In Place of Death by Craig Robertson was published in paperback by Simon & Schuster on 10 March 2016.

I'm delighted to welcome Helen Parris to Random Things today.  Helen is another guest reviewer from The Crime Book Club on Facebook.  The Crime Book Club is made up of avid crime fiction readers, there are crime fiction author members too. The group hosts Q&A sessions with authors, giveaways and competitions, and members post their reviews and recommendations and generally share their love of crime fiction.

Helen is book and dog mad. She loves nothing better than curling up with the dogs and a book. She also enjoys going walking, seeing friends and exploring different parts of the country.

Here's Helen's review of In Place of Death

In Place of Death is a cracker of a read set in Glasgow. This is the first book I have read by Craig Robertson, but it won't be the last.

I loved the prose, the depth of the characters, the lyrical descriptions of the locations, the pace of the story and the humour.

The main concept of urbexing is intriguing, and unique, with the site descriptions so in depth that you could visualise them.

DI Rachel Narey is feisty and determined to solve the murders, despite opposition from colleagues and management alike as the body count grows.  Tony Winter, as her partner and the photographer for the forensic service has a secret which he keeps from Rachel, with almost catastrophic consequences.

The plight of the homeless with mental health and addiction problems was raised through setting of the Rosewood Hotel, as was Alzheimer's through DI Narey's father. This all added depth and social conscience to the book.

I would recommend this book, and the author. He can write, and most importantly, write well.

Craig Robertson is a former journalist with 20 years' experience. He interviewed three recent Prime Ministers; attended major stories including 9/11, Dunblane, the Omagh bombing and the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
His debut novel, Random, was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger and was a Sunday Times bestseller.
Craig is also on the board of Bloody Scotland Writing Festival.

Find out more about Craig Robertson and his writing at

Follow him on Twitter @CraigRobertson_


Friday, 25 March 2016

My Life In Books ~ talking to author Tammy Cohen

My Life in Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've invited authors to share with us a list of the books that are special to them and have made a lasting impression on their life.

Please join me in welcoming Tammy Cohen to Random Things today, Tammy is a huge favourite of mine, I've been reading her books for a long time now and have loved every single one of them. Her latest book; When She Was Bad is published by Black Swan (Transworld) on 21 April 2016. 

I am even more excited by When She Was Bad than I usually am about a new book by Tammy, as the main character is named after me!  I won the EBay auction that was held to raise money for Clic Sargent - a charity that helps young people and children with cancer, so there I am, in a book by one of my favourite authors.

You can read my reviews of all six of Tammy's previous novels by clicking on these links: 
The War of the Wives (August 2012)
The Broken (May 2014)
Dying For Christmas (November 2014)
First One Missing (July 2015)

My Life in Books ~ Tammy Cohen

Hello Anne - thanks so much for giving me the chance to waffle on about my favourite books. My family glaze over when I do it at home, so this is a real treat!
Mind you, I'm hoping the fact that I'm genetically programmed to forget the name of a book instantly as soon as I've read it won't prove too much of a problem.

My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards  As a little sister myself, although obviously an angelic one and not in the slightest little bit naughty, I absolutely loved the My Naughty Little Sister stories and would make my mum read them to us again and again. Though she's forever trying to be good, the little sister in the stories is stubborn and greedy and rarely does what she's told, and I think I was probably hoping my own sister would realise she'd actually got off pretty lightly! Years later I read the same books to my daughter who, with two older brothers was desperate for a sister of her own. When she then constructed a life-sized sister out of cardboard and insisted on carrying it everywhere with her, I decided the Naughty Little Sister books might have to be respectfully retired. 

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery  Who couldn't fall in love with the story of the fiery, red-haired orphan who won the grizzled hearts of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert even though she wasn't the boy they'd ordered? And what dreamy, romantic child from an all girl's school in the grey English suburbs could fail to be swept away by the dashing Gilbert Blythe and the idyllic freedom they all enjoyed in Prince Edward Island, Canada? 

In fact, I suspect my idea of a romantic hero might still be largely informed by Gilbert Blythe, which is a little bit sad as I'm now 52!

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell  This was the first book we studied at secondary school and I hold it fully to blame for the wanderlust that has afflicted me ever since. It tells the true story of how 10-year-old Gerald, together with his serene and largely ineffectual mother and his three headstrong older siblings plus various eccentric hangers on, moved to Corfu in the mid 1930s. There, Gerald was left to his own devices and ran wild, indulging in his passion for wildlife, against the backdrop of blue skies and Greek sunshine. When I dragged my own children to Southern Spain for four years I think I was in some way living out the fantasy born in my Upper Third English class.

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver  This book was like a punch to the gut when I first read it, when my own kids were young. So few books dare to tackle the question of maternal ambivalence, how you can love your child but grieve for the life you had before. Or dare to ask what happens when there's a personality clash between a mother and her child. In posing this question of whether Kevin was born evil or whether his mother's attitude towards him made him that way, Shriver gets to the very heart of every parent's worst fear - that we'll fail our children, and that our failure will end up destroying their lives. Oh, and We Need To Talk About Kevin also disproved once and for all the notion that great books require sympathetic characters.

Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty  When I read this book I'd already written three dark, contemporary women's fiction books and I knew I wanted to try something different but didn't know what. I loved crime fiction and psychological thrillers but didn't see how I could go down that route and still explore the themes I loved to write about - families and relationships in crisis. Apple Tree Yard showed me that it's possible to write a page-turning thriller that also gets to the very heart of human relationships. That opened up a whole new avenue of writing for me, and I've just published my fourth psychological thriller.

When She Was Bad, featuring a certain Anne Cater in the lead role, is published by Transworld on 21 April 2016

Tammy Cohen - March 2016

Tammy Cohen (who previously wrote under her formal name Tamar Cohen) has written several acclaimed novels about family fall out.

She lives in London with her partner and three (nearly) grown children, plus one badly behaved dog.

Follow her on Twitter @MsTamarCohen


Thursday, 24 March 2016

The Song Collector by Natasha Solomons *** BLOG TOUR ***

After his beloved wife's death, the composer Harry Fox-Talbot is unable to write a single note, until one day he discovers his troublesome young grandson is a piano prodigy.
As the music returns, Fox is compelled to re-engage with life - and, ultimately, to confront an old and bitter rift. One with its roots in 1946, when he gave up his dreams of a musical career to help save the family hone from ruin; and when he fell for his brother's girlfriend, the celebrated wartime singer, Edie Rose.
This is the entrancing tale of a man whose passion for music, an elusive woman and the English landscapes of his youth are inextricably intertwined. A man who finds joy in the wake of grief, and learns that it is never too late to seek forgiveness. 

Welcome to the Blog Tour for The Song Collector by Natasha Solomons which was published by Sceptre today, 24 March 2016.

The Song Collector begins in March 2000, Harry Fox-Talbot is reflecting. He is thinking about his wife Edie, he is thinking about how much he misses her. He is thinking about how Edie loved the snow and the ice, and how he really was the only person who really knew her.

The reader is swept back in time to 1946, the war has ended and Harry, his two older brothers and their father, the General are returning to the family home. Hartgrove Hall had been used by the Army during the war, and Harry is especially anxious about returning, in case it is in ruins. Hartgrove is a shadow of the great house that it once was, and Harry and his family set about, making sacrifices, to ensure that it is restored to its former glory.

Natasha Solomons switches her story back and forth with ease. I particularly enjoy a dual-time narrative, and this one is especially well done. I loved the elderly, widowed Harry who is grieving deeply for his wife, who finds himself in charge of a small boy who seems intent on wrecking everything within his sight. And it is this small boy who gives Harry back some hope, and something to live for,  for he appears to be something of a musical genius and Harry's love for music begins to return.

The 1940s story is just as engaging and beautifully constructed as the modern-day tale. We follow Harry as he discovers love, and how a sweet love can destroy relationships. This is not just his love for Edie, Harry  has a deep love for his home and the surrounding countryside, and this love is just as well portrayed as his romantic relationship with his wife.

The Song Collector is a gently paced story packed with vibrant and colourful characters who are wonderfully formed. The story covers many things, including betrayal and forgiveness, the rawness of love, the pain of bereavement and the hope that comes with a new generation. The musical theme that runs through both the book, and Harry's life adds an interesting depth and quirk to this excellent story.

Natasha Solomons is a gifted author, her story is enchanting and enjoyable and examines the intricacies of family relationships beautifully.

The history of Britain is not just written in books or notched upon the landscape in Holloways or long barrows, it's also contained in song.

Since writing this novel, Natasha Solomons has been enchanted by the idea of song collecting. Inspired by the tradition, she has set out to create a portrait of contemporary Britain in song. Every hillside, village and city street has a song, some ancient and others new. Natasha is beginning a communal project to map as many songs as possible, put them up online freely available so that people can both listen to the music of their town, and if they like, learn their own local songs.

Natasha said:  'It was a song about a blackbird that led me to write my new novel The Song Collector. I discovered that a song collector, ale-house keeper and mischief maker lived in our cottage in the 1800s. The more I read about and listened to old songs from where I live in Dorset, I realised that I had to write about a musician and song collector, and his connection to the landscape - and woman - he loves.

As I wrote, I started to appreciate that songs are much like stories - one has to follow their rhythms and cadence. But, when I finished the book, I knew I wasn't finished with song collecting. I'd been utterly caught. After all, there's always one more song to find.

We now want to create a portrait of contemporary Britain in song. We'd love for you to get involved.'

Find The Great British Song Map online

Natasha Solomons is the author of the internationally bestselling Mr Rosenblum's List, The Novel in the Viola, which was chosen for the Richard & Judy Book Club, and The Gallery of Vanished Husbands.

Natasha lives in Dorset with her son and her husband with whom she also writes screenplays.

Her novels have been translated into 17 languages.

Find out more about Natasha Solomons at
Follow her on Twitter @natashasolomons


Wednesday, 23 March 2016

In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings *** BLOG TOUR ***

A tragic family event reveals devastating news that rips apart Bella's comfortable existence. 
Embarking on a personal journey to uncover the truth, she faces a series of traumatic discoveries that take her to the ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, where hidden truths, past betrayals and a 25-year-old mystery threaten not just her identity, but her life.
Chilling, complex and profoundly moving, In Her Wake is a gripping psychological thriller that questions the nature of family - and reminds us that sometimes the most shocking crimes are committed closest to home.  

I'm thrilled to welcome everyone to the Blog Tour for In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings which was published by Orenda Books.  The ebook was available on 11 February, and the print paperback will be available on 7 April 2016.

I was lucky enough to read a very early pre-publication copy of  In Her Wake  and stayed up until the very early hours to make sure that I finished it, it is gripping and I loved every page. I posted my full review of In Her Wake here on Random Things in January 2016. Here's a snippet from my review, please click on the link above if you'd like to read my full thoughts:

"In Her Wake is psychologically chilling, but it is also a beautifully observed story of a story of self-discovery. Amanda Jennings' words are alluring, persuasive and so incredibly elegant, the reader is carried along effortlessly into Bella's world. Her characters scream with realism, her settings are well observed and precise, and the insight into the human mind and the power of family relationships is both unsettling and convincing."


I really honoured to have Amanda here as a guest today on Random Things, she's written a piece about the road to becoming a published author, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

It's All A Bit Bananas

" The story of route to becoming a published author isn't unusual. There were no headline-worthy six figure sums, no ravenous editors scrapping over my book at auction, but there were a number of long, and sometimes lonely, years of bringing up babies and writing whenever they fell asleep or got the Lego out. There was a first book written. Then the second. (The first crashed and burned). The trawling through the Writer's Yearbook in search of a suitable (read 'any') agent, agonising over evil (still so evil) synopses, the excessive printing of chapters and introductory letters, and remortgaging to cover postage. Then there was the awful wait before rejection letters fell like confetti through the door. There was the email from (Intern EIGHT?! Not even Intern 1, 2 or 3), a two line message with two spelling mistakes, saying, thank you this wasn't what they were looking for but good luck anyway ...

We all know rejection is part and parcel of the process, that all writers go through it, that Harry Potter was rejected by everybody, and knowing this helps for a bit, but as much as I reminded myself that this was normal, the barrage of rejection began to get to me. I could feel my confidence ebbing and I was pretty low. But then there came a ray of light. Well, two actually. Two agents asked to read the rest of my manuscript. One said my writing had a 'haunting quality'. The other liked my 'voice'. I was ecstatic again. (It's a good time to note here that this emotional alternation between extreme high and extreme low is something the would-be writer needs to become accustomed to.) Another excruciating wait followed before the two rejections appeared within days of each other. This was Tough with a capital T. However, through my tears I spied a blurry chink of hope. One of the agents said if I happened to do any work on the book she would take another look. I dried my eyes and wrote her a thank you letter (if I can pass any advice on it would be to send thank you letters. People like being thanked. Thank you is a greatly underused phrase in this industry considering its weight to impact ratio) and then did what any caring mother slash desperate author would do, I ignored the children for four months and rewrote the entire thing. Then I managed to pluck up the courage to contact the agent and asked if she was interested in seeing the rewrite. I explained that I had fed my three girls nothing but bananas - quick, nutritious, with no need for time-consuming washing up - for four months and that I was quite pleased with the result (of the rewrite as opposed to the neglected off-spring). She wrote back to say she would take a look, but only if I promised to feed my daughters.

Two weeks later an email appeared to say the bananas had been worth it and shortly after, over a pizza and a glass of wine, we signed a contract. It wasn't plain sailing after that - more rejection, more tears, a decision to abandon that book and write another one - but then finally I was offered a contract to publish Sworn Secret and then another for The Judas Scar. And now, eight years later, the book my agent said 'haunted' her, the book I rewrote in a frenzy of bananas and desperation, a book that has subsequently been rethought, rewritten, and renamed In Her Wake, is at last seeing the light of day, and I honestly couldn't be happier.

Amanda Jennings - March 2016 

Amanda Jennings made her literary debut with the internationally best selling novel Sworn Secret. Her second book, The Judas Scar, was optioned by a film and television production company shortly after release. 
She is fascinated by the ways people react to trauma and deal with its long-lasting effects, and also the complex relationships within a family unit. 
She used to work at the BBC, but now writes full-time and looks after her three daughters and a menagerie of animals.
She writes a popular blog and is a regular guest on BBC Berkshire's Book Club.
She enjoys running writing workshops, is a judge for the Henley Youth Festival creative writing competition, and is involved with the Womentoring Project, which offers free mentoring by professional literary women to talented up-and-coming female writers who might otherwise not have access to such an opportunity.
She is a regular speaker at festivals and book events, combining her childhood love of the stage with her love of writing.
She likes to be active, preferably beside the sea or at the top of a snow-covered mountain, and when she isn't writing she can usually be found walking her dog and enjoying the peace and solitude of the great outdoors.

Visit her website

Find her Author page on Facebook 

Follow her on Twitter @MandaJJennings

Praise for In Her Wake

'Hauntingly beautiful' ~ Clare Mackintosh

'Atmospheric and moving ...deserves to be a bestseller' ~ C L Taylor

'Thoughtful, atmospheric and deeply immersive, it wields an almost mesmeric power over the reader, from the first page to the last' ~ Hannah Beckerman