Nowhere To Run : a list of books set in isolated locations

With most of the world’s population self-isolating and not being able to go anywhere, I thought I’d put together a wee list of books set in isolated locations. Let’s face it, things could always be worse. You could be somewhere with a murderer on the loose, for instance. Or zombies. Or one of my worst nightmares, on a ship, surrounded by nothing but water. 😱😂

These ten books were some that popped up in my head straight away when I thought of isolated places. I’m sure there are many more.

Anywho, off we go!

Ten strangers, apparently with little in common, are lured to an island mansion off the coast of Devon by the mysterious U.N.Owen. Over dinner, a record begins to play, and the voice of an unseen host accuses each person of hiding a guilty secret. That evening, former reckless driver Tony Marston is found murdered by a deadly dose of cyanide.

The tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them but is preparing to strike again… and again…

Of course, I’m kicking things off with the brilliant Agatha Christie. I haven’t read that many of her books yet but this is definitely a favourite.

A remote lodge in upstate New York is the perfect getaway … until the bodies start piling up. When the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in for the long haul. Soon, though, a body turns up–surely an accident. When a second body appears, they start to panic. Then they find a third body. Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. They can’t leave, and with no cell service, there’s no prospect of getting the police in until the weather loosens its icy grip. The weekend getaway has turned deadly. For some couples, it’s their first time away. For others, it will be their last.

Note to self : never book a break at a remote lodge in Winter

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up.

Island. Water. Never going to happen.

This was meant to be the perfect trip.

The Northern Lights. A luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship.

A chance for travel journalist Lo Blackwood to recover from a traumatic break-in that has left her on the verge of collapse, and to work out what she wants from her relationship.

Except things don’t go as planned.

Woken in the night by screams, Lo rushes to her window to see a body thrown overboard from the next door cabin. But the records show that no-one ever checked into that cabin, and no passengers are missing from the boat.

Exhausted, emotional and increasingly desperate, Lo has to face the fact that her sleep problems might be driving her mad or she is trapped on a boat with a murderer – and she is the sole witness.

Anyone want to know the odds of little old me ever getting on a cruise ship?

1939: Europe is on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd, a servant girl, boards an ocean liner for Australia. She is on her way to a new life, leaving behind the shadows in her past.
For a humble girl, the passage proves magical – a band, cocktails, fancy dress balls. A time when she is beholden to no one. The exotic locations along the way – Naples, Cairo, Ceylon – allow her to see places she’d only ever dreamed of, and to make friends with people higher up the social scale who would ordinarily never give her the time of day. She even allows herself to hope that a man who she couldn’t possibly have a future with outside the cocoon of the ship might return her feelings. 
But Lily soon realises that her new-found friends are also escaping secrets in their past. As the ship’s glamour fades, the stage is set for something awful to happen. By the time the ship docks, two of Lily’s fellow passengers are dead, war has been declared and Lily’s life will be irrevocably changed.

Like I said, ships are a bad idea.

Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you. But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic conference, still mulling over how to respond to his wife, he receives a string of horrifying push notifications. Washington, DC has been hit with a nuclear bomb, then New York, then London, and finally Berlin. That’s all he knows before news outlets and social media goes black—and before the clouds on the horizon turn orange.

Now, two months later, there are twenty survivors holed up at the hotel, a place already tainted by its strange history of suicides and murders. Those who can’t bear to stay commit suicide or wander off into the woods. Jon and the others try to maintain some semblance of civilization. But when the water pressure disappears, and Jon and a crew of survivors investigate the hotel’s water tanks, they are shocked to discover the body of a young girl.

As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, Jon becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the little girl as a way to cling to his own humanity. Yet the real question remains: can he afford to lose his mind in this hotel, or should he take his chances in the outside world? 

As far as doom scenarios go, it can’t get much worse than this.

Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves. 

Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband’s authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God, and flooded with a mighty evil. 

As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom’s iron rule threatening Vardø’s very existence. 

Islands are clearly a popular isolated location. This one has no men. Doesn’t sound too bad 🤔

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast. 

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Oh, look! Another island! And a wedding party go wrong. At least there’s champagne 😂

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. 

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard. 

Iceland. Always brings the goods. I know, it’s an island too. Sounds so pretty though. Not that Agnes is in any way able to appreciate that. Such a great novel! Read it! I’ll pimp it until I’m blue in the face!

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. 

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. 

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. 

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Quite possible the worst case scenario? All alone on another planet with no means of escape EVER! I don’t know about you but suddenly this self-isolation stuff doesn’t sound so bad, huh?

If you have any suggestions, please do leave them in the comments and I will be more than happy to compile a new list next week with your ideas. Or heck, do a post of your own. That works too!

Have you read any of the books on this list? Would you like to?

I have more lists planned over the next few weeks. I mean, I’m not reading so I might as well make lists, I guess. 😉

Stay safe and take excellent care of yourselves! xx

The Shardlake Series by C.J. Sansom

So, you’re a bookworm. And suddenly, you find you have the time to read as much as you’ve always wanted to. What better time to start catching up on series than right now?! I thought I’d offer some tips (though not necessarily all series) over the next few days/weeks/months (? Yikes!)

Today, I’m kicking things off with the Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom. If you’re a fan of historical (crime) fiction, this series is for you.

The series currently stands at 7 books and they are sure to keep you busy for quite a while. Book one, Dissolution, is the shortest at 456 pages. Book seven, Tombland, is the longest and has 866 glorious pages.

| ABOUT THE MATTHEW SHARDLAKE SERIES |

We first meet Matthew Shardlake in Dissolution. Matthew is a lawyer, working out of Lincoln’s Inn in London in Tudor times, in the service of Thomas Cromwell. King Henry VIII has ordered the dissolution of the monasteries. At one of the monasteries, all hell breaks loose and a commissioner is found murdered. Matthew and his assistant are sent to Scarnsea to investigate.

With Matthew, C.J. Sansom has created a wonderful protagonist. As a hunchback, Matthew is often not taken seriously, somewhat underestimated. He struggles with his beliefs, he is often in pain and vulnerable, but he’s also incredibly intelligent and astute. His disability will not stop him from getting to the truth, no matter who tries to block his way. But the Tudor times were turbulent, in case you didn’t know and although Matthew is richer and more privileged than most people, he is still powerless in the midst of the political schemers like Thomas Cromwell and Richie Rich. Matthew may not be at court, but he’s close enough and with unpredictable people around him at all times, you just never know where the danger will be coming from.

To me, the Shardlake series offers the best of both worlds. I love crime fiction and I love historical fiction, especially set in Tudor times, and in this case I get both. It’s clear a humongous amount of research goes into these books. You end up learning quite a lot but it never turns into a long boring history lesson. C.J. Sansom has managed to create engaging characters, some of which come back time and time again so you can see them develop and there’s a fabulous balance between Shardlake’s private and professional life.

Big books do not scare me. I read the Game of Throne series, everything after that seems like a breeze. The books in the Shardlake series never felt too long for me, despite their page count. The investigations Shardlake undertakes are always fascinating and the books have me absolutely hooked from start to finish. I’m not normally one who reads a book more than once but these have a special place on my bookshelves and I know that I will return to them at some point.

I don’t know if there will be an eighth book, though I fiercely hope so. If there ever was a perfect time for you to get caught up, then this is it. C.J. Sansom is an outstanding author and he is, in my most humble opinion, head and shoulders above anyone else in this genre.

So, are you tempted?

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Other retailers : Amazon UK | Hive UK | Kobo | Waterstones

Massively grateful shout-out to Leah for the recommendation!

Black River by Will Dean | @willrdean @PtBlankBks @margotbookpr | #BlackRiver #Tuva3

Many thanks to Margot at Point Blank and Will Dean for my signed proof copy!

Author : Will Dean
Title : Black River
Series : Tuva Moodyson #3
Pages : 363
Publisher : Point Blank
Publication date : March 12, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

FEAR 

Tuva’s been living clean in southern Sweden for four months when she receives horrifying news. Her best friend Tammy Yamnim has gone missing.

SECRETS

Racing back to Gavrik at the height of Midsommar, Tuva fears for Tammy’s life. Who has taken her, and why? And who is sabotaging the small-town search efforts?

LIES

Surrounded by dark pine forest, the sinister residents of Snake River are suspicious of outsiders. Unfortunately, they also hold all the answers. On the shortest night of the year, Tuva must fight to save her friend. The only question is who will be there to save Tuva?

| MY THOUGHTS |

If ever I dreamt of moving to a small village near a big forest in Sweden, Black River would seriously make me reconsider that.

Four months ago, Tuva Moodyson left Gavrik and moved down south. But now, her best friend Tammy has gone missing and Tuva races back to Gavrik, fearing for Tammy’s life. Who has taken her and why? Where is she? When another woman goes missing, the small police force of Gavrik finds itself spread too thin. But if there is one thing we’ve learned about Tuva, it’s that she’s fiercely stubborn and determined and she will stop at nothing to find Tammy. Even if that means getting into dangerous situations herself.

The creepy factor is high in Black River. You’d think the long summer days and the upcoming event of Midsummar would lift the doom and gloom that seems to hover above the small town of Gavrik. But no. If anything, it seems worse. Not only are there the multitude of seriously aggressive bugs all over the place, flying in your face, getting stuck in your hair, biting and stinging like you’re some delicious buffet … but the residents. Goodness me, the residents. To define them as creepy almost seems like an understatement. Many of them have secrets they are desperately trying to hide, some act suspicious and some just make you feel so uncomfortable and dirty you’d like to take a really long, hot shower. Quirky and eccentric, yes. Also, just plain weird.

Despite the fact that it’s Summer, Black River manages to keep that extremely claustrophobic feeling Will Dean’s previous books had. Somehow the town seems to be getting smaller and smaller, the forest bigger and darker, this feeling of impending doom growing ever stronger and all the while that chimney of the liquorice factory looms over the town like some harbinger of bad things to come. I may have had some suspicions as to who was responsible for the women going missing but I was completely on the wrong track (I mean, let’s face it, the list of potential suspects is long for such a small town!) and even now, while I’m writing this review, I’m still unable to decide how the ultimate conclusion made me feel. I can say I didn’t see it coming! I was shocked and horrified but also, sad.

Black River is a creepy and chilling story with plenty of characters that will make your skin crawl. Gripping and compelling, yet not fast-paced, which you might expect. Black River doesn’t need the fast pace. It wouldn’t work. Slow and steady does the trick perfectly; allowing the reader to soak up the atmosphere, which is every bit as important in this story as the plot and the characters are. It isn’t until the last few chapters that your heart may be pounding out of your chest and you may be left gasping for breath, when the race against the clock amps up tenfold.

I’ve been saying it a lot lately but it’s not my fault with these authors who constantly raise the bar, so wait for it, here it comes …. best one in the series! I’m not entirely sure what’s next from Will Dean but I DO know I will be there with bells on! And you should be too!

PS : Mind the snakes.

Black River is available to buy in ebook format. The UK hardcover will be published on March 12th, with the paperback to follow later in the year.

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Other retailers : Amazon UK | Goldsboro | Hive | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

I Am Dust by Louise Beech | @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks | #IAmDust #recommended

Author : Louise Beech
Title : I Am Dust
Pages : 340
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : February 16, 2020 (ebook)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…

| MY THOUGHTS |

Let me just tell you up front that this review, if I can even call it that, will not do this novel any justice at all as Louise Beech’s novels always leave me speechless. I Am Dust is one of those stories that left me in need of a breather, some time to reflect, to let it all sink in before even trying to compile thoughts and put words to what I was feeling. But as I start writing this review, I’m still very much speechless and the only word my brain seems to be able to come up with is WOW.

One of the many joys in picking up a book by Louise Beech is that you never know what to expect. This extremely talented author criss-crosses and combines genres like no other. The one thing you CAN always count on is truly glorious and beautiful writing. And quite possibly the need for tissues at some point or other.

I didn’t read the book description so all the information I had to go on was right there on the stunning jacket of my proof copy. (Which I just realised you can’t see on the cover I used on top of the page)

A haunted theatre, a murdered actress, three cursed teenagers, a secret that devastates them all …

Little else was needed for me to be absolutely sold on this book from the get-go. A psychological thriller then? And maybe, just maybe, no tissues required this time around? Ha! It becomes clear quite quickly that no, of course this isn’t going to be your typical run-of-the-mill psychological thriller. This is Louise Beech after all!

Twenty years ago, actress Morgan Miller was found dead in her dressing room at the Dean Wilson Theatre during the run of the musical Dust. Rumour has it she’s been haunting the theatre ever since, looking for her killer. Now, the theatre’s most successful play is making a comeback. But who would want to take on the iconic role of Esme Black? As a fan of the original Dust musical and now working as a theatre usher, Chloe Dee is right in the thick of things.

Ah, the bright lights of the stage. Yet, this story isn’t all glamour and glitter. Definitely not for a theatre usher and I truly enjoyed seeing things from Chloe’s perspective. Her uniform, the jobs she needs to do, the way she’s almost invisible to the audience. It all stands in stark contrast to the adoration the actors receive.

I Am Dust is a haunting tale of jealousy and ambition with a dose of teenage angst, unrequited love and a dash of witchcraft. I found myself utterly mesmerised by all of it, as if I was under a spell. Immensely gripping, hugely addictive and fabulously atmospheric, this novel just swept me off my feet from the very first page and I wasn’t at all able to put it down. Without giving anything away, there is a sense of foreboding throughout. That feeling you get when you just know things will probably not end well but I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out.

I see it as a personal challenge not to reach for the tissues when I read one of Louise’s books and I was convinced I was going to nail that particular challenge this time around. But no. Sucker-punched in the final pages, right there in the feels, as the kids would say? Check! I swear she does it on purpose. Reaching the end of this wonderful story, flipping that final page and realising there was no more, I felt quite bereft. I was sad to say goodbye to these characters, sad that their stories had reached their conclusions, sad that the magic spell had been broken and I found my two feet planted firmly back into reality again.

Louise Beech is an author who needs to be on everyone’s bookshelves. She’s an author who leaves everything on the page and as a reader you feel it from the top of your head to the tips of your toes but mostly, way deep down in your heart. I absolutely loved this book and you can rest assured you’ll be seeing it again on my list of “books of the year”.

Huge thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the stunning review copy!

I Am Dust will be published in ebook format on February 16th, with the UK paperback to follow in April.

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Hive | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

The Other People by C.J. Tudor | @cjtudor @MichaelJBooks | #recommended

Happy publication day to the fabulous C.J. Tudor for her outstanding third book, The Other People!

Author : C.J. Tudor
Title : The Other People
Pages : 416
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Publication date : January 23, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

She sleeps, a pale girl in a white room . . .

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window.

She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’

It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.

He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.

Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them.

Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter. She knows who is responsible. And she knows what they will do if they ever catch up with her and Alice.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Warning : possibility of awkward love-fest ahead.

Hell is other people

For the longest time, whenever someone would ask me who my favourite author was, I didn’t even have to think about the answer. (For those who haven’t been keeping up, that’d be Karin Slaughter). But ever since I read The Chalk Man, the answer is coming just that little bit slower and now, on having read C.J. Tudor’s latest book, The Other People, the time may have come to utter the words “move over, Karin!”. So sorry, Karin, it’s not you, it’s me.

The Other People was easily my most anticipated book of the year. I had such high expectations that I was convinced before it even arrived in the post, that I would absolutely love it and no matter how much I tried to temper down that feeling, worrying that I was setting myself up to be disappointed, I couldn’t do it. So obviously I was ecstatic when I realised my expectations were being exceeded. As far as I’m concerned, C.J. Tudor can write me a shopping list and I’ll read it and love it and tell you all to read it too until I’m blue in the face.

First of all, there’s the writing. I can’t even begin to explain why it draws me in as it does. It’s almost magical and completely mesmerising. Some of it is so immensely deep and insightful (come talk to me again when you’ve read about “hope”) and I often find myself nodding as I’m reading along because yes, hitting the nail on the head right there in a way I’m clearly incapable of myself. But the writing is also natural and not conceited in any way. It feels comfortable. It feels as if C.J. Tudor is right here on my sofa, telling me a story and I’m hanging onto every single word. Sometimes I even chuckle, although I’m not entirely sure I’m supposed to (I have an odd sense of humour) but I’d like to think that it’s the author’s way of releasing some of the tension by adding a slightly witty remark or observation.

I’m not going to mention anything about the plot. All you need is in the book description and I won’t add another word to it because I don’t want to give anything away. From the minute I picked up this book though, I knew I wasn’t going to put it down again until I had flipped that final page. The Other People takes “addictive” and “being glued to the pages” to a completely different level. I just HAD to keep reading. Various points-of-view kept me utterly enthralled and while I had a tiny inkling about something, the whole picture completely evaded me. I couldn’t at all even begin to try and figure out how the various storylines were supposed to fit together until C.J. Tudor revealed it to me.

What to say about the characters? Gabe. Gah. My heart broke for him numerous times and his pain, his sense of loss is so intensely palpable. Fran was somewhat more difficult to get my head around but I think that was the point. However, she’s clearly on the run from something or someone and every time panic struck, I was right there with her, heart pounding, hands getting clammy, ready to run.

Atmospheric? Check! Bit of a supernatural vibe? Also, check! Although maybe not as prevalent as in the previous books but it’s there, in the background, in a creepy, chilling kind of way. A mystery to solve? You bet your shiny arse there is. And then let’s add all those other words people are getting tired of hearing : gripping, compelling, engrossing, a page-turner, addictive, impossible to put down (IT REALLY IS!) …. all that and so, so much more! Sometimes quite sad, mostly full of suspense and questions. So many questions. Did I mention impossible to put down? (Just checking)

Dare I say it? You know what? Yes. I’m going to say it. This is C.J. Tudor’s BEST book yet and it is without a doubt a huge contender for my book of the year. Right now, it has caused a massive book hangover. I loved everything about it, in case you hadn’t noticed, and I’m sad this thrilling ride is over.

By the way, my hardback copy has a teaser chapter of C.J. Tudor’s next book (out next year) and I already can’t wait! It promises to be another absolute belter but for now, do yourself a favour, pick up a copy of The Other People because I promise you, C.J. Tudor is the real deal.

To recap, I’d like to borrow a tiny part from my review for The Taking of Annie Thorne, which is just as apt here :

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! x infinity (😉)

The Other People is available to buy!

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Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

#GuestPost : Five Things I Learned From Writing A Series with Robert Crouch | @robertcrouchuk

I’m delighted to welcome Robert Crouch to the blog today! Robert is the author of a cosy crime mystery series featuring environmental health officer Kent Fisher. As book 5 in the series was published last week, I’ll be telling you a bit more about that below and it also seemed like a good time to ask Robert about the things he’s learned from writing a series.

Author : Robert Crouch
Title : No Mercy
Series : Kent Fisher Mysteries #5
Pages : 250
Publisher : n/a
Publication date : January 16, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

WOULD YOU KILL IF JUSTICE FAILED YOU?

Highways Inspector, Derek Forster, couldn’t go on after the death of his wife. Even though he had a secret lover, he took his own life. Or did he?

Samson Capote, the restaurateur from hell, brutally attacked and left to die in a deep freezer. Did he antagonise too many people? Was he sharing Forster’s secret lover?

Millionaire entrepreneur, Clive Chesterton, falls from his yacht and drowns in Sovereign Harbour. Why did he have Forster’s missing journals in his cabin?

When Kent Fisher becomes a murder suspect, he realises he could be the next victim of a killer who shows no mercy.

Can Kent connect the deaths and solve the mystery before the killer gets to him?

Amazon US | Amazon UK

| GUEST POST |

Five things I’ve learned from writing a series

When I came up with the idea of Kent Fisher, an environmental health officer (EHO) who solves murders, it was fresh and different from everything else in crime fiction. As far as I know, it still is.

But would the idea work? Would readers be interested?

I hope so because the novels are rooted in the classic whodunit and traditional murder mysteries of authors like Agatha Christie, only modern and irreverent, dealing with today’s issues.

With the release of the fifth book in the series, No Mercy, I thought I’d catch my breath and look back at what I’ve learned along the way.

1. I can write more than one novel

It may sound obvious with the release of the fifth book, but publishers and agents weren’t interested in the first Kent Fisher novel. One agent read the whole story, but didn’t take me on. Rejections breed doubt, which drives you to analyse and find the faults rather than the things you need to work on.

I also realised that my environmental health officer went straight into solving murders. If you know the work EHOs do, protecting public health, making sure food and the places that serve food are safe and hygienic, and making sure employees are safe at work, it’s hardly murder.

You wouldn’t visit your local council and report a murder to the environmental health officer.

So, I wrote a prequel, where Kent Fisher investigated a fatal work accident, which was really a murder. It was more difficult to write as it had to dovetail into the novel I’d already written, but it showed me I could write more than one story – even if I wrote them back to front.

2. It’s not easy to keep things fresh

Somewhere on my computer I have a folder filled with story ideas. Most are subjects and themes I want to tackle or subjects that matter to me like injustice. Most of the ideas are about the motives for murder, the issues that drive people to kill.

From time to time, I check this folder. Any fresh ideas, which usually come to me when I’m shaving in the morning, are added to the folder.

Yet none of these ideas are in the third, fourth and fifth novels in the series.

Unlike the police, who solve murders as a matter of routine, EHOs like me inspect restaurant and pub kitchens. That restricts what I can do, meaning I have to find ways for Kent Fisher to be drawn into murders other than family or friends.

Then there’s the backstory – the characters and setting that form Kent’s life, his work, friends and problematic love life. All the novels have a strong backstory, which affects the murder investigations and the people close to him.

Before I can start a new novel, I need to know how much time has elapsed. What’s changed? What loose ends are there from the previous story? What’s happening at work, at the animal sanctuary he owns and runs?

The backstory presents a continuity challenge. It affects the next story. The relationships and conflicts of the support cast can be more absorbing than the murders, especially in the early stages. The backstory must also stay fresh and dynamic.

3. Readers love your characters as much as you do

Just like someone you meet, you get to learn more about the people in your novels with each book. Readers have grown to love this supporting cast, often making comments about them. Kent’s love life is the source of debate and discussion. Readers want him to fall in love with a particular character. Other readers want him to dump that character.

It’s music to my ears because readers are engaged. They care about the characters I’ve created, the situations they have to deal with. I have as much fun wondering what’s going to happen to these characters in each story. And as you’ll discover in a moment, they can surprise me as much as the readers.

And I couldn’t leave this section without mentioning the one character everyone seems to love. Columbo is Kent’s West Highland white terrier, inspired by my own Westie, Harvey. You can also work out who my favourite TV detective is, and how he inspires Kent Fisher to carry out his investigations. 

[Hi, Harvey! Who’s a cute doggie? 😍]

4. Your characters will always surprise you

People who know me often look perplexed when I tell them my characters constantly surprise me, usually by behaving out of character.

How can that happen when I’m the one in control, writing the story?

The characters may be fictional products of my imagination, but they come alive when I write. They live and breathe. Readers feel like they know them. Like me, readers get to learn and understand more about the characters with each book.

That’s the beauty of having a series – you can watch the characters change and develop with each new book.

In the fourth novel, No More Lies, Kent Fisher surprised me twice. With the second surprise, his actions wrecked ideas I had for the next three novels in the series. I could have brought Kent into line, but it was more exciting to give him free rein and see where he went.

The story was much better as a result. I’ve had to come up with some new ideas for the sixth novel, but it’s a fair trade.

[The idea that characters do their own thing without an author’s say-so is absolutely fascinating to me.]

5. It’s so easy to forget details

I once had the privilege to have a conversation on Facebook Messenger with my favourite author, Sue Grafton, who wrote the Alphabet Murder series, featuring Kinsey Millhone. I think Sue had written 22 novels in the series at this point.

I asked her if it was difficult to keep track of everything that had happened over the years. Indeed it was. In one of the books, Kinsey’s neighbour and landlord, Henry, who was also a good friend, was married, even though he was single in all the rest.

There were plenty of other little discrepancies, despite the notes she kept. She was worried about repeating plots she’d used in previous books and kept detailed records to avoid this.

I use a spreadsheet to record the characters in my stories, usually in the chapters they first appear. Birthdays, relationships, places of work are also noted for future reference. Main events are noted in case I need to refer back, along with physical characteristics, such as hair and eye colour, or anything distinctive.

It doesn’t stop me having to check back many times as I’m writing. It’s easy to get names wrong. It’s easy to have similar sounding names like Jenny, Gemma and Emma or Adrian and Adam. In one novel, I had three female characters with names beginning with the same letter. Despite the spreadsheet I didn’t spot this until the third edit.

At some point I may need to write more detailed notes, but as I only look one book ahead now, never sure how Kent’s going to behave, I hope the stories will remain fresh, interesting and free from repetition and bloopers.

[I can’t even begin to imagine how to keep track of all these things, spreadsheets or not!]

Thank you so much, Robert, for stopping by and giving us this insight. I wish you continued success with the Kent Fisher Mysteries!

Amazon US | Amazon UK

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Robert Crouch writes the kind of books he loves to read. Books ranging from the classic whodunit by authors like Agatha Christie, the feisty private eye novels of Sue Grafton, thrillers by Dick Francis, and the modern crime fiction of Peter James and LJ Ross.

He created Kent Fisher as an ordinary person, drawn into solving murders. He’s an underdog battling superior forces and minds, seeking justice and fair play in a cruel world. These are the values and motivations that underpinned Robert’s long career as an environmental health officer.

He now writes full time from his home in East Sussex. When not writing, he’s often find walking on the South Downs with his West Highland white terrier, Harvey, taking photographs and researching the settings for future Kent Fisher mysteries.

Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | Website

My Top 20 Favourite Books of 2019

What a year! This list has been nearly impossible to put together. I’ve read so many incredibly brilliant books in 2019 and it’s been a real battle trying to narrow it down to 20. I do so apologise to the authors whose books I had to drop from the list (not that you know who you are 😂) but lines must be drawn somewhere and I’ve had to be utterly ruthless.

Note : These were all published this year.

So, without further ado, in random order except for the top 4, here are my Top 20 Favourite Books of 2019.

John Marrs – The Passengers [my review]
Phoebe Locke – The July Girls [my review]
Jo Spain – Dirty Little Secrets [my review]
Taylor Jenkins-Reid – Daisy Jones and the Six [my review]

Kia Abdullah – Take It Back [no review]
James Delargy – 55 [my review]
Søren Sveistrup – The Chestnut Man [my review]

Anita Frank – The Lost Ones [no review]
Stacey Halls – The Familiars [no review]
Elizabeth Letts – Finding Dorothy [my review]

The Orenda Collection 😂

Sarah Stovell – The Home [my review]
Will Carver – Nothing Important Happened Today [my review]
Doug Johnstone – Breakers [my review]
Helen Fitzgerald – Worst Case Scenario [my review]
Louise Beech – Call Me Star Girl [my review]
Thomas Enger – Inborn [my review]

4. Ruth Ware – The Turn Of The Key [my review]
3. Rowan Coleman – The Girl at the Window [my review]
2. C.J. Tudor – The Taking of Annie Thorne [my review]

| And Novel Deelight’s Book of the Year award goes to ….. |

If you read my review back when I posted it, this will not really come as a surprise. I have to say The Taking of Annie Thorne (!!!!!! infinity) and The Girl at the Window came incredibly close and I almost had to resort to drawing straws to pick a winner. Such a hard choice to make but The Whisper Man just had that little bit of an edge. [my review]

So, there you have it. Thoughts? Suggestions? Criticism? 😂

As 2019 is coming to an end, I want to say a huge thank you to all the fabulous authors and publishers for an absolutely outstanding bookish year! Thank you to YOU, my lovely fellow bloggers and readers for your enthusiasm, your support, your comments and for sharing the book love. ❤️

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and I’ll see you on the other side when I’ll be taking a look at what 2020 has in store for the book world. Until then, stay safe, be merry and keep reading. xx

Top 15 Favourite Series of 2019

It’s that time of year again, when I look back on all the brilliant books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. December seems to be coming around faster and faster. As predicted, 2019 was a fantastic year for books and putting these end-of-year lists together was tough!

Like last year, I’ve split my favourite books of the year up into two different posts. Today, the focus lies on additions to series. I seem to have read less of them this year, hence the slightly odd number of 15. But they’re all corkers!

So here we go, in random order : my 15 favourite series of 2019.

| Victoria Jenkins – Detectives King & Lane |

The fourth and final book in the King & Lane series. Back when I picked up the first book, The Girls in the Water, I just knew I was in for something special. There was something about Victoria Jenkins’ writing, the incredible plotting and the absolutely fantastic main female characters that got my pulse racing. Every book since then just got better and better and now here we are, at the end. It’s been an incredibly thrilling ride and if this is the end, then it’s a fabulous way to go.

| Rachel Abbott – DCI Tom Douglas |

The Shape of Lies is book 8 and another fantastic addition to the DCI Tom Douglas series. Full of suspense and intrigue, it makes for one gripping and tense read. I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with Tom and Becky again and I hope to see them back again soon. In the meantime, you have time to get caught up if you haven’t done so already because this truly is a fantastic crime series that should be on everyone’s radar and Rachel Abbott is an author who should most definitely be on your bookshelf.

| David Jackson – DS Nathan Cody |

Your Deepest Fear is dark, disturbing and insanely tense. It’s so fast paced, it almost felt relentless at times and left me in desperate need of a breather. My heart was pounding, my hands were clammy and I was trying extremely hard to figure out how it would all end. What an incredible addition to an already outstanding series! I dare say this is even the best one yet and I urge you all to read this series, if you’re not doing so already. I highly recommend it.

| Helen Fields – DI Luc Callanach |

Honestly, if you’re not reading this series, I am judging you like a big, bad judging thing! This is one of the best crime fiction series out there and you are sorely missing out! And that’s all I’m going to say about that!

| Angela Marsons – DI Kim Stone |

The writing machine that is Angela Marsons struck again in 2019 with no less than THREE additions to the brilliant DI Kim Stone series. Still going strong, still insanely gripping and addictive and now with the added bonus of a prequel to find out where it all began.

| Stephanie Broadribb – Lori Anderson |

This series has been a total blast from the very first book and Deep Dirty Truth is without a doubt THE BEST ONE YET! Oh yes! I said it! Fast-paced, with characters to get invested in and root for and edge-of-your-seat action galore, this is sheer entertainment of the highest level! Stock up on snacks and maybe an oxygen tank and enjoy the rollercoaster ride! Your legs may feel like jelly at the end of it, but it’ll be worth it!

| Karin Slaughter – Will Trent |

If there’s a Karin Slaughter book, you’d better believe it will make my list. It’s been quite the wait for a new addition to the Will Trent series but it was worth it. Karin Slaughter firmly cemented her spot as my favourite author and The Last Widow is taught, sharp and with a focus on hard-hitting and tough topics.

| Cara Hunter – DI Adam Fawley |

If you’re sitting there wondering if you need another crime fiction series in your life, the answer is “yes” and this right here is that series. I highly recommend you add this one to your shelves. It is one of the best crime fiction series out there and a definite must-read! Just so you know, book four is published in January and available for preorder. I have no doubt you’ll be seeing it here at some point.

| Matt Wesolowski – Six Stories |

Changeling was one of my most anticipated releases this year and it did not disappoint! If you’re not familiar with the Six Stories series (OMG WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!), it’s centred around a true crime podcast in which Scott King investigates cold cases. Changeling is book 3 in the Six Stories series and it is one of those stories that worms its way under your skin, one that will just not let you go. Dark, disturbing and chilling, Changeling had my heartbeat racing throughout and I was gripping the pages so tightly that my knuckles turned white! This tremendously addictive page-turner is insanely thought-provoking and also absolutely terrifying, though possibly not in the way you might expect.

| Will Dean – Tuva Moodyson |

Nothing is quite what it seems in Red Snow. With intriguing and complex characters and a deliciously intricate plot, this novel had me staying up way too late in a desperate attempt to finish it. But I just had to know what was going on. I didn’t count on Will Dean’s devious mind though, which meant that the final pages came at me like a knockout punch to the gut that left me winded but also caused so much adrenaline to course right through me, I felt like I could have gone out and run a marathon! I can’t wait for Tuva 3, out in March!

| Sarah Hilary – DI Marnie Rome |

Please tell me you are reading this series. It’s been absolutely outstanding from the very beginning and I don’t know how she does it, but Sarah Hilary manages to outdo herself time and time again, bringing each book in this series to a whole other level. At the risk of repeating myself, because I’m pretty sure I say this every time, this is the best one in the series yet and Sarah Hilary is an author who deserves all the praise. She continues to impress me with her remarkable storylines, utterly brilliant character development and fantastic writing. There are so many lines I could quote but I won’t because I’d be here all day and obviously you just need to read this book (and the rest of the series) for yourself.

| Bella Ellis – The Brontë Mysteries |

The Vanished Bride is the first book in a brand-new series by Bella Ellis, which is a pen name for the incredibly amazing Rowan Coleman. I knew the minute I started reading this book that it would make my list. I absolutely can’t wait to hang out with these three delightful characters again.

| Johana Gustawsson – Roy & Castells |

Few crime fiction series leave me feeling like I’ve been punched in the gut numerous times, wanting to curl up into a tiny ball under my duvet, but Johana Gustawsson manages it every single time. Johana Gustawsson is a remarkable talent and I continue to be absolutely impressed by the way she manages to combine modern crime fiction with some of history’s most shocking eras and the atrocious things humans are capable of. I can’t recommend this powerful read, and this entire series, enough and I absolutely can’t wait for more! 

| Joseph Knox – Aidan Waits |

This series is one I’ve been with from the beginning. In fact, Sirens was the book that first made me start thinking about blogging because I needed a place to shout about its awesomeness. Since then, Joseph Knox has been raising the bar, with each book being even stronger than the previous one. Like its predecessors, The Sleepwalker is masterfully plotted, immensely dark, extremely gritty and completely engrossing from start to finish. Joseph Knox is an incredible talent and the Aidan Waits series is absolutely outstanding. Every single one of these books has caused a massive book hangover and The Sleepwalker is no different. I can’t recommend these books enough! They NEED to be on any crime fiction fan’s bookshelf. I promise you, you will not regret it for one second!

| M.W. Craven – Washington Poe & Tilly Bradshaw |

How can someone be both dead and alive at the same time? This intriguing question is for Poe and Tilly to find out in Black Summer, the incredible follow-up to The Puppet Show. It doesn’t matter whether your Team Poe or Team Tilly but you should most definitely be Team Craven. A truly gripping, addictive page-turner, Black Summer is sure to leave you wanting more and as luck will have it, book 3 will be out next year. I, for one, can’t wait!

And there you have it. The series that made my heart beat that little faster, made my hands go clammy and that left such an impression on me that adding them to this list was a total no-brainer.

Now is your chance to kick my bum (virtually, thank you) and tell me which series I’ve left out. Are there some you don’t agree with? Are there any you can’t wait to read? 

Hope you find something you like here and I’ve given you some ideas. Next week, I’ll be sharing my list of favourite stand-alones of 2019. Until then, I wish you lots of happy reading! xx

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis | @brontemysteries @HodderBooks | #recommended

Author : Bella Ellis
Title : The Vanished Bride
Series : Bronte Mysteries #1
Pages : 337
Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date : November 7, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters–the Brontë sisters–learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril.

| MY THOUGHTS |

For those of who you do not know, Bella Ellis is a pen name for author Rowan Coleman and I’m getting to that stage where I’m beginning to think she can just write me a shopping list and I’ll read it and love every word of it.

A young mother disappears from her home, leaving only a big pile of blood in her bedroom but no clue as to her whereabouts. When word of this mystery reaches the home of the Brontë sisters, they take it upon themselves to go out and try to solve what happened to this young woman.

I was a little wary at first to have these three pretty iconic characters fictionalised as “lady detectors”, investigating a possible crime. But the warmth with which Bella Ellis brings these sisters to life won me over from the get-go. It is abundantly clear from reading this first instalment in the Brontë Mysteries that Bella Ellis deeply loves Charlotte, Emily and Anne and that a lot of research went into this. I soon found myself pulled along in their enthusiasm trying to solve the case of the vanished bride.

But The Vanished Bride is more than just a mystery. It highlights the plight of women in those days; how they were seen as property; how they weren’t allowed their own opinions or were definitely not allowed to voice them; how their place was at home, raising children and most definitely not running wild across the countryside. Some of these women truly suffered but they had no means to escape some of the brutal events they had to endure. These circumstances stand in sharp contrast with the peaceful lives of the sisters.

Beautifully written, hugely atmospheric and with engaging characters, The Vanished Bride made me wish I could run across the fields and the moors along with the Brontë sisters. Each sister has a distinctive voice and with each one of them getting their own point-of-view, it truly allows the reader to get to know them better. Throughout the story, I leaned more towards Emily but at the end, through all the squabbles and disagreements, rivalry and slight jealousy, giggles and love, I realised I adored all three equally. I absolutely loved The Vanished Bride and I can’t wait to spend more time with these three characters, solving the next mystery they are sure to stumble upon.

The Vanished Bride is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware | @RuthWareWriter @HarvillSecker | #20BooksofSummer

Author : Ruth Ware
Title : The Turn of the Key
Pages : 340
Publisher : Harvill Secker
Publication date : August 8, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Ruth Ware’s previous book, The Death of Mrs Westaway, was one of my top books last year. So to say I had high expectations for her next offering would be somewhat of an understatement. I couldn’t wait to pick up The Turn of the Key and as soon as I started reading, I just knew this one was going to be another extra special treat.

Rowan Caine answered an ad for a nanny position in the Scottish Highlands. But it’s obvious from the start that things did not go well. A child is dead and Rowan is in prison awaiting trial for murder. What on earth happened and how did Rowan get here?

Oh, what a twisted tale this is. I feel like I didn’t breathe for 340 pages, it’s that tense. The modern gadgetry alone already freaked me out, never mind all the shenanigans that could possibly be caused by ghosts because hey, isolated house in a remote location where a death or two has occurred , it’s bound to be haunted, right? Hugely atmospheric? Check! I mean, there’s even a poison garden! Yikes! And what of Rowan? Reliable narrator or not? I couldn’t quite decide for most of the story and yet, at every turn, I found myself firmly on her side.

Creepy and chilling throughout, I couldn’t at all figure out what had happened and the conclusion left me reeling. Or at least my interpretation of it, which obviously means you should read this novel right now so we can discuss it! Wow. I mean, really, just WOW. I absolutely devoured this novel and as tends to happen with books I loved as much as this one, the words to describe my experience with it just will not come. Also because I’m way too worried I’ll give anything away.

Brilliantly written, immensely engrossing, extremely addictive …. WOW! 😉 This is most definitely Ruth Ware at her best and I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this, because did I mention how utterly brilliant The Death of Mrs Westaway was? The Turn of the Key, you guys, is even better and it shoots right up my list of favourite books of the year! I’ll be recommending this one left, right and centre until I’m blue in the face and I am already eagerly awaiting Ruth Ware’s next book.

The Turn of The Key is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

Book 17 from my 20 Books of Summer list.