‘Forget about 007. This heroine has her own brand of spycraft’ – Washington Post
New York City, 1962. Vera Kelly is struggling to make rent and blend into the underground gay scene in Greenwich Village. She’s working night shifts at a radio station when her quick wits, sharp tongue, and technical skills get her noticed by a recruiter for the CIA.
Next thing she knows she’s in Argentina, tasked with wiretapping a congressman and infiltrating a group of student activists in Buenos Aires. As Vera becomes more and more enmeshed with the young radicals, the fragile local government begins to split at the seams. When a betrayal leaves her stranded in the wake of a coup, Vera learns war makes for strange and unexpected bedfellows, and she’s forced to take extreme measures to save herself.
An exhilarating page turner and perceptive coming-of-age story, Who is Vera Kelly? introduces an original, wry and whip-smart female spy for the twenty-first century.
This is a smart, and funny spy story with a twist with an unforgetable heroine that sounds like a cross between Holden Caulfield & Harriet the Spy – after a few stiff martinis.
If you love a genre-defying and eclectic read you can really get caught up in that will make you think about it long after you’ve finished reading it, then Who is Vera Kelly might be your next favourite read. I’m always a sucker for any book that’s got the slightest connection to spies and I was really drawn in by Vera’s story and really wonder why I’ve never heard of this writer before. I love books that grab me with a real ‘voice’ from the very first page and Vera is pretty unforgettable! I read this across a snowy Scottish weekend – totally losing myself in Greenwich Village, 1960’s Buenos Aires and the characters we meet in this immersive and thrilling read.
Vera is a totally unforgettable heroine and her unfeasibly enjoyable story is so captivating that it’s easy to forget that this is fiction, you feel like it’s actually happening as you travel across time and place with her – witnessing the horrific scrapes and deadly situations that she manages to get caught up in.
Rosalie Knecht has a deft and distinct turn of phrase and uses her distinct voice and way of approaching situations very skilfully in order to make Vera come to life in these pages. This is an exciting and satisfying read, where Vera’s exploits are wonderfully realised and her courage and resourcefulness is brought to life for us as we experience her growing up in front of our very eyes as she attepts to keep life and limb together whilst getting to the bottom of a military coup, an unexpected betrayal and some curveballs along the way.
If you want a memorable and energetially written book that brings a new and vivid female heroine to life whilst keeping you on your toes with many a twist and turn to navigate you’ll love this book and I know a few book-loving friends who are definitely going to be snapping this up and enjoying a new kick-ass female character within crime and spy fiction.
Why don’t you treat yourself to a copy and find out more about Vera’s unorthodox approach and see that sisters are very much doing it for themselves in this strikingly original and enjoyable read.
Writer On The Shelf
Rosalie Knecht is the author of Who Is Vera Kelly?, Vera Kelly Is Not A Mystery and Relief Map. She is also the translator of César Aira’s The Seamstress and the Wind (New Directions). She lives in New Jersey.
‘Who Is Vera Kelly? is the twisty, literary, woman-driven spy novel you’ve always wanted to read’ – Amy Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of Girl Waits with Gun
‘Knecht’s novel is a slow-burn espionage thriller, a complex treatment of queer identity, and an immersive period piece all rolled into one delectable page-turner’ – Entertainment Weekly
‘Gripping, magnificently written… This is a cool, strolling boulevardier of a book, worldly, wry, unrushed but never slow, which casts its gaze upon the middle of the last century and forces us to consider how it might be failing us still’ – New York Times Book Review
An NPR Best Book of the Year
“Gripping, subtle, magnificently written.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A delectable page-turner . . . Vera Kelly introduces a fascinating new spy to literature’s mystery canon–one we hope sticks around long beyond this snappy, intimate debut.” —Entertainment Weekly
Three brothers are at the funeral. One lies in the coffin.
Will, Brian and Luke grow up competing for their mother’s unequal love. As men, the competition continues – for status, money, fame, women …
They each betray each other, over and over, until one of them is dead.
But which brother killed him?
There is nothing closer then family – and after being locked down with them for the last few months, the thought that your nearest and dearest might be the architects of your very downfall will be more than credible to most of us at the moment.
This latest novel by bestselling Liz Nugent, whose Lying In Wait was a huge favourite of many lovers of domestic noir, is as twisty and skilful as any thriller you’ve read this year. I guarantee that you’ll be hooked after devouring this twisty, skilful and original take on family values…
This novel has a pretty original premise as these siblings converge at the third brother’s funeral at the start of this story. Neither of them are the sort of people that even individually you’d want to spend lockdown with and this is definitely a case of nurture versus nature – the more you hear about their competitive and unhealthy upbringing, the more insight you’ll have into the adults they’ve become. If you love domestic noir, you’ll absolutely love the way that you get undder the skin of the Drumm family and see what makes them tick.
This book transports you into the lives of the Drumm brothers in adulthood as we see their successes and accolades in the world of the music industry – and like so many real life faces in this world we see their successful professional lives be juxtaposed with heartbreak, betrayals and catastrophes within their personal lives as addiction, infidelity and deceit prroliferate ans cause ever widening chasms between the three brothers in terms of allegances, long-held grudges and debts to be mataphorically paid…
Not one of the three soons’ lives makes for easy or pleasant reading and you’ll feel like you love to hate some of these selfish, unrepentantly egotistical and morally bankrupt characters. Liz Nugent is a skilled plotter and the multiple narratives where we get to hear from all three of them in turn ensures that we often hear contrasting and conflicting perspecyives of the same event – which ensures that the plot zips along at a cracking pace and some of their escapades make you glad that you’re not part of this dysfunctional family – it’s such a clever conceit an keeps you perpetually on your toes as you wonder who to trust and who’s stringing you along in the same way as they have the rest of their family…
I’m no fan of books being painted as ‘The next…’ and we’re all sick I’m sure, of seeing books that are hailed as THE thriller of the year and THE must read – This definitely isn’t a book that is walking in anyone’s fotsteps and the Drumm siblings will definitely hold readers’ attention as you get as fascinated by their awfulness as people have across the years by JR, Dirty Den or Nasty Nick – Their interactions will certainly keep you entertained as you make your way through this novel – all too quickly, I might add and you will definitely be unprepared for the ending…
You know that I hate spoilers so I’ve tried hard to avoid mentioning exactly what starts to emerge once the lies, deception and double-crossing begins to unravel– but suffice to say, there’s never a dull moment as their long held grudges and thinly veiled agendas begin to collide and you’re pushed from pillar to post in search of who you might be able to trust
Thanks so much to Ellie Hudson for sending me this book to review for the blog tour – I absolutely love taking part in her tours and enjoyed reading what the other bloggers thought too. If you haven’t bought yourself a copy yet, you can treat yourself here
Writer On The Shelf
Before becoming a full-time writer, Liz Nugent worked in Irish film, theatre and television. Her three novels – Unravelling Oliver, Lying in Wait and Skin Deep have each been Number One bestsellers in Ireland and she has won four Irish Book Awards (two for Skin Deep). She lives in Dublin with her husband.
‘Liz Nugent is a force to be reckoned with‘ Lisa Jewell ‘Brilliantly observed family life and a plot that is part rollercoaster, part maze. Loved it!’ Graham Norton
‘MAGNIFICENT. Her best yet, and that’s really saying something’ Marian Keyes
A dark jewel of a novel – finely observed, swift and exciting
Dark, beautiful, devastating – pure genius
Brilliantly observed family life and a plot that is part rollercoaster, part maze. Loved it! ― via Twitter
The finest psychological thriller writer currently at work
An uncanny ability to get under the skin of characters … nobody is a mere cliché in Nugent’s clear, propulsive writing ― Sunday Times
Captivating … A contemporary psychological thriller that will leave you wondering if you ever really know what someone else is thinking – or what goes on behind closed doors ― Sunday Independent
The brilliant Liz Nugent has done it again … Creepy, compelling and totally addictive — Erin Kelly
Hare’s Landing, West Cork. A house full of mystery…
Rachel Lambert leaves London afraid for her personal safety and determined to uncover the truth behind the sudden death of a homeless man with links to a country house hotel called Hare’s Landing.
New York-based crime reporter Caroline Kelly’s career is threatened by a lawsuit and she needs some thinking space away from her job. But almost as soon as she arrives, Hare’s Landing begins to reveal its own stories – a 30-year-old missing person’s case and the mysterious death of the hotel’s former owner.
As Rachel and Caroline join forces, it becomes clear that their investigations are intertwined – and that there is nothing more dangerous than the truth…
I absolutely love a book set in a house full of mystery that I can imagine wandering through with an ear open for murmurs from the past. I also love books set in Ireland and Sam Blake has done an amazing job of helping me to travel to Hare’s Landing with her chatacters, even though we are all in lockdown – this exciting and atmospheric read drew me in from the very first paragraph and held me captivated by its setting and characters until its very final page.
Houses with secrets, local legends with a twist, a mysterious atmosphere and a sense that there are lots of things just bubbling beneath the surface that you’re not quite sure of– I mean – what’s not to love. These were some of the many reasons that I was so drawn to The Dark Room and why I’m so grateful to #RandomThingsTours Anne Cater for inviting me to participate in this blog tour – as this book was definitely right up my street!
I love immersing myself in a book over a weekend and not looking up apart from to pour another cup of tea and this book answered the brief perfectly. If you haven’t already read Little Bones or any of her other novels, you should definitely put them on your TBR and if you have, you’ll be reassured to know that this is equally as compelling.
I feel like you can totally surrender to this reading experience and travel to Hare’s Landing right alongside Rachel. I really felt like I could imagine this vividly painted world and found it very difficult to detach myself from this immersive reading experience that allowed me to plunge into the setting and experience the atmosphere right alongside her. It was so tense at times that you could absolutely imagine the hairs rising up on the back of your neck and every time I stopped reading it, I kept imagining myself lured back there and trying to navigate the truth for myself.
Is anyone else like me and love to go online and immerse themselves in the world of the book that they’re loving, to try and really place themselves in the characters’ world? I love doing it and I found myself scrolling through pages and pages of tales of property porn as I imagined myself inheriting a crumbling pile somewhere in a remote area of Ireland and it was a wonderful opportunity to escape from everything that’s going on in the world at the moment and not think about Covid or planning a return to school in the middle of a global pandemic…
It was lovely to lose myself in the mystery surrounding Hare’s landing and keep turning the possibilities over in my head about what exactly was the truth about its former owner and whether we were getting a sense of the whole truth at times. It’s funny that I get into reading zones and I’m now on a real mystery mission and have been drawn to exploring The Haunting of Alma Fielding and losing myself in another of my favourite era’s darker sides. I am trying not to give any spoilers at all as I do not want you to lose a single element of the twists and turns of this satisfying and compelling read.
I really loved the way that Sam Blake draws the reader in and keeps them connected with the twists and turns that beset Rachel & Caroline and as they attempt to understand what exactly is going on as well as understand exactly how the two investigations are tangled together and the questions that arise as a consequence of them trying to unravel these twists and turns. The way that these elements of the narrative interconnect and collide with one another was one of my favourite things about this book and it certainly does a fine job of not allowing you to put it down as it gives you a solid case of ‘one more chapter’
This was the perfect Lockdown read for me – and if you’re feeling weary of being locked down at home and want something to absolutely lose yourself in and forget about what’s going on in the world – then this would be a perfect book for you , it’s so immersive! If you love a deliciously mysterious tale with memorable characters and a plot that will draw you in and keep you gripped then you’ll really love The Dark Room and should treat yourself to a copy
Thank you so much to Anne Cater & Random Things Tours for aways recommending such great reads. I love being prompted to read such a diverse and eclectic range of books and being able to share my views with other book lovers is an absolute pleasure.
There’s shades of Rebecca in this small-town mystery, full of atmosphere and menace and with a satisfyingly complex plot. The Dark Room is another winning page-turner from Blake and the perfect read for curling up in front of the fire on a winter’s night. Although with its shocking reveals and ghostly undertones, good luck getting to sleep afterwards… ― Catherine Ryan Howard
An addictive mystery, with a creepy twist ― Angela Clarke
Intelligent and compelling female leads, a spooky and atmospheric setting, and a gripping and satisfying plot — Roz Watkins
I absolutely love a tale of women scorned getting revenge and this one did not let me down. I loved the escapism of it – I was living vicariously through those characters, I tell you. It was pacey and exciting and totally joyous. ― Jo Spain on Keep Your Eyes on Me
Original, twisty and very gripping – this is a roller-coaster ride to be savoured. ― William Ryan on Keep Your Eyes on Me
You don’t know who’s manipulating whom until it’s far too late – terrific. ― Alex Marwood on Keep Your Eyes on Me
Writer On The Shelf
Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the hugely popular national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout and has assisted many award-winning and bestselling authors to publication.
As Sam Blake, she has written four previous novels and has topped the Irish bestseller chart.
A promising young football player returns home to his tiny village, his dreams in tatters and a dark secret haunting his conscience, in a beautiful, unforgettable novel about hope and redemption, when everything seems lost…
‘A brilliant, bittersweet story that captures the rawness of strained relationships, set against the struggles of a failing lower-league football team. Ross’s best novel yet’ Stuart Cosgrove
Danny Garvey was a sixteen-year old footballing prodigy. Professional clubs clamoured to sign him, and a glittering future beckoned.
And yet, his early promise remained unfulfilled, and Danny is back home in the tiny village of Barshaw to manage the struggling junior team he once played for. What’s more, he’s hiding a secret about a tragic night, thirteen years earlier, that changed the course of several lives. There’s only one Danny Garvey, they once chanted … and that’s the problem.
A story of irrational hopes and fevered dreams – of unstoppable passion and unflinching commitment in the face of defeat – There’s Only One Danny Garvey is, above all, an unforgettable tale about finding hope and redemption in the most unexpected of places.
Honest, true and immensely moving, There’s Only One Danny Garveyasks us to think hard about the paths our lives took and yet might have taken, the things we fail to remember and can never forget and all that we take with us when we leave everything behind.
I absolutely adore David F Ross and his writing and I pass on copies of his books to people confident in the knowledge that this is the book they need to read, even if they might not know it yet. I am happy to report that There’s Only One Danny Garvey is Ross operating at the top of his form and I was absolutely blown away with this unforgettable and emotional read. I have featured it in my Winter Reads 2021 column in 17 Degrees Magazine as I want as many people as possible to pick up this book and be as caught up as I was in this skilful portrayal of the way that we deal with big feelings in smalltown Scotland – guilt, innocence, self-deception and everything in between…
When a novel hooks you with a first chapter like this does – dealing with the inescapable idea that the past has a habit of not remaining neatly where we left it and has an unerring habit of lingering and bleeding into the present, I was reminded of the bleakness and beauty of Larkin who understands the idea that you can ‘never go back’ as you are never the same person as the one who left things behind in the first place.
‘A joyous shot ar how things ought to be/Long fallen wide’ is an idea recurs throughout its pages and you canot fail to be moved by the idea of youthful dreams crumbling to ash and all that this entails as you experience Danny sleepwalking through his adult life until he gets the opportunity to ge back, albeit reluctantly, and attempt to overturn the shadows thrown by his past and rewrite his own ending.
It is a testament to Ross’s writing that you are absolutely inside this story and feel like these are real people whose lives you have become entangled in – and just like real people’s lives, the truth is rarely as black and white, nor as tidy as people like to think. Danny’s life is not only immersive but absolutely emotionally compelling too and the writing will keep you turning those pages as you imagine yourself travelling back to our own small towns and their narrow winding streets; feeling trapped by a past you can’t get free from and a future that seems perpetually denied to you.
You definitely do not have to be a footbal fan, who missed some of their own chances and come from smalltown Ayrshire to fall in love with this book – but as my other half will testify – as a man who might fall into some of these categories himself – this is a book about the way we live and anyone can connect with the themes and ideas here.
Orenda books describe the novel as ‘a novel of our times…tackling disenfranchisement, working-class culture, mental health and shattered dreams with Ross’s trademark humour’ and I’d have to agree on all fronts. The only thing this description misses out is that it’s absolutely unmissable and you should definitely go out and buy yourself a copy right now.
The skillful way that David Ross weaves the many and diverse motivations in this moving and authentic story is superbly done and remains gripping and intriguing throughout, Danny is a character that you will never be able to forget. In a year that we’ve heard much about Shuggie Bain, I feel that Danny’s tale is a more than worthy companion piece and it’s the book I’m recommending that everyone reads if they loved Shuggie to show them that emptiness, loss and futility come in many shapes and sizes
I know at times it can feel like the fictional world is full of stories about lost opportunities and the pain of what might have been – but Danny Garvey feels different, because this time it’s superbly done without a hint of mawkishness or poor taste. Like me, you’ll be so emotionally invested as this story unfolds for Danny and the folks of Barshaw; Ross never letting up on the tension and adding in lots of opportunities to second-guess yourself and adding layers of uncertainty and plenty of time to think about your own youth and the ‘might have beens’ there along the way.
I loved the way that this novel wove both threads together – of the uncertainties about the past and everything that led to Danny’s current situation with the present day story of his efforts to move this shower of n’er do wells out of the doldrums. Reading it, you wonder if your guesses are correct about whether or not there is a happy ending and any sense of absolution for Danny and for us as the readers as we feel like we’ve lived through so much of it with him. This is the perfect read for these long cold lockdown nights and would be an absolutely amazing book club choice – I guarantee that you’ll be recommending it to so many people afterwards – as you’ll not be able to stop thinking about this heartrending and beautifully plotted story and you’ll want to see what other folk think as soon as they’ve finished.
David Ross is also famously adept at inspiring awesome playlists in his novels and you will definitely be reaching for your old albums after reading Danny Garvey – I was away down a Blue Nile rabbit hole as I went back to my own youth in small town Scotland and thought about lots of people I knew then whose stories I never knew and might never get the chance to look at more sympathetically as they never lived to tell their tale. I think it’s only fitting that as I write this review, Roddy Hart is singing
‘…things never change We’re still walking the same streets we grew up on But your eyes must realise That a love wasted once is forever gone Like rain in December
[Coda] I will suffer the silence in each hour and day I will suffer the hardships that keep you away I will suffer the road that leads me to your door’
There’s Only One Danny Garveyis definitely one of those novels that you are unable to forget, and was far more emotional and lasting a read than I’d ever anticipated – it really is a page turner; keeping you guessing throughout and firmly entwined in Danny’s story an the own chances that you’ve missed, failed to take or were too proud to take another shot at
If you enjoy immersive and moving fiction that challenges your preconceptions and tests your prejudices in a shattering and emotionally honest way then you will love this book as much as I did. I absolutely can’t recommend it enough and feel like I haven’t been so emotionally caught up in a book for a very long time. Your heart will be moved every which way by this novel and you should start reading by being prepared to question yourself and your responses several times throughout this fictional journey into Danny’s life. Once you finish, it’s important to remember that there are thousands of Dannys out there right now and so so many of them never take the chance or decide to do something about their rudderless lives only when it’s too late.
If you feel intrigued and would like to order yourself a copy and find out for yourself what has had such a huge impact on me, thenbuy yourself a copy here
Check out these other fantastic bloggers on the tour. Thank you so much to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for the invite – You know that I love an Orenda read and I know that Karen will be delighted to see David featured in my newest column – out once the Lockdown is over!
Writer On The Shelf
David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over thirty years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night.
His most prized possession is a signed Joe Strummer LP. Since the publication of his debut novel The Last Days of Disco, he’s become something of a media celebrity in Scotland, with a signed copy of his book going for £500 at auction, and the German edition has not left the bestseller list since it was published.
Edinburgh, 1849. Despite Edinburgh being at the forefront of modern medicine, hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But it is not just the deaths that dismay the esteemed Dr James Simpson. A whispering campaign seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances.
Simpson’s protégé Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher are determined to clear their patron’s name. But with Raven battling against the dark side of his own nature, and Sarah endeavouring to expand her own medical knowledge beyond what society deems acceptable for a woman, the pair struggle to understand the cause of the deaths.
Will and Sarah must unite and plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets to clear Simpson’s name. But soon they discover that the true cause of these deaths has evaded suspicion purely because it is so unthinkable.
If you saw my #WinterReads Column, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, especially one that’s set in our capital city, Edinburgh. I absolutely love books that have real historical characters and events woven through them and often get so obsessed with a story that I spend longer researching the ideas around a historical book than it took me to read the novel itself. The Way of All Flesh was one of my favourite reads of last year and I could not wait to return to Will Raven’s adventures this January since Anne Cater invited me onto the Blog Tour.
This is of course the second novel by Ambrose Parry – but Parry is actually a ‘nom-de-plume’ for this collaboration between husband and wife team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman – and what a winning combination this has turned out to be. I am delighted to report that the sequel is an even more enjoyable read with every element of it absolutely pitch-perfect. I could not tear myself away from its twists and turns and have been recommending it to everyone and feeling jealous of anyone who still has both of these wonderful books on their TBR list…
The Art of Dying is another pageturner of a period murder mystery set in the murky world of Victorian Edinburgh and it brings our narrow closes and cobbled streets vividly to life as it plunges us into the sights and sounds of this bustling and dynamic city. Haetzman brings the medical history expertly to life, being a consultant anaesthetist, and I was fascinated to read that she has completed an MA in The History of Medicine which makes sense as her impeccable research has ensured that you definitely feel like you are time-travelling into Will & Sarah’s world and experiencing events alongside them. I love the fact that both characters are starting to evolve in the sequel with Saran growing in confidennce and starture after her inauspicious beginnings and showing that the only thing that held these women back was their circumstances rather than their innate ability or intelligence
I was actually born in the Edinburgh hospital named after one of the main characters in this novel – Dr James Simpson – who became so famous as he pioneered the use of chloroform. It is amazing to be able to meet him here in these first rate fictional accounts of his life and work and understand the life and achievements of this medical legend in a wholly different way. Queen Victoria actually endorsed his practices and it was really interesting to see him as a real person, rather than just a name on a statue. Simpson really comes to life on the page, with an extremely modern ‘take’ on both birth and death and it was a real pleasure to meet him on the page and experience the trail that he blazed in medical history.
Will Raven and Sarah might have got off to a rocky start together buttheir inherent mistrust of each other has made their eventual partnership all the more enjoyable to experience and it is a sheer pleasure to see them both change and develop as they try to right wrongs in a world where class and money mean an awful lot more than justice or morality for much of the time. In this sequel, they are hell-bent on clearing Simpson’s name from the awful and calumnious rumours surrounding him and their combined talents are absolutely formidable!
You cannot fail to be drawn into this fully-realised historical world. If you adored The Way of All Flesh, you’ll bloody love this book and I cannot wait for the follow-up,Raven and Fisher are my new favourite fictional duo and if you haven’t met them yet, what are you waiting for? Buy yourself a copy here to enjoy over lockdown
If I haven’t convinced you yet, take a look at what the reviews are saying:
Parry’s Victorian Edinburgh comes vividly alive – and it’s a world of pain — VAL McDERMID
Some gore (historical gore doesn’t count) but mostly nice historical detail (reminding you that doctors never do know everything) with a little overlay of romantic tension and a side of old-fashioned feminism. Compelling * * Financial Times *
* Offers more of the alluring combination of crime fiction and historical fact seen in last year’s The Way of All Flesh . . . The reader may need a tiny dose of chloroform to relax after all of these thrills. . . For any reader in need of a swift-acting tonic, I prescribe picking up this thriller as soon as possible * * Scotland on Sunday *
* A menacing tale of murder amid the medical experiments of mid-19th century Edinburgh * * iNews *
* The central characters and their relationship are the book’s strengths . . . worth a read – the characters and setting are wonderful * * The Times *
* Dark and visceral, gritty and charming, with a twisting plot and compelling characters – not least, Victorian Edinburgh at her deadliest. The immersive world of Ambrose Parry just gets better and better — JESS KIDD
A gripping Victorian thriller * * Sunday Express * *
Full of twists and turns – a great read * * Evening Times * *
Gleeful, romping . . . The fog and stench of Edinburgh’s Old Town definitely jump off the page . . . The central relationship between loveable rogue Raven and proto-feminist Fisher is the beating heart of The Art of Dying. Both characters are drawn with real empathy and nuance, and their complicated feelings for each other drive the book as much as the smart storylines. A great piece of storytelling * * Big Issue * *
Writers On The Shelf
Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for a collaboration between Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman.
The couple are married and live in Scotland. Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels, including Black Widow, winner of both the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year.
Dr Marisa Haetzman is a consultant anaesthetist of twenty years’ experience, whose research for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine uncovered the material upon which this novel was based. The Way of All Flesh is the first book in the series.
Mona and Wolfie have lived on Victoria Park for over fifty years. Now, on the eve of their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary, they must decide how to navigate Mona’s declining health. Bookended by the touching exploration of their love, Victoria Park follows the disparate lives of twelve people over the course of a single year.
Told from their multiple perspectives in episodes which capture feelings of alienation and connection, the lingering memory of an acid attack in the park sends ripples of unease through the community. By the end of the novel, their carefully interwoven tales create a rich tapestry of resilience, love and loss.
With sharply observed insight into contemporary urban life, and characters we take to our hearts, Gemma Reeves has written a moving, uplifting debut which reflects those universal experiences that connect us all.
Am so happy to be on today’s Blog Tour of Victoria Park and this is the perfect book to be reading in the lockdown as its sense of community and connectedness is the perfect antidote to feeling so isolated and removed from the people around us this January. It’s a beautifully written and life-affirming read that follows this community over twelve months, bringing us with them as they experience the highs and lows that form the fabric of our everyday lives and I was totally drawn in and felt like I was living among them.
I absolutely loved Gemma Reeves’ writing style, I asbsolutely needed a warm and uplifting read that took my mind far away from everything that’s going on in the real world and allowed me to become part of Mona and Wolfie’s world. I love books that have a variety of perspectives so that we get to hear about events from a diverse series of personalities and this was done really successfull here. The inhabitants of Victoria Park have very different personalities and circumstances, yet they all come together as a tapestry that make you feel like you ‘hear’ their distinct voices and get to understand their differing perspectives perfectly.
Both Mona and Wolfie are fantastic characters that you can totally believe in. It is their story that underpins the entire novel and you’d need to have a heart of stone not to be moved by it. The fact that their story book-ends the novel means that you almost feel like you are ‘coming home’ at the end of this story and I really felt that I missed these characters once I’d finished reading Voctoria Park. I love books where I really feel invested in what happens in the characters lives and this bok proves that this doesn’t always have to happen in thrillers or domestic noir. The fact that we get so involved in these characters very ordinary, yet extraordinary, lives is one of the strengths of this book and I can’t wait to see what debut author Gemma Reeves does next.
I feel that Gemma has written this book from the heart, and it shows. It presents a picture of the places we come together in our communities – be those squares, gardens community centres and let’s face it – never have these placesc been more valued by us now that we are missing each other so much as communities. I’d absolutely love to see this on the screen as a TV series as I think it’d be a great and heartwarming watch to see the way that these characters’ lives intersect and connect across a year.
Victoria Park is a wonderful read, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Anne Cater for inviting me to participate in the Blog Tour – I certainly needed this read and it’s been an honour to be part of its story – I’m totally certain that it’s going to be a real success. Buy yourself a copy now and enjoy being part of a virtual community during a time when we need to be remote from our own. It’s the perfect lockdown read and I enjoyed it hugely.
Writer on the Shelf
Gemma Reeves is a writer and teacher who lives and works in London.
The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn’t right.
I had always known that the women in my family aren’t meant to be mothers.
My husband Fox says I’m imagining it. He tells me I’m nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child.
But she’s different with me. Something feels very wrong. Is it her? Or is it me? Is she the monster? Or am I? ___
The Push is an unsettling, breathtaking and powerful read about obsession and our deepest fears that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
I am so excited to welcome you today to my stop on the blog tour on this Icily beautiful Saturday for a book that you’ll be hearing about throughout 2021 – words can’t do justice to this novel and I’m going to find it so hard to review it without giving away any spoilers as I want every single one of you to have the same reading experience that I’ve just had – I’ve literally been glued to the pages this week during our latest lockdown and found myself thinking about it whenever it wasnt with me…
Thank you to Olivia Thomas for giving me the opportunity to read and review this amazing book that I am going to be suggesting as one of my Online Book Club reads as I’m sure that all my bookies are going to love it too. It’s one of my favourite things about blogging that I’ve serendipitously encountered so many fantastic books and authors to write about and share them with other book lovers too.
These characters in this book absolutely spring to life and I defy you not to be drawn into Blythe’s story and experience the way that her past has carved out her experience of motherhood and its impact on her ability to live her own experience rather than see her first experiences as a mother refracted through the prism of her own experiences and her mother and grandmother’s before her. Larkin writes ‘man hands on misery to man/ it deepens like a coastal shelf/ get out as quickly as you can/ and don’t have any kids yourself’ and it’s very easy to replace this with ‘woman’ as regards this journey back through their lives and experiences to see how all roads led to Blythe’s first steps in motherhood and how the shadows of her family’s prior experiences mean that what most people feel are the happiest months in their lives are for her a dark and spiralling sense of history beginning to repeat itself.
The Push is not just a great piece of fiction though – it is a thought provoking and intelligent piece of writing that poses some huge questions about motherhood, love and fear that make it a perfect book club choice once the lockdown is over. I absolutely loved the way that motherhood is prsented as a series of russian dolls within this story with all of their experiences being encapsulated and reflected in the way that they were ‘mothered’ themselves – this provided me with lots of food for thought and a fair few hours of contemplation about the way that motherhood is presented in poetry and literature and why we often turn away from the hard, dark and difficult aspects of this relationship in our collective consciousness
I really did get caught up in this book. They do say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but The Push more than matched up to its gorgeous cover. One of my favourite things was the way that we get to compare and contrast their paths as well as their relationships in the present day and I think that the structure really worked in allowing us to see some of the ways that Blythe’s past have affected her and then look through the other end of the telescope and begin to wonder about the future that lies ahead for Violet her daughter as a result of the ways that she will be parented by Blythe. Its a real strength of this novel that despite the contrasts between the characters, the way that their stories interconnect makes it feel seamless and never disjointed or fragmentary. Of course there are going to be comparisons with We need to Talk about Kevin, but this book allows us to see the parent/ child relationship through the perspective of Blythe’s past which increases our sense of connection with her – but there exists the same sense of the nature/nurture dichotomy in this book as we have to ask ourselves if Blythe is so caught up in her own past that she’s unable to see that Violet is as much a product of her parenting as she is the latest incarnation of the family’s long line of ‘unlovable’ children
The Push is a stunningly vivid read that had me totally captivated. It’s a chilling and powerful evocation of one family’s experiences of motherhood for sure, yet so many of its reflections on identity and motherhood are absolutely universal and will resonate with so many readers who have wondered if it’s their fault it they are a bad parent and if they are being judged and found wanting. I am not going to talk about the ending here as no matter how prepared you think you might be for it, you still won’t be able to believe what you’ve just read…
I loved this book and find myself thinking about its characters even now, days after finishing it. If you like reads that make you gasp in recognition one minute then shudder the next, then this will be the perfect January read. It’s definitely going to be one of the most talked-about novels of the year so make sure that you make yourself part of the conversation and order yourself a copy now! It is incredibly hard to think that this is a debut novel and it makes me very excited to see where Audrain takes us next…
A gripping debut that explores and manipulates the fears and insecurities of mothers everywhere . . . Well thought out, vividly realised and gripping ― Guardian
An inventive twist on the psychological thriller formula . . . Audrain sustains the suspense expertly through assured handling of her unravelling protagonist’s voice ― Sunday Times
Ashley dares us to find the relatable in the worst we can imagine . . . the knife-edge between relatability and horror keeps the reader hooked ― Grazia
The Push was a poetic, propulsive read that set my nerves jangling in both horror and recognition. I read it one sitting and it stayed with me for days afterwards. Not to be missed — Lisa Jewell
I was gripped . . . One of 2021’s most anticipated books . . . Dazzling and gloriously complete — Daisy Buchanan
I loved it – such a dark and compelling exploration of motherhood. Absolutely haunting: a brilliant, thought-provoking page-turner — Caroline Lea
I was completely engrossed in The Push from the very first page. So tense, so all-encompassing! It’s a jet-black story of motherhood, inheritance and expectations, and I loved it — Abigail Dean, author of Girl A
I was totally hooked. Compelling, addictive, chilling. Smashing read — Elizabeth Macneal
Suspenseful with extreme We Need To Talk About Kevin vibes, this is the Book Club Book that’ll have everyone talking next year … ― Grazia
A provocative, compulsive novel about modern motherhood ― Vogue
Check out what these other talented bloggers have to say about it on the Blog Tour
Writer On The Shelf
Ashley Audrain wrote The Push after leaving her job as publicity director at Penguin Books Canada to raise her two young children.
Prior to Penguin, she lived and worked in Los Angeles, and at a global public relations agency in Toronto, where she now lives.
Adam Ferranti was a talented American journalist, who moved to England to escape the issues surrounding his fall from glory at the Washington Post; only to be thrust back in it when a mysterious serial killer makes him his confidante.
DS Stephanie Walker is a member of the West Yorkshire Police. Whilst tough and results-driven at work, she hides the abuse she suffers at home. She finds Ferranti annoying but he’s her only chance to stay close to what the killer is planning next.
Ferranti reluctantly complies with the Police, but when the killer reveals himself it suddenly gets personal.
Set in Yorkshire, Deadline opens with news of a mysterious serial killer who seems to be casting themself as Adam Ferranti’s welcoming committee Adam has moved here to escape the speculation and feeding frenzy that accompanied his public shaming at the Washington Post – and the last thing he wants is to be involved in another controversial case…
It’s now cue for Detective Sergeant Stephanie Walker to be called in to investigate this challenging crime. They only have a limited time to get the measure of this cryptic killer and the clock is ticking before they fear there may be another victim . Their suspect, turns out to be more than somewhat inscrutable – despite his propensity to befriend Adam, it seems to Stephanie and the team that he won’t be spilling his soul in a way that will help them solve the crimes any time soon …
Stephanie is under pressure to crack this case and Adam’s involvement ensures that the twists and turns pull you in lots of directions at once. The tension throughout this read is incredible – we are totally in the moment with Detective Walker as she attempts to solve this series of gruesome murders and work out whether the desire to speak to Adam is worth pursuing, or just another facet of a sinister and manipulative killer
The characters of Ferrari and Walker quite simply make this book. They are both complicated and interesting characters that subvert your expectations as you read. I hate spoilers but I will say that many parts of this novel had me with my heart in my mouth – and perhaps not for the reasons you might think in a read like this. It’s not just a straight police procedural – there are elements of espionage and intrigue going way back to the 1970s, with much to think about and keep you turning the pages. Even though they sit on opposite sides of the Atlantic, in terms of their nationalities, there are definitely strong parallels between these two people who don’t like to let people too close – both literally and metaphorically and their personal qualities and back stories make this an intriguing case to solve alongside them.
This book will appeal to readers who enjoy a story that grips you and characters who are complex and intriguing – this read definitely allows you to get under the skin of its characters and imagine them existing outwith the boundaries of the story. I really recommend this book as a fast paced, dark and page turning read that you will get your teeth into and be reluctant to look up from until you’ve solved the case alongside this duo
Buy yourself a copy here and see if you can join Adam Ferrari & DS Walker in trying to solve this intriguing case. Geoff Major is an interesting new voice in crime writing and I’m definitely recommending him to all my crime-loving pals this winter.
Thanks to Emma Welton for inviting me onto the tour and introducing me to another great voice in fiction. Feeling absolutely spoiled for choice with all these amazing December reads!
Writer On The Shelf
A long time ago, Geoff Major had an idea for a story, whilst walking his girls to primary school. Two years ago, he decided he had the time and patience to try to write the story down. His wife was wholly supportive, so he turned from full-time to part-time for four months and now – 23 years after that idea first popped into his head – it has been published.
As a self-employed business consultant for 18 years and a fundraising adventurer for 10 years (including ski-trekking 50 miles, over 6 days and 6 nights, to the geographic North Pole), he now works for a debt charity whilst plotting his next three books
‘I want you to remember something, Nat. You’re small on the outside. But inside you’re as big as everyone else. You show people that and you won’t go far wrong in life.’
A compelling story perfect for fans of The Doll Factory, The Illumination of Ursula Flight and The Familiars.
My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.
The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.
They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.
Maybe it was because I can’t travel in a literal sense, that I’m getting so much pleasure from time travelling through the books that I’m choosing of late. I can’t stop reaching for historical fiction, and this is one of the best books I’ve read in this genre this year. I was absolutely intrigued by the premise of this book featuring Nat Davey, a fictional character based on Jeffrey Hudson, court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria. This book is a stunning tapestry of fact and fiction, taking real characters and moments from history and bringing them to life before our eyes. I was delighted to be invited on the tour by Anne Cater & Random Things Tours and found myself absolutely intrigued by this fasciniating insight into an uncertain and turbulent time in history…
This book definitely did not disappoint, it grabbed me and pulled me right into Nat’s story where we are absolutely carried away by this unforgettable and resilient character. Life is difficult enough for people who are different now – you can only imagine how much more difficult things were then. We get to hear about events from such a unique perspective and this really added to the story for me. It’s a book that you’ll find hard to believe it’s fiction as you’ll become so caught up in Nat’s story and you’ll be rooting for him as his fortunes rise and fall as he shows what a survivor he is in an uncertain world.
I absolutely loved the unique atmosphere of this novel and definitely found it quite addictive. It was intriguing to imagine a world in which your choices and next direction has been wholly surrendered to the choices of others and knowing that your fortunes depend on your ability to turn your difficulties into opportunities and to use your wit and wisdom to ensure that you might be small, but you are definitely far from insignificant…
This novel presents this period of history in a fresh original way which makes the story linger at the edges of our consciousness even when we aren’t reading it. Nat Davy feels very much like a real person, despite the distance of time between us and his voice sprang off the page – rather than sounding like a mechanism to explore a historical tale – which I’ve often found in novels which want to represent something that happened in the past. This is a really unique novel which has to be experienced to truly realise how special it is. I’d love to see it on the silver screen and hear Nat talk directly to camera as he draws us into his story:
“It’s been quite a life, the one I’ve had; I was there when they turned the world upside down, and I was there, right at the heart of it all, during the turbulent times that led us down the road to that day. So I got to thinking that I should write it all down, because there’s been a lot said about those times, and not all of it’s right.”
Frances Quinn is a talented and original writer – and I really enjoyed researching the character from the famous paining for yourself, after you’ve read the book. You will be fascinated to uncover all that Nat went through and shocked that you didn’t know more about this fascinating time in our nation’s history. It is a story filled with skilful description and perceptive characterisation that add up to its sense of atmosphere and your relationship with the characters builds and builds as you experience the challenges and constraints of Nat’s unique circumstances and everything that he has to go through as he battles to defy his circumstances and create a life worth having for himself
The Smallest Man asks us to think about the way that our personalities evolve through, because of and despite of all our experiences and doesn’t allow us to dismiss these characters as merely fictional – this novel is based on a real story, after all. The story is so unputdownable due to the engaging and direct nature of Nat’s voice and because it’s so immersive I couldn’t stop thinking about the rhythm of its narrative and the bravery of this indomitable character that inspired this fictional tale.
This is a book that I know I’ll be recommending to lots of readers as I was totally immersed in its characters, its pace and the way it really made me think. I can’t wait to see what Frances Quinn does next. The idea that life for people in the past can be a lot darker than you might have learned in your history books is a fascinating one, and I think that this would make an excellent Book Group read as it would be sure to provoke lots and lots of discussion and comment about a part of history that most people don’t know very much about…