The Changeling by Matt Wesolowski

unnamed (2)On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass, when a burst tyre forced his father, Sorrel, to stop the car. Leaving the car to summon the emergency services, Sorrel returned to find his son gone. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.

Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel, his son and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes a journey through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there. He talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know where Alfie is…

Intensely dark, deeply chilling and searingly thought provoking, Changeling is an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller, taking you to places you will never, ever forget.

‘Bold, clever and genuinely chilling with a terrific twist that provides an explosive final punch’ Deidre O’Brien, Sunday Mirror

‘A genuine genre-bending debut’ Carla McKay, Daily Mail

‘Impeccably crafted and gripping from start to finish’ Doug Johnstone, The Big Issue

‘With a unique structure, an ingenious plot and so much suspense you can’t put it down, this is the very epitome of a must-read’ Heat

I loved Changeling so much that I featured it as one of my #WinterReads in 17 Degrees Magazine this month too!



If I were to tell you that I was excited to receive Changeling, it’d seriously be one of the hugest understatements of my life. I absolutely loved Six Stories and Hydra and I could not wait to ‘tune in’ to the next episode of my favourite ‘True Crime Podcast‘ of a book. Matt Wesolowski has an amazing talent for grabbing you by the lapels and pulling you right into his story and I literally barely looked up until I’d turned the final page.

I love the way that Matt’s books give us a diverse range of voices so that we build up a steady accumulation of detail, just like you would in real life. I’m a real true-crime junkie and this definitely filled the gap that Serial, S-Town and Making a Murderer have left in my life. Alfie’s disappearance is another  fantastic tale that you really feel comes alive as you uncover more and more details about this ‘podcast’ In the same way that I felt a strong connection with Adnan after reading Serial, I really felt like I’d come to know this family by the final page and although I’m firmly committed to my ‘No Spoilers’ rule, I can’t wait to have a good chat with someone else who’s read Changeling so that we can mull over it together and talk about what a fantastic creation it is.

It’s even the kind of book that is a physical pleasure to read – the gorgeous cover and the hypnotically beautiful design mean that Changeling appeals to all of your senses at once – it’s not just the story that made me love it so much but the book as an actual physical object. Just look how beautiful it is. That butterfly made out of leaf skeletons is just stunning!



The fact that it was described as another ‘Episode’ of Six Stories also got me really excited as I thought about the fact that hopefully there are another three more where this came from to look forward to as I really can’t emphasise how much I loved this dark and delicious read.

Scott King is a fantastic character – even though on a conscious level I know that he is a device to keep the story going and to stitch all of the interviewees’ perspectives together I absolutely love the way that his questions coax the truth/s out of his interviewees. I am a huge fan of podcasts in general and particularly true crime and murder podcasts. Six Stories feels absolutely real in every way and I almost feel like I am ‘hearing’ the book that I’m reading like a podcast in the night – it really is so evocative and skillfully realised.

I also liked the way that like the very best True Crime podcasts – Wesolowski allows space for our own feelings and responses. The circumstances around Alfie’s disappearance are not tied up in a neat little package with the ‘why’ on top tied up with a pretty pink bow. There is enough room for us to ask ourselves questions about who we believe and why that makes Changeling such an involving and ultimately rewarding experience.  I found myself genuinely being convinced to see things from a constantly shifting perspective as the novel bore me towards the conclusion and this was a rollercoaster ride that I definitely didn’t want to get off…


This book has a little bit of everything – mystery, a ‘true crime’ feel, a fresh and interesting narrative structure, credible characters and a real sense of chill and menace. As you can probably tell, I loved Changeling and felt like sleeping with the light on for about four days after reading it. It is a book that you’ll want to pass on to other people so that they’ll have had the same experience you did, reading it for the first time. Matt Wesolowski could be your favourite new writer. Buy a copy here so that you can find out how brilliant it is for yourself

I’d like to thank the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, it was such a privilege to spread the book love for a book that I loved reading so much. Karen from Orenda told me herself about hearing Matt’s pitch for the first time and yet again, her unerring feel for writing talent hits the bullseye. I bloody love this book and cannot recommend it enough. Get out there and experience it for yourself as soon as you can!


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Writer on the Shelf


Matt Wesolowski is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature Feature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015.

His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio.

You can follow Matt on Twitter here

Why don’t you check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour?


Tell Me A Secret – Jane Fallon Blog Tour

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Best friends Holly and Roz tell each other everything

Jane Fallon is back with a compulsively readable and utterly hilarious, feisty look at the complexities of female friendships.

Holly is feeling on top of the world – celebrating a new promotion and dying to pop the champagne with her best friend Roz. But is Holly just imagining things, or is Roz – who supported her every step of the way – not as happy for her as she should be?

Something about Roz’s behaviour doesn’t add up. And soon Holly has the sneaking suspicion that there’s a target on her back. Has someone been playing dirty in a war Holly didn’t know she was fighting? And is Roz more tangled up in this than she’ll admit?

Only one woman can be left standing – but will the best woman win?

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Thank you so much to Jenny Platt for inviting me on the Blog Tour. I loved this book and will be recommending it to lots of people in my book group as I know that they’ll love it too

Holly is the kind of character that really comes alive for you as you read. In her exciting job where her promotion makes her really feel like she’s made it in life, we get swept along with her enthusiasm and share her excitement about this new stage of her life.  We are keen as readers for BFF Roz to feel just as excited as we do – but not as surprised as we might be to realise at the same time as Holly does that sometimes friends’ successes are not quite as uncomplicated as we might like them to be…

The setting will be a familiar one to many readers and it is deftly set up –  allowing us to see exactly where the tensions in the fabric of this friendship are and how they might further rupture as the novel progresses. The earlier scenes allow us an insight into the friendship as it was and paves the way for us to see how these frenemies lives will unfold as the tensions increase

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After all of her efforts, it’s hard not to share Holly’s dismay that Roz isn’t quite on the same page – but there is much here to recognise – perhaps with a wry smile and a sinking heart as Jane Fallon is exactly ‘on the money’ as she writes about how tangled and complex many female friendships are and how tightly the webs are drawn that connect us together yet threaten to strangulate us at times too!

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Holly’s initial success and her ensuing promotion is just the start of their adventures and believe me, there’s never a dull moment in this book! Holly is a fantastic character, she’s got her own flaws, as we all do but she’s all the better a character for it!  The plot zips along at a cracking pace and the dark humour here makes you grimace at times as you remember some of the ‘friends’ that you’ve cheered on through gritted teeth or silently wished would emigrate to Australia if you hear one more word about their ‘fabulous’ life.

I’m a fan of a great read and I think that there are a lot of people who can be a bit ‘sniffy’ about chick lit or female fiction without ever really experiencing its joys for themselves – This book is not trying to be anything else, it’s perfectly happy being its own delicious self.  I’d actually love to see it on screen and would be dragging people along with me to see Holly v. Roz in the flesh! If you like your heroines to be just like the people you’ve known and loved- or loved to hate – in real life, then you’re going to LOVE this read. Their flawed and cracked friendship and how it unfolds will certainly keep you entertained as you make your way through this novel – all too quickly, I might add as I could have certainly wished for more chapters last weekend as I enjoyed it in the couch during a lazy Sunday afternoon reading marathon.

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Thanks so much to Jenny Platt from Penguin Random House for sending me this book to review for the blog tour – I absolutely love taking part in  Jenny’s tours and look forward to seeing what the other fab bloggers involved think of the book too.Image result for penguin random house

Treat yourself to a copy of this great slice of fiction here – it’s the perfect winter read for a chilly afternoon.

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Writer On The Shelf

Jane Fallon

Jane Fallon is the multi-award-winning television producer behind shows such as This Life, Teachers and 20 Things to Do Before You’re 30. Her books include Getting Rid of Matthew, Got You Back, Foursome, The Ugly Sister, Skeletons, Strictly Between Us and My Sweet Revenge.

You can find more information at
or on Twitter: @JaneFallon

The Story Keeper – Blog Tour Anna Mazzola


From the author of THE UNSEEING comes a sizzling, period novel of folk tales, disappearances and injustice set on the Isle of Skye, sure to appeal to readers of Hannah Kent’s BURIAL RITES or Beth Underdown’s THE WITCH FINDER’S SISTER.

‘A wonderful combination of a thrilling mystery and a perfectly depicted period piece’ Sunday Mirror

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.

Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.

Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before.

I am a huge fan of Anna Mazzola’s The Unseeing and I was actually nervous to read The Story Keeper in case I didn’t love it as much. I’m happy to report that it’s equally atmospheric and maybe just has the edge for me, because of its Scottish setting and sustained sense of eeriness and dread. Thank you so much to Anne Cater who knew exactly how desperate I was to continue shouting about this fantastic book after featuring it in my Autumn Reads in 17 Degrees magazine. 

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 The Story Keeper tells the tale of Audrey Hart, who is on the Isle of Skye to collect folktales. The crofters are suspicious and hostile, both during her research and when Audrey accidentally discovers the body of a young girl. Initially Audrey believes that she might have been abducted, but eventually, secrets from her own past conspire to make her feel that there are darker forces afoot here – forces that cannot be easily explained away.

The Story Keeper really challenges us to think about the difference between belief and truth. It uses folk tales to pose questions about the way we look at our own histories and I feel like this atmospheric and evocative read will really remain with you for a long time. If you’re looking for something to make you think twice about your own local legends, then this is definitely the read for you. I just can’t recommend it highly enough. 

The Story Keeper is the kind of novel that I absolutely love. I love historical tales where women connected across time with lives and experiences that you are equally drawn to and whose stories you can move between effortlessly. Anna Mazzola paints the island life that Audrey encounters so convincingly that you really feel that you’ve spent time in this closed-off and windswept world, making it very hard to pull yourself away. It’s a novel made for long winter afternoons and I got lost in its pages in my Winter break in gorgeous Perthshire this year.

Audrey is a woman with lots going on beneath the surface. Her life at first appears like a carefully-constructed hiding place for her to keep her secrets close and escape any unwanted attention that her outsider status may cause. She seems to hold herself at a distance from the islanders she encounters and her isolation both draws us into her world whilst holding us at arms’ length too, which Audrey seems to do to everyone.

The fact that she is an outsider – seeing the island through fresh eyes and questioning what she sees –  is such a fantastic technique to draw us closer to Audrey; I found myself watching her every movement to see if I could catch a glimpse of whatever she was hiding. Her aloofness hints at a complex past and Anna Mazzola skilfully leaves us to speculate about the roots of her emotional distance without alienating us from Audrey herself – a very clever method of keeping us connected to her.

The Story Keeper is inspired by the West Ham vanishings: the mysterious disappearance of a number of children and young adults from London’s East End in the 1880s and 1890s.


This connection with a real-life mystery was extremely convincingly conveyed – without being over the top or stretching our belief in Audrey’s fictional story. was something that I wanted to read more about as soon as I’d finished reading  The Story Keeper Anna Mazzola manages, just as she did in The Unseeing, to make the setting as compelling and ‘present’ as her two main characters.

Even though I was reading it in Perthshire rather than on seaswept Skye, I felt Skye come to life as I walked in the footsteps of these characters and experienced their stories for myself. Audrey’s journey to unravel these secrets of the Sluagh, spirits of the restless dead is a fascinating and unputdownable one which really brings the setting to life and allowed me to lose myself in its mists and coastline whilst remaining wholly connected to Audrey and her mission to uncover these mysteries for herself

Anna Mazzola is such a talented voice. She draws the reader into her characters’ worlds and makes them live for us as we read. Audrey’s tales are all the more powerful due to their connections with real-life events. I was happily engrossed in my Fairy stories research – and looking through some Skye Air BandB rentals in a post-reading haze – for a whole afternoon after finishing this wholly engrossing read

This gorgeous book took pride of place in my very own ‘TBR Bookshelf’ and looked so tempting in my #TartanShelfie that I devoured it in a single day.


Now I’m just waiting on her next one – I actually cannot wait…

Make sure that you go online immediately and order yourself a copy you definitely won’t regret it. And if you are not following Anna on Twitter – you are really missing out.

She is properly ‘on’ Twitter – rather than just there to promote her writing and I’ve been intrigued by many a weird and wonderful link that she’s commented on or posted about. If you are a fan of Victoriana, all things gothic, strange and mysterious events and random slices of real life with a wry smile – she’s definitely your woman.

Find her here @AnnaMazz and follow her as soon as you can



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Writer On The Shelf


Anna is a writer who, due to some fault of her parents, is drawn to peculiar and dark historical subjects. Her novels have been described as literary crime fiction or historical crime. Anna’s influences include Sarah Waters, Daphne Du Maurier, Shirley Jackson and Margaret Atwood.

Her debut novel, The Unseeing, is based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1837. Her second novel, The Story Keeper, follows a folklorist’s assistant as she searches out dark fairytales and stolen girls on the Isle of Skye in 1857.

She studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before becoming a human rights and criminal justice solicitor. She now tries to combine law with writing and child wrangling, to varying degrees of success.


Attend Blog Tour – West Camel


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When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.

Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, a history of hidden Deptford and ultimately the solution to their crises.

With echoes of Armistead Maupin, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters that you will never forget.


I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour to celebrate the publication of West Camel’s debut novel, Attend, and would like to thank Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater of Random Things for the tour invitation otherwise I might never have discovered this original, magical and unforgettable read.

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Deptford previously was only known to me as the place where Elizabethan playwright Marlowe was killed. This novel, by West Camel, has a very different take on history and mystery and I loved the way that it mixed gritty urban detail with magical realism to make a wholly unique blend that really appealed to me as a reader.

I love reading novels that confound my expectation – that turn out to be something totally different to the novel that I thought that I was going to be reading. Attend by West Camel is one of those novels. It transformed my preconceived ideas about a London novel that would take me to the heart of the inner mechanisms of organised crime and underground shady dealings and transformed in front of my eyes into a meditation on humanity and our need to connect with other people like a full-on Christmas miracle all to myself.

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This is an absolutely immersive read, it’s as rich in detail as a piece of the mysterious Deborah’s sewing,  weaving its disparate threads of the narrative together in a magical way that embroider on truths and snip away at your preconceived opinions about magical realism. I found myself re-reading certain parts of it – especially the parts featuring Deborah –  just to experience them again as I was so caught up in the feeling that I wanted to experience it all over again.

Attend blends together three very distinct narratives into a tale that is very much more than the sum of its parts.   Deborah who makes clothes for a living, Sam who is trying to wrestle with his emergent sexuality and Anne – an ex-drug addict who is struggling with her own demons as we meet her in the novel.  These three characters’ fates intertwine in the novel as their stories interweave a tale of Deptford and its characters with Deborah stitching their fates together as we find out more about their histories, their hopes and their dreams.

Deptford is almost a character in its own right and I felt like West Camel really brought this district to life – blending its darker side with the life and vitality of its inhabitants and making us think about the fact that even in the most violent and deprived areas, hope and humanity can bloom alongside  violence, abuse and addiction and that hope and compassion can live side by side alongside organised crime and racketeering.

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West Camel is a talented and original writer whose characters spring off the page and come to life for you as you read their stories.  Dorothy’s character is unforgettable – she is a sad and painfully isolated character who wanders through its pages like a ghost  -making us question her existence and wonder about the other unearthly encounters that we might have had ourselves.

As we discover more about Dorothy’s history, we begin to realise some of the reasons behind her melancholic air and understand her more as a character and those who encounter her. Her magical stories mingle together with the urban tales of Sam and Anne to provide you with a very unique reading experience – a cocktail of urban realism with magical undertones that is a hugely satisfying reading experience. If you’ve never had strong cheddar and Christmas cake – and feel like it shouldn’t go together – then I can liken it to this reading experience. Two things that when placed together yield something unexpectedly satisfying and unique that has to be tried and savoured to truly appreciate it.

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Attend is a character-driven novel that I’ll be recommending to everyone. It stands out to me due to its originality and its sense of atmosphere. Deptford springs to life as a stage for these characters’ lives to intersect and for you to think about your own life and the people who you meet with and connect with in unexpected ways. I often think of this as  I’m reading a book and this novel definitely made me wish that I could scroll through these pages alongside these characters and walk into the story to meet them for myself. West Camel is a new and exciting voice in fiction that I’ll definitely be looking out for in future, I loved his voice and the characters that he brought vividly to life in this book. You can read more about him here

He truly does deserve his nickname as the Dickens of Deptford! Buy yourself a copy of this fantastic and unique read here, you definitely won’t regret it.

‘A literary EastEnders, with precision language and beautifully interwoven storytelling … I couldn’t put it down’ Liz Loves Book



Writer On The Shelf

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing.
He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch.
He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghostwriting a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network.
He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, A highly anticipated debut, blending the magical realism of Angela Carter and the gritty authenticity of Eastenders and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

Website | Twitter 








The Chestnut Man Blog Tour

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One blustery October morning in a quiet suburb of Copenhagen, the police make a terrible discovery. A young woman is found brutally murdered in a playground and one of her hands is missing. Above her hangs a small doll made of chestnuts.

Ambitious young detective Naia Thulin is assigned the case. Her partner, Mark Hess, is a burned-out investigator who’s just been kicked out of Europol. They soon discover a mysterious piece of evidence on the chestnut man – evidence connecting it to a girl who went missing a year earlier and is presumed dead – the daughter of politician Rosa Hartung.

The man who confessed to her murder is behind bars and the case is long since closed.

Soon afterwards, another woman is found murdered, along with another chestnut man. Thulin and Hess suspect that there’s a connection between the Hartung case, the murdered women and a killer who is spreading fear throughout the country. But what is it?

Thulin and Hess are racing against the clock, because it’s clear that the murderer is on a mission that is far from over . . .



I was absolutely beside myself when Jenny Platt from Penguin got in touch with me and asked me if I wanted to take part in the blog tour for this book – it sounded amazing, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I lived and breathed ‘The Killing’ when it was released and felt just as excited to hear his voice on the page, rather than on the screen…

Søren Sveistrup is a world-class scriptwriter – and it shows – I could not put this book down! This gripping, fascinating and harrowing read never feels like a script in waiting or  a series of facts in search of a story – it makes you think deeply about a wide range of topical issues whilst keeping you absolutely wrapped in its narrative and it is definitely one of  Sveistrup’s strengths as a writer that we never feel as if his background in screenwriting has merely found its way into a novel.

Having enjoyed The Killing so much, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of The Chestnut Man as I  knew I was going to love the setting and the main character Naia Thulin – sounded both credible and intriguing and I couldn’t wait to meet her on the page.

When we hear that a young woman has been brutally slain, it’s intriguing to wonder what has led to this barbaric act and why her hand is missing from the crime scene. It’s no surprise that there is a political connection, for any fans of The Killing – and I could not wait to dive into this intriguing murder investigation in order to try and find out more about the mysterious death and possibly get to the bottom of the connection to Rosa Hartung’s missing daughter and let me tell you the scattered clues, dead ends and clever plotting is every bit as satisfying as his best episode!

I hate spoilers, so I don’t want to dwell too long on the plot of The Chestnut Man – suffice to say that the skilful way that Sveistrup weaves the murder clues and our growing involvement with the detective team of Thulin and Hess is superbly done and remains convincing throughout. I know at times it can feel like the fictional world is saturated with Scandi detective teams but this is a pleasing alliance with two very different points of view which collide pleasingly and create plenty of room for subsequent adventures and complicated Scandi crimes


I loved the way that this novel wove many threads together – a convincing detective story, a consideration of what makes a good detective team and the political angle too – which made a satisfying combination. Reading a book in translation made me resolve to read more texts in translation this year and expose myself to writing from other cultures and countries on a more regular basis. It really is something that we should all do far more regularly and this is a classic example of the quality of writing that we are missing out on if we don’t…

The tension in this novel truly is palpable and the skill of the writing never allows you to forget is that that crimes like this actually happen all the time Although this is a novel, the events that you are reading about have such a credible feel to them that it reads like the highest quality true crime at times – and I think that Sveistrup balances this fine tissue of truth and fiction perfectly. No one reading this book could possibly come away unscathed by it and it’s been a hard book to follow as I find myself continuously thinking back to it and thinking about the way that politics can be used to distance us from other people rather than join us more closely together in mutual understanding and I think that this novel really promotes the idea that there is far more that connects us than separates us.

The Chestnut Man is definitely one of those novels that stays with you long after closing its final page and one that I will definitely be recommending to my friends – it packs a powerful emotional punch; educates just as much as it entertains and makes you wish that you could step into the world of Naia Thulin and experience this disturbing and unforgettable crime being solved for ourselves. If you enjoy an immersive and intelligent read that will ask you to think about your own attitudes and examine the way that you think about your own culture then you will love this book as much as I did.


I can’t wait to see if it appears on our screens in the near future – and consider it a real privilege to be invited to be one of its early readers. I’m a sucker for a great detective pairing and the relationship between these two characters will undoubtedly make you feel like they’ve stepped right off the page and you’re following the trail right alongside them.


Buy yourself a copy of this exciting, immersive and darkly thrilling read as soon as you can – it’s out on the 10th January and is definitely going to be one of my Reads of the Year 2019


Thank you so much to Jenny Platt for inviting me onto the tour and hope you enjoy the reviews from some more of the fantastic bloggers who are posting their reviews later in the month and through January too.

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‘As in The Killing television series, Sveistrup offers lessons to seasoned practitioners of the serial-killer whodunit in how to inject new energy into this near-exhausted subgenre, and a reminder (via his portrayal of the families, homes and workplaces that his cops visit) that crimewriting has the potential to be eye-opening, panoramic social realism’ Sunday Times

Writer On The Shelf


Søren Sveistrup is an internationally acclaimed scriptwriter of the Danish television phenomenon ‘The Killing’ which won various international awards and sold in more than a hundred countries.

Søren Sveistrup (born 1968) holds a master of Literature and History from the University of Copenhagen and has graduated as a scriptwriter from the Danish Film School.

Read this fascinating article about him here

Once Upon A River Blog Tour

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A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can it be explained by science?

An exquisitely crafted multi-layered mystery brimming with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.


Huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to review Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield. I absolutely adored the Thirteenth Tale and  I am so delighted to share my review here as I absolutely loved this fascinating portrayal of the way that stories work and the way that the dawn of science changed the way that we think for ever. Anne messaged me with this tour details when I was marking exam scripts and I was so excited, I almost bit her hand off with a definite yes!




If you read my blog at all, you’ll know that I love a bit of a tale where it sends me diving off into a tailspin of reading around the subject of my novels as I’m blogging and Once Upon a River was definitely one of the most fascinating in terms of what I found. It’s so interesting to uncover tales of the River for yourself and I found myself exploring takes of mudlarks, of foundlings and of smuggling that all enhanced my enjoyment of this read and added richness to it after I’d finished reading it too.

Diane Setterfield is a really talented writer who really transports you to another place and time – if you love an immersive read,  you’re in for a real treat: this is top-class  fiction with strongly realised characters and an emotional punch – If you haven’t read it yet, you definitely should. It’s one of the most human and engrossing novels I’ve ever read and I really found it hard to ‘decompress’ from the world that he recreates for us after finishing it.

I love the way that there is a skilful balance of beautifully evoked settings and sweeping ideas to contemplate – I really felt that I was being spoiled as both were there in abundance in this book. Rita is someone who you will follow keenly as you uncover more about her fabulously realised character and her choices will make you think closely about what you might have done in similar circumstances in this world if you’d also been born into it.


I hate giving spoilers about such an engrossing read; instead, I’ll praise Diane Setterfield’s deft characterisation that has us pulled into this narrative and experience these gripping stories in the making.  This is storytelling at its finest – making us see the narrative not as a list of events but a succession of relationships, decisions and human frailties that accumulated in change, loss and upheaval for these people. I learned a lot about exactly how human decisions affect the lives of so many people

Diane Setterfield is equally impressive in conjuring up the riverside setting as she is in recreating the complexities of the characters and relationships in the novel and I feel like this gives this novel an epic feel – I kept wondering who I’d cast if I was making a film of Once Upon a River and imagining it coming to life on the big screen was hugely satisfying. I loved the intriguing tale of Robert Armstrong and can’t wait for you to uncover his story for yourself.  If you love an epic tale with fascinating characters and a real insight into a period you might not know much about you’ll absolutely love the setting of this book and if you love the human side of history you’ll definitely be caught up in this very human tale of truth and  consequences just as much as I was.

I absolutely loved the evocative description and lyrical language in this novel and got swept up in the story so much so that I didn’t want to leave. The portrayal of human relationships and their consequences in Once Upon a River another aspect of this novel that really stood out for me and I loved the way that I could envisage The Swan and the way that these characters’ lives intersect inside its walls. This is a uniquely beautiful book that will make you ask yourself probing questions about the reasons we make decisions and if we are being as honest with ourselves as we think we are at some of the critical times in our lives…

I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s an intelligent, immersive and atmospheric read that really draws you in and holds you tight until you’ve turned the final page. Treat yourself to a copy 

Isn’t the cover absolutely gorgeous, by the way?

Once Upon A River Cover

Writer On The Shelf

Diane Setterfield Author Picture
Diane Setterfield’s bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale, was published in 38 countries, sold more than three million copies, and was made into a television drama scripted by Christopher Hampton, starring Olivia Colman and Vanessa Redgrave. Her second novel was Bellman & Black, and her new novel is Once Upon a River. Born in rural Berkshire, she now lives near Oxford, by the Thames.

Connect with Diane here. 


Start Blog Tour


Thank you so much to Kelly from @LoveBooksGroupTours for inviting me onto this tour for @FledglingPress

I really love supporting Fledgling Press Books as I really support their ethos & love working with Kelly too!


Start by Graham Morgan is a book that’ll make you think. It’s really different and I think it’s good to expose yourself to books outwith your reading ‘comfort zone’ from time to time. This inner world that we are guided through gives an all too rare insight into mental health and its impact on your life – whatever your situation.

The fact that so many people are struggling with their wellbeing at the moment makes for a timely and involving read – and I think that lots of the issues raised here are really resonant just now when we are faced with so many happy images of perfect lives and instagrammably enviable social circles. This book dares us to look beyond that and ask ourselves about the times we might ourselves have been struggling a bit…

This isn’t a cosy read with easy solutions and neat and tidy little answers. It really tries to present all faces of living with a mental illness – even the brutal, shameful and frightening ones –  At times he writes about feeling a sort of “evil” inside of him and his fear of transmitting this dark feeling to those around him – like a sort of mental health infection.  This was sad to read about but most of all so impressively honest it really did not shy away from some of these hard questions and tries not to view living with a mental illness through rose-tinted spectacles so that you can see this life in all its shame, fear and glory.

Graham’s story is so honest that at times you really feel like he is talking right to you – the mood is very confessional and intimate. I thought that his bravery in doing this was so striking and important as many people feel secretive or ashamed of their ‘irrational’ or ’embarrassing’ behaviour and I feel like Graham shows these readers that to own up to yourself truthfully about your feelings is one of the most important steps in a journey like this – and is something that we should never be too ashamed to do.

This is a challenging read at times – but it is so worth it for the level of understanding and compassion that it arouses in you. I really feel that I’ve been forced to appreciate the little things in life more myself as I read this book and thinking about your own wellbeing should not be delayed until there is a problem – this book asks us to think more deeply about mental health as something that everyone has and think more compassionately about our own.



Buy yourself a copy here

About the Book

Graham Morgan has an MBE for services to mental health, and helped to write the Scottish Mental Health (2003) Care and Treatment Act. This is the Act under which he is now detained.

Graham’s story addresses key issues around mental illness, a topic which is very much in the public sphere at the moment. However, it addresses mental illness from a perspective that is not heard frequently: that of those whose illness is so severe that they are subject to the Mental Health Act.

Graham’s is a positive story rooted in the natural world that Graham values greatly, which shows that, even with considerable barriers, people can work and lead responsible and independent lives; albeit with support from friends and mental health professionals. Graham does not gloss over or glamorise mental illness, instead he tries to show, despite the devastating impact mental illness can have both on those with the illness and those that are close to them, that people can live full and positive lives. A final chapter, bringing the reader up to date some years after Graham has been detained again, shows him living a fulfilling and productive life with his new family, coping with the symptoms that he still struggles to accept are an illness, and preparing to address the United Nations later in the year in his new role working with the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.

About the Author

Graham was born in 1963 in York. He went to university as an angst- ridden student and was quickly admitted to one of the old mental asylums, prompting the work he has done for most of his life: helping people with mental illness speak up about their lives and their rights. He has mainly worked in Scotland, where he has lived for the last thirty years, twenty of them in the Highlands.

In the course of this work he has been awarded an MBE, made Joint Service User Contributor of the Year by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and, lately, has spoken at the UN about his and other peoples’ experiences of detention.

He has a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and has been compulsorily treated under a CTO for the last ten years. He currently lives in Argyll with his partner and her young twins. Start is his first book.