In Black and White

Alexandra Wilson was a teenager when her dear family friend Ayo was stabbed on his way home from football. Ayo’s death changed Alexandra. She felt compelled to enter the legal profession in search of answers.

As a junior criminal and family law barrister, Alexandra finds herself navigating a world and a set of rules designed by a privileged few. A world in which fellow barristers sigh with relief when a racist judge retires: ‘I’ve got a black kid today and he would have had no hope’.

In her debut book, In Black and White, Alexandra re-creates the tense courtroom scenes, the heart-breaking meetings with teenage clients, and the moments of frustration and triumph that make up a young barrister’s life.

Alexandra shows us how it feels to defend someone who hates the colour of your skin, or someone you suspect is guilty. We see what it is like for children coerced into county line drug deals and the damage that can be caused when we criminalise teenagers.

Alexandra’s account of what she has witnessed as a young mixed-race barrister is in equal parts shocking, compelling, confounding and powerful.

black barrister secret guilty crime justice class law order memoir gun knife bame poc

I love books that introduce me to new heroes and open my eyes to incredible and awe-inspiring characters that I haven’t ‘met’ yet. I really enjoyed the Secret Barrister and once I knew that this book came with such a strong recommendation from them, I was just desperate to get my hands on it and meet Alexandra for myself.

person writing on white paper

It doesn’t really matter if you are interested in the legal system or not to love this book This is no run of the mill autobiography, but instead asks us to consider big questions about female ambition and what exactly is the cost of entering this profession if you are in any way ‘outside’ the common intake. It covers controversial ideas such as when ‘enough is enough’ for any woman who wants to consider herself strong, independent or a feminist in a world where the playing field is definitely not as level as we would all like to think it is. ‘Having it all’ is still very much an unattainable dream for most women entering the legal profession and being mixed-race and working class to boot means that Alexandra has to battle to be recognised as an equal in an environment where many people simply do not believe this to be true. It asks us to examine exactly how little has changed in terms of how exclusive this club actually is – and how little has changed across the last thirty years – sometimes dispiritingly little, it seems…

closeup photo of gavel

This book is determined to show us the entry into this profession from a warts and all perspective, not just as a strong, empowered and ambitious role model but sometimes someone who is enjoying poking fun at the ridiculousness of some of the situations that this culture dictates she finds herself in. I think we are all familiar with the idea that it’s hard to be a woman in a man’s world or the lone black figure in an all-white space and Alexandra does not just tell us, it shows us this repeatedly to try and make us see ecactly what it’s like. It is sometimes quite difficult to read as we see her repeatedly being judged due to her race and gender, rather than her ability and it increased my admiration for her character as she picked herself up, dusted herself down and gritted her teeth in order to walk forward stronger each time, even in the face of so much ridiculous prejudice and hostility.

woman in gold dress holding sword figurine

I loved its immersive quality and spent an afternoon on the window seat, totally lost in its closed and privileged world. As a feminist, it was fascinating and sobering to see exactly how difficult it is to be a female with legal ambitions and it would be difficult for anyone to finish this book without a huge amount of respect for any mixed-race woman who enters this all-too-white boys club and is able to come out with their head held high.

I loved reading about Alexandra’s inspiring journey and I have enjoyed following her on Twitter and hearing her real life voice after enjoying her book so much. I have handed this over to a former student of mine who is off to study law this autumn and I hope that they feel inspired and energised by being able to read about Alexandra’s experiences from an ‘insider’s perspective’

books in glass bookcase

Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and I heartily recommend that you buy yourself a copy as soon as possible so that you can enjoy this wonderfully written and thought provoking read for yourself. I know that Alexandra will have made Ayo proud and there can be no doubt that this book illustrates that she has honoured him with her life’s work, as well as her writing.

An inspirational, clear-eyed account of life as a junior barrister is made all the more exceptional by the determination, passion, humanity and drive of the author. Anyone interested in seeing how the law really works should read it.
SARAH LANGFORD

This is the story of a young woman who overcame all the obstacles a very old profession could throw at her, and she survived, with her integrity intact.’
BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH

The personal narrative of a young female lawyer of mixed heritage who is defying the soft bigotry of low expectations by sharing her journey inspires us all to do the same in our own way, and this is a powerful message which needs to be shared.’ DR TUNDE OKEWALE MBE, FOUNDER OF URBAN LAWYERS

black barrister secret guilty crime justice class law order memoir gun knife bame poc
black barrister secret guilty crime justice class law order memoir gun knife bame poc

Unto This Last

Passionate, contradictory, and fiercely loyal to his friends, John Ruskin is an eccentric genius, famed across Britain for his writings on art and philosophy. Haunted by a scandalous past and determined never to love again, the 39-year-old Ruskin becomes infatuated with his enigmatic young student, Rose La Touche, an obsession with profound consequences that will change the course of his life and work.

Written in a style recalling Victorian literature and spanning a period of twenty years, the story poses questions about the nature of love, the boundaries of parenthood, and compatibility in marriage. Unto This Last is a portrait of Ruskin’s tormented psyche and reveals a complex and misunderstood soul, longing for a life just out of reach.

John Ruskin - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is an atmospheric and utterly convincing novel… tackling the subject with great empathy in prose that is both detailed and vivid. A considerable achievement.
Michael Crowley, writer and dramatist

Anyone who reads my blog occasionally knows that I have a deep love of non-fiction and adore being introduced to stories from the past that I haven’t heard of before.  Of all of the eras of Art History I most love High Victorian Art and the pre Raphaelites and I was intrigued to read more about Ruskin’s life in this fictionalised version. I was absolutely delighted when Anne Cater wrote to me to ask if I’d like to be on the blog tour for Unto This Last by Rebecca Lipkin – and I’m happy to report that I found it every bit as fascinating as I had anticipated.

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This book is a fictional account of the life and adventures of John Ruskin, artist and poet whose emerging relationship with his young student, Rose La Touche, is a scandal that changes both of their lives irrevocably. This epic story has something for everyone, art, literature, love, scandal and a real sense of its setting in both time and place. It is a weighty tome and no mistake, but I absolutely loved losing myself in it and immersing myself in the twists and turns of their ‘outrageous fortune’ as this tale unfolded.

brown wooden table and chair

Ruskin’s achievements across a wide range of disciplines– from critical theory and art history to philanthropy and social campaigning are quite staggering and this book shows Lipkin’s impeccable research skills as she spares no effort in trying to recreate this time for us and brings us along with her on this unforgettable journey into Ruskin’s life. John Ruskin becomes a living breathing person through these pages, rather than a disgraced pillar of Victorian society or a stalwart of Pre-Raphaelite art. Because I am a huge fan of Victorian art and fell in love with it as a young teacher at the Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool, I was so excited to read about the stories of so many of its masterpieces that I’ve actually walked past and know that through reading this tale I could connect with their history in a very real way.

woman wearing green and yellow dress painting

What I loved about the book was the feeling of getting to know John the man, through being able to turn the pages and ‘hear’ his inner thoughts and feelings as his life unfolded. As is quite common for people who ‘broke the rules’ in Victorian society, things never really turned out the way that John expected them to and he quickly finds that Victorian social mores are sadly more inflexible than he’d hoped they might be. This book contains sweeping historical detail in spades, but also captures real human emotion and the devastating impact of thwarted love and disappointment in a very human way.

low-angle photography of woman holding cross statue under white and blue sky during daytime

I loved the fact that Ruskin comes across as a man who was ahead of his time in regard to his philanthropy – someone who advocated for equality and looking after your fellow man, rather than merely protecting his own interests. It is clear that he was a free thinker who wass not afraid to rock the boat in pursuit of what he felt to be right – whether that was in matters of the heart or in his attitude towards the environment and ecology.

I found the way that Rebecca Lipkin effortlessly blends her research with real insight into the characters on the page to be stunningly well achieved and even though it is certainly a very long book, I raced trough it in record time. I absolutely loved the way that this intriguing and original book transports you back into Ruskin and Rose’s lives and allows you to get to know real characters from history. You do not have to be a fan of either art or poetry to get drawn into John’s story and you will be amazed at how much some of his thoughts and emotions will resonate with you – even if he was living breathing and loving a century ago

assorted-color paint brush on brown wooden table top

I love doing my research after finishing a book I’ve enjoyed and if you are intrigued by John’s story, you could find out more here. You will be able to see real extracts from his papers and read all about the man himself as well as get details of their relationship and the tragedy that eventually unfolded. I loved reading about his life from all angles – from his relationship with friends and family, through his Grand Tour of Europe to his passionate advocacy for the things that he believed in, Ruskin is brought vividly to life on these pages and I was desperate to find out more about him and his fascinating life as soon as I finished reading it.

woman sitting on chair reading book sketch

If you are intrigued by my research about John and would like to read more about his epic adventures then follow the blog tour and definitely buy yourself a copy of this fascinating and beautifully researched historical read.

Writer On The Shelf

Rebecca Lipkin had a passion for Victorian art and literature from a young age. She first discovered John Ruskin through E.M. Forster’s novel, ‘A Room with a View’, and later joined the Ruskin Society at the age of seventeen to learn more about Ruskin’s work. Rebecca pursued a career in journalism, specialising in arts writing and theatre reviews, and has worked for a number of national publications.

The Thursday Murder Club

THE FIRST BOOK IN THE #1 BESTSELLING THURSDAY MURDER CLUB SERIES BY TV PRESENTER RICHARD OSMAN

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

I absolutely adore the lovely Richard, and I could not wait to read his debut novel. I’m delighted to be able to share the good news that this intelligent and witty read drew me in from the very first paragraph and kept me entertained and amused by its setting and characters until its very final page.

Eccentric octegenarians, a village with no shortage of secrets and some top-notch amateur sleuthing action – I mean – what’s not to love? These were some of the many reasons that I was drawn to The Thursday Murder Club and why I’m so grateful to Ellie Hudson for inviting me to participate in this blog tour – as this book was in such high demand to review that I was delighted to be on the list of fantastic bloggers that made the final cut – no pun intended…

blue suv parked beside gray concrete house during daytime

I love immersing myself in a setting and feeling like I’ve actually spent time in the place whilst I’m reading and this book really achieves this as you feel like you are there witnessing the crime busting skills of Ibrahim, Ron, Elizabeth and Joyce right there alongside them – I know it’s already been said plenty of times – But it really made me hopeful that this eccentric and lively read will be part of a series of books that I can enjoy on the silver screen shortly!

Because you’re definitely in a safe pair of hands, with a writer who clearly knows and loves his subject matter of quintessentially English crime,  you feel like you can totally surrender to this reading experience and spend a few days in the company of these unorthodox criminologists. I really felt like I could imagine this vividly realised world and found it very difficult to detach myself from it to come back to a mundane world of washing dishes and planning lessons.

two women and man walking in the street during daytime

It was lovely to lose myself in this cosy crime read after a few months where I’ve been mostly reading contemporary writing and non-fiction.  It’s funny that I get into reading zones and I’m now on a real Crime Fiction mission and have been drawn to exploring a few Agatha Christie’s after seeing the recent stunning edition of Death On The Nile 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 original spin on cosy crime, but you should prepare to be both moved, entertained and charmed by the idiosyncrasies of this group of crimefighters who go all-out to show that when it comes to solving mysteries, age is most definitely just a number….

The host of eccentric characters and their complementary character quirks in this  charming and entertaining read allowed me to escape from everything COVID and just focus on the twists and turns of the mystery. The way that all of these characters’ ideas and theories 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’ as you wonder whatever is going to happen next and whose crime-busting techniques will win the day.

This was the perfect post-Lockdown read for me – and if you’re growing despondent with this never ending series of restrictions and feel like everything is too much for you and you just want an escape from it all –  then this would be a perfect book to lose yourself in.  Fans of  the crime genre and Pointless alike will have hours of entertainment working with the team and trying to solve the mystery for themselves whilst managing to raise a smile and a theory ot two themselves as they go.

If you love an humourous and intelligent read with memorable and fascinating characters and a setting that you’ll absolutely fall for then this is the read for you. I definitely enjoyed this book just as much as I’d been expecting to and I’m sure that it would appeal to lots of my Book club readers too. Buy yourself a copy here and enjoy this trip into the world of cosy crime for yourself


‘Mystery fans are going to be enthralled’ HARLAN COBEN

‘One of the most enjoyable books of the year’ DAILY EXPRESS

‘Smart, compassionate, warm, moving and so VERY funny’ MARIAN KEYES

‘As gripping as it is funny’ EVENING STANDARD

‘Funny, clever and achingly British’ ADAM KAY

‘An exciting new talent in crime fiction’ DAILY MAIL

‘A warm, wise and witty warning never to underestimate the elderly’ VAL MCDERMID

‘Delight after delight from first page to last’ RED MAGAZINE

‘I completely fell in love with it’ SHARI LAPENA

‘This is properly brilliant. The pages fly and I can’t stop smiling’ STEVE CAVANAGH

‘Charming, clever debut’ STYLIST

‘I laughed my arse off’ BELINDA BAUER

‘A witty and poignant tale’ DAILY TELEGRAPH

‘Clever, clever plot’ FIONA BARTON

‘An absolutely delightful read’ PRIMA MAGAZINE

‘Utterly charming’ SARAH PINBOROUGH

‘Funny and original’ THE SUN

‘Properly funny and totally charming… steeped in Agatha Christie joy’ ARAMINTA HALL

‘This is one of the most delightful novels of the year’ DAILY MIRROR

‘A bundle of joy’ JANE FALLON

Writer On The Shelf

Richard Osman is an author, producer and television presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first novel. He is well known for TV shows including Pointless and Richard Osman’s House of Games.

As the creative director of Endemol UK, Richard has worked as an executive producer on numerous shows including Deal Or No Deal and 8 Out of 10 Cats. He is also a regular on panel and game shows such as Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You and Taskmaster.

Author Links:
Twitter | Goodreads

Book Links:
Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Hive

The Slaughter of Leith Hall

‘See, Charlie, it might be near twenty year since Culloden, but there’s plenty hard feelings still amongst the Jacobites, and no so far under the skin, ken?’

Charlie Rob has never thought of politics, nor strayed far from his Aberdeenshire birthplace. But when John Leith of Leith Hall takes him under his wing, his life changes completely. Soon he is far from home, dealing with conspiracy and murder, and lost in a desperate hunt for justice.

There’s been a MURRRDERRRRRRR

Read more about the background to this enjoyable Scottish Historical crime novel here

https://theresbeenamurder.wordpress.com/2020/09/23/theres-been-a-murder-interview-with-lexie-conyngham/

I’d like to thank Kelly & Meggy from Love Books Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and introducing me to a new writer to enjoy during these September evenings

The fact that this novel is rooted in fact really adds to the reading experience and introduced me to another historical period and set of characters that I didn’t know that much about and left me feeling intrigued and desperate to go and find out more about the events at Leith Hall for myself

I love investigating the real history and characters found in the books I’m reading and Lexie Conyngham does an amazing job of transporting you back in time and reliving this turbulent and fascinating part of history, told from the perspective of Charlie whose voice gives us a fascinating insight into his experiences and allows us to travel back in time with him and witness these events unfolding – as well as getting the wider impact of these changes from some very different places and perspectives, to boot.

This is a really engrossing read. Conyngham has an excellent mixture of characters in this novel, from the real life characters alluded to above, to some people she has invented to add some more colour and drama to the unfolding tale – which really draws the reader into these turbulent events, providing much food for thought about social class, perspective and morality during this period for a 21st-century readership. You soon start to forget that you’re reading a novel based on real events and start to feel like you have been transported back to this time and are living through this period alongside Charlie and his journey to uncover the truth definitely leads you to some unexpected places and interesting experiences. An unexpectedly diverting read that will be perfect for anyone planning a Scottish staycation this autumn.

Buy yourself a copy here and uncover this dramatic tale for yourself

I loved discovering this poem about the events, which Ill share below

John Leith’s Ballad

‘It fell about the Martinmass
In the year sixty-three,
There happened in fair Scotland
A griveous tragedy.

When all the nobles were convened,
As they were won’t to d,
And brave Leith Hall among the rest,
To pay what he was due.

Four-and-twenty gentlemen
Sat birling at the wine,
‘Twas in Archie Campbell’s house
The cruel contest began.

And how the quarrel first took rise
There was no one could know;
But it proved fatal to Leith Hall,
And wrought his overthrow.

Brave Leith Hall went down the stair
Not knowing what to do;
When cruel Mayen followed him
And shot him through the brow.

He left him lying in his gore,
The vital tide stream’d down;
The cruel Mayen fled the town,
And could no more be found.

Leith’s servant bound the bleeding head,
And bore him to his bed,
And covered him with blankets warm,
And due attention paid.

His lady and his children dear
Were brought, and wept full sore;
He spoke some words which gave them hope
Which they had lost before.

But every hope was frustrate soon,
He saw but the third day,
When ghastly Death, that grim grim ghost
Snatch’d his sweet life away.

The bells were rung and mass was sung,
And gave a doleful knell;
His corpse was borne from Aberdeen
And laid down at Leith Hall.

Now for the killing of Leith Hall
And spilling of his blood,
Just vengeance fall from heaven high,
And light on Mayen’s head.

If Brave Leith Hall had been in drink,
The sin I hope is forgiven;
And I may say and trust this day
His soul is safe in heaven.

I wish it there may shine more clear
Than sunshine after rain;
Among the bright meridian stars
Where no more griefs remain.’

From the site

Writer On The Shelf

Lexie Conyngham

Lexie Conyngham is a historian living in the shadow of the Highlands. Her historical crime novels are born of a life amidst Scotland’s old cities, ancient universities and hidden-away aristocratic estates, but she has written since the day she found out that people were allowed to do such a thing. Beyond teaching and research, her days are spent with wool, wild allotments and a wee bit of whisky.

If you liked this post, consider supporting my blog through donations on Ko-fi. You can also follow me on Twitter and Goodreads.

The Philosopher Queens

The history of philosophy has not done women justice: you ve probably heard the names Plato, Kant, Nietzsche and Locke but what about Hypatia, Arendt, Oluwole and Young?

The Philosopher Queens is a long-awaited book about the lives and works of women in philosophy by women in philosophy. This collection brings to centre stage twenty prominent women whose ideas have had a profound but for the most part uncredited impact on the world.

You ll learn about Ban Zhao, the first woman historian in ancient Chinese history; Angela Davis, perhaps the most iconic symbol of the American Black Power Movement; Azizah Y. al-Hibri, known for examining the intersection of Islamic law and gender equality; and many more.For anyone who has wondered where the women philosophers are, or anyone curious about the history of ideas it’s time to meet the philosopher queens.

person holding white happy birthday throw pillow

This fascinating book is exactly what you have been looking for if you are someone who likes to be served a slice of equality alongside your philosophical research…

You will be intrigued at some of these stories and wonder why they are not more widely discussed. Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry collection, The World’s Wife looks at the side of history that we aren’t often presented with and calls it HERstory instead of History – people who enjoy thinking about society from an alternative perspective will love this book and find some new heroes for the 21st Century here.

she believed she could so she did tabletop board decor in between of open bottle and vase

If you are fed up with philosophy that is stale, male and pale, then this is the book for you. You’ll be shocked at how much your 21st century attitude to philosophy has left whole chunks out and after reading this, I’m sure lots of people will be like me in thinking that we now have the technicolour version, rather than just seeing philosophical history through a black & white lens

The book is set out in twenty well-researched sections that provide you with much for for thought as you learn to open up your mind and realise that our philosophical forefathers were much more diverse than you ever could have imagined.

The accompanying illustrations add much to the book and I was struck by how modern some of the people presented here felt. It was really interesting to consider how much attitudes towards thought and humanity have fluctuated and changed over the years, particularly regarding the way that thinkers are celebrated and respected This is a book you can dip into and will want to read aloud to people at many points as some of the stories and anecdotes are just fascinating. I will definitely be using it at school and hopefully it will provoke a lot of discussion about perspective and the way we look at our past and ourselves.

sticky notes on wall

I love reviewing non fiction and I’ve been sent some amazing non fiction reads on eclectic subjects from earthquakes to serial killers – but I do have to say I found this one of the most fascinating and informative reads of this year and it would make a fabulous gift as it’s as beautifully presented as it is thought-provoking.

girl carrying white signage board

I recommend this book to people who love delving back into the past and finding out things that both surprise and delight them. If you would describe yourself as a 21st century feminist, or know one then you’ll bloody love this book, and if you have a birthday coming up, this would make for a fabulous gift.

The Future if Female sign

Treat yourself to a copy here and enjoy a slice of this thought provoking and important take on the way we think. It’s a great read and will educate as much as it entertains. A five star September read for those who like a bit of edification with weekend reading

Writers On The Shelf

Rebecca Buxton is is a graduate student at the University of Oxford, working on political philosophy and forced migration. Her research looks at the civil and political rights of refugees and migrants in particular. Rebecca completed her BA in philosophy at King’s College London and her MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at the University of Oxford.

Lisa Whiting is a policy professional specialising in areas concerning practical ethics. She currently works for the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. Alongside working, she studies Government, Policy and Politics at Birkbeck, University of London.

Eudora Honeysett Readalong


I became involved in the fabulous Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well Thank You readalong this week because Claire Fenby from @OneMoreChapter emailed me and made it sound so tempting that I definitely wanted to get involved.

Eudora Honeysett is an 85 year old from London who has quite literally had enough of all this, thank you very much. She reassures people that this is not because she’s low or feeling ‘down’ – it’s because she knows that she’s reached the end of the road and wants it all to end. She decides that the time has come to plan a trip to Switzerland and starts to methodically plan the last chapter of her life.

green grass field under rainbow

You might be thinking that this sounds altogether too morbid a read to be heading into in the middle of a global pandemic – but that’s where you’d be wrong. Because you haven’t taken Rose into account in your summation of this book.

Ruth Hogan, The Keeper of Lost Things, Eleanor Oliphant, Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine,

Rose is a 10 year old girl who just wants to know what’s going on with Eudora and does her very utmost to change things for Eudora. Although she fels resistant to this interference at fist, eventually Eudora does let her in – both literally and metaphorically and that’s when the magic begins to happen – for both of them. Once Stanley comes into the mix, the three of them form an indomitable team that despite their many differences can come together and start to look life squarely in the eye – and start living.

Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well Thank You is not only a wonderful and heartwarming read – it’s also one that makes you think about big questions about the family we choose for ourselves and the nature of happiness and living your life to the full. I dare you not to fall for this trio as they will sprinkle a little bit of their unique magic into the heart of even the most curmudgeonly reader.

yellow and blue inflatable duck on blue sea under blue sky during daytime

I’d like to thank Annie Lyons, Harper Collins and everyone involved in the Readalong for the chance to talk about this unique, memorable and sparkly read – buy yourself a copy and feel a touch of its magic for yourself

person holding bouquet of flower

‘I have to say this is the best book that I have ever read! Being in my 40s I’ve read a lot of books!’ Lyn

‘One of those that I will always remember…it really has touched me like no other book has’ Sylvia

‘I read this book in one sitting because the characters were so real I didn’t want to leave them’ Cheryl

‘One of the most uplifting and heartwarming books of 2020’ Kelly

Absolutely the book we need right now…Uplifting, warm and all about the power of friendship, this book felt like a tonic to the madness of the world’ Andi

‘One heroine I will never forget…We all need friends like Eudora, Stanley and Rose in our lives. Their kindness is a shining light in these stormy times’ Celia Anderson, bestselling author of 59 Memory Lane

‘Strikes a winning balance, reaching deep feelings while avoiding the traps of sentimentality’ Publishers Weekly

Unique and wonderful…a sensitive examination of human connections’ Kirkus Reviews

‘A thoroughly enchanting feel-good read’ Booklist

People of Abandoned Character

He is my husband.
To honour and obey.
Until murder do us part.

London, 1888: Susannah rushes into marriage to a young and wealthy surgeon. After a passionate honeymoon, she returns home with her new husband wrapped around her little finger. But then everything changes. His behaviour becomes increasingly volatile and violent. He stays out all night, returning home bloodied and full of secrets.

Lonely and frustrated, Susannah starts following the gruesome reports of a spate of murders in Whitechapel. But as the killings continue, her mind takes her down the darkest path imaginable. Every time her husband stays out late, another victim is found dead.

Is it coincidence? Or is he the man they call Jack the Ripper?

As someone who is a real fan of books set in the Victorian period and all things slightly murder-y, you can see why I would be so excited to get the opportunity to review Claire Whitfield’s amazing People of Abandoned Character as part of the blog tour. This is definitely one of the Lockdown reads that I’ve most enjoyed and it’s set me off down a rabbit hole of re-reading Sarah Waters’ Affinity and looking up some stories about real life Victorian murders as I got so caught up in this beautifully rendered slice of Victoriana with a side order of true crime delight.

brown bird head decor

Susannah, our main character, has been brought up as a respectable and diligent young Victorian woman who is far from delighted to discover that her marriage to the eligible young surgeon turns out to have been less of a dream marriage and more of a nightmare situation. Their happiness on their honeymoon fades to a distant memory as they become like ships passing in the night and the man she married becomes a distant memory compared to the brutish and secretive character who she has to call her lawful husband Like many Victorian wives, she is absolutely powerless once she becomes a spouse and she turns to following the crimes happening outwith her household as a distraction to the crimimal way that she is being treated within it.

Big Ben tower

Their newly married life carries expectations that she feels have definitely not been met and her chance of any sort of happiness and fulfilment are vanishing rapidly, Susannah certainly seems to find her experiences as a respectable Victorian lady as being somewhat limiting and finds being trapped through circumstances very challenging . It is at this point that her awareness of how her marriage and the Whitehall crimes could well be connected starts to dawn on her and this starts to change the dynamics in ways that neither of them could have anticipated – this is when I really got totally drawn into this beautifully written and captivating period piece.

brown and black wooden store

Susannah is a fascinating character and very much plays the part of a catalyst in this story – opening up a gateway into the murders in this story and allowing us to see them afresh and uncover aspects of them that may have previously been hidden from us due to the way that the Jack the Ripper murders have been reported through time. If like me you absolutely adored The Five then you will fid much to absorb you here and you’ll see the crimes in a new way given this fictional 21st century treatment The way that we get insights into elements of the past through Susannah’s experiences and fresh perspective really added to the feeling of this being a ‘real’ story and brought these murders to life through its pages.

house front during nighttime

People of Abandoned Character is a gripping and fascinating story with characters that stay vividly with you even when you aren’t reading it. I absolutely love Sarah Waters and normally find that all other writers pale into comparison alongside er, but People of Abandoned Character definitely gives her writing a very real run for its money. It is both a wonderfully rendered story that draws you in as well as asking the reader to think about important issues like female agency, abuse and power from some very interesting and original perspectives.

black handled knife on white and red checkered textile

This is a really original and well-crafted debut and I think it will make a huge splash this autumn; I would absolutely love to see this novel brought to life on the screen as I think it would translate absolutely beautifully. There is so much more to say about this book, but I’m truly loath to spoil any of its impact by telling you too much; this is a novel that unfolds in such a compelling way that I really want you to experience it wholly for yourself and feel its power in the same way that I was able to.

Thank you so much to Gabriella Drinkald at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part in this blogtour and I definitely recommend that you buy your own copy and experience the power of this gripping and grisly dark and delightful read. Halloween is on the horizon and this would be the perfect mood-setter for this season of thrills and chills!

Writer On The Shelf

Clare Whitfield

The Inspiration behind ‘People of Abandoned Character’ in Clare’s own words: ‘The book was initially inspired by Jack the Ripper, and newspaper articles from the time, which lead me to the idea that perhaps the Ripper may have been married. With this in mind, I wanted to create a complex and strong female protagonist who was prepared to do anything to keep her head above water, and succeed.

While based in a historical setting, the story has a contemporary appeal as the language is accessible, set in the Victorian era of the 1880s when years of austerity had taken their toll on the communities of an increasingly gentrified London. The novel explores the smoke and mirrors of perceived social mobility, the role of a wealthy society and their responsibility to the poor (or not as it may be the case), toxic relationships and narcissistic abuse, gender equality and freedom to pursue personal ambition.’

About Clare Whitfield: Clare Whitfield is a UK-based writer living in a suburb where the main cultural landmark is a home store/Starbucks combo. Clare nurtures an obsession with female characters that are as much villain as hero, and enjoys lurking in the blurry landscape between perception and reality.

She is the wife of a tattoo artist, mother of a small benign dictator and relies on her dog for emotional stability. Previously Clare has been a dancer, copywriter, amateur fire breather, buyer and a mediocre weightlifter. 

People of Abandoned Character is her first novel.

Follow Clare on Twitter (@whitfield_riley) and Instagram (@clarerileywhitfield).

A Song of Isolation – Michael J Malone – Orenda Blog Tour

Film star Amelie Hart is the darling of the silver screen, appearing on the front pages of every newspaper. But at the peak of her fame she throws it all away for a regular guy with an ordinary job. The gossip columns are aghast: what happened to the woman who turned heads wherever she went?


Any hope the furore will die down are crushed when Amelie’s boyfriend Dave is arrested on charges of child sexual abuse. Dave strongly asserts his innocence, and when Amelie refuses to denounce him, the press furore quickly turns into physical violence, and she has to flee the country.


While Dave is locked up with the most depraved men in the country and Amelie is hiding on the continent, Damaris, the victim at the centre of the story, is also isolated – a child trying to make sense of an adult world…


Breathtakingly brutal, dark and immensely moving, A Song of Isolation looks beneath the magpie glimmer of celebrity to uncover a sinister world dominated by greed and lies, and the unfathomable destruction of innocent lives… in an instant.

I absolutely adore Michael J Malone’s writing and I featured him in my very first column of 17 Degrees when I fell in love with A Suitable Lie. I am happy to report that A Song of Isolation is even better than his previous writing and I was absolutely blown away with this unforgettable and emotional read. I have featured it in my Autumn Reads 2020 column 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 society examines guilt, innocence and everything in between…

selective photo focus of person covering face

When a novel hooks you in with a premise like this – dealing with the ultimate taboo of being accused of this sort of indecency and whether or not we can defend the seemingly indefensible, you know that you are in for a thrilling and immersive read, and I was definitely up for that! It is immediately intriguing to wonder exactly who we can trust in this cleverly constructed tale and speculate about what you might have done in these circumstances and to what extent people’s actions – or lack of them – might be crucial to all that unfolds. It is a testament to Michael’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. This tale was not only immersive but absolutely emotionally compelling too and the writing will keep you turning those pages as you imagine yourself caught up in a nightmare like this and think about the way you might have judged people you have heard about or watched on the news in the past…

black video camera

I hate spoilers, so I don’t want to dwell too long on the plot here, Dave and Amelie’s life is so skillfully portrayed by Malone that you are bound up in the allegations with them and get carried along in their nightmare journey, feeling every twist and jolt of the agonising situation. The skillful way that he weaves the many and diverse strands of characters and motivations in this very topical and timely tale is superbly done and remains gripping and intriguing  throughout, Damaris is an intriguing character and despite the question about Dave’s guilt or innocence that burns at the heart of this tale, you never for one minute manage to forget that there is a victim here and we feel like even if the allegations against Dave do prove to be wholly unfounded, there is definitely something dark lurking here that make us feel protective and devastated at this situation. I know at times it can feel like the fictional world is saturated with abuse stories with potential perpetrators whose diverse motivations create plenty of room for speculation and suspicion, but this time it’s superbly done without a hint of sensationalism or poor taste. The plot bears us along as this story unfolds for Dave and Amelie, never letting up on the tension that is nicely manipulated by Malone here adding in lots of opportunities to second-guess yourself and adding another layer of emotion and agony for the reader as we are so invested in this tale.

I loved the way that this novel wove both threads together – a convincing depiction of the torment and pain of being accused of something as heinous as this is perfectly juxtaposed with Damaris’ situation and what was brought her to make these allegations and allows you to move between them and get more insight into the complexity of this heartbreaking dilemma – and wonder if your guesses are correct about what will happen next. This is the perfect read for these long autumn 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 they think as soon as they’ve finished .

woman reading book while sitting on chair

A Song of Isolation is 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 the moral dilemma it asks you to weigh up and charge yourself with

If you enjoy an immersive and moving piece of fiction that challenges your preconceptions and tests your prejudices in a shattering and visceral 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 emotions 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 an unimaginable situation.

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, then buy 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 Michael featured in my newest column – out in October!

Writer On The Shelf

Michael J Malone

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings.

Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines, After He Died and In the Absence of Miracles soon followed suit.

A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr. 

‘Malone is the master of twists, turns and the unexpected, with the skill to keep things grounded. So much so, that the reader can picture themselves in the very circumstances described. Superb storytelling from a master of his craft’ Herald Scotland

‘Beautiful, lyrical prose takes the reader through a perfectly constructed, often harrowing tale’ Denzil Meyrick

HERMIT Blog Tour

*** THE AUSTRALIAN TOP TEN BESTSELLING CRIME NOVEL***

‘A taut, beautifully observed slow-burner with an explosive finish.’ PETER MAY

‘Original, compelling and highly recommended. S. R. White is the real deal.’ CHRIS HAMMER

‘A fascinating case’SUNDAY TIMES CRIME CLUB PICK

After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just hours to interrogate the prime suspect – a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.

But where has he been? Why won’t he talk? And exactly how dangerous is he? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth . . .

Compulsive, atmospheric and stunningly accomplished, HERMIT introduces a thrilling new voice in Australian crime fiction, perfect for fans of Jane Harper and Chris Hammer.

Set in the badlands of Australia, Hermit opens with news of shop owner Lou Cassavette’s brutal stabbing. The local constabulary believe the man they discover on the scene right alongside the body is their man – a man named Nathan Whittler.

Australian crime fiction, best crime books, best thrillers, Scrublands, Chris Hammer

It’s now cue for Detective Dana Russo to be called in to work in order to interview Nathan. They only have a limited time to get him to concede that he’s culpable of this homicide; and the clock is ticking . Our suspect, Nathan turns out to be more than somewhat inscrutable – he’s a hermit who lives off grid and due to that, keeping his lips clamped firmly shut is second nature to him and it seems to Dana and the team that he won’t be spilling his soul any time soon…

Dana is under pressure to crack this suspect before it’s time to release him and she will not be content until she’s laid a trail of breadcrumbs that will tie this taciturn enigma in knots. The tension at his point is incredible – we are totally in the moment with Detective Russo as she attempts to solve this riddle and work out whether the reluctance to speak is due to his solitary lifestyle – or a mask concealing a dangerous and unpredictable killer.

Australian crime fiction, best crime books, best thrillers, crime and thriller fiction, The Dry

The characters of Dana and Nathan 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 the start of the novel had me with my heart in my mouth – and perhaps not for the reasons you might think in a read like this. Even though they sit on opposite sides of the interrogation suite there are definitely strong parallels between these two people who don’t like to let people too close – both literally and metaphorically in Nathan’s case. . .

Tana French, Susie Steiner, Crime thriller, kindle books best sellers, detective fiction, mystery

This book will appeal to readers who enjoy the psychological aspects of the crime genre and who get under the skin of the characters they are presented with and imagine them existing outwith the boundaries of the story. – I can imagine it on the big screen as an amazing two-hander and have thought about casting it, in my mind’s eye since finishing it. I really recommend this book as something pretty different and it really is a case of DO judge a book by the cover as once it dropped through my letterbox, I couldn’t wait to start reading it, as it is just as beautifully crafted inside as its stunning cover suggests.

Scrublands, Chris Hammer, Jane Harper, Tana French, Susie Steiner, Crime thriller, kindle books

Buy yourself a copy here and see if you can join Dana in trying to solve this intriguing case

Thanks to Emily Patience from Headline for inviting me onto the tour and introducing me to another great voice in fiction. Feeling absolutely spoiled for choice with all these amazing September reads!

Writer On The Shelf

S.R. White Hermit

S.R. White worked for a UK police force for twelve years, before returning to academic life and taking an MA in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University.

He now lives in Queensland, Australia.

Review

A taut, beautifully observed slow-burner with an explosive finish. — Peter May

Original, compelling and highly recommended. S. R. White is the real deal. — Chris Hammer

The Seven Doors – Agnes Ratavn Blog Tour

University professor Nina is at a turning point. Her work seems increasingly irrelevant, her doctor husband is never home, relations with her difficult daughter are strained, and their beautiful house is scheduled for demolition.
 
When her daughter decides to move into another house they own, things take a very dark turn. The young woman living there disappears, leaving her son behind, the day after Nina and her daughter pay her a visit.
 
With few clues, the police enquiry soon grinds to a halt, but Nina has an inexplicable sense of guilt. Unable to rest, she begins her own investigation, but as she pulls on the threads of the case, it seems her discoveries may have very grave consequences for her and her family.
 
Exquisitely dark and immensely powerful, The Seven Doors is a sophisticated and deeply disturbing psychological thriller from one of Norway’s most distinguished voices.

 

This was such a darkly delicious read. I absolutely lost myself in Agnes Ravatn’s previous novel, The Bird Tribunal and I absolutely could not wait to immerse myself in her latest read, The Seven Doors.  I was utterly delighted when Anne Cater invited me onto the blog tour for another stunning Orenda novelist and could not wait to see what this master of the understated and unsettling would present me with next…

red and grey houses near river during daytime

Nina is another narrator that has a strong clear voice that frames the narrative as we are plunged into the story and start to see things unravelling around her.  Her life is turned absolutely upside down when the disappearance of their tenant Mari from their house in Birkeveien means that their respectable, professional and safe world begins to shift beneath their feet.

red painted houses near shore during daytime

Just like The Bird Tribunal, the austerity and beauty of the landscape and the sense of menace and detachment are a lethal combination and one I found totally hypnotic. I do want to give a shout out to the translator Rosie here –  not just because she’s Scottish – but because her sensitivity to language makes for a menacing and addictive reading experience.  Nina’s every step into uncovering exactly what is going on is tense and perfect – you are very much under the spell of the writer as you follow the trail of breadcrumbs and uncover with Nina a great deal of things that might have been easier to have kept hidden.

brown house beside body of water

Nina makes for such a memorable narrator: because she is so intelligent and shrewd, we absolutely buy into her quest to find out exactly what has happened to Mari and unusually for a thriller you actually care when you sense danger around her that she is at first rather unaware of – which creates a satisfying tension as we try to anticipate when things will begin to come clear to her. Her determination to uncover Mari’s fate keeps you turning the pages as more and more secrets begin to come to light. The reader develops a dawning sense that most people in this story are very different than they at first might have appeared and Nina will need to keep her wits about her as she gets drawn deeper into situations where the familiar begins to twist and then shatter before her very eyes it seems.

car on road

Once again, Ravatn proves herself a worthy successor of Highsmith in terms of keeping the reader on their toes and providing us with a lot of misdirection and elegantly constructed possibilities that kept me feverishly turning the pages long after my bedtime -and on a school night too! I was totally invested in the question of who exactly was involved in the strange disappearance of Mari as Nina got more and more out of her depth in trying to understand anyone’s true motives or who she could truly trust. I hate giving spoilers, so I’m definitely avoiding too much detail about exactly what secrets and lies she manages to uncover within the bosom of her own nearest and dearest– but I can promise you that you’ll not be able to stop reading, once you’ve started.

red and white canoe on lake near green trees under white clouds during daytime

 

I’ve never been to Norway but it’s most definitely on my bucket list and I loved the way that The Seven Doors allowed me to vicariously experience the austere beauty and some of it actually did remind me of my native country of Scotland. I read this in a single day, I was so fascinated by Nina and her pursuit of the truth and I desperately wanted to know what was lurking beneath the surface of the respectability and plausibility of people you would never begin to suspect of anything like this.  Agnes Ravatn’s plotting is as skilful as ever, the characters are wonderfully captured and the stunningly beautiful Setting allowed me a few moments of lockdown virtual travel from the comfort of my own garden.

This is a wholly satisfying read and I absolutely loved it. If you like your thrillers brutal and depraved, then this might not appeal to you – but if you enjoy a chilling and elegant read that will linger in your consciousness for a very long time after reading it, then you’ve come to the right place.

Thanks so much for Anne Cater for inviting me aboard on the Blog Tour  –  It was definitely just the trip that I needed at a time when real-life foreign travel seems still just outside my grasp. I’d love to see this on the screen and I can already envisage some of the locations and characters in my mind’s eye. I would absolutely love to see it brought to life and I know that I say that about most Orenda reads – but Karen has a real eye for a story that you definitely see unfolding visually as you read – so it’s a no-brainer to imagine them on the solver screen. 

Buy yourself a copy here so that you can pack your own bags virtually and experience the beauty of the setting and Ravatn’s prose for yourself. 

“a chilly psychological thriller / domestic noir that unfolds in an austere style that perfectly captures the bleakly beautiful landscape of Norway’s far north.” —Irish Times

“An unrelenting atmosphere of doom fails to prepare readers for the surprising resolution that engulfs this flawed pair.” —Publishers Weekly

“Intriguing . . . enrapturing.” –Sarah Hilary, author, Someone Else’s Skin

“This is Ravatn’s first book in this genre, and as a psychological thriller, it certainly does the job. In all, a tense and riveting read!” –Barry Forshaw, author, The Man Who Left Too Soon

“This really reminds me of Patricia Highsmith’s work, and I can’t offer much higher praise than that.” –Philip Ardagh, author, Dreadful Acts

Writer & Translator On The Shelf

Agnes Ravatn

Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is an author and columnist. She made her literary début with the novel Week 53 (Veke 53) in 2007. Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing still (Stillstand), 2011, Popular Reading (Folkelesnad), 2011, and Operation self-discipline (Operasjon sjøldisiplin), 2014.
 
In these works, Ravatn shows her unique, witty voice and a sharp eye for human fallibility. Ravatn received the Norwegian radio channel radio NRK P2 Listener’s Novel Prize for this novel, a popular and important prize in Norway, in addition to the Youth Critic’s Award for The Bird Tribunal which also made into a successful play, and premiered in Oslo in 2015.

Rosie Hedger was born in Scotland and completed her MA (Hons) in Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburgh.
 
She has lived and worked in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and now lives in York where she works as a freelance translator.
 
Rosie was a candidate in the British Center for Literary Translation’s mentoring scheme for Norwegian in 2012, mentored by Don Bartlett.

Visit her website: rosiehedger.com and follow her on Twitter @rosie_hedger