Black Drop

This is the confession of Laurence Jago. Clerk. Gentleman. Reluctant spy.

July 1794, and the streets of London are filled with rumours of revolution. Political radical Thomas Hardy is to go on trial for treason, the war against the French is not going in Britain’s favour, and negotiations with the independent American colonies are on a knife edge.

Laurence Jago – clerk to the Foreign Office – is ever more reliant on the Black Drop to ease his nightmares. A highly sensitive letter has been leaked to the press, which may lead to the destruction of the British Army, and Laurence is a suspect. Then he discovers the body of a fellow clerk, supposedly a suicide.

Blame for the leak is shifted to the dead man, but even as the body is taken to the anatomists, Laurence is certain both of his friend’s innocence, and that he was murdered. But after years of hiding his own secrets from his powerful employers, and at a time when even the slightest hint of treason can lead to the gallows, how can Laurence find the true culprit without incriminating himself?

A thrilling historical mystery, perfect for readers of C.J. Sansom, Andrew Taylor, Antonia Hodgson and Laura Shepherd-Robinson.

black drop leonora nattrass

I love investigating the real history and time periods found in the books I’m reading and Leonora Nattrass does an amazing job of transporting you back in time and reliving this turbulent and fascinating part of history, which is jam-packed full of double-crossing, back-stabbing, subterfuge and unsteady allegiances  – I could not put to down and it has left me with a real book hangover as it was so immersive and exciting a tale.

The Black Drop truly gives us a fascinating insight into Jago’s experiences and allows us to travel back in time with him and witness these events unfolding at this turbulent and uncertain time in English history– as well as getting the wider impact of these changes  at a very intriguing time in history from the perspective of some unforgettable characters that reminded me of my favourite Du Maurier novel ‘The King’s General’ and set me off in search of more information about what it was like to try and survive on your wits this time in history…

This is a really engrossing read. Nattress has an excellent mixture of characters in this novel, from Jago himself to Philpott and even the dog Mr Gibbs  – which really shows the reader that these turbulent events had an impact on life whoever you were and whatever your situation, providing much food for thought about democracy, independence and morality during this period for a 21st-century readership. There have been a fair few comparisons with Laura Shepherd Robinson and I think that both writers excel at transporting you to another time and immersing you in the sights sounds and smells of a very different world. I think that readers of historical novels have had plenty of Tudor tales to enjoy and will get totally caught up in the dangers and intrigues of a very different period through this novel

I think that Leonora Nattress is just as skilful in writing about personal matters as she is about the history or the politics at this time and the way that the impact of these events was so vividly depicted was a real strength of this novel. It was fascinating to hear about Laudanum from an insider and see the way that politics, corruption and duplicity haven’t moved on much in the last three hundred years…

I loved the fact that Jago’s picaresque and engaging story brings the personal into the historical research and we totally connect with him through the twists and turns of this fascinating ‘confession’ As usual, I spent a lot of time online after finishing it, looking up the history of this time period and falling into a bit of a rabbit hole finding out as much as I could about characters like Jago and there is a wealth of fascinating information here if you are interested too as he was SUCH a fascinating character in his own right. His involvement in this compelling political case makes for engrossing reading and I found myself totally gripped by the exciting, intelligently plotted and very credible tale we find ourselves being told in his own inimitable way…

Fans of historical epics and enthusiasts of novels exploring tpolitical history from a more personal perspective will love this beautifully written novel and I will be recommending it to readers who love period fiction and strongly written literary narratives. I really enjoyed this journey with Jago through a fascinating episode in English history and heartily recommend that you too delve into this period in all its turbulent glory and find out more about it for yourself. 

Buy yourself a copy here and spend an afternoon or two like I did, totally wrapped up in this intelligent and engaging novel that wears its learning lightly and carries you forward as you are compelled to know what unfolds for these characters whose stories remain with you long after you’ve closed the final page. I totally fell for Jago after sharing his confession and firmly recommend it to readers who like an engrossing and fascinating period read.

Historical crime fiction set in a teeming late eighteenth-century London, as nimbly realised as by the genre’s master, Andrew Taylor. Foreign office clerk Laurence Jago is a reluctant spy involved in arcane skulduggery ― Financial Times

Black Drop is a joy from start to finish. I particularly liked the glimpses of the grubby machinery of government from the inside, giving a real sense of the intrigues behind closed doors. Jago is a very sympathetic hero, with all his flaws, virtues and secrets, and Philpott made me want to smile and cheer — Andrew Taylor, author of The Ashes of London

This opium-fuelled gem is a murderous romp through the tangled roots of British democracy — Janice Hallett, author of The Appeal

A gripping, intricate story of Georgian high politics and low life. Leonora Nattrass’s historical spy novel is top notch — W.C. Ryan, author of A House of Ghosts

A riveting political thriller, set at a fulcrum-point in global history. The setting is viscerally immersive and the characters spring to life from the page. This masterful narrative of deception, intrigue and heroism unfolds with compelling pace, wry humour and acute psychological observation. Gripping, moving and utterly engaging — Philippa East, author of Little White Lies

A thrilling slice of pitch-dark historical fiction, led by a superbly engaging narrator. Entertaining and deftly written, this gripping tale of murder and treachery on the smouldering streets of eighteenth-century London deserves to be huge — Emma Stonex, author of The Lamplighters

Nattrass writes so beautifully. Absolutely compelling, and so atmospheric I felt I was there, following Jago around the mean streets of eighteenth-century London — Frances Quinn, author of The Smallest Man

Writer On The Shelf

Leonora Nattrass studied eighteen-century literature and politics, and spent ten years lecturing in English and publishing works on William Cobbett. She then moved to Cornwall, where she lives in a seventeenth-century house with seventeenth-century draughts, and spins the fleeces of her traditional Ryeland sheep into yarn. Black Drop is her first novel.


Rabbit Factor

Just one spreadsheet away from chaos…

What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.

And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.

But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

Warmly funny, rich with quirky characters and absurd situations, The Rabbit Factor is a triumph of a dark thriller, its tension matched only by its ability to make us rejoice in the beauty and random nature of life

What goes up, must come down – and that applies equally as well to your fortunes as well as the thrills and spills of life in an adventure park with a difference. The dichotomy is the source of the absolute genius here and even though people bandy around the idea that ‘you won’t have read anything else like it’ all the time – in this case it’s absolutely true! There’s a good reason why this book was the talk of Bloody Scotland, and that’s because it’s bloody fantastic and if you haven’t already gone ‘down the Rabbit hole with this book then clear your diary because you’ll be hard pressed to find as fabulous a reading experience this year!

I think that for a lot of people, they have a very rigid idea of what to expect when they order themselves a helping of ‘Scandi-Noir’ – this book subverts your expectations by taking you on a literal and metaphorical wild ride into the ups and downs of Henri Koskinen’s life after he inherits a pleasure park that will challenge his immaculately ordered life in ways that he couldn’t ever have imagined.

Actuaries by their very nature crave order and predictability – that’s why they go into that kind of career. What they don’t crave is uncertainty, chaos and disorder, and it’s the dissonance here that makes it such a work of art. You will definitely fall for Henri, who brings a whole new meaning to the idea of someone being a fish out of water. A lone wolf, who’d rather die than jump into a hot-desking, brain storming and team building environment, Henri cannot grapple with the finer details of his new world once he inherits the park – and if you think that’s a leap in the dark for him, you can only imagine the challenges that arise once Henri has to penetrate the dark underside of society in order to keep the juggernaut that he has inherited on the right track…

I don’t think that there have been many other characters since Eleanor Oliphant that have bowled me over so much and made me absolutely believe in them, almost from the very first page. I fell for Henri hook, line and sinker and loved seeing the mild mannered actuary have to adapt almost every single one of his coping strategies to exist in this strange technicolour new world that he’s been plunged into. It’s a testament to the skill of the writing that age, nationality, language and culture might divide us, but I absolutely bonded with Henri on this wild ride and enjoyed every single second that we spent together and have been recommending The Rabbit Factor to everyone as soon as I finished reading it.

I also loved the colourful cavalcade of other characters that we come to know and love across the arc of the story. Henri might prefer to put things in nice tidy boxes, but the characters here fundamentally resist stereotypes and spring to life as fully-formed as Henri, straight off the page. Esa might be ‘only’ a security guard, but there can be fewer people in the world to ever have taken their job so seriously – and the way that this tale unfolds – and I’m determined to avoid spoilers – it’s a bloody good job that he does! I also loved the character of Laura and enjoyed the way that her freewheeling creative world view causes Henri to rethink some of the ways he looks at the world and start to loosen his necktie and embrace a less rigid and automated world view.

If you are after something completely different then this is the Orentober read for you! I love the way that in Karen Sullivan’s ‘Adventure Park’ within her Orenda writers’ stable there are so many diverse voices and different spills and thrills, yet what unites them is the quality of their writing and a way of making the reader a thinking participant rather than merely a passive observer in their reading adventures. All you need to know is that this is another five star winner from Antti – his sense of humour, originality and turn of phrase will ensure that this book stays with you for a long time after you finish reading it. Here’s to you enjoying the first slice of Henri’s adventures every bit as much as I did. If you are anything like me, you will be longing for the second instalment and as delighted that I was to hear that we will shortly be treated to seeing The Rabbit Factor on the big screen in a town near you!

So what are you waiting for? Get ordering your very own copy and see how all the statistics in this book mean that it adds up to being one of the most unforgettable reads of 2021

Strap yourselves in and scream if you want to go faster – this is one adventure that you won’t want to end

pink and white rabbit plush toy

‘Antti Tuomainen turns the clichéd idea of dour, humourless Scandi noir upside down with The Rabbit Factor. Dark, gripping and hilarious … Tuomainen is the Carl Hiaasen of the fjords’ Martyn Waites

The Rabbit Factor is a triumph, a joyous, feel-good antidote to troubled times’ Kevin Wignall

‘Finland’s greatest export’ M.J. Arlidge

‘You don’t expect to laugh when you’re reading about terrible crimes, but that’s what you’ll do when you pick up one of Tuomainen’s decidedly quirky thrillers’ New York Times

‘Tuomainen is the funniest writer in Europe’ The Times

‘Right up there with the best’ Times Literary Supplement

‘Tuomainen continues to carve out his own niche in the chilly tundras of northern’ Daily Express

Writer On The Shelf

Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style,

Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. A TV adaptation is in the works, and Jussi Vatanen (Man In Room 301) has just been announced as a leading role.

Palm Beach Finland was an immense success, with Marcel Berlins (The Times) calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’. His latest thriller, Little Siberia, was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger, the Amazon Publishing/Capital Crime Awards and the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. In total, Antti Tuomainen has been short- and longlisted for 12 UK awards.

The Lighthouse Witches

Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse.

A lighthouse that has weathered more than storms.

Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation.

Coincidence? Or curse?

Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left.

Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth . . .

But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

Lighthouse Witches

A gorgeously evocative and atmospheric mystery novel set in one of the most remote parts of Scotland, which allows you to travel back in time to the witch hunts that ravaged the country in the 17th century and the suffering and pain that so many real life women had to suffer during this troubled time

If you are looking for the most perfectly fitting Halloween read to take away with you for half term then look no further – if you were sourcing the essential ingredients for a chilling Spooktober read then remote island communities, centuries-old mysteries, a deserted lighthouse in a mysterious setting and otherworldly reports of things that go bump in the night certainly fit the bill and ensured that once I’d started, I was totally unable to put this stunning read down.

I have a real thing for books told across dual timelines – we are first introduced to these characters in 1998 when Liv Stay moves to the isle of Lon Haven with her three children Saffy, Luna and Clover after being commissioned to paint a mural. We then fast forward to 2021 and get to meet a grown up Luna who is now pregnant with her first child. Through this modern day setting, we get to join her in her search for her mother and sisters, who disappeared back in the 90s and try to uncover the truth about The Longing for ourselves…

As well as Luna’s two distinct timelines, we also get periodic flashbacks to the Witch Trials in1662 where we get to witness the true horrors of these dark times by living the experiences for ourselves when Saffy uncovers an ancient Grimoire and a peek into the past becomes possible. In many books with diverse timelines there can be an uneven quality to the reading experience where we feel jarred at moving between them and can tend to rush through our least favourite ‘era’ to return to the more compelling period and inhabit that one again.

gray lighthouse on islet with concrete pathway at daytime

CJ Cooke manages to maintain our interest in all of the settings we are exposed to really makes you feel the difference between the timelines through the quality and strength of her writing. I loved that she credits you with a fair bit of intelligence as a reader and doesn’t spell out things too explicitly in establishing the connections between the periods. There were definitely things to be afraid of in both settings and I had to literally be pulled away from the page last week when we were down exploring remote Dumfries & Galloway as I’d got so lost in this wonderfully atmospheric and mysterious tale.

Both Lon Haven and The Longing are places that hold the past within their walls and in reading about them, you get the chance to travel there and feel the weight of time and the dark happenings of the past as it seems to seep from their walls. I enjoyed being able to suspend my disbelief and immerse myself in the weight of their respective histories and found it all the more spooky that the mysterious happenings were always lurking in the shadows, just out of sight and were all the more disturbing because of this…

When Anne Cater let me know about the Blog Tour, for The Lighthouse Witches I bit her hand off. I absolutely loved The Nesting and couldn’t wait to see what CJ Cooke was going to come up with next. I actually read it in one greedy gulp as I got so caught up in its atmosphere and couldn’t put it down until I could find out just how are of the interconnected threads all tied together. I can assure you that they do indeed and in a really satisfying way that will make you want to go back to nearer the beginning and see exactly how cleverly all the various aspects of the book dovetail as neatly as they do.

The cover is absolutely stunning and I defy you to leave it lying around at home or at work without someone snatching it up and asking to borrow it– if you are a fan of CJ Cooke’s writing, you’ll discover that the familiar feeling of things beginning to stir uneasily at the edge of your vision and dark emanations from the past starting to seep into the present day are just as enjoyable in this setting as they were in The Nesting. I’m not a horror fan, but I do like a good old scare, and this did the trick absolutely wonderfully. If you only pack one book for your half term break – take this one, although be warned, you might just end up sleeping with the landing light on…

white lighthouse beside shore

As I said, I read this in a single day, being utterly loath to drag myself away from the beauty of the prose and the mystery that we are drawn into. I love books that are even better than the one you’ve been anticipating and I have to say that this novel is going to be one of my best reads of the year. I loved the way that the ghosts of the past merge seamlessly with the contemporary events in a way that made me equally as fascinated by both and I’m going to recommend it to my entire book group as the ‘must read’ spooky book of the season!

I think it’s difficult to create a modern gothic read that genuinely feels chilling, rather than just presenting a series of tropes transplanted into a modern day setting with a sprinkling of cultural references throw in for good measure. This was an absolutely wonderful read that avoided lots of the cliches and. If you like your thrillers to be historical with some real life references then you’ll love this and I know that lots of you will be just like me and heading for google straight after reading it to try and find out more about the Scottish witch trials for yourselves…

Buy yourself a copy of this clever, compelling and darkly evocative read here

Lighthouse Witches

Writer On The Shelf

C J Cooke

C J Cooke is an acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist and academic with numerous other publications written under the name of Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Her work has been published in twenty-three languages to date. Born in Belfast, C.J. has Phd in Literature from Queen’s University, Belfast, and is currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health. C.J.Cooke lives in Glasgow with her husband and four children. She also founded the Stay-At-Home Festival.

Bad Apples

From the bestselling author of Dark Pines comes Will Dean’s most terrifying Tuva Moodyson mystery yet.

It only takes one…
A murder

A resident of small-town Visberg is found decapitated
A festival

A cultish hilltop community ‘celebrates’ Pan Night after the apple harvest
A race against time

As Visberg closes ranks to keep its deadly secrets, there could not be a worse time for Tuva Moodyson to arrive as deputy editor of the local newspaper. Powerful forces are at play and no one dares speak out. But Tuva senses the story of her career, unaware that perhaps she is the story…

Having enjoyed Will Dean’s Tuva Moodyson series, so much, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Bad Apples as I was really looking forward to immersing myself in Tuva’s world once again. I love Will Dean and his writing and am so honoured to be following the very successful tour for his latest novel. Let me tell you that it absolutely lived up to my levels of anticipation and I’ve been lost in this twisted and danger world during my October half term break, and I’m not planning on leaving any time soon…

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

If you already know and love Will Dean’s writing, it will come as no surprise to you that from the very first page, we are plunged headlong into another intriguing mystery as Pan Night brings yet more drama to the community. The ensuing events prove to be every bit as gripping as his previous novels and show you just how insular small town communities can be when they close their ranks on outsiders. 

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It must be so difficult for crime writers to keep coming up with fresh and exciting angles that will keep their readers turning the pages and I think that this is one of the aspects of Will Dean’s writing that is gathering the most acclaim. You really feel like you get a deep dive into the worlds he creates and their characters sear themselves into your reading mind and make you feel like you are living through these harrowing experiences alongside them. Visberg definitely came to life on the page as you felt immersed in its small town mindset and ritualistic celebrations.

Photo by Anna Sovi on

I hate spoilers, so I don’t want to dwell too long on the plot of Bad Apples –  as I want you to be able to experience all the twists and turns as you uncover the full horror of what is going on for yourself – suffice to say that the skilful way that Will Dean weaves the many and disparate elements of Tuva’s nail shredding experiences into the narrative is superbly done and remains convincing throughout. There could hardly be a worse time for her to turn up as the deputy editor of the local paper – but Tuva’s previous experiences mean that she is perfectly equipped to ask some difficult questions once the decapitated body turns up and the festival’s dark heart is exposed…

Photo by Tom Swinnen on

I know at times it can feel like the fictional world is saturated with books that try and present you with unique protagonists, but Tuva is the real deal, a main character who’s absolutely in her own league and once you’ve started on this journey with her, you will not be able to put this dark and electrifying book down until you’ve managed to reach the last page. I was holding my breath at times as I turned the pages as it felt so tense at times that I could barely breathe. Many people have tried and failed to categorise Tuva and this series– but this is a book that retains its own unique atmosphere and sense of menace and I cannot stop thinking about it more than 24 hours after i’ve finished reading it. I’ve already said that I’m avoiding spoilers, and you definitely should too as Id want everyone to feel the impact I did upon closing the very last page…

Photo by Joonas ku00e4u00e4riu00e4inen on

I loved the way that this novel wove many threads together – a book packed with tension, that manages to make you connect and feel for its main character with a strong and memorable setting to boot is definitely a rare treat and it’s one you should spoil yourself with as soon as possible. Bad Apples packs a powerful punch and 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 never lets up in terms of keeping its sense of tension and suspense strung tight right up until its nail biting conclusion. Buy yourself a copy here and clear your diary, because once you start this book, you will definitely not be able to stop…

white and green fields under blue sky photography during daytime

I can’t wait to see what Will Dean does next. I’m a sucker for a fantastically written crime read and this is definitely one of my reads of the year, so far. I heartily recommend it for whiling away a long dreich October afternoon by the fire.  Away and treat yourself – You’ll thank me for it…

‘Just finished Will Dean’s Bad Apples. A delicious return to Tuva.’– Ann Cleeves

‘Fiendish, funny, scary as hell. Bad Apples is the stand out in a truly outstanding series.’– Chris Whitaker, author of We Begin at the End

Bad Apples is a chilling outing for Tuva Moodyson – unsettling from beginning to the very end, but leavened with dark humour. A compelling thriller that devoted fans and new readers will adore.’– Jane Casey, author of the Maeve Kerrigan series

‘Finished Bad Apples by Will Dean and all I can say is…there aren’t words. Talk about DARK.’– Blue Book Balloon blog

‘Swedish reporter Tuva Moodyson, who wears hearing aids, takes to the hills where the isolated and inbred town of Visberg can be found at the end of a long and winding road.’– The Times

Writer On the Shelf

Will Dean
Will Dean 

Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying law at the LSE, and working many varied jobs in London, he settled in rural Sweden with his wife. He built a wooden house in a boggy forest clearing and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.

A Woman Made of Snow

A gorgeous, haunting, and captivating novel of a century-long family mystery in the wilds of Scotland, and one woman’s hunt for the truth.

Scotland, 1949: Caroline Gillan and her new husband Alasdair have moved back to Kelly Castle, his dilapidated family estate in the middle of nowhere. Stuck caring for their tiny baby and trying to find her way with an opinionated mother-in-law, Caroline feels adrift, alone and unwelcome.

But when she is tasked with sorting out the family archives, Caroline discovers a century-old mystery that sparks her back to life. There is one Gillan bride who is completely unknown – no photos exist, no records have been kept – the only thing that is certain is that she had a legitimate child. Alasdair’s grandmother.

As Caroline uncovers a strange story that stretches as far as the Arctic circle, her desire to find the truth turns obsessive. And when a body is found in the grounds of the castle, her hunt becomes more than just a case of curiosity. What happened all those years ago? Who was the bride? And who is the body…?


When Anne Cater let me know about the Blog Tour, for A Woman Made of Snow, I bit her hand off. I absolutely loved The Lost Lights of St Kilda and couldn’t wait to see what Elizabeth Gifford was going to do next. I actually read it in full the day I received it, my anticipation had really reached fever pitch and I couldn’t wait any longer. Let me just tell you that A Woman Made of Snow did not disappoint.

gill paul

The cover is absolutely stunning and hints at the haunting mystery within the heart of this family and Caroline’s journe towards the truth – if you are a fan of Elizabeth Giffords’s writing, you’ll discover that the familiar feeling of things going on below the surface start to emerge and we see that all in not quite what it appears to be at Kelly Castle…


I love a book where things are not quite as they seem and I’d have to say that once I was three chapters into this fascinating read I was absolutely invested and could not stop reading. It is rare to be able to dedicate a whole day to reading at this time of the year if you are a teacher – never mind in the middle of COVID vaccinations But this book had me hooked and I just could not stop once I joined Caroline in her journey to uncover the story behind the ‘missing Gillan bride. I really want to chat with someone else who’s read it now as I am keen to see if their thoughts aligned with mine as the story unfolded. It is an absolutely wonderful read and I promise you that you won’t be able to stop thinking about this family, this beautiful setting and Giffords’s wonderful narrative voice as you immerse yourself in this tale

the times

The diversity of books being published at the moment means that nowadays writers have to think outside the box if they want their readers to be genuinely captivated by the twists and turns of their latest read and I am happy to report that Elizabeth Gifford manages this with skill and originality. I was captivated by the journey through time and across the miles as every stitch in this wonderfully wrought historical tapesty drew me further into the circumstances around the missing bride and deeper into the mystery


I absolutely love a novel where we get the past blurring with the present and the Gillan family’s past begins to emerge in such a way as you soon become aware that there’s more to this unfolding narrative than meets the eye. The way that the clues surrounding her disappearance are cleverly scattered in such a way as to misdirect and beguile you by Gifford made for compelling reading that ensures that you take nothing for granted– something else that sets her aside from other more run of the mill writers. The story that is uncovered is all the more affecting as we care about the people it’s happening to. Caroline’s situation and everything that starts to be revealed about the truth sbout the Gillan bride is much more effective because we actually feel that we’ve got to know her as a real person.

sarah maine

As I said, I read this in a single day, being utterly loath to drag myself away from the beauty of the prose and the mystery that we are drawn into. I love books that are even better than the one you’ve been anticipating and I have to say that this novel was definitely her best yet. This book really takes you on a journey alongside Caroline – you know that there’s more going on below the surface and try as you might to decipher exactly why it is, things keep shifting before your very eyes and the final picture eludes you right to the very end. And perhaps even afterwards…


I think it’s difficult to make a book genuinely original without seeming to try too hard or feel contrived – but A Woman Made of Snow manages the perfect balance of a suspenseful pageturner and a realistic portrayal of characters and setting that you actually connect with and care about. This was a wonderful read that will keep you up too late and genuinely engage its readers in this romantic, intelligent and thught provoking historical mystery I thoroughly enjoyed this book and cannot wait to see what Elizabeth Gifford does next…

Buy yourself a copy here

Writer On The Shelf

Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. She is married with three children, and lives in Kingston upon Thames. A Woman Made of Snow is her fifth novel.

The Watchers

A spine-chilling Irish horror adventure set in the remote unknown forests of Galway, from debut Irish author A.M. Shine.

‘A dark, claustrophobic read’ – T. Kingfisher, author of Paladin’s Grance

You can’t see them. But they can see you.

This forest isn’t charted on any map. Every car breaks down at its treeline. Mina’s is no different. Left stranded, she is forced into the dark woodland only to find a woman shouting, urging Mina to run to a concrete bunker. As the door slams behind her, the building is besieged by screams.

Mina finds herself in a room with a wall of glass, and an electric light that activates at nightfall, when the Watchers come above ground. These creatures emerge to observe their captive humans and terrible things happen to anyone who doesn’t reach the bunker in time.

Afraid and trapped among strangers, Mina is desperate for answers. Who are the Watchers and why are these creatures keeping them imprisoned, keen to watch their every move?

Perfect for fans of Francine Toon, Paul Tremblay and Andrew Michael Hurley.

This was such a darkly delicious read. I absolutely lost myself in The Watchers and it was every bit as spine chillingly original as I’d hoped. I absolutely could not wait to immerse myself in this book, as soon as I read the blurb.   I was utterly delighted when I was invited onto the blog tourand could not wait to see what this unsettling read would present me with next…

Mina is a character that drags you into her story and forces you to witness the same terrors as she does that frames the narrative as we are plunged into the story and start to see things unravelling around her.  Her life is not easy and you can absolutely understand why she might head off to Connemara to make some cash and escape from her circumstances. There’s one ting for sure – she won’t have been expecting to find what she does when she breaks down and faces the forest alone…

Just like all the best chilling reads, the austerity and beauty of the landscape and the sense of menace and detachment are a lethal combination and one I found totally hypnotic. A.M Shine’s sensitivity to language makes for a menacing and addictive reading experience.  Mina’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 Mina a great deal of things that might have been easier to have kept hidden.

Nina makes for such a memorable character: because she is so intelligent and shrewd, we absolutely buy into her quest to find out exactly what has is going on with the coop 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 the truth keeps you turning the pages as more and more unsettling truths begin to come to light. The reader develops a dawning sense that all os very much not what it fist might appear to be and Mina will need to keep her wits about her as she gets drawn deeper into situations where all that’s familiar begins to twist and then shatter before her very eyes…

car on road

A.M Shine really succeeds in 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 what exactly was going on as Mina got more and more out of her depth in trying to understand anyone’s true motives or what the truth behind the Watchers actually was. I hate giving spoilers, so I’m definitely avoiding too much detail about exactly what she manages to uncover in the dark shade of the fores– but I can promise you that you’ll not be able to stop reading, once you’ve started.

brown mountain

I’ve never been to Connemara but it’s most definitely on my bucket list and I loved the way that this tale 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 Mina and her journeyand I desperately wanted to know what was lurking beneath the surface once I’d begun reading. The plotting is skilful, the characters are wonderfully captured and the stunningly beautiful Setting allowed me a few moments of 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 macabre read that will linger in your consciousness and unsettle youin a very original way, then you’ve come to the right place.

mountain ranges

Thanks so much to Team Head of Zeus for inviting me aboard on the Blog Tour  –  It was definitely just the trip that I needed at a time when real-life travel seems still outside my grasp. I’d love to see this on the screen and I can already envisage the location and characters in my mind’s eye. I would absolutely love to see it brought to life before me…

Buy yourself a copy here so that you can pack your own bags virtually and experience the beauty of the setting in this perfectly chilling Autumnal tale for yourself. I can’t wait to see what A.M Shine does next…

Writer on the Shelf

AMSHINE1 683x1024 - Blog Tour Review: The Watchers by A.M. Shine

A.M. Shine is a writer and advocate of the Gothic horror tradition. Born in Galway in the west of Ireland, there he received his Master Degree in History before sharpening his quill and pursuing all things literary and macabre. His stories have won the Word Hut and Bookers Corner prize. He has published two collections, Coldwood: the haunted man and other stories and 13 and is a member of the Irish Writers Centre. The Watchers is his first full-length novel. 

The Women of Blackmouth Street

A gifted psychologist is forced to hunt a serial killer or risk having a dark chapter of her past exposed-but her mission may mark her as the next victim…

1890s London. Strong-willed Georgia Buchanan, a mind doctor and heiress, spends her time with the mad, the bad, and devils incarnate, armed only with her expert understanding of the human psyche.

But when her young, high-profile patient unexpectedly commits suicide, Georgia leaves Boston under a cloud of guilt. Lured to London’s notorious Bedlam asylum, she’s trapped by a vengeful detective and a dangerous anarchist-who know too much about her-into tracking a serial killer of women in the city’s East End.

As Georgia struggles to prevent more women from meeting a violent end, her own secrets and closest ties are stripped bare… With her Harvard mentor, William James, and his sister. With her wealthy, scandalous father. With a troubled patient. All the while the city’s streets reel with carnage and social unrest. Alone and questioning her abilities as the killer closes in, Georgia has one last chance to save the innocent before she confronts the most devastating truth yet.

A shocking, fast-paced period thriller, The Women of Blackmouth Street conjures a lush and gritty world of psychological profiling, political upheaval, and women on the edge of madness.

empty street between concrete buildings during night time

If you enjoy a period thriller with a side dish of gothic intrigue and a whole lot of darkness then you will absolutely love The Women of Blackmouth Street. I inhaled it over the weekend and it was just the thing to usher in October and the Autumn season. I can’t recommend a better read to enjoy with a red wine and the candles lit…

This novel is utter escapism and it was exactly the right thing to get me out of my reading slump and turning the pages as I lost myself in its beautifully realised world. It was fabulous to immerse myself myself in the twists and turns of life as Georgia Buchanan,and experience her determination to follow the twists and turns of this historical mystery all the way to the gates of Bedlam itself…

I found Georia a hugely relatable character in spite of the years and miles between us and could empathise with the situation that she finds herself in, imagining myself in her situation, it is easy to say what you might or might not do – but we are all human and it is very easy indeed to see why she was so determined to hurtle down these dark and mysterious streets in search of the truth. I loved the concept of the alienist and I have gone down a huge rabbit hole looking at other true life representations of crime investigation during tis period.

The Women of Blackmouth Street takes the Victorian thriller genre and gives it a fresh and original 21st century spin. Thea Sutton is a skilful and intelligent writer and is definitely creating a tale for readers who enjoy a dark and mysterious edge. The Victorian setting is extremely successful and will definitely appeal to people who have enjoyed the novels of Stacey Halls, Laura Purcell or Ambrose Parry and love thinking about the way that women’s stories and choices were affected by the opportunities available to them at the time

Georgia is a character who really grows and develops within the story, as I’ve said the lot for women in this era was not easy I think this would make a great book group read as just like all the best crime and thriller fiction, this book is thought provoking and challenging rather than escapist and fluffy. It will have your members thinking about the roles available to women, the way we consider mental health, the class-system and so much more. I was gripped by the details as well as the ideas that Sutton presents us with and found her writing style both beautiful and elegant in its prose.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater & Random Things Tours for inviting me onto the Tour, this is a whole new genre for me this season and I found it hugely enjoyable to turn back time and wander into a dark and dangerous world where almost anything can happen. You should definitely look this book up and order yourself a copy, it’s as stunning on the inside as its beautiful cover and I absolutely recommend it


Check out the other bloggers on the Tour and enjoy hearing what they’ve loved about this original and captivating read

“Thea Sutton’s prose combines Gothic relish with a surgical, lancing precision. Compelling, original and brilliantly disturbing.”

-Kate Weinberg, author of The Truants, one of New York Times’ 10 Best Crime Novels of 2020

“The writing is elegant and powerful. No word wasted and each sentence adding one more brush stroke to this dark, gaslit painting. The Women of Blackmouth Street pulses with dread and foreboding, with a devious ending that is just one more turn of the screw. Boldly impressive.”

-Anthony Atanasio, director and filmmaker, The Persistence of Memory

The Women of Blackmouth Street submerges the reader into a heady, brutal past with uncompromising mind doctor Georgia Buchanan and her fierce desire to save the most vulnerable.”

-Jenna Kalinsky

Writer On The Shelf

Thea Sutton

Thea Sutton has a Ph.D in English Literature and works in corporate communications. She divides her time between Toronto and Los Angeles.

Cold as Hell Orenda Blog Tour

**Winner: Best Icelandic Crime Novel of the Year**

Icelandic sisters Áróra and Ísafold live in different countries and aren‘t on speaking terms, but when their mother loses contact with Ísafold, Áróra reluctantly returns to Iceland to find her sister. But she soon realizes that her sister isn’t avoiding her … she has disappeared, without trace. 

As she confronts Ísafold’s abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Björn, and begins to probe her sister’s reclusive neighbours – who have their own reasons for staying out of sight – Áróra is led into an ever-darker web of intrigue and manipulation. 

Baffled by the conflicting details of her sister’s life, and blinded by the shiveringly bright midnight sun of the Icelandic summer, Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daníel, as she tries to track her sister’s movements, and begins to tail Björn – but she isn’t the only one watching…

Slick, tense, atmospheric and superbly plotted, Cold as Hell marks the start of a riveting, addictive new series from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.

Karen, you’ve only gone and done it again! Another amazing Orenda read…

red and white concrete house near mountain

Lots of reviewers have commented on the way that Cold as Hell has absolutely blown them away – and that is exactly right. It’s got touches of so many of my favourite genres: it’s set in Iceland so it’s got many of the chillingly atmospheric details that I love as well as a set of sisters as the main characters which is a feature that I really enjoyed. Add all of that together and consider the fact that it also features the midnight sun – and I was absolutely sold, right from the get-go…

mountain cliff during daytime

The main character Áróra is someone that you won’t easily forget and I quickly became caught up in her story. She’s a character that dares you rather than begs you to care for her and I got completely drawn into her story all the more because of her complexities and challenges. She is a driven and intelligent woman who will let nothing – not even internal corruption and family secrecy – stand in the way of securing her sister’s safety and I was absolutely gripped by her dogged determination to work through the half-truths and evasions and get to the heart of the matter- whatever the cost.

The fact that her family and neighbours’ roles in this mystery are not quite as clear cut as you might wish added a disturbing, dark and addictive element to this novel that was satisfyingly chilling and definitely not for the faint-hearted. Through the mystery we get insights into wider societal themes such as abusive relatioships, the refugee crisis and the fragmentations within families that I thought added real depth to this novel that made it stand out head and shoulders above your more run of the mill ‘missing persons’ mysteries and gave it a really atmospheric and zeitgeist-y feel that added to its addictive nature.

rock formation surrounded with water

Many novels in this genre are all plot and display a real disregard for the writing itself. Not so Lilja Sigurdardóttir, her writing is precise and elegant showing a real talent for spinning beauty out of bleakness and hollow emptiness. The sections of the novel which describe the Icelandic settings stood out for me as some of the most chillingly beautiful that I’ve encountered in this genre and made me turn the pages ceaselessly to journey with Áróra into the long dark night of the soul and try and get to the bottom of all the secrecy and lies surrounding her sister’s disappearance as well as the corruption and deceit that are making it so difficult to make any headway in this case.

The sure touch that Sigurdardóttir brings to the Icelandic crime genre makes for a satisfying, gripping and harrowing read that drew me in completely. I can’t wait for Mr OnTheShelf to finish reading it so we can go over elements of it together as I found its unique atmosphere and added financial crime element to be extremely compelling The fact that he’s also engrossed speaks volumes as he’s not generally a fiction reader and Cold As Hell had him as gripped as I was.

photography of white swan floating on water body

I have absolutely no doubt that in Áróra I’ve found a new female protagonist that I’ll be telling absolutely everyone about and I’ll definitely be looking out for the sequel. Cold As Hell looks at evil in a unique and memorable way and the quality of writing makes it hard to put down. Particular mention to the translator Quentin Bates who fully evokes the wonderful country it’s set in and makes me want to visit more than ever

#TeamOrenda have rounded up a series of amazing bloggers for this novel and I’m honoured to be opening it for them Check out the #BlogTour poster to see who else is creating the buzz around Cold As Hell

mountains near body of water

Make sure that you order your own copy and find out how much you didn’t know about Icelandic crime yourself…

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“fans of Nordic noir will find plenty to like.” —Publishers Weekly on Trap

“[A] lively conclusion…Fans already invested in this Nordic crime series will race through the pages.”– Publishers Weekly on Cage

“A taut, gritty, thoroughly absorbing journey into Reykjavik’s underworld.” —Booklist on Snare

“Prime binge-reading.” —Booklist on Trap

“Sigurðardóttir knows how to ratchet up the tension…[Trap] is a worthy addition to the icy-cold crime genre popularized by Scandinavian noir novels.” —Foreword Reviews on Trap

“Thriller of the year.” —New York Journal of Books on Snare

“Tough, uncompromising and unsettling.” –Val McDermid on Betrayal

“With its clever plot and brisk, tight pace, this hard-to-put-down Nordic thriller will be a treat for crime fiction fans.” —Library Journal on Snare –This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Writer on the Shelf

Lilja Sigurðard.

Lilja Sigurðardóttir is an Icelandic crime-writer and playwright, born in 1972. She is the author of four crime novels, Steps (Spor), 2009, Forgiveness (Fyrirgefning), 2010, Snare (Gildran) 2015, Tangle (Netið) 2016 and Cage (Búrið) 2017.

Her debut stage-play Big Babies (Stóru Börnin) was staged in the winter of 2013-2014, became critically acclaimed and won the Icelandic Theatre Prize Gríman as “Best play of the year.”

Follow her on Twitter @Lilja1972