Category Archives: Authors M to O

Reviews by author surname M to O

Blog Tour – After He Died by Michael J. Malone *Review*

It’s always exciting to read the latest book by Michael J. Malone and I am delighted to be part of the blog tour today for his latest novel After He Died.

My thanks go to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Anne Cater at Random Things blog tours for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the tour.

The Blurb

When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed…
When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought she knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger. Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…

My Thoughts

You know your partner inside out, right? And, of course, you trust them implicitly don’t you? Imagine your partner suddenly died and while trying to get through the funeral you are slipped a note by a person you don’t know who suggests that your partner wasn’t who you thought they were. This is what happens to Paula Gadd in Michael J. Malone’s latest book After He Died.

As Malone sets up the premise of the book, starting at the above-mentioned funeral of Thomas Gadd, you may be forgiven for thinking this is going to be your fairly average ‘how well do you know your partner’ domestic noir, but this is Michael J. Malone and of course there is going to be nothing standard about it. The emotion hits you straight in the face as Malone perfectly describes the grief Paula is feeling in the opening lines. Immediately you empathise with this woman you do not yet know. And from there you can’t help but want to read further.

One of the things that always sets Malone’s work apart is his skilled use of words. He is able to make his characters multi-faceted and rounded and Paula Gadd is no exception. She is not a particularly likeable character but you cannot help but feel for her. Malone’s ability to describe the full range of emotions Paula goes through from her grief to each horrifying discovery about her deceased husband and his family members is outstanding as he writes with sensitivity and feeling.

Again, Malone has managed to combine gripping thriller with character driven humanity. After He Died is as much a comment on social class and the issues that arise in each as it is a piece of domestic noir. In Cara Connolly he has created the antithesis to Paula and I warmed to her completely.

As each revelation and family secret is revealed, you can’t help but be completely hooked on After He Died and Malone has you having to read just one more page.

Another great read from Michael J. Malone, After He Died is completely different from his two previous books published by Orenda, and his talent lies in being able to produce something totally fresh and totally brilliant every time. If you want a domestic noir that is well-written, keeps you hooked and also makes you think and feel deeply check out After He Died.

About the Author

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. Other published work includes:
Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The
Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a
number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines soon
followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also
worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

After He Died was published on ebook on 30 July 2018 and is published in paperback on 30 September 2018 by Orenda Books. You can get your copy HERE.


Review – Docherty by William McIlvanney

The Blurb

‘His face made a fist at the world. The twined remnant of umbilicus projected vulnerably. Hands, feet and prick. He had come equipped for the job.’

Newborn Conn Docherty, raw as a fresh wound, lies between his parents in their tenement room, with no birthright but a life’s labour in the pits of his small town. But the world is changing, and, lying next to him, Conn’s father Tam has decided that his son’s life will be different from his own.

Gritty, dark and tender, McIlvanney’s Docherty is a modern classic.

My Thoughts

Set in the early 20th Century, William McIlvanney’s Docherty is a searing indictment of the lives of the Scottish working classes during this time period, and a brutal but honest look at the conditions they faced, economically, socially and politically.

It follows the lives and fates of the Docherty family and starts when Conn Docherty is born. The Docherty family live in a small pit village in Scotland and on the birth of his fourth child, father Tam Docherty swears that this child will lead a different life to him.

Tam Docherty is a hard but gentle man; respected by his peers and loved by his family. A firm believer that the men and women of his class deserve more, he wants nothing more than for life to be different for his children. Unfortunately, achieving that is not simple when you live in the shadow of the coal mine. There is an air of inevitability about the book as we quickly see that there is no room for manoeuvre when you are born into the lower classes. As opportunities are stripped away from them, the Docherty children have to make do with what life has presented to them.

Docherty is incredibly heart breaking and yet McIlvanney also manages to interject wry humour and this is demonstrated from the outset. It is a reflection of how the people in this close-knit community cope with the hardships they have been handed.

All of the characters are strongly written and they all make a huge impression on you. We see how each of Tam and Jenny Docherty’s children react to their situation and the ways in which the parents struggle but manage to provide for them. They are brought to life through McIlvanney’s use of colloquial language and while it can take some getting used to for a non-Scot it is worth it. As we follow Mick, Kathleen, Angus and Conn as they grow into adults, we see how their social circumstances impact on them and the way they go on to live their lives.

Docherty provides an exploration of poverty and how those living in the dire circumstances cope. There is a strong emphasis on the moral code that the inhabitants of Graithnock adhere to and a real sense of a support network. That’s not to say that everything is perfect, it is far from it, but it is these things that help them survive the harshness of their everyday life.

I couldn’t help but feel a sense of claustrophobia while reading Docherty. It’s as though the characters have become all-consumed by their poverty and, as a result, their surroundings. When one of the Docherty boys attempts to escape via enlisting as a soldier, he returns from WWI to find this has further entrenched his place in Graithnock. The lack of any ability to escape is a sad reflection of Great Britain at the turn of the century.

Full of grit, rage and despair, yet interspersed with dry, Scottish humour, Docherty is an uncomfortable read but an essential read. If you like your literature to be unflinching in its depiction of life at the harshest end of the scale you will enjoy Docherty.

Published on 3 November 2016 by Canongate you can get your copy HERE.

My thanks go to Canongate for the copy of Docherty in exchange for my review.

Review – The World is [Not] a Cold Dead Place by Nathan O’Hagan

The Blurb

I have developed a detachment from the rest of the human race. I don’t fear them. I don’t consider myself above them. It’s just that I genuinely loathe them. There is no reason. I wasn’t abused as a child. There were no traumatic events in adolescence, no heartbreak or rejection in early adulthood. Nothing to account for the person I have become. I shall offer no explanation, no mitigation for what I am. But whatever the reason, I have come adrift from mankind, and that is where I intend to stay.

Welcome to Gary Lennon’s world. It isn’t a cold dead place. You’ll like it there. You’ll see things his way and you’ll want to stay. But Gary’s therapist has other ideas. He thinks Gary should get a job, meet people and interact with the real world. Look out, people. Look out, world.

My Thoughts

I have had this book on my TBR pile for what feels like a ridiculously long time, but I’m pleased to have finally got around to reading it. The World is [Not] a Cold Dead Place is very different to what I have been reading recently but in a good way and, as they say, a change is as good as a rest.

The world we inhabit as we read The World is [Not] a Cold Dead Place is Gary Lennon’s. Living in Birkenhead, Gary’s world is isolated and revolves around his flat, his two friends and his therapy sessions. Gary’s obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety and depression mean that he has a certain way of viewing life. His relatively small world is about to be rocked, however, as his therapist has decided that he should get a job and start meeting people.

Gary is acerbic, cynical and has a very bleak view of the world. With biting black humour, O’Hagan has written a book that has you both laughing and nodding in agreement with his acute observations of the more ridiculous and astounding aspects of modern life. I really warmed to Gary, he is an anti-hero who says and does the things you wish you could but can’t as you would never get away with. There are some pretty heart-breaking moments in the book and I was particularly affected by the story behind one of Gary’s friend’s nickname.

This could be a bleak and depressing read, but O’Hagan’s mix of humour and biting observations ensure that this isn’t the case. O’Hagan is clearly astute and questions what is going on around him and this shines through in The World. He has created a well-rounded character in Gary Lennon and, despite him not being a conventionally lovable character, you can’t help but like him. The World is not a fast-paced book that is rammed with action and yet it is engrossing and during the periods when you can’t read you are itching to get back to Gary and his world.

The World is [Not] a Cold Dead Place is a scathing, suspicious yet accurate account of modern society as seen through the main character’s eyes – a character who in the same turn is endearing – and it is incredibly funny in places. If you like your humour on the darker side and you find yourself rooting for the underdog, introduce yourself to Gary Lennon by grabbing a copy of O’Hagan’s book.

Published on 21 August 2015 by Armley Press you can grab a copy HERE.

#AroundTheUKIn144Books book 11. County: Merseyside

Review – Last Orders by Caimh McDonnell

The Blurb

As a wise man once said, just because you’re done with the past, doesn’t mean the past is done with you.

Paul can’t let an incident from his past go. When he finds out a rival detective agency played a key role in it, he drags MCM Investigations into a blood feud that they can’t hope to win. Soon they’re faced with the prospect of the company going out of business and Brigit going out of her damn mind.

When long-buried bodies are discovered in the Wicklow Mountains, Bunny’s past starts closing in on him too. Who can he trust when he can’t even trust himself? When he finds himself with nowhere left to run and nobody he can turn to, will the big fella make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the ones he loves?

When all that’s left is the fall, the fall is everything.

And even the mighty fall.

Last Orders is the thrilling conclusion of the critically acclaimed Dublin Trilogy, which melds fast-paced action with a distinctly Irish acerbic wit. It’s best enjoyed having read the other books in the series, particularly the prequel Angels in the Moonlight.

My Thoughts

I have to start off by saying I am gutted that Last Orders is the final book in The Dublin Trilogy. I have loved spending time with Bunny, Paul, Brigit, Phil and especially Maggie. If you haven’t read the other two books in the trilogy yet and the prequel you are missing a treat. Last Orders probably can be read as a standalone but in order to get maximum impact you really need to have read the other books first.

It is no secret that I adore this series and Last Orders is the perfect ending to a fab trilogy. It had everything I had come to expect from McDonnell – acerbic Irish wit, fast-paced action and a cracking plot – and more. As we saw in Angels In The Moonlight, McDonnell’s writing gets better and better with each book as he also adds a deeper layer of emotion. I don’t want to give anything away plot wise, but I found myself deeply concerned for Bunny as his past starts to catch up with him and he suffers the impact of what happened to him in The Day That Never Comes. McDonnell perfectly captures all of the sadness involved in seeing a strong man slowly deplete from both the perspective of the man himself and those around him. Be prepared to go through a whole rollercoaster of emotions while reading Last Orders.

As Paul wages a war against a rival private detective agency, further pushing him and the exasperated Brigit apart, the pace maintains a speedy momentum throughout the book via humour and intrigue. As McDonnell flings curveballs around until it comes together beautifully at the end you realise how perfectly the plot has been planned and put together.

Part of the beauty of these books is the characterisation. As a reader you can’t help but feel a great affection for them all and a part of me is in mourning as the series closes. Each character is well thought out, well-developed and rounded. You get completely wrapped up in the characters and live every moment with them to the point that I found myself talking to them and whispering ‘oh, don’t do that’ to them.

I can’t end this review without mentioning McDonnell’s observations on society and life in general. They range from the seriously accurate to pee-your-pants funny. Paul’s thoughts on wind chimes are just ace and resonated loudly with me as I bloody hate wind chimes!

An absolute corker and a great way to end the series, Last Orders is brilliant. I loved everything about it and it, along with the other three books, will be one I return to again and again. I’m gutted it’s over but excited to see where McDonnell takes us next. If you haven’t yet read any of these books go out and buy them all now; I promise that you will love them!

Published on eBook on 3 March 2018 and paperback on 6 March 2018 by McFori Ink. You can grab your copy HERE.

A huge thank you to Caimh McDonnell and Elaine Ofori at McFori Ink for my advance copy in exchange for my review.

Read my reviews of the other books in The Dublin Trilogy by clicking on the pictures!


Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Review of Dark Winter by David Mark

As part of the Hull Noir countdown I’m sharing my review of Dark Winter by David Mark. David Mark is from Hull and his Detective Aector McAvoy novels are set in the city. I have to admit that this book has been sitting on my Kindle for far too long while review copies took priority. I’m so glad I finally read this book and I’m looking forward to hearing Mark speak at Hull Noir. Mark is taking part in Sleeping with the Fishes on Saturday 18th November with Nick Quantrill, Lilja Sigurdardottir and Quentin Bates and I can’t wait!

The Blurb

DS Aector McAvoy is a man with a troubled past. His unwavering belief in justice has made him an outsider in the police force he serves, a good man among the lazy and corrupt.

Then on a cold day in December he is the first cop on the scene when a young girl is killed in Hull’s historic church – and the only one to see the murderer. A masked man, with tears in his eyes…

When two more seemingly unconnected people die, the police must work quickly. Only McAvoy can see the connection between the victims. A killer is playing God – and McAvoy must find a way to stop the deadly game.

My Thoughts

‘“Hull isn’t in the North East, sir. It’s in the East Riding of Yorkshire.”’

Dark Winter is a book that has been sitting waiting on my Kindle for what seems like an eternity! This means that I am way behind everybody else with Mark’s Detective Aector McAvoy series as Dark Winter is the first in a series of six. I was initially drawn to this book because it is set in Hull and written by a Hull author.

When a fifteen year old is stabbed to death in Holy Trinity Church, Detective McAvoy is first on the scene and sees the killer. When further killings occur McAvoy is the only detective to see a link between them.

I really liked Aector McAvoy as a character. He is a big bear of a man who has a real gentleness about him. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have his dark side – let’s face it, most detectives in crime novels do – and he can undoubtedly hold his own but he is principled and believes in honest justice which is something his colleagues are often willing to overlook. From a character point of view, Dark Winter works well as the initial novel in a series. The reader is given enough information about McAvoy’s past to be intrigued and there is clearly more to come with this character.

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot for fear of giving anything away but have to mention that I really liked the reasons for the killings. It adds another layer and pulls together what seem initially to be disparate threads together nicely. The plot kept me interested and wanting to read more. Dark Winter is well paced and Mark ensures that the plot moves along at a decent speed.

The setting of Hull plays a large and important part in Dark Winter. It perfectly adds to the atmosphere of the novel. Dark Winter was first published in 2012 and at that time Hull was one of those northern cities that had been decimated by the loss of industry. There was always a prevailing sense of loss and hopelessness within Hull and its many run-down streets that Mark captures well in Dark Winter. However, he also captures the sense of pride and identity that people from Hull have about their city and this is highlighted when even McAvoy, a non-Hull native, points out that Hull is in Yorkshire. I very much hope that with City of Culture status and five years on from Dark Winter that Hull is able to reach its potential and become the great city I hold so affectionately in my heart. I will be interested to see if there are any changes in the way Hull is portrayed by Mark in the following books.

A great start to a detective series, I thoroughly enjoyed Dark Winter and read it in no time at all. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series now that I have started and look forward to seeing where Mark takes McAvoy. I am also interested to see if the descriptions of Hull change over time. If you are looking for a gritty, northern read check Dark Winter out.

First published 19 December 2012 by Quercus and on 5 October 2017 by Hodder and Stoughton.

You can get all the information about Hull Noir, including tickets HERE.

Continue reading Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Review of Dark Winter by David Mark

Blog Tour – Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister *Review*

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister and sharing my review. 

The Blurb

Gone Girl meets Sliding Doors in this edge-of-your-seat thriller

Joanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly.

But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home. Is she being followed? She is sure it’s him; the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave her alone. Hearing the steps speed up Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps and lying motionless on the floor.

Now Joanna has to do the thing she hates most – make a decision. Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong?

My Thoughts

Having really enjoyed McAllister’s debut novel Everything But The Truth I was eager to read her next novel Anything You Do Say. McAllister has definitely proved herself as a talented writer and an author who has a great career ahead of her.

Anything You Do Say is narrated in first person by main character Joanna Oliva. Following a night out with her friend in which a man in the pub has become a little too ‘friendly’ Joanna, who usually avoids making decisions, finds herself having to make the biggest decision of her life. On her way home Joanna believes she is being followed by the creep from the pub and as he gets closer she pushes him down some steps. As his body lies at the bottom of the steps Joanna has to decide whether she will stay and call for help or run and keep quiet about it.

McAllister presents both outcomes to us as Anything You Do Say is split into alternating chapters of Reveal and Conceal. We follow Joanna through the outcome of each decision and see the impact that both have on her life and the lives of her family and friends. This could have the potential of becoming complicated and muddled but McAllister pulls it off perfectly. It works incredibly well and makes the book really compelling. Each chapter is flawlessly crafted and the fact that each alternating chapter tells one half of the story makes Anything You Do Say really difficult to put down.

I loved the moral aspect of Anything You Do Say and this would make a great book for a reading group as there is so much to discuss. McAllister has considered every possible outcome for the two scenarios and this is a book that really gets you thinking. I was also emotionally moved as the consequences of both outcomes are heart breaking. I spent quite a lot of time trying to decide whether the fall out was worse for concealing or revealing and for me I found concealing the hardest to take.

Anything You Do Say is a wonderful book. It is meticulously plotted, well written and offers something unique to the psychological thriller genre. I loved it and highly recommend it.

Published on  eBook on 19 October 2016 and paperback on 25 January 2018 by paperback.

A huge thank you to Gillian McAllister and Penguin for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour…




Review – The Girl From The Sugar Plantation by Sharon Maas

The Blurb

An unputdownable story of a woman in search of the truth, the man she falls in love with, and the devastation of the Second World War.

1934, Guyana. All her life, Mary Grace has wanted to know the truth about who her parents really are. As the mixed-race daughter of two white plantation owners, her childhood has been clouded by whispered rumours, and the circumstances of her birth have been kept a closely guarded secret…

Aunt Winnie is the only person Mary Grace can confide in. Feeling lost and lonely, her place in society uncertain, Mary Grace decides to forge her own path in the world. And she finds herself unexpectedly falling for charming and affluent Jock Campbell, a planter with revolutionary ideas.

But, with the onset of the Second World War, their lives will be changed forever. And Mary Grace and Jock will be faced with the hardest decision of all – to fight for freedom or to follow their hearts…

An utterly compelling and evocative story about the heart-breaking choices men and women had to make during a time of unimaginable change. Perfect for fans of The Secret Wife and Island of Secrets.

My Thoughts

It’s no secret that I adore Sharon Maas’s books, so when a new one comes out I am always very excited and eager to read it. There is always a sense of anticipation when picking up the new novel by one of your favourite authors; will it be as good as their previous novels? What if it doesn’t live up to expectations? Maas, however, delivers again and The Girl From The Sugar Plantation exceeded all my expectations.

The Girl From The Sugar Plantation is the third (and sadly final) part of The Quint Chronicles. It works perfectly as a standalone so don’t worry if you haven’t read the first two books. We follow Mary Grace (known as Grace) Smedley-Cox in British Guyana from 1935 to the 1960’s. Grace is the mixed-race daughter of two white plantation owners and, at the age of sixteen, she is desperate to know the truth behind her parentage. What follows is an epic story of family deceit, love and identity set against a stunning backdrop and yet there is much more to this book than that.

Maas, as always, has beautifully created the sense of place. You can see, smell and hear Guyana and you are completely transported there. The Guyanan sun was a welcome break from the somewhat dull British autumn months. You are on the plantations and in Georgetown while reading this book and, indeed, Maas’s other books in the series.

With a rich cast of characters, you cannot help but get completely absorbed in their lives. Grace is in an unusual situation in that she has status as the daughter of plantation owners but she is the ‘wrong’ skin colour during a time and in a place in which the colour of your skin determines your future and your standing. This gives The Girl From The Sugar Plantation that extra depth which makes the book all the more compelling.

Alongside the tale of family secrets and love is the tale of oppression and social change and it is this aspect that makes The Girl From The Sugar Plantation even more enjoyable for me. Maas has clearly carefully conducted her research and portrays this time of great change in Guyanan history with authenticity, skilfully mixing historical fact with fiction.

The political landscape The Girl From The Sugar Plantation is fascinating. I only realised on reading the Historical Notes that Jock Campbell actually existed and that there is very little written about this hero. Maas has done him and his family proud in her portrayal of him. It is comforting to know that in an often harsh and unequal world there are and have been people out there who have a social conscience and become a force for good.

I adored The Girl From The Sugar Plantation and recommend it highly. If you love books that contain exotic settings, family secrets and lies and historical fact you will enjoy this book. Maas has brought us a wonderfully written piece of historical fiction.

Published on 19 October 2017 by Bookouture.

A huge thank you to Sharon Maas, Bookouture and Netgalley for the advance copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

To read my reviews of Sharon’s other books and the Author Influences feature with her click HERE.



Blog Tour – The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan *Author Guest Post*

Welcome to my turn on The Doll House blog tour. I am delighted to have a great guest post by Phoebe Morgan on writing tips! I will hand you over to Pheobe and then tell you more about her debut novel.

My Top Three Writing Tips by Phoebe Morgan

1. Don’t try to edit as you go
It can be really hard as you write to resist the urge to correct every sentence as soon as it’s down on the page, but my advice would be to try not to do this. Instead, keep writing, and once you have a first draft, you can then go back and edit it as much as you like! If you keep stopping and going back after every new paragraph, you will find that your manuscript progresses very slowly, and the chances are that you’ll end up changing it all again later anyway. No first draft is anywhere near perfect – far from it – but you will feel so much better psychologically when you have a body of work that you can then play around with. There is something about having the finished draft that takes some of the pressure off – and then you can begin sculpting it into the end product, which I often find more enjoyable than the initial scramble to get words on the page.

2. Know your characters’ backstories
In the first draft of The Doll House, the character of Mathilde had a whole backstory where we got to see her marriage, how she first met her husband and the different jobs she had as a young woman. During the editing process, all of that got cut out, but it didn’t really matter because I knew all about her life and so it made for a (hopefully!) more rounded, 3D character in the final draft. Even though the reader hadn’t seen her backstory, it was all fleshed out in my head and so I knew what kind of character I needed her to be. I think it’s always important to know your characters really well, so that their actions, thoughts and decisions ring true to your readers. I like plotting the characters out in spider diagrams before I write – just little things like their traits and hobbies, and even if that content doesn’t go in the book or only takes up a sentence or two, it just makes them into believable people on the page.

3. Don’t be scared to cut things out
When you’ve worked very hard on something, the idea of deleting great swathes can seem terrifying, and you’ll probably find that every instinct in your body is screaming out no! But it’s like that moment when you swim in the sea – you really don’t want to put your shoulders under but then when you do, it’s really fun and you’re glad you did. Once you actually start cutting out bits that aren’t adding to the pace, aren’t moving the story forwards or just aren’t of interest to a reader, you’ll find you get a bit of a buzz as you see your clean manuscript emerging in front of you, without all the unnecessary extra words that were weighing it down.

Thank you Phoebe for the great tips.

The Doll House Blurb

You never know who’s watching…

Corinne’s life might look perfect on the outside, but after three failed IVF attempts it’s her last chance to have a baby. And when she finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels as if it’s a sign.

But as more pieces begin to turn up, Corinne realises that they are far too familiar. Someone knows about the miniature rocking horse and the little doll with its red velvet dress. Someone has been inside her house…

How does the stranger know so much about her life? How long have they been watching? And what are they waiting for…?

A gripping debut psychological thriller with a twist you won’t see coming. Perfect for fans of I See You and The Widow.

Published on 14 September by HQ Digital

A huge thank you to Phoebe Morgan and Helena Sheffield for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the est of the tour for more author guest posts and reviews…


Blog Tour – House of Spines by Michael J Malone *Review*

I am super excited to be on the House of Spines by Michael J Malone blog tour today with the fabulous Blue Book Balloon, and to finally be able to share my review of this bloomin’ brilliant book. I loved it! To find out why, read on…

The Blurb

Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who appears to have been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, he finds that Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror … the reflection of a woman …

A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…

My Thoughts

I have been eagerly anticipating this book, however, there is always a worry that a book you are desperate to read won’t live up to expectations especially when you have loved an author’s previous work as much as I loved Malone’s A Suitable Lie. I am pleased to say I had nothing to worry about as House of Spines is amazing and I adored it!

I do have one problem though, and that is how on earth to write this review and do House of Spines justice. Malone has combined so many things I love in one book and while I want to talk about it, I want readers to have the same experience I did in reading it for the first time. Talking about it is, therefore, difficult. I wish I was a member of a reading group that currently had House of Spines as their current read as there is so much to discuss.

House of Spines has everything you could want in a novel – the uncovering of closely held family secrets, a complex and damaged main character, a web of deceit and enough left to the reader’s interpretation to make you continue thinking about it long after you have closed the book for the final time. It also has the gothic elements I have loved since first discovering Wuthering Heights and Du Maurier as a teenager.

The prologue captured my attention immediately and literally begged me to read on. Simultaneously intriguing and moving, Malone has created the perfect introduction to main character Ranald. You just know there are going to be several layers to this man due to his experiences. I was with Ranald for every step of his journey – from him inheriting a house from the great uncle he never knew existed, to his unravelling and the position he ultimately finds himself in in the end. While there were moments I doubted him, I desperately wanted him to be okay.

My other favourite ‘character’ in House of Spines was Newton Hall – the property in which the book is named after. While Newton Hall cannot be classed as a character in the normal sense of the word, its importance to the book cannot be ignored. It has an omnipresence that is both disturbing and delightful. I found myself both loving Newton Hall and being repelled by it. I was in awe of it and yet nervous in its presence and about the impact it had on Ranald. I wanted the best for Ranald yet I also wanted the best for Newton Hall and being unsure if the two could go hand in hand, I wasn’t sure, if push came to shove, which of the two I would support. The energy Newton Hall emits, the secrets it harbours and Malone’s writing and conveyance of the two caused a mix of emotions within me. Newton Hall caused me much trepidation and yet I was enthralled by it.

House of Spines is a story of mistruths, mistrust and generational discord in which the most harmful aspects of being human are passed down from one relative to another. Whose version of events are to be believed continues to be a question I am mulling over days after reading. Malone incorporates the right amount of red herrings in order for the reader to be caught off guard and the distrust that lies amongst the characters of the book becomes a state the reader also finds themselves in.

Malone touches on mental health issues throughout House of Spines and deals with this with sensitivity and insight. It is a credit to Malone’s skills as a writer that he has managed to combine a current issue with a gripping psychological thriller while maintaining an otherworldly element and feel. Malone’s prose at times hit me right in the heart and you can clearly see the poet within him.

House of Spines will send shivers down your spine, leave you questioning, take you by surprise and mess with your emotions. Read it, it’s fantastic and will undoubtedly be included as one of my books of 2017.

Published on 15 September 2017 by Orenda Books.

About the Author

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

A massive thank you to Michael J Malone, Orenda Books and Anne Cater for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Follow the rest of the tour…


Blog Tour – Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell *Author Guest Post and Review*

I am beyond excited to be kick starting the blog tour for Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell today. I loved A Man With One of Those Faces and The Day That Never Comes and could not wait to get my hands on this, the prequel. I’m delighted that Caimh joins me today with a brilliant guest post on the inspiration behind Angels in the Moonlight so, without further ado, I will tell you about the book, then hand you over to Caimh and finally share my thoughts. Enjoy!

The Blurb

For Detective Bunny McGarry, life is complicated, and it is about to get more so.

It’s 1999 and his hard-won reputation amongst Dublin’s criminal fraternity, for being a massive pain in the backside, is unfortunately shared by his bosses. His partner has a career-threatening gambling problem and, oh yeah, Bunny’s finally been given a crack at the big time. He is set the task of bringing down the most skilled and ruthless armed robbers in Irish history. So, the last thing he needs in his life is yet another complication.

Her name is Simone. She is smart, funny, talented and, well, complicated. When her shocking past turns up to threaten her and Bunny’s chance at a future, things get very complicated indeed. If the choice is upholding the law or protecting those he loves, which way will the big fella turn?

Angels in the Moonlight is the standalone prequel to Caimh McDonnell’s critically acclaimed Dublin Trilogy, and it is complicated.

Inspiration by Caimh McDonnell

It is one of the great truths of life that nobody has ever asked an accountant where they get their ideas from. People should start doing that, because it would take a lot of the heat off us authors. I’ve been asked that question a few times and, generally, I give some variation of a funny response that doesn’t answer the question. Nobody likes to answer that question, not least because there really is no satisfying answer. In all honesty, most of the time the ideas are just there in my head when I jump into the shower in the morning. Perhaps my subconscious has worked them out overnight, perhaps my brain reacts well to water, perhaps I do all my best thinking naked. Certainly, I seem to think more clearly when naked, even if the thought is ‘I should very definitely not have taken my clothes off here’.

Still though, for the first and probably last time ever, I have gone through latest novel, Angels in the Moonlight, and tried to identify, where possible, how I arrived at certain conclusions. What this has resulted in is a weird scrapbook of ideas that may make little or no sense, but if nothing else, it’ll make you think twice before asking that dreaded question of anyone, even your accountant.

Getting annoyed at Lethal Weapon
You know the famous scene in Lethal Weapon where Mel Gibson’s character is dealing with a man trying to jump off a building? He handcuffs himself to him and then they both jump. Here’s the thing – it is a great scene that makes absolutely no sense. There’s a big inflatable bouncy castle type thing below that they land on – how did the jumper not know that was there? I’ve never jumped off a building but I’m pretty sure that if I was going to, I’d be incredibly focused on the ground. That has bugged me for thirty years, the whole first scene of my book is essentially me doing a distinctly Dublin version of that scene, with no invisible bouncy castles anywhere to be seen or indeed not seen.

A benign cyst
Speaking of romance … I was once the proud owner of a benign cyst. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, the human body will occasionally grow these entirely harmless lumps that, though slightly alarming, have zero medical repercussions. It’s one of the ways that life reminds us that while the human body is a miracle, God could still have probably asked for a bit of help on the finishing touches or maybe done some beta testing. I had one on my back that my long-suffering wife was not a big fan of. She eventually talked me into getting it removed because it was bothering her she was concerned about it. Long story short, I then had an operation and a severely unpleasant reaction to anesthetic. There’s an instance in the book where one of the characters is about to go through that same operation. Essentially, I wrote that so I could bring it up again without my wife being allowed to roll her eyes and tell me to get over it.

Some of you young’uns might not remember but back in the good old days (1999), we all thought the world was going to end due to a thing called the Millennium Bug – a very real and serious problem created by IT people that was going to cause planes to fall from the sky, all computers to stop working and my ma’s microwave to blow up so she had to unplug it and put it outside in the garden for safety. The only possible way to fix this was to pay IT people an awful lot of money – funny that. The best thing about it was if nothing happened they had done a brilliant job. This meant on January 1st 2000 the entire world felt a tremendous sense of anticlimax and started noticing the suspicious amount of IT consultants who now owned sports cars. I was working in IT at the time and while my compatriots were making out like bandits, I was spending my time reading endless articles on the internet about cults and predictions about how the world was going to end. Understand, I didn’t think it was going to end, I just developed an unhealthy fascination with those that did. I think I may’ve essentially set my book in 1999 just so I could share my obsession with one of my characters. Nothing is wasted – well, apart from if you gave away all your earthly possessions in the firm belief that the world was about to end, that is a bit of a waste.

Having re-read this, I think it is fair to say you could read the book (which I strongly suggest you do) and not have any idea what effect any of the above had on its creation. There’s an old saying in American politics, that laws are like sausages; it’s better if people don’t see how they’re made. I think we can now add novels to that list.

Thanks Caimh for the great post. Angels in the Moonlight certainly brought back fond memories of my mis-spent early adulthood in 1999 (and now I feel old!).

My Thoughts

Bunny is back! And I am bloomin’ glad he is! Angels in the Moonlight is the prequel to the brilliant Dublin Trilogy and it takes us back to 1999 when Bunny is still working as a detective. If you haven’t read the first two books in the trilogy Angels in the Moonlight is a great place to start (obviously … it’s a prequel!) and it is equally great for those who are familiar with and, let’s face it, love Bunny.

The first chapter is perfectly set. It incorporates drama and that all important acerbic Bunny wit. Angels in the Moonlight continues in this vein and, as you would expect from McDonnell, it has you doubled over with laughter while clinging to the edge of your seat. McDonnell continues to totally nail the crime/comedy aspect getting the blend of genres absolutely spot on. We see another layer, however, in Angels in the Moonlight as this is Bunny’s story and McDonnell answers the questions readers of the initial two books had about Bunny. We finally learn about – and meet – Simone; the woman who is often in Bunny’s thoughts in books one and two. Here McDonnell really demonstrates his writing skills as we see a softer side to Bunny, and McDonnell captures the emotions between him and Simone perfectly.

The characters throughout the book are fantastic. McDonnell’s descriptions of them are vivid and he really brings each one to life. I adored the nuns who appear in Angels in the Moonlight they are hilarious. There are always characters you want to see more of in the future in McDonnell’s books and this time, for me, it is definitely the nuns. The dynamics between the characters work wonderfully and ensures that you are completely engaged in the story.

McDonnell manages to make the more tedious aspects of detective work side-splittingly funny ensuring the plot moves along at speed while adding that realistic edge. Once you start Angels in the Moonlight you will find it difficult to drag yourself away from it.

Basically, Angels in the Moonlight is bloody brilliant. McDonnell doesn’t put a foot wrong and I urge everyone to read this (and the other two books if they haven’t already) as it is fantastic. Perfection on a page!

Published on 30 August 2017 by McFori Ink.

You can get your copy here:

Amazon UK
Amazon US

About the Author

Caimh McDonnell is an award-winning stand-up comedian, author and writer of televisual treats. Born in Limerick and raised in Dublin, he has taken the hop across the water and now calls Manchester his home.

He is a man who wears many hats. As well as being an author, he is an award-winning writer for TV, a stand-up comedian and ‘the voice’ of London Irish rugby club. His debut novel, A Man with One of Those Faces was released in 2016 and it is the first book of the Dublin Trilogy series. The follow-up, The Day That Never Comes was published in 2017. Both books are fast-paced crime thrillers set in Caimh’s home town of Dublin and they are laced with distinctly Irish acerbic wit.
Caimh’s TV writing credits include The Sarah Millican Television Programme, A League of Their Own, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. He also works as a children’s TV writer and was BAFTA nominated for the animated series Pet Squad which he created.

During his time on the British stand-up circuit, Caimh has firmly established himself as the white-haired Irishman whose name nobody can pronounce. He has brought the funny worldwide, doing stand-up tours of the Far East, the Middle East and Near East (Norwich).

Follow Caimh’s witterings on @Caimh
Facebook: @CaimhMcD

A huge thank you to Caimh McDonnell and Elaine Ofori at McFori Ink for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Follow the rest of the tour…