booksmonthly book blog  july 2018


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Welcome to the new-look Blog from Books Monthly (well, I did warn you about It in last Month's Issue...) - on this Page you'll find a Score or more major Releases, with Reviews, and Recommendations, and on the other Page (Other books this Month) you'll find the Cover Images for all the many other Books that have come my way during the past Month. Do please let me know what you think by email at

  Book of the Month:

  Stuart MacBride: The Blood Road

  Published by Hodder & Stoughton 22nd May 2018

The No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author returns with the much anticipated new Logan McRae thriller. Some things just won’t stay buried… Logan McRae’s personal history is hardly squeaky clean, but now that he works for Professional Standards he’s policing his fellow officers. When Detective Inspector Bell turns up dead in the driver’s seat of a crashed car it’s a shock to everyone. Because Bell died two years ago, they buried him. Or they thought they did. As an investigation is launched into Bell’s stabbing, Logan digs into his past. Where has he been all this time? Why did he disappear? And what’s so important that he felt the need to come back from the dead? But the deeper Logan digs, the more bones he uncovers – and there are people out there who’ll kill to keep those skeletons buried. If Logan can’t stop them, DI Bell won’t be the only one to die…


I've been reading detective fiction since I discovered Agatha Christie way back in the mid-1950s - by the time I was ten years old I was lapping up authors such as John Creasy, John Dickson Carr, Mickey Spillane, Rex Stout, Christie, and a whole host of others who are now considered to be classic crime fiction authors. I have to confess that I was most at home with Leslie Charteris's Saint stories, because they carried a large element of humour in them, and humour meant everything to me at the time. So much so that I would scour the library bookshelves looking for books with a hint of humour about them, and discovering, one day, the works of Delano Ames, who wrote the adventures of private sleuths Jane and Dagobert Brown. I was already familiar with the stunning works of P G Wodehouse and Dornford Yates's Berry stories were also special favourites of mine. Now I had the added joy of detective mysteries peppered with my kind of humour. The Delano Ames books are still available on Amazon, some having been re-published as recently as 2014. There are few writers with the ability to combine detective or police fiction with humour, and certainly no one with the flair and the talent to compare with Stuart MacBride, who has been a firm favourite of mine since I read his first novel, Dying Light, and interviewed him for Books Monthly the following month. Since then, I have publicly made it clear that Stuart is one of my three absolute favourite authors of all time, the other two being Stephen King and Bernard Cornwell. All three bring different amounts of joy to the table, and I would be equally at home with any one of the three (providing it's a Stephen King and not a King+ collaboration). The Outsider was last month's crime and thriller book of the month, and was outstanding. Later this year, the new Last Kingdom title from Bernard Cornwell will be published, and next month there's a new Inspector Banks and then a new Shetland title. But I have just finished reading The Blood Road, the new Logan McRae novel by Stuart MacBride, and I have already decided that it will be my fiction book of the year for 2018. The Blood Road has all the familiar characters, and with Logan promoted to Inspector and Steel still a lowly demoted Detective Sergeant, there are plenty of opportunities for interchanges between the two of them. Logan has a new love interest and now works for Professional Standards, but things are pretty much as they were in terms of investigations, and this is a continuation of his stellar career with Police Scotland - all the familiar chases, collars, shocks, and moments of insight that make Stuart's books so pleasurable to read and Logan MacRae such a brilliant character. There are plenty of other Police Scotland series, and they are all, in their own way, enjoyable - but they don't have the added humour that the Logan MacRae books have. It's a unique ingredient and it's what keeps people coming back to Stuart MacBride for more. You know you're not going to be let down or disappointed when you pick up a Stuart MacBride - nearly 500 pages of sheer delight and genius. It's a formula that works, as near perfection as it is possible to get. My personal favourite book of the month, book of the year, and really, isn't is about time someone thought about making a TV series?


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  Winston Graham: The Angry Tide

Published by Pan 17th May 2018


The Angry Tide is the seventh novel in Winston Graham's hugely popular Poldark series, which has become a television phenomenon starring Aidan Turner. Cornwall, towards the end of the 18th century. Ross Poldark sits for the borough of Truro as Member of Parliament - his time divided between London and Cornwall, his heart divided about his wife, Demelza. His old feud with George Warleggan still flares - as does the illicit love between Morwenna and Drake, Demelza's brother. Before the new century dawns, George and Ross will be drawn together by a loss greater than their rivalry - and Morwenna and Drake by a tragedy that brings them hope . . . The Angry Tide is followed by the eighth book in the Poldark series, The Stranger From The Sea.


For me, family sagas in the 20th century were dominated by three writers: Mazo De La Roche with her Whiteoaks saga, John Galsworthy with his Forsyte saga, and Winston Graham with his superb series of novels chronicling the Poldark and Warleggan families. It's a sign of the times that there is nothing comparable in the present century, and that the TV producers have found a winning formula by turning to Poldark, which dominated the last quarter century of the 20th. It's almost as if Poldark is now considered a modern classic, and for me that would be quite apt, because it is head and shoulders better than anything else coming from  that era. There are parallels with the Whiteoaks, which I won't go in to now; there was a Canadian TV series based on Mazo's supreme opus, but it was never shown in the UK. There was, of course, the BBC Poldark series starring Robin Ellis (Dr Halse in the new series) and Angharad Rees as Demelza. I watched it at the time, but it's lost in the mists of time and I'm immersed in the new series, and equally immersed in the superb TV tie-in reprints of the novels. Sometimes it's a pleasure and a privilege to know what's going to happen in the TV series because I've read the book it's part-based upon; sometimes it's pleasurable to forget and just lap up the superiority of this series. This latest book is superb, best so far, and having finished it just a few days ago, I found myself beginning to read the previous six novels while I wait for The Stranger From The Sea to come out, hopefully, later this year. This series is so far ahead of anything else in the way of family sagas, it's amazing. More happens in this seventh volume than in any of the previous six books - The Angry Tide is, quite simply, magnificent. Highly recommended!


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  Chris Riddell: Ottoline and the Purple Fox

Published by Macmillan 17th May 2018


Ottoline is back in Ottoline and the Purple Fox, a beautifully illustrated adventure from former Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell. Ottoline and Mr Munroe love puzzles, clues and mysteries. One day, they meet an enigmatic purple fox, who offers to take them on a night-time urban safari. The fox shows them all the hidden animals of the city and Ottoline makes notes on them in her field notebook. Mr Munroe is making notes too - on the anonymous poems he finds stuck to lampposts on their journey. Who is the secretive poet, and how can he and Ottoline help them mend their broken heart?


This brilliant series by Chris Riddell is one of the very best modern children's series I have ever had the privilege to read. I'm not sure if I would feel that way did it not contain the amazing, fantastic illustrations that Chris has done to aid the telling of the story; I suspect I would, because illustrations are an added bonus, and not an essential part of a book, even a children's book. I used to love reading Enid Blyton's The Rockingdown Mystery, not because of the superb illustrations, but simply because it is a superb story, the first of seven Barney mysteries. Ottoline is an amazing character, and it is a matter of pure amazement on my part how Chris can draw the same character with so many amazing expressions over and over again! But then, I was never very good at art myself, so I value the work of a master artist like Chris extremely highly. I think I shall qualify my earlier remark by saying that this series is the very finest illustrated children's series I have ever had the privilege to read. In this case, the illustrations are an integral part of the work, and they are quite superior in every way. Children with good taste will love this!


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  Maeve Haran: In A Country Garden

Published by Pan 28th June 2018

Lifelong friends Claudia, Ella, Laura and Sal celebrated sixty as the new forty, determined not to let age change things. But now they are looking at the future and wondering how to make growing old more fun. Why not live together and have sunny afternoons on the lawn, helping and supporting each other when any of them need it - and still keep enjoying life? Joined by Claudia’s reluctant husband and Sal’s energetic new fiancé, they ignore the protests of their children and pool their resources in a lovely manor house in the country. Only Laura holds out, determined she still has some living to do, especially now she has met the dashing Gavin through an online dating app. But life still has plenty of surprises in store plus a little romance in what the locals dub a New Age Old Age Commune. But are your best friends the last people you should end up living with? In A Country Garden is a heartwarming, hilarious tale of growing old not-so-gracefully, from the bestselling author of The Time of Their Lives, Maeve Haran.


An amazing, heart-warming story of friends of a certain age, coming together to live in comparative comfort by putting their assets together. Things don't always work out as planned, and there are plenty of laughs along the way, but it's a shining example of older people working together to create a better life for themselves, and it was quite fun trying to decide which famous actress should play which character. Superb.


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  David Cressy: Gypsies - an English History

Published by Oxford University Press 12th July 2018


Gypsies, Egyptians, Romanies, and -more recently-Travellers. Who are this marginal and mysterious people who first arrived in England in early Tudor times? Are tales of their distant origins on the Indian subcontinent true, or just another of the many myths and stories that have accreted around them over time? In fact, can they even be regarded as a single people or ethnicity at all, or are they little more than a useful concept? Gypsies have frequently been vilified, and not much less frequently romanticized, by the settled population over the centuries, but social historian David Cressy now attempts to disentangle the myth from the reality of Gypsy life over more than half a millennium of English history. In this, the first comprehensive historical study of the doings and dealings of Gypsies in England, from their first appearance in early Tudor times to the present, he draws on original archival research, and a wide range of reading, to trace the many moments when Gypsy lives became entangled with those of villagers and townsfolk, religious and secular authorities, and social and moral reformers.Crucially, it is a story not just of the Gypsy community and its peculiarities, but also of England's treatment of that community, from draconian Elizabethan statutes, through various degrees of toleration and fascination, right up to the tabloid newspaper campaigns against Gypsy and Traveller encampments of more recent years.


A comprehensive and engaging book about gypsies in England - I remember a time when I was growingup in the 1950s when the fair would visit our village and set up on the field between my road and the new primary school. My Dad was full of warnings about the people who ran the fair - they were, I believe, true gypsies in those days, the kinds of people that figured quite large in many of Enid Blyton's children's adventure stories (she always painted them as reasonable people, with perhaps one villain who was eventually unmasked by the child-heroes of the tale). David Cresy's book sets the record straight on these "true" gypsies in a very readable and remarkable account of gypsies and their impact on our everyday lives.


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  Christine Roussey: My Stinky Dog

Published by Abrams 12th June 2018


Alfred is a great dog. He’s super sweet and he can run really fast. There’s just one teeny, tiny thing . . . Alfred STINKS. His feet stink, his back stinks, his tummy stinks. Alfred’s owner, a little boy, loves him and tries everything to help: soaps and incense, perfumes and shampoos. And he finally, finally, gets Alfred clean. But then . . . the boy kind of misses the stink. And with Alfred carefully avoiding every puddle and constantly brushing his teeth, he’s not very fun anymore. It turns out, Alfred without his stink just isn’t Alfred! This playful picture book by the co-creator of In My Heart reminds us that, when it comes to the people (and pets) we love, sometimes the quirks are the best parts.


As a dog lover (I won't use the word "owner" as we don't ownour dogs, we take them in as our companions) for all of my late teen and adult life, I am aware that some people find them to have a different odour about them than humans. I have to say I find this odour infinitely preferable to human body odour...Anyway, that's enough of that. My Stinky Dog celebrates the fact that our canine companions are of a different to us in spcctacular fashion. The illustrations are brilliant and funny, and enhance the story no end. A very funny story book that will delight anyone who reads it.


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  Helen Fields: Perfect Silence

Published by Avon 23rd August 2018


When silence falls, who will hear their cries? The body of a young girl is found dumped on the roadside on the outskirts of Edinburgh. When pathologists examine the remains, they make a gruesome discovery: the silhouette of a doll carved in the victim’s skin. DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are struggling to find leads in the case, until a doll made of skin is found nestled beside an abandoned baby. After another young woman is found butchered, Luc and Ava realise the babydoll killer is playing a horrifying game. And it’s only a matter of time before he strikes again. Can they stop another victim from being silenced forever – or is it already too late?


This is billed as a new D I Callanach story... it doesn't matter a jot to me who the publishers list as the principal character, but what does matter is that this is one of those other Police Scotland novels that is superb in every aspect, but doesn't have the familiarity of characters or the comedy that exists in the workplace that the Stuart MacBride book has. Callanach and Turner are superb detectives and get into the same kind of scrapes as Logan MacRae and his sidekicks. This is certainly the best one so far featuring this duo...


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  David Griffith: Ship Models From Kits

Published by Pen and Sword 2018


In the past thirty years the world of model kits has undergone a veritable revolution. New techniques in injection moulding have improved the scale accuracy and surface detail of the humble plastic kit, while many specialist companies now produce top-quality resin models, vastly broadening the range of subjects on the market. However, the really radical change has been the advent of photo-etched brass fret, which allows the finest detail to be reproduced to scale. In ship modelling, this has resulted in a new form of the hobby, mid-way between traditional build-from-the-box simplicity and the time-consuming demands of fabricating everything from scratch. These new materials have prompted innovative techniques, which are comprehensively demonstrated in this new manual. Designed for those wishing to achieve the best results from their ship kits in the 1:700 to 1:350 range of scales, it uses step by step photographs to take the reader through the building of two models, one in plastic and one in resin, from basic construction, fittings and detailing, to painting, finishing and display. Written by a highly experienced, award-winning ship modeller, the book is a showcase for the contemporary approach to the hobby.


I think my primary reason for rarely tackling a ship model when I was a young teenager, was the fact that the scale was so small and the relevant small parts so tiny that I didn't have the patience to persevere with them, preferring model aircraft. I believe I may have had the Airfix kit of the Golden Hind, and I also believe that my Dad may have had a hand in helping me to finish it. This superb book looks at the history of plastic ship kits and celebrates the fact that producers now make the finest quality kits in a variety of other materials. The photographs are of highest quality models produced from new generation kits. A fascinating book...


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  George R R Martin: Nightflyers and Other Stories

Published by Harper Voyager 31st May 2018


An epic collection of science fiction tales around space exploration and cosmic horror by the july18#1 bestselling author of A Game of Thrones – with the titular story, Nightflyers, coming to Netflix in 2018. On a voyage toward the boundaries of the known universe, nine misfit academics seek out first contact with a shadowy alien race. But another enigma is the Nightflyer itself, a cybernetic wonder with an elusive captain no one has ever seen in the flesh. Soon, however, the crew discovers that their greatest mystery – and most dangerous threat – is an unexpected force aboard the ship wielding a thirst for blood and terror… Also included are five additional classic George R.R. Martin tales of science fiction that explore the breadth of technology and the dark corners of the human mind.


This is the first of two SF/Fantasy anthologies carrying the name of George R R Martin this month from Harper - this one features stories that are all by Martin, and fantastic stories they are, demonstrating the author's love of pure SF and indicating perhaps influences from such giants of SF stories as Arthur C Clarke and others from the 1950s. Sometimes it's nice not to have to immerse oneself in a long story but to read a short story instead. Magnificent.


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  Craig L Symonds: World War II At Sea

Published by Oxford University Press 1st June 2018


Opening with the 1930 London Conference, Symonds shows how any limitations on naval warfare would become irrelevant before the decade was up, as Europe erupted into conflict once more and its navies were brought to bear against each other. World War II at Sea offers a global perspective, focusing on the major engagements and personalities and revealing both their scale and their interconnection: the U-boat attack on Scapa Flow and the Battle of the Atlantic; the "miracle" evacuation from Dunkirk and the pitched battles for control of Norway fjords; Mussolini's Regia Marina -at the start of the war the fourth-largest navy in the world-and the dominance of the Kidö Butai and Japanese naval power in the Pacific; Pearl Harbor then Midway; the struggles of the Russian Navy and the scuttling of the French Fleet in Toulon in 1942; the landings in North Africa and then Normandy. Here as well are the notable naval leaders-FDR and Churchill, both self-proclaimed "Navy men," Karl Dönitz, François Darlan, Ernest King, Isoroku Yamamoto, Erich Raeder, Inigo Campioni, Louis Mountbatten, William Halsey, as well as the hundreds of thousands of seamen and officers of all nationalities whose live were imperiled and lost during the greatest naval conflicts in history, from small-scale assaults and amphibious operations to the largest armadas ever assembled. Many have argued that World War II was dominated by naval operations; few have shown and how and why this was the case. Symonds combines precision with story-telling verve, expertly illuminating not only the mechanics of large-scale warfare on (and below) the sea but offering wisdom into the nature of the war itself.


I have had the privilege of reading and reviewing a huge number of textbooks on WW1 and WW2 since I started to publish Books Monthly twenty years ago, most of them from Pen and Sword, Casemate and Dorling Kindersley. I have to say that I found Symonds book just a little dry, and lacking in illustrations. It reminded me of the kind of historical textbooks we were using at school back in the late 1950s. Handsome enough to look at, but the contents didn't grab me like so many of the Pen and Sword books did.


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  Mick Powis: The Defeat of the Zeppelins

Published by Pen and Sword Deceomber 2017


Mick Powis describes the novel threat posed to the British war effort by the raids of German airships, or Zeppelins, and the struggle to develop effective defences against them. Despite their size and relatively slow speed, the Zeppelins were hard to locate and destroy at first. They could fly higher than existing fighters and the early raids benefited from a lack of coordination between British services. The development of radio, better aircraft, incendiary ammunition, and, above all, a more coordinated defensive policy, gradually allowed the British to inflict heavy losses on the Zeppelins. The innovative use of seaplanes and planes launched from aircraft carriers allowed the Zeppelins to be intercepted before they reached Britain and to strike back with raids on the Zeppelin sheds. July 1918 saw the RAF and Royal Navy cooperate to destroy two Zeppelins in their base at Tondern (the first attack by aircraft launched from a carrier deck). The last Zeppelin raid on England came in August 1918 and resulted in the destruction of Zeppelin L70 and the death of Peter Strasser, Commander of the Imperial German Navy s Zeppelin force.


And speaking of Pen and Sword books, here's one about WW1 and the ominous threat posed by the Germans' vast airships, many of which seemed to have a self-destruct button, others carrying bombs for the first air raids on Britain. Mick Powis's book is a vibrant account of Zeppelins and how they were eventually send packing. Superb.


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  Peng Shepherd: The Story of M

Published by Harper Collins 28th June 2018


A vivid, touching and original debut, following the effects of an extraordinary catastrophe on very ordinary people. In the middle of a market in India, a man’s shadow disappears. As rolling twenty-four-hour news coverage tries to explain the event, more cases are discovered. The phenomenon spreads like a plague as people learn the true cost of their lost part: their memories. Two years later, Ory and his wife Max have escaped ‘the Forgetting’ by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods in Virgina. They have settled into their new reality, until Max, too, loses her shadow. Knowing the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to the person most precious to her, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up what little time they have left before she loses her memory completely, and desperately follows her trail. On their separate journeys, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a mysterious new force growing in the south that may hold the cure. But neither could have guessed at what you gain when you lose your shadow: the power of magic. A breathtakingly imaginative, timeless story that explores fundamental questions about memory and love―the price of forgetting, the power of connection, and what it means to be human when your world is turned upside down.


A fascinating fantasy about a virus-like threat that causes large swathes of the population to lose some or all of their memories. Shepherd concentrates on little pockets of "survivors" as they try to come to terms with their lost memories and all that that entails. Engaging and fascinating.


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  Sabaa Tahir: Reaper At The Gates

Published by Harper Collins 14th June 2018


The highly anticipated third book in Sabaa Tahir's New York Times bestselling Ember Quartet. Beyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger. The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister's life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance. Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she'd have to fight. And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias's devotion–even at the cost of his humanity.


I've lost touch somewhat with the new wave of fantasy writers in recent years, but I found this one from Sabaa Tahir totally gripping stuff. The Roman-ish names are convincing enough, and although this is the third episode in a quartet, I found that I didn't need to know what had gone before in episodes one and two to know what was going on. Classic fantasy that reminded me of Terry Goodkind.


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  George R R Martin (Ed.): Knaves Over Queens

Published by Harper Collins 28th June 2018


The return of the famous shared-world superhero books created and edited by George R. R. Martin, author of A Song of Ice and Fire. For decades, George R.R. Martin – bestselling author of A Song of Ice and Fire – has collaborated with an ever-shifting ensemble of science fiction and fantasy icons to create the amazing Wild Cards universe. In the aftermath of World War II, the Earth’s population was devastated by a terrifying alien virus. Those who survived were changed for ever. Some, known as Jokers, were cursed with bizarre mental and physical deformities; others, granted superhuman abilities, are known as Aces. Now the virus has reached Britain… Queen Margaret rules over a country in which such legendary figures as Herne the Hunter, Spring-heeled Jack and Babh, the goddess of war, roam at will. Her Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill – gifted with extraordinary longevity – together with the Enigma ace – Alan Turing – set up a special organization named the Order of the Silver Helix. They will need all the wild cards they can find if they are to deal with the terrifying mutations thrown up by the virus. KNAVES OVER QUEENS – the first ever Wild Cards novel set in the UK, and a perfect jumping-in point for readers new to this shared world – features a stunning collection of original stories from such luminaries of the world of science fiction and fantasy as Paul Cornell, Marko Kloos, Mark Lawrence, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Emma Newman, Peter Newman, Peadar O Guilin, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Caroline Spector and Charles Stross.


This is the second fantasy/sf short story anthology to bear the name of George R R Martin, this time as editor, which he has done on a few occasions before. A superlative collection of genre-driven stories that will capture your imagination and send it into overdrive.


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  Jay Kristoff: Godsgrave

Published by Harper Collins 28th June 2018


A ruthless young assassin continues her journey for revenge in this new epic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Jay Kristoff. WINNER OF THE THE AUREALIS AWARD FOR BEST FANTASY NOVEL. Conquer your fear, conquer the world. Mia Corvere, destroyer of empires, has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry do not believe she has earned it. Her position is precarious, and she's still no closer to exacting revenge for the brutal death of her family. But after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself. When it is announced that Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself into slavery for a chance to fulfill the promise she made on the day she lost everything. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold, secrets are revealed and the body count rises within the collegium walls, Mia will be forced to choose between her loyalties and her revenge.


I love fantasies that have assassins as their primary character, something that Edgar Rice Burroughs created back in the 1930s with John Carter of Mars. Jay's assassin is from a completely different background but the premise is the same, and you wonder at what point Mia Corvere will revert to her true character. Superlative fantasy from a modern fantasy master.


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  Liam McIlvanney: The Quaker

Published by Harper Collins 28th June 2018


His name fills the streets with fear… In the chilling new crime novel from award-winning author Liam McIlvanney, a serial killer stalks the streets of Glasgow and DI McCormack follows a trail of secrets to uncover the truth… A city torn apart. Glasgow, 1969. In the grip of the worst winter for years, the city is brought to its knees by a killer whose name fills the streets with fear: the Quaker. He takes his next victim – the third woman from the same nightclub – and dumps her in the street like rubbish. A detective with everything to prove. The police are left chasing a ghost, with no new leads and no hope of catching their prey. DI McCormack, a talented young detective from the Highlands, is ordered to join the investigation. But his arrival is met with anger from a group of officers on the brink of despair. Soon he learns just how difficult life can be for an outsider. A killer who hunts in the shadows. When another woman is found murdered in a tenement flat, it’s clear the case is by no means over. From ruined backstreets to the dark heart of Glasgow, McCormack follows a trail of secrets that will change the city – and his life – forever…


Another Police Scotland (although it wasn't Police Scotland back in the late 1960s, of course) adventure, this time featuring D I McCormack and Glasgow. Gritty, realistic and full of sixties memorabilia - terrific!


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  Beth Lewis: Bitter Sun

Published by Harper Collins 14th June 2018


It all started when we found the body. Then nothing was ever the same. The Dry meets Stand by Me and True Detective in this stunningly written tale of the darkness at the heart of a small mid-Western town and the four kids who uncover it. In the heatwave summer of 1971, four kids find a body by a lake and set out to solve a murder. But they dig too deep and ask too many questions. Larson is a town reeling in the wake of the Vietnam draft, where the unrelenting heat ruins the harvest, and the people teeter on the edge of ruin. As tension and paranoia run rife, rumours become fact, violence becomes reflex. The unrest allows the dark elements of the close-knit farming community to rise and take control. And John, Jenny, Gloria and Rudy are about to discover that sometimes secrets are best left uncovered…


Stand By Me was always one of Stephen King's very best stories; to compare any modern work of fiction to it means the modern book has to be really, really good, and Bitter Sun is really, really good. Written by an English author, about small town America (and borrowing some style from King, inevitably), this is a mesmerising story that will have you immersed in seconds...


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  Charles Cumming: The Man Between

Published by Harper Collins 14th June 2018


He risked it all to become a spy. Now he must pay the price. A gripping new standalone spy thriller from the winner of the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for Best Thriller of the Year and ‘the master of the modern spy thriller’ (Mail on Sunday). One simple task for British Intelligence takes him into a world of danger. Successful novelist Kit Carradine has grown restless. So when British Intelligence invites him to enter the secret world of espionage, he willingly takes a leap into the unknown. But the glamour of being a spy is soon tainted by fear and betrayal, as Carradine finds himself in Morocco on the trail of Lara Bartok – a mysterious fugitive with links to international terrorism. Bartok is a leading figure in Resurrection, a violent revolutionary movement whose brutal attacks on prominent right-wing politicians have spread hatred and violence throughout the West. As the coils of a ruthless plot tighten around him, Carradine finds himself drawn to Lara. Caught between competing intelligence services who want her dead, he soon faces an awful choice: to abandon Lara to her fate or to risk everything trying to save her.


Missing Spooks? The Man Between has everything that Spooks had in spades - intrigue, intelligence, drama, terrorism, the lot. Charles Cummings's principal character Kit Carradine owes something to Ian Fleming, of course, but this is a superior spy novel, far more enjoyable, in my opinion, than the comparatively dry and over-complicated and complex works of Le Carré...


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  Sam Kirk: The Coal Boat

Published Independently March 2018


Frustrated by the suffocating cultural apathy of her 1930s northern pit community, teenager Nancy dreams of pursuing an emancipated life in London. When her escape strategy derails, Nancy is forced to carve an alternative path to freedom that challenges her place as a young woman in a changing world. Swept into a heady bohemian London lifestyle, Nancy soon learns that a life lived without restraint comes at a price. As the consequences of her actions mount, she faces a future defined by her past and by life choices made that will reverberate through time. Unapologetic in its exploration of free will within a framework of religious and societal constraint, The Coal Boat is a coming-of-age novel that probes the deepest reaches of aspiration and personal responsibility.


I've no personal knowledge of the 1930s, but I was surrounded by family members, parents, uncles, aunts, one grandparent etc., who lived through the thirties and behaved, at times, as though they had never ended - the spirit and mannerisms of the thirties lived on through them. Sam Kirk's coming of age novel The Show Boat doesn't seem that unfamiliar to me, and I would hazard a guess that very little changed in British society throughout the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s - it wasn't until the 1960s that the massive cultural change occurred. Nancy is a great character and you can't help but identify with her as she struggles to make her way in a male-dominated society. Many nice touches, lots of superb nostalgia and beautifully-written dialogue make this a must-read!


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  Bill Kitson: Running Scared

Published Create Space 4th June 2018


With DI Mike Nash away on compassionate leave, DS Clara Mironova and the Helmsdale team are faced with a sudden and dramatic increase in crime. Minor offences ranging from theft, shoplifting, and poaching, pale into significance when a violent turf war breaks out between rival gangs of drugs suppliers. Within weeks the detectives have to cope with three murders, including the shooting of a police officer. As they struggle to investigate the killings, a batch of deliberately contaminated heroin hits the streets, resulting in the deaths of three addicts and causing panic in the media. The breathless speed of events puts the entire region on high alert. The detectives must capture the drug barons, break up their supply networks, solve the murders – and thwart the criminal mastermind before he can realize his ultimate ambition.


I've been following Bill's superbly crafted Nash and Miranova stories since book one was published by Robert Hale. Now published independently, I can tell you that the quality remains as high as ever and it's a wonder to me that this series hasn't been picked up by a mainstream publisher. I once described this series as the best detective series never to have been turned into a TV series. Along with Logan MacRae, Nash and Miranova are among the most enjoyable and most believable 'tecs in modern British crime fiction. Possibly the best one yet, Bill!


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  Antonia Forest: Peter's Room

Published Girls Gone By Publishers 5th June 2018


The Marlows are spending their first Christmas at Trennels, and the younger members gather with their friend Patrick Merrick in the old room over the shippen that Peter has refurbished for himself. Ginty mentions that the Brontes are her form project and tells the other about the Gondal and Angria sagas. To pass the time in bad weather they decide to act a similar story themselves. Nicola is never as keen as the rest and her reservation is seen to be well-founded as the imaginary characters exercise more and more influence over their creators. Interwoven with all this is Ginty’s growing friendship with Patrick and a splendid account of a local Meet in 2004. Its reprint is particularly timely now as the  Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand has chosen it as a book for their literature course. Harry Ricketts of the University has written an introduction explaining why this is and also writing about the Pleasures and Dangers of Gondalling.


Undoubtedly not the best of Antonia Forest's Marlow tales, but worth reading for the quality of the writing, and probably one for committed collectors rather than the general public. I'm not that fond of the cover art, but then it does preserve it for posterity, and as usual GGBP have done a splendid job in bringing it back into the fold.


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  Heather Maisner: Dinosaur Douglas and the Yucky     Mucky Fingers

Published Dinosaur Douglas Books 5th June 2018


Dinosaur Douglas and the Yucky Mucky Fingers, written in rhyme and illustrated by international artist Alex Godwin, with input from paediatric consultants at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, encourages children to wash their hands. About 1.8 million children under five years old die each year from diarrhoea and pneumonia, the two top killers of young children around the world. Hand-washing with soap could protect about one out of every three young children, who get sick with diarrhoea, and almost one out of five young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia. The book has been read to children in nurseries and Reception classes in London, Norfolk, Malaysia and Australia.


Heather's splendid Dinosaur Douglas series continues to inform and educate young children about the importance of cleanliness, whilst at the same time telling a brilliant story in rhyme and with Alex Godwin's superb illustrations helping to reinforce key points. The timeless lure of dinosaurs and the terrific added bonus of getting important health messages across continues!


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See you all in August... there are some spectacular books on the way, but in the meantime, happy reading!


The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its twentieth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.