Just Read… Born Bad, by Marnie Riches

Born Bad

The battle is on…

When gang leader Paddy O’Brien is stabbed in his brother’s famous nightclub, Manchester’s criminal underworld is shaken to the core. Tensions are running high, and as the body count begins to grow, the O’Brien family must face a tough decision – sell their side of the city to the infamous Boddlington gang or stick it out and risk losing their king.

But war comes easy to the bad boys, and they won’t go down without a fight. So begins a fierce battle for the South Side, with the leading Manchester gangsters taking the law into their own hands – but only the strongest will survive…

You may know Marnie Riches for her fantastic George McKenzie series. I’ve previously reviewed the series debut The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die and loved it. Marnie is back with a peek into Manchester’s criminal underbelly.

After being stabbed, Paddy O’Brien takes a long hard look at his life and decides to retire to a life in the sun, away from the violence he has become accustomed to. The only real choice available to him is to sell his criminal empire to his arch-rivals, the Boddlington gang. They’re up for it. A mere £10 million to gain control of the whole of Manchester, what’s not to love? But someone somewhere doesn’t agree, and they start pulling people’s strings. People to whom violence is second nature.

Whilst I hope that this is only a temporary departure from her George McKenzie books, I did enjoy this journey into the shadier side of Manchester. Marnie has created some great characters, and I particularly liked Leviticus and Conky – and Paddy and Sheila O’Brien’s toxic relationship made for interesting reading. There are a number of different subplots in this book, but like any good recipe, they are deftly woven together and all have an impact on the final dish.

If you don’t mind a bit of gangland death and mayhem, this is a great read!

p.s. I didn’t technically read Born Bad. I listened to it via Audible. Samantha Seager’s narration was top notch!

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Flash Fiction – “Opportunity”


And here it was; my last day. Soon there’d be no more arranging apples into uniform perfection, nor picking cauliflower leaves from the machine polished floor.  No more putting up with Andy, who seems to think managing a few rows of fruit and veg in a supermarket is the pinnacle of achievement. I’m sure he knows where we’d love to shove those feijoas.

Sixth form finished in May. Exams in June. And this phase of my life feels like it’s ending today, Saturday the tenth of September. Uni starts on Monday. A long way away. From this place. From these people; family, school friends and work mates. And her.

And as if fate was listening to my thoughts, in she walks. In two years I’ve never worked out whether she had old parents, or they were her grandparents. In two years I’ve never even asked her name. But I know her. And she knows me. I live for these moments. My smile is returned and she says hi. This is it. Last chance. I’ve squandered two years of opportunities. There will be no more.

“Hi,” I say back. Her smile widens, but she turns and is gone. I’m frozen to the spot as I watch her follow the old couple around the corner. I want to go after her, but I can’t move. I’m lost. Until the woman pushes the green fruit under my nose.

“What’s this?”

“Uhh… a feijoa. From New Zealand”.

“What’s it good for?”

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Just Read… The Boy Who Saw, by Simon Toyne

The Boy WHo Saw

Only one boy can see the darkness.
Only one man can save him from it.
Finishing what was begun’

These are the words written in blood beside the body of an elderly tailor who has been tortured and murdered in the ancient town of Cordes.

He leaves behind a cryptic message for his granddaughter and her son, Leo one that puts them in immediate danger.

When the mother and child are forced to go on the run, accompanied by the enigmatic Solomon Creed, they find themselves hunted across France, on a journey that will take them into the heart of Europe’s violent past.

What begins as small-town murder will become a race to uncover a devastating secret dating from World War II. The few men who know the truth are being killed by a powerful organisation, and only one man stands in its way.

Only Solomon Creed can stop the murders.
Only he can save the boy.

The Boy Who Saw is Simon Toyne’s second of a proposed five Solomon Creed books. And who is Solomon Creed? Well nobody knows, not even Solomon himself. The first book, which I reviewed here, introduces Creed walking away from a burning plane wreck with no idea of who he is, but with the sure knowledge of why he was in Arizona: to save James Coranado. But Coranado was already dead.

In this second Creed book, Solomon is trying to track down more clues to his identity, following the only lead he has – a label in his tailored jacket telling him it was made for Solomon Creed, along with the French tailor’s details.

As with the first book, we get to follow two tales: In this novel, Creed’s efforts to keep the tailor’s grandson (and the boy from the title) safe, but also the tale told by Herman Lansky of his time in a German WWII concentration camp, Die Schneider Lager. Could Solomon be the ‘pale man’ who walked into that camp 70 years ago, despite him now not looking anywhere near old enough? Or does the psychiatrist, Magellan, perhaps hold the key to Creed’s true identity? Well, I’m not telling you.

This is another great thriller from Simon Toyne, ticking all the boxes. There is tension from the start, and it keeps just ratcheting up.  Magellan offered an interesting side to things that we didn’t have in the first book, but… well I can’t say anything else for fear of giving things away that you will want to find out yourselves. But what I can say is that Solomon Creed is a character who just keeps on giving, both to the reader, and the characters he encounters. And Simon Toyne knows how to keep his readers turning the pages. Brilliant!

Lots of books that are from a series can be read as standalones, but I recommend that you read Solomon Creed book 1 (known as The Searcher in the USA) before tackling this one.

The Boy Who Saw will be published by HarperCollins on 15th June 2017.


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Just Read… The Lies Within, by Jane Isaac


Be under no illusions by her kind face and eloquent manner… This woman is guilty of murder.

Grace Daniels is distraught after her daughter’s body is found in a Leicestershire country lane. With her family falling apart and the investigation going nowhere, Grace’s only solace is the re-emergence of Faye, an old friend who seems to understand her loss.

DI Will Jackman delves into the case until a family tragedy and a figure from his past threaten to derail him.

When the police discover another victim, the spotlight falls on Grace. Can Jackman find the killer, before she is convicted of a crime she didn’t commit?

The Lies Within is Jane’s third Will Jackman book, and the second book I’ve read this year with a location I’m very familiar with. This time it’s Market Harborough

The book starts with a brief prologue, showing Grace Daniels, on trial for murder, her family watching on from the gallery. We’re then taken back 10 months to find Will Jackman, who has a temporary promotion to Chief Inspector. Jackman finds himself seconded from his usual Stratford-upon-Avon base and working for the region, visiting neighbouring forces to review outstanding cases with a view to looking for links and streamlining methods of working. He’s looking at two cases, similar in their M.O., yet 9 years apart, when a body is found in rural Leicestershire. With the duty senior investigating officer already busy, Jackman finds himself thrust into a case that bears all the hallmarks of the two cold cases already on his desk. But with that opening prologue, we know this isn’t going to be a straightforward murder mystery.

This is another great book from Jane, with believable characters and a storyline that feels very real. Jackman’s personal life is just as complicated, and threads laid down in Beneath The Ashes develop further, but in a way that adds depth to the story, and doesn’t get in the way of it. And when I wasn’t really expecting one, there was a nice little reveal at the end.


The Lies Within is published by Legend Press and is released on 2nd May 2017.

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Just Read… Quieter Than Killing, by Sarah Hilary

Quieter Than Killing

It’s winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie’s family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it’s personal.

Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing.

It’s been just 3 years since Sarah Hilary published her debut, Someone Else’s Skin, and in that time she has become a well-respected British crime author, and it’s easy to see why.

Marnie Rome and Noah Jake are interesting characters, with well-developed personal histories (Marnie’s psychotic foster brother, Stephen, is in prison for the murder of her – and his foster – parents), that add very rich layers to a crime thriller that already has plenty. And I think that is one of Sarah’s great skills; she develops her characters, and not just the protagonists, in a way that really helps the reader engage.

There are lots of dark places visited in this book, from abduction to vigilantism, and we are led through them as the story seems to present an increasingly complex case for our detective duo to solve. But one that could be very personal, as following the ransacking of Marnie’s family home, there appears to be a very strong link to Stephen.

A great book, made even more interesting for readers of the previous books with the additional exploration of Marnie and Stephen’s past.

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Just Read… Then She Was Gone, by Luca Veste

The She Was Gone

Tim Johnson took his baby daughter out for a walk and she never made it home. Johnson claims he was assaulted and the girl was snatched. The police see a different crime, with Johnson their only suspect.

A year later, Sam Bryne is on course to be elected as one of the youngest MPs in Westminster. He’s tipped for the very top … until he vanishes.

Detectives Murphy and Rossi are tasked with discovering what has happened to the popular politician – and in doing so, they unearth a trail that stretches into the past, and crimes that someone is hell-bent on avenging.

Luca Veste uses masterful strokes to paint not only a vivid portrayal of his hometown, Liverpool, but also a gritty tale of intrigue and revenge.

Clearly the two stories of the missing baby girl and Sam Byrne are linked (and that’s not for me to tell you how), and to begin with it isn’t always clear where the author wants to take us, but once things get going, we are drip-fed information at just the right pace to ensure this dark police procedural is a page-turner.

Although this is the 4th Murphy and Rossi novel it can easily be read as a standalone.

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Just Read… The Damselfly by SJI Holliday


An unsolved murder. A community turned against each other. A killer close to home…

Katie Taylor is the perfect student. She’s bright and funny, she has a boyfriend who adores her and there are only a few months left of school before she can swap Banktoun for the bright lights of London. Life gets even better when she has an unexpected win on a scratch card. But then Katie’s luck runs out.

Her tragic death instead becomes the latest in a series of dark mysteries blighting the small town. The new school counsellor Polly McAllister, who has recently returned to Banktoun to make amends in her own personal life, is thrown in at the deep end as the pupils and staff come to terms with Katie’s death. And it’s not long before she uncovers a multitude of murky secrets. Did Katie have enemies? Is her boyfriend really so squeaky clean? And who is her brother’s mysterious friend?

With Banktoun’s insular community inflamed by gossip and a baying mob stirring itself into a frenzy on social media, DS Davie Gray and DC Louise Jennings must work out who really murdered Katie before someone takes matters into their own hands…

This is the third book in Susi Holliday’s Banktoun trilogy (I’ve reviewed the first two books, Black Wood and Willow Walk previously), and it’s a cracker. Local Banktoun sergeant, Davie Gray, is now a detective and is back in town to work on Katie’s shocking murder case.

The fictional town of Banktoun continues with its claustrophobic feel, with everyone knowing everyone’s business. A lot of the story centres around Katie’s school, where new counsellor, and returning Banktoun resident, Polly McAllister, is trying to help Katie’s fellow pupils deal with the recent tragic events.

This book is darker than the first two, and shows the impact social media rumours can have on a town. The Damselfly is a great page turner that keeps you guessing until the end. And that ending will make you shout, “Woah!”

Another fab book from SJI Holliday.

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