The Smiling Man


the smiling man


The Smiling Man

by Joseph Knox


‘I usually experienced the presence of a dead body as an absence, but in this case, it felt like a black hole opening up in front of me’
Disconnected from his history and careless of his future, Detective Aidan Waits has resigned himself to the night shift. An endless cycle of meaningless emergency calls and lonely dead ends. Until he and his partner, Detective Inspector Peter ‘Sutty’ Sutcliffe, are summoned to The Palace, a vast disused hotel in the centre of a restless, simmering city. There they find the body of a man. He is dead. And he is smiling.


I adored Sirens, Joseph Knox first novel which introduced us to Detective Aidan Waits. It was my top crime novel for many a year. The concern was, could he keep up to that level of writing with his next book, The Smiling Man.  Well he hasn’t kept up. What he has done, is surpass it, by a long way.

It is simply brilliant.

We are back in the dark heart of Manchester and Detective Aidan Waits whose prestige has sunk so low, he is consigned to the nightshift. He is investigating random bin fires with his colleague, the morose (but hygenic), Peter ‘Sutty’ Sutcliffe.

When they are called to the Palace, a large recently closed hotel in the city centre they find a dead man in one of the rooms: a smiling dead man. With no means of identifying the man they set off on an investigation that leads to more death, two estranged owners of the hotel and lots of trouble for Aidan waits.

Alongside this investigation another harrowing tale is unfolding. And with a deft brush, Joseph Knox paints the two stories perfectly, allowing them to come together seamlessly.

There is so much to laud about this book. One of the great things is the characterisation. Aidan is a much more rounded character as we find out a lot of his backstory and his motivations.  The rest of the characters are just as good, and a special mention should go to Manchester, a character in itself. Joseph Knox brings to life the tense, seething underbelly of the city masterfully.

The book is driven along at a great pace with scintillating prose,crackling dialogue and a tense plot. my only disappointment was finishing the book: I now have a long wait until the next one.

If you haven’t met Aidan Waits yet, don’t leave it any longer: start at Sirens, you won’t be sorry.

Highly recommended, an incredible read.








Wolves in the Dark *Blog Tour*

wolves in the dark

Wolves in the Dark

by Gunnar Staalesen


PI Varg Veum fights for his reputation, his freedom and his life, when child pornography is found on his computer and he is arrested and jailed. Worse still, his memory is a blank…

Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum’s life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts.

When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he’s accused of being part of a paedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material… and who is seeking the ultimate revenge.

When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest – and most personal – case yet.

Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Wolves in the Dark reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.


Gunnar Staalesen is a Norwegian crime writer who has written over 20 books. Ian Rankin writes of him as being the Norwegian Jo nesbo. His most popular are the ones about the private investigator Varg Veum. Wolves in the Dark is the latest Varg Veum novel.

The book starts off with Veum being arrested because indecent images have been found on his computer. Whilst being held in prison, Veum tries to remember who from his past would have such a grudge against him to give them enough reason to plant the images and see him convicted.

Unfortunately his memories are hazy to say the least, as he has spent the last four years in a drunken stupor, grieving the death of his girlfriend.

This is the first book I have read by Gunnar Staalesen and I enjoyed the tightly plotted style that kept the tension high and the pages turning.

The character of Varg Veum is really interesting. He is a complex man with a difficult backstory whose life has hit rock bottom. I really enjoyed his character; a good man but flawed. I will definitely go back to read the other books in the series to find out how he got to where he is.

This is a hard-hitting, dark thriller with difficult subject matter that is very well handled. It is a well-paced thriller with excellent dialogue and the short chapters keep the pages turning long into the night.

If you like your thrillers dark and intense with a hard-boiled protagonist, Wolves in the Dark will definitely appeal.

Granite Noir Fest 2017
Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of 22 with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour), lives in Bergen with his wife. When Prince Charles visited Bergen, Staalesen was appointed his official tour guide. There is a life-sized statue of Varg Veum in the centre of Bergen, and a host of Varg Veum memorabilia for sale. We Shall Inherit the Wind and Where Roses Never Die were both international bestsellers.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour!

wolves blog tour poster (1)

Many thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for asking me to be part of the blog tour and for sending me a copy of the book.

The Restless Dead

the restless dead


The Restless Dead

by Simon Beckett


It was on a Friday evening that forensics consultant Dr David Hunter took the call: a Detective Inspector Lundy from the Essex force. Just up the coast from Mersea Island, near a place called Backwaters, a badly decomposed body has been found and the local police would welcome Hunter’s help with the recovery and identification . . . But Hunter has his doubts about the identity of the remains. The hands and feet are missing, the face no longer recognisable. 

With its eerie and claustrophobic sense of place, explosive heart-in-mouth moments, and viscerally authentic forensics and police procedural detail, coupled with David Hunter’s own uncanny ability to understand the living as much as the dead, The Restless Dead stands as a masterclass in crime fiction and marks the stunning return of one of the genre’s best.


Dr David hunter is called by Essex police to assist with the recovery of a body in an area of marsh land known as the Backwaters. Being out of favour with the police due to circumstances in his past, he is hopeful this could be a turning point in his career.

The remains are thought to be those of the son of local businessman and landowner Sir Stephen Villiers, who has used his power and influence to hamper the investigation from the moment his son went missing. But when the body is recovered Hunter is not convinced that it is Leo villiers, and when more bodies are discovered, the mystery deepens.

This is crime writing at its intelligent best with superb characters, meaning the pages practically turn themselves.  Dr David Hunter as the main character is very well drawn, he has been the subject of previous books, but this can easily be read as a standalone, you get just enough back story to get a feel for the character but not too much to be over-whelming.

The setting of the Essex Backwaters is creepy and atmospheric, it is almost a character in itself and the introduction of the family through the setting is excellently told. This family have secrets abound and David Hunter finds himself entangled in the middle of it, to the detriment of his job. The twists and turns come thick and fast and, thanks to the calibre of the writing, are totally surprising. The denouement was totally unexpected and original.

The forensic detail is absolutely fascinating and this book will appeal to fans of Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs.

Highly recommended


Many thanks to martin Myers of Penguin/Random House for sending me a copy.




The Intrusions



The Intrusions

by Stav Sherez


When a distressed young woman arrives at their station claiming her friend has been abducted, and that the man threatened to come back and ‘claim her next’, Detectives Carrigan and Miller are thrust into a terrifying new world of stalking and obsession.

Taking them from a Bayswater hostel, where backpackers and foreign students share dorms and failing dreams, to the emerging threat of online intimidation, hacking, and control, The Intrusions explores disturbing contemporary themes with all the skill and dark psychology that Stav Sherez’s work has been so acclaimed for.

Under scrutiny themselves, and with old foes and enmities re-surfacing, how long will Carrigan and Miller have to find out the truth behind what these two women have been subjected to?


The first thing to say about this book is that it is fabulous: I mean truly fabulous.

The second thing to say is that it is scary: and I mean truly scary.

The book is set in Bayswater, London; temporary home to a transient population. When a resident in one of the hostels goes missing and her friend goes to the police, D.S. Geneva miller wants to investigate, but her boss D.I. Carrigan is sceptical until he is called to a murder site and the victim turns out to be Anna, the missing resident.

Carrigan is already in trouble with his superiors over past misdeeds, so when the case seems to be mired, he has to reluctantly accept the services of profiler, Ed Hoffman. They are not the best of friends.

The net is spread far and wide, encompassing countries, drugs,computer crime and social media.

I loved the characters of Carrigan and Miller, they worked so well together, and Geneva is my favourite name ever! All the characters are well-drawn and come across as real people; no copy and paste cliches here.

A book that is grounded in reality is always going to be unsettling and the premise here is extremely chilling. It will make you think every time you turn on your computer or go onto social media: how easy would it be for this to happen?

This book is such a wonderfully written, intelligent crime thriller. The layers of the crime are peeled away with subtlety to reveal twists, but also to deepen your understanding of the characters involved.

This is my first Stav Sherez novel; I have no idea how this has occurred, but I am off now to grab hold of his first two books and really hope that it’s not too long before his fourth is out.




In Bitter Chill



In Bitter Chill

by Sarah Ward


Bampton, Derbyshire, January 1978. Two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later: Sophie Jenkins’s mother commits suicide.

Rachel Jones has tried to put the past behind her and move on with her life. But news of the suicide re-opens old wounds and Rachel realises that the only way she can have a future is to finally discover what really happened all those years ago.

This is a story about loss and family secrets, and how often the very darkest secrets are those that are closest to you.


When Yvonne Jenkins commits suicide, rachel Jones is tossed back to her childhood when herself and her friend were kidnapped. Rachel made it back while Sophie was never seen again. The case is re-opened and D.I. Francis Sadler and his colleagues D. S. Damian Palmer and D.C. Connie Childs are charged with finding the answers.

Although the book is part police procedural, it is mainly Rachel’s story and it is such an interesting and complex story. As a character she is beautifully drawn. She is a genealogist and her past melds with her present turning her life upside down. Rachel needs to know what happened back in 1978.

Rural Derbyshire is a character in itself; the wild bleakness combined with the bitter chill of Winter really brings the setting to life.

I found this a really assured debut novel. I enjoyed the characters who were all fully-rounded and felt real. The detectives had enough of a personal life to bring them to life but not too much that it was a distraction from the main story. D.C. Sadler and D.C. Childs complimented each other well, their different personalities suiting each other.

The story was well-paced with plenty of twists and turns along the way and a complexity that made you think.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am looking forward to A Deadly Thaw, the second novel to feature Francis Sadler and Connie Childs, which is out in paperback on 2nd Feb 2017


Sarah Ward will be appearing at Urmston Bookshop on 2nd Feb2017. To buy tickets tel:0161 747 7442 or email:



Deep Down dead



Deep Down Dead

by Steph Broadribb


Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past.


Lori Anderson is a bounty hunter and is desperate for work to pay for her sick daughter’s medical bills. When she is offered a job for great money, she has to take it even though it involves bringing in her old mentor, J.T. – a man she has a lot of history with.

J.T. is the ‘outlaw’ that Lori has to bring to justice. He has his reasons for doing what he has done and those reasons become apparent as the story unfolds, and we follow the characters on a chase across America, ending up in a theme park in Florida, where all their lives are in danger and they have to work together to survive.

This is one action-packed thriller with characters that you really want to spend time with. Lori is such an original heroine; female bounty hunter and single mum. She is both feisty and warm, she is a character that you are rooting for from the start.

J.T. is a fabulous character, just the right mix of strong and determined and compassionate and caring. The relationship between himself and Lori hums along.

Steph Broadribb has written a compelling book that is a full-on page turner and unlike some action thrillers, it is not at the expense of character development. You need to make sure that you have plenty of time when you start reading this book because you really won’t want to put it down.

Orenda Books has a real new talent on its hands and I am looking forward to the next in the series.


Many thanks to Karen Sullivan for sending me a copy.






By Renee Knight


Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day Catherine became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew–and that person is dead.

Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day even if the shocking truth might destroy her.


When Catherine Ravenscroft begins reading a novel that she finds on her bedside table, she is shocked to find that the book is infact about her and a past secret that she has tried so hard to suppress. She soon discovers who the author is, and the story is told in alternating chapters from the viewpoints of both Catherine and her nemesis. As the author invades Catherine’s life more and more, everything she knows and loves falls apart.

I have had this book on my shelf since it was published in 2015,but only just managed to get round to reading it, and I am sorry that I didn’t get to it sooner. This is a stunning page-turner, a psychological thriller with family at its heart.

The characters, especially Catherine and Stephen, are wonderfully drawn and you find your sympathy veering from one to the other, literally not knowing where it should rightfully be. The supporting characters, Robert; Catherine’s husband and Nicholas; their son are also engaging. But perhaps the characters that we never meet, Nancy; Stephen’s dead wife and Jonathan; their dead son are the ones that hold the story in their hands.

As the book progresses you know that all cannot be as it seems, and I did guess what had happened, but the skillful writing and characterisation means that nothing is taken away from the tension that is being wrought. This is not really a whodunnit or even a whydunnit, it is an exploration of what is left of the people left behind after traumatic, life-changing ordeals.

This book takes on grief and how, if unchecked, can lead to unimaginable bitterness and the ruination of more than one life. It looks at trust and family dynamics and the way we see and treat the ones we love.

For me, often, with psychological thrillers the ending can be a let down, but in this book it is perfect. It is a sad book in many ways, but one that should be read.

Highly recommended.