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 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.




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.









With Our Blessing

with our blessing



With Our Blessing

by Jo Spain


It’s true what they say . . . revenge is sweet. 1975. A baby, minutes old, is forcibly taken from its devastated mother. 2010. The body of an elderly woman is found in a Dublin public park in the depths of winter.
Detective Inspector Tom Reynolds is working the case. He’s convinced the murder is linked to historical events that took place in the notorious Magdalene Laundries. Reynolds and his team follow the trail to an isolated convent in the Irish countryside. But once inside, it becomes disturbingly clear that the killer is amongst them . . . and is determined to exact further vengeance for the sins of the past.


An elderly woman is found murdered in a Dublin park. Tom Reynolds and his team head over to Limerick and an isolated convent where the finger of suspician is pointing. The murdered woman was universally hated; but was it one of her colleagues who murdered her, or does the crime involve revenge dating back 35 years?

I really enjoyed the lead detective, Tom Reynolds, he is a likeable man and in a genre that is packed with troubled detectives battling their inner demons, Tom is a refreshing change. He reminded me of his namesake in Midsomer Murders, happily married with one daughter and with normal everyday family worries.

Tom worked well with his team and there was a good mix of humour and gravitas. All the characters were well-developed and their relationships with each other felt natural. I am looking forward to meeting them again in future books and watching them grow.

At the heart of the story is the Magdalene Laundries, which were rife in Ireland in quite recent times, and Jo Spain does a quite brilliant job of exposing the sheer cruelty of the people that ran these institutions and the devastating effects that they had on the young women that were sent there. But she does this in a fair and balanced way; acknowledging that there were some nuns who did not agree with what was going on and tried their best to protect the girls. But the overwhelming power that those in charge wielded meant most of their efforts were futile.

The setting of the book in a convent in rural Ireland is extremely atmospheric and gives an Agatha Christie style closed room mystery. I have to say that I did guess the culprit quite early on but this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book at all. After all you can never be sure you’re right and this book is much more than the sum of its parts.

The narrative drive was excellent, the plot racing along feverishly, taking twists and turns aplenty. This really is a cracking good new detective series with a lot of depth and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Many thanks to the author for providing me with a copy.

To purchase a copy of With Our Blessing click here

Or if you are based in or around Manchester give us a call at Urmston Bookshop on 0161 747 7442 and we will get a copy for you.




Dark Places

dark places


Dark Places

by Gillian Flynn


Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.


Libby Day lived through her family being massacred when she was seven years old. her brother, Ben, is now serving a life sentence for the murders, thanks in part to the evidence that Libby gave.

Since then Libby has been sleep-walking through life, no job, no friends; existing on a fund set up by well-wishers. But now that the fund is running out and the book that Libby helped t0 write was not a much of a success, she has to find some other way to make some money. So when she gets an invite to be a guest speaker at the Kill Club, a group of true-crime devotees, she reluctantly takes them up on it. What she doesn’t know is that the Kill Club members believe fervently that Ben is innocent. So Libby sets off on a search for the truth of that horrendous night.

Interwoven in Libby’s story are the events leading up to the murders on 2nd january 1985, told alternately through Patty, Libby’s mother and Ben. The backstory is tense and chilling, filled with the most awful characters imaginable. Ben, at the heart of the story, is a loner and a troubled, easily-led individual caught up with some extremely nasty people. He gets involved in drug taking and satanic worship with a girlfriend who knows no boundaries.

Patty is probably the only character in the book who elicits any real sympathy. She struggles with no money to keep the family farm going, and her children fed. Trying at the same time to keep her revolting ex-husband at arms length.

Libby, who survived the murders by hiding in a cupboard, is a very well-drawn character, in that her whole life has been badly affected by what happened and rather than show us some unrealistically sympathetic character, the author shows us her dark side. She doesn’t work, she is lazy, prone to violence and thieving. She is very hard to like, although as the book progresses I did find myself warming to her.

Never has a book deserved its title more than this one. It is dark, dark, dark. The countdown to the murders makes for very unpleasant reading. I thought this book was a good portrayal of class and values, the effects of money or lack of it, and the boundaries that people, especially teenagers, need.

I would recommend this book if you like reading about dark subjects. if you’re expecting another Gone Girl you will need to think again. I wouldn’t have even said it was the same author. Which says something for the talent of Gillian Flynn.