‘Black Water’ by Cormac O’Keeffe

To exit gangland…there’s a price to be paid


I killed the boy…

Jig loves football and his dog, hates school, misses his granda and knows to lie low when his ma’s blitzed on the vodka and tablets.

He’s just an ordinary boy on the mean streets alongside Dublin’s Grand Canal. Streets that are ruled by Ghost and his crew. And now Ghost- inked, vicious, unprincipled- has a job for Jig.

A job that no one can afford to go wrong- not the gangs, the police, the locals, and least of all not Jig.


Cormac O’Keeffe is the Irish Examiner’s award-winning security correspondent; his work has given him unique access to contacts in the police and the community. He lives near Dublin’s Grand Canal, and his professional and personal lives imbue ‘Black Water’ with the authenticity, intensity and originality of personal experience. Cormac blogs about his writing, is a respected book reviewer and appears frequently on national radio and television.


This is a novel set in the reality of Dublin’s crime culture, it’s harsh, gritty and ultimately a despondent read; the harshness and reality continues to its closure. This is not a rosy read in any sense of the word, and it’s violent and dark at its core. Drugs, gangs and their culture of violence is at the heart of the story and the writer manages to make it convincingly real, because despite this being fiction, it’s clearly based on the real world and events.
The story centres around a young boy named Jig, who dreams of football fame. His story develops into gang initiation, desires, manipulation and lies. It’s a dark tale; although there’s light in the brave desire to fight gang culture with the character of local police officer Tara Crowe.
It’s not an easy read, from the gang culture, uncontrolled teenagers, drugs, manipulation, abuse, neglect, religious weakness and a young boy caught up in a hopeless situation.
This is certainly not a light read, it’s hard going at times. I had to take a few deep breaths; but it’s an important read and one that opens awareness of the darker side of Dublin life. Phew, not optimistic and defies the answer to an embedded problem.
Well researched and written. I won’t say enjoyable but it’s engaging and eye-opening piece of fiction.

Published by Black & White Publishing – @bwpublishing

GENRE: Crime Fiction

‘The Art of Dying’ by Ambrose Parry

‘The Art of Dying’ is the second book by Ambrose Parry (the pseudonym for a writing duo) that follows Will Raven, now a fully fledged doctor and his rather intense, dramatic and volatile day to day life! It’s never dull and, as in the first book, Will is battling with the darkness that keeps invading his life.

I enjoyed the first book ‘The Way of All Flesh’ so was really looking forward to reading this one, and there’re no disappointments. This is another detailed historical novel, set in 1850s Edinburgh, that draws in real advances and thoughts in medical procedures of the day and the use of chloroform on patients.

Since the events at the end of the first book, Will has been travelling, advancing his medical knowledge and training. Dramatic events lead to his return to Edinburgh and he’s back working with Dr Simpson, a character based on the real life Dr James Young Simpson; professor of Midwifery at Edinburgh University.

Will also yearns to see Sarah again, a woman he regrets leaving and he’s not at all content with his reasons for leaving her. However, their reunion is not the one he expected and there are more ups and downs to come.

At the heart of this book is a serial killer, and their voice becomes part of the narrative as well. I was really engrossed in the psychology of this aspect. I loved that the villain of the story is also based on an actual 19th century mass-murderer.

I loved the merging parts of the story-telling and the build up to a dramatic climax.

I devoured this book in one sitting; I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough! Loved the setting, the characters, the historical detail, the plotting of the crimes and the excitement of the ending.

Better than the first book! Can’t wait for the next! Will be definitely buying myself a hardback copy on publication day.

Many thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for this advanced review copy.

‘The Raven Cycle’ by Maggie Stiefvater.

I recently binge read all the books in ‘The Raven Cycle’ by Maggie Stiefvater. For those who are not familiar; it’s a YA series published by Scholastic and has been around for a while, the first book ‘The Raven Boys’ was published back in 2012, and I had a copy of this on my YA bookcase for ages, but with the usual demanding and never-ending TBR list – it’d been neglected.

My daughter has taken a great interest in reading recently and we’re looking for books we can both read and talk about together; the YA section seemed a great way to meet and talk stories! So, I started ‘The Raven Boys’ and enjoyed it; I tend to keep going if it’s a series book – and there’s definitely a need to do this with Stiefvater’s series, as the story and mystery is plotted across all four books. So, the opening line: ‘Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.’ is finally resolved at the end of the fourth book, ‘The Raven King’.

I hadn’t really paid any attention to what this book was about, so it was a nice surprise to find out it had a supernatural theme. ‘The Raven Boys’ begins with Blue Sargent sitting on St Mark’s Eve, as she usually does each year with her clairvoyant mother, as the soon-to-be-dead walk past. This year is different in more than one way, and one of those ways is that Blue sees a boy who she is able to speak to. This is the first time Blue has been able to see the physical manifestation of a spirit; she is usually more of an amplifier. This leads us to Gansey, who’s a rich boy from the local private school, Aglionby. Boys at this school are called the Raven Boys, and Blue usually keeps clear of them, as they’re known as trouble. However, this odd meeting with Gansey’s spirit is a puzzle to her and she soon becomes drawn to both Gansey and the other Raven Boys in his group.

These books work as a quest, Blue, Gansey and three more Aglionby boys: Adam, a scholarship student; Ronan, pugnacious and emotional; and Noah, the quiet watcher, all become caught up in Gansey’s quest to follow the ley lines and find Glendower, the lost Welsh King. Blue’s problem is that she’s always been warned that she will kill her true love; she’s partly ignored this, but the more time spent in the company of the Raven Boys, the more worried she becomes.

I think this is overall a great YA series: rounded characters; mysterious supernatural escalating events; brotherhood, first loves, family, heartaches, and the odd villain or two to keep building the tension. A well-written supernatural, magical fantasy drama.

Recommended YA series.

BLOG TOUR ‘The Missing Years’ by Lexie Elliott

With thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part on this blog tour and to the publishers, Corvus, for kindly sending me a copy of the book. Finally, and most importantly to the author, Lexie Elliott for writing it.

An eerie, old Scottish manor in the middle of nowhere that’s now hers


Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago. Her father.

Leaving London behind to settle the inheritance from her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home, nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, joined by the half-sister who’s almost a stranger to her.

Ailsa can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her—as if her past hungers to consume her. She also can’t ignore how the neighbourhood animals refuse to set one foot within the gates of the garden.

When the first night-time intruder shows up, Ailsa fears that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything…


Lexie Elliott grew up in Scotland, at the foot of the Highlands. She graduated from Oxford University, where she obtained a doctorate in theoretical physics. She now works in fund management in London, where she lives with her husband and two sons. She is also a keen sportswoman. Her first novel, ‘The French Girl’, was published in 2018. Find out more: http://www.lexieelliott.com


Ever since falling in love with the character of Du Maurier’s iconic Manderley many years ago now, I’ve always enjoyed an atmospheric mystery hook that uses the personification of an imposing gothic building. We get a similar impression at the start of ‘The Missing Years’, where the arrival at this eerie, foreboding house sends chills out from the pages. There’s also the added bonus of one of my favourite locations, the sublime Scotland with its wild landscape (although I’d have loved more descriptions of the landscape, but a minor quibble) and then there’s the added use of pathetic fallacy to develop the atmosphere of menace further…so, I was off to a happy start.

‘The Manse’ is the house so creepily described, and it’s a ‘waiting’ Scottish manor in the middle of nowhere; our MC, Ailsa Calder, has inherited half of the building. Half, yep…the other half belongs to her father and the problem there, is that he went missing twenty-seven years ago. The second problem is she is unable to sell it.

Instantly, Ailsa has the impression that the house is watching her and it’s not a welcoming vibe! We’re soon into lost childhood memories and nerve jumping cracks as a branch suddenly snaps of an oak tree with hidden rot at its core; we soon question what is rotting at the heart of this house. The discordant scene is set and we’re ready to find out what this is all about; it did remind me of the start of some creepy supernatural horror film, particularly with its gothic undertones.

After an unwelcome night-time visitor, more mysterious events continue; Ailsa becomes increasingly unsettled in the house. The local community is also watching her, and some are more welcoming than others. Events take an even more sinister turn when human remains are discovered in the house and Ailsa begins to question her own senses. The events of the past start to catch up with speed and who to trust becomes the unsettling and overriding fear; who means her harm and who can she trust?

‘The Missing Years’ for me, is, at its heart, a book about the past and its effects on future lives. There’s also the intriguing mystery of what happened to Ailsa’s father many years ago, and the entrance of a ‘Christie’ collection of supporting characters gathered in the local village pub, where the thriller begins in earnest. I liked the eclectic mix of personalities and Elliott is successful in slowly isolating Ailsa from each one at different points as the story builds. Now pace, I think this is where there may be division; this book has a steady pace all the way through – for me, I was happy with this. I read it on a Sunday afternoon and into the evening and enjoyed the rolling pace up until the climax – which again is not overly pacey, but I don’t think it needed to be. For me, this helped it stay in the realms of the believable, by not going into the ‘too far-fetched’ category that I’ve seen on several occasions, which often only serves to alienate the reader. When you have a supernatural element to your story, I think you need to keep your action and characters more grounded, and this is what Elliott does well.

Overall, it’s a strong yes from me; this book will be staying on my bookshelf. A solidly well-written, entertaining supernatural mystery thriller. Creepy, tense and memorable.



the french girl pb.jpg

They were six university students from Oxford–friends and sometimes more than friends–spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway . . . until they met Severine, the girl next door.

For Kate Channing, Severine was an unwelcome presence, her inscrutable beauty undermining the close-knit group’s loyalties amid the already simmering tensions. And after a huge altercation on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. There are some things you can’t forgive. And there are some people you can’t forget . . . like Severine, who was never seen again.

Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine’s body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. Questioned along with her friends, Kate stands to lose everything she’s worked so hard to achieve as suspicion mounts around her. Desperate to resolve her own shifting memories and fearful she will be forever bound to the woman whose presence still haunts her, Kate finds herself buried under layers of deception with no one to set her free . . .

Check out all the other fabulous blogs on the tour!

‘Death and the Harlot’ and ‘The Corpse Played Dead’ by Georgina Clarke and the enjoyment of a good story.

I love stories, always have. I remember though for a time after university I couldn’t read for pleasure; we had, what felt like to me, been brainwashed into forcing a perspective onto everything we read, a Marxist interpretation, a feminist, a post-structuralist, a deconstructionist, a psychoanalytical… and it was so tiring! Of course, there’s a place for interpretation and analysis but my brain struggled to switch off when I sat down to read. A few years after leaving Uni, I began to read to just enjoy being told a story again, as a way of leaving ‘reality’ for a while; it was once again my haven, my escape, and I found the love again for stories and the uncomplicated art of just… well just storytelling. It’s also relevant to add at this point the criticism from some people when I read young adult fiction (I am in my forties) – and I basically say to that “so what?”, if it’s a good story, I’m in!

So back to my point and the title of this blog: ‘Death and the Harlot’ and ‘The Corpse Played Dead’ and the enjoyment of a good story.

What Georgina Clarke is good at is being a storyteller and at the heart of that is creating an engaging character and giving them a believable world to live in. Clarke’s creation is Lizzie Hardwicke and she’s a prostitute. Yep… had me intrigued. Then, I was really lucky and won a copy of the book on Twitter in a publisher giveaway on Maundy Thursday. Thank you so much Canelo, I did a happy dance that day!

I love Lizzie Hardwicke and I love Clarke’s 18th century London. I loved sitting down and escaping for a few hours into these stories. Lots of love! I’ve always enjoyed historical novels set in 18th & 19th century England, but this one differs as it centres on a prostitute who is really good at solving crimes. The series also starts off with a cracking narrative hook:

‘There are a few sights more ridiculous than a fat old man naked from the waist down.’

A good writer takes me into the story with ease, and I emerge a few hours later having ‘travelled’ without really realising I am sitting in a chair, or lying on my bed. Both of Clarke’s books had this effect.

‘Death and the Harlot’ is the first in the series. Lizzie Hardwicke is our undeniably controversial heroine and I thinks she’s fabulous. A woman who has endured and continues to endure awful times but has the strength to make the most of what she needs to become and to take control of it the best she can. I love this depth to the character and the more you get to know Lizzie the more likeable and rounded she becomes, she’s definitely a feminist hero despite her profession and perhaps also because of it.

So, the story is told through Lizzie’s eyes, she’s engaging, warm, hilarious, intelligent and mentally incredibly strong. It’s not long into the book when one of her ‘customers’ is found murdered and she was the last person to have been with him. This brings her to the attention of Constable William Davenport who becomes an important figure in the series. Will Davenport is a great mix with Lizzie and soon they are both trying to puzzle who the killer is; this draws them together throughout the book and eventually into a working relationship, and finally a personal understanding. These two are great!

Clarke’s London of 1759 is well researched and executed; there’s no holding back of the unsavoury aspects of life and its hardships during this period. From life inside Ma Farley’s upmarket brothel, the seedy back streets and taverns to the churchyards and Mr Fielding’s Bow Street, the writing is immersive and imaginative. In case you are unaware, Sir John Fielding was a real person who founded the ‘Bow Street Runners’ who began England’s police force. Obviously, there’s dramatic licence but it’s great to see a wealth of historical research as the backbone to the storytelling, and it certainly pays off.

The second book in the series I sadly had to read on my kindle after being granted a review copy from Netgalley. I say ‘sadly’ only because I’ve been finding that I’m not enjoying kindle reading, and this has been reflecting negatively on the books I read. I also love taking pictures of books (don’t judge me, I could be a train spotter – lol). I find my eyes cross a lot when reading on a kindle (you can laugh at the image) anyone else find that? I see double for ages after? Not great if I have to drive. Also, nothing beats holding an actual book in your hands and seeing it on your bookshelf. I am a book sniffer too! Anyway, enough confessions and digression, back to the point of this blog post…

‘The Corpse Played Dead’ called to me as it’s predominantly played out in the theatre. It was great to read this straight after ‘Death and the Harlot’, I didn’t need to recap and was very happy to join Lizzie and Will straight away on another case. This book is centred on a gruesome murder in London’s Drury Lane theatre run by Mr Garrick. I trained and worked in Repertory theatre for many years so loved the depiction of backstage life as Lizzie finds herself undercover helping Fielding and Davenport once more. There’s a terrific gathering of characters under suspicion, and the presentation of life backstage during this period is well depicted. As with the first book, I found it fairly easy to guess the culprit, but it by no means stops the enjoyment of reading these books. These are character driven books and the second book allows us more information about Lizzie and her situation and I love the development of her ‘relationship’ with Davenport ~ really looking forward to seeing where else it leads as the series progresses. I do hope there are many more Lizzie Hardwicke adventures to come! I’ll certainly be ready and waiting to read them.

Entertaining, witty historical crime reads for people seeking well-plotted stories with creatively put together characters, some emotional moments, dangerous criminals and an investigating prostitute at the helm! All in all, good storytelling! Loved them and finally huge thanks to Georgina Clarke for creating these stories. Keep writing!


A busy month for helping my daughter with her GCSE examinations, so I read less than I usually would… unless you count the biology, history and poetry clusters etc, etc, etc we’ve been buried in. All exams finish on June 14th and thank goodness for that. My daughter has always struggled with school and it’ll be a relief to give her a fresh start. It’s also great news that she’s developed an interest in reading more – she’s already practically devoured ‘The Infernal Devices’ trilogy and, as I have, developed a literary crush on Will Herondale – lol. She’s looking to read more Shadowhunter books, and looks set to pick up ‘Stalking Jack the Ripper’ next. She’s always been more of a non-fiction reader, but since reading, and loving, ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ she’s fallen back in love with the fictional world. Happy Days! We’ve also decided to start up a book club together 🙂

So, my May reads – I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books this month as a back-drop at work and for the mundane household chores, I’ve listened to: Naomi Novik’s ‘Uprooted’, Jane Casey’s ‘Cruel Acts’, Tricia Levenseller’s ‘Daughter of the Pirate King’ and ‘Daughter of the Siren Queen’ and ‘Warrior of the Wild’ and Mindee Arnett’s ‘Onyx and Ivory’. As with all audio-books, I’ve already read the novels, I don’t have the listening skills for new reads on audio and much prefer to just listen to previous books I’ve enjoyed or need to re-cap as the sequels are due soon. A lot of YA reads this month, as they’re basically just fun, easy to listen to reads. And I love a good story.

So a quick overview of the books for May…

‘The Anarchists’ Club’ by Alex Reeve – this is the second book featuring Leo Stanhope and I read it with the Pigeonhole community. I enjoyed this, great setting, engaging characters and good plotting. 4 stars.

‘Night by Night’ by Jack Jordan – my first Jack Jordan book and to be honest I found it too far-fetched for my liking, and one scene in particular was way over the top, even using my suspension of disbelief! Just 3 stars…just.

‘Just One Damned Thing After Another’ by Jodi Taylor – this was recommended to me by a fellow book-lover on Instagram and I had a great time reading it. Fantasy, humour, super cast of eclectic characters and an intense…phew (pass the fan) romance. It’s a series and I’ll be reading the second book soon. 4 stars.

‘The Never Game’ by Jeffery Deaver – I read this with the Pigeonhole Community and really enjoyed it. There’s a full review already on my blog. 4 stars.

‘The Manhattan Project’ by Paul McNeive – this was sent to me by the publishers to review and I liked it, a little slow in pace but sped up just in time to keep my interest. 4 stars.

‘Finale’ by Stephanie Garber – the long awaited YA book in the Caraval trilogy. These are fun fantasy reads, rich in creative language and characters. Great end to the series. 4.3 YA stars.

‘To Best the Boys’ by Mary Webster – this was sent in a mystery Fairyloot box and was a good fantasy YA read, very short; it only took me about two hours to read it, so could definitely be developed more to make it a stronger book. 3.8 YA stars.

‘The Raven Boys’ by Maggie Stiefvater – YA fantasy book, and the start of ‘The Raven Cycle’ series. Enjoyable and engaging – there’s going to be a post on the series this month. 4 YA stars.

‘The Dream Thieves’ by Maggie Stiefvater – YA read and the second in the ‘Raven Cycle’ – enjoyed! Post on series to follow. 4 YA stars.

‘Blue Lily, Lily Blue’ by Maggie Stiefvater – the third YA book in the ‘Raven Cycle’ series and a great development. Post on series to follow. 4 YA stars.