Awesome Crime Fiction Books To Give As Christmas Gifts

Following on from my Christmas Gift Guide for 2020, I’ve decided to put together a selection of amazing crime fiction, thriller and mystery novels that make for great presents.

While book-themed presents are awesome, if you must get your friends and family books, then you want to make sure that you choose a beautiful book that is enticing and will look amazing in their home.

After all, grabbing the latest off the bestseller list doesn’t require a lot of effort, and that shows. If you want to prove your love for the crime fiction reader in your life, then you need to find them an edition that they can cherish.

That’s why I’ve listed some awesome novels that will entice all thrill-seekers; whether they’re already major crime fiction fans or you want to introduce them to the genre.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection

As most of the Sherlock Holmes tales are out of copyright, it’s possible to pick up beautiful, illustrated versions for less than £20 at many online and physical bookstores. The books promise many hours of fun and are an amazing gift for fans of the Sherlock TV show or anyone who just loves Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s intuitive and ingenious sleuth. Many collections have all four of the full-length novels plus most of the short stories, so readers will be kept busy during the early months of 2021 with this collection.

A Folio Society Edition Of Their Favourite Mystery Novel

I’m a huge fan of the Folio Society’s gorgeous illustrated novels, so if you know a crime fiction fan who deserves a treat this Christmas, then why not treat them to a glorious edition of their favourite novel? I’d recommend the Folio Society’s stunning version of Agatha Christie’s classic The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd, but there’s plenty to choose from, ranging from classics through to modern mystery masterpieces. There are also books from a variety of other genres and non-fiction works, so there’s something for everyone. Each piece is stunningly illustrated and beautifully bound to give it a prestigious and unique look that’s perfect for any sophisticated home. As a result, you’ll be able to select the perfect gift for the book lover in your life no matter what their tastes.

One (Or All) Of The Bodies From The Library Anthology

The Bodies From The Library anthology series has three versions, each featuring an overview of the Golden Age of Crime Fiction from expert and editor Tony Medawar, followed by a selection of incredible short stories and novellas from renowned writers from this pivotal period in crime fiction history. Many of the stories are either previously unpublished or haven’t been issued in a collection before, and have only appeared in obscure newspapers decades ago. As such, you’ll be able to give an amazing gift to someone in your life who loves cosy, Golden Age crime fiction stories. Each anthology has a selection of work from renowned writers of the time, such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, as well as lesser-known writers from the period such as J. J. Connington, Freeman Wills Crofts, Georgette Heyer and many more. As such, readers get to find new favourite Golden Age crime writers as well as check out previously unknown work from the authors they already know and love.

I hope this guide helps you to find the perfect Christmas present for the crime fiction, mystery and thriller reader that you know and love. Stay safe this festive season and make it a merry one!

The Dorset Book Detective’s Christmas Gift Guide For 2020

If you’re shopping for presents for book lovers and avid readers, but don’t want to get them an impersonal gift certificate or add to their collection of books, then this is the gift guide for you.

Like my past guides, all of the gifts in this gift guide are unique products that can make their lives more fun. Rather than adding to their collection of books, you can get them cool products and experiences that they’ll love.

This year has been insane, so it’s understandable that Christmas will be a little bit different this year. Still everyone wants to make the people they love feel happy this festive season, which means finding not only great snacks for them to eat but also amazing gifts that they can treasure.

No one wants, or needs, more tat- the best gifts are the ones that they will use for many years to come. Finding those presents can be tough, which is why I put together an annual gift guide to help you find presents for the readers you know and love.

Without any further ado, here’s my guide to buying gifts for book lovers in 2020. Instead of a gift voucher or another book, try one of these slightly different options.

A Subscription Box For Their Favourite Series

If you know someone who loves a particular series, such as Harry Potter (despite J.K. Rowling’s flaws) or The Lord Of The Rings, then you can get a cool subscription box for them. They can receive mystery items of a specific value that allow them to show off their love of their favourite series of books. Find a box that gives them a selection of lovely treats and has good reviews, then order them either a one-off mystery box or an on-going subscription for a gift that keeps on giving.

Tickets To A Virtual Literary Event

Thanks to the pandemic, many authors and literary festival organisers have moved their events online. Some events are free to watch, but others require payment to get a ticket and attend. A ticket to a virtual event is easier to enjoy than a ticket to a physical experience, as your friend or family member won’t need to take time off, get a baby/ pet sitter or travel to the venue. Instead, they can use your ticket to enjoy an engaging talk from the comfort of their own home, so long as they have a good Internet connection. If you know their favourite author, then try and find a talk that they’re giving online and buy them a ticket, so they can enjoy an experience rather than a piece of junk that they don’t need and probably won’t use more than once.

A Freestanding Bookcase

If you know someone who loves books and is always buying more, but never seems to have anywhere to put them, then you could try buying them a cool freestanding bookcase. Some larger bookcases require assembly, which will give them a fun (or frustrating) activity for Boxing Day. Alternatively, you could get them a small freestanding bookcase that doesn’t need assembly. I personally have a little spinning bookshelf that’s about 2 foot high that I bought for a fiver from a charity shop and I love it. It’s the best piece of furniture I own, and I’d recommend getting one for anyone who loves books even half as much as I adore them. They’ll receive a physical present that they will actually use that makes them happy.

Handmade Book Ornament

Over recent years, a big trend in crafting has seen many creative turn old books into beautiful ornaments. Many people cut out the pages of books to create unique products that look quirky and can be personalised. Consider checking out Facebook marketplace or Etsy to find a small manufacture who can hand make a innovative book ornament that your friend and family member will enjoy. These stunning cutout books are a great way to reduce waste by not throwing out old books that no one wants to read anymore, but which are still good to be used to brighten up your friends’ homes.

I hope this gift guide gives you some inspiration. Good luck finding the perfect gift for the book lovers in your life!

The Museum Of Desire Review: An Entertaining Police Procedural To Keep You Entertained

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been searching for a gripping thriller that’s engaging and fast-paced. I think I’ve found it in Jonathan Kellerman’s The Museum Of Desire.

The novel is the next in the author’s series about psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis. The pair are thrown together again Milo calls Alex to assist with a gruesome discovery outside a hired party house. A garish white limo is filled with the bodies of four individuals, with seemingly no connection to one another. They’re posed in a gruesome fashion, which is why the psychiatrist is bought in to take a closer look.

An initial search into the victims proves challenging, as all of them are from completely different backgrounds and seem to have no connection to one another. They also don’t seem to have any connection the house outside which they’re parked. The detectives have to delve deep into the murky worlds of sex, art and philanthropy in their quest to uncover the truth and find the fiend behind this horrific scene.

When I first started the novel, I was worried that it would be just another boilerplate crime caper, with a crime, then the standard, vaguely witty dialogue before a standoff ensues.

However, Kellerman delivers a coup de grace fairly quickly, with revelations that the initial crime scene was staged. As the two protagonists and the police detective team start their investigations, the body count rises but evidence stalls. Some small nuggets of information follow, leading to suspects, but with a lack of information on motive and no clear view on who the main victim was, it’s clear that the team has lots of leads to explore and clues to uncover.

The dialogue is witty and engaging, bringing to mind a hardboiled crime novel, set in the modern age. The story certainly can get a little gruesome and graphic, so this book isn’t for the fainthearted. However, Kellerman does tow the line between gratuitous, excessive descriptions of gore and an enticing glimpse into murder and mayhem, meaning that fans of fast-paced, action-packed police procedurals will love it.

I have a couple of little niggles with this novel, specifically the plot. The first is that, at the start, when the team arrives on the scene and sees the staged production that is the crime scene, the team misses a crucial trick. Blood is poured over the legs of the victims, but the detectives don’t think that it could be a kneecapping. Instead, they see the blood for the staging that it is, which seems like a missed trick.

Additionally, I’m a little concerned that the case is solved by sheer luck. I won’t spoil the plot, but the protagonists spend a lot of the novel conducting diligent police work, only to solve the crime through a small piece of dumb luck. 

However, these are minor issues I had as someone who reads far too many police procedurals and thrillers for her own good. Other than that, I’m impressed by the pace of The Museum Of Desire. It’s both realistic about the tedious nature of a police investigation and selective with the details it selects so that the novel doesn’t bore the pants off readers, achieving a feat that J.K. Rowling’s recent release Troubled Blood miserably failed to pull off.

In all, The Museum Of Desire might feel like a quick airport read to start off with, but it soon builds into a gripping thriller that will haunt you for years to come. It’s a memorable crime fiction novel that resonates and keeps you gripped until the very last sentence.

Lewis Hastings Interview: “I believe I have the skill and flair to create a thriller across many sub-genres”

Lewis Hastings, author of the Seventh Wave crime trilogy and Jack Cade novels talks me through his work and how he draws on his career in law enforcement to help him write compelling novels.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction and thriller writing? 

Good question! I think my style is influenced heavily by my imagination and my life experiences, which provide a continuing stream of stories and certainly kick-started my Jack Cade novels. It’s a long story (I’m a novelist, I know you’ll forgive me!) but the Seventh Wave trilogy actually started as a result of a chance meeting with an Eastern European female – a case of hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I was the interviewer, she told her story, and what a story. It became so compelling that I knew that once I had starting writing the first book Seventh it needed at least one more book to complete the story. In fact, it took three (Seven Degrees and Seven of Swords) and each book is substantial but readers tell me repeatedly that the stories are big enough to warrant it.

My work drew me towards crime fiction, but I believe I have the skill and flair to create a thriller across many sub-genres, for example, there are elements of psychological thrillers in the trilogy, there are police procedural elements and there is good old-fashioned adventure.

The key difference for me and my readers is that the trilogy is based heavily on a true story. My new novel The Angel of Whitehall is heavily based on the life of a wonderful old naval officer called Tom. If you ever get chance to read the book, you’ll see who he was and why he was dear to me.
 

What is your career background and how did you get into writing professionally?  

I have been very lucky to have an extensive international career in law enforcement and intelligence – I still work in this sector (hence no author photo!) – I have written for many years, but it was a cathartic moment with my dear old dad as he lay in an English hospice in 2014 that drove me to write in a professional capacity. The short story is that as I read a passage of a novel I was writing to him, he said “Son, tell that story to the world, get them to make it into a film too…do it for me…”
 

Please tell me about your books. Why do you believe they have become so popular, and what draws readers to them? 

As I mentioned earlier, I think the reason people enjoy the books is that they are more than just police procedurals. Don’t misunderstand me, they contain very detailed and accurate procedural matters because I have ‘worn the T-shirt’ as far as many of the scenes are concerned.

What readers tell me (and it means so very much to hear this) is that they love the atmospheric scenes, the detail, the dark passages and the unexpected humour, the chase, the occasional love story and good old-fashioned, well-drawn characters. I am humbled by the reviews.
 

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing? 

I rarely read. I know authors should in order to learn. But my work is so frantically busy at times that my down time tends to be driven by the urge to write. If I do read it tends to be British thrillers, my favourite being Peter James.
 

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why? 

It would have to be Peter James. For two reasons, the first is that I enjoy his style and the obvious research, the second is that Peter was a rare beacon a few years ago when he replied to a letter I sent to him, asking for advice. He did more than that and allowed the real ‘Roy Grace’ to read my first novel. ‘Roy’ was very kind, really enjoyed the book and offered some advice, which I took. As a result, Seventh and its sequels are much sharper.

One thing I learned from this was that there will be a budding author out there now, desperate for recognition. All I can say is don’t give up; you just haven’t found your publisher yet! I also don’t rule out supporting authors in the future and already do that via a UK forum which offers subject matter expert knowledge to help writers.
 

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?  

Loads! I have just released The Angel of Whitehall with Hobeck and I am currently working on what was a novella and has now become book five in the Jack Cade series. It brings back an old foe and I am loving how it is unfolding…
 

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the future?  

At the moment I am enjoying working with the other members of the Hobeck Books team, so I know I need to read their work! I’m also hoping to be able to do more interviews, to help reviewers, bloggers and podcast hosts such as Robert Daws and Adam Croft on the Partners in Crime podcast which is easily the best example out there.

Anything you’d like to add? 

In closing, I would like to thank you for approaching me, it means a lot. Authors are not the solitary souls that people imagine, we are often gregarious and need some compliments from time to time! I only really started writing novels in earnest a few years ago, so to be picked up by the wonderful Hobeck Books team so quickly was humbling and exciting. That my readers enjoy what I write and can ‘see’ the scenes unfolding is reward enough.

I’m repeatedly told that all of the novels should be made into television dramas or films because of their storylines, and depth and colour. I wouldn’t stop anyone doing that…

Good luck with your work which is so important to authors. Stay safe and well in these interesting times. Thank you.

Thank you for answering my questions, it’s great to speak to a fellow Peter James lover. Also, thank you for offering advice to budding authors; they need all the support and guidance they can get in this competitive market.

The 5 Best Louis L’Amour Novels For Western Lovers

This week, I’ve decided to show you my favourite novels by a renowned western novelist. Like crime fiction, westerns are a great pandemic read because they’re interesting, action-packed and easy to read.

Crime fiction is the literary genre of the pandemic because it is a thrilling escape that’s easy to read and comes in a wide variety of styles.

There’s a crime fiction author for everyone, and the same could be said for adventure or western authors.

As someone who loves western films, I was excited when I realized that many were based on books.

Over recent weeks, I’ve discovered a wide range of western authors who have created amazing stories set in the Wild West. While some authors have problematic representations of women and other races, these are often the products of their time, and some are surprisingly progressive.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of westerns when I needed to read a book that was exciting but not too complicated. One of my favorite authors is Louis L’Amour, mostly because some of his novels have been made into movies starring the amazing Sam Elliott.

As a big fan of Elliott, who’s the epitome of the old west, I found L’Amour quickly and enjoyed reading his books. He wrote many dozens of short novels throughout his career, so there’s a lot to choose from. Most of these novels are westerns, although some are longer epics and others are incredible action adventures.

If you’re looking for gripping tales of the Wild West filled with action and hardboiled characters, then check out my list of his top five.

5. Son of a Wanted Man: One of several novels featuring one or more members of the Sackett family, this novel is about an outlaw who’s looking for someone to take over his reign. His adopted son is the favourite, but he’s not a lawbreaker, and so he’s stuck in a tug of war between his adopted family and lawmakers who want him to use his skills with guns and knives for good, not criminal deeds. The novel is gripping and an intriguing study of good and bad in the Wild West. The Sacketts are reoccurring characters, and this is one great book that features some of them. 

4. Silver Canyon: This novel, which is both set and published in the late 1950s, is a creative western that focuses on a young drifter and gunslinger, named Matt Brennan. This protagonist is a favourite of L’Amour, and he creates them well, making gripping individuals who are an intense combination of rugged and believable. In this novel, the protagonist falls in love while travelling around, and gets caught up in a fight between warring factions in her hometown to win her freedom to be with him.

3. The Lonesome Gods: In this book, a young man is abandoned by his family and left to die in the desert. Partially raised by native Americans, he becomes an educated and gentle man who enjoys adventure but also has deep emotions. He falls in love, but his path to happiness is blocked by the past as it hurtles to catch up with him. This novel gives a great insight into a variety of different religions and cultures in rural California. It’s an epic tale that will keep you hooked from the first page to the final one.

2. The Sackett Brand: There are more than a dozen novels featuring the Sackett family, and I’ve not read all of them, but I have checked out a few, and this later novel is my favourite featuring these proud characters. The family has a unique code of conduct, and every novel that they feature in is intriguing and riveting. In The Sackett Brand, L’Amour’s renowned family of outlaws, ranchers and more face off against a band of gangsters who are threatening Tell Sackett. The action is fast-paced and the reader quickly becomes immersed in this enticing and beguiling novel.

1. The Quick And The Dead: This short, enticing novel can be read in one sitting, and it won’t disappoint. One of the best things about L’Amour is that he jumps straight into the action; we’re immediately introduced to a stranger, who comes upon a family travelling and joins them for coffee. While sitting with them, he mentions that he noticed that their horses have been stolen by a local band of criminals. What ensues is a gripping chase across the west and a unique study of human nature.

Ann Bloxwich Interview: “It was after reading a Dick Francis story that I discovered I loved crime thrillers”

Here’s my interview Ann Bloxwich, an up-and-coming author who’s in the process of bringing her new crime fiction novel to readers.

Tell me about how your debut book. Why do you think readers will enjoy it?

My debut novel is called Death on Two Legs. It’s a contemporary police procedural set in the West Midlands; and features Detective Inspector Alex Peachey. I think readers will enjoy the fact that Alex is a normal everyday guy, dealing with normal everyday problems. He has a happy marriage; he likes playing computer games when he’s not working and he’s a decent boss. He has a disabled son at home, which presents its own challenges. I thought it would be interesting to show some of the problems that you face as a parent of a disabled child can impact on all of your life, not just at home.

What is your career background and how did you get into writing?

I’ve been a full-time parent since my son was born. A difficult birth and a negligent nurse led to him having cerebral palsy, so my ex-husband and I didn’t know what sort of care he would need as he grew up. I’ve always been an avid reader, so when my ex was sent to the Falkland Islands for five months, I decided to set myself the challenge of reading the entire collection of Reader’s Digest condensed books that we had sitting on the bookshelf, no matter what the subject matter. It was after reading a Dick Francis story that I discovered I loved crime thrillers. I didn’t know where to start with writing, so forgot about it until years later. I’d become friends with a male stripper (his son was classmates with my youngest son) and he asked me to help him with some promoting. This involved finding venues and putting on shows for him and his colleagues, not just strippers but drag queens too. I spent lots of time backstage, helping guys sort out costumes, etc. – the novelty of being surrounded by naked men soon wears off when you have to pick up discarded clothes, run backwards and forwards getting drinks and so on. I once had to separate two 6ft men who were arguing about who had stolen the other’s hair band. Given that I’m only 4ft 10ins, it could have got nasty, but I had four children by then, so it was like dealing with overgrown toddlers. I put my best mum voice on and told them both off. They stopped immediately, mumbled their apologies, and they never misbehaved again.

I was chatting to one of the guys one night and mentioned I’d always fancied writing a book. He said if anyone ever wrote about the stripping life it would be quite an eye-opener. It sparked an idea in my head, but again I pushed it aside. It wasn’t until my daughter got us tickets for the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, that I decided to go for it. My author hero, Jeffery Deaver, was on the stage, and he was so encouraging to new writers that my daughter turned to me and ‘Go for it, mum. You can do this.’ She then paid for me to go to a new crime writing workshop in Gretna Green, run by author and hotel owner, Graham Smith. We lived near Wolverhampton at the time, so I had a long drive up the M6 to get there. I was shaking the whole way! Graham was very warm and friendly, he made myself and my fellow students feel completely at ease. I’ve been back every year since then, and have made some wonderful friends and learned so much. The course has been very successful; with thirteen attendees going on to become published authors. I got so much support from the people I’d met that we upped sticks and moved to Dumfries four years ago, so I could concentrate on my writing.

As a new author who’s trying to get published, what are your thoughts on the industry currently? How can it become more accepting to new authors such as yourself?

The industry has taken a battering this year, with the Covid-19 outbreak affecting every part of it. Writing courses and festivals have all been cancelled or run online, and I think agents and publishers have been hard-pressed to keep established authors afloat, without taking on new ones. One thing that does bother me is the issue of which genre books belong to. I’ve had some rejections that say they don’t know where my book will fit in the current market, which is so frustrating. Why reject a book because it doesn’t fit into a box? Surely, it’s better to publish a book because it’s well written and has a good story than worry about how it should be labelled? I’ve had rejections that said ‘We like the story, characters etc., but we don’t know where it would fit in the current market’. I’m always clear that my book is a police procedural, so it should fit in the crime/police procedural market. I’m not a publisher or an agent though, so maybe I just don’t understand how it works.

What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I love crime fiction, psychological thrillers and so on. My all-time favourite is Jeffery Deaver, but there are many authors whose books I buy regardless of the story, because I know it will be brilliant. I tried plotting, like Jeffery does (he does fifty rewrites when he’s writing!) but could not get my head around working from start to finish. I wrote the prologue for my book first, the wrote the scene with the drag queen being interviewed, then wrote the last chapter. Don’t forget I still had a disabled son to look after, so had to work around his needs. With book two I’m trying to at least get a rough draft down so I can see where everything is going to go. I’ve doing NaNoWriMo for the first time this year, to help me with this. My son has moved into a supported living facility now, so my time is my own. I usually get an idea for a story, and then write a first chapter. Then, depending on whether I think it will carry a story, I’ll set out the characters in a similar format to IMDB. I have a cast list of people who I’d want to play my characters if they ever make it to the big screen – this helps me to ‘see’ them as people

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Ideally, it would be Jeffery Deaver, His attention to detail is incredible, and he’s a nice guy. Alternatively, I’d love to write with Lee Child, but he’s just filled that vacancy.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

I’m currently working on book two of the Alex Peachey series, which is called Goodnight, God Bless.  Someone is torturing and murdering paedophiles in specific ways that only mean something to their past victims. Alex has to figure out who the killer is, while dealing with the fallout from book one. I’ve also got a standalone drafted out, but that may become book four, as I already have an idea for book three. I’m a typical Gemini; I never have just one thing on the go.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the future?

I’ve just finished reading Hold Your Tongue by Deborah Masson. It won the Bloody Scotland Crime Debut of the Year 2020, and I can see why. I’m looking forward to reading more of her books. Robert Scragg’s books are fantastic, one of the best police procedurals I’ve ever read. I also should mention Rob Parker, his Ben Bracken series is beautifully written, with a real sense of place. There are lots more I could mention, but we’d be here all night.

Anything you’d like to add?

Only to say thank you to everyone who has encouraged, helped, and supported me so far. I hope I won’t let you down.

Thanks for answering my questions; it’s great to hear from up-and-coming authors and I’m looking forward to reading your debut when it’s out.

Troubled Blood Review: Just Don’t Bloody Bother

It’s a bit late, but I thought I’d share my take on the latest in the Coromoran Strike series, written by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

I won’t call her by her pseudonym for two reasons. One, it was so obviously a publicity stunt, it was actually cringe worthy when she released the first in the series. Two, it’s also clearly based on Robert Galbraith Heath, a notorious transphobe and conversion therapist who helped usher in an era of pain for the LGBTQ+ community.

To be honest, after Rowling’s frankly crackers transphobic rants, I was wondering if I should actually review the latest in the dismal Strike series, Troubled Blood.

After much deliberation, I figured that I’d read this monumental tome so you don’t have to slog your way through it.

That’s the first thing you notice about this book; that it’s bloody massive. It’s nearly 1000 pages in hardback. Once you’ve read it, you’ll realise that a good 40% of these pages are completely pointless. Much like it’s predecessor, Lethal White, this novel is simply far too long.

There are a lot of superfluous storylines and pointless plot points in this novel, which sees Rowling’s grumpy detective and his business partner Robin take on a cold case. A doctor walked out of her practice one night nearly 40 years ago and disappeared, leaving behind a husband and a young daughter. No trace has been found ever since, apart from a couple of superfluous sightings that come to nothing.

Now, the daughter has hired Strike, following a ridiculously coincidental meeting, to find her mother. The police detective in charge of the original police investigation had a mental breakdown, so the intrepid investigators have to wade through a load of confusing notes featuring a lot of references to tarot, astrological symbols and the occult.

He was convinced that the killer was a serial murderer of women, who is now in prison. The supposed killer, Dennis Creed, has been keeping the families of his victims and assumed victims guessing, so it’s unclear whether he actually murdered the doctor. Strike and Robin quickly realise that there are many other suspects and suspicious circumstances to investigate.

One thing you can’t accuse Rowling of when reviewing this book is a lack of realism or fine detail. The novel trawls through the nitty-gritty, everyday life of someone who’s running a business. Good crime fiction is an escape from reality; a glorious combination of gritty realism that’s tempered with the omission of the boring chores that come with running an investigation. Rowling shows all of the small details; we literally see Strike and Robin filling out rotas and hosting stakeouts that lead nowhere.

That’s the main reason why the novel is so infuriatingly long; Rowling refuses to edit it and remove the needless details. The book spans a full year, and is filled with details that the reader simply doesn’t need. Reading this book quickly turns into a chore, because there’s so much to wade through to get to the interesting part of the novel; the investigation itself.

With a little editing, better characterisation and more research, the plot could really be something. In the hands of a better writer, this novel could have been fascinating. Instead, Troubled Blood reads like a soap opera, with loads of interlinking small plot points that you think are going to connect to the main story, but never do.

The characters are, as ever, a massive let down. Rowling has a habit of telling the reader one thing about a character, then showing them another. For example, she’s constantly stating that Strike is a big, friendless sack of existential angst, when she shows us the character with plenty of pals who are there for him. While he does have a lot of issues to worry about, because many of the form the millions of sub-plots in the novel, Rowling doesn’t actually portray her protagonist as fussed by anything much. He doesn’t seem to care about anyone, even when Rowling has him claiming that he does. She seems to think that portraying a character as a selfish wanker makes them deep and emotive; spoiler alert, it really fucking doesn’t.

Among the biggest issues many readers and fans have with this novel is that it features a male serial killer who wears women’s clothes to abduct his victims, who are all women. Given Rowling’s recent comments about trans women, and her issues with them, it’s understandable that many readers would consider this a dig at the trans community.

Personally, I’m inclined to agree, but I also think that there are other issues with the novel that also show Rowling’s prejudice. For example, her secondary protagonist, Robin, lives with a gay man because of her rape ordeal, and it’s implied that he’s the only person she’d feel safe with because of his sexual orientation. Also, the serial killer, Dennis Creed, was effeminate and believed to be gay by those around him, which gave him the cover to be a monster under everyone’s noses. The implication throughout the novel, in various ways, is that women are never truly safe around men, especially not men who dress as women, as they could be dangerous. It also implies that homosexuality is often used as a cover by men to hide their viciousness, which is fucking offensive too.

Whether it’s the seemingly innocent visits of a doctor to a vulnerable woman that turn out to be sinister, through to the regular references to male killers dressing as women and that everyone who wears a dress is a predator, there are a lot of ways that this novel shows men creeping into women’s lives to harm them. When taken in the light of Rowling’s recent comments about how supporting the trans community harms women (it really doesn’t), these issues show her prejudice.

Without giving the ending away, the murderer turns out to be someone who weaponizes their femininity and uses it to hide their abominable acts. Again, when taken in context with Rowling’s views on the dangers of trans women and her notions that they’re eroding her personal rights, this looks like another dig at trans women and a, frankly, deeply disturbing agenda.

It’s not just trans women and the LGBTQ+ who get a raw deal in Troubled Blood. In fact, there aren’t many groups of individuals who don’t get lambasted by Rowling. From the very start, mothers get attacked as a group of hysterical morons: from Strike’s sister Lucy, who (horror of horrors) wants her half-brother to treat all three of her sons kindly, which he is loath to do, through to Robin’s sister-in-law, who acts smug while breastfeeding her new-born and takes over the house, in what Rowling implies is a selfish way. There’s even a woman with runaway kids who drives Strike nuts in a café by refusing to discipline her little terrors right at the beginning.

It’s ironic that Rowling portrays so many of her mother characters as smug individuals who can’t seem to see the needs or points of view of anyone who doesn’t love their kids. Given that she seems to think that trans women can’t have experienced a similar level of intolerance and persecution to her, is surely the same thing. She’s just as bigoted and self-centred as the characters that she vilifies in her novel.

Frankly, readers should be offended by this book as well as anyone who supports the LGBTQ+ community (or, to put it another way, anyone with any sense). This book is an affront to the eyes, it’s too bloody big to carry around with you and, honestly, it’s a massive waste of money. The one consolation is that, before it was even published, it was on sale. Most stores had it on for half price before it was even out, so clearly it was never worth the full whack, and if you do read it you’ll regret spending anything on it.

Ultimately, I’d recommend that the only thing you use your copy of Troubled Blood for is to break a window if you see a dog trapped in a car on a hot day. It’s the only thing it’s good for, and at least you’ll be putting your copy to good use.

Oh Goody Another Lockdown: Get Your Books In Quickly

As you’ve probably noticed if you’re in the UK, we’re going into another lockdown because of the Government’s incompetence.

I’m sure you’re excited for the prospect of being stuck in the house again, so while you’ve got a couple of days left of non-essential shopping, you should buy yourself some treats to keep yourself entertained.

While some people enjoyed puzzles or cooking delicious treats, most people reading this blog post love reading books. There’s a book for everyone, so you can find something fun to keep yourself occupied throughout the next month.

Online shopping will still be allowed, but you should probably get your books in while you can. Being able to buy your books from independent bookstores means that you can use your few remaining days to support small, local companies and booksellers before they go through another period of turmoil.

So, when you’re stocking up on treats and books before the lockdown starts, try taking a trip to your favourite local bookstore. Once the lockdown begins in earnest, you should try your best to buy from small local stores that offer home delivery. If they don’t, then try to buy through their Amazon store, but remember that big companies like them take a lot of cash from small businesses, so if you can buy direct, then do so.

If you’re not able to buy from an independent bookstore, then consider contacting the author directly to find out the best way to buy their books. Many smaller authors, and even some bigger ones, are happy to respond to readers and let them know the best place to buy their work. Sometimes, they have their own online store on their website, or their own Amazon account, so that you can get your money directly to your favourite writer.

Another great way to support your favourite writers during the lockdown is to post a quick review online. Consider setting up a Goodreads or leaving a review on Amazon to give them a little extra publicity. These are hard time we’re living in, and writers are the best. Without good books and poems to read, no one would get through this hard time with their mental wellbeing intact.

Supporting the writers you love means that you can enjoy their work for many years to come. If you can’t get access to the newest releases from local bookstores, then grab some from another online seller. Amazon is just one option; other stores such as We Buy Books and World Of Books give you the chance to buy books from someone who isn’t a legit trillionaire.

You could even consider getting an e-reader, or downloading an app on your phone, although reading books on a screen isn’t always the best option. If you don’t like reading books off a phone or tablet, then you might consider re-reading some of your old favourites. Re-reading books you’ve checked out before can allow you to remember the happy times.

As a final thing, I just want to let you know that I hope you get through the lockdown OK. It’s not easy, but with a few good books and the help of your favourite book blogger (me), you’ll be all right in the end.

John Dean Interview: “As a writer, I am usually inspired by a sense of place”

Following the recent publication of his 20th printed crime novel, I interview revered mystery writer John Dean.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction writing?

I had always written and children’s fiction and humour were my first loves but without much success, so I followed the old adage of ‘write about what you know’. Since my career as a journalist saw me specialise in crime, the synergy was an obvious one.

Please tell me more about your background. How did you become a professional writer?


I worked on newspapers all over the UK for 19 years then spent 21 years as a freelancer, all the time learning from skilled colleagues about the way that words work. At the same time, I was writing novels without being accepted by a publisher. Then I saw that a journalist had secured a crime fiction deal with Robert Hale. Like all writers, I had a novel lying around but one on which I had given up (a DCI John Blizzard story). I sent it off and it did not come back.  I kept having crime novels published then, when Hale ceased publishing a number of years ago, I was picked up by The Book Folks, who have published me ever since. In March 2020, I took retirement from journalism and now focus on my novels.

Talk me through your books. Why do you believe they have become so popular?


I think that what success I have enjoyed is down to a mixture of strong plots, realistic characters, well-drawn landscapes and a pace which keeps the story moving. For me, they are the key pillars of successful writing and I also think it is crucial to keep learning and seek to continually improve. I try to learn from everyone, ranging from my editors to readers’ reviews if they make valid points in a constructive manner.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?


Fortunately, I do not experience writer’s block. As a writer, I am usually inspired by a sense of place. Let me take you back a few years to a hillside in the North Pennines in an attempt to show you what I mean.

I was on a family holiday and we were staying in a village on the Durham/Cumbrian border.  There was a play area in the middle of the village and every evening my two children would go for a swing and I would wander out to keep an eye on them – they had gone past the ‘Dad, give me a push’ stage but had not quite reached the stage where they could be left alone. In such circumstances, a person has a lot of time to think and, as they swung, I found myself staring at the hillside opposite.

Something about the hill’s slopes and its late evening shadows, the way the buzzards hunted across the ridge, the sound of the sheep bleating and the distant barking of a farm dog, worked their magic on me. By the end of the week, an idea was born, blending landscape and its effect on the people who live within it with the theme of wildlife crime, something on which I had reported extensively as a journalist. Then came the character; I had been toying with the idea of a disillusioned detective finding his senses re-awakened by the northern hills. Eventually, it turned into Dead Hill, the first in my DCI Jack Harris series, which is published by The Book Folks.

Oh, and the children are both grown-up now!

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

The two writing groups of which I am a member – the Inkerman Writers in Darlington, County Durham, and the Gallery Writers in Kirkcudbright in South West Scotland. Previous collaborations have been very happy ones and both groups are packed with talent.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I have been developing my online crime fiction writing courses. I have already taught several aspiring writers from the UK and abroad and it has been a joy to be exposed to their enthusiasm and talent. I also run weekend courses from my 19th Century hillside home in South West Scotland – Covid wiped out the entire 2020 programme but I hope we can run them again in 2021. Oh, and I’ve had this idea for a novel…!

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the future?

I am looking forward to the careers of the excellent Ian Patrick and Jackie Baldwin continuing to develop (both have strong connections with the area in southern Scotland where I live) Also looking forward to the next steps in the career of new names who have been signed up by the Book Folks – people like Bud Craig with his private detective stories and David Pearson and his popular series of novels set in Ireland.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

The latest DCI Jack Harris book Kill Shot (The Book Folks, published October 25, 2020) is my twentieth crime novel to make it into print.

Thanks John for answering my questions, I’m excited to check out your 20th printed crime fiction novel!