REVIEW : The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel


Penguin Books seems to surprisingly good at find crime fiction that feel fresh as soon as you open it and Oscar De Muriel's The Strings of Murder is another example of that trend. Similarly to "The Sea Detective" which I've reviewed earlier in the week, De Muriel's story is built upon the elements that you wouldn't normally associate with the murder investigation and yet, that very fact turns out to be its most appealing characteristic, the very trait that sets it apart from the rest.

"The Strings of Murder" takes place in Edinburgh in 1888 and open with a brutal murder of a virtuoso violinist. The murder occurred in the safety of his home under mysterious circumstances. The maid swears that just before the murder she heard three musicians playing and yet the murder happened inside the locked practice room. Scotland Yard's Inspector Ian Frey is assigned to the case after failing to make any headway in Jack the Ripper case that is unfolding at the same time. Frey actively dislikes Scotland. There's no other way to put it but he simply has no choice. It's either that or being dismissed from the police force. He is taking the investigation under the guise of a pretend police department which specialises in the occult. Frey doesn't actually believe in the supernatural but his boss, Detective Adolpho 'Nine Nails' McGray actually does which really grates on Frey. And it's not their only difference between the two. Half of the time they're just bluntly insulting each other. And that's before you even mention the London - Edinburgh rivalry. It's an interesting and rewarding setup that works tremendously well once the duo finds their dynamic. As the body count increases, Frey once again comes under that tremendous pressure that followed him all the way through the Ripper case but if anything, this series of murders seems to be even harder to understand. There's no obvious connection between the victims except of the fact that they were all violinists.

Oscar De Muriel's fiendishly clever "The Strings of Murder" is a wonderful debut. It has all the hallmarks of a great Gothic detective novel and with a cast such as Frey & McGray it could just be the series that might last for a very long time. It will be interesting seeing where he takes his characters next as "The Strings of Murder" will definitely be a tough act to follow. We won't have long to wait as the sequel to it, "A Fever of the Blood", is just around the corner.

Review copy provided by Penguin Press
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REVIEW : Lost Souls by Seth Patrick


Few years back, Seth Patrick's Reviver was all the rage. We talked a lot about it, both in the office and in a pub over a pint. Everyone thought it was one of the most intriguing books of the year and we just couldn't wait for the follow up which was supposed to come out shortly after, if the book listings were to be listened to. But then Seth Patrick just disappeared. There was the adaptation of The Returned to get out of the way and time just flew by so I was pleasantly surprised when all of the sudden Lost Souls finally came out. Truth be told, by now I've completely lost all hope of ever reading it.

Lost Souls pretty much continues straight on from the events depicted in the Reviver. The work of a forensic revivalist is, at best of times, never easy and as we again encounter Jonah Miller, we find him standing at one of the most important crossroads of his life. The campaign against revival organised by The Afterlifers who want the whole thing shut down is at its height and deservedly so. Everyone, including Miller, is increasingly disillusioned with the process. It is obvious things have to change. But for Jonah, everything kicks off again when a mutilated body of Mary Connart is found. Police are unable to make a move and Jonah is called in to help. If you remember, a reviving process brings back the deceased from the brink and give her a few extra moments to say goodbye or, more importantly, say what actually happened. What he finds out this time is far darker and disturbing than anything he encountered before and related so certain events from the first book.

Lost Souls has all the appeal and strangeness that made Reviver so appealing in the first place but I have to acknowledge that it is simply not so unique anymore as it was when it originally appeared. In the meantime, shows like (ironic as it is) The Returned have moved in the similar general area and occupied the same place. Still, Patrick give them all a run for their money. In my opinion, second books in just about any trilogy should never be considered on its own but as a part of the whole. In this aspect Lost Souls works wonderfully well and manages to enrich the strange world of forensic revivalists that Patrick has created. If you still haven't done so and you find Lost Souls interesting, I definitely suggest you start with Reviver and move on from there. Patrick knows how to weave a tale and it is still one of the best ones in town. I just hope we won't have to wait as long for the final part of the trilogy to come.

Review copy provided by Pan Macmillan
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REVIEW : Three Light Years by Andrea Canobbio


"Three Light-Years" ("Tre anni luce") by Andrea Conobbio was originally published in Italy in 2013, and after its publication in 2014 in US, it is finally making its way to UK where the same translation will be published by MacLehose Press.

"Three Light-Years" is a melancholic novel that's mostly about relationships and the places we finds ourselves in once things turn sour. Cecilia and Claudio are both at a stage where going back is just not possible anymore but going forward is just as hard. Cecilia is a young woman living with two children while Claudio is still living with in a same building as his parents and ex-wife. It's complicated. And yet, during the many lunches they share together at the workplace they gradually open themselves to the kindness of strangers even in their unimaginably hard situations, they find companionship and understanding in each other, one they never thought possible. Slowly and cautiously their friendship turns to something resembling attraction. They're unsure how to continue or whether their relationship even makes sense after everything that happened before but there it is.

However, everything changes when Claudio meets Cecilia's sister and realises something about his life. For most of it he's been saying yes not because he wants to but because saying no is so hard. In the meantime Cecilia is slowly falling in love with him and the stage is set.

Andrea Canobbio writes about all those things in life that should be easy but are simply not. On paper, relationships and children look like something everyone could handle with ease but once you get to the bottom of it, it's the little things that end up being hard to pin down. Those are the reasons why "Three Light-Years" will resonate with just about everyone. Anne Milano Appel—Canobbio wonderfully captures the fragile beauty of the original text and while we feel for Cecilia and Claudio, and eagerly want for them to find their way, we just want to believe that we would better, cleverer, in their shoes, knowing we wouldn't. "Three Light-Years" is a lovely and moving, but very melancholic, story about relationships and its pitfalls.

Review copy provided by Maclehose Press
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REVIEW : A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe


As years slowly tick away, I always expect for Gene Wolfe to announce his retirement from writing but every time he does the exact opposite. He surprises me by offering a completely new tale that is as thought-provoking as his best works were. "A Borrowed Man", his latest novel, is the prime example of the fact that even in this day and age, Wolfe is still a major force to be reckoned with. Having said that, Wolfe is never one to look towards the past. He’s constantly evolving even though some of his readers would want him to churn out the same old stuff. Happily I don’t consider myself to be one of them and he is not type of an author anyway.

"A Borrowed Man", his latest SF novel is a far cry from the “Book of the New Sun” series and is more akin to some of his recent output such as "Peace" or "The Land Across". Set in a near future North America where our civilization is just about replaced by the next generation society which still retains many familiar elements. At first glance, it is a wondrous place with advanced technology and other marvels such as robots and clones. Such institutions as libraries have evolved into something as far removed from the stuffy rooms filled with print books as possible.  If you ever wanted to have a chat with your favorite authors, even if they've died long time ago, in the world of the future that is a distinct possibility thanks to cloning and the ability to upload personalities into them. This allows for many interesting possibilities, and one of them involves E. A. Smithe, a borrowed person. Living on a third-tier shelf in a public library, his personality is actually an uploaded recording of a deceased mystery writer. Author in question has written in a secret in a text of one of his novels, Murder on Mars - a way to a tremendous wealth. Colette Coldbrook, a library patron, takes E. A. Smithe out of the library on a quest to find the book and discover its secret.

Just going by the synopsis alone, "A Borrowed Man" seems like an extraordinarily imaginative book but when you combine it with Wolfe's poetic language, then you finally get something that is truly remarkable. It is simply a magnificent read that once again shows that Wolfe is simply not ready for retirement yet. If anything, he is still writing as powerfully as ever. 

Review copy provided by Tor Books
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REVIEW : The Yellow Diamond by Andrew Martin


You might be surprised to hear that the latest offering from the author of much loved Jim Stringer series doesn't feature a railway in sight. "The Yellow Diamond" is something of a departure for Andrew Martin and as it's often a case with authors who break the routine, the end-result feels instantly refreshing. "The Yellow Diamond" is subtitled as "A Crime of the Super-Rich" so even before I started reading the first page, I had a clear idea what the book could be about. I was expecting something like a Pink Panther story where dashing thief nicks stuff from the super-rich. Not being one of the super-rich, or having the imagination of Andrew Martin, I was, of course, completely wrong. "The Yellow Diamond" is nothing like it and if anything, it some might consider it too be too slow or too atmospheric. Another thing that surprised me was the fact that the novel takes place is contemporary setting. I really wasn't expecting laptops, investment markets and BMW 4 series which all make appearance in the opening chapter. For some reason I though "The Yellow Diamond" will be taking place in the 60s.

"The Yellow Diamond" opens with John-Paul, a man living luxurious life while being on the run. He drinks Chivas Regal and is staying at the Connaught Hotel, and he's understandably worried. A week ago he reported himself for insider dealing. The chapter doesn't end well for him. Story gets even more complicated with the attack on Detective Superintendent George Quinn, a man who is considered by everyone to be Detective Chief Super but is intentionally getting marked down because he doesn't like to do admin. Everything starts when DS Quinn sets up a new police unit dedicated primarily to investigating the super-rich. Being from Mayfair himself, DSI Quinn is in perfect position to be able to do so but everything turns rather serious after he is shot. DI Blake Reynolds, together with Quinn's secretary Victoria Clifford, takes over the investigation and suddenly finds himself in a situation that far more serious and dangerous than he bargained for. The high flying world of the super-rich is filled with conspiracies, and Reynolds and Clifford must work together despite their differences if they're to help Quinn.

"The Yellow Diamond" is perhaps not the best novel that Andrew Martin has written so far but it is certainly one of the most readable ones which is a no small feat when you consider his prolific career. "The Yellow Diamond" harks back to the golden age of detective novels despite being set in the modern age. It's instantly engaging and with a cast of characters that's easy to care for, expect to spend many enjoyable hours furiously turning the pages to find out what happens next.

Review copy provided by Faber Books
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REVIEW : High Dive by Jonathan Lee


When you're described by Guardian as "a major new voice in British fiction" you must be prepared to be able to shoulder a considerable burden of reader's expectations. Jonathan Lee is certainly not one to shy away from difficult subjects and his latest novel "High Dive" revolves around one of the most disturbing events in recent history: IRA bombings of the Grand Hotel during the Conservative Party conference in 1985 and its effect it had on the lives of ordinary people. Even though British Prime Minister at the time Margaret Thatcher escaped unharmed, five people died and over thirty were injured.

The story opens as eighteen year old Dan is enters the ranks of IRA. At the time Dan is just an ordinary young man confused by the constant conflict in his hometown. As a Catholic living on a Protestant street he has seen it all, so when he joins IRA he feels like he's finally coming home. He feels like a part of family again and will be willing to do whatever it takes to recapture that feeling. Behind the scenes Dan is used for nefarious purposed by those who should know better. The history tells us that this horrific act was committed by someone who checked into Grand Hotel in Brighton under the name Roy Walsh and while the actual perpetrator has turned out to be one Patrick Magee. The bomb itself was hidden well in advance and primed to go off during the conference itself. For Lee, that mysterious man is Dan, a conflicted individual caught in a situation that spells the end of many innocents. Dan's story is said against Philip Finch, the Deputy General Manager of the Grand Hotel, and his teenage daughter Freya.

Jonathan Lee has written a poignant and heart-breaking book that never succumbs to sensationalism. If anything it is written as a homage to many people who had their lives changed because of this insanity. As I've closed "High Dive" I was left with many questions and I have to admit that afterwards I've did a fair bit of reading trying to understand the circumstances. Of course, a horrific event like this will never have an easy to understand explanation. We'll never understand the desperation behind the act. What's certain is that after the publication "High Dive", Jonathan Lee's name will even more connected with the statement that he is "a major new voice in British fiction" and deservedly so.

Review copy provided by William Heinemann
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REVIEW : The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas Home


It's no secret that it's incredible hard to think of something new to bring into a genre that's simply bursting at the seams. Crime fiction always comes from the same place, a horrific thing that people do to each other, a surely you would expect every avenue to be explored by now? Not if you ask Mark Douglas-Home, author of one of the most unique crime novels I had pleasure to read in recent times.

"The Sea Detective", first novel in the series featuring Cal McGill, an Edinburgh-based expect oceanographer and marine tracker, courtesy of Floatsam and Jetsam Investigations, is certainly different. All the elements you would expect in a book which deals with a murder investigating are simply absent. McGill instead relies on the very things he knows best - shipping records, ocean currents and prevailing winds to track objects, including human bodies, at sea.  I never thought something like that could work and yet, Douglas-Home pulls it off, mainly due to intriguing story that grips straight from the opening page.

The story opens up in a truly disturbing and grisly fashion. A girl names Preety is being trafficked by her father in exchange for money. What follows are horrific scenes that are better left unsaid at this point. It's an incredibly sad affair. In the following pages we're introduced to Cal McGill as he's being chased by the police but the story truly beings when two severed feet suddenly wash up on two different island off the coast of Scotland, one by a women walking her dog on a Seacliff beach in East Lothian. As you would expect, it is not a coincidence. The feet belong to the same body and soon everyone turns to only person that has any chance to understand how it all happened - Cal McGill. However, what starts as the analysis of ocean currents, soon turns sour as McGill ends up entangled into something far above his station.

Douglas-Home has found a truly intriguing character in Cal McGill. He's both likeable and slight frustrating person to meet. He suffers from the malaise of being truly intelligent but unable to accept the injustice in the world so once he's on the case, he simply doesn't know how to let go. He's even willing to go to prison for his ideals and ironically for an investigator, he doesn't really respect the authority. All this makes "The Sea Detective" one rather refreshing read, one that I heartily recommend to anyone who enjoys crime fiction but is getting tired of same old same old. Hopefully, this is just a beginning for both Cal McGill and Mark Douglas-Home. If "Sea Detective" is anything to go by, we can expect great things from both of them.

Review copy provided by Penguin Books
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The Sword of Attila by David Gibbins cover art and synopsis

The Sword of Attila by David Gibbins will be published on November 19, 2015 by Pan Macmillan


AD 439: the Roman Empire is on the brink of collapse. With shocking speed a Vandal army has swept through the Roman provinces of Spain and north Africa, conquering Carthage and threatening Roman control of the Mediterranean. But a far greater threat lies to the east, a barbarian force born in the harsh steppelands of Asia, warriors of unparalleled savagery who will sweep all before them in their thirst for conquest - the army of Attila the Hun.

For a small group of Roman soldiers and a mysterious British monk, the only defence is to rise above the corruption and weakness of the Roman emperors and hark back to the glory days of the Roman army centuries before, to find strength in history. But then they devise a plan of astonishing audacity that will take them to the heart of darkness itself, to the stronghold of the most feared warrior-king the world has ever known. In the showdown to come, in the greatest battle the Romans have ever fought, victory will go to those who can hold high the most potent symbol of war ever wrought by man - the sacred sword of Attila.

Order The Sword of Attila by David Gibbins here:

REVIEW : The Night Clock by Paul Meloy


Paul Meloy's debut novel "The Night Clock" is one of those books that you either fall in love in or actively dislike. It'll either become a cult classic or simply be forgotten and, of course, it is up to you, the readers, to decide what will ultimately happen with it. "The Night Clock" is slightly hard to describe. It is one of those books that fit the loose category that is magic realism and as a showcase of Paul Meloy's force of imagination it is certainly a sight to behold. Woven around the always sensitive subject of mental illness, Meloy's vistas are wonderfully descriptive but difficult to understand. For that reason, "The Night Clock" is a tale best enjoyed slowly.

"The Night Clock" sets its story in places between realities. Phil Trevena's patients are dying and he's struggling to understand why. The breakthrough he's looking for comes when a patient in his care points him towards Daniel, a disturbed individual from his past. Phil and Daniel are pushed together by circumstances and soon end up in the wonderfully strange Dark Time and become embroiled in affairs that far surpass the limits of their understanding. And that's as far as I can (or dare to) explain the tale of "The Night Clock". To be end, it is best discovered yourself.

If there's one thing to say about Paul Meloy is that he knows how to write. Every word seems to be carefully placed at its exact position as if to imbue each sentence with a deeper meaning. Strictly personally speaking, I'm still not sure whether I've understood everything that went on in it, but I certainly liked it. I am also aware that reading "The Night Clock was a unique experience. Therefore, it is definitely worth checking out if you’re feeling adventurous. You never know, it might turn out to be your favourite book ever.

Review copy provided by Solaris Books
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Gollancz November Paperbacks


This is an exceptional, contemporary, heart-breaking novel.

Toby's life was perfectly normal . . . until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House; an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They're looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it's time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, andeverything changes.

Because everybody dies. It's how you choose to live that counts.


They told David it was impossible - that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet, Steelheart - invincible, immortal, unconquerable - is dead. And he died by David's hand.

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life more simple. Instead, it only made David realise he has questions. Big ones. And there's no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs.

Babylon Restored, the old borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia, David is sure Babylon Restored will lead him to what he needs to find. And while entering another city oppressed by a High Epic despot is a gamble, David's willing to risk it. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David's heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic - Firefight. And he's willing to go on a quest darker, and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.


A young woman possessed by a ghost has slain the Fisher King of the West, Scott Crane. Now, temporarily freed from that malevolent spirit, she seeks to restore the King to life.

But Crane's body has been taken to the magically protected home of Pete and Angelica Sullivan, and their adopted son, Koot Hoomie. Kootie is destined to be the next Fisher King, but he is only 13 years old -- too young, his mother thinks, to perform the rituals to assume the Kingship.

But not too young, perhaps, to assist in reuniting Scott Crane's body and spirit, and restoring him to life . . .


Old friends and foes return as new threats arise in this stunning and revelatory conclusion to the beloved and bestselling Heir Chronicles series.

The delicate peace between Wizards and the underguilds (Warriors, Seers, Enchanters, and Sorcerers) still holds by the thinnest of threads, but powerful forces inside and outside the guilds threaten to sever it completely.

Emma and Jonah are at the center of it all. Brought together by their shared history, mutual attraction, and a belief in the magic of music, they now stand to be torn apart by new wounds and old betrayals. As they struggle to rebuild their trust in each other, Emma and Jonah must also find a way to clear their names as the prime suspects in a series of vicious murders. It seems more and more likely that the answers they need lie buried in the tragedies of the past. The question is whether they can survive long enough to unearth them.


The balance of galactic power in the 31st century revolves around Illyrion, the most precious energy source in the universe. Captain Lorq van Ray's varied and exotic crew know their mission is dangerous, but they have no idea of Lorq's secret obsession: to gather Illyrion at source by flying through the very heart of an imploding star.

Win one of this month's titles by sending a receipt/confirmation for one of the Gollancz's books you bought during the last three months to info @ upcoming4 . me.

REVIEW : The Disappearance of Signora Giulia by Piero Chiara


If you have any deeper interest in the contemporary Italian literature there's every chance you've encountered the name of Piero Chiara being thrown about. Quite simply, he's one of the most important Italian post-war authors and throughout his career he has published some 40 books, all of which have been both commercially and critically successful. I've had the immense pleasure of reading couple of his short stories in Italian and I was always delighted by the way he wrote about small, provincial places in such a grand way, with beautiful poetic language and inescapable melancholy. So it was with a huge surprise that I've read that "The Disappearance of Signora Giulia" is actually the first translation of his works to English. How is that even possible? Luckily, Pushkin Press are here to rectify things for all of us and introduce his works to the global audience.

"The Disappearance of Signora Giulia" (I giovedì della signora Giulia) comes out as part of the extraordinary opening salvo announcing the arrival of Pushkin Vertigo, Pushkin Press' new imprint dedicated to crime fiction. The story is quite simply delightful. Lake Como (a light motif of many Chiara's works) is the stage of the disapperance of one sad but beautiful Signora Giulia. He husband reports the disappearance and detective Sciancalepre starts the search, only to become deeper and deeper embroiled in the local society. Like a prime piece of absurdist drama, the very disappearance of Signora Giulia, is almost pushed to the background in the endless dance of reputation, propriety and class snobbery. Bubbling under the surface there still just about enough darkness to keep things even more interesting but as it's often the case with Chiara, the focus is elsewhere.

This slim volume is a typical example of all that Piero Chiara stood for. It's a book that captures a moment in time but doesn't provide a final step to explain everything. And that's exactly the thing for which Chiara was so well known in Italy. As a chronicler he was fantastic, and there's really no need to rush anywhere.

Review copy provided by Pushkin Vertigo
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REVIEW : What She Left by T. R. Richmond


"What She Left" is one of those books that suffer from a tagline gone rogue and threatening to ruin everything. Dubbed as the next "Gone Girl" it was inevitable straight from the start that some of its readers will leave the book being rather baffled or at worst disappointed due to unrealistic expectations because when it comes down to it, "What She Left" is a very different affair. It completely unlike “Gone Girl” (and unlike almost any other book I can think of) and if I am being completely honest, it is a book I found to be much better and deeper than "Gone Girl".

T.R. Richmond' debut follows the story of Dr Jeremy Cook as he's to make sense of his Alice Salmon's life after she suddenly died last week. Dr Cook piece together Alice's life through diaries, letters, e-mails, her social media presence and everything else she left behind, slowly building together a shattering picture of her life. The story itself it told through fragments, delivered by multiple voices not always in chronological order and I have to admit that in the beginning it is a daunting task to make head or tails of it. So the Alice's life is reduced to a pastiche of the episodes that were documented or remember but we are never really treated to a full picture or get to know the real Alice. Instead we encounter a carefully curated version that she wanted to present or as she was seen by the other. It's an interesting lyrical device that instantly feels refreshing. The moment when I finally realised that T.R. Richmond has actually managed to pull this insanity off. Because the brilliant thing is that the story itself is not really either about Alice or Dr Cook. It's about the society as a whole and the way perception of it changes whenever something new comes along. Sometimes that crucial catalyst is someone else's death.

"What She Left" occasionally feels like watching a car crash in slow motion. Completely impossible to stop reading but heart wrenching to watch.  T.R. Richmond's has written a book that's, above everything, original so approach it with an open mind for what it is but not as something that's supposed to be a new "Gone Girl". Otherwise you'll probably end up disappointed and miss one of the best debuts to pop up in recent years.

Review copy provided by Michael Joseph
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Launching Richard Morgan’s A LAND FIT FOR HEROES

Richard Morgan’s A LAND FIT FOR HEROES is out now on mobile with a sinister plot and shameless anti-heroes for those who are ready to embrace all that is dark and violent. 


Gollancz, an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, with Liber Primus Games, indie developer and creator of gamebook series Narborion Saga, today released their joint project – an addictive multiplayer gamebook, the first of its kind based on world-class novelist and Crysis 2 and Syndicate writer Richard Morgan’s book trilogy A LAND FIT FOR HEROES. This fantasy title which represents the first book in the trilogy is now available on the Play Store for Android devices, App Store for iPhone, iPad, iTouch and Amazon for Kindle Fire. Steam for Windows PC will launch closer to Christmas in late December.

“I am extremely delighted to announce that A LAND FIT FOR HEROES gamebook is finally out.” said the author Richard Morgan, “It’s amazing to see the vision of my books receive a new life in a digital game-book format. All fantasy fans will appreciate the power in their hands to choose the destiny of a character and explore above and beyond the original story.”

A LAND FIT FOR HEROES is a profound story of three distinct characters falling into a sequence of bloodthirsty events full of gore and mystery. It is not your average gamebook; A LAND FIT FOR HEROES is darker, deeper and very explicit, primarily its narrative is targeted towards a mature audience. The main characters are not traditional heroes but outcasts with marred souls and questionable pasts. This is a story and character design with a truly dark twist; readers may be shocked but they will still be enthralled by Morgan’s rich and mysterious dark fantasy presented in an entirely unique format for the book series.

You can Download A Land Fit for Heroes for Android here and for for IOS click here

REVIEW : The Silent Room by Mari Hannah


For a while now Mari Hannah has been one of my favourite crime authors. I tend to go on a bit about how she could very well be the future of the genre (hah! as if that truly means anything) to anyone who will listen so it is with some interest that I approached "The Silent Room". The thing is, Mari's latest offering marks a completely different direction for her - a standalone thriller that pushes the boundaries of traditional crime fiction and aims high. The synopsis promises international conspiracies and whatnots so it is obvious for her readers to be slightly nervous. Luckily the end result is not a fast paced Bourne-like affair but a rather quieter and occasionally claustrophobic novel that's accidentally her best work yet.

Having said that, "The Silent Room" opens furiously with Jack Fenwick being handcuffed in a security van. His appeal has been rejected and as he's on his way back to Durham prison his van is intercepted by two armed men who spring him free in a spectacular fashion. Since Fenwick was accused of arm dealing everyone seems to take it for granted that this was an organised escape. That is, everyone except his former boss, Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan who know him better. But when he decided to speak him mind DS Ryan is suspected as well, and is forced to hand in his warrant card. Of course, he doesn’t stop. Together with his former, retired boss, a feisty lady called Grace and her old love, a Bond like former secret agent they embark on an investigation of their own to find Fenwick before it’s too late. In the meantime, Fenwick is being tortured in an undisclosed location by the two man, fully aware that if he does give in, he’ll be instantly killed, leaving wife and two children behind.

So far so good but the moment when Hannah truly ups her game comes some 200 pages in with an event that completely shocks and changes the very direction of the story itself. I honestly didn’t expect this to happen so I was totally and utterly surprised by the change of tack. This happens once more by the end of the novel when in the last 50 or so pages the whole affair indeed turns international.

In the end, "The Silent Room" is a novel that feels both local and global. The personal relationship between DS Ryan and his blind twin sister is lovingly explored. They’re both suffering after their friends, family and love relationship get complicated. There’s plenty of love and longing found in these pages whether it be malicious acts of jealously, long lost, unfulfilled passions or simply just friendship gone sour. And yet, when the case truly kicks off, "The Silent Room" feels unashamedly like an adrenaline filled action film. It’s just great. "The Silent Room" is also a book with which Mari Hannah finally fulfils the promise of reaching high above the ranks of budding crime authors to become someone truly special. Just buy this one, ok?

Review copy provided by Pan Macmillan
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REVIEW : The Dread Wyrm by Miles Cameron


Writing middle books in a successful series is always a tricky affair at best. How do you keep readers interested when they’re fully aware that all the biggest reveals and conclusion are years away? If Miles Cameron is to be asked the answer see to be, just deliver more of the same because The Dread Wyrm, third book in the Traitor Cycle series, is instantly recognizable in that comforting way. You sort of instantly know what you’re going to get and sometimes that just what you need.

The Dread Wyrm” revolves around the tournament. It seems like a feeble affair when you compare it to some of the battles he fought in previous instalments on both magical and real battlefields. But this is an unlike any tournament any of us has seen before and battles are fought both on the battlefield and the courts. The stakes are also immense as the very throne of Alba could be up for the taking if Jean de Vrailly, arguably the greatest knight in the world, has his way. As a set-up if works wonders to bring “The Dread Wyrm” out of the old middle-book-of-series routine. “The Dread Wyrm” is at times almost too full of relentless action and furious pace that simply doesn’t give up. Another thing that Cameron has done to get us out of the lull was the fact that all of the sudden the characters are ending up dead. It’s danger of finest order. And there’s the different narrator. All sorts, basically. I’m intentionally being vague as I don’t want to ruin the story for you but I hope you still get the gist of it.

The thing I like the most about Cameron’s writing has always been the way he somehow manages to give the impression that the reader is in control. It’s not often that I’ve had a chance to encounter a situation like, especially in a book one where there are countless characters to remember. I put it down to Cameron’s ability to make characters feel real after just a couple of pages. Something it’s like you can see them being built in front of you. Having said that, “The Dread Wyrm” is definitely not a book to start reading as there’s more than a few nods to the previous instalments and honestly you would lose a lot of depth by starting from this point. For the constant readers, I don’t even have to try selling the story. I’m sure that they’ll enjoy it and probably most of them are already reading it anyway.

To conclude, as a pit stop on the way to the end “The Dread Wyrm” serves marvelously well. If anything, it is way too short. It does all that it's supposed to do: it enriches the world, expands upon the overall story and its main characters but more importantly, it entertains.

Review copy provided by Gollancz
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The story behind The Night Clock by Paul Meloy

I’ve been a psychiatric nurse for the past twenty years and I guess I’ve got pretty good at it. It’s predominantly about relationships and giving people hopes and options. It’s a creative vocation in a lot of ways and I’ve worked at the sharp end for a long time, in crisis resolution work, and that entails taking risks and being resourceful. The main character in the novel is very like me and has similar strengths and weaknesses, conflicts and agonies, and he emerged as a POV to draw all my other characters and story lines together while giving the book a firm anchor in a reality I know well and could hopefully engage readers with.

            The book is a culmination of threads drawn through a series of short stories and novellas written over the last twenty years, my own version of good verses evil on an epic but always deliberately elusive scale. I wanted it to feel unfastened but recognisable, like a lucid dream that you keep returning to and which grows and develops a burgeoning narrative the more often you go there.

            It took me a long time to finish the novel – it started out as a novella but I soon realised that this was the opportunity to get behind a longer work and tie up a lot of the loose ends in the stories. I had plenty of characters to develop and investigate and had a great deal of fun running with them. For most of the time I had no idea what was going to happen next and allowed my subconscious to drive the story arcs, trusting the process, and letting resolution take its own path. It never fails, fortunately, which is why I’m not a plotter. I don’t think the style suits everyone, and my stories are often non-linear, and I guess they piss some readers off, but I like writing that way and I think the stories are richer for it.

            I took a break from nursing for a couple of years because it was stressful and there were changes happening that were unsettling and, frankly, dangerous. I sold my house in Suffolk and moved across country with my family to Devon. It was an instinctive move, a trusting to the story arc of my own life, if you like, a leap of faith, and it led to me having time on my hands at last, and so I finished what was a third of a novel at the time, mostly on the kitchen table with family around and the TV on and the usual chaos, which was fun. I think that not being locked away in an office in creative isolation gave the book impetus and a tangible organic texture. I like having people about when I write.

            I was also fortunate to have made a lot of friends that are writers, publishers and artists over the twenty years I have been writing stories. Some very supportive, generous and interesting people. A lot of incredible talent and enthusiasm for the genre. Jon Oliver at Solaris had been encouraging me for years to write a novel and so I knew that when The Night Clock was finished I would at least have one publisher willing to have a look at it. Fortunately, Jon liked it, and took the novel. It’s been great working with Jon and his team, and they have produced a beautiful looking book. Ben Baldwin, the cover artist, is also a friend, and so the whole thing has had a real close-knit and warm feeling to it.

            I’ve nearly finished the sequel and so I’m looking forward to where that takes me. I’ve got no idea how it’s going to end! 

Paul Meloy
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REVIEW : The Time of the Clockmaker by Anna Caltabiano


I've approached reading "The Time of the Clockmaker" with high expectations. While "The Seventh Miss Hatfield" didn't really set the world alight, it was definitely a pleasurable way to spend a few afternoons. There was a promise in the very premise upon which it was build which bode well for the future instalments. More importantly, Anna Caltabiano was obviously a skilled writer, one was still developing and whose best work was yet to come. Sadly, The Time of the Clockmaker, a direct sequel to The Seventh Miss Hatfield, is not that work but it was still, just as its predecessor, a great, light story that's, once again, a pleasure to read.

"The Time of the Clockmaker" is pretty much what you would expect it to be, a dashing new adventure featuring our intrepid heroine, Rebecca Hatfield, who after all the troubles that marred her life in the first book is still trying to get herself together. Her blessing/curse of a immortality is still with her, as is the clock that allows her to travel in time. Here's where the "The Time of the Clockmaker" starts to move in mysterious ways - after she's attack Rebecca slips to Tudor England, and actually ends up tangled up in intrigues at Henry VIII's perilous court. As I didn't read the synopsis this was certainly a turn up for the books.

Similarly to its predecessor "The Time of the Clockmaker" is positively charming. There's no great shocks, or even some great literary feats to dazzle but instead "The Time of the Clockmaker" is just what it is. A good story that doesn't try too hard but still easily accomplishes what it has set to do - to entertain. To put it simply, if you loved "The Seventh Miss Hatfield" you'll definitely love "The Time of the Clockmaker" as well. Though personally, I still can't help myself thinking how good it would be if Anna Caltabiano was slightly more ambitious. Let's hope she pushes herself a bit more in the future but that will be another book.

Review copy provided by Gollancz
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REVIEW : The House on Cold Hill by Peter James


When such an extraordinary author such as Peter James decides to change tack and deliver a supernatural horror story, it can only end up in one of two ways. Either Peter will be reinvigorated by the change and we will get the chance to read something truly special or it will end up a total disaster best left forgotten. Admittedly throughout his career he was always willing to try new things and when it comes to "The House on Cold Hill" I believe most of the readers will agree we are closer to the former than to the latter. Peter's new book is a treat that's best enjoyed during a cold autumnal night when the chills are just waiting to be unleashed on the unwary.

"The House on Cold Hill" is a traditional haunted house story that follows Harcourt family as they are making their move from Brighton and Hove to the Cold Hill House set in the Sussex countryside. It is a massive change of scenery at best of times but Oliver (known as Ollie) and Caro and their twelve-year-old daughter Jade are not too stressed despite the move threatening their long-term financial security. It is a dream coming true. Ollie always wanted to move to the country and the imposing Georgian mansion, despite its dilapidated state, is nothing less than love at first sight. He's a website designer so his work won't be affected as much as Caro's who as a solicitor will be removed from her clients. However, dreams must be followed but straight from the start, there is unexplained phenomena. Caro's friends are seeing spectral woman lurking behind her during their FaceTime sessions, and from that moment one things are escalating far too quickly for Harcourt family. There's a local legend that might explain everything but will they connect the dots in time to save their lives?

"The House on Cold Hill" is a wonderful example of a traditional story being brought to the modern age. Harcourt family are using technology in their search for the truth but the bottom line is that everything about Peter James' new novel is based on the genre's illustrious past. There's no gore as such and the "The House on Cold Hill" works its magic by delivering its menacing atmosphere through subtlety.
"The House on Cold Hill" is a deliciously creepy tale that's quite impossible to put down and that will set your nerves jangling. It is quite simply another triumph for Peter James' writing.

Review copy provided by Pan Macmillan
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REVIEW : Little Sister Death by William Gay


The story goes that late grandmaster of Southern Gothic William Gay left behind quite a significant body of unfinished and unpublished works when he departed. He would've probably liked the fact that even after his death he's still speaking from beyond the great divide. "Little Sister Death" is first of these, a novel whose existence was unknown before the manuscript has been discovered among his papers.

"Little Sister Death" takes is inspiration from the well-known 19th Century Bell Witch haunting of Tennessee. However, this part of the popular horror culture serves merely as a jumping board for Gay's imagination which ultimately recounts the life of David Binder, a writer down on his luck. There are parallels with Binder and Gay but only in the broadest terms. Binder's second novel falters and after a series of bad choices his unstoppable descent into madness begins as the unsurmountable writer's block puts a full stop on his writing. But since his wife Corrie and the daughter Stephie rely upon him he has to do something and the progress eventually comes in the form of the myth of Virginia Beale, Faery Queen of the Haunted Dell who provides an unlikely inspiration. He plans to rent out a Beale farm and write a story of the Beale hunting from within.

"Little Sister Death" is recognizably Gay but it is not a classic novel on its own terms. It is quite noticeable that this is not a finished work and that it shouldn’t be treated as such. I expect that Gay would go on to develop the characters even further if he had the chance but all of the elements of the strong narrative that characterized the rest of his work are present. And readers be warned, there’s no real ending. Instead, the story just stops. Having said that, there's definitely more than enough of vintage Gay to explain the publication. There are hints of other great horror literature in its grim atmosphere - at times I was reminded of another great novel, Stephen King's The Shining" because both are the works of literature that owe its appeal to a place.

"Little Sister Death" is a dark and eerie reminder of why Gay was so loved and respected during his career. If you've enjoyed "Little Sister Death", you're in luck. Next year it'll be followed by another novel, "The Lost Country". Personally, I'm really looking forward to it.

Review copy provided by Faber Books
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REVIEW : The Great Swindle by Pierre Lemaitre


Pierre Lemaitre is best known in the English speaking world for his extraordinary trilogy of gritty crime novels featuring Camille Verhoeven. From that perspective his latest offering, a fiercely ambitious historical novel entitled "The Great Swindle" comes as something of a surprise. The original title of "The Great Swindle" is "Au revoir la-haut" or "So long, up there" and is Lemaitre's book I was waiting for all this time. It was published in France in 2013 to a universal critical and commercial acclaim, going on to win Prix Goncourt (one of the most important literary prizes in France) along the way.

"The Great Swindle" opens up in October 1918 on the eve of the Armistice. The Great War is finally about to finish but for some at the Western Front that's not necessary a good thing. Desperate to make one final go at the promotion, Lieutenant Henri d'Aulnay Pradelle sends two of his soldiers on one final patrol only to shot the in the back, only to provoke a reaction from his men. But things don't go according to plan and as Albert Maillard realises, an unlikely soldier as they come, what must have happened, Pradelle's hand is forced once again. He nearly succeeds. What happens next is simply shocking. Édouard Péricourt, young engineering draftsman, saves him at the last moment but is stopped in his track by flying shrapnel which effectively destroys his face – his jaw is blown off.  Disfigured as he is, Édouard can’t bring himself to return to his family, who believe him dead. Helped by Albert who works the most awful jobs to pay for the medicine he manages to rebuild his life running a successful scam based on the collecting funds for the non-existing war memorials. In a cruel twist of fate, after the war Pradelle has married Édouard's sister Madeleine and is back to his usual tricks, running a scam on his own.

Having said that, "The Great Swindle" is not a war novel. If anything, it is a vivid post-war one. It feels very cinematic all the way from its opening sequence to the final page. It's easy to imagine its sweeping panoramas and heartfelt passages unfolding on the big screen. With deft lyricism, Lemaitre explores the human tragedy and the consequences of war through the prism of the very basic human emotions such as love and hate. It is one of those books that needs to be read slowly and cherished for its unparalleled depth.

Review copy provided by Maclehose Press
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REVIEW : World War Moo by Michael Logan


Even before you open the Michel Logan’s latest novel “World War Moo” you are treated to an onslaught of puns. First there's the title, then there's the name of the series (and the first novel) (Apocalypse Cow) and if that wasn't enough, there's even a mention of "Udder Destruction". All of this is not really helpful because “World War Moo”, just like its predecessor, is not really a silly zombie parody. Cows don’t even play a major role in it. “World War Moo” is in fact one of the best pieces of social commentary that I've had the pleasure to read in recent years. And the laughs are great as well.

As you're probably aware, first novel in the series, “Apocalypse Cow”, won the inaugural Terry Pratchett literary prize. It easy to see why. Behind the veil of comedy, Logan was intelligently exploring many social and political issues of the age, similarly to the way many of the best Pratchett's novel do. After I've read it, I've quickly realised just how good it really was. I'm happy to report that its sequel “World War Moo”, is just as good, if not an even better, novel. The novel opens with an absurdist piece that takes place on the golf course. During a game, American, Chinese and a Russian general are discussing what to do with the Great Britain now that the virus is threatening the rest of the world. You probably expect the answer - blow everything to smithereens. Much harder issue seems to be deciding what the operation is going to be called. They eventually settle for “Excision” and this decision sets of a series events that will once again bring together some quite familiar faces. After gaining worldwide fame Lesley is on the brink of another coup. She wants to report on the threat after she receives the info rom a governmental leak only to be promptly transported back to the UK by the secret service. Geldof is living a life of a teenager in Croatia but also ends up in the UK when he discovers that his mom is still alive and Ruan finds herself in the midst of an interesting movement after an attempt to steal some food - an alternative group that's doing its best to control the virus by participating in lots meditation and sex.

The story quickly unfolds from that point and occasionally reaches the dizzying heights of the very best slapstick comedy but Logan is best when he writes in-between the action sequences. He's spot on when making a comment on the UN (who just condemn and condemn without ever really doing anything) or for labeling the right wing group as being on the prowl for anyone who even remotely looks like she/he opened a Guardian even once. Then there's the issue of the refugees from Great Britain trying to reach Europe by boats - only to be sunk. It's an interesting and topical counterpoint on the situation that we're in the middle of just at this very moment. But the best commentary is based on the whole Tori/Labour situation and the role of Tony Blair and the new PM in it all (having said all this, I suppose the British will probably enjoy World War Moo a bit more than the rest).

In the end, “World War Moo” goes one step further to place Michael Logan on the road to become Terry Pratchett's spiritual heir. It's clever, intelligent and very very funny. Basically, it is all that I hoped it would be. Third book in the series can’t come soon enough.

Review copy provided by Michael Logan
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REVIEW : Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths


As much as I love her Ruth Galloway series I was always wondering what would happened if Elly Griffiths used her talents for something else. My wish came true with "The Zig-Zag Girl", a novel set in 50s Brighton in which the protagonists are as unlike Ruth Galloway as humanly possible to be. Max Mephisto, DI Edgar Stephens, Ruby and Diablo were instant favourites and it was with a huge eagerness that I was expecting "Smoke and Mirrors", a second novel in the series. "Smoke and Mirrors" is another corker from Griffiths who just doesn't seems to be able to write a bad book but despite all of the abovementioned character making an appearance, second novel in a "DI Stephen & Max Mephisto" series, as the two books are now dubbed, is not really a sequel, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. I'll explain later.

"Smoke and Mirrors" is set in Brighton, during a particularly cold winter of 1951. For Max Mephisto this is a winter that changes everything. Fully aware that the time of variety is passing with the ascent of television age, he finally decides to make a step into the very direction he despised the most - to take part in a pantomime. He's playing a villain in Aladdin but just as the production is set to take to the stage, two local children are lost. Three days later, these two best friends, Annie and Mark, are found strangled in the snow, surrounded by a trail Brighton Rock candies. It is a scene that resembles something out of "Hansel and Gretel". DI Edgar Stephens and his team are tasked with finding out what really happened and their investigation leads them to a crime that happened years ago in somewhat similar consequences - a girl was killed during a stage production in a way that was supposed to re-enact an original fairy tale ending. As time passes by there are almost too many suspects but not a single one has a shred of evidence against it. First there the local candy man, and then there's their teacher who helped them stage productions. Annie, even at that tender age was writing dark and grim reinterpretations of fairy tales, and together with Mark and other children she was putting these on in an improvised theatre made by the older man known as Uncle Brian in his shed. As you can imagine, there are plenty of dark overtones that accompany each reveal. And yet, the crux of the novel, the very investigation of the case is happening somewhere else. Even if Max or Diablo didn't made an appearance, it almost feels like they wouldn't be missed when it comes to solving the case. Even Edgar occasionally feels superficial. Edgar is mostly preoccupied with his love for Ruby. Things seems to be going well after that crucial kiss but now he's completely insecure. Things finally progress further near the end of the novel so here's hope for the future. Even Max has mellowed out and somehow ends up in something resembling a working relationship and yet, as far as the case itself is concerned it is Emma who takes the center stage. She's simply marvelous and I've enjoyed her insights and logical leaps. The ending itself is suitably twisted but somehow not too surprising.

In the end, "Smoke and Mirrors" is a wonderful new novel from Elly Griffiths which while not re-writing the book as "The Zig-Zag Girl" did, goes a long way to expand her 50s Brighton. I suspect the best works in the "DI Stephen & Max Mephisto" series are still to come and it will be interesting seeing where will Griffiths go next with so many strong characters to choose from - Max, Edgar, Ruby, Emma and even Bob. Very recommended.  

Review copy provided by Quercus Books
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REVIEW : Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume


It's not often that a book by a completely unknown author can leave you completely breathless. Sometimes, and just sometimes, you find one that will make you fall in love with it. "Spill Simmer Falter Wither" is one of those rare, precious cases where it happened for me. I'll try to explain why.

Superficially, Sara Baume's debut novel tells the story of two old curmudgeons, fifty-seven year old man who is perhaps called Ray and an unloved and oft abused working dog which he calls One Eye. The two strike an unlikely friendship only to be pushed to their limits as unthinkable happens in a incident involving another dog. Faced with prospect of losing each other, Ray and One Eye have no other choice but to head on the road, if only to get the slightest chance of escaping authority. So far so ordinary, you might think, and yet there's something special about the way "Spill Simmer Falter Wither" is told. There's sudden gentleness and the passion that constantly delights and ravishes. The range of emotions that nearly every page tends to provoke is simply incredible. At more than once occasion I've felt that by rights Baume shouldn't write so well but there you have it. That is just the way it is.

At times, "Spill Simmer Falter Wither" doesn't really feel like a novel at all but a hypnotic celebration of language built around the passing of four seasons and the road trip. To be honest, I don't feel like I am eloquent enough to fully explain the concept but it's a beautifully vivid train of thought that keeps on going and you just don't want it to stop.

To put it simply "Spill Simmer Falter Wither" is a book to cherish and one which I'll return to time and time again. It is one of the reasons why even after reading thousands of books I still crack open a new title with a passion – because you never know, you might just get something like "Spill Simmer Falter Wither".

Review copy provided by William Heinemann
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The story behind An Android Awakes by Mike French and Karl Brown

The interest in artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining ever increasing momentum in society with films like Ex Machina and the series Humans on Channel 4.  Little attention though has been given to the possibility of AI becoming creative in the arts and the impact that might have on our society.  In his novel 1984 George Orwell talks about novel writing machines and it is this idea combined with Alan Turing’s work on AI that is really the seed of An Android Awakes. The book is set in a future consumer led society that no longer creates anything for itself – everything, including literature, is produced by machines.  Not only would that effect most of the readership here at UPCOMING4.ME but also our society as a whole – often the pivotal role that literature plays in shaping and changing our culture is overlooked in a world obsessed with money, but it effects it nevertheless.

The way An Android Awakes uses art and prose showcases how different disciplines can be combined to tell a story.  The amount of artwork in the book makes it hard to categorise it as an illustrated novel and I think that term undervalues the importance of art in telling a story.  The art and the prose are equally important in An Android Awakes and each takes centre stage in places.  It also makes it a book that would sit comfortably on a coffee table.  Julian Barnes said in his Booker Prize 2011 acceptance speech that a physical book in today’s market has to has to ‘look like something worth buying, worth keeping.’  And that is what we have aimed for.  Our publisher Elsewhen Press have been key in that and the finish of the book with a matt cover and extra thick paper inside and the attention to typeset have all worked towards producing something special.   

I’m hoping An Android Awakes will help form a bridge for people that would perhaps never try reading a graphic novel and that after experiencing it they would be more open to exploring graphic novels - they are a powerful way to tell stories. But of course we are also hoping that it will appeal to people who love comics and graphic novels but perhaps have given up on reading a traditional novel or have never tried one.  An Android Awakes is made up of short stories that the Android is writing which work together in a similar way that something like Pink Floyd’s concept album The Wall holds together as one piece.  Nearly all these stories are very short, that together with Karl’s style which lends itself to the comic format will, I hope, make it a book that people more used to comics will enjoy. 

I used to run a literary magazine called The View From Here and have written a trilogy published by Elsewhen Press called The Dandelion Trilogy.  I’m Cornish but currently live in Luton, which is where I first came into contact with Karl’s work at a creative co-working space called A Thin Place. Karl had recently finished a degree in illustration at the University of Bedfordshire and I was really impressed with his portfolio.  That with our common love of comics and in particular the work of Steve Dillon, Moebius & Frank Miller meant we felt that we would be a good match to work on the project.  The following two years of work proved both exhausting and exciting.  The way in which the artist and writer work together in comics various enormously – but we found that by working closely with weekly face to face discussions and read throughs worked best for us.  I also never like to tie down too much what my characters look like and prefer to leave that to the reader’s imagination – so Karl had free reign to come up with the look and feel of each character in the book. 

And we’ve certainly had our low points when we thought we would never pull off such an ambitious project. I remember meeting Karl at a coffee shop last November – he was holding down a full time job whilst also doing an enormous amount of artwork for the project and had become exhausted. We call it our Dark November – everything ground to a halt for weeks.  We joke now that we’d love to be able to travel back in time to our younger selves in that coffee shop and tell them not to worry, it all comes good! 

Scanning the artwork was also a problem at times, with repeated trips to the company involved – often on the same day, with me tearing my hair out!  And a problem with the initial print run which had to be completely redone.  Actually, now it’s over and I’m thinking back on the whole process I think that maybe – just maybe you understand – there may be something in passing the whole creative process over to an AI.  It would give me more time at Starbucks (other coffee shops are available) which is – as everybody knows – where all good writers spend most of their time. 

Mike French
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REVIEW : GollanczFest 2015 - Waterstone's Deansgate, Manchester


Halfway through the 3rd session at the GollanczFest 2015 I had a sudden thought - this is just like watching your favourite band doing an intimate acoustic session for a lucky few fans. When you think about it, the whole concept is simply brilliant. Held at two locations (Manchester and London) GollanczFest brings together the very best SF and Fantasy authors under one roof but in a stark difference to overcrowded conventions, GollanczFest doesn't take place in a non-descript hotel or a convention center. Instead it chooses to hold its sessions at Waterstone's bookstores, surrounding the panel with shelves upon shelves of books and offering a complementary wine to attendees. It's just a lovely, very relaxed and, at times, slightly bonkers experience that I won’t forget anytime soon.

For my sins, I was following the events in Room 2 and straight away the things weren't going exactly to plan. The London crowd was delayed so the 2nd session was moved forward and we were treated to Stephen Baxter, Ian McDonald, Justina Robson, Gavin Smith and Tricia Sullivan discussing the role and importance of rigorous science in science fiction. It was a continuously thought-provoking affair especially at moments when Stephen Baxter took the mike. After this slightly improvised session, everything kicked off properly. The festival was properly introduced with the Gollancz's The Class of 2015 taking the center stage. This was an extremely charming and funny session featuring the likes such as Aliette de Bodard, Alex Lamb, Al Robertson, Mark Stay and Tom Toner. I expect they all gained quite a few readers after it.

What followed was a bonus session actually intended for Room 1. Chaired by Gavin Smith, Stephen Baxter, Ian McDonald, Justina Robson, and Tricia Sullivan discussed the Human Modification in fiction and real life. This great and unexpected session was an absolute treat and my particular favourite of the night. Gavin Smith's Heaven and Hell quiz is definitely something to remember.

After a short break and an audiobook quiz, chaos continued. Joe Hill was late and suddenly there's Brandon Sanderson taking the stage and reading from the Shadows of the Self follow up. Once again, surreal and completely unexpected. In the following session about writing outside one’s comfort zone and chaired by Ben Aaronovitch, Joanne Harris and Richard Morgan stole the show while the evening finished in the best way possible, with Sarah Pinborough.

The whole GollanczFest overran by quite a lot and you know what? It was much better that I ever expected it to be. With its extra sessions, easy-to-approach authors, and intimate surroundings, it was a night to remember and veritable celebration of SF and Fantasy literature as a whole. Sadly, I've missed the final signing as I had to dash to another event but I hear it was also fantastic. If you have a chance to attend tonight's event in London, please do so.

However, if you've missed on the tickets, we got you covered. First person that sends an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. will receive a limited edition GollanczFest tote bag, goodies included (exclusive previews, badges, etc). As pictured above, UK Only.

Thanks and congratulations to Sophie and the rest of the Gollancz team for such a wonderful festival. We’re already looking forward to next year’s bash.
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The story behind Names of the Dead by Mark Leggatt

The story of Names Of The Dead emerged from history books, my travels and conversations and things that stuck in my head over the years.

Travel allowed me to read widely, and I’ve spent about ten years dotting from job to job in various airport lounges three times a week. I’ve lived in every sort of hotel from a five star palace in The Hague to a seedy dive in Montmartre, where the lights of the Moulin Rouge flickered outside my window, the carpets were as sticky as treacle, and you could hear the whorehouse banging away next door. I slept fully clothed. With my hood up.

I noted everything down as I moved from city to city. Amsterdam, Berlin, the history of Paris and its inhabitants, and any news that I found interesting, plus the people involved. What were their fears and motivations, what drove them on, and what fear (or strength) stopped them? I used my notebooks to record these thoughts, and educate myself in what exactly was driving my characters. I wanted them to do what they wanted to do, not what I wanted them to do. It took time, and a lot of notebooks, but my characters emerged, along with their passions, strengths and fears.

Then I took what I knew, and drafted a story around the main character uncovering a historical conspiracy concerning the Holocaust. But as the character became more fully fledged, the story morphed into ‘his’ story, and why he did what he did, and what drove him on. And that led to the initial synopsis, spiced up with his discoveries and adventures.

The research process was unconstructed, eclectic and very enjoyable. I had no idea what the story would turn out to be, but I knew that it would emerge as I kept writing my journals. I wasn’t worried about focusing on any one area of research. It’s all grist to the mill. I was happy to just keep reading and writing, and knew that when I found something, I’d realise it. When I found my story, I delved deeper into the specific areas, but I didn’t want this to be a story full of exposition. The only research that I wanted to include, would be that which the main character already knew, from his education or background, or that which is relevant, and which he discovered as part of his story. I left out a lot of fascinating research because it wasn’t relevant to the story, the dialogue, or the character. One area I cut was where Swiss banks literally burned their Holocaust banking records around twenty years ago, to stop anyone finding out what they had done to the victims and their families. Fascinating, but there was no good place for it. It had to go. After quite a few attempts, and a lot of rewriting, Names Of The Dead was finally complete.

Now I’m on the road, visiting bookshops for signings, and one of the things I am most often asked is “How do you write”. The short answer is longhand, landscape, notebooks, pens and pencils. The long answer is that it took me years to find my preferred way of writing. I’ve tried straight to keyboard, voice dictation software, laptops, iPads, Blackberrys, and every kind of tech in between. But in all those years, I have gone full circle and back to my first love. Paper, pens and pencils.                                                                      

My initial attempt involved A3 cartridge paper and a pile of different pens and pencils (or whatever the village stationer happened to have in stock). Why? No idea, it just felt good. It worked well, but soon I was back on the road, in airports six times a week, and living in a series of faceless hotels.

Using A3 paper wasn’t practical for a number of reasons, so I began using my old Mont Blanc fountain pen, which I’d bought years before in the Avenue de l’Opera in Paris, and searched around for a smaller sized notebook. I had used Denbigh A4 notebooks, but carrying these around was an issue, as I was attempting to travel with one bag to save a huge amount of time in airports.

So, I moved to A5 (ish) Moleskines. They were always available in airports, so I could stock up, they were good quality and easy to use. They were also much easier to carry, and the thicker sketch paper took fountain pen ink. The hardback version also provided a handy desk so I could rest it on my knee when scribbling in planes, trains and taxis.

Which brings me to writing in landscape. On one occasion, in a rush at an airport, I accidentally bought a Moleskine with blank paper. As soon as I was on the plane, I realised that, given the restrictions of space in a airplane seat, I could turn the notebook sideways, and found that it was much easier to write.

A few years on, and I have filled many Moleskines. However, Moleskines are an expensive habit, especially if you scribble in them as much as I do. Then I found a notebook from Germany, the Leuchttrum 1917. This is quality kit, with the more expensive binding that allows it to lie flat on the desk. It’s also cheaper than a Moleskine, and has more features, if you like that kind of thing. This is now my notebook of choice. And everything starts in a notebook.

Typing straight to keyboard doesn’t work for me, as I’m such a terrible typist, I spend more time correcting my typing than writing the story. I could learn to type, but life’s too short. I’m currently using Dragon software to dictate my handwriting onto my laptop, which gives an extra layer of editing. Of course, once the dictation is all done, then it’s screen work only, until the final draft where the red pen makes an appearance. Generally, Dragon gets it right about 90% of the time, which is not bad considering the inability of software to recognise a Scottish accent.

I also carry my notebook around to record my signing experiences on bookshops, and my first encounter with the pubic.

Me: "Can I interest you in a thriller, sir?"
Old Man : "No son, I'm only in here because my wife's shopping for clothes and I f****** hate clothes shops. And f****** shopping "
Me : "Fair enough, so what kind of books do you like?"
Old Man : "True life alien abduction."

The stories keep coming. One day, I may put them all in a book....

Mark Leggatt
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REVIEW : Horrorology a Lexicon of Fear by Stephen Jones


You could successfully argue that horror as a genre in its traditional sense has been past its prime for quite some time, especially where literature is concerned. Still, even at a time when zombies and some other stalwarts of the genre are slowly getting reduced to a nothing more than a parody, there has been a continuous stream of new talent that somehow always manages to find out new ways of chilling the blood of an unwary reader. Works of Adam Neville and David Moody have been particularly notable example, just to name a few. "Horrorology: A Lexicon of Fear", horror anthology that recently arrived from Jo Fletcher Books, doesn't have their contributions but seems to have everyone else’s. "Horrorology: A Lexicon of Fear" instantly feels like A-Z of contemporary horror writing and if you were looking for an ultimate starter to get you up to speed look no further.

To start with the design, "Horrorology: A Lexicon of Fear" is, for the lack of better words, a thing of beauty. The wraparound cover has been designed by none other than Clive Barker and is a colourful look into insanity which is what "Horrorology: A Lexicon of Fear" is all about. Edited by Stephen Jones, best known for a wonderful Faeries Tales anthology, it revolves around many recognizable horror themes. For example, Clive Barker's story is titled "Afraid" while Pat Cadigan's one is titled "Chilling". There's also "Faceless" by Joanne Harris and "Guignol" by Kim Newman. Stephen Jones explores the concept in the introduction and reveal that idea came from the concept of Library of the Damned, a vast depository of knowledge which within itself contains a bookcase full of arcane titles and forbidden knowledge such as Necronomicon and The Book of Iod”. Hidden among these is, until now unknown, grimoire entitled "A Lexicon of Fear". Keeping up with a lexicon concept, each story is preceded by a Clive Barker's illustration and a short definition of the term and they’re all presented in alphabetical order.

As is often the case with anthologies, "Horrorology: A Lexicon of Fear" is best enjoyed slowly, in small tasty bited. This is not because the stories themselves are of uneven quality but because the styles of the authors tends to vary significantly and reading more than a few pieces in a sequence can lead to a bit of disorientation. When read over a period of time, "Horrorology: A Lexicon of Fear" reveals its true colour and can be appreciated for what it is. Stephen Jones' anthology is a celebration of all things horror, be it an example from popular culture such as Angela Slatter's superb supernatural take on "Ripper", a nod to a traditional Gothic literature or just a an uneasy episode, such as Clive Barker's short piece "Afraid". "Horrorology: A Lexicon of Fear" has something for everyone but reading it is not a disjointed experience. Quite the opposite - it's a rather cohesive view into the contemporary horror literature.

Review copy provided by Jo Fletcher Books
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REVIEW : The Last Lullaby by Carin Gerhardsen


In this day and age it is an old statement but one that occasionally still holds true. Carin Gerhardsen is indeed one of the most refreshing and unique Scandinavian crime authors, and probably one that you still haven't heard of. "The Last Lullaby", third novel in her Hammarby series which follows the Stockholm Criminal Investigator Conny Sjöberg and his team, is an absolute treat for those hungry for a superb piece of Scandi drama.

The fiendish story of "The Last Lullaby" unfolds with a multiple murder of a Filipino mother and her two children. Found with their throats slashed in a carefully crafted scene that initially shows no signs of struggle, Conny Sjöberg and his team are initially stumped by what they find. There's no obvious motive nor suspects and the entire situation seems wholly implausible. Woman's Swedish ex-husband, the first port of call, seems to be completely emotionally detached from the horrific tragedy and yet the family lived in an apartment worth millions. As if that wasn't enough, one member of the team, Einar Eriksson, suddenly goes missing, while the others are having issues of their own. Einar instantly seems that the team is slowly unraveling in front of their eyes. The crucial event for this particular storyline actually takes place in one of the previous books in the series but the reveal is nonetheless completely shattering and provides an element of subtle, bubbling and yet, almost, unbearable tension between Petra and the rest.

The difference between Carin and her contemporaries lies mostly in the way she crafts her characters. The stories themselves or the way in which the crimes are solved, or even the very setup of the team, is not too original. However, the sadness and emotional depth of the protagonists simply permeates the pages. The team feels lived in, weary of life spent tackling the worst aspects of human condition and yet perfectly incapable to quit. This is what makes Hammarby series special. Similarly to her previous two offering, "The Last Lullaby" is also characteristically sinister, with tension that simply never lets go. It is only after you finish that you realise that the entire story took place from Tuesday Morning to Friday Evening.

"The Last Lullaby” is a wonderfully creepy, immersive reading experience that's instantly gripping and, more often than not, completely surprising.

Review copy provided by Penguin/Michael Joseph
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REVIEW : The Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo


Sometimes it is incredibly hard to accept the fact that you're becoming an adult. It's not only about dealing with responsibilities of 9 to 5 work but about being accountable for the direction in which your life takes its course. Suddenly there is no fallback to it is all up to you. Melissa DeCarlo's debut novel The Art of Crash Landing finds Matilda, Mattie Wallace at this precise point in her life. She will be first to admit that so far she wasn't particularly good at this thing called life. Most horrifyingly she slowly realizing that she's turning into very thing she always detested - her mother. She's pregnant with a child by a no-good boyfriend, without a single penny to her name or a place to stay, with only a few bags of stuff and a dodgy car that always breaking down. For Mattie the turning point comes when she receives the news that she there exists a possible inheritance left by a grandmother. In this sudden event she sees her chance to leave her past behind. Her mother left her birthplace, a small town of Gandy, Oklahoma, when she was a young girl never to return. Mattie decides to visit and once there discovers more than she's bargained for - a local mystery surrounding her mother. All the hints are suggest that there is something disturbing hidden in her mother's past and as she pushes more and more to get to the bottom of it, the harder it gets to move forward. Is this the very reason her mother turned the way she did?

The Art of Crash Landing is clever at putting the importance of choices and the past for the future life across. Despite feeling depressed about her life, Mattie still has all of the choice within her grasp. She can decide the direction of her life. Standing in contrast, her mother had her choices made for her and she's still suffering for it. This is the main crux of the story and the most important message of the book. The Art of Crash Landing is often inevitably sad and I suspect there's not a single person who won't find something of themselves in Mattie but ultimately, behind the Melissa DeCarlo's mystery is a celebration of that strange, troublesome thing called life. It will be interesting seeing what choices will DeCarlo make next but as things stand at the moment, there's every chance she an important new voice in literature.

Review copy provided by HarperCollins
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REVIEW : Blood and Bone by V.M. Giambanco


When crime fiction is discussed among ourselves, our editor often shares his opinion that Mari Hannah and V. M. Giambanco are two of the most important contemporary writers of the same. Never having read any of the fiction published by them I was pleasantly surprised when "BLOOD AND BONE", the latest novel in the Alice Madison series landed on my desk. You've guessed it, editor is reading the new Mari Hannah novel, “The Silent Room”, so this was my chance to find what the fuss is all about.

"BLOOD AND BONE" is the third novel in the Alice Madison series and quite unexpectedly it starts rather slowly, with an episode when our protagonist was just twelve. It is 1982 and Alice is running away from home. She’s taking with herself only the bare necessities with her, which include her copy of "Treasure Island" read to her by her mother. After her mother suddenly died, Alice was left to live with her father. There's plenty of dark hints as she makes her way to the nearby port and escapes on a ferry. It is a bleak and engrossing opening salvo which only serves as a hint for what is to come. Back in the present, Alice is attacked by two abusive men who get more than their bargained for. We are then treated to a slice of her, quite nice, relationship, and from then it's all the way to the heart of darkness. A man is found brutally murdered in his own home. His face is smashed without recognition and some of the jewelry is missing but what initially seems like a burglary turned nasty reveals itself to be a work of a particularly nasty serial killer whose victims go back for decades. There’s plenty of previously solved cases which will need to be re-investigated. And what about all those people that landed up inside for the crimes they didn't commit? I will step back from revealing too much but it is a damn good and addictive stuff.

If you go by the synopsis alone, "BLOOD AND BONE" might initially seem like a run-of-the-mill police procedural but just scratch beyond the surface and you'll see that it is much better than that. V.M. Giambanco works hard to establish her characters as real people, with feeling and anxieties, and this makes all the difference because once the going gets tough. You feel for their pain and frustration, and you want their issues to be resolved. I have to admit that I did feel like I lost something by starting from the third book. I found seemingly unconnected storyline with the character called John Cameron especially confusing but it was not too bad. I'll be making my way back to the beginning as soon as I'm done with writing this review but if you have no other choice, still give it a go. You won't lose too much and you might just agree with our editor in the same way as I did. V. M. Giambanco is definitely one to watch.

Review copy provided by Quercus Books
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