Short story : The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Ok, now I know it’s not Christmas yet but I posted a short story, Hunted, on here well over a year ago and it’s getting regular views still so I thought I would post this up and see what people thought. If it looks familiar to anyone it’s because it was on Portobello Book Blogs 12 Days of Christmas in 2017.

Let me just warn you now, not everyone in this story gets a happy ending……….


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Enveloped by the darkness and shadows Emily sat and watched, waiting patiently for the occupant of number 3 to return home.  Number 3 was an unassuming terraced house that looked exactly the same as its neighbours though Emily knew there was something quite different about it.  For the past few weeks she had watched, careful not to arouse suspicion. She had enough doubts of her own about what she was doing without getting unwanted attention from anyone else.  She had used the local shops so that her presence in the village seemed less strange but at the same time she had tried to not visit them or speak to people too much so that when she was gone, when her task was done, no one would remember her.  This was a small village and Emily had realised quite quickly that people were friendly. If you were walking around, particularly in the evening, people assumed you were out for an evening stroll and said hello. Lovely as this was she didn’t want to have any more contact with other people than was absolutely necessary. 

Emily shivered sitting on the wooden bench.  Although she was wrapped up warmly the cold bite from the frosty air found its way through to her limbs, frozen from sitting in the same position for too long.  Wiggling her toes she huddled into herself a bit more, trying to minimise the amount of her body that was exposed to the cold. Being in the north of Scotland on Christmas eve it was no surprise that the temperature was so low.  The snow that had fallen the day before was crispy and, thankfully for her, covered in footprints so hers would not stand out. Clearly everyone in the village was sensible and either away or cosily tucked up at home as there was no one around, the stillness and silence was broken only by an occasional car passing through.  

Her planning had been meticulous, or so she had thought, but despite the fact that her quarry had returned by 8pm every night she had watched Emily was beginning to get concerned about his continued absence tonight given it was now well after 9pm.  She wasn’t concerned for him as such, his safety was of no issue to her. What worried her was that she would be deprived of the closure that she and so many others needed. It had to be tonight, that way Christmas would be untainted by it and she and everyone else could enjoy a fresh start in the New Year, something they all deserved.  

A sudden noise broke the silence, startling her and she realised that she had dozed off.  Trying to clear the fog of sleep from her brain she noticed that the sound was of a car door slamming.  It was him. Typical that he would make so much noise on such a quiet, peaceful night. Watching as he fumbled with the key for his front door before heading inside, Emily then carefully looked around to ensure that she was alone.  She hunched further into the cold bench, pulling her scarf up round her nose and mouth.  

“This was it”, she thought, “this was what everything had been building up to”.  Everything she had done over the past few weeks had led up to this. Now she just needed to find out if she really had the courage to go through with it. “After all”, she mused, “no one would notice if I did nothing and just went home, although I would know…….no, I have to do this, I’ll regret it if I don’t.”

With that final decisive thought Emily stood up, wiggling her legs to wake them up before walking in the direction of number 3.   The blue door stood out amongst all of the other white and cream ones, almost as if it was a beacon for her in the snow and frost.  As she walked she thought through her plan while removing the scarf from her face. It was just starting to snow again, big, wet flakes were landing on her face as she walked, making her cheeks feel tingly and damp.  Reaching the door she pulled the envelope from her pocket, another part of her plan, before ringing the bell and waiting.

As she heard footsteps inside the house her nervousness increased.  There was no turning back now. Suddenly the door opened and there he was, looking at her with absolutely no recognition at all.  Realising he was waiting for her to speak she went into her pre-prepared pitch.

“Evening! I’m collecting money for the local animal shelter, or any donations of blankets or old bedding that you might have?”  Emily showed him the envelope with the shelter’s details on it. It was genuine although they had never canvassed in this village before.  

“Huh, oh, ok, I suppose I might have something”, he said, sounding a bit surprised. “Come in and I’ll see what I have.”  He opened the door wider, letting her inside. Emily walked past him into the lounge. “She was in, this was going to work!”, she thought trying to contain the fear and excitement suddenly coursing through her.  “Wait here”, he said, “I think there are some spare towels upstairs.” He took the stairs two at a time and soon she could hear him walking around above her head.  

Before she knew it he was coming back down the stairs, carrying some old but clean towels.  He handed them to her and she started to take them. Just as he was about to let go, her right arm came from behind her back and in one swift movement, hidden by the towels, the knife in her hand went into his stomach.  A cry of pain and surprise came from him as he stepped backwards in shock. Automatically his hand had gone to the knife, and both were quickly being covered in blood. The towels dropped to the floor with a soft thump, both he and Emily ignored them.  Although she knew what she had done she hadn’t expected there to be quite as much blood so looked just as stunned as he did, though obviously for completely different reasons. He took a few more steps backwards before his legs gave way and he fell onto the floor.  

Lying there, still bleeding profusely he looked at his hand and then at her. “Why?”, he gasped, clearly in a lot of pain.  “Why?”, he repeated when she didn’t answer. She blinked, realising he had been speaking to her. “Why?” she said, “Why for all of the women, myself included, that you duped into believing that you loved.” He looked confused and she knew he didn’t recognise her so she elaborated. “You don’t recognise me because I lost weight and changed my hair after you dumped me.  I thought we were getting married but you never intended to marry me did you? Just like you never intended to marry any of the other women you strung along.” Emily could see from his expression that he knew exactly what she was talking about but she wasn’t finished yet. “After I realised how much of a toad you are I decided to take revenge so I used social media and found a group, a whole group, just about you.  The women that you have used and tossed aside found each other and grouped together to plan payback, but they were taking too long so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I’ve ensured that you won’t do this to anyone else ever again. You’re pathetic, you really are.”  

She realised, looking at him as he lay dying, that she felt nothing for him.  She had expected to feel something, even some strange form of joy but there was nothing. She had researched stomach wounds and knew that loss of blood was the main cause of death so all she had to do was wait.  He tried speaking, possibly to defend his actions or ask her for help but he couldn’t get the words out so she ignored him and looked instead at the room she was in. She hadn’t paid it any attention till now but Emily was relieved to see that the blind on the window was closed, something she scolded herself for not checking on her approach to the house.  It was a pleasant room, a little small but nice and cosy and she hoped that this death wouldn’t put people off living here in the future. She looked back down at him, suddenly wanting to leave this place. He was barely conscious. Prodding him with her foot she got only a faint groan in response. Emily bent down, loathe to touch him but wanting to check his pulse.  It was there but very slow. She stood up again, noticing that the towels he had brought down were now soaking up his blood. They clearly were very good towels, it was a shame they would be wasted on him. Taking one final look around, she decided to leave.  

Opening the front door slowly she glanced out but saw no one.  She stepped out into the snow, now falling thick and fast and pulled the door closed behind her.  The Yale lock clicked shut and she started to walk away, across the street and through the square to where she had parked her car.  As she walked she decided this was going to be the best Christmas ever.




#Review : The Darkest Place by Jo Spain. @SpainJoanne @QuercusBooks

Today I’m reviewing The Darkest Place, the fourth book in the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. Many thanks to Quercus for approving my NetGalley request for this book.


Blurb:   Christmas day, and DCI Tom Reynolds receives an alarming call. A mass grave has been discovered on Oileán na Caillte, the island which housed the controversial psychiatric institution St. Christina’s. The hospital has been closed for decades and onsite graves were tragically common. Reynolds thinks his adversarial boss is handing him a cold case to sideline him.

But then it transpires another body has been discovered amongst the dead – one of the doctors who went missing from the hospital in mysterious circumstances forty years ago. He appears to have been brutally murdered.

As events take a sudden turn, nothing can prepare Reynolds and his team for what they are about to discover once they arrive on the island . . .




My Review:  As said in a previous review I’m catching up on my overdue reviews which is why this one is getting published at the same time that book 5 in the Inspector Tom Reynolds series is out in the world. What can I say, better late than never?

I’ve read all of the previous books to this one and I have to say that so far I think this is the best. Now I may change my mind once I get round to reading book 5 but of the first 4 I feel this is the best one. I love reading these books, having gone through the previous 3 this one felt like meeting up again with old friends because the characters are now so familiar to me. This story is set on an island just off the coast of Ireland, where a psychiatric hospital was once housed. Though the hospital is long since closed the discovery of a body of a missing person, brings Tom and his team to this windswept and creepy place.  Through their investigation we find that some people still live on the island and few of them are quite what they seem.

I loved this book, it felt a lot like the first book to me but with a more settled and gelled together team. As I’ve said it was like meeting old friends again and as I did that I also explored the island alongside them because the author writes in such a way that you feel as if you are part of the team, following Tom on his investigation and feeling what he does, suspicion, fear, joy, everything.  The writing is perfect and I would say has improved with each book. The character and location descriptions are spot on. I felt as if I could see and hear all of them as well as feeling the sense of foreboding that seemed to emanate from the island and it’s buildings and even the howling gales and rain that clearly would be a feature of such an exposed place.

As with any good crime story things are not as they seem on the island and this causes some headaches for the team and their families, given as this story is set at Christmas. However, this just adds to the enjoyment of the story and the impact on the festive season adds to the realism of the police work, after all, that doesn’t stop for holidays. I genuinely look forward to each of these books coming out, the next one, out now is on my list and will be read when I have time to properly savour it as that is what these stories deserve. If you’ve not read any of them yet then definitely start at the beginning as there are changes to the characters relationships as the series progresses but please, try these out. If you like police procedurals with something a little different I doubt you’ll be disappointed.









#BlogTour #Review : The Butcher by Nathan Burrows. @NathanBurrowsUK @damppebbles

Thrilled today to be starting the tour for a most unusual book. Many thanks to Emma at damppebbles blog tours for having me and sending me a copy of the book to review.

the butcher blog tour

Blurb: She thought it was pork. She was wrong.
The first time hapless food inspector Emily Underwood meets butcher Frank Pinch, he’s not got much at all in his display counters. But what he does have is a rather unusual plan to restock his shelves. The next time they bump into each other, he’s won an award for his sausages but is running out of meat.
Can Frank keep up production of his unusually tasty sausages? Will Emily discover the source of Frank’s award-winning meat? And what will happen the next time she tries to inspect his butcher’s shop?

Book 1 in the Rub-a-Dub-Dub trilogy, this deliciously British dark comedy will change the way you look at sausages forever.

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK:
Amazon US:
Google Books:

Extra Information:
The Butcher is available to download in ebook format for only 99p/99c for a limited time.

the butcher

My Review: It doesn’t take a genius to guess at what the ‘not pork’ actually is. However, even guessing correctly doesn’t detract from what is a dark and funny read. I read this book in a day, yep 1 day, I genuinely could not put it down. The story is set in an UK post Brexit where there are no EU imports so Frank is struggling to run his butcher’s shop. Through a serious of random accidents and misunderstandings Frank ends up with an award for his sausages which are created by his brother Tom who runs their farm.

Essentially this is a story about two brothers trying to survive in a world which has been the subject of changes that have affected them quite severely. This is also a story of near-misses, grisly humour and how we don’t always know what will happen next. I’m not squeamish so didn’t happily have any issues with that side of the story. I enjoyed the characters, I didn’t like all of them but that’s understandable as some were just cringe inducing and smarmy and no one likes people like that. The descriptions were good, detailed a ough but not too detailed.

The thing about this book though, is the fact that you know from page 1 what is happening. There’s no mystery to solve but what kept me reading was wondering when/if the truth will be discovered and what would happen next. It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste (ha ha) but it will definitely appeal to those who like their stories dark and with macabre humour. And apparently I am one of those people, who knew, thankfully there are more in the series so I have something new to get stuck into……..

About the author:

nathan burrows

Nathan Burrows is a writer based in Norfolk in the United Kingdom. His debut novel, a legal thriller called ‘Blind Justice’, was published in March 2018.

He’s also the author of a dark comedy trilogy set in Norfolk. The first in the series is ‘The Butcher’, a deliciously funny story about – amongst other things – sausages. The second in the series is ‘The Baker’, which features Norfolk’s most useless cult. And finally, ‘The Candlestick Maker’ is about a fitness instructor with a difference.

The next book to be released will be ‘Man Down’, a return to more traditional thrillers. It’s a military story set in Afghanistan which will be released in the Autumn, 2019. Also releasing later in the year is ‘Finding Milly’, which explores just how far a man will go to find his missing daughter.

Nathan’s a keen reader as well as a writer. He occasionally runs marathons, has a Norwich City football club season ticket, and is the proud part-owner of a Daschund puppy called Bertie.

For more information, visit

Social Media:
Amazon Author Page:

dpbt 2

#BlogTour #Review : The Anglesey Murders by Conrad Jones. @ConradJones @BOTBSPublicity

Today I’m on the blog tour for The Anglesey Murders.  Many thanks to BOTBS Publicity for having me on the tour and sending me a copy of the book to review.



Blurb:  DI Alan Williams is called to the recovery of two bodies from the sea at Trearddur Bay, during a storm. The lifeboat crew suspect they’re fishermen, washed away by a wave but they’re wrong. Alan and his detective sergeant, Kim Davies, realise the men were beaten and tied together before they entered the water. Two miles along the headland at Porth Dafarch, a third victim is found but there are no obvious links. As the number of victims increases, a major investigation team battles to unravel a deadly puzzle which, appears to have links to a series of historic murders from the 90’s.

In 1995, Peter Moore owned and operated the cinema in Holyhead. It is thought he assaulted over 40 men and he was arrested and charged with four murders, which he’d committed in as many months. He was jailed for life in 1996 and is still the only recorded Welsh serial killer. Fast forward to today and Detective Inspector Alan Williams is investigating a series of murders with uncanny similarities to the Peter Moore attacks. Is there a copycat on the loose or are the murders connected to the local underworld, which controls the supply of narcotics across North Wales and the North West? Finding a motive, is the challenge he might not win.





My Review:  Despite the fact I have read, a lot of crime fiction this is, as far as I’m aware, the first crime book I’ve read set in Wales.  I’ve recently realised that I don’t read any Welsh crime fiction and as I have some Welsh blood in my veins I decided this needed to change, happily around the same time that I got an email about this book. I tend not to read books involving the underworld or drug dealing, they just aren’t my first choice of reads but this book sounded intriguing with references to a serial killer from the 90s and hints that there was more to it than drugs and as it turns out I was correct.

I really enjoyed this book. I’ve never been to Anglesey but I got a real sense of the place from the descriptions in the book. The weather I can relate to but the areas mentioned were new to me but brilliantly described. In a quiet moment at work one day I looked up Porth Dafarch and although I thought it was a bit larger than it is the description in the book was spot on, the open space, the exposure to the weather and everything else that was described fitted brilliantly, the only thing my searching added was confirmation that this author does excellent descriptions.

I love police procedurals even though I do wonder if crime fiction is getting a bit over-saturated with them, however, this one was a breath of fresh air.  The characters were relatable and DI Alan Williams has his issues to deal with but they didn’t dominate the story or impact his ability to do his job, when they were mentioned it was because they were relevant to the understanding of him and to the story. The investigations were cleanly handled in a way that made them easy to follow and I liked that. I also liked seeing DI Williams being involved or overseeing them all, it helped prevent the various strands of the story from becoming confusing which can happen when you have many murders that may or may not be connected.

I got drawn into this story. Although it deals with very serious issues it provided welcome escapism from my own reality for a while. The writing pulls you in slowly, giving bits of one part of the story before moving on to the next, leaving hints that there might be connections between them but not making anything definite until it needs to be. I’m not raving about this book but that’s because I don’t feel it would fit. It was a brilliantly written, very sold police procedural that taught me a lot about drug dealing and introduced me to some characters that I very much would like to spend more time with in the future. This is an excellent start to what will be a cracking series and I can’t wait for more.


About the author:



Conrad Jones a 52-year-old Author, living in Holyhead, Anglesey, which I class as my home, before starting a career as a trainee manger with McDonalds Restaurants in 1989. I worked in management at McDonalds Restaurants Ltd from 1989-2002, working my way up to Business Consultant (area manager) working in the corporate and franchised departments.
In March 1993 I was managing the Restaurant in Warrington`s Bridge St when two Irish Republican Army bombs exploded directly outside the store, resulting in the death of two young boys and many casualties. Along with hundreds of other people there that day I was deeply affected by the attack, which led to a long-term interest in the motivation and mind set of criminal gangs. I began to read anything crime related that I could get my hands on.
I link this experience with the desire to write books on the subject, which came much later due to an unusual set of circumstances. Because of that experience my early novels follow the adventures of an elite counter terrorist unit, The Terrorist Task Force, and their leader, John Tankersley, or `Tank`and they are the Soft Target Series, which have been described by a reviewer as ‘Reacher on steroids’.
I had no intentions of writing until 2007, when I set off on an 11-week tour of the USA. The Day before I boarded the plane, Madeleine Mcann disappeared and all through the holiday I followed the American news reports which had little or no information about her. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the terrible kidnap would inspire my book, The Child Taker years later. During that trip, I received news that my house had been burgled and my work van and equipment were stolen. That summer was the year when York and Tewksbury were flooded by a deluge and insurance companies were swamped with claims. They informed me that they couldn’t do anything for weeks and that returning home would be a wasted journey. Rendered unemployed on a beach in Clearwater, Florida, I decided to begin my first book, Soft Target. I have never stopped writing since. I have recently completed my 20th novel, The Journey, something that never would have happened but for that burglary and my experiences in Warrington.
As far as my favourite series ever, it has to be James Herbert’s, The Rats trilogy. The first book did for me what school books couldn’t. It fascinated me, triggered my imagination and gave me the hunger to want to read more. I waited years for the second book, The Lair, and Domain, the third book to come out and they were amazing. Domain is one of the best books I have ever read. In later years, Lee Child, especially the early books, has kept me hypnotised on my sunbed on holiday as has Michael Connelley and his Harry Bosch Series.












#BlogBlitz #Review : Dark is the Day by Tana Collins. @Bloodhoundbook @TanaCollins7


DI Jim Carruthers has to put his personal feelings for newly- appointed DCI Sandra McTavish aside when a young student is brutally attacked and left for dead.

Meanwhile, when a university lecturer is stalked by one of her own students, Carruthers is horrified to discover that the academic is none other than his ex-wife, Mairi. Are the attacker and stalker one and the same, and if so, will Carruthers’ ex-wife be next?

When a second then a third victim is discovered, not only dead but mutilated, Carruthers and his team are tasked with searching for a murderer. A murderer who takes great pleasure from killing.

What is the victims’ connection to a cult in North America, which seems to be getting a stranglehold in a Scottish university? Why have these women been targeted? And who is doing the killing?

It looks like there might be a serial killer on the loose in Castletown but can DI Jim Carruthers stop this depraved murderer before they strike again?

My Review: I hate to admit that this is the first Tana Collins book I’ve read but unfortunately it is, however it won’t be the last. I really enjoyed this story. We follow the police and a newly demoted DI Jim Carruthers as they investigate a series of attacks and murders in a Scottish seaside university town.

I love police procedural’s which I would class this as but it also has a bit of insight into the personal lives of the detectives which makes them feel more realistic than if they were just focused on work alone. It was interesting to see from their viewpoint how work, particularly murder cases, impacted on their lives.

One thing that came across really well, in my opinion, was the emotions of everyone from the friends and relatives of those attacked to the police themselves who were investigating.

I’ve said before that when I read I also see the books as films in my head. The better written the book the more smoothly the film flows and in this instance it was like a millpond. Everytime I picked up the book I was instantly transported to where I had left off which is exactly what I want to happen when I’m reading. The fact that the story flowed so smoothly is one of a number of reasons as to why I’ll be reading the previous books in this series and looking out for the next ones.

So, if like me you’ve not discovered these fabulous books yet, there’s no time like the present. This book works well without prior knowledge of the characters so get a copy and get stuck in!

#BlogTour #Review : Death at the Dakota by M. K. Graff @GraffMarni @damppebbles #TrudyGenovaMysteries #DeathattheDakota

Today I’m reviewing Death at the Dakota. Many thanks to the author and Emma at Damppebbles for letting me be on the blog tour and sending me a copy of the book to review.

Blurb: Nurse Trudy Genova is making plans to take her relationship to NYPD detective Ned O’Malley to the next level, when she lands a gig as medical consultant on a film shoot at the famed Dakota apartment building in Manhattan, which John Lennon once called home. Then star Monica Kiley goes missing, a cast member turns up dead, and it appears Trudy might be next.

Meanwhile Ned tackles a mysterious murder case in which the victim is burned beyond recognition. When his investigations lead him back to the Dakota, Trudy finds herself wondering: how can she fall in love if she can’t even survive?

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:



My Review: I loved the sound of the book when I got the email for the tour and had to sign up. Between then and now I’ve been to New York and seen the Dakota building for myself and it’s stunning, definitely the perfect place to set a crime story.

This is the first Trudy Genova book i’ve read but I really enjoyed it. There’s enough description of locations to get a sense of place but what really stands out is the characters. There’s a great mix of the crime element and the relationships between Trudy and Ned and between the other characters as well. I really liked the way the characters were written, they were well-rounded and realistic and the book was easy to read without prior knowledge of the characters.

I personally would class this as cosy crime so if you’re looking for a new read in that area or fancy a change from your usual reads then this is definitely worth a try. I’m hoping to see more of Trudy Genova in the future.

About the author:

Marni Graff writes The Nora Tierney English Mysteries, featuring an American writer living in England with a nose for murder, and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries, based on Graff’s real work as a medical consultant for a movie studio. She is Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press, a member of Sisters in Crime, the NC Writers Network, and The International Association of Crime Writers, and writes crime book reviews at Auntie M Writes,

Social Media:

Twitter: @GraffMarni




#BlogTour #Review : The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon. @OrendaBooks @vandasymon

Today I’m reviewing The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon, the second in the Sam Shephard series. Many thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for letting me have a copy of the book to review.

Blurb: Death is stalking the South Island of New Zealand…

Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigation, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, and Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus…

Determined to find out who’s running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending…

My Review: At the end of the previous book (Overkill) we left Sam as she decided to move to Dunedin and make a new life there for herself. As this book is set in Dunedin it can be read as a stand alone as any links to the previous book are explained during the story.

Sam goes from essentially being in charge to bring at the bottom rung of the ladder as a detective and with a boss who appears to hate her and want to hinder her progress. When a body is discovered she gets frustrated at being sidelined in the investigation and does what she can to be more involved.

I love police procedurals, always have, and it was interesting in this book to read from the perspective of someone lower down in the investigation, rather than the leading officer. Sam is clearly frustrated at not being more involved and that comes through quite clearly. I can understand her frustration, given she was in charge in the previous book but she did annoy me at times when she appeared to expect to be able to jump a few rungs on the ladder, rather than learning her job the same way as everyone else. Having said that, it was good to see how she dealt with her frustration and also nice to see that being so normal, and something different from the usual alcoholic, damaged detectives that are in so many other books.

It’s the characters that drive this story, even that of the person found dead in the Botanic Gardens. Their character and how they impacted those around them is clearly shown during the investigation. There are quite a few characters in the book, not all human, but all of them are distinct and well-written. You get a clear sense of them from the writing which is something that I like. For a story to work well, especially a crime story, you need to care about the characters, otherwise, if there are times of danger (which in crime there usually are!) there is no concern for the character, for whether they will survive or not.

This book is a good, solid read. It works well as a stand alone so you don’t have to read Overkill first if you just want to jump straight in. If you like crime stories and want to expand your reading to new countries then this book is definitely worth picking up. There’s enough that will be familiar to UK readers that it won’t seem like too much of a culture shock but it will give you a new country to explore and that could add more books to your to-read pile which is never a bad thing.

About the author:

Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.