I went to the second hand bookstore Tuesday…..

I took ten books in,

And came out with twenty.

Just doing my bit for the economy.

🤣😂❤😍📚☕🍪

The Red, Red Snow by Caro Ramsay

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EXCERPT: Eric Callaghan paused as co-worker Simon chucked some ketchup and salt sachets on top of the fries,then picked a Santa balloon from the display behind him and tucked the string under Geraldine’s diet coke.

Simon wished him a happy Christmas.

Eric wished him a better career.

He could see Geraldine through the Santa balloons and light sabres. Suddenly, he coughed, balancing the tray on one arm as his body jerked. He tried to resist another cough; his mouth tasted blood. Leaving the crush at the counter, he needed fresh air. The heat in the food court was oppressive, making him feel dizzy, even a little faint. He leaned against a bin, catching his breath. The small snakes of potato wriggled across the tray, turning his stomach. He bumped into a grey-haired woman holding onto two Santa balloons, thinking that the mild collusion in such a tight space did not merit the look of alarm on her face. She asked him if he was okay, a gloved hand touching his arm, the kindness of a stranger, and then Geraldine was at his side as his eldest daughter lifted the tray from him. It all went rather colourful and pretty as the Santa balloons danced around the room.

‘I’m fine.’ He looked around him, lifted up his jacket, his black T-shirt wet with sweat. The tail of his peacock tattoo wound round his lower ribs, curving to his abdomen. The tail feathers were blue and purple, their tips turning crimson as the blood ran and dripped.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: A family man is stabbed to death at a crowded Christmas Ice Show. Murdered in plain sight. No clues, no witnesses, no known motive.

A week later, two bodies are discovered at a holiday cottage in a remote highland glen: one in the kitchen; the other sprawled outside on the icy lawn. The killer would appear to have arrived and left without leaving a trace, not even a footprint in the snow.

What secrets are lurking within this isolated, superstitious community? As the snow piles higher, detectives Anderson and Costello put their wits to solving a seemingly impossible crime, and gradually uncover a twisted tale of greed, obsession – and cold-blooded murder.

MY THOUGHTS: I haven’t been hiding in the salt mines of Siberia, or even in remote parts of the Scottish highlands, so how come this is the first ever Caro Ramsay book that I have read, and #11 in the series at that?

I loved this complex and atmospheric mystery/police procedural. Even starting this series at #11 didn’t diminish my pleasure.

There are multiple mysteries in The Red, Red Snow. Why would anyone take the risk of stabbing a family man in plain sight in a crowded food court? Why would anyone stab him anyway?

And the elderly German couple in a holiday cottage in the remote Scottish Riske Glen, who would want them dead?

How did the killer get in? There are no footprints in the snow…

There is talk of Skirfin and nuckelavee, which are by no means the creepiest things in this book. No, that honour goes to the coffin bridge, a remarkable contraption that has you lay inside a coffin and, using an arrangement of ropes and pulleys, pull yourself across the river. No way would I ever climb inside that thing!

The characters are very real, their lives as complex as this case. But in no way do their private lives overshadow the main storyline, indeed it complements it. There is obviously a bit of back history between some of the characters of which I am unaware, and this has piqued my curiosity. Amongst the characters is a bad-tempered DI, a lovestruck forensic scientist, a pathologist obsessed with choosing her new curtains, and a woman called Suzette and, I quote, ‘I do apologise for my horrible daughter. I wish I could blame it on some disorder, but I’m afraid she is just an evil little cow.’ There is even a character called Arthur ‘Conman’ Doyle, and a wonderful Staffie (I love Staffies) called Nesbit.

Ramsay writes with a lightness of touch, a sensitivity to the situation, and a wry sense of humour.

I now have another series to add to my list to read from the beginning. And rest assured, I will be first in line for the next Caro Ramsay book.

🤩🤩🤩🤩

#TheRedRedSnow #NetGalley

‘She wondered vaguely what had happened to the rise of feminism, and if it applied in adverse weather conditions.’

‘It’s Christmas. People fight about everything.’

‘I can read you like a book. Just not a very good book.’

THE AUTHOR: Caro Ramsay was born and educated in Glasgow. She has been writing stories since she was five years old, developing a keen interest in crime fiction and a passion for the genre that lead her to write Absolution, her first novel.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Severn House via NetGalley for providing a digital ARC of The Red,Red Snow by Caro Ramsay for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Deadly Harm by Owen Mullen

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EXCERPT: A breeze rustled the branches of the trees above them. Mackenzie felt sweat drying on her brow. She closed her eyes, savouring the sensation. Panic was the enemy. No good lay down that road. Whatever story they gave the police wouldn’t save them now. Digging was their only hope.

She let her breath out slowly, forcing herself to stay calm. ‘We had that chance. It’s gone.’

‘But it’s the truth.’

‘Is it?’

‘You know it is.’

Mackenzie leaned on the spade, struggling to keep hold of her impatience. ‘I’ll tell you what I know. There’s a man with half a face lying in our garden. Explain that.’

‘I’ll tell them he attacked me.’

‘We discussed this. The way he died… they’ll never believe you.’ Mackenzie pointed to the trench at her feet. ‘And what about this?’

Caitlyn didn’t answer.

‘That’s what I thought.’ She stepped out of the grave. ‘Your turn to dig.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: It’s been five years since Mackenzie Darroch was abducted and held captive in a derelict house.

She thought she’d found her way out of the darkness. She was wrong.

When she witnesses a car crash and saves the driver’s life, it sets in motion a chain of events that will alter both their futures.

The two women get involved in a high profile police case and draw the attention of a ruthless reporter. Gina Calvi is convinced Mackenzie is not what she appears and is prepared to do anything to prove it.

Meanwhile, across the city, Kirsty McBride, a young single mother, is persuaded to leave a violent relationship. Her partner, Malkie Boyle a Glasgow hardman, is due to be released from prison. Once back on the street and bent on revenge, Boyle is determined to find the people responsible for stealing his family from him.

Can Mackenzie save them or will Boyle get his revenge?

MY THOUGHTS: I didn’t want to put this down. I didn’t want to go to work. I wanted to stay home and read. I was late for work (just one more chapter….), and I dared not take Deadly Harm to work with me….

Mullen has a fairly unique writing style, a seamless blend of frantic and flowing. His prose is terse, but he leaves nothing out, and sweeps the reader along to a breathtaking finale – one that I never saw coming.

It was great to see some characters from Mullen’s previous books back – Charlie Cameron puts in a brief appearance, but the book belongs to the characters of Mackenzie Darroch, an abduction survivor whom we first met in In Harm’s Way, and DI Andrew Geddes, whose methods aren’t always in line with law enforcement norms, an aetheist, and who likes a drink. Well, maybe more than one. He made regular appearance’s in Mullen’s Charlie Cameron series.

Mullen tackles the subject of domestic abuse head on. There is no side-stepping issues, no oblique references. He calls a spade a space, but does so with finesse.

I simply galloped through this read, swept along by Mullen’s passion, both for his craft and his subject. I will be giving this a second, slower, more considered read to fully enjoy his little snippets of humour and the finer nuances of the plot.

My favourite quote: Some people don’t have relationships, they take hostages.

5 absolutely brilliant stars!

#DeadlyHarm

THE AUTHOR: Bestselling author Owen Mullen is a McIlvanney Crime Book Of The Year long-listed novelist.

Owen Mullen graduated from Strathclyde University, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter, and had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; Owen still loves to perform on occasion. His great love for travel has taken him on many adventures from the Amazon and Africa to the colourful continent of India and Nepal. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow, and their home away from home in the Greek Islands where the Charlie Cameron and Delaney series’, and the In Harm’s Way psychological thriller were created.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Owen Mullen for providing a digital ARC of his book Deadly Harm for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

for an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my Goodreads.com profile, or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others also appear on Twitter, and https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3026545606?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

All That’s Dead by Stuart MacBride

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EXCERPT: He brought the torch round, sweeping across the skeleton branches and bone trunks.

A pair of eyes glittered back at him, too far away to make out anything but their reflected glow.

He stayed where he was. ‘Stalin? Stalin, that you?’

No answering bark. No response at all. Whatever it was just stayed there, staring at him from the darkness.

‘Hmph.’ Nicholas pulled his chin up. ‘Well, what are you then? A fox, or a badger?’

And that’s when he feels it. A …. presence. There’s someone behind him!

The smoky tang of whisky catches in his nostrils as they step in close, their breath warm against his cheek.

Oh God…

His mouth dries, pulse stabbing its way through his throat.

There’s a papery rustling sound. Then a cold metallic one as a ghost white arm appears from behind Nicholas, painfully bright in the torch’s glow. The arm holds an axe, the blade chipped and brown with rust.

‘A fox or a badger?’ A small laugh. ‘Oh, I’m something much, much worse.’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: Inspector Logan McRae was looking forward to a nice simple case – something to ease him back into work after a year off on the sick. But the powers-that-be have other ideas…

The high-profile anti-independence campaigner, Professor Wilson, has gone missing, leaving nothing but bloodstains behind. There’s a war brewing between the factions for and against Scottish Nationalism. Infighting in the police ranks. And it’s all playing out in the merciless glare of the media. Logan’s superiors want results, and they want them now.

Someone out there is trying to make a point, and they’re making it in blood. If Logan can’t stop them, it won’t just be his career that dies.

MY THOUGHTS: Classic MacBride. Plenty of black humour, a twisted plot showing off the worst of humankind, and quirky characters, all overlaid by a veneer of normality.

I am always excited by the advent of a new addition to this series. And All That’s Dead certainly doesn’t disappoint. Graphic, grisly, but strangely enchanting, MacBride weaves his web entangling the reader in a desperate chase to catch an elusive and deadly chameleon.

😍🤯😂🤩.5

THE AUTHOR: The life and times of a bearded write-ist.

Stuart MacBride (that’s me) was born in Dumbarton — which is Glasgow as far as I’m concerned — moving up to Aberdeen at the tender age of two, when fashions were questionable. Nothing much happened for years and years and years: learned to play the recorder, then forgot how when they changed from little coloured dots to proper musical notes (why the hell couldn’t they have taught us the notes in the first bloody place? I could have been performing my earth-shattering rendition of ‘Three Blind Mice’ at the Albert Hall by now!); appeared in some bizarre World War Two musical production; did my best to avoid eating haggis and generally ran about the place a lot.

Next up was an elongated spell in Westhill — a small suburb seven miles west of Aberdeen — where I embarked upon a mediocre academic career, hindered by a complete inability to spell and an attention span the length of a gnat’s doodad.

And so to UNIVERSITY, far too young, naive and stupid to be away from the family home, sharing a subterranean flat in one of the seedier bits of Edinburgh with a mad Irishman, and four other bizarre individuals. The highlight of walking to the art school in the mornings (yes: we were students, but we still did mornings) was trying not to tread in the fresh bloodstains outside our front door, and dodging the undercover CID officers trying to buy drugs. Lovely place.

But university and I did not see eye to eye, so off I went to work offshore. Like many all-male environments, working offshore was the intellectual equivalent of Animal House, only without the clever bits. Swearing, smoking, eating, more swearing, pornography, swearing, drinking endless plastic cups of tea… and did I mention the swearing? But it was more money than I’d seen in my life! There’s something about being handed a wadge of cash as you clamber off the minibus from the heliport, having spent the last two weeks offshore and the last two hours in an orange, rubber romper suit / body bag, then blowing most of it in the pubs and clubs of Aberdeen. And being young enough to get away without a hangover.

Then came a spell of working for myself as a graphic designer, which went the way of all flesh and into the heady world of studio management for a nation-wide marketing company. Then some more freelance design work, a handful of voiceovers for local radio and video production companies and a bash at being an actor (with a small ‘a’), giving it up when it became clear there was no way I was ever going to be good enough to earn a decent living.

It was about this time I fell into bad company — a blonde from Fife who conned me into marrying her — and started producing websites for a friend’s fledgling Internet company. From there it was a roller coaster ride (in that it made a lot of people feel decidedly unwell) from web designer to web manager, lead programmer, team lead and other assorted technical bollocks with three different companies, eventually ending up as a project manager for a global IT company.

But there was always the writing (well, that’s not true, the writing only started two chapters above this one). I fell victim to that most dreadful of things: peer pressure. Two friends were writing novels and I thought, ‘why not? I could do that’.

Took a few years though…

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of All That’s Dead by Stuart MacBride, narrated by Steve Worsley, and published by Harper Collins Audio. All opinions expressed in this reveiw are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system, please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page, or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are published on Twitter, Amazon and my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2913407010?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Twelve Days of Winter: Crime at Christmas by Stuart MacBride

A Christmas read with a difference. . .

Twelve Days of Winter by Stuart MacBride

ABOUT THIS BOOK: On the First Day of Christmas…

Twelve Days, twelve stories

Billy Partridge wasn’t really cut out to be a cat burglar, but Dillon hadn’t really given him any option. It was either do the job, or come up with thirteen grand by Thursday … or have both his legs shattered. And the leg thing didn’t even write off what he and Twitch owed Dillon, just deferred the interest. Come the 15th of January there’d still be thirteen thousand to pay.

Then there’s newbie after-school drug-dealer Brian, who probably shouldn’t be taking advantage of the job’s fringe benefits; Philippe, a chef with anger-management issues and a lot of very sharp knives; Mr Unwin, the undertaker with the golden touch; and Lord Peter Forsythe-Leven, MSP, learning the hard way that having it all just means you’ve got so much more to lose…

Twelve short stories, all set in Oldcastle, all taking their twisted inspiration from the classical Christmas song. Murder, betrayal, drugs, sex, and tinsel.

MY THOUGHTS: Although this is definitely not my favorite by Stuart MacBride, it is still well worth reading. It is blackly humorous, seedy Scottish Noir. Not one character has a redeemable feature. It is filled with criminals, pedophiles, and other generally unsavory, detestable characters. Just my sort of Christmas book!

The stories are all linked together, although this is not immediately obvious, by the various characters and their greedy machinations. The first story is by far the best and sets the tone for the following eleven tales.

🎅🎅🎅.5

THE AUTHOR: Stuart MacBride (that’s me) was born in Dumbarton — which is Glasgow as far as I’m concerned — moving up to Aberdeen at the tender age of two, when fashions were questionable. Nothing much happened for years and years and years: learned to play the recorder, then forgot how when they changed from little coloured dots to proper musical notes (why the hell couldn’t they have taught us the notes in the first bloody place? I could have been performing my earth-shattering rendition of ‘Three Blind Mice’ at the Albert Hall by now!); appeared in some bizarre World War Two musical production; did my best to avoid eating haggis and generally ran about the place a lot.

Next up was an elongated spell in Westhill — a small suburb seven miles west of Aberdeen — where I embarked upon a mediocre academic career, hindered by a complete inability to spell and an attention span the length of a gnat’s doodad.

And so to UNIVERSITY, far too young, naive and stupid to be away from the family home, sharing a subterranean flat in one of the seedier bits of Edinburgh with a mad Irishman, and four other bizarre individuals. The highlight of walking to the art school in the mornings (yes: we were students, but we still did mornings) was trying not to tread in the fresh bloodstains outside our front door, and dodging the undercover CID officers trying to buy drugs. Lovely place.

But university and I did not see eye to eye, so off I went to work offshore. Like many all-male environments, working offshore was the intellectual equivalent of Animal House, only without the clever bits. Swearing, smoking, eating, more swearing, pornography, swearing, drinking endless plastic cups of tea… and did I mention the swearing? But it was more money than I’d seen in my life! There’s something about being handed a wadge of cash as you clamber off the minibus from the heliport, having spent the last two weeks offshore and the last two hours in an orange, rubber romper suit / body bag, then blowing most of it in the pubs and clubs of Aberdeen. And being young enough to get away without a hangover.

Then came a spell of working for myself as a graphic designer, which went the way of all flesh and into the heady world of studio management for a nation-wide marketing company. Then some more freelance design work, a handful of voiceovers for local radio and video production companies and a bash at being an actor (with a small ‘a’), giving it up when it became clear there was no way I was ever going to be good enough to earn a decent living.

It was about this time I fell into bad company — a blonde from Fife who conned me into marrying her — and started producing websites for a friend’s fledgling Internet company. From there it was a roller coaster ride (in that it made a lot of people feel decidedly unwell) from web designer to web manager, lead programmer, team lead and other assorted technical bollocks with three different companies, eventually ending up as a project manager for a global IT company.

But there was always the writing (well, that’s not true, the writing only started two chapters above this one). I fell victim to that most dreadful of things: peer pressure. Two friends were writing novels and I thought, ‘why not? I could do that’.

Took a few years though…

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Twelve Days of Winter: Crime at Christmas, by Stuart MacBride, narrated by Ian Hanmore, published by HarperCollins Publishers, via OverDrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2622131022

The Blackhouse by Peter May

 


EXCERPT: She sees the dark shape drift out of the shadows almost at the same time she feels it. Soft and cold and heavy. She lets out an involuntary cry.

“For God’s sake, Ceit!” Ulleam comes after her, frustration added now to desire and anxiety, and his feet slide away from under him, for all the world like he has stepped on ice. He lands heavily on his elbow and a pain shoots through his arm. “Shit!” The floor is wet with diesel. He feels it soaking through the seat of his trousers. It is on his hands. Without thinking he fumbles for the cigarette lighter in his pocket. There just isn’t enough damned light in here. Only as he spins the wheel with his thumb, sparking the flame, does it occur to him that he is in imminent danger of turning himself into a human torch. But by then it is too late. The light is sudden and startling in the dark. He braces himself. But there is no ignition of diesel fumes, no sudden flash of searing flame. Just an image so profoundly shocking it is impossible at first to comprehend.

The man is hanging by his neck from the rafters overhead, frayed orange plastic rope tilting his head at an impossible angle. He is a big man, buck naked, blue-white flesh hanging in folds from his breasts and his buttocks, like a loose fitting suit two sizes too big. Loops of something smooth and shiny hang down between his legs from a gaping smile that splits his belly from side to side. The flame sends the dead man’s shadow dancing around the scarred and graffitied walls like so many ghosts welcoming a new arrival. Beyond him, Ulleam sees Ceit’s face. Pale, dark-eyed, frozen in horror. For a moment he thinks, absurdly, that the pool of diesel around him is agricultural, dyed red by the Excise to identify its tax-free status – before realising it is blood, sticky and thick and already drying brown on his hands.

ABOUT THIS BOOK: A brutal killing takes place on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland: a land of harsh beauty and inhabitants of deep-rooted faith.

A MURDER

Detective Inspector Fin Macleod is sent from Edinburgh to investigate. For Lewis-born Macleod, the case represents a journey both home and into his past.

A SECRET

Something lurks within the close-knit island community. Something sinister.

A TRAP

As Fin investigates, old skeletons begin to surface, and soon he, the hunter, becomes the hunted.

This is the first book in the Lewis trilogy.

MY THOUGHTS: I am still reeling from reading this book. It is dark. It is atmospheric. It is breath-taking. It is gripping.

There is crime, but this is not simply a crime novel. It is so much more. We learn, as the story switches back and forth between now as Finlay Macleod investigates the murder, and then, growing up on the small island of Lewis, how insular and isolated life on these small islands is. It is bleak, with joy being fleeting, an almost forbidden thing. There is no childhood as such, or at least as I remember it. It is a harsh and unforgiving environment. Its people are also harsh and unforgiving. In some cases, downright cruel. Jealousies, hate, resentment and misconception all simmer just below the surface. Only with someone, they have boiled over.

If you are looking for a fast-paced thriller, or a police procedural, you are not going to get it with The Blackhouse. If you want a deep, dark, atmospheric mystery that will continue to haunt you after you have finished, then this is the book for you.

Steve Worsley, the narrator, has the perfect voice for this book, and I rate his narration 11/10.

💖💖💖💖💖

THE AUTHOR: Peter May is the multi award-winning author of:

– the award-winning Lewis Trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland;
– the China Thrillers, featuring Beijing detective Li Yan and American forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell;
– the Enzo Files, featuring Scottish forensic scientist Enzo MacLeod, which is set in France. The sixth and final Enzo book is Cast Iron (UK January 2017, Riverrun).

He has also written several standalone books:
– I’ll Keep You Safe (January 2018, Riverrun)
– Entry Island (January 2014, Quercus UK)
– Runaway (January 2015, Quercus UK)
– Coffin Road (January 2016, Riverrun)

He has also had a successful career as a television writer, creator, and producer.

One of Scotland’s most prolific television dramatists, he garnered more than 1000 credits in 15 years as scriptwriter and script editor on prime-time British television drama. He is the creator of three major television drama series and presided over two of the highest-rated serials in his homeland before quitting television to concentrate on his first love, writing novels.

Born and raised in Scotland he lives in France.

After being turned down by all the major UK publishers, the first of the The Lewis Trilogy – The Blackhouse – was published in France as L’Ile des Chasseurs d’Oiseaux where it was hailed as “a masterpiece” by the French national newspaper L’Humanité. His novels have a large following in France. The trilogy has won several French literature awards, including one of the world’s largest adjudicated readers awards, the Prix Cezam.

The Blackhouse was published in English by the award-winning Quercus (a relatively young publishing house which did not exist when the book was first presented to British publishers). It went on to become an international best seller, and was shortlisted for both Barry Award and Macavity Award when it was published in the USA.

The Blackhouse won the US Barry Award for Best Mystery Novel at Bouchercon in Albany NY, in 2013.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Blackhouse by Peter May, narrated by Steve Worsley, published by Isis Publishing Ltd, via OverDrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my