Sugar Money – A Literary Page Turner

Sugar MoneySugar Money by Jane Harris

Martinique, 1765. Brothers Emile and Lucien are charged by their French master, Father Cleophas, to return to Grenada, the island they once called home, and smuggle back the 42 slaves claimed by English invaders at the hospital plantation in Fort Royal.

I will begin with my opinion of the book so it doesn’t become lost in the body of my review – this is an amazing novel that will be one of my favourites stories this year. A must read from one of my favourite authors.

I originally bought this novel on publication day last year and even started reading it. However, I was very busy at the time and identifying that it would be such a fantastic read, I wanted to save it for a time when I could read it in a couple of sittings.

Fast forward to March this year. After doing some reading on the French Indian Wars (1754-63) for work and then seeing Hamilton I was inspired to pick this novel up again.

Firstly, the historical setting is fantastic and I spent a lot of time looking things up on my Ipad (maps, phrases, locations, landscapes) out of interest.

Most importantly, the story hooks you from the beginning and Lucien’s voice is distinct and authentic. As the mission progresses the book turns into an absolute page turner. I had to force myself to put it down and go to sleep one night.

I can’t rave about this book enough. Thank you, Jane Harris! I think I can credit you with slaying my 18 month reading slump.


3 Orenda Holiday Reads

Recently I was lucky enough to holiday in Sicily and take time out from this mostly disappointing London summer. I still haven’t been reading as many books as I used to but wanted to take some quality holiday reading with me. I knew I could trust Karen at Orenda Books for gripping reads – I’ve never had a dud read from Orenda and these three titles didn’t disappoint either.

So, what did I read?

A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone –  Widowed with a young child, Andy is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna … but she is not all that she seems…
I usually avoid domestic psychological thrillers but this is sympathetically written without being overblown. I don’t want to give any of the plot away but it is worth pointing out that this is far superior to other novels that touch on similar themes. A sad story but not sensational in its misery. It really drew me in.

The Mine by Antti Tuomainen – Investigative reporter Janne Vuori sets out to uncover the truth about a mining company, whose illegal activities have created an environmental disaster in a small town in Northern Finland. 
I don’t know what it is about the way Tuomainen writes his descriptions of locations but I often find myself intrigued and looking them up online! I have read all three of Tuomainen’s books that have been translated into English and I think this may be the best… although I am tempted to go back and re-read Dark as My Heart, just to make sure! I could really feel the pain of Janne’s personal life unravelling and as for the mystery of the mining company – if only the book was twice long with double the intrigue!

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell – Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer.When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops…
This is definitely the page turner of the three books! I could not put this book down. It reminded me a little of Harriet Lane’s novels but with an injection of high intensity thriller. Who do you believe? What happened next? Wow.


2 New Pods – Unconcluded // Knock Once For Yes

I love podcasts. There is so much variety out there. I am a long time fan of Conversations with Richard Fidler and In Our Time. I also love the comedy of 2 Dope Queens and My Dad Wrote a Porno.

Recently I stumbled across a whole new world of indie podcasts. While many of these pods just don’t sound professional enough for me to enjoy, here are two I can’t stop listening to:

Unconcluded: This is the perfect recipe of being Serial in style with a dash of rogue amateur detective. It follows the 2006 disappearance of Jennifer Kesse in Orlando. The host is examining the case with fresh eyes and is uncovering some potential new leads along the way in a case with little evidence. Once you know the timeline of events you don’t really need to listen to all the episodes in order as it is not necessarily a linear investigation. I didn’t; I picked the more intriguing episodes first.
This is a highly professional sounding production that is giving a fair amount of air time to potential witnesses which caught me by surprise as these testimonies would usually be edited right down. Yet this approach does add to the uniqueness and originality of the podcast particularly as the case has not moved far in 11 years.

Knock Once For Yes: I will admit that I’m not a believer of the paranormal but this pod about stories of the supernatural, spooky and strange is incredibly entertaining, particularly when I’m relaxing. The hosts are pleasant to listen to and have a great rapport. Despite the content of the pod I’ve mostly been listening to it before I go to sleep! The stories are charming as they sound like traditional Victorian ghost tales but have detail like, ‘I was driving along the slip road into Northampton…’
All of the stories I have listened to so far have been from the UK and Northumberland seems to have the most ghostly activity so far… The hosts are always looking for stories to share; unfortunately my only spooky story is fairly tame…

I hope to uncover more indie podcasts soon!


Hello again!

It’s been just over 6 months since my last post as my reading slump has been pretty dire. I have all intentions to get right back into reading and blogging and I even borrowed some books from the library yesterday – small steps! At least I no longer feel guilty about my much loved but greatly neglected blog 🙂

I think this year’s Petrona Shortlist may keep me busy over the Easter break yet if my reading slump does continue then Jussi Adler-Olsen’s latest Dept Q novel coming in September 2017 should help pull me out – I would have been waiting desperately for two years for the next instalment by then!

I have read a few books here and there and highly recommend three Australian novels:

Our Tiny Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan – a fast paced, comical ‘Melbourne’ story
Goodwood by Holly Throsby – small town intrigue/noir set in the 90s which now qualifies as historical fiction it seems!
Skylarking by Kate Mildenhall – lovely, succinct historical fiction based on fact in a remote lighthouse community. Not to be confused with The Light Between Oceans.

Also – Marina Lewycka’s The Lubetkin Legacy. I forgot how much I love Lewycka’s novels. Charming and funny.

On tv I have been addicted to Midnight Sun (one of the best crime thrillers I’ve seen for a long time) and I am quickly coming to the end of my Banshee box set. Will there really be no season 5?

I’m also loving Big Little Lies even though the book didn’t grip me early enough when I started it last year so I gave up. Reece Witherspoon is fantastic, just as she was in Wild.

Hopefully it won’t be another 6 months!



Jorn Lier Horst – Three Times the Fun!


I discovered Jorn Lier Horst while reading the Petrona Prize shortlist. Boy, was I blown away by The Caveman! I quickly started reading his other novels, balancing my eagerness with keeping a couple to read later in the year. The novels are published out of order in English translation so you always get little background summaries at the start which manage to avoid any spoilers. My brief comments on each of the novels below probably don’t do the novels justice but I am pushed for time and all three are filled with lovely plot details that you will want to discover yourself 🙂

The Caveman

Only three houses away from the policeman’s home, a man has been sitting dead in front of his television set for four months. There are no indications that anything criminal has taken place. Viggo Hansen was a man nobody ever noticed, even though he lived in the midst of a close-knit community. His death doesn’t hit the headlines, but there is something about the case that catches the attention of William Wisting’s journalist daughter, Line, and she decides to write a newspaper article with a different twist for the festive season: the portrait of a completely anonymous and obscure person whose death goes unremarked and unmourned.

This is a genuine page turner that has the perfect blend of small town Scandi noir with big FBI investigations. Line’s independent investigation works really well alongside the police investigation. This is one of my favourite novels of the year so far. If you like crime you won’t be disappointed. A worthy winner of the Petrona Award.


The Hummel case has bothered William Wisting for more than six months. The investigation into what happened when taxi-driver Jens Hummel disappeared has been fruitless, and he has to endure criticism. A crucial discovery directs suspicion at Dan Roger ‘Danny’ Brodin. The problem is, however, that Danny is already in prison, convicted of another murder. Wisting is accustomed to building up a solid case for the prosecution, but this time things are different. Now he has to use all his expertise and experience to unpick a case that other people already believe to be over and done with.

This is Lier Horst’s most recent novel to be published in English. It felt a lot slower that The Caveman, perhaps a bit more introspective like a Karin Fossum novel or Beck. I enjoyed it and expect it to make the Petrona shortlist next year. However, for me I felt it lacked a bit of punch as Wisting seemed a bit more aged in this novel and was investigating a case retrospectively.


A police report of a shoe containing a severed foot washed up on the sand introduces CI William Wisting. Soon a second is washed up, but it is another left. Has there been some kind of terrible accident at sea? Does it indicate the killing and dismembering of two victims? Is there a link with the unsolved mystery of a number of disappearances in the Larvik area in recent months? In this gripping police procedural, Wisting gradually gets to the bottom of the mystery with the help of his all too human colleagues and his journalist daughter, Line.

Another great page turner, a bit closer to The Caveman in pace than Ordeal. Line was investigating an interesting story and the novel had the right amount of reflections on human nature that you would expect in a Scandi crime novel. The end was a little more more dramatic than I expected but definitely not over the top.


Overall – Is Jorn Lier Horst Scandi crime’s best kept secret? I think so!


Peter James and DS Roy Grace


I read a lot of reviews for Peter James earlier this year when his latest DS Roy Grace novel was published. I am quite a methodical reader and decided to start at the beginning and read a lot of Dead Simple while travelling to and from Cambridge a few times over the summer. Peter James tells a good story and I can see why he has such a cult following!

Dead Simple

It was meant to be a harmless stag-night prank. A few hours later Michael Harrison has disappeared and his friends are dead. With only three days to the wedding, Detective Superintendent Roy Grace – a man haunted by the shadow of his own missing wife – is contacted by Michael’s beautiful, distraught fiancee, Ashley Harper. Grace discovers that the one man who ought to know Michael Harrison’s whereabouts is saying nothing. But then he has a lot more to gain than anyone realises.

I was a little concerned about how much I would enjoy the stag night antics and prank. However my fear that it would all be a little cliched and forced were completely unfounded and I quickly got into the story. Boy, could I feel the claustrophobia at some points! While I’m reading a lot more crime these days I’m certainly not a connoisseur but I could easily see how DS Grace is a unique character and adds to a busy genre. Peter James has put a lot of thought into his lead character. I liked his genuine interest in mystics and fortune tellers as well as the story of his missing wife. I’m glad I decided to read the books in order as the story about Sandy’s disappearance is obviously going to be a slow burn and I don’t want any spoilers. This book also treats the reader to a Wolf Creek-esque strand which I loved.

Looking Good Dead

Tom Bryce did what any decent person would do. But within hours of picking up the CD that had been left behind on the train seat next to him, and attempting to return it to its owner, he is the sole witness to a vicious murder. Then his young family are threatened with their lives if he goes to the police and from that moment the killing of the Bryce family becomes a mere formality – and a grisly attraction. They are looking good dead.

Another great story that I read quite quickly. Some of the explanatory paragraphs seem to be taken directly from book one but it didn’t matter to me as having read the first novel I didn’t need to know these details again. Obviously after the success of book one Peter James has branched out a bit more with the number of characters and hasn’t included so much detail about the psychics and Sandy’s disappearance which are my favourite parts! I must say that I do like Cleo though.

Not Dead Enough

On the night Brian Bishop murdered his wife he was sixty miles away, asleep in bed at the time. At least that’s the way it looks to Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, who is called in to investigate the kinky slaying of beautiful socialite, Katie Bishop. Roy Grace soon starts coming to the conclusion that Bishop has performed the apparently impossible feat of being in two places at once. Has someone stolen his identity or is he simply a very clever liar? 

On the balance, another great book. I sort of solved the crime towards the end as I could see where it was going but on the plus side there is a huge Sandy sub-plot. Yay!


Overall, this is an enjoyable and easy to read crime series that you’ll get the most out of if you read in order. The first book has been the best as you can see how much love Peter James has used in crafting Roy Grace. I suspect I’ll be up to date with the series by the end of the year (book twelve) as I’m already on to book five.


Reading Round Up – May-September 2016

Well, it has been quite a few months, hasn’t it? I knew I’d neglect this blog during most of May and June as that is always the busiest time of the year for me. I thought I’d get right back on to it but the summer here in London has been glorious which has kept me outside a lot, and a house move and bathroom reno have not helped the situation much.

So, again I look to the bloggers who always post regularly with great admiration – I know it’s not a competition but I do envy those who keep their blog going all year round.

However, I have been reading my usual four or so books a month. I’ve read some amazing books and to catch up on reviews they are going to have to be short and snappy. I’m sure the authors will understand 🙂 Hopefully I can still do justice to them all.

Two main trends have emerged in my reading these past few months – I’m mostly reading crime fiction, and I am drifting further and further away from the recently published books with all the hype. Neither of these are necessarily a bad thing!

Now for two belated comments on prizes:

Petrona Award

This is the first time I have ever read a full shortlist and I was so lucky that there was not one weak link in the list. I picked Jorn Lier Horst’s The Caveman as my winner. I managed to get this prediction out on Twitter before the prize was announced and lo and behold it was the winner. It’s a fantastic crime novel so I was thrilled.

Miles Franklin

I was hugeley excited when A.S Patric’s Black Rock White City made the shortlist, and even posted about why it should win. I was worried it may not have been the version of Australia the judges were looking for but luckily it was. Congratulations A.S Patric – one year on and your novel still affects me.

Pick of the Month/s

Out of all 13 books in the image above – The Caveman by Jorn Lier Horst. I couldn’t put it down and it introduced me to a new author who had 4 other books for me to read!

Coming Up

13 short and snappy reviews coming your way!

I also hope to get my Japanese Lit challenge underway.