Hammer Fall


It’s a while since was involved in a blog tour and this time it is for an author and therefore a series, new to me.

In this book we find Joe Holderness known to many as Joe Wilderness or even Wilderness, smuggling coffee in Berlin and then we learn of his involvement with MI6. We meet the rest of the gang, An American Captain, Frank, Spoleto and Swift Eddie a UK lance bombardier and together these three have a thriving business with their main (read only) client Yuri an NKVD Major, and latterly Kostya, a corporal in the NKVD.

Then it’s off to Finland for Wilderness.  He has upset the powers that be and is despatched out of the limelight to Finland. Here he rapidly sets up a smuggling operation with a gang of two Australian pilots and a Finn. This time it’s vodka to Russia and here we meet Kostya again But Wilderness, In his position in intelligence misjudges a situation and so is recalled to England.

Still needing to stay out of the limelight, Wilderness is then sent to Czechoslovakia under the guise of tractor salesman which will allow him to travel through the country and keep contact with agents. But first, he has to go to Trinity University in Dublin for a quick course in the Czech language.

While he is in Czechoslovakia the Russian crushing of Czech liberation happens. This is what brings him once again into contact with his Berlin buddies and leads almost to his undoing.

I haven’t read any other books by this author and think it would have helped to have read the first two in this series. The story jumps around continent to continent and we are only given a brief glimpse into our hero’s life when not continent jumping.

I would like to read the other books in this series and also will look into the Inspector Troy series as Troy it is who is sent as Ambassador to Prague while Wilderness is there.



Book Blurb

The third Joe Wilderness spy thriller moves from icy Finland to tumultuous Cold War Prague, Hammer to Fall is a tale of vodka smuggling and a legendary female Red Army general who is playing a dangerous game.

It is London, the swinging sixties, and by rights MI6 spy Joe Wilderness should be having as good a time as James Bond. But alas, in the wake of an embarrassing disaster for MI6, Wilderness has been posted to remote northern Finland in a cultural exchange programme to promote Britain abroad. Bored by his work, with nothing to spy on, Wilderness finds another way to make money: smuggling vodka across the border into the USSR. He strikes a deal with old KGB pal Kostya, who explains to him there is a vodka shortage in the Soviet Union— but there is something fishy about Kostya’s sudden appearance in Finland and intelligence from London points to a connection to cobalt mining in the region, a critical component in the casing of the atomic bomb. Wilderness’s posting is getting more interesting by the minute, but more dangerous too.

Moving from the no-man’s-land of Cold War Finland to the wild days of the Prague Spring, and populated by old friends (including Inspector Troy) and old enemies alike, Hammer to Fall is a gripping tale of deception and skulduggery, of art and politics, a page-turning story of the always riveting life of the British spy.




John Lawton is a producer/director in television who has spent much of his time interpreting the USA to the English, and occasionally vice versa. He has worked with Gore Vidal, Neil Simon, Scott Turow, Noam Chomsky, Fay Weldon, Harold Pinter and Kathy Acker.

He thinks he may well be the only TV director ever to be named in a Parliamentary Bill in the British House of Lords as an offender against taste and balance—he has also been denounced from the pulpit in Mississippi as a “Communist,” but thinks that less remarkable.

John Lawton spent most of the 90s in New York—among other things attending the writers’ sessions at The Actors’ Studio under Norman Mailer—and has visited or worked in more than half the 50 states—since 2000 he has lived in the high, wet hills of Derbyshire England, with frequent excursions into the high, dry hills of Arizona and Italy.

He is the author of 1963, a social and political history of the Kennedy-Macmillan years, six thrillers in the Troy series and a stand-alone novel, Sweet Sunday. In 1995 the first Troy novel, Black Out, won the WH Smith Fresh Talent Award. In 2006 Columbia Pictures bought the fourth Troy novel Riptide. In 2007 A Little White Death was a New York Times notable. In 2008 he was one of only half a dozen living English writers to be named in the London Daily Telegraph‘s “50 Crime Writers to Read before You Die.” He has also edited the poetry of D.H. Lawrence and the stories of Joseph Conrad.

He is devoted to the work of Franz Schubert, Cormac McCarthy, Art Tatum, and Barbara Gowdy.


Here’s the blog tour poster. Why not go over and see what others are saying about the book.









Bones in the River


As part of Zoe Sharp’s Advance Reader Team, I am delighted to say I recently received a copy of her latest book in the Lake Thriller Trilogy,

This is book No 2 and once again we meet CSI Grace McColl and Detective Nick Watson whom we met in Dancing on the Grave.,  This time they are brought together on a couple of murders which may or may not be linked.

‘The traditional Appleby Horse Fair hosts the largest gathering of Gypsies and  Travellers in Europe…” And it is in this setting with the rivalry between the Travellers and locals that Ms Sharp sets the scene.

As she says Half the businesses in town rub their hands in glee about all the extra income, and the other half shut up shop and treat it as an enforced holiday. It’s a well-known fact … it is the ideal time of year for settling scores.”

A child’s bicycle is found dumped in a skip at the side of the road. Grace McColl is called in when it is discovered there is blood on the frame, human blood. Enter Nick Watson, detective recently moved from London to this quiet region of the Fells. But is there a body? and to whom does the bike belong?

While investigating this, the body of an adult is thrown up by the fast-moving river. But there is no identification on him, and why would there be when it is determined that the body has been in the water for ten years or more?

So our protagonists are working on a missing child and a dead adult, both cases at the same time. And all the while in the background, Grace’s boss is working against her and actively confusing one of the cases on which she is working.

Apart from McColl and Weston we once again have the familiar characters of Pollock and Ty Frost and we are introduced to more characters such as Queenie and Bartley Smith, Vano Smith, the Elliots and their complicated family.

As always, the story is well-plotted, the characters well rounded and the plot is believable. And thanks to Ms Sharp for the research that leads to such a strong and believable background to this gripping story.  Thank you; I really enjoyed reading about Travellers and their traditions.

I love all of Ms Sharp’s writing and while Charlie Fox will always be my favourite, the more I read of this pair the more I like them. I am looking forward to Book 3.

I recommend you get a copy of this without delay.

Note – As I have said, I was given an Advance copy of this book and thank the author for that.


As a member of the Advance Reader Team, I am always excited to receive a copy of a new John Ellsworth. And I was not disappointed when I read his latest, “ The District Attorney”.

We are introduced to Lettie Portman, wife, mother and young Assistant DA in San Diego, but before that we get a sneak peek into what life was like for Lettie as a young child.  It is not pretty!

Lettie makes a major faux pas when she goes to explain her actions in a particular case, to a judge without advising the other side of the argument. While the DA agrees to support her in any upcoming case or complaint against her, it is made very clear that this is not expected of a 4-year ADA and Lettie is put on six-months’ probation.

The case in which Lettie is involved,  centers around an eleven-year-old girl who is being physically abused, along with her five-year-old brother Abe, by her mother’s live-in boyfriend. The children are very afraid of the violent man. He threatens to hurt their mother, who is unaware of the level of abuse if they tell anybody what really is happening.

The girl, Elle, ends in the hospital with a spiral fracture which she claims happened when she fell off her bed while trying to fix a curtain. The medical staff determine that this fracture couldn’t have happened that way: it could only happen if somebody twisted the young girl’s arm with great force. The girl sticks to her story and the social worker calls in the ADA as she is convinced there is so much more than is being told.

The girl refuses to make a complaint against the man and is eventually released.  Being driven home from the hospital the man abuses her once again, twisting her arm in the cast until she agrees to abide by his rules around the house.

No sooner is she home again than the abuse restarts culminating in his hitting her on the back of the head with a flashlight rendering her unconscious.  Panicked he sets the scene to look as if she fell off her bike when attempting to enter the yard. This is all watched by the terrified five-year-old.

In time, Lettie convinces Elle to tell the truth and the man, Slep Stephan is arrested and charged with abusing the child.

Things go wrong with Lettie’s case as Abe, having told the mother and Lettie what really happened, crumbles under cross-examination at the trial and the man walks free.

Slep is now obsessed with making Elle pay. He kidnaps her, rapes her and eventually sells her to a people-trafficking ring, and she finds herself working as a streetwalker in Phoenix, Arizona.

Meantime in San Diego, Lettie with the help of her therapist and support of her husband decides to take control of her life and front the man who raped and abused her as a child. The man is her stepfather, Ralph Warden. Her mother who is at the dinner table when Lettie confronts Warden is horrified and leaves her husband at the restaurant.

However, Warden and his money quickly affect the way Lettie’s mother and brother treat Lettie and when they know she is going to take him to trial, they turn on her leaving her confused, angry and upset.

The story takes another turn when Lettie’s five-year-old son, Alan is kidnapped by Stephan.

This is a story of evil, abuse, kidnap and greed and I encourage you to grab a copy as soon as possible. It is a must-read.

I hope we will see more of Lettie, who as the story ends, finds the courage to stand up to her abusers and to help others in similar situations.

Thank you, John Ellsworth, for giving me the opportunity to read this book.




Dead of Night


Another fascinating book from this writing duo. Set, of course, in South Africa with some Vietnam it tells the story of Crystal Nguyen, a journalist from Minnesota who is researching rhino horn smuggling for National Geographic.
Crys finds herself deep in trouble as she also is looking for her friend and colleague Michael Davidson. Davidson has dropped off the radar and for four weeks nobody has heard from him. And not even the police in South Africa have a clue to his whereabouts.
Crys rapidly becomes caught up in the smuggling and having to extricate herself from danger from the smugglers and the local police.
This is a fast-paced story that will keep you reading well into the night.
I loved the Kubu Bengu series, but this stand-alone story is well worth reading. I hope we may see more of this small, Vietnamese warrior woman in future.
My recommendation to you is to grab a copy and be prepared to be transported to another world.

No Trivial Support


As a member of the ARC team I am lucky enough to get to read the John Ellsworth books, prior to publication.

And in this book, we have Ellsworth at his best. A new book, a new female protagonist and a supporting cast of new and interesting characters.

Harley Ellis a NYPD detective is looking for her missing daughter while working with her partner on a front page story.

A movie mogul is killed and Harley’s daughter, Wendy, is one of the last people to have beein his office.

The story rapidly moves from downtown Los Angeles, to Hollywood, to Bel Air, to Las Vegas and back again until the final pages where  we find out who is the real culprit – Wendy Ellis is not guilty of Murder, but who is? You will have to read the book to find the answer to that question.

This is book No 1 in a new series. I’m waiting impatiently for the next one.



The Professor and the Madman


Book cover - Professor and madman

I am besotted by words in the English language.  I like the way they look, the way they sound and their meanings.  I can spend whole days following the etymology of words.

Imagine my delight then some years ago being presented with a copy of “The Professor and the Madman” the story of the compiling of the Oxford English Dictionary and the two men who were so intimately involved in it.

And now that there is a movie starring Mel Gibson and Sean Penn, I just had to reread it before seeing the film.

The Professor and the Madman masterfully researched and eloquently written is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the “Oxford English Dictionary”–and literary history.” From the book description on Amazon.

We are told that compiling the OED  was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken.   As definitions and quotations were collected, Professor James Murray leading the overseeing committee, discovered that Dr W C Minor had submitted more than 10,000 words and their quotations.  The committee insisted on honouring him at which time the truth came to light.

That truth – Dr Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was an inmate at Broadmoor, an asylum for the criminally insane.

Dr Minor had served in the Union army as an assistant surgeon and held the rank of lieutenant. He spent about six months attending to civil war casualties at hospitals in New England before being sent to the front line in May 1864. It appears that following time in the battlefield his mental illness resurfaced.  Because of this he had to leave the army and was sent by his family to convalesce in London.  He settled in a particularly poor part of London (Lambeth) where he supported himself by painting watercolours and playing the flute.  But his mental illness was never under control and while living there he shot and killed a brewery worker who was on his way to work, thinking that the worker was out to seek revenge for an earlier incident while Minor was in the US Army.

Minor gave himself up to the police and was sentenced to be confined in the newly opened Broadmoor Asylum ‘Until Her Majesty’s Pleasure Be Known’

While detained in Broadmoor where he had two cells, a manservant, a large collection of books, and, incredibly, regular visits from Eliza Merrett, the widow of the man he had murdered, Minor heard of the   ‘Appeal for volunteer readers’ sent out by James Murray, Professor Murray asked interested members of the reading public to scour published literature for quotations to illustrate the use of English words. Minor, described by the Broadmoor administrators as particularly learned, set to work assembling lists of quotations and by the mid-1880s was sending hundreds, and later thousands, of quotations on slips of paper to Murray and his team at the “famous scriptorium at 79 Banbury Road, Oxford.”

The letters were signed ‘W. C. Minor, Crowthorne, Berkshire’, and until he called upon Minor,  Murray had no idea that his most assiduous correspondent was an American murderer and an inmate at one of Britain’s most secure and infamous lunatic asylums.

The two men became firm friends united by the complexity of the English language.  Despite this friendship and the benefits of his involvement in the dictionary, Minor’s illness became more acute and in 1902, he amputated his own penis in the belief it might curb his troublesome sexual appetite. Following this and prompted by Murray, the  Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, allowed Minor’s release and deportation in 1910.

Minor was farewelled by Murray and his wife and sailed back to New York where on arrival there, he was immediately committed to  St Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC. He deteriorated steadily, was moved to the Retreat for the Elderly Insane in Hartford, Connecticut and in 1920 died of a respiratory infection

We know very little of his life after returning to the United States but his legacy as a volunteer reader can be found among the pages of the twenty-volume Oxford English Dictionary. Professor James Murray said of him at the time that “so enormous has been Dr Minor’s contributions … that we could easily illustrate the last four centuries from his quotations alone” (The Professor and the Madman p160).

The Nightingale

The Nightingale

In love, we find out who we want to be.
In war, we find out who we are.

Another novel set in France during the time of World War II. And this one ranks up there with yesterday’s post on The Alice Network.

This story follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, and how they each respond in times of great challenge. Their parallel stories are as different as their personalities;  but both are complicated, suspenseful, and emotional.

The fictional character of Isabelle is based on well-researched truth. The late Andrée de Jongh (1916-2007), was an amazing woman who repeatedly risked her life helping British and American servicemen escape on foot from Nazi-occupied Belgium and France. One of her comments made during that time –

“A woman couldn’t carry a gun or fly a bomber jet, but she could walk unnoticed, striding down a street in a wool coat and sensible shoes as if on her way to the market or a typist’s job, trailed quietly by two or three wayward soldiers in disguise.”

In this fictional work, we learn more about women surviving in unthinkable circumstances and finding a way to take action. It shows readers that fear often proceeds acts of bravery, and we learn that even the weakest can find strength and great courage when necessary.

For me the read was emotional and at times nerve-wracking. Love and hope mixed with fear and suffering. Hard choices that are unavoidable, and seemingly easy choices that come with great risk. This book is a historical fiction roller coaster ride.

I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Note: If you want to learn more about Andrée de Jongh, click here.


The Alice Network

The Alice Network

Kate Quinn is an author of historical fiction, and how well she takes an episode in history and weaves it into a perfectly written and believable novel.

And The Alice Network is no exception. If I were giving stars, this would certainly rank a five.

“There are two kinds of flowers when it comes to women,” Eve said.
“The kind that sits safe in a beautiful vase, or the kind that survives in any conditions …..even in evil.  Lili was the latter.
Which are you?”

We are told that it is based on real characters and events. Two women meet in 1947 – Eve, an irascible old woman had been a spy during World War1 when she operated under the nose of the Nazis; Charlie is an American, unmarried and pregnant and who disagrees with her Mother’s answer to ‘the problem’. Charlie is seeking proof that her close cousin Rose, died during World War2.

Charlie’s search leads her to Eve, who drinks whiskey for most of her meals and appears to be a little bit crazy.  But Eve is badly affected by what happened to her during the war. She was a talented spy because she kept her ability to speak German a secret. Also, she had a stutter, so everyone assumed she was dull-witted,;  a definite advantage when you’re trying to learn enemy secrets. We read about Eve’s fascinating, scary and intriguing life as a spy in 1915 during WWI.

The story weaves back and forth between 1915 and 1947. It’s a well written, fast-paced novel about two women facing challenges and discrimination because of their gender. Based on real characters and events this is a book not to be missed.

Note: I read this a couple of months ago, and still can’t get the scenes depicted out of my mind. I am amazed at the strength and resilience shown by these brave young women and wonder if I could put myself into such danger should the opportunity/need arise.

I recommend this book even if some of the scenes are particularly horrific and mind-blowing in contemplation.






BAD TURN – Charlie Fox


I posted my review of this book on July 31 after reading and enjoying my ARC copy from the author. If you missed that post, click here.

And then I heard there was to be a blog tour and Growing Younger Each Day was to be part of the tour. The date for my review was set for September 30.

Here is the post on the Blog Tour

And now today – I had written and scheduled my post for the blog tour in advance as I was going to be away for a few days.  Earlier I had asked Zoe about this, one of my all-time favourite, series and she generously agreed to write something for my post. Here she gives us a hint of how she gets into a book and bit of a background into Charlie Fox’s character and the effects some of the situations in which she finds herself, have on her. So a second post for today.

And a really  big thank you to Zoe for this :

“Dysfunctional (Crime) Family

BAD TURN: Charlie Fox #13

Zoë Sharp

At their heart, the Charlie Fox novels are action-filled crime thrillers. But I hope that’s not all they are. Exploring the effect that the events of the stories have on Charlie herself, as well as on the other characters involved, has always been one of my main interests.

I like to know what makes people tick. How far they can be pushed. And, in the end, what makes them break.

It’s why my bad guys are rarely all bad. Everyone has shades of light and dark about them. After all, if you’re going to make your antagonists think they are really the heroes of their own story, you have to give them some reason to believe it. You don’t have to like them, as a reader, but you have to be thoroughly engaged by them.

Charlie usually arrives as an outsider into an already established group. Often she is seen as unwanted interference. She has to do her best to protect people almost in spite of themselves.

As was the case with BAD TURN.

Charlie walks into a complicated arrangement when she first meets Helena Kincaid. Without wanting to give any spoilers, let’s just say Helena is not having a good day.

Her husband, Eric Kincaid, wants to protect his wife above all else. He thinks making Charlie an offer she can’t refuse is the best way to go about this. And he is in a hurry to put his own choice of bodyguard in place, otherwise, he knows Helena’s overbearing father, Darius Orosco will step in.

Helena has been shielded all her life—almost to the point of suffocation. It’s hardly surprising she’s going to push back against anyone assigned to stick by her side, night and day. But Kincaid is between the proverbial rock and a very hard place. He wants to keep Helena happy but if he gives her the freedom she craves, how can he keep her safe? And if he can’t protect her, he’ll have her father to answer to.

Orosco is not a man to be taken lightly. Especially not when Kincaid not only married into the family, but into the family business as well. He went from employee to CEO almost overnight. Now it seems that his father-in-law might be regretting handing over control. Perhaps he’s not quite as ready for retirement as he thought.

Of course, it doesn’t help when you consider that Darius Orosco ran one of the largest international arms dealing operations on the East Coast—one that Kincaid is now in charge of. Kincaid wants to put his own stamp and style on the way he does business. Orosco is not keen on any changes to the old way—his way—of doing things.

The power struggle between the two men puts in jeopardy the one thing they both hold dear—Helena. But she is no passive virgin in the tower, content to sit meekly by and leave the decisions to the men of the family. No way. She wants control of her own destiny. In that respect, she’s very much her father’s daughter.

Nobody wants to admit they might be wrong, and nobody wants to back down, pulling the supporting cast in conflicting directions as they try to work out where their own loyalties lie.

All this is not destined to make Charlie’s job any easier. But then, her life would be boring if it was all sunshine and roses, wouldn’t it?”

And, thanks to Zoe click here if you want to read the first three chapters of BAD TURN.


Zoë Sharp created the no-nonsense heroine of her highly acclaimed Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox crime thriller series after receiving death-threat letters as a photojournalist.
She opted out of mainstream education at the age of twelve and wrote her first novel at fifteen. She has been making a living from writing since 1988.
As well as her award-winning series, she has written standalone works, collaborations with espionage thriller John Lawton, and numerous short stories.
Her work has been used in Danish school textbooks, inspired an original song and music video, and been optioned for film and TV. www.ZoeSharp.com  






ZoeSharp-BT-BlogTourPoster (1)


I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did, and I hope you will look at the other bloggers on this tour to see their response to it.

La Jolla Law

A new book by John Ellsworth is always worth celebrating. So today when I received the ARC copy of the thirteenth book in the Thaddeus Murfee series I couldn’t wait to start reading it.

Thaddeus receives a call from an old law school friend, Jesse Matina corporate counsel to entrepreneur billionaire Reggie Pelham.  Martina cannot represent Pelham in a case brought by Pelham’s wife and needs a lawyer from outside California.

Thaddeus meets with Pelham and agrees to represent him in the lawsuit.

Meantime, we meet  Safari Frye a detective with the San Diego Police Department. Safari has a sexual harassment claim lodged by another detective and now faces a disciplinary hearing. Several other things are happening around Safari at this time. She is Big Sister to Carrie who has been abused by her mother’s live-in boyfriend and looks to Safari for help. Carrie confronts the mother and then shortly thereafter, finds the mother has been murdered.

There are several other murders happening around this time and as usual, Ellsworth juggles all the balls in the air – murder, mayhem, a little girl looking for a safe haven, and are all the murders related? And of course, there’s lots of courtroom drama as Thaddeus not only defends Pelham in his case but acts as Prosecutor in another.

You will have to get a copy of the book once it is published to read how cleverly this story is told. In true Ellsworth fashion, all the characters are well fleshed out and believable; the story runs along at a fast pace, and the ending is satisfactory.

I recommend this book as a thoroughly good read.