Friday, 17 November 2017

Sweet William by Iain Maitland @iainmaitland @SarabandBooks @RKbookpublicist #BlogTour

Life and death played out over 48 hours. 
A father desperate to be with his young son escapes from a secure psychiatric hospital, knowing he has just one chance for the two of them to start a new life together.
His goal is to snatch the three-year-old - a diabetic who needs insulin to stay alive - and run away to France ... but first he must find the boy, evade his foster family and stay well clear of the police, already in pursuit.
A real page-turner cut through with dark humour, Sweet William zeroes in on a potent mix: mental illness, a foster family under pressure, and an aggrieved father separated from his precious child.
The result is an incisive and deeply affecting literary thriller.

Sweet William by Iain Maitland was published in hardback by Contraband, Saraband Books' crime fiction imprint on 16 November 2017.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Sweet William terrified me. This is not a horror story, it is classed as a crime thriller, yet the horrors of the human brain are all very real within this troubling tale. It's a book that has lingered in my mind, a book that has astounded me and although the subject matter is dark and savage, it is a book that satisfied my reading needs.

The story begins as Raymond Orrey escapes from a secure psychiatric unit, somewhere in Nottinghamshire. Told in Raymond's own voice, it is clear that he is a clever, if very dangerous character and the reader is not quite sure if his narrative is reliable.

Raymond's aim is to snatch his small son William; the love of his life, his legacy, his boy. William is living with Raymond's dead wife's sister and her partner. Although it is hinted at, the reader isn't sure what happened to the wife, or why Raymond has been locked up when the story starts, although the grisly truth becomes clear as the story unfolds.

William is diabetic and requires regular injections of insulin to stay alive. The chapters of the story alternate between Raymond's voice and the thoughts of young William. The child struggles to understand why his Mama and Papa continue to hold him down and hurt him with needles; why they won't let him have the sweets that he craves. The world is a strange place through William's eyes.

It is Raymond however, whose voice is loudest. This author has expertly captured the thought processes, the lack of understanding and empathy and the destructive nature of the psychopath. Raymond's thoughts and his actions are chilling. His justification for the things that he does in order to be with is son are cold, calculating and very frightening.

Sweet William is a tense story, it's the sort of book that makes you hold your breath as you turn each page, as you wonder just what will happen next, and will Raymond ever reach his goal.

It is clear that Iain Maitland knows his settings very well. The sense of place is astounding, be it the dark lanes and swirling Trent of Nottinghamshire or the seaside resort of Aldeburgh.

Sweet William is dark and chilling. Raymond Orrey is a menacing character, with no redeeming features, yet he is intense and intricate and shockingly realistic. Having worked in a secure psychiatric setting for ten years, I certainly recognised his traits

Gripping and immersive; Sweet William is an intelligently written thriller that deals with the intricacies of the human brain, mixed up with the emotional ties of the family.

Iain Maitland is the acclaimed author of Dear Michael, Love Dad ('intriguing ... heartbreaking' Susie Mesure, Telegraph) a moving book of letters written to his son, who suffered from depression and anorexia.

Iain is an ambassador for Stem4, the teenage mental health charity, and has discussed mental health issues on The One Show.

He lives in Felixstowe

Find out more at
Follow him on Twitter @iainmaitland 

Sweet William is published by Contraband, Saraband's crime fiction imprint, the publishers of Man Booker-shortlisted Graeme Macrea Burnet's His Bloody Project and Falling Fast by Neil Broadfoot and DM for Murder by Matt Bendoris, both shortlisted for Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year

Find out more at
Follow Saraband on Twitter @SarabandBooks 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

My Life In Books - talking to author Caroline England @CazEngland

My Life in Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've asked authors and people in publishing to share with us a list of the books that are important to them and have made a lasting impression on their life

I'm delighted to welcome author Caroline England to Random Things today. Caroline's debut thriller, Beneath The Skin was published by Avon Books on 5 October 2017.

Three women. Three secrets.
Antonia is beautiful and happily married. Her life is perfect. So why does she hurt herself when nobody’s watching?
Sophie is witty, smart and married to the best-looking man in town. She likes a drink, but who doesn’t?
Olivia is pretending to be a happy wife and mother. But her secret could tear her family apart.
Their lies start small, they always do. But if they don’t watch out, the consequences will be deadly.

My Life In Books - Caroline England

The Rattle Bag edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. My copy is pretty battered from dipping in and out over the years. Just opening it now randomly, I’m on page 416. Tarantella by Hilaire Belloc is squashed between a Chinese poet and Emily Dickinson. Coincidentally I had to learn Tarantella for choral verse speaking at school. I’m still almost word perfect! My only complaint about this wonderful poetry collection is the absence of poems by the editors. They both happen to be my favourite poets!

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I always intended to read this, but I didn’t get around to it until I watched the recent TV adaptation. I found the novel both enthralling and terrifying on so many levels. But as a person who was sent away to boarding school at eight, what struck me most is the empathy I felt for Offred.

The Camomile Lawn et al by Mary Wesley. I love the fact Mary Wesley wasn’t published until she was seventy. This makes me feel very young after all! I devoured all these books when they were published. I loved the quirky characters and surprisingly risqué storylines.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Do children still read it? They should! It was such a thrilling and romantic story when I was ten or eleven. Oh, the handsome and brooding Mr Rochester and his enduring love for plain Jane!

Case Histories et al By Kate Atkinson. It’s wonderful that a lauded literary writer like Kate Atkinson was happy to turn to crime! I aspire to her blend of contemporary literary and crime fiction in these Jackson Brodie novels. One of the reviews of Case Histories said it was a ‘wonderfully tricky book’. I like that! The television adaptations were great and the casting of Jason Isaacs as the world weary but attractive Jackson was inspired!

Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl. My copy was confiscated at school. There’s no doubt these dark twisty short stories have influenced my own.

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. The one on my bookcase is the annotated copy I studied for my English Lit O Level. I’ve never read it again, but whenever it catches my eye, it evokes such fond memories of my Upper VA classroom and the banter I had with my friends. Most of us had already seen the original film, so there was much discussion of whether one was in the Gabriel Oak or Sergeant Troy camp (or possibly Joseph Poorgrass - what a fabulous name!). A tough choice with such handsome actors, but Alan Bates had the edge. I recently watched the 2015 version. I was prepared to hate the usurper Gabriel, but he wasn’t too bad either!

The Rats et al by James Herbert. I devoured these horror stories as a teenager! They were creepy, very disturbing and stopped me from sleeping, but still I adored them!

Wolf Comes to Town by Denis Manton. This children’s picture book is about a wolf who dresses in human clothing to hoodwink his gullible victims. He steals guitars, saucepans, lamb chops, ice-cream and valuable art. Pet cats began to disappear, then dogs and ducks and finally an obnoxious little boy called Bernard. I must have read this book a million times to my daughters. They were thrilled that the wolf got away!

Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes. Such raw, tender, visual and intriguing poems. Not only do they give insight to the Hughes-Plath relationship, each poem also stands on its own.

Born Yorkshire lass, Caroline studied Law at the University of Manchester and stayed over the border. Caroline was a divorce and professional indemnity lawyer and instigated her jottings when she deserted the law to bring up her three lovely daughters. In addition to the publication of her short story collection, Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses by ACHUKAbooks, Caroline has had short stories and poems published in a variety of literary publications and anthologies. She was shortlisted for the Impress Prize 2015, in the Pulp Idol 2016 finals and long listed for the UK Novel Writing Competition 2017.Her debut novel, Beneath the Skin, was published by Avon HarperCollins on 5 October 2017. Her second novel My Husband's Lies will be published by Avon HarperCollins on 3 May 2018.

Follow her on Twitter @CazEngland 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson @vintagebooks #TheRedParts @PenguinUKBooks

In 1969, Jane Mixer, a first-year law student at the University of Michigan, posted a note on a student noticeboard to share a lift back to her hometown of Muskegon for spring break. She never made it: she was brutally murdered, her body found a few miles from campus the following day.

The Red Parts is Maggie Nelson’s singular account of her aunt Jane’s death, and the trial that took place some 35 years afterward. Officially unsolved for decades, the case was reopened in 2004 after a DNA match identified a new suspect, who would soon be arrested and tried. In 2005, Nelson found herself attending the trial, and reflecting with fresh urgency on our relentless obsession with violence, particularly against women.

Resurrecting her interior world during the trial – in all its horror, grief, obsession, recklessness, scepticism and downright confusion – Maggie Nelson has produced a work of profound integrity and, in its subtle indeterminacy, deadly moral precision.

The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson was published by Vintage / Penguin UK in paperback on 1 June 2017.  My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

The Red Parts is a short book at just over 200 pages, but it's a book that has a huge impact. I read it whilst on holiday in Croatia, and whilst it's not a typical 'holiday read', I found the luxury of having time to sit down and read it in almost one sitting really added to the reading experience. It left me feeling quite haunted.

The Red Parts is a true story; a memoir; an autobiography of a trail. A murder trail. In 1969 Jane Mixer, the author's aunt was murdered. Thirty five years later Gary Earl Leiterman was convicted of her murder.  Maggie Nelson had been working on a book about her aunt at exactly the same time that the family learnt that there had been arrest, and in The Red Parts she details both her feelings and the details of the trial.

This is an incredibly intimate book, it feels, at times as though the reader is invading; almost reading a private diary. The author looks at how she and her family dealt with their grief and their anger, and how their emotions were changed and curved as they learnt more about the case. None of them had ever thought that Jane's murderer would be brought to justice and they had believed, along with many others that she was a victim of the serial killer known for committing the "Michigan Murders'.

The Red Parts is a deeply unsettling book. Maggie Nelson writes vividly, and her descriptive prose is fitting and especially relevant to this violent and horrendous crime.  She writes with frightening honesty about an incredibly raw and emotional subject.

Maggie Nelson is a poet, critic and the author of five books of non-fiction. 
Her books include The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial, The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (a New York Times Editor’s Choice) and The Argonauts (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award), as well as four collections of poetry. 

In 2016 she was awarded the MacArthur Genius fellowship. 

She currently lives in Los Angeles. 

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Whiteout by Ragnar Jonasson @ragnarjo @OrendaBooks #BlogTour #DarkIceland

Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kalfshamarvik. 
Did she jump, or did something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the abandoned old house on the remote rocky outcrop? 
With winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thor Arason discovers that the victim's mother and young sister also lost their lives in this same spot, twenty-five years earlier...

Whiteout by Ragnar Jonasson was published in paperback by Orenda Books in November 2017 and is part of the Dark Iceland series.

I'm delighted to welcome the author, Ragnar Jonasson here to Random Things today as part of the Orenda Books Blog Tour.  He's chosen the books that are important to him, in My Life In Books

My Life In Books - Ragnar Jonasson

I have always loved books. I love everything about them, how they look and feel but also how they can influence the reader’s thought process and have an impact on people’s lives.
I enjoy spending time in bookstores, browsing through books I´ve never heard of and buying anything that catches my eye. Iceland is truly a nation of book lovers, and it’s been said that every Icelander has written a book or wants to write a book. In my immediate family, my father, my grandfather and my grandmother have all written books. My uncle wrote books and was one of Iceland’s most prominent publishers, and my cousin also writes books. So, if I was going to go into details of my life in books it would be a very long story! To narrow it down I have chosen a few good Christmas books. In Iceland, it is a tradition to give books for Christmas and then read them into the night on Christmas Eve. Those are the best kind of gifts. And just to be safe (just like Ari Thor in Snowblind), I always make sure I have bought enough books myself for the Christmas Eve reading night.
I have a few Christmas books which I have prominently displayed in my living room this time of year, in time for Christmas. Some I’ve already read (and re-read) and some I’ve yet to read. I truly appreciate books with a Christmas setting, and have made sure to include Christmas books in both my series, Whiteout in the Dark Iceland Series, and The Mist in the upcoming Hulda / Hidden Iceland Series.
I have been a fan of Agatha Christie from the age of twelve, and have translated fourteen of her books into Icelandic. I am also always re-reading her books. Hercule Poirot´s Christmas was first published in 1938 and the story setting is Christmas, when an old millionaire invites his family over for the holidays. When he is then found murdered, everyone is a suspect! This book is a great read and will keep people guessing until the very end, and includes one of her most famous surprise twist at the end.
I had the great pleasure and honour in meeting PD James, one of my all time favourite author, a couple of times and interviewed her for an Icelandic newspaper. That is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life. She was an extremely accomplished crime writer, one of the very best, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading her books through the years. PD James was frequently commissioned for newspapers to write Christmas stories and this new book is a compilation of some of the best.

A Christmas Carol is of course a true classic, from 1843. Christmas isn´t Christmas without the reminder of Ebenezer Scrooge and the importance of being kind to our fellowmen. I have a fond memory related to this book, from a visit to the Morgan Library in New York some years ago, where a rare first edition of A Christmas Carol is on display during the Christmas season. I would highly recommend a visit to the library to anyone who loves books.
Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee, writing as Ellery Queen, were one of the best authors from the golden age of crime in America, and some of their books from that era are true classics, and I can easily recommend most or all of their earliest books, from the late 1920s and 1930s. The Finishing Stroke was published quite late, in 1958, but is very reminiscent of the first books, and also takes place at Christmas, which is a big plus. A very clever puzzle, and very festive as well.

As I previously mentioned my father has written a few books himself. One of them was a Christmas book Jólaminningar (Christmas Memories) where he interviews well-known Icelanders about their memories of Christmas. Although it is an Icelandic book and not readily available to the outside world I must include it into this listing as this is one of my favourite Christmas books. It is very nostalgic book as the older generation looks back on the time when Iceland was much more isolated place, when people had less money to spend on Christmas, with stories even dating back to the time when people still lived in turf houses. Apples and nectarines were for example something that was only available around Christmas and everyone still talks about the apple aroma that filled the houses during the season.

Ragnar Jonasson - November 2017 

Ragnar Jonasson ( is the Icelandic writer of the Dark Iceland crime series set in Northern Iceland.
Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, and works as a lawyer in Reykjavik. He is also a teacher at Reykjavik University Law School and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.
Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated fourteen of Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic.
Ragnar is the co-founder of the Reykjavik international crime writing festival Iceland Noir, and has appeard on panels at Crimefest in Bristol, Left Coast Crime in the USA, Bloody Scotland in Stirling and Iceland Noir in Iceland.
Ragnar’s short story Death of a Sunflower was published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine January 2014 issue, the first story in the magazine by an Icelandic author.
His second Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine story, A Letter to Santa, was published in the January 2015 issue.
Ragnar’s short story Party of Two was published in the Crime Writers’ Association 2014 anthology Guilty Parties, edited by Martin Edwards.
Ragnar lives in Reykjavik with his wife and daughters.

Monday, 13 November 2017

The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne @Abigail_Author @Bloodhoundbook #BlogTour #ThePuppetMaster

Billie is hiding from the world in fear of a man who nearly destroyed her. But a chance meeting with budding journalist, Adam, sparks a relationship that could free her from her life of isolation and fear.
Unbeknownst to Billie, Adam knows exactly who Billie is and is determined to expose her and get justice for the lives he believes she has ruined. But first, he needs to convince her to open up to him. As an unwanted attraction blossoms between them, Adam comes to realise that all is not as it seems. 
Who is really pulling the strings? And are Adam and Billie both being played? 
One thing is for sure, The Master wants his puppets back – and he’ll do anything to keep them.

The Puppet Master by Abigail Osborne is published by Bloodhound Books as an ebook on 13 November 2017 and was previously self-published by the author.

I rarely take part in Blog Tours for digital-only publications, but I have a print copy of The Puppet Master dating back to when the author self-published and was thrilled when she was signed by a publisher, and am delighted to recommend this clever story to other readers.

Abigail Osborne has tackled some dark, serious subject matter in this debut novel, and has done it incredibly well. Her cleverly structured story is both engrossing and chilling in equal measures, and the short, sharp chapters leave the reader hanging on for more.

Billie leads a lonely life in a spartan flat with just her cat for company. She works in a mundane job and occasionally ventures out to the cafe in a nearby bookshop. The author reveals very little about Billie and the reader is left to make their own decisions and their own judgements on her.

Adam is a reporter, he's ambitious and determined to find a story that will make his name. When he spots Billie, sitting alone in the cafe, he recognises her. Not only could Billie's story earn him the fame that he's hungry for, but he could make her pay for the things that he know she's done in her past.

Again, the author does not reveal exactly what Adam is accusing Billie of, but it's clear that he is angry and out for justice. As Billie and Adam's relationship progresses, it is only the reader who is aware of Adam's motive for friendship.

Alongside Adam and Billie's growing friendship, the author introduces an anonymous voice. A voice that is terrifying, a voice that belongs to someone who knows both of them. A voice of a person who is controlling them. The voice of the Puppet Master.

The reader is taken on a journey that reveals disturbing and quite chilling secrets around every corner.  This author has an excellent insight into the human brain, and how the effects of incidents from the past can impact on the present.

As the truth is carefully and cleverly revealed, the full horror of the miscarriage of justice and the hidden secrets are exposed. It is both shocking, although not totally unexpected.

The Puppet Master is an intelligent and well crafted debut. There were tiny bits in my original copy that could do with tightening up, and a re-edit, but I've been told that Bloodhound Books have dealt with that in the latest version.  Despite this, I found it a chilling story, with characters that are built slowly and very lifelike.

A recommended read from me and I'll look forward to reading more from this author.

Abigail Osborne was born in the Lake District and moved around a lot with her younger sister and their Mother who raised them single handedly.

Abigail studied English and History at university and started a book review blog whilst working in a job that left her with too much free time.

The Puppet Master is her first novel

Find out more at
Find her Author page on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @Abigail_Author 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

The Boy Made of Snow by Chloe Mayer @ThatChloeMayer @wnbooks @JenKerslake

In a sleepy English village in 1944, Annabel and her son Daniel live in the shadow of war. With her husband away, an increasingly isolated Annabel begins to lose her grip on reality.
When mother and son befriend Hans, a German PoW consigned to a nearby farm, their lives are suddenly filled with thrilling secrets.
To Annabel, Hans is an awakening from the darkness that has engulfed her since Daniel's birth. To her son, a solitary boy caught up in the magical world of fairy tales, he is perhaps a prince in disguise. But Hans has plans of his own and will soon set them into motion with devastating consequences.

The Boy Made of Snow by Chloe Mayer was published by W&N in hardback on 2 November 2017 and is the author's debut novel. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

2017 has been a spectacular year for debut novels, as I look back over the year, so many wonderful debuts stand out for me.  Chloe Mayer is certainly one to add to that list. The Boy Made of Snow is exquisitely imagined, beautifully written and I was completely enthralled by it.

This author has taken themes from traditional fairy stories and woven them into a tale set during World War II. Her characters are beautifully created, with so much depth, and realism.

Annabel and her nine-year-old son Daniel are living in a small English village during wartime. Annabel's husband; Daniel's father is away fighting and life is more than a struggle for her. It becomes clear that she has struggled since the day that Daniel arrived, and she is unable to show any love or affection for him. She can't even bring herself to call him by his name, and apart from the bedtime stories that she reads to him every night, their relationship is cold and empty.

Daniel loves his mother. Unconditionally. He cares for her, but he doesn't understand her. His nine-year-old brain tells him that his mother is not quite like others that he knows, yet his heart tells him to love her and cherish her. Daniel's head is filled with the fairy tales that his mother has taught him and whilst this is often his saviour, it becomes his downfall.

Hans is a German prisoner of war. Working on a nearby farm, chopping wood. Both Daniel and Annabel are excited by the prospect of Hans being close. Daniel sees a woodcutter from his stories, whilst Annabel discovers someone who doesn't judge her, who doesn't know her background and who makes her feel safe.

The Boy Made of Snow is haunting. It is chilling and poignant and at times, utterly heartbreaking. Daniel is a carefully crafted masterpiece, and his innocence shines through, even when his actions bring about the most tragic and horrendous consequences.

The setting and era is excellently reproduced, with Annabel's obvious mental health issues being hidden away as a source of shame, with no help offered and no understanding shown from those who are supposed to love her. Daniel's father makes a brief visit home from the front, and this chapter and the heart wrenching scenes so brilliantly composed will break the heart of the reader, slowly and quietly, but oh so painfully.

The Boy Made of Snow is an ambitious debut novel from an author who is obviously so very talented. I have no more words; it's brilliant and I recommended it highly. It's a marvel.

Chloe Mayer is a journalist whose work has been shortlisted for several awards, including newcomer of the year and reporter of the year.

She has lived and worked in Tokyo and Los Angeles, and now lives in East London, not far from where she grew up.

The Boy Made of Snow is her first novel.

Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @ThatChloeMayer 

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Bad Sister by Sam Carrington @sam_carrington1 @AvonBooksUK #BlogTour #BadSister

When flames rip through their family home, only teenager Stephanie and her younger brother escape unhurt. Brett always liked to play with fire, but now their dad is dead and someone has to pay the price.
Psychologist Connie Summers wants to help Stephanie rebuild her life. She has a new name, a young son and everything to live for. But when Stephanie receives a letter from someone she’d hoped would never find her, Connie is forced to question what really happened that night. But some truths are better left alone . . .
Gripping, tense and impossible to put down, Bad Sister will have fans of Sue Fortin, B A Paris and Linda Green hooked till the final page.

Bad Sister by Sam Carrington is published in paperback on 14 December 2017 by Avon Books and is already available as an ebook.  Bad Sister is the author's second novel, I read and reviewed her first book, Saving Sophie here on Random Things in August last year.

Bad Sister is another thrilling, fast-paced story from this exciting new author. Told in three female voices this is a novel that is packed with lies and secrets which are deliciously and devilishly revealed with some very clever writing.

Stephanie is a young mother who fears for her life. Uprooted and far away from her family and friends, she's struggling with her new identity, and her past. Her sessions with her psychologist Connie Summers are detailed and eye-opening and it soon becomes clear that these two women have far more in common that one would assume. Connie too is running from her past, a past that continues to haunt her and that she fears she will never shake off.

The reader also hears the voice of DI Lyndsey Wade, the investigating police officer, along with a dark and menacing anonymous voice whose narrative is littered throughout the story.

There's a complexity to the structure of this novel that does take a while to settle into. However, Sam Carrington's skilful writing flows so well and each part of the story aligns so well with the next, and the previous that the reader soon becomes comfortable with the format.

I could talk about the story, and how the author cleverly explores the dynamics of close family relationships. I could talk about how the unexpected twists in the tale really do take the reader by surprise and how each character's voice is perfectly formed and entirely believable.  I could, but instead, I'd urge anyone who loves an intelligently thought out story populated by characters who leap from the pages, with a bit of darkness and a lot of suspense, to just go out and buy it, read it and enjoy!

Sam Carrington lives in Devon with her husband and three children.
She worked for the NHS for fifteen years, during which time she qualified as a nurse.
Following the completion of a psychology degree she went to work for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator.
Her experiences within this field inspired her writing.
She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist. SAVING SOPHIE, her debut psychological thriller, published in September 2016.
It became a Kindle eBook bestseller, with the paperback hitting The Bookseller Heatseeker chart at #8.
Sam was named an Amazon Rising Star of 2016.
Her next psychological thriller, BAD SISTER, publishes in October 2017 in ebook and December in paperback.

Find out more at
Follow her on Twitter @sam_carrington1