Joe Mancer – by John Winter


That got your attention then?🙂

My good friend John Winter has THREE of his Joe Mancer stories available for free this weekend (11th – 13th August).

If you like your fiction short and dark, John’s your man. Check them out!

The Secret

The Secret


“Make sure Matthew doesn’t do anything stupid before I get back.”
“You’re coming back?” I say.
“Yeah,” he replies. He adjusts his collar, levels me with eyes alight with madness, then adds, “I’m off to fetch Bethany.”
“What the Hell are you talking about?”
He grins, “Trust me,” and opens the door to the cupboard under the stairs. He steps in and closes it.
“What the …!?” I reach the door, throwing it open so hard that the handle comes away in my hand.
I peer in, expecting to see Joe but instead there’s a heap of deck chairs, a vacuum, and a plastic set of drawers stuffed with tools.
Joe has vanished.



“In five hours, Malcom Burke would be standing in a dark corner of the hospital with the ghost of his daughter in his pocket, waiting to hear whether the surgeon could remove the glass shards from his wife’s eyes.”

and last, but not least…

The Watch

The Watch


“I stole a ghost.
I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t even believe they existed.
It came with an old watch, and there was nothing about the antique timepiece that suggested it was haunted. The gold inlaid face and precise movement of the three hands spoke quality, as did its weight in my hand. I could tell it was expensive.
It was, but not financially.”

Pen names – a Question of Flexibility – guest post by Hanna Winter

I’d like to welcome Hanna Winter, the author of Sacrifice, to the blog today to talk about the fascinating subject of pen names.

Over to Hanna…

One of the more common questions about me and my writing career, is why I publish my work using different pseudonyms, Hanna Winter and Eva Sternberg. The answer is quite simple: I don’t want to limit myself to a single genre.

The dark depravities of the human mind have always held a deep fascination for me, and writing my sinister murder mysteries will always be my passion. That’s what Hanna Winter stands for, dark and morbid thrill rides. But I don’t want to miss out on the chance to stretch my literary wings into other genres, and I enjoy every minute I spend as my alter ego Eva Sternberg, writing upbeat, fast-paced “chicklits”, putting a smile on “her” readers’ faces. It’s a conscious decision, too. Alternating between my literary personas not only puts me in the right “frame of mind” for the type of story I am creating, it also provides a most welcome emotional counterpoint. Devoting myself to a more “sunny” genre as Eva Sternberg after finishing one of my thriller manuscripts, helps to cleanse the months of gloom and darkness that Hanna Winter had to wade through in order to put the expected fright into “her” readers’.

But to be honest, my different pen names are probably more of a service to the readers, both first timers and longtime fans alike. As flexible as the author may be, his or her readers want to know what to expect when they pick up one of their books. In the minds of the audience, an author’s name often becomes synonymous with a certain genre. Just imagine you’re a fan of cleverly insidious crime fiction, looking for your next fix of John Grisham or Ian Rankin from the shelves of your favorite bookstore, only to discover that your author of choice this time chose to try himself at a deeply romantic love story. Similarly, a Nicholas Sparks devotee might even feel “robbed”, if he was unexpectedly forced to go through chapter after chapter of blood, guts, murder and violence – no matter the quality, there’s bound to be some disappointment.

In the early stages of my rather bifurcated writing career, I was determined to keep my author’s “double life” a secret. I will admit, I was a bit worried how my readers might react, the genres and their respective fan bases as different as they are. So I always appeared for interviews or readings using the “appropriate” pseudonym, and made a note of only ever being addressed accordingly, keeping both of my personas strictly separate. I even went as far as having them included on my passports, one for each. These days, I don’t mind that much, anymore. I’ve grown to embrace it, rather than shy away from it. But I will continue to use my different pen names for my work, of course. No sense in creating unnecessary confusion.



Hanna Winter

Hanna Winter is (as we’ve just found out!) the pseudonym for Eva Rehberger who is a hugely successful catwalk and fashion model in her native Germany. Hanna Winter’s first thriller, THE CHILDREN’S TRAIL (2010), became an instant bestseller and Sacrifice has sold over 30,000 copies in Germany since first publication in 2012 – this is the first time it’s been available in English. We have just published the eBook of Sacrifice and the paperback is due to be published on the 17th November 2016. The former German model has since published six novels under several pen names. Sacrifice has been received with critical acclaim.

sacrifice | Hanna Winter

He must kill her. Hunt her down. Destroy her . . .

In her very first case, criminal psychologist Lena Peters is confronted with a killer on a murderous vendetta. And though she is unaware, Lena will play a prominent role in his deadly mission. Lena knows what makes killers tick and all about obsession, for she has been close to the edge herself. But soon she will become the hunted…

Thanks to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre Books (find them on twitter at @BonnierZaffre) for organising the blog tour.

Sacrifice Blog Tour

Poison City – Paul Crilley

Poison City

The name’s Gideon Tau, but everyone just calls me London. I work for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. My life revolves around two things – finding out who killed my daughter and imagining what I’m going to do to the bastard when I catch him.

I have two friends. The first is my boss, Armitage, a fifty-something DCI from Yorkshire who looks more like someone’s mother than a cop. Don’t let that fool you. The second is the dog, my magical spirit guide. He talks, he watches TV all day, and he’s a mean drunk.

Life is pretty routine – I solve crimes, I search for my daughter’s killer. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until the day I’m called out to the murder of a ramanga – a low-key vampire – basically, the tabloid journalist of the vampire world. It looks like an open and shut case. There’s even CCTV footage of the killer.

Except… the face on the CCTV footage? It’s the face of the man who killed my daughter. I’m about to face a tough choice. Catch her killer or save the world? I can’t do both.

It’s not looking good for the world.

Oof. It’s been a bumper year for awesome books, and Paul Crilley’s Poison City sits firmly on the List Of Books Dave Will Insist You Read (Or Else). List needs a snappier title. Suggestions welcome.

So this is another one for your to-read lists (whatever you might call them). Imagine Harry Potter grew up, moved to South Africa and adopted a sherry-loving spirit guide called Dog – a hard-boiled urban fantasy detective noir
It’s like a bit of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London mixed with Paul Cornell’s Shadow Police, with a healthy dash of Lauren Beukes.

And I *love* all three of those authors.

Great characters, fabulously sarcastic spirit guides and a boss from Yorkshire.

Very *very* recommended. Not for the faint-hearted.

You can read chapter one here

Thanks to the lovely folks at @Hodderscape for the advance review copy. You can find Paul on twitter @PaulCrilley

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff


In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

Right. Where to start?

OK, how about this. You remember how much I loved Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy? And how I’d pester you mercilessly about reading it until you finally gave in and read it[1]?

Move aside, Brown. There’s a new kid in town and his name’s Kristoff. Jay Kristoff[2].

Nevernight is just simply wonderful. The worldbuilding is astonishingly good. Shades of Locke Lamora, with a ton of Pratchett-esque footnotes[3]. Superb, complex characters. And a sand kraken called Alfi[4].

Imagine if Hogwarts was a school for assassins where a young girl goes to learn how to avenge her father’s murder[5]. A school where you learned how to kill or be killed, with a blade, with poison, or with your wits. And you might learn some of the more… subtle[6] arts too.

The characters are plentiful and wonderful. Even the bad ones. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry[7], you’ll tell yourself ‘just one more chapter’[8]

And this is just book #1. I cannot wait to see where Mr Kristoff will take us next.

Many thanks to the lovely folks at Harper Voyager for the advance copy. You can find them on Twitter at @HarperVoyagerUK. Whilst you’re there, you should also say hi to Jay (@MisterKristoff) . He’s ace, and won’t bite[9].

[1] and then you loved it and started doing the same to all of your friends? SEE I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG!
[2] OK, so it turns out he’s not *that* new and has written many other things. You should probably check them out. I know I will.
[3] I *love* footnotes. Possibly a little too much, some would say.
[4] I mean, how could you not love a sand kraken? Especially Alfi. Alfi is awesome.
[5] Shades of The Princess Bride as well then. Seriously, have you not already ordered and read this book? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
[6] You might blush. No, seriously. I didn’t blush. Much.
[7] no, really. Page 553. I’ve still not forgiven Jay for *that*
[8] and we all know how *that* ends, don’t we?
[9] Much. Probably. He does look rather like that Dave Grohl chap though, but much, much taller

Reality vs artistic licence – guest post by Ava Marsh

Today I’m delighted to have a guest post from Ava Marsh, the author of Exposure.

Ava is a former broadsheet journalist who now works freelance in the charity sector and writes novels. She lives in Battersea, London and her hobbies include running, kayaking and photography. Her first novel – UNTOUCHABLE – is now out now with Transworld in the UK and Berkley in the US/Canada. Her second – EXPOSURE– is out now.

Exposure | Ava Marsh

Kitty Sweet isn’t like anyone you’ve ever met before.

She’s an infamous porn star, imprisoned for double murder. As damaged as she is charismatic, as dangerous as she is charming.

But once no different from you or I.

Kitty’s past is full of heartbreak and desperation, of adulation and glamour. Of ruin. She’s descended to an underworld most people can only imagine, and lived to tell the tale . . .

This is her story.

Without further ado, over to Ava…

Reality vs artistic licence

Do scenes make it into the books which replicate actual events?

Not exactly – I’m always too scared of landing myself in trouble. But Untouchable has a number of scenes which follow the spirit of some of the anecdotes various escort friends told me. Much like writers, escorts talk to each other, and there’s a lot of gallows humour. I heard some genuinely funny stories.

How did you meet the escorts you interviewed while researching Untouchable?

I already knew someone who worked as a high-class escort and she introduced me to a couple of her friends – normal professional women, all with university educations, who decided they enjoyed sex and could do with some extra income. I’d also heard of a psychologist who was escorting on the side, and although I never met her, I guess she was at the back of my mind when I created Grace.

Some scenes from Exposure are set within a prison and Kitty appears to have a degree of leeway (for want of a less “spoilery” word). Did you research prisons and the conditions/lifestyles too?

I did my best! I scoured the internet for books and documentaries, but couldn’t find much to be honest. There’s quite a lot about the US system, and more about British prisons for men, but surprisingly little about what everyday life is like for women in UK prisons. So I relied heavily from what I could glean from websites and blogs. It was a similar story with prison psychologists – I had to make do with what I could find online.
What Kitty gets up to inside is based in fact. I read a newspaper article about the prevalence of relationships between prison staff and female prisoners – it’s a lot more common that you might think. Unless of course you’ve watched Orange is the New Black.

What comes first…is it the idea to write about the porn industry? Or was it the idea of a murderer telling her story and the character background came later?

I had the idea of basing my next book in the porn industry before I’d even considered a plot. I wanted to inhabit a different world, so I wouldn’t end up replicating elements of Untouchable. I also felt that, like escorting, it was a world that many people found interesting and rather mysterious. And similarly underused as a setting for a thriller.

The idea to have Kitty in prison for double murder and telling her story came on the heels of that decision. Oddly, I knew this about her almost immediately – and this was before I’d even found an agent or publisher for Untouchable – so the first draft principally involved discovering what had brought her to that point, and how she stood in relation to the events she’s describing. I’ve got to say she was a tricky character – Grace was relatively easy to fathom, but Kitty proved to be something of a nightmare!
I usually plan my novels loosely, and that’s generally a question of brainstorming and working out what elements to keep and reject. But it’s always interesting what kicks off an initial idea. The process of inspiration is quite enigmatic, I think, and in my experience not something you can enforce, only encourage. Fickle beasts, muses! I recommend wine and cake to keep them happy.

Thanks for the great guest post, Ava! You can find Ava talking about researching taboo subjects over at Bibliophile Book Club tomorrow.

Ava’s new book Exposure is out now in paperback and ebook and you can find her on her website ( or on twitter @MsAvaMarsh

Kings or Pawns – JJ Sherwood

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for JJ Sherwood’s Kings or Pawns: The Kings, book 1, the first of her epic fantasy series. I first heard about the book from the successful Kickstarter campaign – I was intrigued by the premise and backed the project. And now here we are, promoting the book!

Kings or Pawns | JJ Sherwood

8,994 P.E.—The elven city of Elvorium has become corrupted to the core by politics. With his father dead and the Royal Schism at his back, Prince Hairem ascends the throne as king of the elven world on Sevrigel. Young and bold, Hairem is determined to undo the council’s power, but the brutal murders by an assassin loosed within the city threaten to undermine the king’s ambitions.
As corruption and death threaten to tear Elvorium apart from within, the warlord Saebellus threatens the city from without, laying siege to Sevrigel’s eastern capital. With the elven world crumbling around him, Hairem finds himself in a dangerous political balance between peace and all out war.

Here’s an excerpt from the prologue:


A fierce howl of wind tore in from the north, bringing with it a fleeting chill. The rain pelted against the armor of the soldiers scattered across the earth below as thunder cracked and bellowed in Aersadore’s evening sky. The two armies stumbled and sank into the muddy ground of the canyon floor, voices and weapons lost in the tumult of the raging storm.
Jikun swung his blade around swiftly and plunged it into the soldier behind him, throwing his weight away to spin back into the teeming mass of enemy troops.
“General, Saebellus is retreating!!”
Jikun rounded toward his captain’s shout, seeing the soldier stumble from the fray. His captain lurched to the side, black hair plastered to the sides of his pale face as one hand groped for balance on the face of the canyon wall. The captain tore the clasp from the drenched cloak about his neck, letting it fall to the mud beneath his feet. Relieved of its weight, he pushed free of the canyon’s face and shoved Jikun aside, his blade whistling through the air as he swung high to decapitate the soldier behind him.
“I know, damn it!” Jikun shouted in return, eyes narrowing against the onslaught of rain. It bit into his flesh like shards of ice, but in the midst of battle, he was hardly aware of the pain. He stepped forward, willing the meager distance to grant him vision through the torrent of rain. Vision of the enemy that lay ahead. A tremble coursed through the earth as thunder cracked once more. A bolt of lightning lit the towering walls of the surrounding canyon, capturing the deep shadows in the jagged stones and the sunken faces of his weathered troops. “Don’t let him escape!” he bellowed to his soldiers, fighting to be heard above the wind, his throat raw. He shoved forward, leaping over the body of a dying soldier, kicking the grasping arm away from him.
He could see him now.
The throng of fleeing enemy troops had parted, just long enough for Jikun to glimpse him twisting through the grey. The warlord shoved his blade through one of Jikun’s soldiers, grabbing the elf by the hair and wrenching his blade free as the body slumped to the mud. He glanced up abruptly, as though aware of someone’s gaze, and his eyes caught Jikun’s in a moment of calm, cold solidarity: an acknowledgement of each of their roles in the war. Then he turned, raising his hand high. The throng of soldiers closed behind him, fighting to defend the backlines as he and his army fled toward the north.
For a moment, the image of those emotionless, black voids had stilled Jikun. Then he found his voice, bursting forth louder and stronger in his anger. “Move! MOVE! Don’t let them escape!!” he shouted, a rumble of thunder following his screams with equal fury.
There came another rumble, resounding almost immediately after the last. It had come too soon.
Jikun paused, jerking his head upwards along the walls of the canyon, searching the length of sky for the source of the unnatural sound. There was another flash of light from ahead, but this one came red and hot, erupting from the midst of Saebellus’ army. It struck the canyon wall with a ferocious crack that sent a tremor through the earth about them.
Jikun’s eyes widened in horror. “AVALANCHE!!!” he roared. He stumbled backward, raising an arm above his head. A thick dome of water swept upward from the mud at his feet, freezing as it grew, forming at once into a thick shield of ice that protected him and his surrounding soldiers.
He could hear the crashing of stones as they plummeted down the mountain face, smashing through the troops and horses before him, plowing through the line of soldiers behind him. They slammed into the side of his icy barricade, hurling him backwards into the far wall.
And then there was silence.
Jikun looked up, raising a hand against the ice to let it fall once more to mere water about his body.
Saebellus and his army were gone.

Meet the author:
JJ SherwoodJ.J. Sherwood lives in Ohio with her husband and four near-identical cats. Her childhood was spent tearing through the woods, playing out fantasy worlds, and tying Barbie to the roof so that the Power Rangers might rescue her. Middle and high school carried on this roleplaying, while college encompassed creating and refining over 250 characters in the world of Aersadore. When not orchestrating the lives and deaths of the people of Aersadore, JJ’s hobbies include drawing, video gaming, wearing a bathrobe, and eating too many baked potatoes.

Connect with the author:  Website Twitter Facebook   Goodreads

The Dali Deception – Adam Maxwell


Five criminals. Two forgeries. And one masterpiece of a heist.

Violet Winters—a professional thief born of a good, honest thief-and-con-artist stock— has been offered the heist of a lifetime. Steal a priceless Salvador Dali from the security-obsessed chairman of the Kilchester Bank and replace it with a forgery.

The fact that the “painting” is a signed, blank canvas doesn’t matter. It’s the challenge that gives Violet that familiar, addicting rush of adrenaline. Her quarry rests in a converted underground Cold War bunker. One way in, one way out. No margin for error.

But the reason Violet fled Kilchester is waiting right where she left him—an ex-lover with a murderous method for dumping a girlfriend. If her heist is to be a success, there will have to be a reckoning, or everything could go spinning out of control.

Her team of talented misfits assembled, Violet sets out to re-stake her claim on her reputation, exorcise some demons, and claim the prize. That is, if her masterpiece of a plan isn’t derailed by a pissed-off crime boss—or betrayal from within her own ranks.

Now then, regular readers will be aware of my fondness for a good heist story, be it in the movies (The Thomas Crown Affair is one of my favourites) or in print.

The Dali Deception is a fine addition to the list. It’s a cracking ensemble piece – Violet Winters must assemble a crack team to lift a priceless painting from an impregnable vault whilst various obstacles stack up in her way, including one very annoyed crime boss, Big Terry.

It’s all too easy for these ensemble stories to fall a little flat when it comes to character, but Adam has shown a neat flair for characterisation, with each getting their own moment in the sun. They’re all essential to the plot and all feel like real, well-rounded individuals. I particularly loved Katie. She might not say much, but she’s a refreshing change to The Muscle you normally find in such tales. The classics are all there – computer hacker whizkid, the wheelman, the con-artist, but they all feel fresh. And Big Terry is a character I’d love to see more of.

There’s a lovely stream of wit throughout too, with sarcastic put-downs, pithy one-liners and a real feeling of camaraderie amongst the gang.

However, you can have all the fabulous characters in the world but a heist story lives or dies on the strength of its plot. And The Dali Deception’s plot delivers in spades. Plenty of twists and turns along the way, with more than one moment of ‘how *exactly * are they going to get away with it now?’.

How do they get away with it? You’ll just have to read it and find out!

The Dali Deception is out now in ebook. You can find Adam Maxwell on twitter @LostBookshop or on his website. Go say hi, then go read the book.

Many thanks to Adam for the review copy. The opinions are, as ever, my own.