Sunday musings

This was never meant to turn into a book review blog. I just sort of… fell into it. And over the past couple of years, it’s developed to the point where it’s taken over.

I’m not entirely sure what to do. I do love reading and reviewing books, but I’d like to be able to have a space for more random musings.

The other week I pulled together a post about things I’d found online during the week. I quite like that idea. I’ve also been inspired and impressed by email newsletters such as those by Christian Payne from Documentally and Warren Ellis’ Orbital Operations.

You should check them out.

So. What to do? Do I set up a new blog for the more random stuff? Keep the random stuff I’ve found here but in a separate section? Set up my own email newsletter?

Thoughts, ideas and suggestions welcome. Especially what to call it.

In the meantime, here are this week’s musings.

Ever wondered what the auctioneer is saying when they’re trying to sell things? (via

Photographer Toru Akai uncovers the Invisible Machinery that defines modern life (via

Anyone got a spare grand? Casey Neistat plays with the new GoPro Karma

I do like Casey’s vlog.

I’ve been musing about starting a YouTube channel myself, but never quite know how to get started. Maybe I’ll do it one day. Would anyone watch? There seem to be a lot of savvy young folk on there – you should check out Sara Dietschy’s channel – hers and Casey’s channels are entertaining, as is the Shaytards vlog.

Is there room for a mid-forties bloke who lives in Yorkshire, reads lots of books, drinks coffee and goes out on his bike a bit? Guess there’s only one way to find out.

I’m also tempted by The InkTober Initiative, set up by Jake Parker in 2009 to challenge artists around the world to do a new ink drawing every day in October and post the results. Last year I decided I was going to learn how to draw, but that sort of fizzled along. I did some stuff I quite liked but then got distracted by shiny things on the internet.

Then it’ll soon be November and NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. It’s been five years since I last seriously attempted NaNo and I still have the 50,000 words sat in a file on my computer, gathering virtual dust. Maybe it’s time for another go.

Right. That feels like enough for now. It’s nearly midnight on Sunday, which means another week is just around the corner.

In the words of Bill & Ted, be excellent to each other, folks. Catch you next week.

The Two O’Clock Boy – Mark Hill

The Two O'Clock Boy | Mark Hill


One night changed their lives
Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.

Cries in the fire and smoke
Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

A truth both must hide
Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

I really *really* enjoyed this book. Sharp characters, sharper writing, an interestingly different premise, and a suitably twisty plot, and that smug moment where you figure out who the killer is.

Only for Mark to pull the rug out from under you. Sneaky crime writers, you’ve got to love ’em.

The characters are great – the horribly compromised DI Ray Drake stands out as he helps Detective Sergeant Flick Cowley investigate the deaths linked to a children’s home back in the 1980s. The story jumps back between the modern day investigation and the time at the children’s home which becomes increasingly uncomfortable and dark as the plot unfolds.

If you’re a crime thriller fan, definitely one for your list.

Anyway, enough of my thoughts. You can read an extract over at Raven Crime Reads, then catch up with Mark over at Crime Thriller Girl’s blog talking about online secrets, and a Q&A with Liz at Liz Loves Books

You can find Mark Hill on twitter @MarkHillWriter or at his website,

Many thanks to Netgalley for the review copy. The Two O’Clock Boy is published by Sphere @LittleBrownUK Ebook: September 22nd 2016. Paperback: April 2017.

Black Night Falling – Rod Reynolds


‘And now I stood here, on a desolate airfield in the Arkansas wilderness, a stone’s throw from Texarkana. Darkness drawing in on me. Cross country to see a man I never imagined seeing again. On the strength of one desperate telephone call…’

Having left Texarkana for the safety of the West Coast, reporter Charlie Yates finds himself drawn back to the South, to Hot Springs, Arkansas, as an old acquaintance asks for his help. This time it’s less of a story Charlie’s chasing, more of a desperate attempt to do the right thing before it’s too late.

Black Night Falling is Rod Reynolds’ second novel, picking up just a few months on from The Dark Inside. It’s a dark and deeply atmospheric thriller and Rod evokes the time and place (Arkansas in the 1940’s) of the story beautifully and there’s a wonderfully gritty, noir feel.

I must confess that I’ve yet to read The Dark Inside (though it’s now on my Kindle!) That said, Black Night Falling could easily be read as a standalone.

Our hero Charlie Yates finds himself in Hot Springs, Arkansas following a call from an old friend looking for help. Unfortunately Charlie arrives too late and finds that his friend died in a tragic accident. Or was it? He starts investigating, working with the somewhat cryptic notes he finds from his friend, looking into the deaths of several young women in the town.

Rod certainly knows how to tangle a plot, expertly draping it with red herrings which leave you guessing – who killed the girls? Just how far up does the web go?

I found it hard to believe that this was written by a non-American author, the evocation of place and period is just superb.

Liz (from Liz Loves Books) recently did a Q&A with Rod over on her blog which is well worth a read.

Highly recommended.

And Rod is taking part in the @FaberBooks Crime on Tour events in Lytham St Annes, Manchester, Urmston and Leeds in late September with JM Gulvin and Sarah Ward. I’m definitely going!


Willnot – James Sallis


Normally I’d post the blurb for the book here. This time, I won’t, for reasons I’ll go into below…

Let me start by saying that Willnot was not the book I was expecting to read. The promo blurb suggests a certain kind of deep southern noir which it turns out not to quite be. Now, that’s not to say that it’s not a good book – it certainly is that.

Sallis introduces us to the town of Willnot and its resident physician, Dr Lamar Hale as a grim discovery is made on the outskirts of the town. However, the book is more concerned with the impact that these bodies have on the inhabitants of the town over the course of the following months.

Willnot is a character-driven piece of literary fiction rather than being a more regular crime procedural, and Sallis is a master at showing character. Lamar and his partner Richard form the backbone to the novel as the events unfurl around them. Their relationship is charming and warm, and they are surrounded by a splendid array of sometimes eccentric characters who just exude authenticity.

At times through the novel I was unsure of where Sallis was taking me. As I said above, I was expecting more of a whodunnit noir, but instead just enjoyed the ride, watching the people go past.

Willnot is a short novel, but a perfectly formed one.

Many thanks to No Exit Press for the review copy. You can find them on twitter @noexitpress


Things I’ve found this week.


Odd signs in the wood

If you go down to the woods today…

A photo posted by dave graham (@dakegra) on Sep 12, 2016 at 9:21am PDT


Things I’ve watched:

Possibly the worst hacking scene, ever. Castle (much as I adore it) does have form (check out the geordie episode)

Fantastic analysis on why the Joker is so awesome in The Dark Knight. Apart from being played by Heath Ledger.

Things I’ve been reading:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
Red Right Hand, by Chris Holm

Both splendid, in entirely different ways. I’d wanted to read Miss Peregrine before seeing the movie, and thought it was a fabulous book. Must read the sequels.

Red Right Hand was a cracking thriller which kept me up entirely too late. Highly recommended.

Other wonderful things:

The Picture-Perfect Pencil Shop That Makes Writing Cool Again

Blackout – Ragnar Jónasson

Blackout | Ragnar Jonasson

On the shores of a tranquil fjord in Northern Iceland, a man is brutally beaten to death on a bright summer’s night. As the 24-hour light of the arctic summer is transformed into darkness by an ash cloud from a recent volcanic eruption, a young reporter leaves Reykjavík to investigate on her own, unaware that an innocent person’s life hangs in the balance. Ari Thór Arason and his colleagues on the tiny police force in Siglufjörður struggle with an increasingly perplexing case, while their own serious personal problems push them to the limit. What secrets does the dead man harbour, and what is the young reporter hiding? As silent, unspoken horrors from the past threaten them all, and the darkness deepens, it’s a race against time to find the killer before someone else dies…

Ari Thór is back in this, the third installment in Ragnar Jónasson’s superb Dark Iceland series. The events of Blackout take place following the volcanic eruptions of 2010 where Eyjafjallajökull managed to close down most of Europe’s airspace, and interestingly, between the events of the first book, Snowblind, and the second, Nightblind.

Ragnar presents us with a number of mysteries here – the dead man being investigated by Ari Thór and his colleagues, the strange emails that are causing Hlynur Ísaksson such distress and the investigation of a young reporter from Reykjavik. Blackout has more depth and complexity than the previous two books, with the myriad of threads and characters weaving together as the book progresses, all told in Ragnar’s wonderfully sparse style. There are a *lot* of threads to keep up with in this one!

Regular readers of this blog (hi!) will know how much I loved Snowblind and Nightblind, and Ragnar has delivered another superbly convoluted mystery.

Nordic Noir, eat your heart out. Icelandic Noir is where it’s at.

Many thanks, as always, to Karen from Orenda Books for the review copy. Opinions are, of course, my own.

The Arrival of Missives – Aliya Whiteley


In the aftermath of the Great War, Shirley Fearn dreams of challenging the conventions of rural England, where life is as predictable as the changing of the seasons.

The scarred veteran Mr. Tiller, left disfigured by an impossible accident on the battlefields of France, brings with him a message: part prophecy, part warning. Will it prevent her mastering her own destiny?

As the village prepares for the annual May Day celebrations, where a new queen will be crowned and the future will be reborn again, Shirley must choose: change or renewal?

The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley is an interesting, different and sometimes slightly peculiar novella published by Unsung Stories.

It follows the story of Shirley, a young girl living in a remote village more or less cut off from everyday life in the aftermath of the first World War. It’s beautifully written and paced, but it’s a hard story to classify – it starts off apparently as one thing, then evolves facets of sci-fi and magic, though they’re deftly understated. Definitely not YA despite our heroine being a young adult. When I started the book I wasn’t sure it was my sort of thing, but quickly got drawn into the story.

In short (and it is quite short), it’s a fascinating tale. Worth picking up if you want something a little different.

Many thanks to Unsung Stories for the review copy.