Anne Bonny #BookReview The Disappeared by @AliHarperWrites #CrimeFiction #DebutAuthor @KillerReads ‘A brilliant debut crime novel 4*’

The Disappeared by Ali Harper
Review Copy


A twisty, compelling, characterful crime thriller from a major new talent.


A distraught mother…
When Susan Wilkins walks into No Stone Unturned, Leeds’s newest private detective agency, owners Lee and Jo are thrilled. Their first client is the kind of person they always hoped to help—a kind woman desperately worried about her son, Jack.

A missing son…
The case seems simple—kid starts college, takes up with the wrong crowd, forgets to ring his mother. But very quickly, Lee and Jo suspect they’re not being told the whole truth.

A case which could prove deadly…
Their office is ransacked, everyone who knows Jack refuses to talk to them and they feel like they’re being followed…it’s clear Lee and Jo have stumbled into something bigger, and far more dangerous, than they ever expected. Will they find Jack, or will their first case silence them both for good?

My Review:

The Disappeared is a gritty northern crime fiction novel. There are feminist themes running throughout and as a female reader, this only made me love it more. When Susan Wilkin’s appears at the No Stone Unturned private detective agency; she isn’t expecting to be met by two female detectives Lee and Jo.
At first the case seems an obvious ‘boy goes off to Uni and goes missing for days on a bender’ type of case. Except it isn’t it is much deeper layered than that.

‘Had I known our first client would be dead less than twenty-six hours after signing the contract, I might not have been so thrilled when she pushed open our office door’ – Lee Winters

The two investigate and what they discover shocks them to the core. Jack hasn’t been missing for several days but 3 months. He isn’t a Uni student but a heroin addict living in a rancid squat. This is not quite the image Mrs Wilkin’s his mother put forward…

‘We fit the pictures to the story we want to hear. And I wanted to see was a middle-aged, middle-class woman desperately seeking her son’ – Lee Winters

When Jack’s real life is exposed, the pair are left to wonder if Susan really is, who she says she is and if not, who on earth is she?

When their office gets trashed and the case goes much darker. The two become more determined to get to the bottom of Jack’s disappearance. They find his local mates and on/off lover who offer clues and information. But where will it lead?

A brilliant debut crime novel 4*

Ali Harper

Anne Bonny #BookReview November Road by @Lou_Berney #NewRelease #Literary #CrimeFiction @HarperCollins ‘Fantastic historical American noir 4*’

November Road by Lou Berney
US Review Copy

Set against the assassination of JFK, a poignant and evocative crime novel – a story of unexpected connections, daring possibilities, and the hope of second chances from the Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone.

Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out…

A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans’ mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead. Suspecting he’s next, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas. When he spots a beautiful housewife and her two young daughters stranded on the side of the road, he sees the perfect disguise to cover his tracks from the hit men on his trail.

The two strangers share the open road west – and find each other on the way. But Guidry’s relentless hunters are closing in on him, and now he doesn’t want to just survive, he wants to really live, maybe for the first time.

Everyone’s expendable, or they should be, but Guidry just can’t throw away the woman he’s come to love. And it might get them both killed.

My Review:

November Road is an atmospheric novel set amongst the backdrop of the JFK assassination. I am a huge fan of American Noir and historical fiction, so I couldn’t wait to get started on this novel. I am new to Lou Berney’s writing but will be keeping an eye out for future titles by the author.

The novel opens in 1963 New Orleans, with one of our central character Frank Guidry. Frank currently works for mob boss Carlos Marcello, but fears after the assassination of JFK, he himself will be left for dead.
‘Someone shot him. Someone shot President Kennedy’

Franks possibly involvement and links to the assassination is all fully explored within his narrative. You actually begin to become quite attached to Frank, as he desperately seeks to leave town before he is killed. . .

‘Bobby Kennedy and the FBI wouldn’t stop until they’d turned over every goddamn rock’

The other central is mother of two young daughters Charlie (Charlotte). Charlie is a photographer by trade, she is married to a deadbeat alcoholic named Dooley. They are behind on their mortgage and struggling financially. In a moment of madness, she packs up her and her daughter’s Rosemary and Joan’s possessions and leaves town. Charlie seeks a better life for her daughter’s, than the life she has lived. She knows the only way to achieve this, is to break free of Dooley.
But Dooley might not be quite so keen to see her leave. . .

‘Divorce was the edge of a cliff. Once you flung yourself into the great blue yonder, there was no going back’

The lives of Frank and Charlie collide, and this is when the novel really shines. We are show the narratives of Frank, Charlie and those hunting Guidry.
It amps up the intensity of the novel and threat to Guidry’s life.

‘He couldn’t chase the idea from his head that maybe, just maybe, Seraphine and Carlos planned to kill him’

Through Charlie’s eyes we learn what life was truly like in the 1960s. An era that would go on to be the beginning of the female sexual revolution. But also, one where divorce was considered a scandal of the highest order.
Between Charlie and Frank, a meeting of minds develops, an unusual pairing but both desperately fleeing uncertain circumstances.

The era and background history really add to the story.
Fantastic historical American noir 4*

Lou Berney

Anne Bonny #BookReview The Blackbird season by @KateMoretti1 #CrimeFiction #Mystery #Thriller @TitanBooks ‘When does it ever end, if people continue to up the ante?’

The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti
My own copy

Where did they come from? Why did they fall?

In a ​quie​t​ town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community. Beloved coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the​ ​reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a student, Lucia Hamm. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are ​having an affair, throwing the town into an uproar and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life. And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only have one suspect: Nate.

Nate​’​s coworker, Bridget Harris, is determined to prove his innocence. Bridget knows the key to Nate​’​s exoneration and the truth of Lucia​’​s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of ​t​h​e missing girl’s journal.

My Review:

‘Alecia forgot what that was like, to have friends who were just people’

The novel opens in May 2015, two weeks before the birds fall. The time line then moves around to give a greater understanding of the characters and further depth into the incidents before and after the birds fell. It is an intense novel, with emotive themes.
I became engrossed in the plot line, as I read further on.

Nate and Alecia Winters are the married couple at the centre of the scandal, with Nate accused of an affair with a student. But Alecia is not without her character depth either. She is an isolated and lonely mother to the couples 5yr old autistic son Gabe. As mother of an autistic son, I can assure you the isolation, loneliness and shunning are 100% REAL!

‘Sometimes it seemed like it was Alecia and Gabe against the whole world’

The missing student at the centre of the accusations/claims Lucia, is a mysterious student experiencing great hardship and poverty. Lucia is a student in crisis, Did Nate help her? or take advantage of her situation?

We learn that the Winter’s family life is extremely complex. With Alecia shouldering the majority of the parental duties and Nate being responsible for financing the multiple therapies Gabe requires. It is easy to see this marriage being torn apart by the sheer stress of raising a special needs child, let alone the accusations of the local town.

‘Nate was the last person to see her’

Nate denies the allegations against him and insists there was no affair. But when he is suspended from his teaching position the gossip and speculation only intensifies.

‘There was a missing piece something that no one knew’

Is Nate the perpetrator? Or are the cops making him suspect #1?

The middle part of the novel is much slower paced.
But the novel in whole deals with some tough themes.
Themes of abuse, neglect and bullying.
When does it ever end, if people continue to up the ante? 4*

Kate Moretti

***Review coming soon for, In  Her Bones***

Anne Bonny #BookReview The Killing House by @inkstainsclaire #IrishCrimeFiction #CrimeFiction #PaulaMaguire #6 @headlinepg

The Killing House by Claire McGowan – Paula Maguire #6
Review Copy

When a puzzling missing persons’ case opens up in her hometown, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire can’t help but return once more.

Renovations at an abandoned farm have uncovered two bodies: a man known to be an IRA member missing since the nineties, and a young girl whose identity remains a mystery.

As Paula attempts to discover who the girl is and why no one is looking for her, an anonymous tip-off claims that her own long-lost mother is also buried on the farm.

When another girl is kidnapped, Paula must find the person responsible before more lives are destroyed. But there are explosive secrets still to surface. And even Paula can’t predict that the investigation will strike at the heart of all she holds dear.

My Review:

The Killing House is the ultimate novel in the Forensic Pathologist Paula Maguire series. It is the novel where Paula’s past will finally be revealed. The novel surrounds a case involving human remains found in Paula’s native Ireland. Remains that will link right into the heart of Paula’s past and the disappearance of her mother.
Due to the relevance of Paula’s mother there are various scenes from 1983; building up to her eventual disappearance.
You are in for a rollercoaster of a ride!!!!

‘No one’s going to touch your daughter, come on now. We don’t hurt weans in this organisation’

What becomes evident as we follow Margaret (Paula’s mother) is that she knew her fate. It makes for terrifying reading.

London 2014, Paula is currently working within missing persons and is jolted back to her life in Ballyterrin after a phone call about the uncovered remains.
It seems no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape Ballyterrin or her past.
‘She would have to go back’

The crime scene is located at the Wallace family farm. The Wallace family had previous strong ties to the IRA and were heavily involved in the troubles of Northern Ireland.

‘However far you ran, and however long for, Ballyterin had a way of sucking you back in’

I am rather embarrassed to admit, I am not very clued up on the factual side of the NI troubles or the details of the Good Friday Agreement. I know it is a pivotal piece of history, but it was never discussed when I was at school etc. I keep meaning to read some of my non-fiction books regarding this time in history. But due to blog/children demands, rarely get to read much non-fiction.
I love how the author explained the complexity of the GFA within the story. I felt I was learning from the characters perspective and not being ‘told’, if you get what I am trying to say.

Although the novel is based on the past, it is very much focused around Paula. She makes a fantastic protagonist. This is possibly the most emotional novel in the series, for Paula. There is an intense ending, which left me worried it would be the last we see of her. 4*

Claire McGowan (Eva Woods) 

Anne Bonny #Author Q&A Jailbird Detective by @helenjacey #CrimeFiction #NewRelease #WomenSleuths 1940’s #Noir @shedunnit

Jailbird Detective by Helen Jacey – Book 1
Review to follow

A female sleuth crime thriller set in the 1940s featuring edgy female protagonist Elvira Slate, a former criminal and gangster’s moll, who trades Holloway Prison to become a Hollywood Private Detective.

Former south London moll, Jemima Day (Elvira’s real identity) flees England as she’s released from Holloway Prison on VE Day. Her plans to make up for lost time are foiled when she confronts a sexual predator. Caught by a corrupt cop, she is given a choice – face the hangman in England or become his personal errand girl with a phony identity.

Jemima becomes Elvira Slate, but she has no intention of being controlled by any man for long. When she discovers foul play leading to the death of innocents and the law turning a blind eye, Elvira risks her life to investigate.

Ex-con and part vigilante, Elvira follows her own moral compass to put things right. Knowing what it’s like to be judged and live by patriarchal double standards, Elvira can read both motives and men like no other.

Jailbird Detective is feminist crime noir and the first in the Elvira Slate Investigations crime detective series. It follows one woman’s odyssey of reinvention and self-determination to become the most unlikely 1940s female detective.


Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

A) After studying an MA in Screenwriting in 2001, I’ve written for TV, feature film, advertising, brands and radio drama. When I realised there weren’t any writing guides that discussed female characters and stereotypes, I wrote one myself! The Woman in the Story: Creating Memorable Female Characters 2010 became very popular in the film and TV industry, and I branched out into story consultancy, script editing and training. I run Shedunnit Productions which develops content across media with a female gaze.

My novel Jailbird Detective is what I’m calling vintage feminist crime noir genre, and it’s the first in the Elvira Slate Investigations series.

It follows the life of ex-convict and gangster’s moll Jemima Day who is released on probation from Holloway Prison on VE Day, 1945 and goes on the run to LA. Using a fake identity and determined to make up for lost time, things are looking up in LA until she is arrested. She becomes a corrupt cop’s undercover errand girl under the name of Elvira Slate, but she won’t be controlled by any man again, so she quickly develops a secret life – investigating a crime the law has ignored. Soon she’s immersed in a very female world, the little known side of old Hollywood.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

A) In 2010 the PhD was finished, and The Woman in the Story was about to be published. I was sitting in the sunny south of France when the character of Elvira literally walked into my mind and wouldn’t leave! I was reading Raymond Chandler at the time and loving being back in 40s Hollywood, but somewhat put off by the extreme male gaze of Philip Marlowe. So maybe Elvira was my subconscious antidote.

Jailbird Detective was begun in 2010, and by early 2012 I was almost done. The completion of the novel entered a fits and starts phase for eight years! By 2018, I knew it was Jailbird Detective’s time. I had interest in the series from an agent and a publisher, but I eventually decided it should be Shedunnit Productions’ first project, as it is clearly a female gaze story and I want to develop it across media. Editing was complex and laborious – you can’t underestimate the work it takes!

My plan is to write one book a year in the series and the next in the Elvira Slate series will be out in 2019.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) I love any kind of underdog and outsider fiction. Jean Rhys 1930s novels, such as Good Morning Midnight.

I love Tony Morrison, Beloved and Jazz are up there with my favourites. For the sheer warmth and humanity in the Tales of the City series, Armistead Maupin is another much-loved author as is Zadie Smith for White Teeth.

I wouldn’t be a crime writer without some favourites. James Ellroy (LA Confidential, Black Dahlia), Walter Moseley (Devil in a Blue Dress). Edward Bunker’s No Beast So Fierce is a gripping exposure of a doomed criminal justice system which is neither restorative or rehabilitative. John Grisham’s Street Lawyer is another top book. On the female author front, I love anything by Lynda La Plante, PD James and Sara Paretsky.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

When I was very young, I was enthralled by rather strange doll Flora McFlimsey, who got in all sorts of antics. I loved the Worst Witch Series, was hooked on Blyton’s Mallory Towers. So you can see the theme – rebellious females who go on adventures. In my teens I became a Bronte, Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell fan. Francois Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse and Rosamund Lehmann’s Dusty Answer spoke to my teenage self. I discovered the female modernist poets, Gertrude Stein, HD, Marianne Moore and Mina Loy. I loved Dorothy Parker too for her witty cynicism.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) I was invited by the Norwegian Film Institute to give a keynote tribute lecture at the inaugural Liv Ullman symposium. Liv Ullman was sitting in the front row and it was quite nerve-wracking dissecting some of her roles. She was really lovely about the one-hour lecture I gave and it was a privilege to meet her.

For Jailbird Detective, I have been touched by very talented author and screenwriter friends reading the book and telling me they can’t put it down. It’s an unbelievable feeling of validation.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) My husband Patrick Altes, who makes every day special. He’s an artist himself, so understands the pain, frustration, sacrifice, dedication and single-mindedness demanded by the creative process. He makes me laugh when I’m stressed, takes over the cooking, reads every draft of Jailbird Detective (and there’s been quite a lot of those over the past 8 years). He’s also very literary-minded, and great at giving notes!

Helen color
Helen Jacey
Shedunnit productions – Twitter