Swallowtail Summer by Erica James

Swallowtail Summer

I normally enjoy books by Erica James (my favourite is A Sense of Belonging) but this one was disappointing as I found it difficult to care what happened to most of the characters; they were a rather self-obsessed bunch with few redeeming features.

The best thing about Swallowtail Summer is the sense of place. Erica James brings the Norfolk Broads to life – you can almost hear the birdsong and the lapping of the water – and you can see why it holds such great appeal for so many visitors.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy.

Plume by Will Wiles


I read an excerpt and interview with the author in the Guardian a few months ago, and was sufficiently intrigued to read the rest of the book.

It is slow to get going, but somehow you feel compelled to keep on reading. The story is told from the point of view of Jack Bick, an investigative journalist and alcoholic, whose career is slowly going down the pan.

For me, the writing is at its best when dealing with his addiction and how it affects every area of his life.

I found the rest of the book a bit disjointed; despite introducing several important issues (perhaps too many?) facing the modern world, I’m not sure the various parts of the narrative hang together very well, but the quality of the writing more than makes up for it.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy to review.

Nothing to Hide by James Oswald

Nothing to Hide

You can’t really compare Nothing to Hide (and No Time to Cry) with the Inspector McLean series, apart from the fact they were all written by James Oswald; they are very different.

Con Fairchild is suspended from duty and lacks the focus of working on an active investigation, but trouble still seems to follow her around and get her into hot water with her superiors.

She is a bit of a loner with no partner (police or otherwise) or close friends to speak of, and the first person narrative emphasises this sense of isolation; Tony McLean, on the other hand, is very much part of a team.

What they do have in common is the use of humour to offset the gruesome nature of the crimes, a subtle hint of something supernatural and the appearance of the wonderfully eccentric Madame Rose.

After a while the appearance of the journalists and the refrain of ‘posh cop’ gets a bit annoying, which is presumably to show how it felt to Con as well. We get a bit more backstory to explain why she does not get on with her family.

You could read this as a standalone but would get a better understanding if you read No Time to Cry first.  I really enjoyed Nothing to Hide and look forward to reading the next book in the series when hopefully Con will be reinstated and part of an active investigative team.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Only the Dead Know by CJ Dunford

Only the Dead Know

Only the Dead Know is the first in a new series (hopefully!) featuring Daniel ‘Uneasy’ Truce, an ex-military policeman suffering from PTSD after serving in the Middle East. His boss has pulled strings and he is now part of a special crime investigation unit based in Edinburgh.

His great skill is reading body language but Chief Superintendent Lydia Rose gives him all the boring jobs, and mounds of paperwork, as she resents him being foisted on her team.

This is how he gets involved with June who thinks she has witnessed a murder; she reports it to her local police station every day at 11am but, as the victim is alive and well, they don’t take her seriously.

Truce is told to ‘shut her up’ but he finds her credible and continues to investigate anyway; like many fictional detectives he is tenacious and keeps asking questions despite the risk to himself.

I had not read anything by CJ Dunford before, but I found this story gripping and well written with believable characters and a convincing sense of place.

I look forward to reading the next book. Thanks to the author and NetGalley for a copy of Only the Dead Know in exchange for an unbiased review.    

No Time to Cry by James Oswald

No Time to Cry

No Time to Cry is the first in a new series, featuring DC Constance (Con) Fairchild, by James Oswald, the author of the DI McLean books. Being a huge fan of Tony McLean, I was not sure what to expect – could anything possibly be as good? I need not have worried.

We are thrown in at the deep end when Con discovers the body of her boss who has been brutally murdered while working undercover. She finds herself under suspicion, suspended and fearing for her life.

Not allowed to take part in the investigation, she goes in search of her childhood friend’s missing younger sister, Izzy, never dreaming that the two cases could be connected.

Resourceful, dogged and good at thinking on her feet, Con eventually manages to break through the conspiracy and find out who is responsible for the death of DI Pete Copperthwaite.

Although set in London, this reads more like a road trip, and has a cinematic quality that would make a great film or TV series. The first person narrative lends immediacy to the story and helps introduce us to the world that Con inhabits; we are given just enough detail about her past throughout the book to keep us intrigued.

James Oswald is to be commended for having written a thoroughly believable young female character, and not focussing too much on her appearance. I particularly like the inclusion of Rose, the cat with no name and the familiar hint of the supernatural – nods to the McLean series.

The dark subject matter is dealt with in a sensitive way, although it is still deeply disturbing. No Time to Cry is a well-written, fast-paced and gripping story, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Thanks to Wildfire and NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review #netgalley #notimetocry #jamesoswald.