Behind the Book – A Rustle of Silk by Alys Clare

Alys Clare’s latest book, A Rustle of Silk, is set in 17th century Devon. Here, author Alys Clare introduces her new forensic mystery series and physician-sleuth Dr Gabriel Taverner..a-rustle-of-silk-alys-clare.

A Rustle of Silk starts off the Gabriel Taverner series, set immediately after the death of Queen Elizabeth I when her people are still mourning her capricious, powerful, colourful, infuriating presence and have no idea what life under the new monarch, James I, will be like. Gabriel has been forced to leave the life he loves – as a ship’s surgeon – because of an accidental blow to the head that has left him with incurable seasickness, and, having completed his training in London as a physician, he is now trying to make a living ashore in his native Devon.

England in the early seventeenth century was a land eager to expand outwards into the world. Although the book is set in rural Devon, the links with distant lands are already evident: in ports such as Plymouth and Dartmouth, ships tie up to unload cargoes of goods largely unknown in Britain: silk, exotic woods, ivory, spices. Explorers bring home potatoes, tobacco and strange, potent drugs found in the depths of dark, steamy, southern jungles.  Shakespeare, the eternal observer and commentator on his age, puts travellers’ tales in the mouths of his characters: Ariel speaks of ‘still-vex’d Bermoothes’, Othello refers to ‘men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders’, and poor, misshapen Caliban, witch’s son, is the sea monster of nightmares.

It must have been an exciting age to live in. Without doubt, it’s a stimulating and challenging one to write about.

“As always, Clare has carefully researched the period she is writing about and offers authentic, engaging historical detail, but her real gift is as a superb storyteller whose clever, twisty plots; believable characters; and skilful writing will engross the reader from first page to last.” Booklist

For further information on Alys Clare and A Rustle of Silk, please visit our website here.


Recent Starred Reviews and Readlike Suggestions


Over the last month we have had a great batch of reviews, including three stars and helpful readalike suggestions. So take a look and see if anything takes your fancy.




“Part of the pleasure of reading the Shaw and Valentine series, now in its seventh installment, comes from Kelly’s use of setting, the way he transforms an actual town, Hunstanton, on the Norfolk coast of England, into a landscape awash in beauty, peril, and hiding places. Engrossing and wonderfully atmospheric”

Booklist Starred ReviewRead the full review




Louise’s Lies by Sarah R. Shaber

Shaber’s winning sixth WWII mystery is her best yet. Shaber does a fine job portraying the plight of alien residents in wartime Washington, besides conveying the hectic atmosphere of a city whose resources are stretched to the limit by an influx of new workers”

Publishers Weekly Starred Review – Read the full review




The Principals by Bill James

“James’ latest moves away from crime fiction, but finds the veteran novelist at his satirical best. A droll, delightful, skillfully written piece of academic satire”

Booklist Starred Review – Read the full review



9780727886392High praise was also received for The Killing Ship by Simon Beaufort:

“In this taut, pulse-pounding action thriller. . . Beaufort offers up a dark, dangerous, cleverly plotted adventure thriller that is as terrifying and nightmare-inducing as it is gripping and mesmerizing” Booklist – Read the full review




Booklist said of The Iron Water by Chris Nickson Recommend this one to fans of Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series” and Dead or Alive by McCoy was considered A solid choice for Peter Robinson and Reginald Hill fans” by Library Journal. Booklist said To the Last Drop by Sandra Balzo should be suggested to fans of Chris Cavender’s Pizza mysteries, Elizabeth J. Duncan’s Penny Brannigan series, and Laura Child’s Tea Shop mysteries.

As always, something for everyone.

For more information on these titles, use the links below:

Deathship by Jim Kelly

Louise’s Lies by Sarah R. Shaber

The Principals by Bill James

The Killing Ship by Simon Beaufort

The Iron Water by Chris Nickson

To the Last Drop by Sandra Balzo

Dead of Alive by Ken McCoy




Visitor from Hell by Jack Lance

9780727885692Just before Christmas, Marian, a fifteen-year-old girl, walked into the student common room at her school and saw two of her classmates squatting around a strange- looking board. Jeroen, one of the two, invited her to join in.

‘What are you doing?’ Marian asked.

Numbers and letters were printed on the board, as well as the word YES in the upper left-hand corner, NO in the upper right corner, and GOODBYE at the bottom. A small glass was placed upside down on it.

‘This is Ouija,’ Jeroen said. ‘You put a finger on the glass and ask questions. The glass then should move by itself, answering your questions.’

Marian shook her head.

‘No thanks, I don’t know this … game, or whatever it is.’

Christel, next to Jeroen, turned to her. ‘You always nag that we don’t let you in on things. Now we are asking you and … I just don’t get you.’

Marian considered a moment longer, then sat down after all. She gave the board a closer look. The letters A to Z ran in two half-circles across the board, beneath them were the numbers 0 through 9.

‘Put your finger on the glass,’ Jeroen said.

Marian did.

‘Now ask a question.’

Marian thought for a moment.

‘Will we have snow this Christmas?’

Almost immediately, she felt a shaking of the glass. She did not do that herself.

Then the glass suddenly slid to YES.

ouijaMarian’s heart was beating in her throat.

‘You did that!’ Jeroen said angrily.

‘Did not!’ she denied. ‘I really didn’t!’

Jeroen’s face betrayed his doubt.

‘Ask something else.’

Marian hesitated, then said, ‘Will my uncle and aunt visit us at Christmas?’

The glass again moved by itself, and again slid to YES.

Jeroen wasn’t convinced.

‘Ask something you can’t possibly know.’

Marian gave it a moment’s thought.

‘How old is Jeroen’s father?’

The glass almost instantly slid to two numbers: 4 and 3.

Marian looked at Jeroen. He just nodded.

And, suddenly, he seemed afraid, as was Christel. Both knew the usually shy Marian wasn’t fooling them. Something else was going on, something unsettling. Marian knew it too, but she had one more question – the most important one, and she needed to ask it.

‘Who… who is speaking to us?’ she whispered at the board and the glass.

Once more she felt a shaking of the glass. Then it zigzagged beneath the tip of her finger to several letters, spelling a name: ROMULUS.

Christel jumped up. ‘This is scaring me,’ she said, with a quiver in her voice.

She turned and stamped out of the room, quickly followed by Jeroen, leaving Marian behind in a state of utter confusion.

That evening Marian was decorating the house for Christmas, together with her family. When she was in the kitchen, with her mother, she felt something cold prickle her back.

She wheeled around.

Nobody was there.

The next morning she woke up and opened the wardrobe, looking for something to wear that day. Jeans? A dress? Her gaze shifted to her warm coat, in the corner of the wardrobe.

There was a creature in the collar of the coat.

It wore a monk’s habit and its face was hidden beneath a black hood.

In a reflex Marian slammed the door of the wardrobe shut, stumbled a step backwards, shaking all over.

Had she seen that? It couldn’t be, it could not possibly be.

She gathered her courage, meaning to open the wardrobe again, to convince herself nothing was actually there. Before allowing any hesitation, she pulled open the door.

The creature was still there.

Marian stood frozen.

Somehow the creature slipped out of the coat and landed on the floor. It was something from the night, that should forever have stayed in the night. The being was covered entirely by the black habit and the hood – except for one skeletal hand that reached out for Marian.

This thing was cold and it was evil. Darkness fell over Marian – and her mind.

The next years were sheer hell for Marian. After seeing that first demon in her wardrobe, more came to haunt her. She was labelled schizophrenic by psychiatrists and lived in mental institutions for five years. Only then she met a psychic lady who really understood her problems.

According to her, Marian was not crazy, but possessed by demons. The psychic woman freed Marian of those entities.

This is a true story, but not one that will find much understanding within the regular psychiatric world. As I am not a psychic, I too find it difficult what to make of it.

However, I do know one thing: I know Marian personally and I can see with my own eyes that today she is living a normal life again. She was very unlucky that day when she joined in the Ouija game and apparently opened a gateway to Hell.

It may seem that Hell isn’t that far away, and this is very much the theme in my novel Zone.

Zone takes you to dark places and whatever is hiding in there …

More than what most of us are able to see or hear.

Perhaps much more …

For more information on Jack Lance visit his website.

Editor’s Pick – Betrayed

Kate Lyall Grant has selected the Editor’s pick from our December titles.

9780727886811.jpgBETRAYED is the third cunningly-plotted tale of identity and suspense to feature computer hacker Tina Adler, a woman who has spent the past sixteen years on the run, keeping under the radar from those who would seek to destroy her. Understandably paranoid, the computer-obsessed Tina makes for a strong and unusual narrative voice; her solitary, hunted existence ensuring that she’s so savvy in some ways, yet so naïve in others (she has no idea how to order an Uber cab, for example). She never truly knows whom or what to believe.  I particularly liked the complex, ambiguous central relationship between Tina and her old flame, FBI agent Zeke Chapman, which underpins the novel, neither of them able to resist the strong sexual attraction and emotional connection between them, yet at the same time neither able to fully trust one another.

As with her previous novels, HIDDEN and SHADOWED, Karen Olson succeeds in making the murky world of cyber-crime and cyber-stalking both thrilling, action-packed and accessible, as Tina and Zeke embark on a complex, cat-and-mouse game with an unknown, invisible enemy.  With its plentiful twists and turns, unexpected revelations and cliffhanger chapter endings, BETRAYED kept me gripped throughout, keeping me guessing until the real enemy within is finally exposed (a twist which I hadn’t seen coming at all).

For more information on Karen E. Olson and the ‘Black Hat Thriller Series’ visit our website.



Did you know…that Northeast Florida has had eight flags?

Florida-based author, Michael Wiley, gives us a brief, but fascinating overview of the history of Amelia Island.

Did you know that since Europeans first landed in the New World, Northeast Florida, the setting of the Daniel Turner thrillers, has had eight flags—more than anywhere else in the United States?

In 1562, Jean Ribault raised the French flag on what was then populated by the Timucuan Indians and is now Amelia Island. Five years later, the Spanish knocked the flag down and raised their own, which flew until the British conquered and claimed the island. When the American Revolutionaries kicked out the British, the island returned to the Spanish.

That’s when things got messy. In 1812, a bunch of guys calling themselves the Patriots of Amelia Island booted out the Spanish and put up a flag of their own. Sobering up the next day, they raised the U.S. flag. But Spain protested, and back up went the Spanish flag.

Everything seemed pretty much up for grabs, and so in 1817 the Scottish soldier Sir Gregor MacGregor captured the place and put up his own Green Cross of Florida standard. And then some Mexicans and a pirate wrested the island from MacGregor and raised the Republic of Mexico rebel flag. The U.S., objecting to the affront, grabbed it back and held it in trust for the Spanish. That lasted until 1821, when Florida became a U.S. territory.

The island was under the U.S. flag at last.

Until it wasn’t.

At the beginning of the Civil War, the Confederate flag flew over the island, coming down again in 1862, when the U.S. flag went up again for good—or at least for now.

Praise for Michael Wiley:


“Wiley is extremely good at creating an atmosphere of menacing dread. . . New shocks occur all the way to the last page—and continue as readers reflect on what they’ve just witnessed.” Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“The Shamus Award–winning author of the Chicago-set “Joseph Kozmarksi” series (A Bad Night’s Sleep) introduces an intriguing antihero in this excellent noir that will attract readers who appreciate the anguished protagonists of Steve Hamilton and Loren D. Estleman.” Library Journal Starred Review


“No one will stop reading, so hypnotic is Wiley’s writing” Booklist 

 “An amazing Southern Gothic tale of revenge. A crime tale well told” Florida Times-Union

For more information on the Daniel Turner series visit our website.


Behind the Book – Kitty Karlyle Series by Marie Celine

9780727886477When you are a novelist and musician and your vice is not drugs or alcohol but rescuing stray animals, you have to learn to stretch a dollar. And that’s what I am and that’s what I did. I was living in Los Angeles where I would often find injured animals such as birds or turtles, which I would take to my vet or a local wildlife rehabber for treatment. If the animals could be returned to the wild, we released them when ready. If this was not possible, they were given homes – often this was my apartment. I also adopted a number of cats and dogs. At my peak, my apartment included seven cats, a Springer spaniel, a poodle and two turtles. Cats and dogs are not so hard but for the turtle I had to buy a kiddie wading pool and deposit it in my living room. Trust me, it made a lousy coffee table. Have you ever tried resting your coffee mug on a moving turtle?

So getting back to stretching a dollar… As you can imagine, that’s a lot of mouths to feed, not to mention my own: I also have an annoying addiction to three square meals a day. I’ve always been very much into health and nutrition also and watch carefully what I eat. I wasn’t about to feed my clan any worse than I fed myself. With all those hungry stomachs and the lack of a money tree outside the building, I had to get creative. I had to learn to make my own cat, dog and turtle food. I went to the library, I talked to my vet, and I scoured the internet to come up with tasty yet reasonably priced alternatives that I could attempt in my tiny apartment kitchen. I baked, boiled and fried up a storm, too. Sometimes that ended up being more a storm cloud, like the time I tried to invent my own turtle food – a somewhat dubious combination of freshwater algal growth from the Topanga Creek, worms, snails, gelatin, strawberries and lettuce. A white cloud, whose smell I can only liken to putrefying zombie flesh, sent me running from the apartment. My neighbors wouldn’t speak to me for months afterwards.

9780727885470Undeterred, I kept at it until I could feed both myself and my adopted family. Along the way, I also learned that there were actual people in LA whose job title was … drum roll – Gourmet Pet Chef! I was stunned. I was flabbergasted. Alas, I was also too poor to hire one. They worked mostly for the well-heeled, Beverly Hills type. But I realized that I could at least be one in a fictional world and, thus, the Kitty Karlyle gourmet pet chef mysteries were born with Dishing Up Death, in which readers meet Kitty as she starts her struggling business while dealing with the death of one of her first clients. In the follow-up, Lights Camera Murder!, Kitty finds herself the reluctant host of a new cooking show called ‘The Pampered Pet’ on CuisineTV. While shooting the pilot, the show’s producer is found in her office with a knife in her back – one of Kitty’s knives, to be exact. The list of suspects is long and time is short. Kitty needs to find the killer soon, or her own goose might be cooked.

Pet In Peril, the latest in the series, begins when a pet psychologist tells Kitty her dog and cat are suffering from lack of attention and recommends a pet-centric vacation. Kitty thinks the doc is barking up the wrong tree, but when her producer catches scent of it, he orders her to go. In fact, he orders the whole crew to pack their bags because he plans on shooting an episode of Kitty’s TV cooking show on location at the Little Switzerland Resort and Spa for pets.

Soon after Kitty and her best friend Fran arrive, tongues are wagging and fingers are pointing because ex-con, ex-late night infomercial guru, Victor Cornwall, is found strangled in his hotel room. The police start digging and discover that Fran’s family lost their life savings in one of Vic’s crooked money-making schemes – and Fran was the last one to see him alive. With the police now hounding Fran, Kitty has to get cooking and solve another murder.

Visit our website for more information on the Kitty Karlyle series.

Did You Know…why Hannah Point is considered one of the most fragile of all Antarctic tourist landing sites?

9780727886392Simon Beaufort’s new thriller, The Killing Ship, is published this month.  It tells the story of how a group of Antarctic scientists and their students – finishing a season at a remote field camp – come into conflict with several ships not only engaging in illegal whaling, but in even more insidious and dangerous activities.

As they flee across the icy terrain, they are pursued unrelentingly by ruthless killers whose true reasons for being in the Antarctic are darker and more dangerous than they can ever have imagined…

The story grew from the authors’ experiences at just such an Antarctic camp and from the Antarctic scientific and political communities’ struggles against a variety of illegal activities in the Antarctic.

Hannah Point is considered one of the most fragile of all Antarctic tourist landing sites. Once heaving with three (or occasionally four) breeds of penguins, hundreds of elephant seals, and many other kinds of species, its numbers have dropped dramatically during the past two decades. As a result, the organisation that oversees Antarctic tourism has limited the number of landings that can be made there.

Simon Beaufort is the pseudonym of a husband and wife writing team Beau Riffenberg and Liz Cruwys. Beau is a historian, specialising in the history of exploration, and has published a number of books on popular history. Liz Cruwys is a former police officer-turned marine biologist, specialising in environmental contamination in the polar regions. She also writes under the pseudonym Susanna Gregory.

Praise for The Killing Ship:

“The eight members of a scientific expedition run into trouble on Livingston Island off Antarctica in this engrossing thriller…Beaufort carefully crafts the personality of each team member, while the action-packed plot builds to a shocking crescendo.”  Publishers Weekly   

For further information about Simon Beaufort and The Killing Ship please visit our website here.

Behind the Book – J.R. Ripley’s Maggie Miller series

“Ripley’s appealing sequel to 2015’s Buried in Beignets …clever, amusing cozy.”             Publishers Weekly   

J.R.Ripley’s new Maggie Miller mystery, Beignets, Brides and Bodies is published this week.  Here, J.R. Ripley tells us what’s Behind the Book.

9780727886446The fictional town of Table Rock, Arizona used in the Maggie Miller mystery series is based loosely on Sedona, a town in northern Arizona. Sedona is well-known tourist destination. It is in the heart of an area named Red Rock Country and is a New Age Mecca and creative arts center. In addition to a long history of Native American culture and art, the unique beauty of the landscape continues to lure artists such as the famed Max Ernst, a key figure in the Dada and Surrealist movements, who lived and painted in the area in the 1940s.

I first visited Sedona during my college years and loved it so much I based a novel called Skulls Of Sedona, from an earlier series, in the locale. Rather than using Sedona for the Maggie Miller mysteries, I created Table Rock to allow me to create the perfect, or rather imperfect, world for Maggie, her family and the townspeople she will interact with. Folks in Table Rock tend to be a bit on the eccentric side, or maybe those are just the type of folks Maggie is naturally drawn to. These quirky and artistic residents provide a perfect backdrop for Maggie Miller and her family, somewhat quirky characters in their own right.

Like most beignet lovers, I discovered the sugar-covered fried dough treat on my first trip to New Orleans. It is pretty much impossible to miss the world famous French Market coffee stand called Café du Monde with its iconic green- and white-striped awnings. The café has been a part of New Orleans history since 1862. It is also pretty much impossible to miss the intense and alluringly sweet smell emanating from the Café du Monde’s kitchen. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and you’ll always find somebody waiting in line. Maggie discovered beignets on her honeymoon. Actually, it was her ex-husband’s dream to open a beignet shop and get out of the banking business. Now divorced and single, Maggie has decided to pursue the dream herself. Can she really earn a living selling coffee and beignets in Table Rock, Arizona? Probably not, but she’s going to have a lot of fun and stumble over a few dead bodies while trying.9780727885432

In the first book of the Maggie Miller mystery series, Buried In Beignets, Maggie has to deal with getting her fledgling business open for business and keeping herself alive with a killer on the loose. In book two, Beignets, Brides and Bodies, Maggie expects nothing but smooth sailing, but she is blown way off course when Clive, owner of The Hitching Post bridal shop next door, begs her for a favour. That favour leads to a dead body and a wedding cake. With the evidence stacking up against Clive and his partner, former professional ice skater Johnny Wolfe, it’s up to Maggie to dig through the layers of deceit and hem in the real killer. But she may have to skirt the law to do it . . .

See? I told you it would be fun.

Visit our website for more information on the Maggie Miller series.