Death in Dulwich – a review

I must apologise for this belated review – my own detective work conspired against this getting written.


Death in Dulwich (London Murder Mystery #1)

by Alice Castle

Thirty-something single mum Beth Haldane is forced to become Dulwich’s answer to Miss Marple when she stumbles over a murder victim on her first day at work. To clear her name, Beth is plunged into a cozy mystery that’s a contemporary twist on Golden Age crime classics. But can she pull it off? She already has a bouncy young son, haughty cat, a fringe with a mind of its own and lots of bills to pay, as she struggles to keep up with the yummy mummies of SE21. Join Beth in #1 of the London Murder Mystery series, as she discovers the nastiest secrets can lurk in the nicest places.


Review 4.7 stars

The descriptive opening with its Dulwich setting and the centuries-old school swept me into a change of reading direction. I tend to read more hard-boiled mysteries, but when a cozy grabs my attention like Death in Dulwich, I am hooked.

Single-mum Beth Haldane did more than that. She’s both a determined and an amusing protagonist whose priority is her son. But stumbling over a murder victim on her first day at a new job adds to her impressive daily juggling. She realises that she is a prime suspect so delving into the secrets hiding in leafy SE21 is logical.

Except to the police who have their way of dealing with crime. I sensed that the Inspector will be making a re-appearance in Beth’s life when she is faced with her next case. As a writer of police procedurals, I questioned the authenticity of his actions – but only for a moment, and I want to know more.

Beth holds to her priorities – Homework must come before murder investigations and getting your son to school on time is vital. Even harder when you are surrounded by ‘the yummy mummies’ with aspirations for their little darlings.

Alice Castle paints a humorous picture of the upwardly-mobile world, yet she makes the subtle competitiveness work alongside. The characters all feel realistic, from the staff at Wyatt’s – I remember some from my private school days – to the suspects driven by…well, that would be spoiling the fun.

Let’s just say that suspects can get desperate, and there are red herrings plus direct challenges for Beth that test her resolve. Never underestimate a determined sleuth or a devious writer. Some of the structural twists fooled me as well.

This mystery that kept me grinning and thinking. Recommended for those that want a neat cozy read. I may not join Beth immediately for her next case, but The Girl in The Gallery is a Must Read.

4.7 stars upgraded to 5.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Authenticity – four stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars


#IWSG Mystery Love

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Today is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly blog post and a chance to promote the Fictionary Finish Your Novel Contest.

First, the IWSG post:

February 7 question – What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

Although I write in various genres – mystery, SF/speculative, fantasy, alternative history and even children – Mystery must be the one that I write in most often.

My debut was an equestrian mystery – Spiral of Hooves – so its sequels will be. My current series is a mystery/police procedural – Snowdon Shadows. Even draft novels in other genres have a strong mystery element.

Yes, I love a perplexing mystery and my mind enjoys devising the twists. When I read a good mystery, especially by a master like Agatha Christie, I try to outthink the ‘detective’ but usually fail. However, when I finish a great mystery novel, I like looking back to see how the story was crafted, for instance with the clues buried in the text at key points. Learning how to use red herrings, deceit, and well-timed distractions are something that I still need to take on board.

One of my favourite examples is Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd with its brilliant twist ending. How this was achieved is masterful and one reason why I keep writing and reading Mysteries. A modern favourite in a similar vein, and also a lesson in crafting a mystery, is Sally Quilford’s The Secret of Lakeham Abbey.

You can flick through my Book Reviews to see how many Mystery novels I read. What do you recommend? What genre do you read and/or write? And why?


The awesome co-hosts for the February 7 posting of the IWSG are Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! 

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG



I am currently using a brilliant tool for online editing my current WIP and I highly recommend it. Fictionary was developed for writers by writers and makes many of the tasks after writing an early draft much simpler.

If you sign up with Fictionary for a free 10-day trial by February 18th, 2018, you will be automatically entered for the contest to win a Grand Prize of a lifetime Fictionary subscription and a $1999 FriesenPress Publishing Path. There are also additional prizes – further details and sign-up at

I will be doing an assessment of Fictionary in the next day or so, looking at the various elements that I have been using – or intend to use.



Brass in Pocket – a review

Amid my factual research for my North Wales mysteries, I’m trying to read the few Wales-based crime novels that have been written in the last decade. However, the first fictional Welsh policeman that I encountered was Rhys Bowen’s Constable Evan Evans in Evan’s Gate the eighth in her series set in Wales. I need to read the other nine, having found this one on a market stall in Porthmadog, North Wales.

For the less-cosy and the grittier tales, I have turned to Harry Bingham’s Fiona Griffiths series and Stephen Puleston’s Inspector Drake series, the latter set in the familiar location of North Wales. Time to review Book 1 then.

Brass in Pocket (Inspector Drake #1)

by Stephen Puleston (Goodreads Author)

Two traffic officers are killed on an isolated mountain pass in North Wales. Inspector Drake is called to the scene and quickly discovers a message left by the killer – traffic cones in the shape of a No 4.

The killer starts sending the Wales Police Service lyrics from famous rock songs. Are they messages or is there some hidden meaning in them?

Does it all mean more killings are likely? When a politician is killed Drake has his answer. And then the killer sends more song lyrics. Now Drake has to face the possibility of more deaths but with numbers dominating the case Drake has to face his own rituals and obsessions.

Finally when the killer threatens Drake and his family he faces his greatest challenge in finding the killer before he strikes again.


Review 4.3 stars

From the moment that two traffic officers are killed on the Crimea Pass, I felt that I was back in Snowdonia and I was drawn in. The setting of North Wales was always the hook for me and it felt real. Having lived there for a few years, I know some of the places. I could visualise the locations, even when I hadn’t been everywhere mentioned. A seamless blend of the familiar with the unknown. I want to return to Puleston’s world even if I can’t return to Snowdonia.

It was hard to like Inspector Drake with his odd habits, like his obsession with tidiness and routines, but I felt drawn to his determination and his team’s dogged work to decipher the significance of the killer’s clues from numbers to song lyrics.

As the killings continued, I set myself the challenge of discovering the killer ahead of the police team. At one point, I believed that I was almost there, but the plot alluded me. The killer seemed to think the numbers and lyrics meant something – unless he was toying with us. There were moments where I wondered if everything was a red-herring. The press played a key role in that, and as an ex-journalist, I have seen what some of them can do.

I was interested in the ways that the novel’s police operated, knowing that the author was a retired lawyer so knew his facts. The details rang true in the telling. I realise that the UK police underwent changes in 2015 so that means Inspector Drake might be facing some frustrating times in future books.

As the threats got more personal in this first book, the life that Drake had created was thrown into the spotlight, including the fallout from his obsessions that kept distracting him from what was important. The characterisation of Drake felt, at times, repetitive but then that was what he had become. Those habits can grate, but he rang true. I had an OCD neighbour once and Drake fits those patterns.

However, the supporting characters never quite earned so much space. His Detective Sergeant, Caren Waits had some scenes in her POV, but they felt like side-tracks and I never felt that we got to know her enough – except through Drake’s viewpoint. As for the other characters, they all had distinct personalities but there were moments when I felt there were too many cast members – especially with multiple suspects and witnesses. Maybe that’s the problem when searching for a serial killer.

However, having a POV for the killer worked much better than the POV for Caren. Seeing the plot unfold from the mind of the ‘game-master’ worked as he drove the plot more than Drake at times.

This is a recommended read and I will be checking out Book #2.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – four stars

Structure – four stars

Readability – four stars

Editing – four stars




Season’s Greetings to all my followers and visitors – or should I say Nadolig Llawen.

May 2018 bring us all inspiration, great reading, good health, hope and peace.

Bad Moon Rising – a review

I’ve been sticking with the crime fiction for my reading, although my next review is of a darker offering. But I was engrossed once again, not least because the forensics in this was so well researched and described.


Bad Moon Rising (D.I. Paolo Storey #1)

by Frances di Plino (Goodreads Author)

*** SEMI-FINALIST in the KINDLE BOOK REVIEW 2012 competition ***

One more soul is safe.

Brought up believing sex is the devil’s work, a killer only finds release once he has saved his victims’ souls. Abiding by his vision, he marks them as his. A gift to guide his chosen ones on the rightful path to redemption.

Detective Inspector Paolo Storey is out to stop him, but Paolo has problems of his own. Hunting down the killer as the death toll rises, the lines soon blur between Paolo’s personal and professional lives.

For anyone that likes their crime fiction dark and gritty, then I recommend “Bad Moon Rising” by Frances di Plino. The killer is believably twisted by his religious calling, and his identity is cunningly hidden from Detective Inspector Paolo Storey, his colleagues and the reader.

Frances di Plino has crafted a memorable detective, complex and tragic like some of the finest flawed characters. When I finished the novel, I wanted to know more about him and where his life was going. I must read the next book in the series.

The depth of characterisation doesn’t end with the protagonist and antagonist. Even the minor characters are well portrayed, and stand out in their own right. There is also a strong sense of the complex workings of all aspects of the police, including forensics, but told believably.

The personal interactions weave around the investigation, especially with Paolo Storey, whose own attitudes often drive the action. This takes the story to another level, where all the elements are working seamlessly to create a relentless story…a dark tale that seeps into unexpected crannies.

The twist was unusual, but that is the sign of a clever author. Find a new angle and make it work. I’m intrigued what Someday Never Comes (D.I. Paolo Storey, #2)  will add to this excellent series opener.