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


Avalanche – a review

Kristina Stanley is one of my writing inspirations through her Stone Mountain mysteries. For the release of Avalanche in 2016, I ran her thoughts on ‘Writing A Series’ which encouraged me in writing my Welsh police procedural. Why I put off reading Avalanche until now is another mystery, especially as I rated the first two books as five stars each.

Anyway, that lapse is now corrected so here’s my review:

Avalanche Cover Final 

Avalanche (A Stone Mountain Mystery #3)

by Kristina Stanley (Goodreads Author)

On a cold winter morning, the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, and Kalin Thompson’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears. As Director of Security, Kalin would normally lead the investigation, but when her brother becomes the prime suspect, she is ordered to stay clear.

The police and the president of the resort turn their sights on Kalin, who risks everything to covertly attempt to clear Roy’s name. As threats against her escalate, she moves closer to uncovering the guilty party. Is Kalin’s faith in her brother justified? Or will the truth destroy her?

Editorial Reviews:

“A mountain as deadly as it is majestic; characters far too familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins and murder—Kristina Stanley’s Avalanche has it all. This fast-paced mystery is as thrilling as a heart-stopping run down the slopes.” —Gail Bowen, author of the Joanne Kilbourn Shreve mysteries

“Layer upon layer, like snow building for an avalanche, Stanley weaves a story that keeps you guessing. You can’t turn the pages fast enough.” —Jeff Buick, author of Bloodline

“Avalanche smashes and uproots relationships in Stone Mountain Resort, leaving devastation in its wake. With as many layers as winter’s snow, this whodunit will keep you turning pages and guessing to the end.” —James M. Jackson, author of the Seamus McCree Series (less)


Review – 5 stars

Although Kristina Stanley says at the end of the novel that she wrote Avalanche first, this became the third book in the series. Having read and enjoyed the first two Stone Mountain mysteries, I recommend them all and suggest reading them in order. Once again, Kalin Thompson is the main protagonist, but characters from previous books return and previous incidents are cleverly referred adding to the backstory.

From the fast-moving opening when Kalin’s brother, Roy, suspiciously disappears, the plot twists and turns with enough clues and suspects to keep the reader thinking to the end.

There are multiple suspects when the safe at Stone Mountain Resort is robbed, but with Ray as the prime suspect, Kalin must act covertly to clear his name. How she handles her discoveries and her torn feelings about her brother’s guilt drive the main thread of the novel.

The story is tightly plotted, well-structured and, as I noted down while reading, it’s ‘edge of my snowmobile tense’. There are various suspects when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police begin investigating from Ray to Kalin via other employees at Stone Mountain Resort. I kept wondering, ‘Who will be next?’, ‘Who is guilty of what?’ and ‘Who do you trust?’. Not only Kalin needed to be wary but others caught up in the events as the threat level escalated.

The suspects were gradually narrowed down, although there were enough remaining as the end drew near. Plus, the accusations against Kalin were ongoing, adding to the tension. Twists kept coming, leading to the final confrontation that I only half-guessed in advance. Key elements were cleverly foreshadowed.

The author’s characterisation is excellent in that everyone has something to distinguish them – even the lift-girl from New Zealand. The reader sees the other characters through Kalin’s eyes and through other characters’ viewpoint. The use of various POVs enhances the story and adds to the subplots, diversions and to the red herrings that I always enjoy in a mystery.

The resort offers an evocative setting and Kristina Stanley’s knowledge of that world rings true without creating unnecessary detail. From my time in Canada and my winters skiing on different hills, Stone Mountain Resort and the intrigues came alive for me.

Avalanche was a fast-paced and easy read, and, as I’ve come to expect from Kristina Stanley, and from Imajin Books, it’s well-edited. A definite recommendation if you want a pacey mystery. But read Descent and Blaze first for maximum enjoyment – not vital but best.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars


Donna Galanti and The Spooky Element Trilogy Blog Tour

I first encountered Donna Galanti when I read the first two books of her Element Trilogy and, after reviewing them here, I gave them five stars on Goodreads. Since then we have become online friends – and I’ve been awaiting Book 3 with anticipation. Now, here is your chance to learn more about Donna in her interview, and thanks to her publisher, Imajin Books, A Human Element is on sale on Kindle for $0.99 AND book 2, A Hidden Element, is FREE! 



Interview with Author Donna Galanti

Q: What’s inside the mind of a suspense author?

A: Never ending dialogue. Scenes of evil doers and people in peril. Tormented villains getting revenge, and then their comeuppance. Steamy lovers in a survival showdown. Yep, it’s generally dark in there full of murder, mystery, and mayhem! Then add a dash of hope and humanity alongside a love for creating psychopathic melee and you’ve got a brew for one wild ride.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: I look at each chapter as a short story in itself. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end – and I love ending my chapters on cliffhangers that raise a question and (hopefully) beg the reader to keep turning the pages. I also try to set the mood and provide a suspense setting that creates feelings of heightened anxiety and give the reader the portent of doom. The setting of a scene can make a large impact on its mood using sensory details to build on those feelings–a sudden wind, a stormy sky, a rising stench, a jarring noise.

Here’s an example of how I aimed for this in A Hidden Element:

She drew on her robe and looked out the tiny window. A fierce wind whipped the trees. Gray sky hung heavy like a blanket waiting to smother her. The promise of Indian summer had been snatched fast by winter calling. The weather was tormented here as well, conflicted over who it obeyed—and unable to escape its master’s bonds.

How does this scene make you feel? Tense, scared, or anxious that something bad is coming?

Q: A Hidden Element has paranormal elements to it involving mind control, mind reading, and telekinesis. Tell us what inspired you to write a novel about this.

A: I am fascinated by the power of the brain and how little we use. We are not even close to tapping our potential of brainpower. Writing in the paranormal allows me to tap into the “what if”. What if we possessed the power to do the unbelievable? Like telepathy, telekinesis. And what if we could use those powers to heal – or to kill? Some people like to imagine that aliens would have such power, as eluded to in A Hidden Element, but what if it was inside us all along and we just had to tap into it?

Q: What makes a good paranormal suspense novel?

A: As a subgenre of suspense, a well-crafted paranormal novel (for me) can include elements that range beyond scientific explanation and blend other genres together such as fantasy, horror, and science fiction. The fantastic thing about writing paranormal is that there are so many avenues of paranormal to write about including psychic powers (my favorite!) or ghosts, time travel, or vampires.

Q: How do you know when you’ve “made it” as an author?

A: My first made-it-moment is a private one. The death of my mother propelled me to finally write the novel I always wanted to write. I did it through grief without looking back. Writing The End was a private made-it-moment for me. Connected to this was the defining public made-it-moment when praising reviews started rolling in for my debut novel, A Human Element – and they were by unbiased strangers!

I continue to be amazed that people I don’t know like my book and have been as touched by my characters as I am. My mom drove my made-it-moment of writing the novel I always knew I had inside me to the made-it-moment of knowing I had written something that touched others. I hope I can do it again.

P.S. I’m also giving away a $25 Amazon gift card below!


Element Triliogy twitter2

About A Human Element:
One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next. Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite–her hometown. There, she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents’ death the night the meteorite struck. In a race to stop a madman, they unravel a frightening secret that binds them together. But the killer’s desire to destroy Laura face-to-face leads to a showdown that puts Laura and Ben’s emotional relationship and Laura’s pure spirit to the test. With the killer closing in, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his and she has two choices–redeem him or kill him.

Praise for A Human Element:
“A Human Element is an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart.  Highly recommended.” – Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author

Praise for A Hidden Element:
“Fascinating…a haunting story about just how far parents will go to protect, or destroy, their children in the name of love.”—Rebecca Cantrell, New York Times best-selling author

Purchase A Human Element here: On sale for just $0.99 10/27 – 11/2!

Purchase A Hidden Element here: On sale for FREE 10/27 – 10/31!

Donna Galanti Bio:
Donna Galanti is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna enjoys teaching at conferences on the writing craft and marketing and also presenting as a guest author at elementary and middle schools. Visit her at and She also loves building writer community. See how at

Connect with Donna:

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card:


Love Story, with Murders – a review

Having discovered the quirky and dark Welsh detective Fiona Griffiths in Talking to the Dead, I had to read Book 2 in this unique series. I didn’t regret it and Book 3 beckons. [For my review of Book 1 see: ]

Love Story

Love Story, With Murders (Fiona Griffiths #2)

by Harry Bingham (Goodreads Author)

The second novel featuring recovering psychotic DC Fiona Griffiths opens with as intriguing a pair of murders as you could imagine. Firstly, part of a human leg is discovered in a woman’s freezer, bagged up like a joint of pork. Other similarly gruesome discoveries follow throughout a cosy Cardiff suburb, with body parts turning up in kitchens, garages and potting sheds. And while the police are still literally putting the pieces together, concluding that they all belong to a teenage girl killed some ten years earlier, parts of another body suddenly start appearing, but this time discarded carelessly around the countryside clearly very shortly after the victim – a man – was killed.

Mysteries don’t come much more macabre or puzzling than this. Who were the two victims, and what connection could they have shared that would result in this bizarre double-discovery?

But that’s only half the story. The most gruesome moments are much more about Fiona and her curious mental state. There is a complex and very clever double mystery here, and what makes the story unique is the parallel unraveling of Fiona’s own mystery, and it’s her voice, established precisely in the first book but given even freer rein here, that makes it so compelling.

Review 5 stars

In this second novel in an engrossing series, DC Fiona Griffiths is once again challenged to apply her strange talents to solving a case or maybe it’s two cases. This DC is not like others and this is one of the winning formulas that Harry Bingham gives to the character.

With her personality traits being at times psychotic, the first person POV works as we discover more and more about Fiona’s past and about the cases. She has more than murder to handle and she needs to act off-piste to get things done and progress the cases. The violence, in the victim’s remains or the action, is not excessive or overtly gruesome, but some fans of the cosy approach might baulk at it. Fiona doesn’t, of course.

At this stage in her policing career, Fiona still has things to learn, often things she recognises and ignores at her cost – but what better way to keep the plot moving and the reader guessing. Her relationship with her fierce boss, DI Watkins, is unexpected and interesting – the secondary characters are all well portrayed, especially the DI. There are sub-plots surrounding some of them and these all add to the story.

Fiona’s attitudes are unusual but her flippancy and willingness to think her mind are what makes her unique – and believable. I wouldn’t want her to be ‘normal’ and boring – in fact, people aren’t when we get to know them properly as some of the characters prove over time.

The settings from Cardiff to the rural areas of South Wales are all vividly evoked, and through Fiona’s senses, so, we also discover more about her in the words she uses. Having lived in Wales – North Wales – there were descriptions that stirred memories – for instance:

“The valley narrows as it climbs. Pasture and snippets of woodland on the valley floor. Green fields pasted as high up the mountainsides as technology and climate can take them. The flanks of the hillside are grizzled with the rust-brown of bracken, humped with gorse and hawthorn, slashed with the rocky-white of mountain streams.”

Anybody that has negotiated Welsh roads will recognise the ones that Fiona needs to take on her rural investigation. Throughout, the settings felt realistic as did the way that the plot unfolded. Nothing is ever neat in a Fiona Griffiths case – nor in reality.

You never know what Fiona is going to do next, so the reader needs to keep going – and believing in her and the author. Fiona keeps the tension going with her decisions and actions. I was on the edge of my seat as I read, hoping that Fiona would survive – even if I knew there were sequels. That takes good writing to bring about.

I loved the Welsh attitude, even if not all Welsh people are as forthright as Fiona in saying, “Twll dîn pob Sais.” Later in the novel, she repeats this as a thought and translates -” Every Englishman an arsehole”.

After a stimulating ride for my head, I am ready for the next book, having recommended the first two without reservation – well, if you want a cosy mystery series look elsewhere. I want more of Fiona and her different approach to policing, to life – and I want to know what is at the heart of her behaviour, to discover more about her past.

Note that this was released in 2014, so, this comment from Fiona had me wondering if Harry Bingham was going to get tweeted by the US President;

“My newfound clarity allows me to look at the pole-dancing platform too. It’s got all the class of a Las Vegas casino personally styled by Donald Trump”

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars


UPDATE: This review had to be edited for Amazon, as it was rejected in this version. I wonder why. Where did I stray from their guidelines? I removed three paragraphs in the hope that might evade the censors – 1. the comment about Englishmen; 2 &3. The paragraphs about Trump. Was it the profanity or the reference to the Twitter Man?


Angela Wren on tour: Merle

After my review of Messandrierre, yesterday, I am pleased to be promoting Angela Wren’s second book in the Jacques Forêt series, Merle.

Merle banner (2)

Angela Wren

on tour

September 4-15, 2017

Merle cover



Release date: July 5, 2017
at Crooked Cat Publishing

208 pages

ISBN: 978-1546811985

Website | Goodreads


Jacques Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.
The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened.
When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it.
Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?



Merle Angela Wren

Angela Wren
I’m an actor and director at a small theatre
a few miles from where I live in Yorkshire in the UK.
I did work as a project and business change manager
– very pressured and very demanding –
but I managed to escape and now I write books.
I’ve always loved stories and story telling
so it seemed a natural progression, to me, to try my hand at writing.
My first published story was in an anthology,
which was put together by the magazine ‘Ireland’s Own’ and published in 2011.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work.
My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.
I also write comic flash-fiction
and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.
My full-length stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

Visit her website and her blog. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter


Buy the book on Amazon



Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open to all
5 winners



Merle banner


Oats, Hay and Rest




Bookmark design by Jonathan Temples. Photo by Nick Perry.


I’m back home at Writing Wings for this final hitching post on ‘The Spiral of Hooves Blog Tour’. After a journey that has taken me to France, the USA, England, and Canada, the mare that I borrowed from Carly Tanner is ready for her oats and hay, while I bring this celebration of my novel’s August launch to a fitting close.

First, I must thank my fellow writers and bloggers who did so much to help me – Ailsa Abraham, Donna Galanti, Jane Bwye, Kristina Stanley and Cryssa Bazos – you are all amazing, as are those people that have given their support in other ways from sharing their knowledge at events to sharing their reactions to my novel.

There are still chances to win one of the signed copies of Spiral of Hooves that I am offering prospective readers. Giveaways are running at the following blog hitching posts where more is revealed about the book and about me. There is nothing to stop you entering at each site:  (CLOSED – Winner: Sue Barnard)  (CLOSED – Winner: Laura Thomas)  (CLOSED – Winner: Jane Bwye)  (CLOSED – Winner: Kate Collier)  (CLOSED – Winner: Char Newcomb)

The last ‘hitching post’ is this one, so make a comment below, and you will be entered in the Writing Wings draw for Spiral of Hooves. This giveaway runs until August 31st to give you all more time.

But as they say in those TV promo ads – ‘that’s not all’. There is also a giveaway on Goodreads at and that runs until September 7th.

There is a bonus as every signed book has a bookmark in it. Do you think I should give away a signed bookmark to all you ‘hitching post’ responders? Let me know while I’m feeling generous.

Just in case you are new to this blog, here are the refined details about Spiral of Hooves, without the legal small print – there isn’t any that I recall.


In Canada, researcher Armand Sabatier witnesses what could be the murder of groom Odette Fedon, but traumatic images from his past smother his memory, and a snowstorm buries the evidence. Harassed by nightmares but fighting through them, Armand remembers the crime a few months later. By then he is in England, where he is dragged into a plot involving international sport horse breeding.

Suspecting everyone around him, Armand is forced to brave the past that he has kept buried. But what made Armand leave France? Where did he learn to survive and fight for justice? Why is the English rider Carly Tanner treading the same path as the first victim, Odette?

Can he save Carly before he has more blood on his hands?

What is Spiral of Hooves in brief?

An enthralling mystery full of twists, turns, and suspense, Spiral of Hooves is set against the competitive equestrian world of eventing. Characters are thrown together from different countries by their ambitions, ideals and desires, and by their passion for horses. Relationships are tested, and challenges surmounted as the mystery builds.

A thriller set in the high-stress, competitive environment of the horse riding life. Clarke mixes the excitement of the equestrian community with murder, romance, and friendships that are not what they seem. Clarke’s prose evokes vivid imagery, and the plot keeps you guessing. A thoroughly enjoyable read.” Kristina Stanley, Best-selling Author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series

Spiral of Hooves is available from Amazon on Kindle and for the first time in paperback

Although nobody in the novel resembles anyone in my working career, I have interviewed five of the characters here at Writing Wings if you want to meet them at I suspect that my devious mind wanted to challenge you when I chatted with them

Don’t forget to please make a comment below if you would like to be entered in the Giveaway for a signed copy of the Second Edition of Spiral of Hooves.

Let me know what you think about signed bookmarks.  

Are my characters as devious as me?


Bookmark design by Jonathan Temples. Photo by Nick Perry.