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


A Hero’s Tale – a review

This is the third Book in the When Women Were Warriors fantasy trilogy and when I reviewed the second book, A Journey of the Heart, I had to read Book 3 at once. I wasn’t disappointed, although I must apologise for this belated review – life & health conspired against this getting written.


A Hero’s Tale (When Women Were Warriors #3)

by Catherine M. Wilson (Goodreads Author)

In Book II, Tamras moved from her home into the lands beyond its border. In Book three, the stage widens further: she deals with the struggles of whole peoples. Caught up in intrigues that would once have been far above her, the heroine risks everything unless she can not only learn to swim in treacherous waters, but to master them. The heroine ‘s inner journey continues to match her outer one. She must confront the meaning not only of personal love, but the love that extends beyond oneself and those we hold dear. Catherine Wilson ‘s skill at tackling the big issues of love, meaning, and humanity is so deft that it all seemed, to me at least, to flow naturally from her narrative in a way I found technically quite breathtaking. “–from a review by Charles Ferguson on the Goodreads website

“Being the third and last volume in a series I enjoyed immensely, I knew that I could expect this last book to deliver a happy and satisfying ending. What I didn’t t expect was the intricate and daring storyline of this last volume. It is bigger and broader than what has come before, and it is spectacular. this time the story unfolds on to a whole new level. More characters, more intrigue, greater losses, wonderful reunions. There ‘s no taking the easy road here the story opened up into unimagined dimensions to tell a tale that really is that of a hero.”

When Women Were Warriors manages to blend mythic storytelling with characters who feel so real you could imagine stepping into the pages and having a conversation with them. A Hero ‘s Tale skilfully weaves the questions of love, faith and fairness into a dramatic story; not only of a relationship between the main characters, but of a quest so much bigger it takes the breath away. There is everything you could wish for here power struggles, forces for good and evil, dramatic tests of faith, daring rescues, fatal rivalry, but it is managed with such a deft hand that in the end it is all one beautiful story. What else is there to say? This is not just lesbian fiction, but a story about being human. It ‘s not to be missed.–from a review by Kate Genet on the website, Kissed By Venus

In Book III of the trilogy, Tamras must make her own hero ‘s journey. She ventures into the unknown and encounters a more formidable enemy than any she has ever faced. Character is destiny, and the destiny of Tamras and all her people will depend upon choices that come less from the skills she has been taught than from the person she has become, from her own heart.


Review 5 stars

It has been a few weeks since I made the final stages of the heroic journey of Tamras but so much of this world ‘when women were warriors’ lives on. I am tempted to slip back into her vibrant world again as the characters and settings feel so rich, and the writing still weaves its spell over me.

This is the epic climax and the story grows in intensity as the events become more complex. Tamras faces new challenges that are a true test of everything that she has learned. The younger and less-experienced Tamras of Book 1 might well have failed, and even after progressing so much, she still stumbles. Yet, Tamras struggles on.

The character has grown to the point where she can stand alongside some formidable characters, sharing her brand of wisdom and still learning as unexpected events unfold. Some key motifs and threads come together in well-constructed echoes and actions that made me feel this tapestry was being woven together neatly. Wolves and mysteries were my thoughts, but I will say no more about that.

Yes, as with any epic saga, there are threads left to tease the reader, but no saga truly ends as life continues beyond ‘The End’. Without those, this reader would not be creating my own imaginings of where Tamras goes next. Do we want a ‘happily ever after’ ending?

The central element is again ‘Love’ in all its forms, true and perverted, uplifting and shattering, emotional and physical. We all need to learn who to embrace and when. The key is to follow your heart and the truth will be revealed.

All the evocative words and images are there again, all the rich and flawed characters, and some unexpected actions and decisions. All these make A Hero’s Tale another recommended read and the perfect end to the trilogy. Finally, I have the signed paperbacks to place in my bookshelf alongside my prized hardback copies of The Lord of the Rings.

When Women Were Warriors too will be regular re-reads over the years to come.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Diversity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five 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.



A Journey of the Heart – a review

This is the second Book in the When Women Were Warriors fantasy trilogy and when I reviewed the first book, The Warrior’s Path , I was excited to read Book 2. I wasn’t disappointed.

Journey of the Heart 

A Journey of the Heart (When Women Were Warriors #2)

by Catherine M. Wilson

A Journey of the Heart Book II] shows the same strong storytelling ability of the first book. The language is still almost musical and wraps its sweet spell around you. Storylines that were just starting to grow in the first book are also very well developed here. Intrigue and conflict are fleshed out and take some surprising twists. All that I had hoped for, reading the first book, begins to bloom. “–from a review by Kate Genet on the website, Kissed By Venus

“Catherine Wilson creates a magical sense of place, and of belonging to that place. Within that, she also tells how it feels to not belong. Ms Wilson ‘s is a tale of bone wisdom. It whispers of what we remember when we sleep at night and dream. It calls us to remember that women had, and still have, a wise and powerful place in the world.”–from a review on the blog, The Rainbow Reader, by Baxter Clare Trautman, author of The River Within

“In this book, we see Tamras world open from the House of Merin and its immediate environs into the lands beyond its borders. She meets other peoples, whose ways are different from those she knows. Similarly Tamras inner life expands as well: the feelings within her blossom into the romantic love that will be the linchpin her life will hinge on “–from a review by Charles Ferguson on the Goodreads website

In Book II of the trilogy, Tamras ‘s apprenticeship as a warrior isn’t turning out quite the way she expected. Her unconventional choices lead to her crossing swords, almost literally, with Vintel, the war leader of Merin ‘s house. She finds herself embroiled in a power struggle she is doomed to lose, but the loss sends her on a journey that will change her destiny and decide the fate of her people.


Review 5 stars

When Tamras continued her journey ‘when women were warriors’, I slipped back easily into her world again as the characters and settings were familiar from Book 1. As was the writing, which continued to weave its spell over me.

The rhythm that Catherine Wilson chooses continued to remind me of an oral storyteller. Once again, the beautiful poetic phrases kept me reading and held my attention throughout.

As events at Merin’s House and on the northern frontier unfold, Tamras faces crucial decisions and discovers her real friends – and the conflict with Merin’s war leader Vintel intensifies as does her relationship with Maara, the warrior that she is apprenticed to.

Love is the central theme to this book and the trilogy. Not just romantic love but the emotion that is special and deep, that ties people together and gives them life but also hurts. Love is explored in a multitude of ways – mother/child, siblings, woman/woman, warrior/apprentice, wife/husband, first loves. The writer helps the reader feel the intricacies of the emotions involved, never rushing the scenes where characters interact with dialogue, glances or caresses.

Although women are central to the tale and women hold the main warrior role, this is not a simplistic role reversal. Some reviewers, mainly fellow men sadly, have missed the fact that there are warriors at Merin’s House who are men. In modern society, women wanting to fight was frowned on until recently, to the extent that some disguised themselves as men. In contrast, this world-building portrays a more balanced society where such strict divisions are not present.

The reader experiences the battle emotions and reactions as Tamras has her first encounter with the raiding northern tribes. In most cases, the reactions are rooted in respect between fellow warriors and apprentices, and even between rivals.

However, this world is realistic with characters that have been slaves and that issue is gradually explored as the revelations paint a complex world and the war that created much of the backstory emerges into view. The reader discovers more about Merin and her fellow elders as well as her importance to Tamras.

Caring for others has many angles – and complications – as Tamras learns…with love playing its complex role. Once again, there are lessons at every growth point regardless of age and previous experiences. How does one wield that delicate position called ‘Power’ and what is the nature of that ability? The novel is filled with crucial questions for Tamras and the reader – challenges.

The characterisation continues to be rich and the central characters grow as events unfold. Some learn, and others just react, although motives are cleverly revealed – but not too soon. Tamras’s path got clearer but rockier as the mid-point of the trilogy was reached. From there onwards, lines are drawn as the inner and outer conflicts simmer. There will be a climactic clash but as in other great epics, that is being set up with physical and psychological skirmishes that test characters.

There is more great wisdom here, and there are ancient tales woven into the whole – fireside storytelling within a saga. Tamras, especially, told stories that she had learnt while growing up – tales that are told in the style of oral ‘tales of yore’. These add to the magic of the novel, and to the sense of an older world more in touch with its roots.

All the events and revelations set up Book 3 neatly, so A Hero’s Tale has moved top of my ‘Must Reads’ list. Although I’m reading the trilogy on Kindle, I have just ordered the paperbacks to place on my bookshelf alongside my prized copies of The Lord of the Rings.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Diversity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

For The Winner – a review

Strong women seem to be one of the threads running through my reading currently, not only because of my writing but also because I have been fascinated by heroic women for decades. Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings was one of the first in my teens, although Atalanta, the heroine of For The Winner captured my imagination when I read Greek myths from my childhood onwards.


For The Winner (Golden Apple Trilogy #2)

by Emily Hauser (Goodreads Author)

Some three thousand years ago, in a time before history, the warriors of Greece journeyed to the ends of the earth in the greatest expedition the world had ever seen.

One woman fought alongside them.

Abandoned at birth on the slopes of Mount Pelion, Atalanta is determined to prove her worth to the father who cast her aside. Having taught herself to hunt and fight, and disguised as a man, she wins a place on the greatest voyage of that heroic age: with Jason and his band of Argonauts in search of the legendary Golden Fleece.

And it is here, in the company of men who will go down in history as heroes, that Atalanta must battle against the odds – and the will of the gods – to take control of her destiny and change her life forever.

With her unrivalled knowledge and captivating storytelling, Emily Hauser brings alive an ancient world where the gods can transform a mortal’s life on a whim, where warriors carve out names that will echo down the ages . . . and where one woman fights to determine her own fate.

Review 5 stars

Emily Hauser’s second novel in the Golden Apple Trilogy, For the Winner, is a reimagining of the myth of Atalanta and the legend of Jason, the Argonauts and the search for the Golden Fleece.

The opening vividly portrays Atalanta being abandoned as a baby on the slopes of Mount Pelion, but she only discovers what happened when she is eighteen – although her father’s identity is not immediately revealed to her.

I knew some of the mythology but loved the way that Emily Hauser retold the tales and early on learnt to expect clever sidesteps. As with many myths, there are different versions and interpretations in the surviving tales so there was room to ‘reimagine’ and this novel is an excellent retelling.

Atalanta is a strong determined heroine from her opening scenes, an athletic warrior with rounded emotions. But she has vulnerabilities and insecurities that she needs to resolve over the course of the novel. In a world dominated by men, she must disguise her identity as a woman to prove herself more than a match. But she is tested at every turn of the adventure and learns quickly who to trust and who to beware of.

This main part of the novel is written in the First Person POV, so the reader gets drawn deeper into the character’s life and head. Having Atalanta tell her own story, without the male assumptions of the ancient tales, made the words stronger and more realistic. This was a motivated woman at every step of her epic journey,

As in many Greek myths, For The Winner shows the Gods and Goddesses on Mount Olympus, especially Zeus and his wife Hera, constantly plotting and trying to interfere in human affairs – not to mention sleeping around. Emily Hauser crafts humorous scenes, written in the Third Person POV, portraying them as petty and riven with human frailties – just as expected from what I knew. I was reminded of those Classical Greek writers that chose to portray the Gods in this manner and this thread kept me amused.

I was interested when this thread impacted on the main adventure, and a few times asked, “Where is Artemis when Atalanta needs her?” She prays to this huntress goddess and the answer would be a spoiler of sorts, so read this excellent book and find out if any immortals aid her.

The Ancient world of this Greek period comes alive in the writing and clearly, Emily Hauser has done extensive research. Her author’s notes at the end of the book provide valuable insights into the legends, the historical and archaeological evidence for them as well as identifying many of the places. She is an academic and classicist, but she resists overwhelming the reader and the novel is alive and rich.

For me, I knew that the legendary foot race was inevitable, and I loved the clever resolution to the ‘male plot flaw’ in the legend. It had me grinning, and I was fascinated to read in the author’s notes that this was a ‘starting point’ for reimagining Atalanta’s motivation. At last, the legends make sense.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars


The Warrior’s Path – a review

My reading to explore diversity and minority rights issues continues with The Warrior’s Path. This is the first Book in the When Women Were Warriors fantasy trilogy that I became aware of when I first embarked on this quest to move beyond the narrow taboos of modern society. However, this novel was in many ways different from the first read on this journey of enlightenment.

Warrior's Path

The Warrior’s Path (When Women Were Warriors #1)

by Catherine M. Wilson (Goodreads Author)

When she was a child, the author of When Women Were Warriors happily identified with all the male heroes she read about in stories that began, “Once upon a time, a young man went out to seek his fortune.” But she would have been delighted to discover even one story like that with a female protagonist. Since she never did find the story she was looking for all those years ago, she decided to write it.

In Book I of the trilogy, Tamras arrives in Merin’s house to begin her apprenticeship as a warrior, but her small stature causes many, including Tamras herself, to doubt that she will ever become a competent swordswoman. To make matters worse, the Lady Merin assigns her the position of companion, little more than a personal servant, to a woman who came to Merin’s house, seemingly out of nowhere, the previous winter, and this stranger wants nothing to do with Tamras.


Review 5 stars

When Tamras sets out on her journey to become a warrior, the evocative language makes it clear that this is a world of women warriors and her family is part of this tradition. However, the Path is not easy from the moment that Lady Merin assigns her to the position of companion to the introverted stranger, Maara whose past is a mystery.

The writing wove a spell akin to listening to a storyteller. Beautiful poetic phrases kept me reading. The opening flowed and wove me in like one of those fireside tales and held my attention throughout.

The tale is not rushed but Tamras has many things to learn at Lady Merin’s house and throughout there is always the feeling of things to come. We learn with her and yet Tamras already has the seeds of some wisdom in herself, but she must understand through situations and encounters. She grows as she discovers more about herself, about Maara, and about other characters – and they also grow.

This is a beautifully-rendered matriarchal society where the Mother is at the heart of the community. The whole mystical aspect of the Mother is portrayed in believable scenes filled with a deeply spiritual and sensual weaving that evoked in me images of shamanic journeys. The Mother relationship to the Child takes on a more profound meaning towards the closing scenes.

Realistic same-sex relations are the norm and they are the fabric that holds the society together – reminding me of the bonds forged by the male warriors of Sparta. The topic is treated as the norm, alongside the female-male relationships that many aspire to. This aspect was handled subtly as with many aspects of the telling. This is a rich and thriving community that is painted well – elements easing into place as the tale progresses.

The characterisation is rich and worth the steady pace as the seasons change. So many emotions are explored but not rammed at the reader. As winter drifts in then grips the world in its embrace, emotions and relationships are tested. The pace is raised as the tension mounts, but Catherine Wilson is never tempted to let frantic pace outstrip her crafted storytelling.

Words of great wisdom are crafted into the unfolding interactions – like some epic tales. Some characters show great insight, much of it gained with age and experience. Yet, other characters are shown as hasty in their actions and decisions. Spring brings new growth and change in any world so well-painted.

The inevitable conflicts sow seeds for later in the Book and in the trilogy. I was expecting frustrating loose ends, as in some other fantasy trilogies, but the closing scenes were warmly satisfying. The most pressing threads were tied up but more than enough simmered under the surface for Book 2. I came to rest in a comfortable place – one that reminded me of when I had finished The Fellowship of the Ring.

However, as with The Lord of the Rings, I couldn’t wait to buy Book 2 and Journey of the Heart has moved top of my ‘Must Reads’ list.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Diversity – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars