Adult Fiction, Uncategorized

The Museum of Cathy by Anna Stothard

The Museum of Cathy by Anna Stothard

Today I would like to throw back to a title published in 2016 by Salt Publishing. It was fantastic and even now, more than two years later I’m still thinking of it.

Museum of Cathy

This latest novel from the acclaimed author of the Orange-longlisted The Pink Hotel is an exploration of memories, consequence and the difficulties of living with the past. Cathy is a curator of natural history in Berlin. She is engaged, about to receive an award for her work and beginning to feel that she has finally escaped her past, a past that she keeps locked away within her own museum of curiosities. Yet on the day she is due to receive her award she receives a gift that tells her that a shadow that haunts her memories has resurfaced to claim back what he feels belongs to him.

I was completely swept away with this story. Stothard’s technique allows us to watch events unfold with regular insights into Cathy’s past that slowly reveal the reality of what she has been hiding from with a steadily rising sense of foreboding. I found the exploration of characters sensitively handled and yet provided enough suspense and contained a level of sinister tension that had me guessing just what each one may be capable of. This is exquisite, beautifully written prose and the use of the museum as a theme throughout with setting, a means of storytelling and metaphor, is quite brilliantly executed. It is personal, it is universal and it is something that lives within each of us and the memories we hold. Cathy’s story moved me and I so wanted her to find the escape she desperately needed. Highly recommended.

And here’s the synopsis

From the author of the Orange Prize long-listed, The Pink Hotel Cathy is a young woman who escapes her feral childhood in a rundown chalet on the East coast of England to become a curator of natural history in Berlin. Although seemingly liberated from her destructive past, she commemorates her most significant memories and love affairs – one savage, one innocent, one full of potential – in a collection of objects that form a bizarre museum of her life. When an old lover turns up at a masked party at Berlin’s natural history museum and events take a terrifying turn, Cathy must confront their shared secrets in order to protect her future. This is an exquisitely crafted, rare and original work.’

The Museum of Cathy was published by Salt Publishing in November 2016.

Find out more about author Anna Stothard by visiting her website here.

Find out more about Salt Publishing by visiting their website here.

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Books that adults should read, Children's Fiction

Amy Wilson – Snowglobe

51JmKswVCSL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Snowglobe by Amy Wilson

A shimmering , mesmerising gem of a novel, Snowglobe is absolutely stunning.

I do feel we are spoilt these days with a wonderful array of children’s authors and the imaginations they possess. Amy Wilson, author of A Girl Called Owl and A Far Away Magic returns with her third novel, Snowglobe. I was delighted to receive a proof copy back in the summer and I can honestly say that Amy’s writing, beautiful from the outset, continues to bring us the most wonderful stories. Snowglobe is a magical tale of a hidden house upon a hill, filled with snow globes, each a tiny prison protecting the world from those who have magic in them. Yet should everything we don’t quite understand be made small and locked away?

This is a story about accepting the chaos that surrounds us and that it all works together to create a world filled with magic and wonder.  We can’t always control what happens to us but we can make a difference by being ourselves and showing courage even in the darkest of times.  It’s a story about accepting past mistakes and rather than hiding away, embracing what we have learnt from them so that we can move on and become the very best version of ourselves.   Snowglobe shows us that when times are tough, we should not hide away but embrace the world and add our own precious magic to it.

I shared this novel with some of my young readers in the school Library asking should we have a copy for the school? Is it good enough to sit on our shelves? A resounding ‘yes’ I heard in response but of course I knew it would be. Every time I recommend an Amy Wilson book to a child who loves magic, mystery and adventure, they always return it with a smile saying ‘I loved it.’ What better recommendation can you get than that?

Synopsis:

When daydreamer Clementine discovers a mysterious house standing in the middle of town that was never there before, she is pulled towards it by the powerful sense of a mother she never knew. The place is full snow globes, swirling with stars and snow and each containing a trapped magician, watched over by Gan, the bitter keeper of the real world but who is now desperate for her help.

So Clement ventures into the snowglobes, rescuing Dylan and discovering her own powerful connection to the magic of these thousand worlds. Vowing to release the magicians from the control of their enchantments, Clem unknowingly unleashes a struggle for power that will not only put her family, but the future of magic itself in danger.

Snowglobe is published by Macmillan on the 18th of October 2018

Suitable for aged 9-11yrs+

 

Also by Amy Wilson…

A Far Away Magic by Amy Wilson

Beautifully written, filled with magic, love and grief, this is a powerful novel with wonderful characters

– I was left feeling a little of the magic had stayed behind with me.

9781509837755.jpgHaunting prose that feeds the magical story as monsters are battled, fears are faced and grief is overcome. There is something quite beautiful in Bavar and Angel’s relationship. A special connection that makes them gentler, braver and more compassionate.

Angel doesn’t fit. Not in her new school or in her foster home in the vanilla house with nice Mary. The day her parents died was the day everything changed for her. A burglary gone wrong they said but Angel knows different. Angel knows that monsters really exist but when they don’t believe her she tries to forget the memories that haunt her dreams…that is until she meets Bavar.

He too is different except that he doesn’t draw attention to himself and seems to shrink back into the shadows even though he is seven feet tall. But Angel can see him, and she sees the magic that surrounds him. The two are drawn together by their differences, by the way they stand out and by the sadness that surrounds them. Soon they discover that they have an even deeper connection and Angel believes she’s found a way to stop the monsters but she needs Bavar’s help. He’s reluctant but if there is one thing she’s sure of it’s that she wants to stop the monsters once and for all and make sure that no one else suffers the loss she has.

Bavar, sees the light in Angel, in his world of shadows and darkness she is sunshine and starlight and his need to protect her draws him into her plan to fight the monsters. But are two young teens enough to defeat the Raksasa, the strange, winged creatures you’d only expect to find in a nightmare. Everyday they are growing stronger and it’s only a matter of time until before they break through the gate and kill again.

Beautifully written, filled with magic, love and grief, this is a powerful novel with wonderful characters – I was left feeling a little of the magic had stayed behind with me.

Synopsis:

‘A Far Away Magic’ is the second stunning novel full of magic and friendship from Amy Wilson, author of ‘A Girl Called Owl’.

When Angel moves to a new school after the death of her parents, she isn’t interested in making friends. Until she meets Bavar – a strange boy, tall, awkward and desperate to remain unseen, but who seems to have a kind of magic about him. Everyone and everything within Bavar’s enchanted house is urging him to step up and protect the world from a magical rift through which monsters are travelling, the same monsters that killed Angel’s parents. But Bavar doesn’t want to follow the path that’s been chosen for him – he wants to be normal; to disappear. Fighting one another as well as their fears, Angel and Bavar must find a way to repair the rift between the worlds, and themselves, before it’s too late . . .

Suitable for aged 9-11yrs+

Discover more about Amy Wilson here.

Published by Pan Macmillan

Published on 25th January 2018


Blog Tour, Fiction, Folk Tales, Ghost Stories, Review, Short Stories

Help the Witch by Tom Cox

There is a line where mist becomes fog and during the early days of December it is crossed.  But it’s not during fog that what has been growing in the river breaks the surface and takes a look around.  It’s on a clear night after a frosty day where sheer cold has made resilient leaves surrender and quiver to the ground.

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the first fictional offering from writer, Tom Cox.  I’ve been a follower of Tom on social media on both Facebook and Twitter for some time now and have very much enjoyed his cat related musings and following his highs and lows over the years. I am very much a cat (and general animal) lover and so have been drawn to the sensitivity and connection that he quite clearly has towards them.  He is a person who appears to feel things deeply; sensitive, enquiring and  what I would call an ‘old soul’.  Therefore I was incredibly excited to hear about his latest project of a selection of short stories.  Ghost stories.  So I am delighted to have been invited to take part in this blog tour celebrating this fantastic book and also to be able to put some questions to the author.

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1-1Help the Witch is a beautifully presented selection of short stories with a ghostly, other worldly theme.  Storytelling has been prevalent since before man could read and write.  Tales told orally would be passed down from generation to generation as a means to educate, inspire and entertain.  Of course now there are many means of telling a story.  Tom has delighted us for years with his writing through a variety of mediums including books, journalism and his website ,where he states ‘since 2015 I’ve written many many thousands of words about about nature, folklore, music, books, landscape, family, social history, films and more’.  I love reading his work and he has a wonderful gift of putting words together to create something rather magical.  Help the Witch is his first book of fictional stories and I asked him what inspired him to write this particular selection of short stories.

‘Walking and what I find while I do it has always been a big inspiration for me – particularly during my latest non-fiction book, 21st Century Yokel, and – in a more wintry, haunting sense – ‘Help The Witch’. Derelict buildings. Old clothes left on fence posts, creating an inadvertent figure who, upon being approached from the other side might potentially have a gnashing nightmare face. Copses and spinneys that retain and trap events from the distant past. What you have in ‘Help The Witch’ are some remnant echoes of the folk horror novels I tried and failed to write in my late 20s and early 30s – hopefully in more coherent, less overreaching form. It’s all really the result of a burning ambition to write spooky stories that I’ve had since I was seven years old, but tempered with scepticism, questions, a reverence for nature as the true magic and religion, and executed in a manner more minimalist than it might once have been, allowing some spaces for the reader to choose their own adventure.’

So now I ask you reader, do you believe in ghosts?  Some people are sceptical, after all  we now live in a world where our thirst for knowledge can’t be quenched.  In the past 100 years science has moved on in an alarming rate and yet there are still so many questions that remain unanswered.  To some, if we can’t explain it then it simply can’t be real.  Yet constantly we seem drawn to tales that go straight to the heart of these unanswerable questions, perhaps because they spark curiosity and fear.  It is natural to fear the unexplained.  Tom has a wise voice,  an old soul, who, although a self-confessed ‘near sceptic’, questions the world around him and looks beneath the layers of what surrounds us.  I asked him what it is that fascinates him about ghost stories.

‘Apart from the basic thing that makes so many people fascinated by ghosts – a slightly inward looking question about what we are and where all our energy goes when we’re no longer alive – I’m interested in the idea of buildings, and other spaces, that absorb events and seem to hold them. I am interested in the intangible magic that age gradually begins to add to some objects. What is also interesting when you’re writing ghost stories and tell people that is that nearly everyone has a story to share from their life, even if they are a total sceptic: an incident, often nocturnal, with no rational scientific explanation. I’m not a total sceptic, and I’ve got a few of these incidents too, although I don’t think I can honestly state that I have seen a ghost in any traditionally recognised sense. Most of all, I think, as I get older, I am more and more fascinated – happy to get totally lost in – history, and I think if you’re fascinated by that, it’s hard not to be fascinated by ghosts in some form.’

Personally I do believe in ghosts.  I believe that we each carry an energy and that events and situations leave an imprint on the places we have been.  I too have never knowingly seen a ghost but I often sense something that has been left behind.  This is one of the things I found interesting about the stories in Help the Witch, they aren’t simply your traditional creaking doorways and things seen out of the corner of your eye.  The stories are almost subtle, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions.

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…also visually stunning, the illustrations sit perfectly alongside the stories.  Even those have left a ghostly shadow on the opposite page, something that only adds to the overall ethereal feeling that accompanies the book.

I enjoyed the sheer variety of stories that fill the book.  No two where the same and I found each and every one enticing. It feels like a collection of tales developed over time, handed down through generations.  I can imagine them being read aloud around a camp fire as the sounds of nature surround you, along with the deep, silent dark.

My favourite story is from where the title of the collection is taken, ‘Help the Witch‘. It was to my mind the spookiest, or perhaps just a little more obviously spooky than the others.  It’s tone and style of narration put me in mind of Emily Bronte as I read.  Tom creates atmosphere and a sense of place wonderfully.  He entwines history through the tale, gradually bringing the ghosts alive.  I have recently read an article by Tom called ‘the ghosts of the mountain house’ which talks about his (rather brave) plan of method-writing when working on the book, ‘to retreat to a spooky place to put it together.’  I must say it certainly worked, and reading about his stay at a desolate farmhouse in the Peak District makes the story even more spine-tingling.

Each writer is as unique as their stories and I always find the writing process fascinating.  I asked Tom to tell me a little of his methods such as if he keeps a writer’s notebook or journal.

‘I wish I’d kept journals when I was younger. I try not to have regrets in life, but that might be one. I started keeping them in earnest about a decade ago, when I was already 32. It would be interesting, just for my own entertainment, to look back on an earlier period in my life in print. Far more interesting than reading record reviews I wrote for newspapers in my early 20s, I’m sure. I had my bag stolen in August, containing a year’s worth of thoughts towards future books. It still hurts, although I don’t think it was my best or fullest journal. I write down weird things that have happened to me or people I’ve met: sometimes incredibly mundane, but weird. Sometimes the very act of writing them helps you remember them and you don’t even need to refer back to them.’

So what happens when the time comes to sit down and write?  How does your first draft come? Handwritten or typed?

Typed. I’ve becoming better at pushing through and writing a load of text in longhand but ultimately I’m part of the first generation of people whose customary way to write is using a computer: I’m accustomed to the luxury it gives you of fiddling with text as you go along.’

Do you have a writing routine or do you just write as and when?

‘My ideal routine is to start between six and seven am, and write all the way through
to late lunchtime. Then maybe go for a walk in the afternoon, or do some editing or
admin. These best laid plans happen too seldom though, and in reality my schedule
is far more chaotic. One thing that stays a stone fact is that I never write anything
very great between 1pm and 4pm. If someone tells you they wrote something great
between 1pm and 4pm, they’re lying.’

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One of the things that initially drew me to Tom was his love for cats and his ability to look at the world through their eyes with humour, love and compassion.  My own cat, Mr Perry, features heavily on my personal instagram account and I am always fascinated how these creatures who share our lives become such an important part of them.  There is a feline presence in the title story ‘Help The Witch’ and so I was curious how much of an influence Tom’s cats had on his fictional stories too.

‘I was writing non-fiction and journalism for years without cats being a known theme of my writing life, but they bullied their way into my writing quite often. So I relented and
gave them the floor for four books, while also using that as a way to write about lots
of other themes. They were like Trojan cats. People saw them on book covers, and
didn’t realise they were a way to smuggle in stories about family, the countryside,
landscape, other animals, plus a bit of light DIY philosophy. I think they’ll always be
popping in, whatever I write, although they’re probably not as dominant as people
who haven’t read my books often assume. I’m a creatively stubborn person, but
hopefully not needlessly stubborn, and this book has a strong witchy undercurrent.
Not letting a few cats have cameo roles to add to that undercurrent would have been
needlessly stubborn.’

Help the Witch is a great collection of stories and one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading and writing about. It’s also visually stunning and the illustrations sit perfectly alongside the stories.  Even those have left a ghostly shadow on the opposite page, something that only adds to the overall ethereal feeling that accompanies the book. It is only right that I hand the last few words of this piece over to Tom to answer the question, will you be writing more fictional tales?

‘Absolutely. That has always been part of the plan. I’d always assumed that when I finally published some fiction I’d do nothing but that forever. But I don’t quite feel like that now. I get a lot of pleasure out of fiction and non-fiction. I hope to write much more of both. That said, since finishing Help The Witch, so many more eerie stories have been knocking on the door – often in the early hours – and I can only oblige and let them in.’

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Help the Witch is published on the 18th of October 2018 by Unbound and is available to order from all good bookshops (find your local independent here),  Amazon ,Watersones to name but a few,

Tom has a completely fabulous and fascinating website so do pop along for a look here.

Thank you to Anne Carter of Random Things Tours and Tom for sending me this wonderful book.

 

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime

Blog Tour – Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen

Fargo meets Baywatch in a darkly funny thriller by the critically acclaimed author of The Man Who Died

Sex, lies and ill-fitting swimwear… Sun Protection Factor 100

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen. It was a bestselling Finnish crime novel of 2017 and it’s not difficult to see why. Sharp and darkly funny this is a gripping thriller and I loved it.

Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen

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Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village – the ‘hottest beach in Finland’. the suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her hometown. The mission:find out what happened, by any means necessary. With a nod to Fargo, and the darkest noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a wicked black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams and people struggling at turning points in their lives… from the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’.

Olivia Koski arrives home to find her kitchen in one hell of a mess and a dead man lying on the floor. She immediately calls the police and pretty soon is their number one suspect. They think perhaps she arranged to have her boyfriend ‘dealt with’ but in reality she had never set eyes on the man before in her life. Jan Nyman is sent undercover to try to get to the bottom of things. Thorough, tough and determined to get the information he needs, Jan doesn’t hold back when it comes to cracking the case.

This is a super novel; dark, sassy, sharp and oh so funny. The characters are a mixed bunch but all equally readable. From the inept duo trying to scare Olivia into selling her home to the cold dark psychopath who sent real chills up my spine they all kept me reading. Antti does characterisation really well.

The translation by David Jackson is fantastic and I can imagine that Antti will be delighted to have worked with such a skilful translator. Of course I would expect nothing less from the team at Orenda Books, they are one of the best publishers of adult crime around and as always have brought us another incredible author. I can’t wait to read more of his work.

About the Author

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Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. Two years later, in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards.

Thank you so much to Anne Carter and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for sending me the review copy. I truly loved it and will be recommending it to all who like something rather dark and rather funny.

Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

I won a giveaway! – The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

This week our lovely postman delivered something rather special.  A beautiful, signed copy of The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw.  Shea sent it to me all the way from America after pulling my name out of the hat on a giveaway she ran on Twitter.  I’m absolutely thrilled to give this beautiful edition a home and look forward to reading it again very soon.  It was also rather exciting to here that this spine-tingling story is going to be adapted into a movie!  Can. not. wait.

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The jacket is illustrated with silver foil that flickers with stunning colours as the light catches it.
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Three beautifully illustrated limited edition bookmarks were also included in my prize.
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Underneath the dust jacket sits a stunning hardback cover.
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Signed by the author herself, this will be a wonderful keepsake.

So this is a beautiful book but what about the story within… well that’s rather fabulous too.  Here is my review posted earlier this year.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

A haunting tale of three sisters on a quest for revenge…

Two centuries ago, in small, isolated Sparrow, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery and drowned in the waters surrounding the town. Now, each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three girls and seeking revenge by dragging boys to their watery deaths.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the town’s fate. Then, on the eve of the sisters’ return, Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into or the fact that his arrival will change everything…

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

Wowser, I loved this beguiling story full of witchcraft and revenge. Even the cover tempts you to pick it up with smatterings of foil that catch the light, making the book shimmer. It is beautifully designed. This isn’t a book that languishes in a tbr pile, it’s one that calls to you until you pick it up and then entrances you, pulling you in deeper and deeper until you reach the stunning end. Such is the magic of the Swan sisters and their sinister tale.

Ernshaw spins this tale with expert ease. Spanning two hundred years, the Swan sisters story is one that has had a hold on the people of Sparrow, a town cursed by its treatment of the three sisters, outsiders, who were said to bewitch the men with their beauty and the perfumes they concocted. Every year since, they have returned to seek their revenge. As the deadly Swan Season approaches, visitors swarm to the town and the teenagers prepare for the annual beach party that welcomes in the sinister season.  As the Swan sisters song begins, a sense of foreboding sweeps over the town as they wait for the eerie silence that can only mean the sisters have returned, and the hunt for their first victim begins.

This story swept me away and I loved inhibiting the town of Sparrow (from a safe distance). Full of atmosphere, magic and intrigue, I was sad to finish the novel.  I shall very much look forward but to revisiting The Wicked Deep so I can look for all the clues that brought me to the remarkable ending.

Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous! Oh and did I mention that it has a shimmery cover?

You can find Shea on Twitter: @SheaErnshaw

 

 

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Debut, Fiction

Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary – Blog Tour

This evening I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary.

A quiet life for Aubrey?

After spending several months banged up in Sunny Banks rescue centre, Aubrey, a large tabby cat, has finally found his forever home with Molly and Jeremy Goodman, and life is looking good.

However, all that changes when a serial killer begins to target elderly victims in the neighbourhood.

Aubrey wasn’t particularly upset by the death of some of the previous victims, including Miss Jenkins whom Aubrey recalls as a vinegar-lipped bitch of an old woman who enjoyed throwing stones at cats, but Mr Telling was different.

Mr Telling was a mate…

A murder mystery like no other. I was intrigued when I first read the synopsis. The main protagonist is a cat. How fabulous is that!? Refreshing, funny and a super read. I really enjoyed Street Cat Blues.

Okay I admit I am both a lover of both cats and crime novels and so I didn’t take much convincing but it was actually a great story. I loved Alison’s take on cat life; from the turf wars, waiting for food and tickles, to surviving ‘Sunny Banks’ rescue centre. I loved sharing time with Aubrey. Quite often he went unnoticed and gave us a completely new insight into the mystery.

Aubrey is a tom cat who is familiar with tragedy. After a sad, unsettled start to life he eventually ends up living a comfortable quiet life with Jeremy and Mollie. A quiet life that suddenly comes to an end with the murder of Mr Telling. This wasn’t the first murder in the area but for Aubrey it was a step too far. He liked Mr Telling.

A cat is a curious creature that can slip unnoticed into the most difficult of situations and Aubrey makes the purrfect cat detective as he works to get to the bottom of who is behind the growing number of murders. But there is more going on in this mystery than even Aubrey realises and it’s not long before the danger is very real.

A fantastic, feline-led murder mystery that was an absolute delight to read.

Thoroughly recommended for those who like a gentle murder mystery with an unusual detective leading the way.

About the author…

Alison was born in London and spent her teenaged years in Hertfordshire. She has also lived in Somerset and Gloucestershire. After studying Law she decided to teach rather than go into practice and for many years taught Criminal Law to adults and young people. Since moving to the south coast, Alison has been involved in qualification and assessment development for major awarding bodies.

When not writing, she enjoys crosswords, walking by the sea and playing Scrabble on her iPad – which she always sets to beginner level because, hey, why take chances? Alison lives with her husband John and cat Archie.

Street Cat Blues is published by Crooked Cat Books.