Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield


Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield


On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames, the regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open and in steps an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a child.

Hours later, the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

And who does the little girl belong to?

An exquisitely crafted multi-layered mystery brimming with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.

 My Review:

Finally got to write a review for one of my favourite books of 2019. From the author of The Thirteenth Tale comes a story based straight from the River Thames. Once a Upon River (Black Swan) by Diane Setterfield is tale based of folklore and suspense.


The story is based along the river at Radcot, Oxfordshire and there stands The Swan an old in. Here the locals partake in the favourite drinks but that is not all as tales are told here but it is on one of those evenings that the tales abruptly ceased when the door burst open and a man stubbles in and he carrying a young girl. The man passes out and it becomes clear the girl he was carrying in his arms is deceased.

Present in the inn is a midwife who examines the body of the deceased girl and at this point something miraculous happens. The girl who was clearly dead wakes and soon after the man regains consciousness and tells how he found the body of the girl floating in the Thames. But who is the girl and where does she come from. The girl now back from the dead never speaks.

Soon the story of the dead girl coming back to life spreads across the local area. Hearing the news more than one family come forward to claim her as their own. Now the mystery of the girl really begins who is she and just who is her rightful parents?

I have left my review of One Upon a River to very late in the year as this is pretty much close to being my book of 2019. It has just about everything the characters really stand out here and Diane Setterfield is a master of storytelling and you become totally absorbed in the detail and storytelling. The idea of locals gathering to tell stories over a pint on a dark evening and you can almost see yourself sitting there listening. A story of the Thames as a river and the people who live and work the river and the stories it gives up. If you have not yet read Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield and looking for a book to read over the Christmas holidays, then this is one book I happily recommend.

544 Pages.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield was published by Black Swan and was published in Paperback on 29th August 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Blackout by Marc Elsberg


Blackout by Marc Elsberg

In our busy lives it is so very easy to take everything we have at our fingertips for granted, such as electricity. We have all experienced those times when the power has gone down but soon it comes back up and life goes on. Just stop and think for a moment. Now just imagine the whole of Europe’s power supply being taken down, not by a fault or a storm but something much worse. German writer Marc Elsberg has penned the ultimate nightmare scenario thriller. In Blackout you have the realistic plot that will have you rooted to your chair to the very end.


A lot of major businesses have what they call disaster plans for an eventuality that may occur but at the time of writing this review the news feed is full of news of state sponsored or terrorist cyber-crime of trying to hack into power grids and worse, this is actually more frightening than you think when you scratch the surface and just see what could be achieved if successful. Everything we take for granted would go down in a heartbeat. Then what?

Maybe we are all guilty of taking our power supply for granted knowing that if there was a problem it would be resolved as quickly as they could. In Blackout Marc Elsberg goes to great lengths and tells us just how sophisticated these criminals are and just how easily it is to take down entire systems including Nuclear Power Plants and just imagine what would happen after, panic would ensue and chaos would follow. On a Europe wide scale this is a terrifying prospect that must worry leaders across Europe. Here in this gripping novel this is exactly what happens and how the life we take for granted just grinds to a halt. Who is behind this and what is they want? This is a conspiracy thriller that will keep you palms of hands sweating until the exciting finale. During the blackout a whole series of related events start, clean water becomes hard to find, people are freezing in the cold winters due to lack of heating day by day normal society is breaking down.

There are a lot of key characters here and as panic gains a foothold governments try their best to cover up what is really going on, meanwhile fingers are now being pointed on a country by country basis believing that this could be orchestrated by one country. Is this a lone hacker though, with one leading character Piero Manzano being blamed as part of the conspiracy theory, but is he part of this though despite his past as a leading hacker? Time is running out and panic is spreading and humans being humans in times like this think of survival at any cost. Meanwhile governments are doing everything they can to hide the truth from the public. But the longer it goes on the more the people start to fear the worst.

I really liked the way that Elsberg broke the chapters down into short character led chapters, as you begin to bring the story together and the plot thickens and the blackout spreads far and wide, can the real hackers be stopped. The whole story is worrying from the perspective of how interconnected Europe is as far as power is concerned. The author also goes into detail of how life starts to break down and how we are all vulnerable we are to health and security breaking down quickly.

Blackout is a well thought out novel that will have the reader gripped chapter by chapter and at the same time raises a number of questions on just how secure are our power supplies from cyber-attack.

The Blackout Official Blog Tour




The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley


The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley


The Last Word Review


The crime classic that packs a drunken punch on every page. An all-time classic.

 When a crime novel starts with the following opening line: “When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.” You know that this is a no holds barred cult crime classic and since it was first published in 1978 this opening gambit still stands the test of time as far crime classics go.

C.W. Sughrue is a Montana based private investigator in who seems to spend most of his time as drunk as he could get to it, in fact drunk nearly all the time is a more accurate perception.

The story is that Sughrue is hired by a woman to find her ex-husband, the wandering alcoholic Abraham Trahearne who is a writer and she believes is hell bent on killing himself with booze. Sughrue then spends weeks tracking Trahearne in every bar most of which seem to fall into the category of dives and hell holes. Sooner or later he was bound to catch up with his quarry and sure enough he does and what follows is pure classic crime writing fiction, a hell of bar fight takes place involving a number of the clientele and including the drunken Bulldog. Trahearne is hurt in the bar-room brawl and is hospitalised.

Following the fight, the owner of the bar then requests the help of Sughrue to help locate her daughter who is missing San Francisco and has been for many years. How they disappeared really is interesting. It then transpires that Sughrue and Trahearne both end up looking for the girl.

The way that Crumley has written the story very much in the first person but also at times he will lure you into his head to read his mind and you become part of the story as you try and solve the mystery surrounding the missing girl. This is pure classic crime noir.

There is plenty sex in the story line as well as alcohol infused profanity. The old premise that you can run but you can’t hide really starts to come out as part of the story looks at identity and looking at and dealing with your past.

The Last Good Kiss has been really influential since its first release and helped launch some of the great crime writers of the last thirty years. Even though it was first released in 1978 it will have a new readers flocking to Crumley’s writing. If you have not read this before and you enjoy a raw crime novel this is a must read.

Thank you to Naomi Mantin for an advanced review copy.

The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley released through Black Swan and available through Waterstones and all good book shops.

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans



PB Cover

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans


Review Date: 10 December 2015

Author: Lisa Evans

Release Date: (PB) 31 December 2015

Publishers: Black Swan

ISBN –10: 0552774782

ISBN – 13: 978-0552774789


Available in Hardback, Paperback, Kindle and audio


The Last Word Review

The perfect book to read over Christmas. It’s wonderful, it’s funny, and it’s dark. You will laugh and cry a book to savour

I have to be truly honest here and say that I really enjoyed Crooked Heart without doubt one of THE books of 2015. I am so very grateful to be given the opportunity by Alison Barrow at Transworld Books for a review copy ahead of the paperback launch on 31st December. The hardback edition is still available and I urge you to rush out and get hold of this beautiful book before Christmas sets in and then over the holidays curl up and I know you will fall completely for Crooked Heart like I and many before me have. It will be one of those books that you will be more than happy to revisit in time and still hold dear as if it was the first time.

Having never read one of Lissa Evan’s previous books and no real excuse from my part just put this down to having too many books to read and review I was just so pleased that finally I have had the chance.

Crooked Heart is set in London during the first few years of World War II and can be described as gritty and down-to-earth. But set among the story is a comedy that shines through and Evans really has caught the moment in history just right.

Here we find Noel Bostock a ten-year-old boy who has been brought up since the age of four by his godmother Mattie, now the story of Mattie is that she was a suffragette so you can imagine what a ten- year-old boy has been taught. The entire storyline is so beautifully put together and clever as we see the story through the eyes of the 10 year-old. There is plenty of comedy throughout and the story races along.

After the death of his godmother Noel is evacuated via his aunt and uncle to live in St Albans, and there his new home is with Vee a widow and her 19-year-old son Donald who is a somewhat lazy. Vee spends her day writing letters to the Prime Minister Winston Churchill which are a delight to read and somewhat whimsical. Vee has little money to live and is in constant debt and they are basically living hand to mouth at the best of times. Now Vee has set her sights on Noel as a source of income and so her latest scam is set in motion. So while the blitz is going on around them they set about their new source of income with no regard for the law.

The scenes of London during the war years and especially the blitz are recreated by Evans and you can feel the tension rise from the pages during the raids as people try to cope the death and destruction all around as the bombs rained down on Vee and Noel.

I totally enjoyed both the lead characters of Vee and Noel two very different people who just happen to find something in common that only the war years could have brought if that is the right thing to say here. Donald I found seemed a story all by himself and in the end some may say he got his just deserts.

Earlier the story Evans even managed to bring dementia into the storyline with Mattie and there was some touching moments before she succumbed to the terrible disease.  A Real catastrophe for Noel.

I thoroughly enjoyed Crooked Heart just because it has the right amount of humour, even dark humour set among backdrop of London during the blitz. Evans has the balance just right. Not too dark and not too sentimental just a sheer joy to read and this reviewer was saddened at the close of the story. Anyone who loves historical fiction will totally enjoy Crooked Heart.

Do not let this one pass you by.


Meet the Author

Lissa Evans


Lissa Evans grew up in the West Midlands.  She comes from a family of voracious readers and spent most of her adolescence in the local library, thus becoming well-read if not wildly popular.

After studying medicine at Newcastle University, she worked as a junior doctor for four years, before deciding to switch to a career in which she wasn’t terrified the entire time; five years producing  and script editing radio comedy followed,  and then a further five years producing and  directing for television, where her programmes included ‘Room 101’ and ‘Father Ted’.  Eventually, after a decade of running a red pencil through other people’s work, Lissa began to write something of her own.

Her first novel, ‘Spencer’s List’ was published in 2002, and since then she has written three other novels for adults, and two for children.  She lives in London with her husband and two daughters.  She still reads voraciously. Crooked Heart is Lissa Evans fourth book and the paperback will be released on 31 December 2015.

The Summer of Secrets by Sarah Jasmon



The Summer of Secrets by Sarah Jasmon

Review Date: 22 August 2015

Author: Sarah Jasmon

Release Date:  13 August 2015

Publishers: Black Swan, Transworld Publishers

ISBN -10: 0552779970

ISBN – 13: 978-0552779975


Available in Paperback, Kindle and Audio

Authors Website: http://sarahjasmon.com/


The Last Word Review

A debut like none I have come across. This is to be cherished like a timeless classic because it will become just that

When a debut novel lands on my desk there is always a little apprehension as to what lies between the covers. When a debut novel lands on my desk that very quickly impresses me and then turns out to be something very special I sit up and take notice. The superlatives that I would use would be insufficient. This is something very unique and very special. Thank you to Ben Willis at Transworld Publishers for sending a review copy.

What are your memories of the summer of 1983. For me it was an exciting time I was lot younger for one thing and days where long and memories that will live long. Here we have in Sarah Jasmon’s The Summer of Secrets a story in two parts.

The story starts in the very summer of 1983 and is told by Helen reminiscing about her youth, then a sixteen year old girl whose controlling mother has left the family home and now Helen is cared for by her father who has become lost in his own world and drink. Helen was looking forward to spending another summer by the river while her father spent his time on his boat while neglecting his daughter. But something was about to change all that.

The Dover family arrived on the scene and moved in to a house close by. They have a daughter also in her teenage years and is somewhat carefree and this intrigues Helen and the pair strike up a friendship and while away the summer days together. Helen is beguiled by the Dover family and their lifestyle and tries to get closer to the family until Victoria decides she has got too close. Then something happens and the Dover family suddenly disappear with no warning. You sense something is about to happen it is building at every turn of the page there are undercurrents in the story line that you feel at some point that would really explode.

Using the premise of looking back at the summer of 1983 and then as the story is narrated 30 years later to 2013. Helen is now 46 and has not seen or heard of the Dover family since that summer all those years before a summer that has left a scar on Helen. This is a story that moves along at a pace that will make you think about the story when you are not reading it and you will want to catch up at every opportunity.

Now Helen discovers that Victoria is running an art exhibition close to where she lives, this is an opportunity to discover what really happened that fateful night and what made the Dover’s flee. Will Helen finally find out the truth finally?

The Summer of Secrets is a book that I truly loved it made me think when I was away from the story it is so beautifully written and Jasmon’s prose is something I will take from this coming of age story that will appeal too many it deserves to become a classic both in story and writing.

So for me the memories of the summer of 1983 are now back fresh in my mind, the soundtrack of my life sadly a time that now seems lost to the era in which we now live.




Meet the Author

Sarah Jasmon


Sarah Jasmon lives on a canal boat near Manchester with her children. She has had several short stories published, is curating a poetry anthology, and has recently graduated from the Creative Writing MA course at Manchester Metropolitan University. The Summer of Secrets is Sarah Jasmon’s first novel published by Black Swan. To find out more, visit http://sarahjasmon.com/