Jimmy Mullen is a homeless man living in a hostel in Newcastle. He has friends – Gadge and Deano – and a dog named Dog. He is also an ex-convict with PTSD. So, the odds are stacked against him, really, but somehow he retains an enquiring mind and a sharp intellect.
When Deano’s brother is found dead, the friends pool their resourced to investigate how he died and become enmeshed in a story of violence and drugs. Jimmy has the help of a police officer and a journalist, both of whom owe him favours. Gadge is also an expert in IT. Deano – well, he hasn’t got any particular skills that I could see but, in spite

of also being an ex-convict and a hardened drug addict, he’s a really nice guy. Lots of name-checking the areas in and around Newcastle which grounded the story a bit.
The blurb advertises One Way Street as being gritty and there are nasty villains galore but our little band of heroes are just so NICE and the story moves so SLOWLY that I only got to 30% before, sadly, leaving them to their adventures.
Perhaps if I had read Book One I could have bought into the characters more.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.




Rating: 3 out of 3.

Another proficient, if slightly moribund, novel from Ms Jewell. The story begins and ends with Sophie, a writer who never does any actual writing. In truth, she doesn’t have a lot to do with the progression of the investigation into the missing girl, except for finding a clue which had been left for her and wandering about thinking about things a lot, so I did wonder why she was there, to be honest.
It was hard to like any of the characters, especially as just about everyone had a nasty secret with the exception of the missing girl’s mother. Of the three main teenage(ish) characters, none were particularly likeable.
Perversely, I found myself drawn to the one who came to be

portrayed as a minor villain after first being described very positively.
The story starts quite slowly, Although we know from the beginning that Tallulah has disappeared, we then go into quite a lengthy flashback to return us to the point of her disappearance. Once the strands start drawing together, the pace picks up a bit and it jogs along quite nicely, only to descend into a messy credibility-stretching ending.
It’s a quick read and Ms Jewell has many and, so I’m sure it will do very well.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.



by Hilda Conkling

Snow-white shawls . . .
Golden faces . . .
Countryside, hillside, wayside people . . .
Little market-women
Selling dew and yellow flour
To make bread
For some city of elves. . . .

The daisy follows soft the sun

by Emily Dickinson

The daisy follows soft the sun,
And when his golden walk is done,
Sits shyly at his feet.
He, waking, finds the flower near.
“Wherefore, marauder, art thou here?”
“Because, sir, love is sweet!”



Rating: 3 out of 5.

This was not an easy book to read and probably not an easy book to write. The theme of a child murderer, now an adult and a mother seeking redemption, is not new and most people can correolate to real-life cases.
Whether or not it is suitable for fictionalisation is not for me to say but from a personal perspective I found this particular book just too dark and despairing in the sections written by ‘Chrissie’. This was, in part, due to the overly mature language used and the emotions that such a young girl would be as yet

incapable of recognising.
Had it been written in third person I believe it could have been just as strongly portrayed.
In retrospect, even with these caveats, the ‘Chrissie’ sections were much stronger than the adult ‘Julie’ chapters which I found wearing with the continual self analysis. I felt that, after all the angst devoted to the child murderer, the book deserved a better resolution than it got.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Jacqui Jay Grafton
William Holman Hunt

One of my favourites things to do to while away an hour is to take a famous painting and re-interpret it in whatever way takes my fancy. In this instance, as I’m a big fan of of the Pre-Raphaelites, William Holman Hunt was my ‘victim’.


On Wednesday we went to Gibraltar Point, near Skegness in Lincolnshire. Traditionally, this is one of our “big days out’ in the year and, after a long break because of Covid, we were ultra excited at the prospect of what we might see. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. There was a dearth of birds and even the weather turned against us, so it was a sad and sorry journey home. So, to cheer myself up, I’ve had a look through some of my favourite birds from previous years. And here they are.

Clockwise from top left: Female Wheatear, Male Stonechat, Spoonbills, Female Reed Bunting, Juvenile Whitethroat, Cuckoo, Juvenile Avocet and Centre: Female Redstart.



Rating: 3 out of 5.

Ms Walton is an excellent writer and presents a meticulously researched account of the music industry during the 1970s and 1980s. Although entitled The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, the story is dominated by Opal. Told through a series of interviews and newspaper clippings, interspersed with many footnotes, the plot is glacially slow. An inordinate amount of time is given to the two protagonists’ early lives and I was a little impatient for the ‘real’ story to begin. The seminal moment that affects Opal and Nev’s relationship occurs halfway through the book and it is at this stage that the story finally runs out of steam. The rest of the book recounts what happened to them in subsequent years but doesn’t really add anything to resolve the issues raised.
Characters: at one stage Opal and Nev are described by another character as ‘arrogant’. This certainly applied to Opal who is one of the most self-centred characters I have ever read and that includes Becky Sharpe. She endlessly preaches, proselytises and complains until my teeth were on edge. I felt that she was merely a mouthpiece for the author’s opinions. Nev is selfish and weak but at the same time very loyal to Opal.

The point where doubt is cast on this loyalty, a defining moment in the plot, is never fully resolved one way or another. The narrator, Sunny, never came alive for me and, although emotionally involved at one level with Opal, remained strangely detached through most of the story. Opal’s friend and designer, Virgil, was the only really likeable character in the story.
Ms Walton’s habit of constantly name checking, and attributing quotes to, famous people made sections of the book seem like a non-fiction tract as she hammered home yet another ‘fact’, usually to excuse Opal’s increasingly bad behaviour.
I nearly gave up at the three-quarter’s stage as the writing had become a long string of who did what next, most of non-related to the main story, but I stuck it out to the end when it briefly rallied and I thought a big reveal was coming. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be the case and the whole thing fizzled out with a couple more footnotes to wrap things up. Three stars for the excellent writing and the interesting accounts of the music industry but two stars lost for the weak story and unbelievable characters.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.



Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is Stanton (Stan) Carlisle’s story, charting his rise and inevitable fall. Set in the depression era, against a backdrop of a travelling freak show, the novel gets off to a great start, rich in characterisation, heavy on ‘carny’ slang and laden with atmosphere. The carny folk are all dishonest, as we would see it now, everything is aimed at fleecing the ‘mugs’ even if only a dime or a quarter at a time.
Stan aspires to more and, through a mixture of deceit and treachery, moves on to working in vaudeville as a mentalist, taking with him Molly, beautiful and not very bright. Over the next few years he moves on to become a spiritualist, styling himself Reverend and fleecing wealthy dupes out of their money. In these sections, again, there is a wealth of detail which I found fascinating.

He betrays the faithful Molly in the worst way imaginable and retribution, when it finds him, is merciless. To reveal any more of the plot would be to wander into Spoiler territory so I’ll stop there.
It’s not an enjoyable book, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is riveting, the first book in a long time where I neglected everything else to finish it. The flow is patchy at times and occasionally parts of the plot beggar belief. Normally, I would award four stars because of this but it gets the fifth and final star because the ending made me gasp aloud at the final twist in Stan’s story.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.



Rating: 2 out of 5.

The tagline on the front cover of The Doll proclaims, “It brings death to all who find it” signalling a thriller with supernatural overtones. And, indeed, the doll features in the opening sequence of the book, suitably grotesque and sinister.
It is then ignored for quite a long time while the author sets up quite a long and pretty dull investigation into abuse at a children’s home. In this section, we never meet the suspect or, indeed, learn any details of the supposed crime. Instead, the narrative concentrates on a social worker and a police officer who discuss it a lot. Many external characters and references to crimes are introduced.
By the time the middle section of the book began to reveal the connection between some of these people and incidents, I was rapidly losing interest but forged on as, at last, there was some action.

The doll does eventually turn up again but, at that point the investigation ‘in real time’ ends. The policeman turns up at the social worker’s home and tells her a VERY long rambling story involving several murders, suspects and more than a few coincidences to fit everything together.
At times, when questioned, he says, “We’ll never know the answer to that.” and it’s just glossed over. I admit to skip reading most of this really turgid section as I just wanted to get to the end.
Just as I thought it was all over, another fairly minor character began another lengthy exposition which made nonsense of a lot of the police’s conclusions. The ending was incredible, in the truest sense of the word.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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