Reader Dad – Book Reviews

Dark Crime and Speculative Fiction book reviews



COMPETITION: Win a Copy of Jonathan Freedland’s THE 3RD WOMAN

The 3rd Woman Jacket image THE THIRD WOMAN

Jonathan Freedland (

HarperCollins (


To celebrate the release on July 2nd of Jonathan Freedland’s exciting new thriller, The 3rd Woman, which I will be reviewing here soon, those lovely folks at HarperCollins Publishers have given us three copies of the novel to give away. It couldn’t be simpler to be in with a chance to win: simply click here to send me an email with the answer to the question below as well as your name and postal address:

The 3rd Woman is Jonathan Freedland’s first novel published under his own name, but it’s not his first published novel. Jonathan has had a successful career publishing thrillers under a well-know pseudonym. What is it?

Entries must be received by midnight on Thursday 9th July, and the winners will be notified on Friday 10th July. This competition is open to UK residents only.

Don’t forget to follow the The Third Woman tour (see the banner for details), keep up to date with the buzz on Twitter and check back next week when I will be posting my own thoughts on the novel.




Jon Wallace (

Gollancz (


Today marks the publication of Steeple, the second book set in Jon Wallace’s post-apocalyptic world that we first saw in Barricade. To celebrate, we have a wonderful extract from the book, as well as a competition to win a paperback copy of Barricade.

I drain my cup of soup. Adede expects a pleasantry.
‘You have a good home,’ I say.
‘Thank you. Thank you.’
‘I must return to work now.’
I pick up my tool bag and leave the shack, heading for the north-south avenue. The sky over the city is suddenly dark, a new storm gathering.
I hear a commotion, children screaming in excitement. I turn towards the noise and a large group of young people laughing and yelling. They are gathered in a circle around a concrete slab.
William is the centre of attention, sitting on a BMX, absently watching as his sister lies down on the concrete. She holds out her arms, a huge smile on her face.
William waits for the crowd to settle, then sits up on his bike. He rolls it towards his sister and jumps the bike. He lands the front wheel between her right arm and chest. The crowd gasps, watching as he holds the bike, twisting on its front wheel, rear wheel aloft like bucking hind legs.
He spins anticlockwise, then jumps again, landing the front wheel the other side of Mary’s chest, rear wheel still raised. The children chant, arms thrown up:
‘Will-yam, Will-yam, Will-yam!’
He does not react, fixed in concentration. He jumps again, dropping onto his rear wheel this time, and begins bouncing the bike around his sister – to the left of her head, to the right, then either side of her chest, her waist, her legs, stopping below her feet. There he spins again, manipulating the bike like a fifth limb.
Huge excitement. Screams of disbelief. None are louder than Mary, who rolls and chokes on her laughter. William rides in a slow circle around her, acknowledging his audience with a wave. Such skill.
Then, over the children’s cheers, I hear a different sound: a wave of fright, rolling up the shanty from the south. William hears it too. He stops his bike.
I leap onto the nearest roof and peer down the hill. A crowd of men are pouring through a breach in the south fence. Most are on foot, but some are on horseback. They shoot down shanty dwellers, toss petrol bombs, hammer and kick at the shacks. Many of them carry flags, bearing a symbol like a wolf’s head. Under the icon is smeared the word ‘Truth’.

I leave the children and cut through the alleyways, heading for the avenue, almost knocking Adede over as I break into a clearing. I tell her to locate her daughter and get to the high ground.
‘What are you going to do?’ she asks.
‘I am going to expel them from the premises.’
‘Are you mad?’
‘They are trespassing. I am empowered to defend the site.’
‘They’ll kill you!’
I leave her, press on to the avenue and head for the slaughter at the southern fence. I can see an invader on horseback, directing the people on foot. His nostrils are as flared as his mount’s.
I leap, drag him off his steed, toss him back towards the fence. I claim his seat, but his horse bucks when I try to steer. I struggle with the reins until I realise I am hurting the animal, and relax my grip.
The horse calms, snorts and stamps the mud. I am turning it towards the fence when I hear the whining noise. The unmistakable rasp of drone engines, overhead. I glance up at the storm clouds, pick out grey T-shapes, flocking.
Wait, I think.
The ground shakes. A flash and deafening crack, and suddenly I am slapped to the earth and pinned under the horse. I claw at the mud, drag free of the burning animal, into a cloud of black, sulphurous smoke. I trip up the side of the bomb crater, over body parts and wreckage, breathing poison air.
My avenue is packed with wailing people. They back away from me, frightened by my burning skin. Adede emerges from the pack, her clothes stained with blood. Her eyes are cloudy and unfocused, until she notices me. She bares her teeth and screams.
‘You brought them here! Truth League hates Ficials. They wouldn’t have come here if not for you! They wouldn’t have bombed us if not for you!’
That is untrue.
‘William is DEAD! Their bomb killed my boy!’
She drops to her knees, wailing, clutching her chest.
What does she expect me to do?
She said herself: she would lose at least one child.

Extract 3: p89-90 and p97-98

From author Jon Wallace:

Reason: This extract is a good window into the world that created Kenstibec – a future Britain explored through a flashback story that runs throughout Steeple, showing the invulnerable, calculating Kenstibec as he was when still ‘factory fresh’. These two flashbacks show his first halting interactions with people (refugees) and his first encounters with the pre-war world of chaos and mindless violence that is hurtling towards destruction. It’s a different kind of writing to the main story but essential to both Barricade and Steeple.


To celebrate the publication of Steeple the fine folks at Gollancz have given us a couple of copies of Jon’s first book, Barricade, to give away. To enter, post a comment below proving that you’re human, before midnight next Thursday 25th June. Winners will be announced next Friday. Unfortunately, this competition is only open to UK residents.

#GreatestGift–Giving the Gift of Reading for Christmas


‘Books are a uniquely portable magic.’
– Stephen King, On Writing

Blog tour list #GreatestGiftWhen birthdays or Christmas roll around, there’s nothing I like more than the book-shaped parcels that are an inevitable purchase for someone who loves to read. In our family, they’re invariably accompanied by the joke that never gets old (really, Dad!) about how it’s a bicycle or a bottle of whiskey. But it’s better than either of those things: it’s a hunk (usually, given my reading preferences, a rather large hunk) of paper and card that has the power to transport me out of my everyday life, and into something – or somewhere – completely different.

Maybe it’s for this same reason that books are always my first port of call when it comes to buying gifts for other people. New baby? The Fisher Price My First Book is perfect (at least it was when Fisher Price were still producing it). Sister’s wedding? How about a hardcopy of Edward Monkton’s A Lovely Love Story to commemorate the fact that it was the piece I opted to read during the ceremony? What child can resist F. Paul Wilson’s brilliant The Christmas Thingy at this time of year? Or the many adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh at any time of the year? And what adult can resist the charms of young Jack, the narrator of Emma Donoghue’s Room, or the myriad characters that form the central core of Stephen King’s Under The Dome?

I like to think of myself of something of an evangelist (though not of the Billy Graham type): I love to promote reading and try to do what I can to spread the love for books, so when I buy gifts for the young’uns, they’re books that I loved at that age and which I believe still hold the power to enthral and astound. It’s an encouragement to read, and in some ways a subtle hint that reading is an acceptable pastime, something that they shouldn’t be afraid of doing, or of being seen doing. With adults, it’s about sharing the books that I’ve loved with others, a much more personal – and personalised – version of the posts that you find on Reader Dad.

No matter what, there’s a pact between the recipient and I, an unspoken promise that it’s something I think they’ll enjoy, something that is much more than the paper on which it is printed. It’s a ticket to another world; a brief glimpse into another life; a gift that will bring hours, if not days, of escapism and entertainment.

Passion for Reading POSMy family have resigned themselves to the fact that there is a very good chance that a gift from me won’t be a bicycle or a bottle of whiskey, and I’m happy to say that I’ve even converted some of them to my way of thinking. And it’s great to see that I’m not alone: projects like World Book Night and Neil Gaiman’s All Hallow’s Read are evidence that there are plenty of like-minded people in the world, who love to give and receive books as gifts. All in all, I can’t imagine a greater gift than that of reading, or of something new and amazing to read.

Thanks to the wonderful Quercus family who will be running the #GreatestGift campaign throughout December; I’m delighted to have been asked to take part, and look forward to following the campaign as fellow bloggers and vloggers have their say.

Thanks also to Quercus, who have provided a wonderful bundle of books, as well as some lovely #GreatestGift stuff (gorgeous postcard, poster and bookmark, right), that will be given away at the end of today to one lucky winner. The books in question are all books I’ve read this year, and you can expect to see some of them in my list of favourite books later this month. Click on the links to see my reviews:

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Jöel Dicker

Research by Philip Kerr

Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell

Irène by Pierre Lemaitre

Reader Dad

To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is send a single tweet answering the following question:

Which book would be your #GreatestGift?

Make sure you include the hashtag #GreatestGift as well as including @MattGCraig @QuercusBooks to ensure your entry is included.

The competition will close at 6 PM this evening, 1st December 2014 and the winner will be notified shortly thereafter.

Follow the #GreatestGift hashtag on Twitter, find details of the full campaign at the Quercus blog, and be sure to check out Book Addict Shaun tomorrow for more on #GreatestGift and another giveaway of another amazing bundle of books.


Amy Bird Name: AMY BIRD

Author of: HIDE AND SEEK (2014)

On the web:

On Twitter: @London_writer

To celebrate the launch of her latest novel, Hide and Seek, I’m delighted to welcome Amy Bird to Reader Dad to talk about her influences. Amy’s publisher, Carina UK, are running a competition to win a trip to Paris, so be sure to check out the end of the post for details. And don’t forget to check in on the other stops of the blog tour all this coming week.

H&S blog tour2There are some writers who refuse to read any fiction, lest their style be influenced. I am not such a writer. I always have a book on the go and I read as widely as I can. I like to indulge in plots and words, characters and ideas – both to learn from other writers’ technical skill, but also for the sheer joy of reading. I trust my own style to remain strong, or even get stronger, in the process. For this post, I was asked to write about the influences for my third novel, psychological thriller Hide and Seek. I thought about letting you just have a list of a few books that influence me. But really, I think the question of influence is subtler and runs deeper than that. So I came up with six categories instead.

1. The contemporary psychological thrillerBefore I Go To Sleep, Gone Girl, The Dinner and even books like The Secret History are a master-class in plot twists, unusual structure, warped characters, and claustrophobic relationships. These are all key features of the modern psychological thriller. As a writer in the genre, I have to be aware of the expectations of readers, and what really works to turn a page. All four of these books kept me up until 1am. I hope Hide and Seek will have the same effect on you.

2. The classic work of suspense – In this category I would group Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene, and most Hitchcock films. Their hallmarks are setting up a sense of unease before we know what is wrong, and then with the subtlest of details here and there building and building to a danger we know is going to befall the main characters, but we don’t know when or how. In Hide and Seek, we know that something isn’t right in Will’s apparently perfect life. Little by little we understand what that is – and, more alarmingly, what he is going to do about it.

3. Moody, unusual books – I love books that have a dark weirdness to them, when you are plunged into another world that your senses struggle to comprehend. So here I’m thinking of Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton, Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgway, Busy Monsters by William Giraldi and even Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. The way I deal with that in Hide and Seek is to use first person, so that you are immediately thrown into the mind of a stranger and have to orientate yourself. As you get to know the characters, they become less strange. Just as you become comfortable with them, their thoughts start to shock and disturb you, as the extent of their obsessions become clear.

4. Detective and crime fiction – I spent a thrilling three months of my Creative Writing MA studying detective and crime fiction. This ranged from Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler (a personal favourite) to quirkier books such as In the Cut by Susannah Moore and The Thought Gang by Tibor Fischer. All those books were linked by a quest for truth and a need to uncover secrets that someone else is determined should remain hidden. Hide and Seek isn’t a detective novel in the ‘pure’ sense, but there is the same obsessional search for an answer and the willingness to risk everything in pursuit of the truth.

5. Music – at the heart of Hide and Seek, there is a piano concerto that holds some of the secrets Will is searching for, and which fuels his obsession with his past. I’ve structured the novel as a concerto – it falls into the three parts of exposition, development and recapitulation, plus everything from the motifs to the voices feed back into that structure. I therefore listened to a lot of piano concertos while I was writing Hide and Seek, to get the mood and the pace of my fictitious concerto and the book just right. Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Alkan and Beethoven emerged as the clear favourites. Mostly in a minor key, of course.

6. Everything else – I am always reading with my writer’s hat on. So even if I am enjoying the novel for its plot/ pace/ language/ bizarre characters, I am absorbing interesting sentence structures or devices – or reminding myself never to write like that writer does. At the moment, I’m reading three books: a contemporary crime thriller, a historical comedy-drama, and a real-life Second World War spy story. There’s a brilliant quote by Haruki Murakami: “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” I hope that the result for readers of Hide and Seek is a novel that goes beyond the confines of its genre, and provides an original reading experience. But you will have to judge that for yourself.

Amy Bird is the author of the thrillers Three Steps Behind You and Yours Is Mine, and now Hide and Seek.

Having moved all over the UK as a child, she now lives in North London with her husband, dividing her time between working part-time as a lawyer and writing.


COMPETITION: Win a Copy of RED WINTER by Dan Smith #DanSmithBlogTour

Dan Smith Blog Tour (2)

It’s the final stop of the Dan Smith Blog Tour (and what a tour it’s been!) and to celebrate last week’s hardback publication of The Darkest Heart and paperback publication of Red Winter, those lovely people over at Orion have given us 10 copies of Red Winter to give away. You can enter in one of two simple ways:

  • Comment on this post – simple enough…if your comment looks like it originated from a human you’ll be entered into the draw.
  • Tweet a link to this post (click the Share button at the bottom of the post and select Twitter), or retweet a link that’s already out there. If your Tweet contains my username (@MattGCraig), the hashtag from the title of this post (#DanSmithBlogTour) and a link back to the post, you’ll be entered into the draw.

You only need to enter once, as multiple entries won’t improve your chance of winning. And you have until midnight (BST) on Sunday 20th July to enter. The winners will be drawn on Monday 21st and notified by email or Twitter and will hopefully have their nice shiny new book by the end of that week. This competition is open to UK residents only.

So, what are you waiting for?

(Keep an eye on the blog next week when I’ll be reviewing Dan Smith’s The Darkest Heart.)

COMPETITION: Charles Cummings’ A COLDER WAR #MoleHunt

blog tour banner final-page-001


Charles Cummings (

HarperCollins (


Those fine folks over at HarperCollins’ Killer Reads are running a mole hunt this week to celebrate the publication of Charles Cummings’ latest novel, A Colder War. To be in with a chance of winning a Kindle, all you have to do is visit each of the five blogs in the banner to the left over the course of this week.

Each blog will have two videos, and two associated questions. Take the first letter from the answer to each of those questions to find the identity of the mole. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is email Killer Reads with the name of the mole before midnight on Friday 9th May. Full terms and conditions can be found here.

So, without further ado, on to today’s videos and questions.


Question 1: What is the name of the journalist working for The Guardian who broke the National Security Agency revelations from Edward Snowden?

Question 2: The Spanish Game by Charles Cumming featured which (now defunct) Basque separatist organisation?

COMPETITION: Joanne M. Harris’s #AskLoki Blog Tour

gospel-of-loki THE GOSPEL OF LOKI

Joanne M. Harris (

Gollancz (


Celebrating the publication of Joanne M. Harris’s first epic adult fantasy novel, The Gospel of Loki (Feb 13 2014), comes Joanne M. Harris’s #AskLoki Blog Tour.

Gollancz and a collection of the UKs leading websites are teaming up to share Loki’s opinions of his fellow inhabitants of Aesgard. BUT that’s not all…

We’ll also be sharing TEN Gospel of Loki gift bags complete with a signed book, tote bag, book mark and poster.

To win one of the bags, just tweet the correct answer to the question below using the hashtag #AskLoki and making sure to include @Joannechocolat @gollancz @MattGCraig


Loki describes this god as: “Not a bad guy, but a fool for blondes.”

Is he talking about: 1)Thor 2)Hodor 3)Frey ?

If you need a refresher on the trickster god’s opinion of the characters that you’ll meet in The Gospel of Loki, you can visit the Gollancz blog.

Please note one tweeter will be picked at random each day from the 3 – 14 February 2014. There are ten chances to win to in total. Good luck!

COMPETITION: Win a Copy of LIKE THIS, FOR EVER by Sharon Bolton

Thanks to those lovely people at Transworld Books, we are celebrating the recent release of Sharon Bolton’s Like This, For Ever by giving away three copies of the book to lucky Reader Dad visitors. This competition is open to UK visitors only.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of this brilliant novel, all you have to do is prove you’re human: post a comment below before midnight (GMT) on Sunday 17th November. Three winners will be drawn at random on Monday 18th November, and will be contacted shortly thereafter to arrange delivery.

Thanks, as always, for visiting. And don’t forget to follow the Like This, For Ever blog tour, which is happening all week. Details in the poster below.


COMPETITION: Win a Copy of THE SILENT WIFE by A.S.A. Harrison

The Silent Wife - ASA Harrison  

Thanks to those lovely people at Headline, we are celebrating the recent release of A.S.A. Harrison’s debut novel, The Silent Wife, by giving away a copy to one lucky Reader Dad visitor. This competition is open to UK visitors only.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of this brilliant novel, all you have to do is prove you’re human: post a comment below before midnight (GMT) on Sunday 14th July. One winner will be drawn at random on Monday 15th July, and will be contacted shortly thereafter to arrange delivery.

Thanks, as always, for visiting. Best of luck!

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