Posted in Reading, Writing

Recommended Weekend Reading: A Brace of Historical Detectives

Photo of Debbie with box set of Sherlock Holmes
Recommended weekend reading, every Friday, new on my blog (Photo: Dominic Cotter, at BBC Radio Gloucestershire)

This is the first in a new weekly series of posts on my blog, sharing my favourite recent reads every Friday and recommending them as weekend reads. This feature will supersede the book blog that I’ve been writing for the last couple of years, as I was finding it too much of a strain to keep two websites running in parallel. In time I’ll move the reviews from the other site back to the archive here, and you’ll always be able to find a complete list of the reviews held on this site on the index page here. Given that I read at least one book at week, and often more, I should have no shortage of material, but I’ll only ever share here the books that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Today I’d like to recommend two historical detective series that I’ve been reading in parallel over the last few years, following their development from the day the first in each series was launched. I’ve even introduced the authors to each other (online, as they live on opposite sides of the country), as they seem to have so much in common. I just wish I could get their two heroes in the same room together too!

Meet Dan Foster and Sam Plank

Cover of Portraits of Pretence by Sam Grossey
Fourth in a gently addictive series
Cover of the Fatal Coin
A gripping novella with as much action and excitement as a full novel

Dan Foster is the creation of Lucienne Boyce, and Sam Plank is from the pen of Susan Grossey. Both are Bow Street runners, from the early era of British policing when constables sought out criminals for local magistrates to bring them to justice.

Dan Foster & Sam Plank: Compare and Contrast

  • Both are sensitively drawn, complex characters, who have risen above deprived and difficult backgrounds – Dan was a child pickpocket turned bareknuckle boxer, and Sam was a street urchin.
  • Each has acquired an interesting wife, providing thoughtful subplots and plenty of character development opportunities. Sam’s is a loving and loveable helper, but Dan’s is introduced as a drunken, self-pitying wretch. Both, by coincidence, are childless.
  • Both solve crimes particular to the age, against meticulously researched historical backgrounds. While their stories are set against a detailed and vivid backdrop, in neither case does the reader feel on the receiving end of a history lesson.
  • Dan’s adventures are darker and grittier than Sam’s, but despite being more violent (only when necessary to the plot, I hasten to add), they are also sensitively drawn, with poignant moments cleverly woven in amongst the adventures, as they are in Sam’s too.

I’ve read and enjoyed all of the adventures of both so far, and have been lucky enough to have a sneak preview of Dan’s second and third stories prior to publication. But for this weekend, I’m recommending Dan’s second, The Fatal Coin, and Sam’s fourth, Portraits of Pretence – and when you’ve read them, I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that there are more adventures of both ready and waiting for you.

What I’ll Be Reading This Weekend

  • my first ever Georgette Heyer novel, Footsteps in the Dark (I know, how did I get to be this old without reading Georgette Heyer before?)
  • Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingstone Seagull (same applies) – our BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book of the Month for July
  • the manuscript of Trick or Murder? – just back from my editor, second in the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series and due for publication at the end of August – exciting times!

Happy weekend reading, folks!

Cover of Best Murder in Show by Debbie Young
Fist in a series of seven Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries

P.S. Fancy reading one of my books this weekend? Best Murder in Show, a lighthearted modern mystery story, is the perfect summer read, set at the time of a traditional village show. Now available as an ebook for Kindle or in paperback  – order from Amazon here or at your local neighbourhood bookshop quoting ISBN  978-1911223139.



Posted in Reading, Writing

In Praise of Bookmuse (and Not Only Because It Loved “Best Murder in Show”!)

Book muse Recommended Read logoThis month I was thrilled to earn a glowing review on the well-known book blog, Bookmuse – and their approval for Best Murder in Show earned me the right to display this impressive badge on my own website.

“We only publish reviews of books we genuinely love,” says Liza Perrat of Bookmuse, “so I hope this is an award you can be truly proud of.”

I certainly am, Liza! Here’s an extract from the Bookmuse review:

With a cast of eccentric characters such as the quirky local shopkeeper, the amiable drunk, the lecherous amateur dramatist, the bookseller with a secret and the writing group which fines members 10p per cliché, this gentle crime caper is lively, funny and the perfect antidote to watching the news.

Her following remark made me very happy indeed:

What’s more, it would make the ideal Radio Four serial or BBC Sunday evening programme.

I just hope someone from the BBC reads it and takes the hint!

To read the review in full, visit Bookmuse here.

And while you’re there, take a browse to see what else they’re recommending. With over 400 books reviewed on the blog, sorted by genre, there’s bound to be something on there to appeal to your particular reading tastes.

What is a book blog anyway?

In case you’re not familiar with the concept of a book blog, it’s essentially a blog exclusively dedicated to reviewing and recommending books. While there are a few book blogs that delight in pulling books to shreds (their blog, their rules!), most are very positive and supportive, run to share the blogger’s love of books and reading, and to broadcast with evangelistic zeal their enthusiasm for their latest reads.

A book doesn’t have to be newly published to feature on a book blog, and that’s a prime difference from newspaper book reviews, which often review books even before they’ve been published. After all, books don’t come with sell-by dates, or else Jane Austen et al would have been pulped long ago.

What’s special about the Bookmuse book blog?

The best bookblogs go the extra mile to add to their reading experience, including features such as author interviews, suggested book club questions or other bonus material besides the actual review. Bookmuse’s special added extra is the way it rounds off each review with a list of similar reads, reasons to avoid the book, and recommended accompaniments. In the case of Best Murder in Show, reviewer Jill Marsh suggests:

  • You’ll enjoy this if you like: The Janice Gentle books by Mavis Cheek, Agatha Raisin mysteries, Lilian Jackson’s cat mysteries.
  • Avoid if you dislike: very English settings, cosy crime.
  • Ideal accompaniments: Scones and honey, ‘special’ tea and summer birdsong through an open window.

All rather fun, don’t you think?

Cover of Best Murder in Show
Available in paperback and ebook
Posted in Personal life, Reading, Travel

Thank You, Matthew Paris – Now I Don’t Have To Go To Peru

A post about holiday reading, discussed after my holiday on the BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book Club this week

Photo of Debbie in hat and coat at northernmost point of mainland Britain
Fending off the most northerly midges of mainland Scotland this summer

Although I love travelling, and rarely turn down an opportunity to travel anywhere, I do love putting in extra miles via the pages of a good travel book, whether to places I know well, to places I plan to go, or places I know will always be off my agenda. Continue reading “Thank You, Matthew Paris – Now I Don’t Have To Go To Peru”

Posted in Reading, Writing

How to Review Books, and Why You Should – Guest Post for “The Artist Unleashed”

Artist Unleashed logo
(Not Jessica, in case you’re wondering!)

Today my guest post about my philosophy of book reviewing features on the excellent Artist Unleashed blog, which is curated by the multi-talented Jessica Bell, author, poet, musician, publisher and book cover designer. Continue reading “How to Review Books, and Why You Should – Guest Post for “The Artist Unleashed””

Posted in Reading, Writing

Summer Reading Ideas from Today’s Child

A post about my latest book review feature for Today’s Child Magazine

banner advert for Today's Child showing magazine cover For the last few years, I’ve been writing a regular books feature, reviewing and previewing children’s books for the free parenting magazine, Today’s Child. I first wrote for them when I was still working part-time for children’s reading charity Readathon, which provides free books and storytellers for children in hospital, and encourages children in schools to read for pleasure. But as the magazine has grown and I’ve switched roles, writing full-time from home now, we’ve changed to a freelance arrangement, though I still sneak in plenty of Readathon references! Continue reading “Summer Reading Ideas from Today’s Child”