If you are easily offended, then don’t be. The title of this months second book review Bastard Verdict by James McCrone and self published in April 2023. Refers to an usual aspect of the Scottish legal system, where the jury can deliver
one of three verdicts: guilty; not guilty; or not proven. This is something I’d not come across before,
but a brief internet search brought up an excellent piece on the History Workshop website by Valerie
Wallace and Tommy Boyd ( ) . Not proven is given when the jury feels it cannot find the defendant
guilty or innocent based on the evidence proffered. The not proven verdict is seen as an acquittal in
the same way as not guilty, This change began in the 17 th century when juries were able to return
‘special’ verdicts on whether factual evidence had been proven or not and refer the verdict to the
judge to decide. Now the term is taken to mean that there was a failure to prove guilt rather than
facts. The Phrase ‘Bastard verdict’ was first used by Walter Scott in relation to the murder case
against Madaleine Smith, who was accused of poisoning her lover. However, despite widespread
public opinion of her guilt, the jury felt that the evidence was mainly circumstantial and returned a
verdict of not proven.

James McCrone’s book is bang up to date in the post Brexit era. A second referendum into Scottish
Independence looms and elections specialist Imogen Trader is asked to look into the 2014
referendum. She uncovers a trail of criminal self-dealing, cover-ups, and murder. None but a very
few know the truth. And those few need it to stay hidden at all costs.

This is the third book featuring FBI agent Imogen Trader, but the first I’ve had the pleasure of
reading. Initially I found the book to be quite dense with a host of characters being introduced the
story as well as detailed facts and figures regarding the politics and logistics of running the first
referendum. Personally, I found it a little dry but then realised that the background information was
necessary for understanding the complexities of the plot and keeping up with the twists and turns
later on. I’m sure the plot and the information would be a conspiracy theorists dream.

Imogen Trader is an interesting and well drawn heroine, and while her past was referenced where is
affected her current decisions and actions, this book worked well as a standalone novel. Generally,
the characters were all believable and you got a real sense of menace from the ‘bad ‘guys. My
favourite character was Alan Wilson, the engaging criminal with gang links. I felt I’d enjoy reading
another novel based on his exploits.

James McCrone

This is American author James McCrone’s fourth book ( ), the others are Faithless Elector ( 2016 ), Dark Network ( 2017), and Emergency Powers ( 2020). His short stories have appeared Rock and a Hard Place; Retreats From Oblivion, and an anthology of short stories Low Down Dirty Vote, Vol.2 & 3. He lives in South Philadelphia with his wife and kids.

This novel reminded me of books I’ve read by Dan Browne and Robbert Goddard. Similarly, these
have individuals embroiled in shady dealings with criminal and other organisations, whilst trying to
save the day (or the world). In these books too, the heroine is always beautiful and accomplished,
which sometimes prompts an eyeroll. Most women, I think, prefer our heroines with few flaws.
I enjoyed this book, despite the slow start. Once the story got going it was a real adrenaline rush and
I couldn’t wait to see how everything worked out.

So, the verdict of this juror is definitely guilty: of creating an intriguing and topical thriller.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.



If you look out your window now or go outside and move around your neighbourhood in the next couple of days, there is one outstanding feature that you will see, but most probably take for granted… Stumped? Well, there’s around 60,000 varieties of them globally, the largest concentration of these native varieties can be found in Columbia, Indonesia, and Brazil. In Ireland the most common native tree is now the Ash, followed by the Oak, Rowan, Birch, and Willow. While in the UK, the most common types of trees are the Common Ash (European Ash), the Aspen, Silver Birch, Sessile Oak, and the Sweet Chestnut. But as with most natural things on this planet, human habitation is influencing the trees, and so this month’s first book review looks at how trees can turn the tide and be an enormous ally in our attempt the save not only the human race, but the planet too. The book is The Power of Trees – How Ancient Forests Can Save Us If We Let Them, by Peter Wohlleben and published by Greystone Books ( on the 20th April.

Trees don’t need humans, but we need trees, to survive. Despite our best effort to destroy the planet via climate change, trees will return, just as they have after ice ages, catastrophic fires, storms and deforestation. In this follow up to his Sunday Times bestseller, The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter dismisses the tokenism of tree planting. Just as he compared forest trees to ‘families’ and suburban trees as ‘Street Urchins’, in this book he uses similarly powerful metaphors to equate tree planting to battery farming, while also ecstatically describing their determination to survive, and seedlings as ‘stalwart tree Children’. He also describes how trees pass on knowledge and how they survive climate change too. While lambasting governments and large corporations, who plant trees, just for logging purposes and exploitation. The Power of Trees is a heartfelt letter to the forest and a passionate argument for protecting nature’s boundless diversity, not only for the trees, but also us.

I found the book interesting, although not a cover to cover read, but more like a small coffee table read. Something you can dip in and out of over a couple of days. The descriptions of how trees have mouths in their leaves which help take in water, while their ability to read the atmosphere and adapt to drought conditions, were some of the many fascinating parts of the book. So was the story of how peas, like Pavlov’s dog, could be taught to turn to the direction of a puff of wind, when it is aimed at them in the dark, had me marvelling at mother nature, and plants in general. As I said at the start, we may take these living, breathing organisms for granted, but as Peter reveals they are far more than just slow moving oversized plants, that provide shade in the summer and can be a plaything to clamber around, in your youth.

Peter Wohlleben

This is German author and forester Peter Wohlleben’s ( Tenth book. The others, which are aimed at young and old are, What’s Wild Outside Your Door (2023), Forest Walking – Discovering the Trees and Woodlands of North America (2022), The Heartbeat of Trees (2021), Do You Know Where the Animals Live? (2021), Peter and the Tree Children (2020), Can You Hear the Trees Talking (2019), The Secret Network of Nature (2017), The Inner Life of Animals (2016), The Hidden Life of Trees (2015). Peter’s books are worldwide bestsellers, he lives in Wershofen, in Germany. Where he manages an ecologically conscious forest and runs an academy for education and advocacy.

After reading this book and looking over its predecessors, I realised what I was reading was the work of Germany’s answer to Sir David Attenborough. Although, being interested in plants, trees, and botany, he’s more like David Bellamy. These books are a fascinating read and if you’ve previously read Bryson’s A Walk in The Woods, then maybe read Wohlleben’s Forest Walking. I’ll definitely be looking to give his books for younger readers to my nephews and nieces.

So, walk down to your local bookshop, even swing by on your vine or bicycle and reserve a copy. Otherwise go online and download a copy, may be even listen to them on audio, while out walking in your neighbourhood. Then prepare to discover the delights of trees and nature with this enlightening and amazing author.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.