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.



What did you achieve during Lockdown? Most of us spent the year or so prevaricating and putting
off useful projects, while we ate vast quantities of banana bread and binged on Netflix. Not so
Richard Townsend, the author of this months first book review, who took the opportunity to weave together nearly half a century of observations gathered as an Englishman who married into an eccentric family in a left-behind corner of Spain and
create his first novel, Spanish Practices published by Chiselbury Publishing ( ) in November 2022.

The book is a kind of what we would describe in an English setting as an ‘aga drama’ We meet a
large number of the family, including Rico’s (as Richard is called) in laws and wider circle of cousins,
friends, and neighbours. We follow the fortunes and misfortunes of the family winery, plus the
romantic and personal histories of the large cast of characters. Initially an outsider, Rico is drawn
ever deeper into the family mire, as well as facing with his wife, Marina, his own fraught
relationships with neighbours, local planning laws and the busy body ‘Authorities’

The story of Richard’s house purchase and ongoing renovations, with the obstructions, costs and
frustrations in abundance, is told with humour. Recently I was watching ‘Cheap European Homes’
where an Irish TV crew take potential buyers around tumble down properties in Spain, Portugal and
France, with a view to moving there, that and the contents of this novel would make me wary of
attempting to deal with planning applications, builders and potential neighbourly disputes for sure!

I was also by Richard’s comments about the Spanish and walking for
pleasure, when he tries to hike with his English visitor, about a walking holiday in Spain I went on
many years ago. Our hosts were Geordies who had relocated to Spain and set up a walking and
cookery holiday business, which is a story in itself. For example, they’d learned Spanish, but the
wrong Spanish for their new home area. Everyone thought they were crazy turning a ruin into an
hotel in the mountains. They told us the locals couldn’t get their heads around hiking, ‘but why
when you can drive?!’ However with a steady stream of foreign tourists hiking, doing photography
courses and learning to cook authentic and locally sourced Spanish food, the place boomed.

Richard Townsend

This is English author Richard Townsend’s debut novel. He is a linguist and historian by training, who ended up as a self-employed adviser to private companies, on their financial and other affairs. He lives with his Spanish wife and their family, dividing their time between London and Spain.

This book gives a great insight into the social history of Spain during periods of immense change, like
joining the European union, the economic boom and bust, Brexit and even the start of Covid. The
characters are wonderfully brought to life on the page. I expect many an Irish person will appreciate
the difficulties of dealing with the ‘mammy’ who likes to be the first with the news, to manage that
news where it relates to her own family, and feels her family are superior in every way obviously!

Whilst there’s no major excitements or dramatic events, this is an excellent introduction to Spanish
culture and cuisine from a sympathetic observer.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the others 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.



My geography is pretty poor. In my teens I’d have been more likely to find my way around the Shire, Mordor, Discworld or the planets of the Star wars galaxy safely than I would to find my way across Europe or Asia. It has improved a little but isn’t helped by the rezoning of borders and the renaming of countries as they achieve their independence. I think its because I always loved poring over maps I found in books of fiction, far more than an real atlas. I don’t have a great innate sense of direction either. My current pet hate is my Google Maps suggesting I go ‘north -east’ from the starting point. Hell , if I knew which direction North East was in an industrial estate in central Dublin, I wouldn’t be needing navigation guidance…

This month’s second book review blog is The Scapegoat by Michael V Solomon, published by Universe an imprint of Unicorn Publishing ( ) in February. It charts Ovid’s ( that Ovid Publius Naso to you and me) journey out of exile. And the link to my opener, is you’ve guessed it, I’d have really liked a map to peruse. Not only is it all in an area I’m unfamiliar with but most of the places are gone or renamed. Also, and here’s something I never thought I’d say, a list of characters to refer to. There is a large cast and the names are unfamiliar to me. You see, sometimes I cheat and google stuff to see historical figures or the records of historical events and journeys to flesh out what I’m reading, but as this is a work of fiction none were available.

That said, I’m sure to readers more familiar with Roman history and the works of Ovid, the cast and locations of the book would be more easily recognisable. Michael has obviously done meticulous research into the period, background history and notable figures of the time. His passion for the subject shines through. 

And don’t think that this book is a heavy historical tome or be put off by the subject matter if it’s out of your usual area of interest. I found the narrative really easy and enjoyable to read. The plot kept my attention and brought me back to read another chapter eagerly. The main characters are brought to life and are engaging. During the book the character of Ovid develops are he undergoes a physical and metaphorical journey. There is a fair amount of eye opening lewdness, interesting insights into Roman and other rituals and beliefs, plus the politics of the day. The Scapegoat of the title is a recurring theme as many of the cultures felt the sacrifice of a suitable scapegoat representing all their failures would appease the Gods and bring them success, something the cultured Romans did too in a political sense and modern cultures are still guilty of finding a scapegoat on whom to pin their ills. 

This English author Michael V. Solomon’s debut novel. Originally from Romania, his grandfather was an important political figure between the first and second world wars, and was detained by the soviet regime. After university, Solomon began his career as a Civil Engineer in Constanta – Tomis, where Ovid began his exile. After travelling throughout, Europe, America and the Middle East, he moved to London at the start of the Millennium, where he started his first drafts of Scapegoat. During the pandemic, he made final revisions.

I do feel this is more of a man’s read but was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I was particularly interested to hear about the resonations between the authors family backstory and his work connections with Constanta -Tomis, .An interesting and unusual read, the Library Door recommends you journey to your nearest bookstore or online to order a copy .

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This book review is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Tours. 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.



There I was at the start of the week, doing something everyone of has fallen victim to, if not daily, but weekly. Scrolling!!!! Yep, that dreaded contagion, which has caught even the most unsuspecting soul unawares. It’s social media’s equivalent of daydreaming, I wasn’t watching cute kittens or voiced-over dog videos, proclaiming how their lives are so bad… This time, I was dragged kicking and screaming down a rabbit hole of odd balls who video police stations, and police officers going about their business and claiming, they are keeping them in check and auditing them, because supposedly they pay their wages. Errr, you have to hold down a job first, thus paying tax, and how can you work full time, if you are harassing decent people whose job is hard enough already, without you shoving a mobile phone camera in their face. Anyway, it got me quite wound up, but it also reminded me of one of the short stories featured in this month’s first book review. It was about an elderly gentleman who spends his days watching the comings and goings of his street, until his curtain twitching catches up with him. The book is Watching The Wheels by Stephen Anthony Brotherton and published by The Book Guild ( ) in February.

The book is a two-hundred-page collection of short stories, which examines death, the afterlife, bullying and old age. The first two stories are both set in a nursing home and by the end of the second one, I was rather uncomfortably dwelling on my own mortality and the thoughts of being sent to one, despite being only fifty two. May be that’s midlife getting to me. Another story that resonated with me, was about a ghost hunter who is afraid of ghosts, as myself, my wife and fellow librarian, Georgina, are big into the paranormal and have been on numerous organised night vigils. It struck me that that as with any job, the day you are not filled with any trepidation doing it, is the day you should quit. One other story follows a young man, who still misses his twin, who took his own life years previously. The whole sequence of the story takes place at night, when a mysterious woman enters his bedroom and in what can really be described as a mashup of A Christmas Carol on the star ship Enterprise Holodeck, takes him to meet the brother.

This English author Stephen Anthony Brotherton’s second book , his first was Fractures, Dreams, and Second Chances (2021). He’s been a social worker for almost thirty years and currently works for the NHS. He is a member of the Bridgnorth Writers’ Group and the Shrewsbury Writers’ Lab. He grew up in the West Midlands, but now lives in Shropshire.

Stephen Anthony Brotherton

Overall, this is a quick read, you could run through it in a day or dip and dip out over a weekend. The stories are all very different and engaging, they will either put a smirk on your face or ask you a poignant question. What comes across is Brotherton’s great eye for detail, as well as his ability to capture very normal situations and turn them on their heads.

Get online and order a copy or pop into your local book shop, then jump straight in, and as it states clearly on the back cover, ask yourself ‘what would you do in their situation?’.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewer 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.



last year marked the centenary of the death of Michael Collins, who was assassinated on his journey from
Bandon to Cork in 1922. Collins was a soldier, revolutionary and politician who was a leading figure in
the battle for Irish independence. As an Englishwoman, I am sorry to say I had never heard of him until I
moved to Ireland. In English schools we are never taught any Irish, Scottish or Welsh history in a kind of
airbrushing of our past. I was equally surprised when I arrived to find that abortion was illegal in Ireland
and in fact contraception and the morning after pill were not widely available depending on the moral
stance of your GP or your access to women’s health centres.

In 1983 the 8th Amendment guaranteeing the right to life of the unborn foetus became the law so that only

where the life of the mother was in danger was abortion available. This forced those women seeking this option to travel to the UK or attend back street abortion clinics. The 8th Amendment was successfully repealed in 2018 after passionate and
sometimes acrimonious campaigns for and against. Ireland now prides itself as a liberal thinking country,
being the first to recognise gay marriages , although homosexuality was only made legal in 1993.
These differing threads come together in our second book review of the month. Its ‘Dolly Considine’s Hotel‘, by Eamon Somers and published in 2019 by Unbound (

It is 1983 and the battle is being fought to stop or allow the Pro –Life constitutional amendment. Dolly Considine
runs a late-night drinking establishment catering to the needs of thirsty politicians and theatricals in
Dublin’s legendary Catacombs. Paddy Butler arrives here under false pretences, representing himself as
someone else and using the name Julian Ryder. He’s an aspiring writer and needs a place to lie low from
his bullying older brother, who is soon to return from the UK. He becomes the hotel’s new lounge boy, gathering gossip, sharing the guest’s beds and using the place as fodder for his writings. Fantasy and reality soon begin to blur.

The story moves between 1983 and the 1950’s of Dolly’s youth, weaving the stories of multiple
characters into Julian’s fiction, Dolly’s secrets, party politics and the amendment debate. I struggled with
the number of threads and the movement backwards and forwards through time. I found Julian/ Paddy to
be not a particularly likable character, which is something I struggle with, my own failing , when I’m then
required to sustain commitment to a such a long book. Fortunately, I found several of the other
characters more engaging, including Dolly herself and Brendan the bully. The Chapters with Brendan’s
childhood story were very poignant and I looked forward to finding out more about him.
Personally I found the broad scope of this novel a little overwhelming, maybe because I am unfamiliar
with any of the history and couldn’t therefore assess the authenticity of the settings and story. It reminded
me a little of Ulysees and I’d expect that Joyceans would enjoy this more modern offering with its vivid
mix of characters , drama and politics.

Eamon Somers

This Irish Author Eamon Somers ( ) debut novel. He began his lifelong interest in learning about storytelling with classes at the People’s College in 1970s Dublin, before going on to study at London’s Goldsmiths and later Birkbeck College, attending summer schools at the Irish Writers’ Centre, and more joining masterclasses with admired American poet Diana Goetsch (via Paragraph Workspace in NY).

Eamon’s short stories have been published in literary magazines including Tees Valley Writer, Automatic Pilot, and Chroma. The Journal of Truth and Consequences nominated his Fear of Landing for a Pushcart Prize, and Nataí Bocht was included in Quare Fellas, a collection of LGBT+ fiction published by Basement Press in Ireland. He is currently working on revisions to his novel A Very Foolish Dream (Working Title) which was Highly Commended in the 2019 Novel Fair sponsored by the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin.

With St. Patricks Day only a fortnight away. This is certainly a book that would appeal to readers with an interest in the vast social changes Ireland has undergone in this period of many centenaries marking the period since the fight for independence
but I felt I would have enjoyed some of the threads unravelled and perused in their own right. Opinions
will of course differ and this is a book that will promote discussion amongst book groups and friends who
enjoy a meaty read.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy



Adrian (my fellow Librarian, and husband) and I have recently been planning a long dreamed of trip to Australia. I floated the idea of travelling around Australia in a camper van. After further consideration we came to the realisation that as neither of us are at all good with creepy crawlies, in a country where every creature is trying to kill you, we might have a bit of unexpected drama. We quickly re imagined our itinerary to involve some nice hotels.  I suggested that sometime in the future we try a camper van or RV somewhere less dangerous. How hard could it be? I wondered, to be self-sufficient and out in nature in say, Europe or Canada?  Which brings us on to this months First book review, its Adventure Caravanning With Dogs : To Hel In A Hound Cart by Jacqueline Lambert and published by Amazon in December 2022

After reading this book, I think I would find enough trials and tribulations, plus excitement, wonder and reward on my continental doorstep. In this edition of Jackie Lambert’s series on adventure caravanning with dogs she charts their journey through France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, and the latter parts of the COVID 19 pandemic. Jackie, her husband Mark, plus their four, yes four Cavapoos (Cavalier Poodle cross) travel in Big Blue the RV towing Kismet the caravan. 

I came to this book with interest as I enjoy travel stories.  Those I have previously read include Josie Swales Pope’s epic story of her run around the world, Rob Pope’s ( no relation) recreation of Forrest Gump’s multiple crossing of the USA on foot and a story of a bicycle journey along the Silk Road by Kate Harris. Often their authors approach such a book in different ways. Some recite facts, mileage, calorie intake etc., whilst some reflect on the history and politics of the places they visit,  others philosophise . Mostly there is a start and an expected end, even with a few diversions on the way. 

I suppose the idea of a target was what I missed in this book. However, the whole idea for Jackie and Mark is to stop, savour, and enjoy as much as possible. Unfortunately, Covid 19 thwarted their  initial plans and made this account rather like trying to find your way out of a maze and so I didn’t feel the lure of the anticipated endpoint pulling me through. Not a lot they could do about that in a pandemic! And their frustrations in this regard illustrated what many of us felt like in relation to travel without even having to worry about crossing borders and maintaining supplies whilst constantly relocating. 

This is English author Jacqueline Lambert ( sixth book in the Adventure Caravanning With Dogs series. The others are Year 1 – Fur Babies In France (2020), Dog On The Rhine (2019), Dogs ‘N’ Dracula (2019), It Never Rains But It Paws (2022), Pups On The Piste: A Ski Season In Italy (2020). She is a dedicated doggie travel blogger and author. Whose previously rafted, rock-climbed and backpacked around six of the seven continents. A passionate windsurfer and skier, she can fly a plane, has been bitten by a lion, and appeared as a fire eater on Japanese T.V. Now, they’re at large in a self-converted six-wheel army lorry, with Mongolia in their sights. All Jacqueline’s books have received multiple five-star reviews and Dogs ‘n’ Dracula was a finalist in the Romania Insider Awards for Best Promotion of Romania Abroad. Dog on the Rhine has been a
bestseller in Amazon’s German Travel and Rhine Travel categories, and on release, Fur Babies in
France outsold Bill Bryson, albeit for a very short time!

Jacqueline Lambert with her dogs

Despite that plotless nature, I enjoyed the book for several reasons. I loved Jackie’s humour.  Her jokes, her puns, her satire on government all tickled my funny bone. I also loved the descriptions of the places they visited. Pont du Gard prompted a google search for images and I now have a hope to visit Krakow.  I didn’t know there were so many castles around Europe. I love a good castle! Often fretting about the difficulties of travelling with one dog, I now hope to do a campervan tour of Poland and France in the future with whatever pets I own at the time. Jackie made me feel like it would be both possible and fun as the book also provided practical advice. 

Now I’ve acclimatised to the jokes and occasional complaints in her books, I look forward to acquainting myself with her other books and touring more of Europe from my armchair. So, whether you’re a dog lover or a travel fan, with a sense of humour, I suggest, you let your fingers do the walking and order a copy online, then grab your fur baby’s leash and take it for a couple of long walks, while you wait for the book to arrive.

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.



I’ve always wanted to go to Mallorca, but the thought of sharing a two hour flight with a group of boozed up twenty somethings, heading for Magaluf, is not my idea of starting or ending a memorable and relaxing holiday.  Mallorca is the largest of the three Balearic Islands, and the seventh largest island in the Mediterranean of 191, ahead of it are Euboea, Crete, Corsica, Cyprus, Sardinia, and Sicily. It’s a popular holiday destination, with its main airport in Palma being one the busiest in Spain, over 14 million passengers passed through it in 2021, with figures in excess of 27 million a year before the pandemic. As for famous residents past and present, even counting part timers, there are some big names. The Irish actor Colm Meaney, famous for playing Chief O’Brien on Star Trek Next generation, is a resident. So is Jeffrey Archer, the novelist, along with Rafa Nadal, the tennis player. While Cynthia Lennon, John Lennon’s first wife and Julian’s Mother, lived there until her death in 2015.  Death and crime are what brings us to this beautiful island for our first book review of 2023, the book is Fallen Butterfly by Anna Nicholas and published by Burro Books ( ) in December 2022.

Plans for a controversial new motorway, that will cut a swathe through the unspoilt Mallorca countryside, cause political tensions to run sky high. Then the transport minister is victim of a ritualistic murder, which sends shockwaves reverberating across the island. This causes the island’s police Chief, Tolo Cabot to seek the assistance of his lover and former Barcelona detective, Isabel Flores Montserrat. The two of them along with Isabel’s pet ferret,  ‘Furo’ are thrust into a perilous race for answers. All while Isabel is also looking into the mysterious near fatal accidents befalling tourists in the mountains surrounding her village, is this the work of environmentalist or is something more sinister afoot.

This is a lovely book to start the new year off on. I like my detectives to have a bit of quirkiness about them that makes them stand out from your bog standard, trench coat wearing gumshoe, and in Isabel Flores, Anna Nicholas goes full off the books quirky, but in a great way. No other detective I know has a ferret for a sidekick (I stand to be corrected). Cats, dogs, horses… But a cute little ferret, that chunters at just the right time, is a heart-warming addition, and he’s almost the reason you’d pick up the book. My wife and co-librarian, Georgina would love this book, she recently started watching the FBI International TV series, just because of the dog in it….

Isabel also drives a canary coloured, vintage, Fiat 500. Which she affectionately calls ‘Pequinito’ – “Little One”, Morse has his red jag, Magnum his Red Ferrari. But Nicholas again adds charm and likeability to this character with the very human touch of giving her most treasured possessions, cute names… But on top of that this girl is flawed, she sucks Chup Chup lollipops like they are going out of fashion (a nod to Telly Savalas and Kojak) and has a love of wine and cream sponges. If this was real life, and set in the UK, she’d be 300 pounds and two steps away from a coronary. But, no she’s, smart, athletic, and one of the more likeable central characters I’ve happened upon in a while.

Anna Nicholas (Charles Marlow)

As for the story, Anna Nicholas doesn’t shy away from the gritty, but marries the hard reality of crime investigation, with the everyday humour of rural village life. There’s a Bergerac feel about it, with a lot of English references and colloquialisms and at times having seen how successful, the likes of Murder in Paradise have been, I could see this taking off as a very good TV adaptation.

This is Mallorca resident and author Anna Nicholas’s ( ) eleventh book, her third in the Isabel Flores Mallorcan Mystery series, the others are Haunted Magpie (2020) and Devil’s Horn (2019). She has written six books on her experiences of starting a new life with her family in Mallorca, and her desire to leave the non-stop London PR Life behind, to run a cattery in the sun. They include Peacocks in Paradise (2021), Goats From a Small Island (2009), Cat On A Hot Tiled Roof (2008) and A Lizard In My Luggage (2007). She also wrote Strictly Off The Record : On The Trail of World Records with Norris McWhirter (2010), recanting her experiences working for the Guinness Book of Records. She is currently along with her friend Alison attempting to climb all the island’s 54 peaks over 1000m, before the end of 2023… (wow, I though setting myself the challenge of Climbing Croagh Patrick and Cycling from the Atlantic to the Med, along the foothills of the Pyrenees, in 2023 was challenging.)

So, if you’re now tiring of the long cold winter months and want inspiration for planning the summer holidays. then I recommend you visit your local book shop or order a copy online, along with the other two, while you’re at it. Then join Isabel, Furo, and Pequinito in their hazardous and heart-warming adventures across the Balearic isles.

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 come back and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.



One word dominating social and political spheres these days is Russia. Mr Putin may have thought he was the hand rocking the cradle in the invasion of Ukraine, but eleven months later, the only thing looking unsteady is his tenacious grip on power. Soon the population will tire of his foot soldiers heavy handed treatment of them. With the development of the digital age and social media, it’s hard to keep the wool pulled over your citizens and eventually, they will revolt. The only question is, when, and when they do, we may see a fourth Russian revolution, although probably not. But more of a swift and quiet removal by a party who fears the wrath of the little people. All the great nations of the world have experienced revolution at some time or another and Russia is not different, according to my research, there have been at least three, maybe four in Russia. The first one is the setting for this month’s first book review, its Small Acts of Kindness – A Tale Of The First Russian Revolution by Jennifer Antill and published by Universe ( ) in November.

St Petersburg, 1825. Imperial Russia still basks in the glory of victory over Napoleon, but in the army and elsewhere resentment is growing against serfdom and autocracy. Vasily, a pleasure loving, privileged young man, returns home from abroad expecting to embark on a glittering career. Having become entangled in an impossible love affair, he joins a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Threatened by exile to Siberia or death, he is forced to flee the Tsar’s vengeance. Vasily hopes to rebuild his life in a distant provincial town. But he cannot forget his lost love, and now finds himself pursued by a rival who aims to destroy him. Can he escape the past, mend his broken relationships and find a better way to change the world?

I’d like to say I really go into this book, but with the time scale one has for reviewing books, I struggled to make any real dent into this weighty presentation. The first thing to put me off was a three-page list of characters, at the beginning. I do like history but taken in small manageable chunks.

Another reason for my apparent lack of concentration around this book, despite its connection to current world events, is that it was competing with a lot of other external distractions. Such as the World Cup, preparations for my mother’s eightieth, and the general furore that surrounds the build up to Christmas. Maybe if I was in Russia, it might be easier to read at this time of the year, seeing as their Christmas takes place in January.

On a positive side, the book comes across as a version of Les Misérables but set in Russia. Which may pique the interest of Andrew Lloyd-Webber fans.

Jennifer Antill

This is English author Jennifer Antill’s ( ) first book. She studied Russian Language, Literature and Politics, at UCL SSEES, and has travelled widely in the country, often living with Russian families. She gives talks on Russian cultural topics to a wide variety of organisations. In a former life she worked in the City of London as an Investment Analyst and for eleven years served as a local councillor. Jennifer lives in Suffolk, with her husband and two sons.

If you are a lover of history and in particular Russian history, then this is right up your street or a perfect Christmas gift for someone who is. So, don’t delay order a copy online or get down to your local book shop, then wrap it up with a small bottle of vodka and get it in the post.

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 though, we’d really appreciate the feedback.



British Politics is going through something of a purple patch, or to put it more succinctly, a blue purple patch. Where it was once set out as the standard by which others should follow, now British politics is shedding credibility, thanks mainly to the Conservative led government. Who are on their third Prime Minister in a year!! Other parts of the British establishment, which have often been seen as standard bearers, are the Fourth Estate. They too are going through a massive upheaval, what with the arrival of digital and social media, and finally the law, more specifically the police. They too have been struggling to retain the trust of the population they protect, with several scandals involving serving police officers, in the past couple of months. But what hasn’t changed and is always welcome, is the arrival of a great murder mystery involving all three of the above. A crime story with both the police and media as the main characters is standard fare. But throw into the mix a whiff of politics and you have the potential for a great read, and that’s where we are with this month’s third book review. It’s, Don’t Talk by Ian Ridley and published by V-Books ( ) on November 8th.

When investigative reporter Jan mason discovers that a young woman found murdered in Chelsea, is the daughter of a prominent politician, she knows she has a big story on her hands. What Jan doesn’t realise is that a mystery man has just told a stunned AA meeting nearby, that he might have killed someone in a drunken blackout. Even more convenient, is that in attendance was Jan’s old flame, Frank Philips. One of Met’s most senior Counter Terrorism officers and a recovering Alcoholic. Bound by a code of confidentiality, when another attendee at the meeting is subsequently murdered, frank is torn between his duty to the job and the oath all AA members swear by, which reminds members, ‘…When You Leave Here, Let It Stay Here’. Then, when an up-and-coming member of the Labour party is murdered, and Frank is attacked by an unknown assailant too. Jan decides to put her life on the line to help Frank and stay one step ahead of the police. Can she catch the killer and land the front page exclusive…

Wow, what a discovery. I’ve read some great crime stories in my time, but every now and then along comes a standout, true to life character like Jan Mason. A middle-aged woman, trying to keep her head and career above the waterline, while solving serious crime in the process. If Jessica Fletcher had been a journalist, she’d have been something like Jan. Another strong female lead that came to mind was Helen Mirren’s portrayal of DCI jane Tennison in the TV series Prime Suspect. Both characters, albeit working on different sides of the beat, are battling ageism and sexism in their respective fields.

They say there is a lack of strong leading roles for middle aged actresses, the same can be said for the literary characters too and this is where Ridley delivers, with a robust and sassy journalist who lives her life at one speed, very fast. I at times had to take break to catch my breath, when reading about this woman who is fuelled by coffee and can write 700 words on her laptop, while barrelling up the Motorway in the passenger seat of a Bentley. I’m writing this review before flying to Scotland tonight, while trying to juggle my day job, pack a bag, and mind the cats (not that they need that much, although the youngest Edison is a little bit needy)and I feel overwhelmed. Not our Jan.

All the characters in this book are solid as rocks and leave such an impression, you can almost smell the caffeine, sweat, tears and everyday angst which they are dealing with. The subjects dealt with in this book are also very real and may leave their mark on some readers. Especially those with or whose family or friends are dealing with alcoholism. One poignant thread in the story, follows how Jan juggles with her ill mother, who is slowly slipping away in a nursing home up in the north of England. This would be quite jarring for my wife and fellow librarian, Georgina. Whose own dad is receiving palliative care in a nursing home in Nottingham, while we are in Ireland. She, like Jan, can’t be there always, and emotionally it’s tough for both. Ridley’s portrayal of this and the AA scene is what helps to make this book and its characters even more believable.

Ian Ridley

This is English author and journalist Ian Ridley’s (@ianridley1) fifteenth book and his second in the Jan Mason Series, the first one was The Outer Circle (2018) but republished in 2022 as Outer Circle. His most recent book Breathe of Sadness; On Love, Grief and Cricket, is an account of how he coped with the death of his wife, sports journalist Vikki Orvice. He’s the author of 12 previous sports books, including No.1 bestseller Addicted (1998) with former English footballer Tony Adams. The follow up book Sober was published in 2017. In a career spanning over 40 years, Ian has written for The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday newspapers. He’s also written for TV, including several episodes of the Sky One drama Dream Team.

Being able to have readers hang on your every word, is the sign of a true master storyteller, and a seasoned sports journalist, who must recreate the frenetic pace of a sporting fixture in print, is someone ideally suited to writing crime fiction. This is proven by Ridley’s well-crafted and deftly written story, and I for one will set out to get a copy of Outer Circle, while also awaiting his next instalment in the Jan Mason series.

So, if you are looking for an edge of your seat, murder mystery series, with a strong and gritty leading lady. Then head down to your local bookshop or order a copy online and curl up with one of London’s leading hacks and buckle up for an engrossing read.

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

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