Barbara Copperthwaite



August 2016

Review: PLAY DEAD, Angela Marsons

Play Dead

“Twists, turns and red herrings galore, along with a nail-biting showdown”


The dead don’t tell secrets… unless you listen.

The girl’s smashed-in face stared unseeing up to the blue sky, soil spilling out of her mouth. A hundred flies hovered above the bloodied mess.

Westerley research facility is not for the faint-hearted. A ‘body farm’ investigating human decomposition, its inhabitants are corpses in various states of decay. But when Detective Kim Stone and her team discover the fresh body of a young woman, it seems a killer has discovered the perfect cover to bury their crime.

Then a second girl is attacked and left for dead, her body drugged and mouth filled with soil. It’s clear to Stone and the team that a serial killer is at work – but just how many bodies will they uncover? And who is next?

As local reporter, Tracy Frost, disappears, the stakes are raised. The past seems to hold the key to the killer’s secrets – but can Kim uncover the truth before a twisted, damaged mind claims another victim …?


The brilliant Angela Marsons has done it again with this latest DI Kim Stone offering (the fourth in the series). A body farm (a place where the decomposition of human remains can be scientifically studied) is an inspired setting for a crime to take place, and as for the killer – wow. The background of this disturbed individual comes out slowly and is utterly… TO READ REVIEW IN FULL, CLICK HERE


Review: HUMMINGBIRDS: A LIFE-SIZE GUIDE TO EVERY SPECIES, Michael Fogden, Marianne Taylor, Sheri L. Williamson


“Honestly, since first opening this book, I have lost hours” 


Hummingbirds have always held popular appeal, with their visual brilliance, extraordinary flight dexterity and jewel-like size and colour. Only recently has their serious scientific study started to gain the attention it demands. With the increasing interest in biodiversity, they are a subject growing in significance with every new species discovery made. Hummingbirds presents every species, with over 300 birds shown in dazzling, life-size, cut-out photography.


Oh my. This book is simply glorious – a true visual feast. It’s a book you won’t be able to resist simply picking up and flicking through every now and again, poring over the dazzling (yes, I shall steal the word used in the blurb, because it is the most accurate) life-size photographs of hummingbirds.

The reproduction quality is top notch, showing every glistening colour, every shimmer and sheen, and perfectly illustrating both the delicacy and strength of these most incredible of birds. The fact they are life-size cut outs means there is nothing to distract from them, either. Honestly, since first opening this book, I have lost hours simply gazing at the pictures and dipping into the information. The names alone are enough to capture my imagination: wire-crested thorntail, violet-tailed sylph, bronze-tailed comet, white-sided hillstar, crowned woodnymph. What vivid pictures those words paint!

Hummingbirds are not a species I know very much about – I’m more knowledgeable about wildlife in the UK than abroad. But this book more than captures my imagination. It is easy to talk only about the obvious visual appeal of it, especially when the subject matter is so gloriously attractive. But this book goes far beyond being merely something pretty to have on your bookshelf (although, frankly, if that is all you do want it for, there is no shame in that. It really is beautiful). This life-size guide to every species is a well of information, beginning with details on the hummingbirds’ evolution, how they feed, their flight, their importance as pollinators…I could go on. There is then a directory giving an overview of every single species it mentions; it is here that the stunning photography really comes into its own.

In October, this paperback version will hit the shelves. At just £14.99 it’s a real bargain, as the hardback is around £32.99. Please do check it out, as it is wonderful!



“Not letting the pace flag is something I try to keep in mind when I’m writing.”

CRIME AUTHORS SPILL THEIR GUTS ABOUT WRITING. Every Thursday topnotch authors of psychological thrillers and crime fiction share their writing secrets – and the secrets to their success – with you and me.

This week: B.A. Paris

Tell us about yourself…A1EUXPtmz4L._UX250_

I was born in England and moved to France when I was twenty-one, where I’ve been living ever since. I worked in Finance for some years but stopped working when my first daughter was born and became a stay-at-home mum. Twelve years ago, when my youngest daughter – I have five – started school, I re-trained as a teacher and now teach Business English in companies in and around Paris. I’d always wanted to write but it was only eight years ago that I finally managed to grab a bit of time for myself.

How do you pick character names? Do any have special meaning to you?

I pick names that I like (even for evil characters like Jack in Behind Closed Doors) but never of people I know, except for maybe a lesser character, or because there is a special meaning behind it. For example, in my second novel… TO READ THE INTERVIEW IN FULL, CLICK HERE

Review: INTO THE DARKEST CORNER, Elizabeth Haynes

Into The Darkest Corner

“EVERYONE who loves psychological thrillers should read Elizabeth Haynes”


Catherine has been enjoying single life for long enough to know a good catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic and spontaneous, Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. But there is a dark side to him and his erratic, controlling and sometimes frightening behaviour means that Catherine is increasingly isolated. Driven into the darkest corner of her world, she plans a meticulous escape. Four years later, struggling to overcome her demons, Catherine dares to believe she might be safe from harm. Until one phone call changes everything…


Okay, okay, I know I am so very late to this party, but I decided it was worth blogging anyway just in case there was one other person in the world who hasn’t already discovered this incredible author. Because EVERYONE who loves psychological thrillers should read Elizabeth Haynes.

Into The Darkest Corner got under my skin and into my head. It’s disturbing, uncomfortable, and…TO READ IN FULL, CLICK HERE

WEEKLY ROUND-UP: The greatest gift


“A week I will treasure for the rest of my life”

Monday was my birthday so I knew it was going to be a good week. I just didn’t realise how good!

First, the wonderful Louise Beech, author of How To Be Brave and The Mountain In My Shoe, revealed that she had read Flowers For The Dead. What’s more…she loved it! Her incredible five star Goodreads review can be read here, but highlights include her calling it “an amazing, un-put-down-able read!” and praising the “exquisite writing”. Eek! I have exquisite writing!

All through this week I’ve had brilliant comments from readers of both Invisible and Flowers For The Dead, but must particularly mention THE Book Club on Facebook, run by the fabulous Tracy Fenton. The members have been so incredibly enthusiastic this week, and the volume of comments and how lovely they are has absolutely blown me away. You guys rock!

Surely the week couldn’t get any better. It did.

The gorgeous book blog Many Books, Many Lives posted a review of Flowers For The Dead. I nervously read it, my heart thumping as various phrases leapt out:

“Brimming with a realism that just pulls you in”…

…”the character exploration and the unique point of view was gripping”…

…”a sophisticated and emotional exploration”…

…”Barbara shines lights into the darkest of corners, showing us things previously hidden by the darkness of ‘evil’”…

What a review! I felt like dancing with joy! It concluded: “[Barbara is] a unique and fascinating voice in crime writing.”

I couldn’t possibly ask for more than that! (To read the review in full, click here)


Fate had one last treat up its sleeve for me, though, in the form of a Q&A with the lovely author Jan Ellis, which was featured on Becca’s Books blog. Do read the interview in full, here, as it’s wonderful and Jan is a very talented lady…which is why I was so excited when I spotted her answer to the question: Tell us the top three books you’ve read so far in 2016. Jan’s reply?

“Tricky, but I think I’ll go for Benediction by Kent Haruf, Flowers for the Dead by Barbara Copperthwaite and Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell.”

Wow, wow, wow, I’m being mentioned in the same breath as the stunningly talented Maggie O’Farrell! As you can imagine, I was pretty much bouncing off the walls when I read that.

There has also been a lot of exciting things going on in the background with Dying Light – none of which I can share with you at the moment because it may all come to nothing. Argh! I would so LOVE to tell you. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Whatever happens, this has been a week I will treasure for the rest of my life. Every now and again there comes a time when it feels as though all of the stars have aligned. This was one of those times. It truly was a birthday gift.

BLOOD TYPE: Harry Bingham



“Do you know what? I hate writing tips. I think they’re so often a load of rubbish.”

CRIME AUTHORS SPILL THEIR GUTS ABOUT WRITING. Every Thursday topnotch authors of psychological thrillers and crime fiction share their writing secrets – and the secrets to their success – with you and me.


Tell us about yourself…Harry author pic 660 px

I’m a uniquely handsome forty-something (passes for mid-thirties). I’ve competed for Great Britain in archery, water polo, and triathlon. I’m technically a full-time writer, except that I do a little part-time work as an assassin-come-dirty-ops-guy for a variety of Middle Eastern intelligence services. I once took Anatoly Karpov, the Russian chess genius, to within three moves of –

(huh? What’s that? You want a truthful answer? Oh.)

So: I’m late-forties (passes for late-forties). I’m useless at archery, water polo, chess and triathlon. I don’t do nearly as much assassination work these days. I write a series of crime novels which feature Fiona Griffiths who, according to the Sunday Times, is ‘the most startling protagonist in modern crime fiction.’

I also run a couple of writing-related businesses that are there to help new writers. The Writers’ Workshop offers creative writing courses and a variety of editorial services to help new writers get their manuscripts into shape. Agent Hunter helps writers find UK literary agents for their work.

Mostly though, I just love writing and try to get as much writing time as I can. It’s not a profession; it’s a vocation. My most recent book, The Dead House, has been selected as an Amazon Deal of the Week and mighty chuffed I am with that news too.

How do you go about plotting your books?

Bits of paper? Spreadsheets? Mind-maps? Whiteboards? Post-it notes? No nothing like that. I don’t even – usually – write notes on my laptop first.

But that doesn’t mean I just push off into the unknown without any kind of map. I generally want to know

(a) something about my very first corpse. All my novels are murder mysteries, so I reckon I always need to deliver a high quality corpse reasonably early in the book.

(b) Something about the crime at the heart of things. I enjoy quite strange, convoluted crimes that allow me to…TO READ THE INTERVIEW IN FULL, CLICK HERE

Review: THE SILENT TWIN, Caroline Mitchell


“The plot is as slippery as an eel”


I’m alone in the dark, please can you find me …

Nine-year-old twins Abigail and Olivia vow never to be parted. But when Abigail goes missing from Blackwater Farm, DC Jennifer Knight must find her before it’s too late.

Twin sister Olivia has been mute since Abigail’s disappearance. But when she whispers in Jennifer’s ear, Jennifer realises it is Abigail’s voice pleading to be found.

A damp and decaying house set in acres of desolate scrubland, the farm is a place of secrets, old and new – and Jennifer must unravel them all in order to find the lost girl. But could Olivia’s bond with her twin hold the key to finding Abigail? And can Jennifer break through her silence in time to save her sister’s life?


I listened to this on audio, rather than read it – I wish I had read it. Why? So that I could have got through it faster! I was desperate to know what the heck was going on, where little Abigail could be, and who had taken her.

The plot is as slippery as an eel, too, because every time you think you’ve got it all figured out, something changes – and your mind changes with it!

This is my first Caroline Mitchell read, but won’t be the last. The clever, subtle use of the paranormal is just enough to give the tale an extra edge, but isn’t over used at all.

Review: THE OPTICIAN’S WIFE, Betsy Reavley

The Optician's Wife

“A gritty, disturbing story”


Can you ever really know someone?

When Deborah, an unpopular seventeen-year-old, meets the charming and handsome Larry, he sweeps her off her feet. The trouble is Larry has a secret.

Then a series of grisly murders cast a shadow over everything.

As Deborah’s world starts to fall apart she begins to suspect the man she loves of a terrible betrayal. And to keep their marriage alive, sacrifices must be made.

A compelling, psychological thriller that unpicks what goes on behind closed doors and reminds us that sometimes the worst crimes can take place closer to home than you think.


How well do you ever know anyone? That’s the question it appears to pose, and then explore, as the tale of optician’s wife, Deborah, slowly plays out. We follow her journey from sweet-though-put-upon youngster who looks after her family, to meeting the man who will change her life forever and start her spiral downwards, to the woman she becomes. It’s a gritty, disturbing story with some truly gruesome bits – and one that will fool you into thinking it is asking one question, when in fact a whole set of others are being posed.

BLOOD TYPE: Sam Carrington


“Even though I’d had the end in mind since the beginning, it actually changed when I came to write it.”

CRIME AUTHORS SPILL THEIR GUTS ABOUT WRITING. Every Thursday topnotch authors of psychological thrillers and crime fiction share their writing secrets – and the secrets to their success – with you and me.


Tell us about yourself…Author picture-Sam Carrington

I’m a newbie author and my debut novel, SAVING SOPHIE is published by Avon/HarperCollins – the ebook is available on 12th August and the paperback will follow on 15th December.

I live in a lovely Devon village where I have been all my life. I’m not sure if it’ll ever let me go! I spent the majority of my pre-writing years working at a local hospital as an Auxiliary Nurse before I undertook my registered Nurse training, then I left to join the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. I started writing short stories as a hobby in 2010, but it wasn’t until I left the prison service at the end of 2013 that I began writing more seriously and decided to write a novel. My first attempt gained the attention of my agent, but it was my second – which became Saving Sophie and was longlisted for the 2015 CWA Debut Dagger award – that swung it for her, and she signed me!

How do you pick character names? Do any have special meaning to you?

I find choosing character names quite difficult. I try to avoid using names of people I know well, and those of my children’s friends. I did manage to avoid such names in the early drafts, but when the novel was completed and it came to choosing titles, it ended up that I renamed some characters – and Sophie does happen to be a name of several people I know! To come up with names I search baby names lists on the internet, and I also walk through the churchyard – and certain names on headstones might… TO READ IN FULL, PLEASE CLICK HERE

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