A Christmas Present

A short read … for those quiet few minutes that occur every Christmas.

The Writer

A Short Story


I walked into a bar. Well, I couldn’t very well ride my bike through the door.

In truth, it was a café; my summer holiday, a cycle tour of the South of France had degenerated into a café-crawl. The intense heat, that arrived with the rising sun and lasted until well after it had set, meant my original fifty-k-a-day plan was in ruins. I knew that five minutes after leaving this place, I’d be looking forward to my next drink break.

Inside it was dark, cool and pretty quiet. A small group sat around a table, not watching the pop music videos playing on the television, passing the odd comments to and fro. There was a solitary man, propping up the bar, a half-finished beer in front of him.

“Bonjour!” I greeted him, while I waited to be served.

“Nothing bon about today mate!” He continued to stare at his beer.

The Proprietor arrived, I looked at the clock, nearly midday. Lunchtime; I allow myself a longer break for lunch and it would be too late by the time I’d climbed the hill to the next village.

“A large bottle of cold water and a beer, please. What is the plat du jour?”

“Confit de canard, avec frites et salade.” He put the beer down in front of me.

“His duck and chips are good.” The eyes were still on his beer, condensation running down the glass.

“Can I buy you another?” I point at his glass. One of the problems with cycle touring solo, it is a bit lonely. A conversation with an English speaker over lunch would be pleasant.

“Yeah, why not. Thanks.”

“Seeing as you know about the food here, I guess you live locally.”

“Lived. Sold up and I leave this evening, going back to Kent. My wife has found  a houseboat on the Medway that we can afford to rent while we search for a house we can afford.”

“Oh, didn’t you enjoy ‘la vie française,’ I have always quite fancied the laid-back way of life here.”

“I used to really enjoy it, but it has all gone wrong.”

I sense a story worth listening to, so I offer to buy him lunch and a pitcher of wine. He readily accepted.

“So, what has gone wrong?” I ask, as we move to a table ready to get our starters.

“I cocked up. I mean I made a disastrous mess of things.” I pour us both a glass of water, we were nearing the end of the beers, and encourage him to continue.

“We moved here two and a half years ago; I was going to write my great novel. Ha!” He drained his beer glass. “I’d spent the last few years of my working life writing bids for government funds, I was good at it. Bids I wrote often attracted the funds they were supposed to. The sad thing from my point of view was that most of them were totally fictitious, I assembled a set of stock phrases and buzz words and used to arrange them into a coherent story. I thought if I can do this, I can do the great book too. We sold up and moved to this beautiful place.”

Our starters arrived, along with the wine. He poured a glass of the rich, red, liquid and held it to the light. He took a sip and sighed. We sat in silence for a while, eating our melon with ham.

“The move here was an interesting experience. We met some of the locals and eventually we hooked up with an ex-pat group. We started going out to lunch with the local British group almost at once. Over lunch, we would all exchange anecdotes and war stories about the idiosyncrasies of French administration, laws and drivers. Imagine, thirty boozy Brits sat around a table, the banter, witticisms, laughter and gossip. It was an incredible source of material. I started plotting my version of ‘A Year in Provence,’ based on what we were hearing at these lunches. Ah, the duck!”

Our main course had arrived. He had been right when he said it was good, the confit de cerise tasted just like a genuine home-made cherry jam.

“You were telling me about your idea for Not A Year in Provence,” I prompted my companion.

“Ah, yes. I had all these snippets and anecdotes but no real theme to hang them all from. With that in mind, I invented a couple, retiring to France and wrote it so that almost everything happened to them. It wasn’t autobiographical, apart from a chapter about the useless estate agent, that was based entirely on our Immobilier. No problem. I wrote the whole thing, both my wife and I proofread the manuscript, several times. We corrected the spelling and changed the point of view of some scenes. Once we were happy, I posted it to Amazon as a Kindle book. Then I made the mistake of turning it into a Print-on-Demand paperback.”

“Doing a paperback was a mistake?” I asked, as I used a piece of crusty bread to wipe up the last of the tasty sauce on my plate.

“Hindsight is wonderful; if only you could have it before you make the mistake.” He took a sip from his glass. “I was excited about having my first book published and I wanted to share it. I ordered several copies of the paperback and sent them to the family. Hoping they would write nice reviews. Some did, some didn’t.

“The Kindle sales were steady, low, but steady at two, maybe three, copies a week. I got on with writing my great novel. It was tough work, each sentence made up of the very best handcrafted words. Arranged and rearranged until they were all in a perfect sequence, leading smoothly from the preceding sentence to the succeeding one. Paragraphs that took what the last one had said, and building on it, passed the narrative forward. Or some such bollocks!” He paused to pour the last of the wine into his glass.

“All the ex-pat group knew I had retired here to write; they would ask time after time about how things were going, blah, blah, blah. Slowly, I’d reply and leave it like that. The conversation would move on to a new topic and my writing would be forgotten about.” He raised his hand to attract the Patron. “Dessert? Tarte Tatin avec crème anglaise s’il-vous plait.”

That sounded like a good idea, “Apple pie for me too, but with vanilla ice-cream instead of custard, please.” I placed my order.

“As I was saying, the Great Novel was slow work. Writing a serious book was nothing like as much fun as that first book. Then, just for a giggle and to make the sales look better, I bought a copy of my own story for my Kindle. Then one wet and windy autumn evening, some months later I started to read it. I was surprised to find myself laughing at some of the tales. That was when I found the error.”

“You found the error? Why was it such a disaster then?”

“I’m coming to that. I needed someone, a character that would know everyone, to let a semi-secret about a couple, who were only part of the group during the summer months, out of the bag. Someone in a position like the organiser of our little lunch group. I changed his whole personality, writing him as a short, posturing, bombast, a cross between Colonel Blimp and Captain Mainwaring of Dad’s Army fame. Nothing like Jerry, who is the group organiser. I needed a name for this character so I used Jerry as a placeholder and had never got around to changing it.”

Our desserts arrived and we ordered coffees to follow.

“So, you found your mistake, what happened next?”

“Ah! That was easy. One of the joys of ebooks and Print-on-Demand is you can make almost instant changes to the manuscript, repost it to the website and within hours the new version takes over. I went through the file on the computer, I took out all the references to ‘Jerry’ and replaced them with ‘Charles’, reposted and went to bed. The next morning, I had emails telling me the ebook was updated and later, that my paperback had been too. Job jobbed.” He scraped the last of his custard up onto a spoon and popped into his mouth. “That is my last taste of real French food. I don’t think I’ll ever persuade my wife to come back to France.”

I raised an eye at that.

“She couldn’t stand it any longer, she went back to England to sort out somewhere for us to live. I had to stay while I dealt with winding-up everything down here.”

“What happened? It sounded like you had a pretty good life here.”

“We were ostracised, dropped from society. People stopped inviting us to dinner, to barbeques, even the emails telling us where the next ex-pat lunch was stopped coming. My wife told me she was ignored and even snubbed by our former friends in the supermarket. She is a far more sociable person than me so it was very hard on her.”

Our coffee arrived, he paused while I paid the bill. “This is on me, call it a leaving present. Did you find out what had caused your fall from favour?”

“Yes, my wife eventually trapped one of the other women and forced it out of her.”

“And?” We were both toying with our spoons in the coffee saucers.

“It was the book. My wife had tired of me evading questions about my writing. She had passed a copy of my book onto one of the other women at the lunch club. They had read it a few weeks after that, then passed it on, in anger. My wife, unaware of that grievous error, had introduced a ‘first edition’ copy of my book into circulation. Eventually, they all agreed that what I had written, was if slanderous, not only about Jerry, but the characters that they imagined were other people in the group. Mind you, I think that it says more about how they see each other than anything I would have put on paper. In the end, the book got to Jerry and the rest is, as they say, history.”

We both picked up our cups and toasted each other with the bitter taste of coffee. We both stood up, I went to buy another bottle of water for my onward journey. The writer headed for the door. By the time I’d paid and stepped out into the solar furnace, he had gone. I strapped the bottle of water to my luggage pannier. A quick check of the tyres and brakes and I was ready to go. I clipped my helmet straps together, then looked up at the road that lay ahead as the Proprietor emerged from the kitchen door carrying a bundle of ready meal cartons to the bin.

Au revoir, Monsiuer.” he called as he stuffed the frozen chip and heat and serve Confit de Canard packages into the overflowing trash receptacle.

C’est triste!” I gestured towards the bin with the bike wheel. I was bitterly disappointed to see another bit of French culture going down the chute.

Oui, Puis, il raconte la même histoire tous les midis!” With a gallic shrug he turns back to the kitchen. I point the bike up the road and start to peddle in the blistering heat.

I’d gone about a kilometre up the road when I started to unravel that parting comment from the Proprietor. I’d caught the bit about the same story every lunchtime and accepted that. ‘Puis, il raconte …

Finally, I got it. “Then, he tells the same story every lunchtime.” The cunning old scroat!

New For November

Two new publications for November in the Year of the Great Plague .

The first new book to get published is brand new tale about Melody, the NBL.

Problems in the Pyrenees

Publishing 1st November 2020

Melody is on an early summer holiday on the Mediterranean coast of France, when she gets a call from her ‘Head of Research’. They have a new set of problems to solve, just a few kilometers away in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Generous with her time, the generously proportioned Problem Solver swings into action.

Problems in the Pyrenees

Read more Problems in the Pyrenees

The other November publication is an old favourite.

The Uncovered Policeman: The Whole Story

Rags, The Uncovered Policeman finally gets the collection treatment, all twelve (Yes! 12) of the mainline stories from the Uncovered Policeman (the original novella) through to A New Home in the Sun in a single paperback volume.

There wasn’t room in the binding for the short stories!

even so, the collection turns out to be quite a tome; 330 000 words, 655 A4 pages and weighing in at almost 2kg.

All for little more than the price of the series in Kindle e-book format!

The Whole Story joins The Uncovered Policeman: Secret Casebooks in November, in time for Christmas. Sadly it wont be available in the Bookstore because the shipping costs are outrageous.

A Flash Fiction Exercise

Haunted House is a story made up to meet a string of keywords, characters and a situation during a creative writing class. Start to finish in 20 minutes … Flash fiction!

See if you can spot my 5 required elements! I enjoyed writing this little tale, I hope you enjoy the silliness!

The Haunted House

No money, nowhere to stay and the gig cancelled, what was I going to do? I’d wandered around town and it appeared that everywhere was in lock-down. It was getting cold, I needed somewhere to sleep. 

I just wish I hadn’t chosen that place.

It was a deserted house. The door was open so why not. I let myself in and by the dying light of the day, filtered through the grimy windows, I looked around. There was dust everywhere but the sofa in what had been the lounge looked pretty solid and would be better than sleeping on the floor. 

I propped my guitar in one of the armchairs, opened my rucksack. The first thing I pulled out was the sandwich I’d made before leaving home. The one and only thing that had gone right all day. OK so the bread was a little stale, but it was still edible.  As I chewed the dry bread and cheese, I reviewed the day.

It had been a bit of a red-letter day! I had a paying gig. I play guitar and sing songs, folky sort of things. I am available to play in pubs, clubs, private parties, christenings and bar mitzvahs, give me a call!

It has been a while since I had a paying gig, so I took the bus from home. It was a long ride, but cheaper than the train, and I’d have to find somewhere to sleep overnight. The buses stop running at eight in the evening, public service for you. 

As I was saying, I’d got to the town, found the pub I was supposed to be playing; it was shut. A family bereavement according to the note on the door. I expected there would be a message on the answering machine at home. Just as well I’d spent the last of my dole money on a return ticket! 

I’d walked the streets looking for somewhere to sleep and the streets were deserted. It was strange, nobody walking the dog and no cars moving either, nobody. Then I’d spotted this place.

My sandwich finished, I settled down on the sofa, pulled my coat tight around me and tried to get to sleep. In the distance I could hear the bells of a church chiming the hour. I counted ten chimes before I dozed off.

“What are you doing here?” I was woken with a start, it was a female voice. There was someone shining a torch in my face.

“I needed a place to sleep, the door was open and the place looks deserted. Sorry, is it your house?”  

“So, you chose the towns haunted house. Talk about bad luck!” At least it didn’t sound like I was going to get thrown out on the streets.

“I suppose I should ask why are you here? At the dead of night?”

The torch moved away from my eyes and flashed around the room.

“I am a psychic and spiritualist. I have been asked to see if I can bring peace to the spirit that haunts this house. My spirit guide says that you being here is part of the solution. That is good.”

I was about to ask more questions but the room started to get cold. In the distance the church bells chimed midnight.

Then the sounds started, a low undulating “Oooooo ooooo!” 

Then a glowing form started to coalesce in the middle of the room. “Oooooo ooooo!”

I looked at the psychic lady, she was frozen watching the form slowly developing. Then I got the tingling in my hands. I had to play. I must play!

“Oooooo ooooo!”

I hastily pulled my guitar out of its’ case and started to play. Why I played what I did I don’t know. Maybe it was the shape of the form in front of me. An arm raised, a body curled in almost into a ball, well, that’s what it looked like to me. 

I hit a chord, and dum-dum, dum-dum, dumpa!

“Oooooo ooooo! Bloooo Blooo Blue suede shoes …”

We played every Elvis song I knew; the ghost sang them all. We even did ‘Love Me Tender’; I am sure I have never learnt that song, but we covered it. I played and the spirit sang for what seemed liked hours.

Then it disappeared. A voice in my head ‘Elvis has left the building’ was echoed by the Psychic.

“The spirit has gone … Thank you!”  

I looked at my watch five past midnight. My fingers were sore and blistered, I can’t have played for just five minutes, can I? 

Was that fun ?

The Origins of L’Abeille Nue

Several people have asked about the setting for many of the Uncovered Policeman stories, L’Abeille Nue. It is entirely fictitious. The location as described in the book “Goodbye Blues.” The stream, the orchard, the buildings and the pool exist only in my imagination now that I have lost the sketch map I made when I started the story. I could take you there I know exactly where it is but you would be disappointed.

The spirit of L’Abeille Nue is based on fact. During the early years of the last decade, Mrs Bun and I managed the Quinta da Horta, a naturist place in the south of Portugal.

The fabric of the resort was on its very last knockings. Held together by the paint we lashed onto every surface. The water pipes burst with alarming regularity. The roofs leaked when it rained and the drains were a total mystery, the man who had dug them had died taking their secrets to the grave.

No matter when the sun shone the place had a beauty and an atmosphere of peace. The wonderful guests and the volunteers that stayed created a buzz about the place. They would paint murals and pictures. Translate jokes from one language to another and laugh at the retelling.

We would all dine together under the night skies several time a week. Then play guitars (and for two weeks the accordion) and sing songs late into the night.

You see now the spirit of L’Abeille Nue, all it needed was decent, solidly constructed buildings. In an arrangement that would work better than the random dotting of old farm buildings, converted to cottages. Oh’ and a good electrical and water supply, drainage and for the twenty-first century proper Wi-Fi coverage.

Rags and Bea were luckier than Mrs Bun and I were, they got the perfect set up! While we now have the small but perfectly form L’Olivette … Where Chas and Di entertained guests in “In and Out of the Blues” and in “When the Music Stops: DC al Fine.” So we are good.

Crazy June

June 2020 will see me in print in three different places!

1 Dark London

Dark London is a two volume anthology of stories drawing on the darker side of the Capital’s streets and the people that fill them.

My story that lurks between the covers of Volume 1, hidden between stories by Jess Popplewell and Anne-Marie Ormsby (The Tower) and a safe distance from the foreword by Alice Castle (The London Murder Mysteries)

December Fog is one of those stories that floated around in my mind for several years with no natural outlet … until Dark Stroke came up with this collection.

A period piece set back before the Clean Air Act, in a time when heating was by coal and gas lighting was pretty high tech stuff!

The tale follows one man and his … No, that would give too much away!

I wonder … will you find the contemporary political joke in the tail?

The list of authors includes some fabulous writers:

Miriam Drori
Jess Popplewell
Ted Bun
Anne-Marie Ormsby
Kate Braithwaite
Donna Cuttress
Sue Barnard
Sam Hall
Cathie Dunn

And there are more stories in volume 2

Featuring tales by these talented scribes:

Angela Wren
Chris Dommett
Alice Castle
Richard Savin
Alan Taylor
Marie Gault
Tom Halford
Denise Bloom
Harper Channing

All the royalties from the sales of these books will go to The London Community Project and Centrepoint.

2 Murder in the Nudist Colony

A second Short Story in a charitable anthology.

Murder in the Nudist Colony, not a very PC title but it was chosen deliberately using the antiquated term “nudist colony” for a slightly retro, humorous touch. All the stories feature a murder in a place used for naturist recreation. The original idea was to have all the stories called “Murder in the Nudist Colony” but that was abandoned as too silly. Except …

My story is called “Murder in the Nudist Colony” and is set in a very British Nudist venue of considerable vintage. The crime is however very contemporary.

The other stories by such luminaries of naturist fiction as Paul Z Walker, Wallace Greensage, Robert Longpre, Matthew McDermott, Will Forest and Jacob Drake.

As well as new comers to the genre James Gault, Stan Muir, Adreas Nudetzki, Ana Juric, Hannah Steenbock, Gregg White and Robert Payne.

The collection sit behind a superb cover illustration by Fabien Barabe

Diverse, humorous and dark … read it! It is fun.

Royalties from this collection will be going to Médecins Sans Frontières (aka Doctors Without Borders)

3 The Last Day of June

A serious tome, for me. Hence it is published under a different name, Edward Yeoman and not Ted Bun.

Once again it is a story with a very long period of gestation. It started back in 1974, when I heard Al Stewart sing a song with a similar title. I kept returning to the idea’s and images the song had brought to mind and eventually I started to write the story in summer 2019.

The tale starts in 1934, when the last day of June was the last day of life for a lot of people. Taking three different view points the book sweeps through Europe and European History to the conclusion in 1974.

“I started to read it and couldn’t put it down!” Robert Whiston-Crisp

According to Robert’s wife, “He sat out in the garden and started reading it. He didn’t move until four o’clock when he went to the loo, came back and kept reading!”

April and May reading

If You Must Know: A Novel (Potomac Point Book 1)

Jamie Beck

A tale of two sisters, one her father’s joy, happy go lucky take each day as it comes, nearly thirty-year-old Erin. The other, her mother’s little girl, sugar and spice and all things nice. Married, a baby on the way, a part time teacher life is perfect for Amanda, until she discovers that her husband has been secretly visiting the same café as she does. Just a little lie … that is the first of many.

As Amanda’s life is shredded, Erin’s wobbles but they find they need each other.

A good read, stretching the credulity a bit far in a couple of places.

4 Stars 

Born in the Wrong Body (The Nudist Series)

Martin Brant

An interest read about a woman born in a male body and her struggles to be accepted and to escape.

Just a little bit too pat.

3 Star

Fools and Their Toys

Michael Beyer

Not Michael Beyer’s best by a considerable distance. It takes a different view point on the events in the earlier Sing Sad Songs.

I found the timeline confusing, which made it very difficult to follow the narrative.

The author indicates at the start of the story that he intends to meld the two books into one at some stage. Fools and Their Toys will benefit, I’m less sure that Sing Sad Songs will.

3 Stars

Mortal Blow (Wilson Book 12)

Derek Fee


If you have waded through the 11 books to get here, you’ll know about the Circle. You’ll know about the corruption in the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

You may have heard of the Panama Papers

Well Sammy Rice’s foot turns up and all hell breaks loose.

A fabulous Finale. (Please)

5 Stars

Border Badlands (Wilson Book 11)

Derek Fee

DS Wilson is sent to the South to help with a brutal murder, the powers that be know that the killers and the motive are in the Northern Ireland even if the crime wasn’t.

A bit of a pot-boiler there to convince the reader that he deals with other crimes beyond the Circle.

Good detective story if a little lackluster for the series.

A Field Guide to Fauns

Michael Beyer

Fifteen-year-old Devon Martinez is a very damaged and abused young man. He has been rescued by his father and is taken to join his step-family. Step-Mum is a beauty, her twin daughters are as like physically as they are different behaviorally. Devon is an introvert drawn to drawing pictures of Fauns, in fact his only friend is a faun!

Now they are all going to have to accommodate Devon’s problems and issues as he comes to terms with the abuse from his dead mother and coming to live in a naturist park.

Michael Beyer’s years of teaching enable him to get right beneath the skin of his characters and imbibe them with real traits, emotions and responses.

One to read.

Book of the Month

5 Stars 

The Naturalist

Andrew Mayne

Violent …

Super scientist, Professor Theo Cray, gets drawn into a murder case. A former student has been killed within a few miles of a place he is visiting.

Then the body count starts to mount, as armed with his computer modeling software he deduces deaths, murders, almost too many to count.

His observational skills enable him to detect bodies under the ground from the clues left by plants.

The problem is the cops don’t believe him. He has to catch the serial killer on his own.

Clever, well written and blood soaked.

5 Stars (just)

The Reed Ferguson Series: Books 7-9: A Private Investigator Mystery Series – Crime Suspense Thriller Boxset (The Reed Ferguson Mystery Series

Renee Pawlish

Reed Ferguson and his team of social misfit helpers blunder around 3 more cases aided by the glamourous Girlfriend and slightly hostile lady cop.

Fun light and not to serious even though the body count starts to stack up.

And … If the computer guy can hack everyone else’s mobile phone records in stories 1 – 8 why is it down to Reed to find a number noted somewhere in Case 9 before he can make progress … Just Askin

Enjoyable light reading

4 Stars

Tidal Wave

by R A Dee

An amusing like variation on the ‘Deep Space Asteroid Miner’ genre of sci-fi. Joe Tide is in deep space with is eccentric ship board computer, when he gets a Mayday from a pleasure yacht. He ends up stuck for the entire journey home with the man hating Professor Melissa Scrivener.

This book adds little to the sum of human knowledge or understanding but that is not what it about. As I say amusing, fun and easy reading.

4 Stars

Now, Then, and Everywhen (Chronos Origins Book 1)

by Rysa Walker (author)

Time travel in short installments all vaguely linked …. A cast of hundreds all called Kate.

Some interesting historical content on the early days of the American Civil Rights movement and the early days of the Beatles

It all got to confusing and little got resolved.

As a fan of good science fiction … I was disappointed.

Paul Kater’s book Time to Time (Reviewed in January) was a much better stab at time travel fiction.

3 Stars mainly for historical content

The Mad March Reviews

Started the month looking forward to meeting my American family in Florida. The month ended locked down in France, plenty of time for reading and writing.

Dorelle’s Journey (The Cloud Lands Saga Book 1)

Hannah Steenbock

A nice tale of a warrior girl (Dorelle) and her fighting, talking and thinking dragon.

Dorelle is a Dragon Rider, Mashira is her dragon. They have a different concept of duty to the commander of the Wing they belong to. To save Mashira’s life they have to run. Then things get worse, safety or duty?

A nice read, nothing deep, no hidden messages but fun

4 Stars

Magical Miss Morgan

Michael Beyer

Miss Morgan is one of those teachers that inspire, that is until the Wee People from the Kingdom of Tellosia turn up. Then things go to pot!

Attempts at getting her sacked and physical threats. A conflict with her boyfriends daughter. And fairies.

The Norwall Pirates, are there to help of course, this is a Michael Bayer book! Even if their involvement is always positive!

Fun easy reading, with lots of little moral messages either hidden away or slapping you around the face.

4 Stars

The Imposter’s Inheritance (Glass and Steele Book 9)

C.J. Archer

Maybe this should be a Glass and Glass book … Miss Steele has been Mrs Glass for quite a while.

Matt and India become embroiled in the theft of a magical gold coronet and the machinations of Lord Coyle. There are plenty of suspects for the crime all with good alibis for the time of the crime. After a lot of investigation they manage to solve the crime … and Lord Coyle?

Nice writing lots of little sub-plots with well drawn minor characters to help keep you reading. I rather enjoyed this one

4 Stars

This Won’t End Well

by Camille Pagán

Spoiler alert … it did.

Written as a diary with e-mail correspondence between the characters this story is about a failing human, in a failing romance, part of a failed family. Annie Mercer loses her job after complaining of sexual harassment. Annie’s best friend becomes obsessed with selling health supplements, instead of being a pal in her hour of need. Her boyfriend hightails it to France when they should be wedding planning.

Enter a new neighbour, followed by a detective, a violent lover … or is it. Annie has a new interest in life … Even Annie’s depressed mother has a new interest in life.

The plot swings between obvious to rather silly as it goes along. The only character that you really get to know is the rather wobbly heroine, Annie. I am sure in real life the other people in the story have more depth than gets into the diary.

Fun but rather empty.

I’ll give it 3 Stars

The Harlech Beach Killings: A Snowdonia Murder Mystery Book 2

The Snowdonia Killings: A Snowdonia Murder Mystery Book 1

by Simon McCleave

DI Ruth Hunter, a refugee from the Metropolitan Police (a London cop) takes up a new job in Wales, or a fictional country that has Welsh named places randomly distributed (and sometimes randomly spelt) across the landscape.

Ruth is on the run from the horror of London crime and the loss of her lover, who got on a train and is never seen again, despite checking the CCTV at every station.

Her partner in crime solving is an alcoholic Detective Sergeant with a huge need for a vodka breakfast that no one has noticed …

Both stories are Murder whodunits that lay lots of false trails about and are fundamentally good stories, except our damaged twosome manage to destroy rather of innocent(ish) lives as they bark up the wrong trees.

In the second story Ruth has a new relationship … but I guess it is doomed as she is still in love with her missing partner.

Not impressed

2 Star pot boilers

THE SPICE MAN OF CASABLANCA (Tea and Scones at the Canal Side Cafe’ Book 1)

by Maggie Morley

Two interchangeable young girls go on a cruise. One pulls the Third Officer, the other the man from the British Consulate. How did the man from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office get involved? The Spice Man deals in other things.

Sadly there is little more to the plot. There are lots of changes of clothing, a plentiful descriptions of items on the menu and people who get introduced and disappear for ever.

Not Classified

Books for 02 – 2020

The Names of the Dead

Kevin Wignall

Book of the month, even if it is slightly flawed.

James Wesley, Wes, was a CIA operative, he was sent to jail when his team fouled up an operation and the wrong people got killed. He is towards the end of his sentence when his ex-wife has been killed in a terrorist attack in Spain. He also discovers that his young son, Ethan, is missing. But Wes didn’t know he had a son.

Given early release, Wes is picked up from his jail by the CIA. He escapes with his life and runs … desperate to find safety and his son.

He is helped by the men he left in prison and the orphan of a Yugoslav Warlord, who had died in the prison days earlier.

Maybe the CIA are a little late getting on his trail but that would ruin the story, flawed but not fatally.

A tense thriller.

5 Stars

The Baby Werewolf

Michael Beyer

Michal Beyer turns the attention of the Norwal Pirates on discrimination on grounds of visual difference. The Baby Werewolf is real, except he is not a werewolf. He is a boy with a difference. Once the Pirates understand this they are well on the way to solving several murders in a tale with more than a little mayhem.

The story bounds along at great pace, always keeping one foot in reality while everything else runs wild. Real young adult material

4 Stars

The Boy… Forever

Michael Beyer

Another great story from Norwall, this one gets wild with Chinese Vampire Magicians and a boy called Icarus Jones.

Icky is immortal, trapped in the body of a ten-year-old but immortal. His latest attempt at suicide brings him to Norwall. Followed by a cast of misfits, the dragon child, a general who is of great antiquity.

The Norwall Pirates become involved … well they would.

Young adult fantasy … at it’s best. Raising questions of right and wrong as it goes.

4 stars

The Ship That Rocked the World: How Radio Caroline Defied the Establishment…

by Tom Lodge (author), Steven Van Zandt (foreword)

Tom Lodge was a highly respected broadcaster in the early days of Radio Caroline. The man largely responsible for creating the success that Caroline became.

The book is limited to the Authors time and personal point of view of events – an autobiography – and, as such, a very different book to Ray Clarke’s biography of the radio station .

The writing is generally simple, interesting and engaging. It does however get a little repetitive.

A chalk and cheese job but if I had to choose … I’d go for Ray Clarke’s bigger picture.

3 Stars

Copper City Slag (Copper City Chronicles Book 2)

by Otha Foster (author)

Eric’s family decided to move back to Copper City after his father, a minister, has a crisis of faith. A teenager on the very edge of sexual awakening, Eric is torn apart from his almost girlfriend.

Arriving in Copper City, the place where his parents grew up, he soon finds himself embroiled with Alicia Martin, sex siren and trouble causer. The girl his parents and Aunt have warned him to stay away from .. Almost fitting the British slang ‘Slag’ but then …

Why have his parents told him to stay away from Alicia? Why is there bad blood between Eric’s father and Coach Martin? With the police involved, Eric talks to the Press, in the form of Bill Clark (the hero of Fifth Sun) owner of the Copper City Chronicle.

This is a convoluted story of family relationships and attempted murder, just a little to far fetched for me.

3 Stars

Who Told You That You Were Naked (Copper City Chronicles Book 3)

by Otha Foster (author)

A stronger story than Copper City Slag. It contains a real killing, that occurs on the day Eric Carvin is doing work experience with Bill Clark at the Copper City Chronicle. A prostitute is killed and Eric wants to get to the bottom of the story even if the police and sheriff are not.

A foster child known to PK, Eric’s little sister, knows may have clues to the back story of the dead girl.

Meanwhile, Eric is fast falling in love.

A pacy, well written story, well worth pushing through the slag for!

4 Stars

The Case of the Erotic Equestrian (Miles Grant)

by Jack Dearborn (author), Ellen Dearborn (editor)

Now too rich to have to work, Miles takes the odd case to keep himself busy. Out of the blue his wife’s family have a case for him, someone is leading their daughter astray . Miles and the family take a road trip to help out. Miles quickly discovers what is going on … then what is the solution? Miles doesn’t want to give advice!

A light fluffy tale, a harmless poolside read.

3 Stars

Last Day

Luanne Rice

A strange book, a who dunnit that isn’t really interested in who dunnit.

The writing is beautifully observed, little details abound. The research into the art and artists is detailed and described in detail.

It starts so well, a murder described so vividly the electricity sparks and crackles off the page. The brutality, the violence and the pain for the people finding the body of a loved one. Then it loses pace,

The assorted relationships are all convoluted twisted and unsatisfactory. The detective, Connor Reid, is obsessed by the victim and her sister, after having released them from captivity that was part of a crime that killed their mother. Late in the book he wonders if he has been stalking them … yes! On the other side of the coin, he is blissfully unaware that the victim had other relationships, visited certain places and … I don’t want to get into plot spoilers.

Detective Reid also appears to be left alone by his bosses, no pressure, no other cases, to take months to deliver an arrest.

The main problem with the pace though is backstory, lots of backstory, the same backstory, repeated several times. So much well observed and beautifully detailed in the writing; signifying very little.

Nice writing style, plot and editing need work

3 Stars

Divergence: A group of naked girls interrupts a kayaking trip

by P.A. Choi (author)

Boys go canoeing , beginner falls out and is rescued by naked girls …

Not Classified

Sunny Mates and Murders: A Chinese Cozy Mystery (A Raina Sun Mystery Book 5)

Anne R. Tan

Everything goes wrong Raina … except it doesn’t. Everything seems to work out for our heroine. Not my cup of tea … abandoned at about 50%

Not Classified

Hattie Goes to Hollywood

Caroline James

Not that Hollywood, the one in Cumbria. For that matter, it isn’t the famous Hattie , Hattie Jacques either. Although, Hattie Mulberry is a larger, voluptuous and sexually aware lady of a number of years life experience too. She has been married twice, once to an Italian and then more recently and, all too briefly, to Hugo. Hugo had a massive heart attack, Hattie was sat at the Captain’s table on a cruise with him at the time.

Hattie comes to Hollywood to collect on an inheritance, Holly Cottage, which has been left to her by an aunt. The day she arrives there is a funeral next door at Holly House, preceded by a loud argument between two female voices.

The next day with her furniture in the cottage and Alf, and his dog Ness, set to work tidying the dilapidated garden, Hattie decides to call at the big house. Where she meets the recently widowed Daphne, a far from merry widow. Daphne’s husband, a popular man with the gang at the pub, apparently committed suicide. Daphne describes him as a happy man. A man who wouldn’t have left her in a parlous financial state by breaching the terms of his life insurance.

Alf is a gardener and handyman who worked at a ‘hotel’ a short distance from Hollywood. Hattie had met Alf when she been employed at the ‘hotel’ before marrying Hugo. There is much more than a bacon sandwich and a roll-up to Alf and the ‘hotel’ might deserve the inverted commas!

Stop her from getting bored in her new rut, it is Alf who suggests that Mrs Mulberry should become the village Miss Marples. Her first case awaits.

The cast of village characters are nicely drawn, pencil outlines where that is all that is needed, watercolours where colour is needed and just a few detailed portraits. It is a well-balanced piece of writing in this respect. Just enough to make the difference between the vicar’s hippy-dippy second wife and the nosey shop keeper very clear.

The randy pub manager is one of Hattie’s big fans, although it would appear that most of the pub regulars are victims of her undoubted charms. As you would expect from a village crime story, the pub, the shop and vicarage are all frequently visited locations.

The plot is a simple vehicle to enable the likeable and less pleasant characters to interact with Hattie. Only the out and out baddies are not redeemable in this light story.

All you have to do is get yourself a nice cup of something, a packet of your favourite biscuits, sit in your favour fireside chair and turn the pages while smiling at these delightful characters. Well, that is what I did.

Oh, and did I mention Drake? I should have mentioned Drake, too late now you’ll have to read the book to find out!

5 Stars

Books for January 20

Slim to None

Jenny Gardiner

Abbie is the Restaurant Critic for the New York Sentinel and she has the body to go with it, after a life time of indulging in the finest food available. So much so she is no longer able to go ‘undercover.’ The restaurants know her and she is starting to get special treatment!

As a result, she is replaced by Barry and demoted to a once a week column until she loses some of her identifying weight.

Why is she so addicted to food? Her Grandmother, Gigi, who taught her to cook to keep her away from her warring parents? Her parents? Social pressure?

Supported, sometimes indirectly, by the males in her life she sets about rebuilding herself.

A pleasant read, however I found the detailed recipes that ended many chapters an affectation that cost the book a whole star and her girlfriend, Jess just disappearing…

4 Stars – 1 for the cookery lessons.   

Love Lost in Time

Cathie Dunn

The stories of two women living centuries apart, but through the actions of others, in the same region of France.

It is apparent from the very beginning that both of the women are trapped. Only one has the power to set them both free and she doesn’t know it.

The older story set in the time of Charlemagne offers a tale of blood, violence, and feuding. The heroine, although loved by father and her future husband, is treated as a chattel battered to please the King. Forced into an arranged marriage to man she hardly knows sent across the country from Vaulun to the citadel of Carcassonne to marry the Count.

The other contemporary woman, Madie, has been left a house by her estranged. Francophile, mother. Not that she wants to keep it, do it up and sell it; get back to Newcastle and her life as an academic, that’s her plan. Her mother it transpires had other ideas. Trapped in the house, she finds herself the focus of attention from the locals, in more ways than one.

Then there is the mystery of her father …

Although she is best known as a writer of historical romance, the story set in contemporary time is an elegantly written and realistic romance.

5 Stars

Time to Time

Paul Kater

Paul Kater his written a delightful piece of time travel fiction. The main character Cordelia Brown used to (or is it, she will?) work for a company that makes time machines. Until, it all goes to pot one day and she escapes in an unfinished time machine. When we meet her she is building a new life in the past, has a boyfriend in a different country but in contemporary time.
All is going well until, agents from her time appear and … the rest you will have to read for yourself.
A fun uplifting tale, cleverly plotted.

5 Stars

The Real Story Of The Boat That Rocked

Ray Clarke

The story of Radio Caroline, written by someone who was there, for part of it. A well written book sprinkled with dozens of amusing, scary and totally mundane anecdotes collected from former DJs, the Owners, office workers and supporters of Britain’s first commercial radio station.

The book covers the heady early days of the Station in the 1960 through the low times, the shipwrecks being impounded, to the modern day.

Radio Caroline still transmits to the East of England, 24 hours a day- everyday,  on the medium wave and to the rest of the world via DAB and the Internet. They use the Radio Caroline ship, the Ross Revenge (a record breaking trawler before she became a broadcast ship) for a monthly broadcast under the guise of Radio Caroline North.

The book is illustrated with a selection of photographs, many of which unless you are a transmitter-mast nerd, look much the same.

I found it to be an interesting read.

4 stars


David Toft

Two worlds are suddenly linked, ours and one where the Church has developed mental powers. Powers that they need tortured souls to sustain. Guess who’s souls they are after.

A Murder and a spate of disappearances bring Detective Chief Inspector Seamus Brogan to a remote part of the countryside outside Dublin. Where he finds himself driving off the road, literally the road has disappeared. He has crossed into the other world.

Can he save himself, the rather attractive woman who was with him and the rest of our world?

A cleverly constructed tale. I enjoyed turning the pages.

4 Star

A Friend in Need

Elizabeth M. Hurst

A second story set in the same village and involving characters we met in Siren Spirit.

Once again we have a well written and engaging story of spirits trapped in a place beyond their time, while people try to deal with the issues in their own lives.

The representation of Selena’s depressive illness and behaviour is one of the best I have encountered in fiction.  

A likeable story, a good fireside read for a cold winter’s evening … or maybe on a sun lounger by the pool.

4 Stars

A Wife and a Bisexual Husband

Martin Brant

A novel, written in a woman’s voice, about her coming to terms with her husband’s admission that he is bisexual. Not only is he bisexual he is also impotent, which of course brings, Kate, the wife’s sexuality into play.

This is a patchy exploration of the doubts and uncertainties Kate experiences along the way to her new life. Some of her internal conversation repeats several times, others are almost glossed over. While in her life she struggles with some small steps and at other times she makes huge bounds almost without thought.

For the patchy nature.

3 Stars

Who Kills a Nudist

Paul Whybrow

A complex story of interwoven crimes in the English county of Cornwall, a spiritual home of smuggling of all types.

The trigger for the tale is the death of rather gentle pensioner, a man who was found naked in the sea. He had been sexually assaulted and violently killed. (That is about it for nudists as far as this story is concerned!)

Enter Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle, a man with enough on his plate already. Widower of 3 years, his only real friend his father-in-law who was also a heroic thief taker in his days in the police.

A plot that has more elements than the periodic table (not really but it is a busy story) the Cornish Detective could be a series to follow.

4 stars

A Village by the River

Martin Brant

A story from the Nudist Series that Marin Brant has created.

Jonathon, a born hiking enthusiast, decides to abandon his damp, clingy clothes, one afternoon when out hiking and has an epiphany.

The rest of the book concerns his relationship with Patricia, a girl he encounters while on a naked ramble and trying to get his friend Timothy, to join him.

A very American book, many of the cultural references … factory dormitories, for instance, are outside of British experience. So learnt something as well as enjoying a gentle stroll through Americana with out my clothes.

4 Stars

Reading is for fun