Authors I love, Book of the Week, new releases, women's fiction

Book of the Week: The House of Hopes and Dreams

In a change from recent form, it’s not a crime pick this week – but perhaps the pick won’t be a surprise to regular readers with an eye on the new release lists. I’m a long-time Trisha Ashley fan, and she has a new novel out this week and I was lucky enough to have an advance copy sent to me by the publishers. If you follow me on Litsy (I’m @Verity there) you’ll have seen me get excited about this when it arrived and it’s taken a lot of willpower to save it until close to release to read it.

Proof copy of The House of Hopes and Dreams

The House of Hope and Dreams follows Carey and Angel, who’ve been friends since art college, although life has taken them in slightly different directions. At the start of the novel TV interior designer Carey is in hospital recovering after nearly losing his leg after being knocked off his bike. He’s been dumped from his show, but when a lawyer arrives to tell him that he’s inherited a minor historic house in Lancashire it looks like he may have a new project. Angel’s life had been turned upside down after the death of her partner – who she’d been working with at his stained glass company for more than a decade. She’s lost her job and her home, but luckily her skills are exactly what her old friend is looking for and there’s space for her at Mossby. Soon Angel is setting up a workshop so she can repair Mossby’s unique windows and Carey is working on a new TV series about the renovation of the house and the secrets that it’s hiding. But how long will it take the two of them to work out that there’s more to their relationship than just friendship?

If you were to ask me about my book catnip, high on the list are old houses, competency porn (aka heroines who are really good at what they do) and friends to lovers stories, so straight away this ticks a lot of boxes for me. And this is back in a corner of Lancashire that has a lot of old friends from previous visits to TrishaWorld – Carey’s house is just up the road from Middlemoss so you get a few glimpses at old friends from novels gone by. This is a little sadder in the backstory and less funny than some of her other books, but I relaxed happily back into it and although I always had a very fair idea where everything was going, it was an enjoyable ride to get there.

If you’re very familiar with Ashley’s books (and I speak as someone who has read everything she’s published except her historical novel) then this may feel a bit like a Greatest Hits album – which I found a bit of a mixed blessing. But I think there’s a lot here for newer fans to love, especially people who’ve only started reading her in her last couple of novels and haven’t come across this part of her imaginary corner of England before. And they’ll be able to go away and discover more of it with the side characters in this, which in turn may lead them to my absolute favour of Ashley’s novels, A Winter’s Tale (another story about an old house with secrets) .

The House of Hopes and Dreams is out on Thursday – you should be able to find it in supermarkets (that’s where I picked up my first Trisha) and bookshops, or if you can’t wait here are the preorder links for Amazon and Kindle. I’ll be buying one too – because my preview copy doesn’t have the recipes in the back!

if you want to go and read some of my previous ramblings about Trisha’s world, try here, here and here.

Happy reading!

Book of the Week, children's books, detective, new releases

Book of the Week: A Spoonful of Murder

This week’s BotW is the latest Wells and Wong mystery, A Spoonful of Murder, which makes three mystery books in a row, but I don’t see a problem with that.  The only surprise here is that I managed to pace myself and take two and a half weeks to read this, rather than glomming it on the day it came out, which is what I usually do and what nearly happened.

Cover of A Spoonful of Murder

Anyway, this is the sixth instalment in the Wells and Wong series and sees Hazel sent for by her father after the death of her grandfather.  Hazel heads back home to Hong Kong, accompanied by Daisy for moral support.  And she needs the support when she gets home and discovers that more has changed than just the death of her beloved Ah Yeh.  As always with this series, the mystery is clever, the action is fast-paced and you just keep turning the pages.  The stories are getting more mature as we go through the series – not unlike the Harry Potter books did – so the murder is a little bit more gruesome, the girls see a little bit more and are in a bit more danger, but there’s nothing here that should give a middle grader nightmares.  Or at least not in the way that I scared myself with Miss Marple books when I was about 10 any way.

The big change in this book from the others, is that although we are still seeing the action through Hazel’s eyes, for once it is Daisy who is the fish-out-of-water and Hazel is on her home turf.  One of the things that I have always loved about this series is the way that it takes classic boarding school stories and adds in new layers and gives you a different viewpoint.  The reader has always been aware that Hazel is seen as an outsider and that she doesn’t always know how things work in Britain, but it’s only really in this book, where Hazel is back at home and Daisy is her guest that you really realise how different her life is at home and how much she’s had to adapt to be accepted in England.  The way that you see Daisy struggle to work out a world she doesn’t understand and to figure out where she fits in and accept (well sort of) that here she isn’t seen as important the way she is in Britain is so cleverly done.  Daisy is still Daisy, but she’s realising that there’s more to Hazel’s life than she thought and that she has hidden skills that Daisy hadn’t appreciated.  And this is all done without meanness or cruelty and seamlessly with everything that we already know about the two girls.

And there’s obviously been a huge amount of research done into this.  The picture that Robin Stevens paints of high society in interwar Hong Kong in this feels grounded in research and facts, but it wears it very lightly.  I came away wanting to know more about Hong Kong’s history and what it was like as well as wanting to read more books set there.  It worked for me on every level – it’s a great mystery, with great characters and a great setting that just happens to be aimed at 8 to 11 year olds.  Perfect.  And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if you liked St Clares or Mallory Towers or (my beloved) Chalet School when you were little and like Agatha Christie and other Golden Age crime authors – then you should read this.  And if you have a middle grader in your house, this makes a great chapter book to read with them.  It has maps and everything.

You should be able to get this from any bookshop with a children’s section and I’ve seen them in the supermarkets too.   For best effect, start at the beginning with Murder Most Unladylike, especially if you’re giving to a child at the younger end of the age spectrum as it’s less for them to cope with on the death and violence spectrum.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, books, detective, historical, mystery, Series I love

Book of the Week: Dandy Gilver and a Spot of Toil and Trouble

As discussed in yesterday’s Week in Books, I was not a happy camper last week what with being stuck at home (and mostly in bed), laid low with the lurgy.  However, one bright(er) spot in the week was reading the latest Dandy Gilver novel and so it was an obvious choice for my BotW this week.

paperback copy of Dandy Gilver and a Spot of Toil and Trouble

This is the twelfth book in the series and sees Dandy called in to help out one of her old friends, who is hoping to restore her family’s fortunes by exploiting the potential of the family pile.  The pile in question is a rundown castle, which happens to be located just down the road from a much grander stately home which is due to open for tourist tours shortly.  So Min and the Bewer’s have invited a theatre troupe to their castle to put on some Shakespeare, in the hope of attracting some of the visitors as they pass on their way to their rivals.  Why does Min need Dandy and Alec?  Well, there’s the small matter of a missing jewel, a curse and a long-vanished man that all need ironing out post haste.  And as it turns out there is also a host of secrets and lies lurking just under the surface.

This has got pretty much everything I’ve come to expect from a Dandy mystery – banter and friendly rivalry between Dandy and Alec, a huge (and somewhat complicated) cast of characters and an interesting setting and set up.  It doesn’t have a lot of Dandy and Hugh, which is a shame because they’re often a lot of fun and there’s very little Bunty in this either.  But it does have a mystery which will keep you turning the pages right to the end, even if I did figure parts of it out before the big reveal.  I’ve said before that one of the things that I like about the Dandy books is that although they appear to be a historical cozy crime series, the solutions to the mysteries are often a lot darker than you find in other similar books – and this keeps that trend going nicely.  I’m also impressed that McPherson manages to keep finding fresh settings for these books – I don’t think we’ve really repeated anything much yet through the series.

If you haven’t read any of the previous books, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start – although this one doesn’t have a lot of explanation of the backstory to Dandy and her business with Alec.  I know I usually advise that you start at the beginning of a series, but this one did a fair bit of evolving over the first few books and which I don’t think really got going properly and hit its stride until about book five.  If you want to know more – check out my Recommendsday post about Dandy from last year.

You should be able to find a selection of the Dandy books in any large-ish bookshop and my library always has a couple in as well.  The hardback edition of this is available now, but my copy came from Bookbridgr ahead of the paperback release on February 8th, so if you’re an ebook reader it might be worth hanging fire on buying it until after that as the price often drops when the paperback comes out and the Kindle and Kobo versions were an eye-watering £13.99 at time of writing.

Happy reading!

Adventure, Authors I love, Book of the Week, historical, mystery, new releases

Book of the Week: A Treacherous Curse

So it was my birthday last week and I treated myself to a few books, one of which was Deanna Raybourn’s latest book A Treacherous Curse. Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of Ms Raybourn’s work – from Lady Julia, through her standalone books to this latest series so this BotW pick will be no surprise to you.

Cover of A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

A Treacherous Curse is the third book in the Veronica Speedwell series and sees Veronica and Stoker investing an Egyptian-themed mystery. Stoker’s former expedition partner has disappeared along with a valuable artefact and Stoker is one of the prime suspects. Veronica is determined to clear his name and the two of them are drawn into a web of intrigue that includes an ill-fated excavation in the Valley of the Kings, an Egyptian god appearing on the streets of London and a disgruntled teenage girl.

Now as you know, I try not to give spoilers in my reviews and that means it’s quite hard to say anything more than that about this without giving away major plot points from the first two books in the series.  But this has interesting developments on the various ongoing plot points that are enough to leave you impatient for book four – which must be a year away given that this one has only just come out and is obviously a major disadvantage of reading a book as soon as it comes out!

There’s unresolved sexual tension galore, wise cracks, peril and moths. I also really like the Eypgtian connection in this – it tapped into some of the things that I love about the Amelia Peabody books.  And if you like Elizabeth Peters’s series and you’re not already reading Veronica’s adventures, then you should be.  But maybe start from the first book (A Curious Beginning) or you’ll get some serious plot spoilers from this.

I haven’t seen these in the supermarkets, but they are usually in the bigger bookshops and I’m sure Big Green Bookshop would be able to order a copy in for you. I bought my copy on Kindle but it’s available on Kobo too although the Kobo version was slightly more expensive at the time I wrote this.  There’s also a really good (and completely spoiler free) interview with Deanna Raybourn on this week’s Smart Bitches, Trashy Books podcast if you want to know more about the book (and the series) before you take the plunge.

Happy Reading!

children's books, Recommendsday, Series I love

Recommendsday: The Sinclair Mysteries

For #Recommendsday this week I wanted to talk about the Sinclair Mysteries – as the final book in the series is out tomorrow (October 5).  Regular readers will be well aware of my love of detective fiction and middle grade novels and Katherine Woodfine’s Sinclair mysteries are a great meeting of the two.

In the first book in the series, we meet Sophie and Lily – newly employed to work in Sinclair’s department store which is the biggest thing to happen in Edwardian London since, well, a long time.  Sophie’s father has recently died and she’s having to find her own way in the world.  Lily works in the shop by day and is trying to break through onto the stage at night.  Over the course of the books they gather a gang together and solve crimes, with department store owner Mr Sinclair (think Mr Selfridge) always hovering somewhere in the background.  Starting with the theft of the titular Clockwork Sparrow and moving on to things more dastardly and complicatated.  There is a big bad here, although I can’t say too much about that without giving far to much away.  Suffice it to say that although you can read this on their own, they work best as a series, building to a wonderful climax that pulls all the threads from the previous books together and ties them into a nice neat bow.

If you grew up on a diet of Enid Blyton and Nancy Drew, then these books may well be for you.  Or for your children if you have them.  I’ve lent (given?) my copy of the first one to Eldest Niece who has been tearing her way through the Famous Five and Secret Seven.  I came to these after reading the first Wells and Wong book – and needing more middle grade mystery in my life and they filled that gap admirably.  I’m sad that the series over – but really looking forward to seeing whatever Katherine Woodfine does next.

You should be able to find these in any bookstore that has a good children’s department, as well as in supermarkets – I got my copy of the first book from Tesco (although I got books 2 and 4 from NetGalley) and I can’t remember where I bought book three.  Anyway, read them in order wherever you buy them from.

Happy Reading!

Authors I love, Book of the Week, cozy crime, crime, new releases

Book of the Week: Death of a Devil

Well ladies and gentlemen a real treat for you here today. You’ve already read the interview, but I was lucky enough to been given* a copy of the new Danny Bird mystery by Derek Farrell – which is out today. You may remember that I enjoyed Dannys 1 and 2 so much that they made it into my favourite books of 2016 post so I was delighted to be asked if I could review it for release day and juggled my posting schedule accordingly!

A recap of the story so far: Danny’s trying to turn a geezer pub in a dodgy bit of south London into a gay bar. He’s helped by a motley crew of friends and workers and hindered by that same crew, and also the fact that the Marq is owned by a local mobster who demands his cut. Setbacks so far include: a diva dropping dead just before she was due to perform in the bar and a wake with a larger body count than it should have had.

Cover of Death of a Devil

We rejoin Danny as he tries to juggle a seance featuring a heath inspector and the (optimistically named) First Annual Fancy Dress Halloween Party at the Marq. And then a body turns up. Again.  But this time it’s in the cellar, so that makes a change. Soon Danny and the gang are trying to solve a 20-year-old murder with gangland connections.  Meanwhile Lady Caz has got some issues with her family that need sorting out and Danny’s a bit worried that the catering freezer in the kitchen is about to give up the ghost, which isn’t great when you serve food and have Environmental Health on the premises.

So, probably most important thing in a story like this is the mystery and whether it holds up.  And this does:  there are plenty of suspects and with a link to one of the staff at the pub and the body being found on the premises, there are genuine reasons for Danny to be involved in trying to figure out whodunnit.  Next you need an engaging hero and Danny definitely is that.  He’s funny and loyal, and as a reader you’d like to go on a night out with him and persuade him to be your friend**.  Danny’s also tougher than he looks and will do anything he can for his friends and to keep his pub in business – in that order (I think).  And almost every good detective needs a sidekick and Lady Caz is a great one: she is posher and drunker than ever in this installment and the subplot with her family is excellent too.  There’s plenty of witty repartee and a lot of pop culture references.  I’m not sure there’s a oneliner that beats the “Poirot on poppers” from book two, but to be fair,  that was a work of genius.

There’s also a nod to the detective fiction author’s problem of how to create corpses for their hero, when two passers by mention that bodies just keep turning up at the Marq, but in this case because this body is 20 years old, it helps avoid the Jessica Fletcher effect.***  I’m hoping that the increased involvement of Chopper the mobster in this book and the widening of some of the character’s backstories/families will help avoid this happening to Danny as the series goes on, because I’m not sure how many more bodies can turn up at the Marq before Danny’s business drops off so much that he goes out of business!

As regular readers will know, I read a lot of cozy crime novels, which is a particularly American genre, and I’d describe this as cozy adjacent – there aren’t any cupcakes or crafters here, but there is a (murder) mystery story that gets solved without too much blood and gore or psychological thrillery-ness.  This isn’t as noir as many of the Fahrenheit books, but it does have the sly and subversive world view that you find from the Fahrenheit gang.  It’s fun and funny and won’t leave you terrified to go out of an evening.

Death of a Devil is out today: here’s the magic link.

Happy Reading!

*Translation: Begged and screamed until I got one early even though I have a Fahrenheit Press subscription so would get on on/near release day.

**Well as long as you don’t have to see any bodies or get arrested.

***So many bodies start turning up around Jessica that you start to wonder if she is the problem/an Angel of Doom/killing them herself.  There are many theories.

Author Interviews

Interview: Derek Farrell

You may remember that the Danny Bird series made it on to my Books of the Year post and I’ve been lucky enough to get hold of a copy of the latest book ahead of the crowd.  You can read that review tomorrow – which is when Death of a Devil comes out – but today I have an extra treat – an interview with the author, Derek Farrell.  So, here we are, and it has book recommendations, so I apologise if this is about to cost you money…

Hi Derek and welcome to the blog!

Can I just say thanks for asking me here today?

I’ve been a reader of VerityReads for ages, and love how the site reflects the books you love regardless of genre, or of what we ‘should’ be reading.

My whole life I’ve read what I like to read, and finding a place on the web that celebrates that – and then being asked to actually talk about what I do – is amazing, So thank you.

Stop it! You’re making me blush! So first of all, where did the idea for Danny come from?

I think he came from my wanting to write a story about a bloke who wasn’t perfect, but who was trying. And who wouldn’t be cowed by the curves life threw at him.

From wanting to make a character, to be honest, who was a lot like me, only better: Smarter, funnier, fitter, younger, and with fewer hangups.

So – and God, I’ll be killed for this – I guess Danny is a sort of wish fulfillment. Only, of course, he now has a life of his own and a readership that means he now gets to dictate his world, not me.

Danny’s got his own posse – a sort of found family – did you always have that in mind or did it just happen?

Always, right from the beginning.

As a kid, I was, like many writers, sort of solitary. I observed, and I read, and I was never unhappy on my own.

But I think, if I’d stayed like that, I’d be a dead man by now.

My family – the one I was born with, the one I inherited when I met my husband, and the one I made for myself – is everything to me.

I wanted Danny to have a family and a set of friends (and sometimes not friends) that he would belong to and with. I wanted him to be part of something, not some faceless gunslinger who walked into town, fixed problems, and left without making any connections.

So I created Ali, the world’s most miserable bar maid; Danny’s (to date unnamed) Dad – a Cabbie with the knowledge of the universe at his fingers; Nick, the pretty but too-nice-for-his-own-good copper; and Chopper Falzone, the part local gangster, who’s a cross between the Werthers Grandpa and Hannibal Lecter.

I also gave him Ray and Dash, Danny’s sort-of-nephews, who are collectively referred to as The ASBO Twins, These two appeared in my original notes as a couple of minor-to-the-point-of-extras characters, but suddenly, when they hit the page, took on a life of their own, and became solid parts of the gang.

But the Queen of the Gang – the woman without whom Danny would be lost – is his best friend in the whole wide world: Caz. Or – to give her full name – Lady Caroline Victoria Genevieve Jane De Montfort, only daughter of the thirteenth Earl of Holloway.

Caz, again, was a ‘friend’ for Danny who – as I wrote her – became more solid, more complex, to the point where people have actually written in to the publisher asking for a standalone Caz series.

But then, we’ve also had people asking for a standalone ASBO twins book, so who knows: Maybe the Danny Universe will expand. I quite like the idea of an ASBO Twins Graphic novel, and a Lady Caz Musical.

So this is the third book featuring Danny – did you always plan it as a series and if you did has it gone to plan or taken on a life of its own?

I honestly can’t remember. I think it started off as a standalone. One I was, to be frank, writing for myself, cos I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to publish a detective novel about a gay bloke that took place in the backstreets of South London and had no sex or open violence in it.

But as I created the backstories for my characters, carved out the universe they lived in and finally realized that this was a world I was excited by and proud of, I finally realized I had enough ideas for more books. And for books that I actually wanted to write.

I know that by the time I had finished the first draft of Death of a Diva, I had started plotting book two, Death of a Nobody, as well as making sketches for what would become Death of a Devil, and the book after the next one.

I think, to be honest, the characters made it a series: They came to life. They had stories to tell, and they didn’t fit in to one book.

So when a pub-full of characters are each shouting “Remember the time I…” it becomes – at the risk of applying for Pseuds corner – the writer’s responsibility to tell those stories.

Plus: I am so much in love with this gang. Who’d want to leave them?

I think I’m in love with them too, although I’m not sure I’d survive a night out with Caz!  Does this mean we can expect a fourth Death of… book?

Damn straight.

Last month I sequestered myself, my two best mates, two liters of gin, two liters of vodka, a case of chardonnay, two botltles of vermouth, twenty four pullet’s eggs, eight avocados (avocadae?) three bottles of prosecco six bottles of Shiraz, a decent Calvados and a stocky block of fur and love called Ellie (part Staffie, part Labrador; totally Danny) away in a cottage in a valley in Wales.

And – in between walking Ellie to the local pub (amazing cider, lovely regulars, barmaids that were aiming for Ali’s crown and a cottage pie I’d sell my soul for – if my publisher didn’t already have an option on same) ordering my mates to make me a drink, and lying in the blazing sunshine reading, listening to music and remembering what LIFE feels like – Danny4 was plotted.

Seriously: Even I was amazed – especially after a pretty dark time last year trying to figure out how to make funny stuff in a world filled with grimness – at how easily it came.

But even better was the fact that the weeks before, and a trip to the ENO rehearsal space in North London, had given me an idea for Danny 5.

Of course, the ideas are easy. The writing is hard. The editing? Well, I shall simply point out that I consider a back sack ‘n’ crack wax – something I have experienced only once, and wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy – as preferable to editing.

If Danny’s adventures were turned in to a movie or a TV series, who would you like to see in the cast? 

Ah, now that’s a tricky one.
I have some people in my head, but I’d rather hear what you or your readers think: Who – when you read the books – is Danny? Who would you cast as Caz? Ali? Ray and Dash? Chopper?

All I’ll say is that one third of my cast list are dead; one third are too expensive; and the remaining third are currently serving me with restraining orders, so best we stay schtum.

But seriously: Who do YOU think should play the characters?

I’m not telling!  I think some of mine are dead too though.  Now as you probably know, I read a lot of cozy crime books – and I think of Danny’s stories as sort of cozy-adjacent, but I think they would the spot for cozy readers looking for something a bit different.  So what would your elevator pitch be to people who are more used to crafters, coffee shops and pastel colours on the cover?

The Danny Bird Mysteries were born from a love of Cozys.

I was raised on Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth, Gladys Mitchell, Ellery Queen, Rex Stout, M.C. Beaton and Rhys Bowen.

The coffee shop, in the Danny Bird books, is a run-down, faded, frankly grim pub in a back street in South London. But it has – as much as any coffee shop, bookstore, or cat hotel – a character of it’s own.

The crafters, in the Danny books, are the denizens of the pub: Ne’er-do-wells, dodgy geezers, lairy birds and penniless toffs.

And as to the pastel colours – well, have you seen the absolutely gorgeous covers?

Of course, none of that is an elevator pitch, is it? So I’d say: If you adore the well- plotted, character-driven books of the golden age, and love the quirkiness and humour of the modern cozy; and if a few well-chosen profanities are unlikely to send you off in a fit of the vapours, then The Danny Bird Mysteries might be very much up your cul-de-sac.

Danny’s obviously a gay guy, living his life and doing his thing – how important is it to have representation like that in books – especially where the fact that Danny’s gay isn’t key to the plot or the most important thing about him.

This is my all-time favourite question. Thank you.

It’s  absolutely vital, I think.

With Danny, I wanted a character where his sexuality was not the primary source of the drama.

Stuff happens to Danny, and it could happen to him if he were straight.

That said, I think his worldview and the fact that all LGBT people tend to get used to viewing the world on a simultaneous micro and helicopter view makes him a more natural observer and commentator.

What was especially important to me was that his family – from his parents through to his siblings and on down to the ASBO twins – be completely accepting. There’s some badinage – the twins refer to him as a “Shirter” in the first book – but it’s a family filled with Love, as was my own, and I wanted that to come through as often as possible. This is drama featuring a man who is gay, not drama caused by the sexuality of the protagonist.

But the reality is that Hate crimes  against LGBT people are rising in the UK, as our government continues to enter into trade agreements with countries where people like Danny – and people like me – can be put to death.

The world is still an uncertain – not to say, a sometimes, terrifying – place for anyone who is less than “Perfect” in an increasingly narrow definition of the phrase.

So The Danny Bird Mysteries are about celebrating people in all their variety.

In Death of a Devil a Trans woman – who is one of my favourite characters ever – is abused and has her home vandalized just because she’s living her life honestly. That shit is happening today, and it makes me furious and sad at the same time.

Frankly, as far as representation goes, I say: Fuck Tolerance. Fuck acceptance. Fuck The Right Thing. Let’s Party.

And now I have a (large) T-Short slogan and an X-Rated interview.


No, that’s absolutely fine by me.  I’m with you.  So, finally, what have you been reading recently that you’d like to recommend – once people have read Danny’s latest adventure obviously!

Oh, now we are in trouble…

I read a ton of stuff, so apologies if some of this is a bit random, but of late I have read and enjoyed

Helen Cadbury – Bones in the Nest & Race to the Kill

Death of a Devil is dedicated to Helen. When I met her she was an already established crime writer, yet she welcomed me – at a conference in Iceland – with hugs, love, laughs and a genuine interest in Danny & co.

Her own books – I’ve been lucky enough to have a pre-release glimpse of Race to the Kill, which is out in September and is Brilliant – are interested in the same things that mine are: The marginalized, the way people get on with their life; the joy to be found amongst the hardships of modern life. And Sean Denton – another everyman with a differentiator he refuses to allow define him – is one of my favourite discoveries in a long time.
Helen died as I was finishing Death of a Devil, and though we knew each other for the blink of an eye, her loss – and the loss of all the brilliant stories and poems she would have given us –hit me hard. Perfect for loves of urban grit with heart.

Jo Perry – Dead is Good / Dead is Best / Dead is Better

I’ve described these books as like Crime novels by Samuel Beckett, and I stand by that. They’re told by a dead man who is accompanied in his attempts to fix the messes the living make by a mute, yet unbelievably simpatico Red Setter (also dead). They are filled with humanity, beauty, and an at times hard-to-take sadness at the horrible things we do to each other. Highly recommended for anyone who loves mystery, literature, dogs humour and – because I imagine him soundtracking the movie – Randy Newman.

Peter Ackroyd – Queer City: The often hidden Gay History of London.

A city I have adopted as my own. A history I feel steeped in. It’s funny, gossipy, heartbreakingly sad, and absolutely human. As all the best histories are. Recommended for anyone who wants to understand how we got to where we are.

Aleksander Crapanzo – The London Cookbook

BIG foodie here. Huge. Seriously: I don’t have a collar size so much as a post code. But this – Current and past London eateries share their best recipes, most of which you can make at home – is brilliant. And I’m claiming it as research for Mr Bird’s future adventures in gastronomy. Get this one if you love London, Food, Restaurants, or books that are nice to finger of an evening. Which sounds like a euphemism, but isn’t. Honest.

Duncan MacMaster – Hack

I hate Duncan MacMaster. He’s on the same publisher as me, only he’s funnier. I don’t know why I’m recommending his book, only it’s a genius blend of the dream all writers have – invited to ghost-write a book with a movie star so famous he only needs one name – with the nightmare we all share – murder, finger-pointing, and assasins shooting at you – makes for one of the funniest romps I’ve enjoyed in ages. Witty and clever. Perfect beach read.

I think that list may turn out to be expensive for me, but I’m totally with you on the Duncan MacMaster – I loved Hack when it came out (there’s a review here) and I interviewed him too (you can read our chat here) – and Jo Perry, she’s on my summer reading suggestions.  Thanks again for talking to me Derek, it’s been a pleasure.  The new Danny Bird book, Death of a Devil is out tomorrow (that’s Monday), when I’ll be reviewing it.  In the mean time, you can preorder it here or start at the beginning of the series and buy yourself Death of a Diva – which is 99p on Kindle at the moment.