#BlogTour | #GuestReview: The Collector by John Maher #InkubatorBooks @cobaltdinosaur #TheCollector #damppebbles

The Collector John Maher“They say human life is the most precious thing. The Collector doesn’t agree.

When world renowned archaeologist Philip Carlton suddenly and unexpectedly commits suicide, the police are called to investigate. Heading up the investigation is Detective Lucy O’Hara, a Forensic Linguist – and she immediately sees something is wrong with the suicide note. In her gut, she knows this was cold-blooded murder.

Battling sceptical superiors and the Irish establishment, Lucy digs for the truth and begins to uncover a shadowy trade in ancient artifacts led by a mysterious figure known only as ‘The Collector’.

As Lucy works to uncover his identity, she soon realises she is up against a ruthless mastermind who is systematically eliminating anyone who might lead her to him. But Lucy won’t give up and soon The Collector turns his attention to her…

The Collector – the first in a gripping new series featuring Detective Lucy O’Hara.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Emma has given me the keys to the blog today so I can share my guest review of The Collector by John Maher with you. I received a free eARC of The Collector but that has in no way influenced my review.

The Collector is the first book in the Lucy O’Hara series and I really enjoyed it. I don’t remember reading a book about a forensic linguist before, and I was intrigued to see what was involved. Lucy O’ Hara is a detective determined to get her career back on track, and when her linguistic skills sense that a suicide note may hold some clues that hint at foul play, she is thrown into a deadly game.

The joy of this book is that against the background of murder and traded ancient artifacts, the characters were the stars.  Whether this was the excellent Lucy O’ Hara, the mysterious Sullivan parachuted into the investigation for unclear reasons, the deeply malevolent Collector, the cold hitman, or multiple suspects, each had a distinctive and well-defined character and often a hidden motive…

Lucy O’Hara stands out though (as you would imagine in Lucy O’ Hara book one!). A detective in need of rehabilitation with a strong sense of justice. She has a need to prove herself and overcome demons in the past, which must be done whilst leading her team through parts of the investigation with a determination that belies her shattered confidence. Her team blends colleagues from different parts of Ireland and you can sense the unity and belief growing, as the story unfolds. The author uses location well to denote changes in the pace of the story, whether the focus is on Lucy’s personal challenges or the investigation.

As I mentioned earlier the blurb mentions Forensic Linguists and some may be put off by this, worrying about a potentially complex read. I can reassure you that it wasn’t. Maher leads the reader through each of the deductions in such a simple way that you don’t feel intimidated. In fact, I thought the author could have made more of this unusual skill and I’m looking forward to finding out how more breakthroughs will come from this skillset in book two!

I would happily recommend The Collector to anyone looking for a strong story, with well-written characters and a different approach from the main detective. John Maher’s writing pulls you into an Ireland populated with strong characters, malevolent villains from across Europe and intelligent and complex police officers. A strong starting novel in what could become a fan favourite series.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Collector. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Collector by John Maher was published in the UK by Inkubator Books on 5th July 2020 and is available in paperback and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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John MaherJohn Maher has published five novels and a collection of short stories. He has won national awards for radio play and short story with RTE in Ireland. His novel, The Luck Penny, was shortlisted for debut novel on BBC Radio 5.

A former teacher and lecturer, he holds a Phd from the School of Oriental and African Studies (London).

He lives in a small Irish village, between the Atlantic and the Irish Sea, from which he steals away, from time to time, to visit the world outside the island.

THE COLLECTOR will be his first novel published with Inkubator Books.

#BookReview: The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks #20BooksofSummer #TheMarriagePact #Giveaway

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“First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes your first big mistake.

How far are you willing to go for the perfect relationship?

Newlyweds Jake and Alice are offered a mysterious wedding gift – membership of a club which promises its couples will never divorce.

Signing The Pact seems the start to a perfect marriage.

Until one of them breaks the rules.

The marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

Because The Pact is for life.

And its members will do anything to make sure no one leaves . . .”

Michelle Richmond’s The Marriage Pact has been on my bookish radar for some time now. It was mentioned as part of my #R3COMM3ND3D2017 feature where I immediately added it to the TBR. I was then lucky enough to receive a paperback copy from the lovely Dead Good team as a Valentine’s Day treat (more about that later!). And then, of course, I kept seeing some really good reviews. Bearing all of this in mind, it was a natural addition to my #20BooksofSummer challenge.

I absolutely love the concept of this book. I love it when weird, life-altering, mostly catastrophic things happen to normal, run-of-the-mill people. Just me then? Oh… Anyway, the thought of a newlywed couple suddenly being trapped in a pact with a group of controlling strangers, having to live by the rules of the group (no matter how humiliating or demeaning) and managing to break the rules without even trying was something I had to read about. I’ll admit, the plot is a little far-fetched but d’you know what? I was just after an entertaining read, something a little different to my much-loved detective fiction and that’s exactly what I got with The Marriage Pact. A highly entertaining read.

When I was able to find time to sit down and read The Marriage Pact I found it an incredibly easy read, flying through the pages in great chunks and not realising that hours had passed. I was desperate to see what awful predicament Jake and Alice were going to find themselves in and what terrifying punishment they were to be subjected to. At times I found myself feeling really quite uncomfortable; as though I was intruding on a young couple’s most personal moments. I was also irked that many of the odd punishments were meted out to Alice, the wife, where little seemed to happen in the beginning to Jake, the husband, (he doesn’t get away scot-free but I do believe Alice suffers a lot more than her husband). I’m a huge fan of a strong female lead in my novels and Alice had so much potential with her punky, free-spirited background but she never really got going in my eyes. Was she diluted because of her marriage to Jake or was the pact to blame? I guess we’ll never know

I’m afraid I really struggled with the ending of The Marriage Pact. Things were going great guns and I was engrossed in the terrible punishments The Pact were dishing out to our beleaguered couple, but then the ending happened and I had a bit of a ‘huh?’ moment. For a thriller, the ending is quite sedate and I will be totally honest here and say I was a little disappointed. I had an inkling that the story was building up to ‘that ending’ but had hoped the author would pull something utterly mesmerising and unexpected out of the bag. It’s a well-written book with a nice ending. My black heart, unfortunately, wasn’t quite satisfied with a nice ending.

Would I recommend this book? I enjoyed 90% of The Marriage Pact and it’s only because I’m a fan of the darker side of fiction that I think I was a little disappointed with the ending. I would recommend this book but to readers who maybe err towards the gentler side of thriller fiction. It’s well written with a really interesting concept (although a little far-fetched at times) but most of all, I found this book entertaining and that’s exactly what I was after. I liked it!

Three out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Marriage Pact. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

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GIVEAWAY:
The lovely folk at Dead Good sent me a paperback copy of The Marriage Pact but I decided to read my eARC (it’s a long story which involves adjusting (or not!) to new varifocal glasses which I won’t bore you with!). So I have an unread paperback copy of The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond which I am going to give away to one lucky UK winner!

To be in with a chance all you have to do is leave a comment below. It’s that simple. The winner will be selected at random and will need to provide their postal address so I can send them their prize. The competition will close at midday on Monday 25th June 2018 and the winner will be notified shortly afterwards. There is no cash alternative. Good luck everyone!

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond was published in the UK by Michael Joseph Books on 14th December 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback and eBooks formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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Michelle Richmond is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels and two award-winning story collections. Her books include the 2017 psychological thriller THE MARRIAGE PACT, which has been sold in 30 languages and was a Sunday Times bestseller in the UK; GOLDEN STATE, the critically acclaimed novel that imagines modern-day California on the brink of secession from the United States; the international bestseller THE YEAR OF FOG; and the story collection HUM, winner of the Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. Her novels are set in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives, and in the South, where she grew up. Michelle was born and raised in Alabama and has made her home for eighteen years in Northern California, where she lives with her husband and son.

Author Links: | Twitter | Website | Facebook | Instagram |

Author Image and Bio © http://michellerichmond.com/

#BookReview: Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear (@CazziF) @1stMondayCrime

Sweet Little Lies“WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW

In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?
Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

WHAT I ACTUALLY KNOW

In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.
Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad’s pub. 
Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle’s disappearance and Alice Lapaine’s murder – FACT
Connection?

Trust cuts both ways . . . what do you do when it’s gone?”

Hello, my favourite crime fiction people!  I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today as I have another First Monday Crime review to tempt you with.  Today I am thrilled to feature my review of Caz Frear‘s awesome Sweet Little Lies.

Caz will be appearing alongside Mark Edwards, Ann Cleeves and Lilja Sigurðardóttir, not forgetting the lovely Rod Reynolds as moderator.  Make sure you reserve your FREE place at October’s event which takes place on Monday 2nd October at 6.30pm in Room AG21, College Building, London EC1V 4BP. Click HERE to book your ticket.  Only four sleeps to go….

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Whilst on holiday in Ireland with her family, eight-year-old Catrina is unwittingly drawn into a missing persons investigation.  Teenager, Maryanne Doyle; loud, brash and very much in your face, goes missing.  Catrina doesn’t know what happened to Maryanne but she is sure of one thing.  Her father lied to the police.  He claimed to not have known the teenager but Catrina vividly remembers Maryanne hitchhiking and her dad picking her up.  After all, Catrina was in the car as well.  Fast forward 18 years and Catrina is now DC Cat Kinsella with the Met’s Murder team.  Called to investigate the brutal murder of Alice Lapaine, the team find nothing but a secretive husband and a lot of dead ends.  Can Cat find out what happened to Maryanne all those years ago, exactly what part her father played in her disappearance AND solve a motiveless murder at the same time…?

So many delicious secrets!  This is a wonderfully intricate tale which I found hard to put down.  I was immediately drawn to the feisty Cat Kinsella.  She absolutely made the book for me and I couldn’t tear myself away from reading about her exploits.  How I loved her dry wit, her gutsy determination and her adorable relationship with Acting DI Luigi Parnell.  I found myself caring about what was going to happen to Cat, whether she would discover the truth and whether it would be the truth she actually wanted to hear.

For me, the characters in a book are one of the most important factors.  I feel Caz Frear deserves high praise for the cast of characters she has created in this novel.  After finishing the book I can still bring to mind certain scenarios, conversations and interactions between her creations.  They all stand tall, each one an individual.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s an excellent debut and I’m excited to see what Caz Frear has in store for us in the future.  It’s a gripping read, full of suspense and intrigue, chock full of lies and deceit from a sometimes dubious cast of characters.

Four and a half out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Sweet Little Lies.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear was published in the UK by Bonnier Zaffre on 29th June 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Foyles | Book Depository |

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Caz FrearCaz Frear grew up in Coventry and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the writing dream finally came true.
She has a first-class degree in History & Politics, which she’s put to enormous use over the years by working as a waitress, shop assistant, retail merchandiser and, for the past twelve years, a headhunter.
When she’s not agonising over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at the TV when Arsenal are playing or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.

Author Links: | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney (@trisha460) @bookouture

the missing ones cover.jpg“The hole they dug was not deep. A white flour bag encased the little body. Three small faces watched from the window, eyes black with terror. 

The child in the middle spoke without turning his head. ‘I wonder which one of us will be next?’

When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how? 

The trail leads Lottie to St Angela’s, a former children’s home, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal. 

As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger? 

Lottie is about to come face to face with a twisted soul who has a very warped idea of justice. 

Fans of Rachel Abbott, Karin Slaughter and Robert Dugoni will be gripped by this page-turning serial killer thriller, guaranteed to keep you reading late into the night.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the The Missing Ones blog tour.  The Missing Ones is the debut novel from Patricia Gibney and features kick-ass Detective Inspector Lottie Parker.  The lovely Susan over at Books From Dusk till Dawn is also featuring on the blog tour today, so make sure you pop over and give her a follow (if you don’t already that is!).

DI Lottie Parker is thrown into the middle of an investigation and begins to flounder from the very start.  Her two victims are very obviously connected somehow, but what that connection is is beyond Lottie and her team.  Lottie is struggling with her own life having recently lost her husband and being the sole carer to her three teenage children.  Regular disagreements with her interfering, overbearing mother don’t help the situation.  But Lottie knows she needs to find justice for the victims and throws herself head first into the investigation.  Before long her attention is drawn to St Angela’s children’s home where, in the 70’s and 80’s evil roamed the corridors.  Run by the Catholic Church, St Angela’s holds terrifying secrets that someone doesn’t want shared.  How far are they, and most importantly, how far is Lottie prepared to go?  Far enough to put her own children into mortal danger…?

This is a chilling read.  The subject matter is hard going at times but handled incredibly well by the author.  The sections where you’re reading about the children of St Angela’s are pretty intense but well written, creating an air of unease and uncomfortable expectation.

I loved the setting.  I have read a number of outstanding Irish crime thrillers this year and this one stands strong alongside them.  It’s an incredibly atmospheric read and you feel as though you are there, traipsing through the snow with Lottie and her team.

DI Lottie Parker is in an intriguing character and one I would like to read more of.  I felt I could sympathise with her situation but her parenting skills really irked me at times. She’s doing the best she can with the situation she’s in but I felt she neglected her children a lot of the time in favour of the job.  Now, I don’t claim to be super-mum but c’mon Lottie…they’re your kids!  Saying that, the story-line would have faltered quite early on without her questionable parenting, so I can understand why it was necessary for her to be so work focused.

Lottie’s relationship with DS Boyd is an interesting one.  They’re colleagues and sparring partners, yes.  But there’s something else there too.  They do have a brief personal past together and I wonder if this is something we will see built upon in future books.  There’s definitely friction there along with a rather large dollop of chemistry.

I found the plot compelling and whenever I had to put the book down, I wanted to get straight back to the story.  There is a lot of action (which can only be a good thing), with twists and turns along the way to wrong foot you.  I’m afraid I was able to tell ‘whodunit’ quite early on in the story but this didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the book.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, particularly if you’re a fan of dark crime fiction or have a penchant (like me!) for Irish crime.  It’s a good solid start to what promises to be a cracking new series and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of The Missing Ones.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney was published in the UK by Bookouture on 16th March 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Patricia yearned to be a writer after reading Enid Blyton and Carolyn Keene and even wanted to be Nancy Drew when grew up. She has now grown up (she thinks) but the closest she’s come to Nancy Drew is writing crime!

In 2009, after her husband died, she retired from her job and started writing seriously. Fascinated by people and their quirky characteristics, she always carries a notebook to scribble down observations.

Patricia also loves to paint in watercolour and lives in the Irish midlands with her children.

Author Links: Website | Twitter |

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: They All Fall Down by Cat Hogan (@Kittycathogan) @PoolbegBooks

they all fall down5.jpg“Ring-a-ring o’ rosie . . .
… Someone wants to play.
… Who’s not playing the game?
… Now Someone must pay.

Jen Harper likes to play it safe. She is settling into life on the outskirts of a sleepy fishing village with her little boy, Danny. Life by the sea – just how she wanted it.

When she meets Andy, she feels the time has come to put her baggage and the scars of the past behind her. Then she is introduced to Scott, Andy’s best friend, and is stung by his obvious disdain for her. Why is Scott so protective of his best friend? What is the dark secret that threatens all of them?

In her attempt to find answers, Jen must confront her demons and push her relationships to their limits. By digging up the past, she puts Danny and herself in danger. Will she succeed in uncovering the truth before they all fall down?”

A very warm welcome to my stop on the October They All Fall Down blog tour. They All Fall Down is Cat Hogan’s debut novel, and what a brilliant start! I’m looking forward to seeing what Cat has in store for us next.

Single mum, Jen Harper, has inherited a beautiful house by the sea. It’s perfect for her and young son, Danny. Perfect except maybe for the live in lodger! Before long Jen starts to see Andy, her lodger in a different light. After all he is rather dishy and maybe it is time she moved on with her life. Andy seems to feel the same spark, and with very tentative steps Jen and Andy become a couple. But Scott, Andy best friend, despises Jen. Just as he despised Andy’s deceased wife. She mysteriously jumped off a cliff. Scott hopes the same doesn’t happen to Jen…

This is a fantastic character driven psychological thriller. I loved Jen, I wanted to share a glass of wine with her and shout ‘it’s OK, I believe you!’. The build up to the conclusion was wonderfully tense.  Just how I like my books! I desperately wanted to tell (read: yell in a fairly aggressive manner) Jen’s friends what I thought of them. Oohh, they made me cross!

The plot was interesting and I flew through the book. I found They All Fall Down very easy to read despite the use of Irish vocabulary which I am not used to (although with the more Irish books I read the easier I am finding it).

Would I recommend this book? I most certainly would. It’s a great psychological thriller with a compelling build to an exciting conclusion. Plus some of the characters will make you want to shake them, which I love. After all, you’ve gotta FEEL something when reading.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Cat Hogan and Poolbeg Press for providing me with a copy of They All Fall Down in exchange for an honest review.

They All Fall Down by Cat Hogan was published in the UK by Poolbeg Press on 1st July 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones |

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Cat Hogan was born into a home of bookworms and within spitting distance of the sea. Her father, Pat, a lightship man, instilled in her a love of the sea and the stars. Her mother, Mag, taught her how to read before she could walk.  Writing, storytelling and a wild imagination is part of her DNA. The beautiful County Wexford, Ireland is home to Cat, her musician partner Dave, two beautiful sons Joey and Arthur, and her tomcat Jim Hawkins. There they live a life of storytelling, song and adventure. The other love of Cat’s life is food. A self-professed foodie, there is nothing she loves more than feeding a houseful of friends round her kitchen table. When she is not conjuring up imaginary friends, she can be found supporting local musicians and writers of which there is an abundance in her home town. One of her first endorsements for her novel is also her favourite and comes from fellow Wexfordian of Artemis Fowl fame. ’If the Gone Girl met the Girl on the Train, they would have come up with They All Fall Down’ -Eoin Colfer. They All Fall Down is Cat’s debut novel.

#BookReview: Blood For Blood by J M Smyth (@bwpublishing)

51iPbibcIaL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_“Care. There s a word if ever I heard one. I looked it up in a dictionary once. It had a lot of definitions but not one that applied to me and Sean…

WAITING DAY AFTER DAY

Red has survived the barbarity and abuse of the orphanage. His twin brother Sean has not been so lucky. With a sworn oath to avenge his brother s murder, Red kidnaps a policeman s daughter and leaves her to be brought up in care, to suffer like he and Sean did. But this is just the first part of Red s plan for revenge against all those who took their freedom.

UNTIL FINALLY IT’S TIME

Now, twenty years later, the time has come. The kidnapped girl has grown up and left the orphanage, never knowing who her real parents are or the part she’ll now play in Red’s shocking revenge. And for those who have been living their lives in peace, with faded memories of twin boys who were put into care years ago, life is about to descend into hell.

But with the criminal underworld, the police and an unexpected serial killer on the scene, sometimes even the best laid plans go awry…”

This is one seriously dark book which gets under your skin from the opening chapters.  Not an easy subject matter that some may find upsetting and hard to stomach.  For those who are life long crime fans, and for those with an iron constitution, I can guarantee that you will find this a riveting read.

Red (Robert) Dock and his twin brother, Sean are two of Ireland’s unwanted babies. Raised in an abuse riddled orphanage, Red is strong enough to survive the daily beatings and punishments.  His brother, Sean isn’t as strong and dies an unnecessary death.  Now a grown man and consumed by revenge, Red is hellbent on making others pay for the loss of his twin.  He puts into action his 20 year plan by kidnapping the baby daughter of a high ranking police officer.  He subjects her to the same torture and cruelty he suffered as a child by putting her into the exact same care system he suffered in.  This is only the beginning of an intricate scheme, with many interwoven threads, all aimed at destroying the lives of the people Red feels are responsible for Sean’s death.  Throw in a serial killer who just happens to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time and who knows who will survive.  Will Red be able to avenge Sean’s death and how many will die in the process…?

I found this novel eerily fascinating.  I don’t think you really know the full extent of the story (or the characters) until you reach the very last word of the very last paragraph.  I found myself pondering the story at quiet times during the day, almost like I was making sure it had sunk it and I had all the loose ends tied up in my mind. It certainly stayed with me afterwards.

Red’s scheme is brilliantly clever and his thirst for revenge quite nauseating.  His total lack of feeling towards his fellow man is beyond callous. With all that in mind, why did I find him strangely charming?

For those that aren’t aware (and have been asleep up until this point) this book is set in Ireland, about Irish characters and written by an Northern Irish author. It took me a little while to get my head around the sentence structure and the writer’s style. I think I was having a bad day.  Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to warm to the tone.

The closing chapters are superb. I loved the obscure ways of murdering characters (yes, I’m strange!). Very clever, almost genius in some cases. And I loved that there’s a serial killer in this book, but it not all about him (serial killers get ALL of the attention!).

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I would, particularly if you’re after something a little different. Clever, intricate and full of dark wit. I almost hope to meet Red Dock at some point again, in the future. 

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to #TBConFB, Black & White Publishing and J M Smyth for providing me with a copy of Blood For Blood in exchange for an honest review.

Blood For Blood by J M Smyth was published in the UK by Black & White Publishing on 14th July 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Black & White Publishing |

J.M. Smyth was born in Belfast, and moved to London at the age of 15. He has worked as a landscape gardener, antiques restorer, furniture maker, equeastrian gear manufacturer, horse breeder and a tomato inspector… Smyth finally came to writing a long time ambition whilst in hospital following an accident involving an under-sized parachute, and has been at it intermittently ever since. His first novel Quinn was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger. Blood for Blood is his second novel, and has already been published in Japan, France and Germany. Smyth currently lives in County Louth, Ireland.