Book review – If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch

If I Die Before I Wake coverEasing a reader into the viewpoint of a protagonist is every writer’s greatest magic trick. Emily Koch managed something remarkable with her debut novel, enclosing us in the mind of a man suffering from undiagnosed locked in syndrome.

Unable to move or speak, Alex lies in his hospital bed, wishing he could let his friends, family and medical attendees know that he’s aware of everything that happens around him, that he feels pain, hunger and pleasure, and hears and smells each person who visits. From their point of view, he’s in a vegetative state, and the kindest thing to do might be to let him slip away.

More than a year into his ordeal, he wants nothing more than to die. But something isn’t quite right. Alex knows a climbing accident led him to hospitalisation. He was an experienced climber with confidence in his equipment, so what went wrong?

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Book review – Unraveled Visions by Nina Milton

Unraveled Visions by Nina MiltonUnraveled Visions (A Shaman Mystery) is the second of The Shaman Mysteries by Nina Milton. This review has been written by Lee Fielding.

We’re back on the rain-drenched moors and the rugged, forbidding coastline of Somerset for the second Shaman Mystery by Nina Milton; Unraveled Visions. One of the many things that draws me to read these books and that keeps me looking out for them, is the brilliantly described landscapes, both of Somerset and of the shamanic otherworld – the place shamans go in when they’re in a trance.

As with number one of the series, In the Moors, which I reviewed for SkyLightRain on its release, I was hooked from the first page, a tense description of the body of an unknown young woman being winched up from her watery grave in a silted gravel pit on the River Parrett.

Like In the Moors, Unraveled Visions is a mystical thriller; a whodunit with supernatural undertones, but it still feels very much of the real world, because shamans are part of the alternative therapy community all over Britain and the US, as well as in traditional communities.

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Book review – No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary

No Other Darkness by Sarah HilaryIf you’ve read Someone Else’s Skin, Sarah Hilary’s stunning debut, you’ll have high expectations of the second book in her Marnie Rome series.

Quite rightly so. What you might not be prepared for, even with the book’s title, is just how dark you’re expected to get.

Here’s a clue: it begins with a pit, in the ground, containing the bodies of two little boys abandoned five years before; a family fostering a shifty teenage boy; a weird neighbour who collects dolls, and that’s not even the half of it.

Hilary conjures up scenes with her usual verging-on-poetic adroitness, in which aromas have sounds – “The smell coming up was squeaky and high-pitched, like the wail Cole had let out” – and emotions reek – “Marnie could smell remorse leaching from the woman’s skin, a sweet-sour smell like a nursing mother’s.” Continue reading

Midweek writing prompt – evidence

Picnic bench mushrooms cr Judy DarleyEver watched a crime show where the body is discovered buried in the forest, given away by the profusion of mushrooms sprouting over the corpse? Maybe no, maybe so, but it’s an idea that lodged in my mind from somewhere.

While visiting a leisure park recently with my family, I spotted this gloriously orange crop of mushrooms nestle beneath a picnic table, and wondered what made them choose that spot, out of the whole park.

Picnic bench mushrooms1 cr Judy Darley

Is there a body nurturing them, quietly rotting in the earth just there, or is it something else hidden in the soil – something much less distressing and far more magical?

No, I don’t know what that might be. Why don’t you give it some thought and see what your imagination dredges to the surface?

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket With your permission, I’d love to share it on

Book review – A Capital Crime by Laura Wilson

A Capital Crime by Laura WilsonReviewed by Alan Hamilton.

I’m not a devotee of detective fiction. The kind where the author has a police or amateur sleuth who solves crimes oh so cleverly. Especially if the crime is committed in some idyllic or country house situation as though the whole thing were a deeply disturbing reversal of the natural order. But, at a satisfying 440 pages, A Capital Crime isn’t one of your run of the mill Midsomer Murders or Morse concoctions. This one mirrors, almost exactly, the Evans/Christie cases in 1950s Britain and the police content is relevant, carefully researched and entertaining.

It’s a challenge to take a real and notorious crime and give it new life as riveting fiction; one that Laura Wilson takes on and meets with great skill. Real crime, unlike the made-up kind I’ve referred to, is messy, generally unglamorous with unpleasant characters and, often, inept and unimaginative police work. Continue reading

Book review – In The Moors by Nina Milton

In The Moors book coverReviewed by Lee Fielding

Sabbie Dare, the zany, feisty heroine of Nina Milton’s In The Moors, is a city girl of mixed race and lost parentage; as a child she went into the care system and by the time she was twelve was a little fighting machine.

When we meet her, she’s 28 and clear about her path in life; she’s an eco-friendly pagan living in Somerset where she works as a therapeutic shaman. Her clients come to her for last-resort help, and such is Cliff Houghton. He’s been arrested for the recent murder of a child found. The evidence that points to Cliff feels watertight, but Sabbie is determined to trust her instincts and support him. She draws parallels between this murder and the shocking disappearance of four children, twenty-five years earlier. also buried out in the moors. Continue reading