BLOOD TORMENT by TF Muir (Constable, hardback)



The sixth Andy Gilchrist novel sees our dogged St Andrews cop on the trail of a possible kidnapper. His investigations reveal blackmail, dark secrets and, naturally, murder.

Naturally, he has his tough-talking DS, Jessie Janes, at his back and sometimes darting ahead of him. Neither of them are particularly careful when it comes to dealing with those in power, whether inside or outside the job.

This time he has an additional problem. He’s been somewhat intemperate with another cop and a version of it has surfaced on video. If it reaches the powers-that-be, who are none-too-enamoured with Gilchrist at the best of times, our hero may well be getting his clubs out for an extended putter on the links. (I don’t know if he plays golf. I was just going the whole St Andrews thing).

This is the sixth novel in Frank’s series (there’s also a short story) and he does seem to be going from strength-to-strength. This time round, though, there is less of the gut-wrenching horror of his last one, ‘The Meating Room’. The title of that one alone should alert you to the horrors within.

Gilchrist may not walk the mean streets of a big city but his beat is still pretty perilous all the same. It does make me wonder what the local tourism authorities feel about him painting the douce township as a hotbed of crime and, let’s be honest, occasional debauchery.

That being said, Frank paints a vivid picture of St Andrews and the procedures of coppering.

It must also be pointed out that he has found a unique way of getting round the decision to amalgamate local forces into the behemoth that is Police Scotland that is so pesky to crime writers. He simply ignores it!


THE TIME TO KILL by Mason Cross (Orion, paperback)


The third Carter Blake thriller is a fast-moving, edge-of-the-seat express ride of a read.

The previous two books in the series gave us little hints to Blake’s past, nothing much, just little nods and winks, but this time it comes raging back to haunt him. If the past is a foreign country, Blake’s past is one the government would not advise travellers to visit.

While on a milk run of a job in Seattle, tracing a computer geek who has made off with some techno giant’s secrets, Blake finds himself on the run from shadowy covert agents who think nothing of terminating with extreme prejudice.

Blake and his computer king head off on a cross-country train ride to escape them but that proves to be a mistake.

I’m a sucker for thrillers on trains. From ‘The Lady Vanishes’ through to ‘Breakheart Pass’ and, my personal favourite, ‘Narrow Margin’, there’s nothing more exciting than riding the rail and pitting your hero against the bad guys. And Cross does it incredibly well.

He also seamlessly weaves the nail-biting chase thriller with flashbacks to exactly why these covert goons are after him – and why he had to change his name.

However, I still prefer the original title ‘Winterlong.’ But what the hell do I know?


WICKED LEAKS by Matt Bendoris (Contraband, paperback)


Like ‘The Time To Kill’, this is the third in a series and, frankly, Bendoris’s best yet.

Tight, taut and titterful (not in a Playboy way, in a laughing way), this is a page-turning thriller with a side order of fun.

Matt is really into the swing of this writing game. April Lavender – still love that name – and Connor are now fully rounded characters (April in every sense of the phrase, if Bendoris is to be believed). The amusing interplay between them is still a high point, as is the often caustic critique of the modern newspaper industry. They are human, with all the frailties and annoyances that come with it, and yet fit so well with the thriller aspect of the books.

This time around they are in conspiracy theory territory and the inclusion of a well-known and shocking royal death adds a touch of controversy to the mix.

As before it’s fast-moving and exciting. Bendoris has hit his stride with this one. A real winner.



Caro Ramsay, Neil Broadfoot and I seem to be taking a question very seriously during last year's Death in Grantown festival. Matt Bendoris, far right, has a twinkly in his eye though. Something cheeky was coming I think.

Caro Ramsay, Neil Broadfoot and I seem to be taking a question very seriously during last year’s Death in Grantown festival. Matt Bendoris, far right, has a twinkly in his eye though. Something cheeky was coming I think.

Three years ago, if you’d asked me to stand in front of an audience and talk, I’d’ve died with my feet in the air.

Now, when I go to the fridge and the light comes on, I do a ten minute bit.

I wanted to be an actor when I was a slip of a lad (the lad in question being my father, the slip being me – thank you ‘Round the Horne’). I was never that outgoing – didn’t much like parties or socialising – but get me in front of an audience and I was off.

As I grew older I lost that ability to perform. It simply vanished. During my true crime years I made a number of TV radio appearances – still do – but that’s not the same as being up there with real people looking at you.

Then I had my first novel, ‘Blood City’, published and – gulp – I was expected to perform.

The first occasion was an event thrown by my publisher during the Edinburgh Festival and I was one of a number of authors asked to give a reading. I was one of the last called and the nervous sweat could’ve refloated the Titanic. The book was as yet unreleased so I was reading from a somewhat soggy typewritten sheet. It didn’t help that I’d forgotten my reading glasses.

I worked a little from memory and I think I may even have rewritten a section as I went along. At one point I found myself in a verbal tangle and paraphrased Harrison Ford to George Lucas when shooting the first Star Wars film – you can type this stuff, but you can’t say it. The audience laughed. They were on my side. I liked it.

Now whenever I do an event, as Donald O’Connor once sang, I like to make ‘em laugh.

Caro, Matt and myself celebrate a second great win the titanic East v West play-offs. The East Coast writers, including Neil Broadfoot, Doug Johnston and Frank TF Muir, lost despite having a home advantage and an greement ahead of time they were going to win. Craig Robertson was the impeccably fair chair.

Caro, Matt and myself celebrate a second great win the titanic East v West play-offs. The East Coast writers, including Neil Broadfoot, Doug Johnston and Frank TF Muir, lost despite having a home advantage and an greement ahead of time they were going to win. Craig Robertson was the impeccably fair chair.

Yes, my books can be dark but that doesn’t mean I have to be, at least in public. I do try to follow the sage advice of a seasoned bookseller to be windswept and interesting but my motto is take the work seriously but not myself.

I’m still no good at socialising, though, and in festival bars I’m usually the one trying to merge with the background.


Next up, though, is Carry on Sleuthing. What’s that? It’s a comedy-mystery radio play to be performed by four crime writers in a bookshop. Don’t say we don’t push the envelope.

You may have noticed it being mentioned on Facebook, Twitter and even this very site you are currently perusing. But in case you’ve been exploring regions of the Amazonian rain forest where the hand of man has never set foot, let me fill you in.

It’ll feature Caro Ramsay as amateur detective Letitia Luvibod who is asked to solve a perplexing mystery on board the SS Naughty Nigel.

Odious lawyer Hiram Grabbitt has been foully done to death and the suspects include bestselling author Dame Petunia Uppercrust, press baron Piggy Grunter, flapper Loxie McLovely and millionairess Colleen O’Blarney. Add in salty sea dog Captain Obadiah Trusspot, manservant Tremble and Inspector Bumble of the Yard and you have the recipe for a night of mystery and mirth.

Theresa Talbot, Michael J Malone and some eejit called Skelton will take out acting talents out for a spin as the entire supporting cast.

It’ll be fun but it is daunting.

I’m a bit of a limelighter now but I think I may have a drink beforehand. Or a Valium. Or both.

(Carry on Sleuthing can be seen for one night only in Waterstones Argyle Street on Friday April 8 at 7pm. Details in the Events section of this website)


Well, that’s it – National Crime Reading Month is over for another year.

The month was a joint initiative between the Crime Writer’s Association and the Crime Reader’s Association to promote peace and goodwill. Nah, it was to promote crime reading. Who’da thunk it?

Anyhoo, what did I get up to during the month.

Yes, me, me, me…

Well, June 1 saw me at the vet, so I don’t chase the ladies anymore. Doesn’t matter – I never caught ’em anyway.


June 3 saw the launch of this year’s Bloody Scotland programme in Stirling.

If you’ve just joined us, here’s the story so far…

Bloody Scotland is Scotland’s international crime writing festival. Every September the great, the good and the just plain gorgeous gather in Stirling to talk crime writing. It’s a fabulous weekend and if you haven’t been you really should make the time because it’s a lot of fun.

I’m on during the Sunday, alone with the always terrific Caro Ramsay and someone called Michael J. Malone, who I’ve never heard of. It promises to be a lorra laughs, as Cilla used to say. And may still do for all I know.

I also visited the dentist during June. She said it wouldn’t hurt so I bit her. Guess what? She was wrong.

But my teeth are still squint.


June 18 saw the launch of the third Davie McCall book, DEVIL’S KNOCK.

It’s been talked about elsewhere on the site so suffice it to say that the book is now available and I’d really like you to buy it. Those teeth won’t straighten themselves, you know.

I had an honourable mention during an event in Glasgow on June 23, when Caro Ramsay, Craig Robertson and that fella Michael J. Malone (I really should find out who he is) took to the stage at Oran Mor in Glasgow to talk Crime After Dark. Or Noir at Night. Or something. I’m far too lazy to look it up.

This was another hugely entertaining night and anyone who thinks crime writers can’t be funny should listen to these three.

I settled into the STV Glasgow couch on The Riverside Show the following night to talk about the new book and Macaroni Pies, which have been consigned to the big food bin in the sky. I’ve never had one but now that I can’t I really have a yearning. Life’s funny.


On June 26 I was one of a determined squad of crime writers who invaded Edinburgh. From out of the west we came – and gave those writers from the east a sound thrashing. Okay, there was only two points in it but we won and that’s the main thing. Caro captained our team and the third gladiator was Matt Bendoris.

Doug Johnstone led the beleaguered east coasters – Neil Broadfoot and TF Muir, but we call him Frank. Among other things.

Craig Robertson was question master but also managed to score minus 40, which is quite a feat.

I ended Crime Reading Month with ‘Carry on Sleuthing’, a radio play what I wrote.

I was asked to do this some time ago by Aileen Cowan, the head honcho at the Carnegie Library in Ayr. I wasn’t sure about it at first, to be honest, but finally I put my nose to the grindstone and my shoulder to the wheel. After I had some treatment for a sore back, I started writing.

The result was the comic mystery which we performed in the Library on June 29. Aileen, Samantha and Nan from the library took on all the female parts – apart from one, which I did, complete with red wig. I was also a sea captain and a press baron.

That fella Michael J. Malone played two parts – a gentleman’s gentleman and a police officer. And no, I still don’t know who he is.

It was a success, I think. A capacity audience laughed in all the right places – I think the wine helped with that – and tried to solve the mystery.

So, that’s it. A month of crime fun over. And I never thought I’d put the sword ‘Crime’ along with ‘fun’ until I joined the CWA!