Jacques Filippi, who runs the House of Crime and Mystery in Canada, writes:

Hearts of Stone is Brad Smith at the top of his game, a novel about greed and desperation that leads to cold-blooded violence but with a humanity and sensitivity that will emerge from the darkness; Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood mixed with Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone.

Brad Smith masters the cadence of his multi-layered story that he permeates in an atmosphere of raw emotions. He especially excels at developing true characters like Carl Burns, the main protagonist, a man of few words who presents to the world an external quietness while his internal force drives him.

I am so much looking forward to reading the next book in the series that I intend to drop everything else when I have it. Brad Smith is Canada’s master of country noir.

How to Make a French Family - Samantha Verant

Change is never easy, especially when it’s in another city or, better yet, another country. Verant (Seven Letters from Paris, 2014) managed to do it, with a few challenges along the way, and provides readers a charming and witty look at how in this memoir. The Chicago girl moves to southwestern France to be with her new husband and his children, and is enthralled by a new life in a quaint city, but it’s not everything she expected. After many struggles while trying to raise her stepchildren (and having them develop into testy teenagers), along with not always seeing eye-to-eye with her husband, and dealing with a terrible tenant, Verant’s doubts about her new life continue to grow bigger. Luckily, Verant and her husband’s love of cooking has always helped bring them together, giving them a foundation that is unbreakable. Verant’s memoir touches on universal, real-life themes, like love, loss, and family, while mixing in plenty of delicious French flavors (and actual recipes) that make for a tasty read that’s true to the heart. — Carissa Chesanek, Booklist

Pre-order by 31 March to win a prize:

THE VISITORS - Catherine Burns

Catherine Burns' debut novel, THE VISITORS, will be launched this October by Legend press in the UK, Scout Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) in the US and Hachette in Australia. 

Born in Manchester, England, Catherine graduated from Trinity College Cambridge and worked as a bond trader in London, then went to study for an MA at the Moscow institute of film. She returned to Manchester and taught film theory at Salford University before devoting herself to writing full time in 2016.

As a child, she had a taste for the gothic, particularly Wilkie Collies and Edgar Allan Poe. She is inspired by Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier, writers who find the dark and sinister side in mundane domestic situations and seemingly ordinary characters. The novel will appeal to readers who enjoy thrillers and literary fiction with a darker twist such as Hilary Mantel and Joyce Carol Oates.

Here she talks about her inspiration for the book.

This sinister thriller is inspired by several highly publicised crimes such as the case of Josef Fritzl in Austria and the imprisonment of Natacha Kampusch.

When stories of serial killers or sex offenders hit the news, we are not only intrigued by the perpetrators of the crime but also the other people in their lives who may or may not have known about these horrendous activities while they were taking place. It’s usually female family members who find themselves under the greatest public scrutiny; Sonia Sutcliffe, wife of the Yorkshire Ripper was involved in a famous defamation case. 

And when women come under media scrutiny they are judged not only by what they may or may not have done, but also on their appearance. Who can forget unflattering images of Primrose Shipman covering the front pages? The women, even if guilty only by association, are in some way made out to be more culpable than the men – we expect women to be caring, compassionate, decent. This is why the character of Marion, and the reader’s reaction to her, was particularly interesting to me.  I also wanted to raise the question of how far someone would go to protect a loved one, even if they’d done something terrible.


British seaside towns have a peculiarly sinister air: rickety fairground rides threaten dismemberment or even death, children splash on the beach while parents worry about them being swept out to sea, stacks of  garish toys tempt you to throw away your money on rigged fairground games. Many northern seaside resorts grew prosperous as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Victorian patriarchs paraded their families along the promenade and gasped at freak shows, spending money earned from the misery of mill workers and slavery. The theme of pleasure being obtained from the suffering of others is clearly present in the novel.


The women that John victimises are all ‘foreign.’ To some extent Marion manages to distance herself from their suffering because of this. There is a sense that if he didn’t imprison them, they would become criminals or ‘benefit scroungers.’ I think many people in affluent Western cultures tend to treat the suffering of people from certain foreign cultures as less valid. Perhaps this tendency is an inevitable reaction to the media bombardment of depictions of human suffering in far flung locations and a feeling of helplessness to do anything about it.