Publication Day #bookreview of FOLLY DITCH by Anna Sayburn Lane @BloomsburyBlue The fourth book in the Helen Oddfellow Literary Mystery Series OUT TODAY!

Many thanks to the author for allowing me to read an ARC of this book. The fourth in the series and a great new addition to this wonderful series.



A Dickensian murder mystery. A brutal modern-day gang. Can Helen Oddfellow outwit an old enemy – or will she be his next victim?
When literary researcher Helen Oddfellow finds an old newspaper clipping in an antiquarian bookshop in Rochester, she uncovers a Dickensian murder mystery. The 200-year-old report of a woman’s murder on the steps of London Bridge provides clues to the real-life inspiration for Nancy, one of Charles Dickens best-loved characters.
But her quest takes a dangerous turn. She discovers that the eerie marshes of north Kent are home to a criminal gang more brutal than anything Charles Dickens dreamed of. On the bleak shore of the Thames estuary, she comes face to face with an old enemy. Can she keep Nancy’s secret from him, without sharing her fate?


Having read and enjoyed the previous three books in this very readable, historical/present day literary mystery series, I was looking forward to see where and who the author introduced us to in this new novel.

I raced through this and thoroughly enjoyed it!

The story follows Helens as she stumbles across an old newspaper clipping, hidden between the pages of an old book whilst browsing in antiquarian bookshop in Rochester. As before, with her background in historical literature, she soon recognises it’s possible significance and starts out trying to discover more about the article. However, Helen has inadvertently walked into a dark and dangerous world of criminals and people trafficking and is about to get tangled up in their dangerous world. Has she finally taken a step too far????!

Although it is totally possible to reads these books as standalone novels, it was also great to meet back up with some old familiar faces from the previous books as Anna writes such believable and true to life characters. I love how the historical story and real life people are intertwined within another great modern day and often gritty thriller/mystery. The two stories run parallel to each other and it was very engaging to watch as they finally converge together.

It kept my interest all the way through.  Wonderfully paced, with great twists and turns, keeping me turning the pages, wanting to know what would happen next. Once again the enjoyable and informative links back to a historical literary figure with wonderfully effective description of place and setting make me really look forward to seeing who the author chooses next!


Anna Sayburn Lane is the author of page-turning mystery thriller books, featuring literary sleuth Helen Oddfellow. The books draw on Anna’s love of history, mystery and exciting stories, weaving together dark secrets from the past with contemporary thriller action.

Anna has published award-winning short stories and worked as a journalist.

She recently swapped her home in south London for a flat with a view of the English Channel in Kent.

#bookreview The Mortification of Grace Wheeler by Colette Dartford Published August 18th by Whitefox @ColetteDartford @Bookish_Becky @Gabriellamay24 @midaspr @wearewhitefox

Hugh thanks to the team at Midas for my proof copy of this fantastic novel of a woman in crisis.

proof copy


A stale marriage, an illicit affair. Who pays the price?

Faced with an empty nest when her only child goes to university, the flaws in Grace’s marriage are sharply exposed. Finding excuses to escape the taut atmosphere at home, she is drawn into an affair that ignites a mid-life sexual awakening.

But when her secret is discovered there is a terrible price to pay, and Grace is not the only one who pays it.

A compelling and emotional read, The Mortification of Grace Wheeler shines a spotlight on a marriage in crisis, the challenges of being a middle-aged woman, and the fear that your best years are behind you.


I’ve been lucky enough to read some really good novels featuring women in their 40’s and 50’s this year and this is another great read to add to that list.

Being in my early 50’s myself, and, having had children, now getting used to them living elsewhere, it really does feel like starting another chapter of life, and it’s great seeing this portrayed in modern day fiction. I’m finding it harder to relate to female protagonists in say their 20’s and 30’s in novels these days, so I have been enjoying reading more books featuring older, but not old, women. Whatever the story line.

In The Mortification of Grace Wheeler the synopsis quickly lets us know that the character is set for troubled times, but I wasn’t expecting the story to go as it did and was surprised by the twists the author placed within the story line making it something a little different.

With Grace’s only child moving out to start University, she finds she can no longer ignore the cracks and faults in her marriage. Whilst learning how to fly fish, (a surprise for her son so they can spend time together when he comes home in the holidays) and a reason to spend less time at home, she meets her instructor and soon begins an affair. This may sound fairly cliché but the author does a fabulous job at explaining what Grace is thinking when she decides to act on this decision and makes the reader fully aware that our main character knows exactly what this could mean for her family. I also loved how the author doesn’t write the affair as all physical passion and self assurance and highlights real, believable moments and incidences that would be far more likely to happen and Grace’s thoughts and reaction to them.

We soon learn of the background to her marriage and the real reasons it has become what it has. The author writes wonderfully of our main character and uses friends and step children to great effect in allowing the reader to really get a feel for Grace and her current state and life at this present time. The story also highlights some important social issues, which I really wasn’t expecting, but what again makes this such a realistic and believable read.

A novel which had me drawn in from the very start and kept me fully invested throughout.


Colette Dartford writes contemporary fiction with compelling emotional themes. Her debut novel, Learning to Speak American, was shortlisted for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and published by Bonnier Zaffre. Her second novel, An Unsuitable Marriage, was a Kindle bestseller for over 18 months. In addition to her novels, Colette has had award-winning Flash fiction, short stories and poetry, published in popular magazines and anthologies. The Mortification of Grace Wheeler is her third novel. Colette lives in Bath with her husband and a very demanding labradoodle.

#bookreview The Lost Diary Of Samuel Pepys by @jackjewers Published August 4th by @moonflowerbooks @midaspr #TheLostDiaryOfSamuelPepys

proof copy


The treasury’s coffers are bare and tensions with the powerful Dutch Republic are boiling over. And now, an investigator sent by the King to look into corruption at the Royal Navy has been brutally murdered. Loathe to leave the pleasures of London, Samuel Pepys is sent dragging his feet to Portsmouth to find the truth about what happened.

Aided by his faithful assistant, Will Hewer, he soon exposes the killer. But has he got the right person? The truth may be much more sinister. And if the mystery isn’t solved in time, then England could be thrown into a war that would have devastating consequences . . .

The diaries of Samuel Pepys have enthralled readers for centuries with their audacious wit, gripping detail, and racy assignations. Pepys stopped writing at the age of 36. Or did he? This action-packed historical thriller, described as “Bridgerton meets Sherlock” imagines what might have happened next.


The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys by Jack Jewers picks up a week after Pepys’ last diary entry, and follows Pepys on a mission to investigate the death of a Crown agent in Portsmouth – the home of the Royal Navy. Events spiral out of control, embroiling Pepys in a deadly plot that reaches higher than he ever could have imagined. And along the way he is forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about who he is and what he really believes…..

Jack Jewers reimagines one of Britain’s greatest historical figures through a 21st century lens. Readers will love how Pepys not only turns detective but must confront his own prejudices along the way. What better allies for one of history’s most infamous womanizers than a secret society of dangerous outlaws, made up entirely of women.

The modern diary as we know it owes its popularity to the 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys. Quite simply without Pepys’ secret diary, discovered 150 years after his death, there may have been no Bridget Jones, no Dracula, no Adrian Mole, and no Secret Diary of a Call Girl.  

But this is no dry, lifeless old document. Pepys’ diaries have enthralled generations of readers with their exciting, often crude and frequently hilarious confessions about day-to-day life during the Restoration. From slating Shakespeare’s plays to detailing his secret love affairs, Pepys’ diary reads like a 17th century Hello! Magazine.

Pepys witnessed some of the most dramatic events in English history, from the return of Charles II to the horrors of the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London, but put his pen down for the last time in the early summer of 1669. Jack Jewers’ inventive crime caper, The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys imagines what happened next.

For those unfamiliar with the Restoration period, this was when Charles II returned to the throne after Oliver Cromwell. It was a time of hedonism and excitement, which saw the theatres reopen and women take to the stage for the first time. Brothels and ale-houses could once more operate freely. But it was also an era rocked by disaster, from the Great Fire of London in 1666, to devastating wars with the Dutch – that England lost. It was the best of times, and the worst of times.


Full of political intrigue, suspense and historical detail, we ‘catch up’ with Pepys at a very turbulent time in history when war with the Dutch is very much at the fore of peoples lives.

From London to Portsmouth, from the grimy streets and alleyways to the ships in the docks, I found this debut novel from director, producer and screenwriter Jack Jewers a thoroughly great adventure.

I found the story very imaginative with great atmosphere and use of the current historical and political climate at that time. With some wonderful action pieces the authors screenwriting skills shine through.

With Pepys turned investigator, conspiracies upon conspiracies, tensions, twists and turn this is a really vivid and imaginative historical crime romp.

Hugh thanks to Funmi Lijadu at Midas PR for sending me my proof copy.


Jack Jewers is a filmmaker and writer, passionate about history. His career has been spent telling stories in all media, and his body of work includes film, TV, and digital media. His films have been shown at dozens of international film festivals, including Cannes, New York, Marseille, Dublin, and London’s FrightFest, garnering multiple accolades, including an award from the Royal Television Society and a nomination for Best Short Film by BAFTA Wales. The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys is his first novel.

#bookreview THE HIDDEN TRUTH by Hilary Boyd Published August 4th by @MichaelJBooks @HilaryBoyd #newrelease

Many thanks to the publishers Michael J Books for sending me a proof copy of this book back in May. A new author for me and a story I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Here’s my review.

proof copy


Sara Tempest has been alone since her husband died and daughters left home.

But over the course of one summer she falls in love with the charming Bernard – years of heartache and loneliness finally behind her – and moves into his beautiful home on the wind-battered cliffs of Hastings.

But soon she begins to wonder if Bernard is all he seems . . .

He’s barely in touch with his children. Stifling reminders of his wife appear everywhere Sara looks.

And then comes Bernard’s confession.

All too quickly, Sara’s newfound happiness starts to crumble around her . . .


Sarah is 58 years old and lives in Lewes near Brighton. A widow of 6 years, she lives alone and works as a nutritionist. Sarah hadn’t felt ready to start dating before but gentle persuaded by her two daughters to give it a try, she’s joined a dating service and is on her way to her first date. Colin. Not a success. Encouraged not to give up, on arriving at a café to meet a Randall, she instead meets Bernard, also waiting to meet someone but whom hasn’t shown up. There is an immediate connection. He seems nice. Sarah likes him, almost shocked at how much she likes him, so after a short ‘stumble’ they arrange to meet up again.

Told in their alternate perspectives, we learn of their past and present lives. Family and friends, but as things move faster than expected and Sarah moves into Bernard’s wonderful house on the cliffs, Sarah senses a darkness, an edge to the house which is unsettling. Bernard’s moods start to change and Sarah is sure he is hiding something from her.

This is the first book by this author that I have read and I really enjoyed it. The was a real authenticness to her writing and I enjoyed reading about a slightly older generation of characters. Sarah and Bernard’s characters are developed well as you read along allowing the reader to get a better sense of their story. As the mystery and tensions mount, a wonderfully thought out back story emerges, bit by bit, which kept me fully intrigued and caught out with a surprising twist in the tale. I loved her relationship with her mother-in-law and the way Sarah and Bernard’s narrative explain the story to us with their emotions and feeling still very raw. This is not a romance read, although a romantic relationship is at it heart, but a really well thought out mystery and human story. I will definitely try her other novels.

#bookreview TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW by Gabrielle Zevin. Out now and published by @vintagebooks @NetGalley #Tomorrowx3

Many thanks to the publishers for my digital copy via NetGalley of this brilliant new novel from Gabrielle Zevin. Not having read anything from this author before, not even The Storied Life of A J Fikry, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I have to say I loved it!!

Digital cover


This is not a romance, but it is about love

Two kids meet in a hospital gaming room in 1987. One is visiting her sister, the other is recovering from a car crash. The days and months are long there. Their love of video games becomes a shared world — of joy, escape and fierce competition. But all too soon that time is over.

When the pair spot each other eight years later in a crowded train station, they are catapulted back to that moment. The spark is immediate, and together they get to work on what they love – making games to delight, challenge and immerse players, finding an intimacy in digital worlds that eludes them in their real lives. Their collaborations make them superstars.

This is the story of the perfect worlds Sadie and Sam build, the imperfect world they live in, and of everything that comes after success: Money. Fame. Duplicity. Tragedy.


I really don’t know where to start in reviewing this new novel from author Gabrielle Zevin. It’s such an imaginative and interesting read about friendship, love, loss, work, trauma. So many things are packed into this novel. The first thing I will say though is that I fell in love with Sam and Sadie by the end of the first chapter. In fact such wonderful characters throughout like Marx and all the others made this a joy of a book to read.

The story is about two kids who meet in a children’s hospital and form a short friendship over their love of video games and play together, one to kill time while waiting for her sister to receive treatment, the other to numb pain as he recovers and receive treatment to repair damage to his foot from a car accident. Their friendship, however, is cut short by an unfortunate ‘misunderstanding’ of sorts, and they no longer continue to see each other.

However, 8 years later Sam spots Sadie at a train station and their love of gaming once again brings them back together. The story follows them, back and forth in time, as they start a career together along with the wonderful Marx and we follow their lives over about 30 years, watching how their experiences mould them into the adults they become. How both success and failure impact their lives and how they deal with that. It had me love, laugh and cry in equal measure.

You don’t need to know a lot about gaming or current gaming trends to read this novel as those mentioned are rather retro, or made up (I think) and make up part of the story themselves rather than determine your understanding of the story. In fact the way gaming is used in the book is wonderfully imaginative and made great reading. I don’t want to mention anymore of the story line as to read this knowing as little as possible make the read even more enjoyable. There is so much that happens, so much I didn’t expect, and told in such varied ways that I wouldn’t want to ruin it’s enjoyment for others.

What I will say though is that this novel is packed full of emotion, love, friendship. I laughed and cried. A really wonderful read and one that I would highly recommend.

#blogtour #bookreview How To Kill Your Best Friend by @elliott_lexie Published by @CorvusBooks #newrelease @midaspr

It’s my stop on the blog tour today so I’m pleased to share with you my review for How To Kill Your Best Friend.

Many thanks to Becky at Midas PR for my invite and copy of the book.


I’d do anything for my friends – even murder…

Georgie, Lissa and Bronwyn have been best friends since they met on their college swimming team. Now Lissa is dead – drowned off the coast of the remote island where her second husband owns a luxury resort. But could a star open-water swimmer really have drowned? Or is something more sinister going on?

Brought together for Lissa’s memorial, Georgie, Bron, Lissa’s grieving husband and their friends find themselves questioning the circumstances around Lissa’s death – and each other. As the weather turns ominous, trapping the guests on the island, it slowly dawns on them that Lissa’s death was only the beginning. Nobody knows who they can trust. Or if they’ll make it off the island alive…


This new novel from Lexie Elliot, author of The French Girl, is a slow burn of a summer thriller, set on a remote island. Told from the perspectives of two friends, Bronwyn and Georgie, we meet these two and other friends and partners at the memorial of a third friend Lissa, who went missing some 3 months before, during a late night swim. All of them are accomplished swimmers, so the two best friends can’t make out how this could have happened.

As they all gather in this gorgeous setting, surrounded by luxury, they can’t ignore the ever increasing sense of danger, and as mysterious and threatening messages start to arrive, they all start to question, who can they trust?

As the weather takes a turn for the worst, trapping all onto the island, this novel really begins it’s fabulous tale of buried secrets, past mysteries and gripping twists and turns. Even a sea serpent who takes those who ‘want taken’! As new revelations, past and present, come to the fore and dangerous accident start to occur, this novel really picks up the tension with a fantastic finish.

A wonderful suspenseful summer page turner!


Lexie Elliott grew up in Scotland, at the foot of the Highlands. She graduated from Oxford University where she obtained a doctorate in theoretical physics. A keen sportswoman, she works in fund management in London, where she lives with her husband and two sons. The rest of her time is spent writing, or thinking about writing, and juggling family life and sport.


#bookreview UNDER THE MARSH by @gr_halliday Published by @vintagebooks July 21st @NetGalley




Twelve years ago DI Monica Kennedy caught the notorious serial killer Pauline Tosh, imprisoning her for life.

When Pauline asks Monica to visit her at the remote Highlands Carselang prison, the detective thinks she’s playing games.

But then Pauline hands her a hand-drawn map with a cross marking the desolate marsh lands near Inverness and Monica can’t ignore it – she was always convinced there were more victims out there.

And when a body is discovered it looks like they’ve found a new name from Pauline’s kill list.

But things are never that simple…


When serial killer Pauline Tosh, whom Monica help put away for life, 12 years ago, requests a visit from the DI, Monica is cautious. Is Pauline playing games? But when she hands Monica a map, possibly marking where a body is buried, Monica knows she must check it out. Another one of Pauline’s victims? Sure enough, buried under the marshlands, is the body of a young girl.

This is the third book in the series featuring DI Monica Kennedy and having read and enjoyed the first 2, I was looking forward to another story featuring this highly likable MC. Monica makes for a great character, reasonable normal and relatable, unlike some other Scottish detectives : ) and along with her mum and young daughter, it was nice to revisit them all in this new highly engaging read.

Full of twists, new leads and misdirection plotted by the author, I was soon captivated and couldn’t wait to continue with the story.

We follow Monica as she investigates the murder and learn, through small flash backs from the victim herself about what possibly happened to her years previously. Via these flash backs and as we follow the teams investigations we are introduced to an array of possible suspects and persons whom could have been involved. Plus also Monica partner, DS Conor Crawford is acting incedingly out of character. Is he hiding something??

Wonderful descriptions of the harsh, remote but beautiful settings of the surrounding areas these books are based is also another plus point to these books. The whole pace of the story, flow of the writing and narration of these books is what makes them so easy to read. Grabbing my attention straight from the start and holding my interest throughout, this new novel always kept the story moving yet at the same time always allowing room to get a feel for what the characters were thinking and the progression of our main regulars.

I thought I had guessed the murderer, then generally thought I hadn’t, only to realise at the end I had!

Another great addition to this thoroughly enjoyable Scottish crime fiction series, and one which I would highly recommend.

Many thanks to the publisher for my digital ARC via NetGalley. Under The Marsh is out on Thursday!

#bookreview THE THREE DAHLIAS by @KWatsonAuthor Published July 21st by Constable and imprint of @LittleBrownUK @NetGalley #TheThreeDahlias @BethWright26 and @TheCrimeVault



It wouldn’t be a country house weekend without a little murder. . .

Three rival actresses team up to solve a murder at the stately home of Lettice Davenport, the author whose sleuthing creation of the 1930s, Dahlia Lively, had made each of them famous to a new generation. A contemporary mystery with a Golden Age feel, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and Jessica Fellowes – and Janice Hallett and Richard Osman, of course!

In attendance at Aldermere: the VIP fans, staying at house; the fan club president turned convention organiser; the team behind the newest movie adaptation of Davenport’s books; the Davenport family themselves; and the three actresses famous for portraying Dahlia Lively through the decades.

There is national treasure Rosalind King, from the original movies, who’s feeling sensitive that she’s past her prime, TV Dahlia for thirteen seasons, Caro Hooper, who believes she really IS Dahlia Lively, and ex-child star Posy Starling, fresh out of the fame wilderness (and rehab) to take on the Dahlia mantle for the new movie – but feeling outclassed by her predecessors.

Each actress has her own interpretation of the character and her own secrets to hide – but this English summer weekend they will have to put aside their differences as the crimes at Aldermere turn anything but cosy.

When fictional death turns into real bodies, can the three Dahlias find the answers to the murders among the fans, the film crew and the family – or even in Lettice’s books themselves?


This was a fun murder mystery novel which had a real golden age vibe within a modern setting. Full of traditional red herrings and family secrets along side the more modern day troubles of it’s three main characters, I found this a fun and enjoyable read.

In the home of Lettice Davenport, deceased author of Golden Age crime novels featuring her heroine Dahlia Lively and her detective sidekick, we are brought into the modern age with a convention taking place in the country house, now owned by her nephew, to celebrate her books and a new film which is about to be made. Three actresses come together, all who have or are about to have played Dahlia over the years.

True to style, a murder is committed and everyone is under suspicion. The three actresses, although far from friendly at the start, soon realise they have to club together, in order to solve this mystery, as they all soon realise that only Dahlia Lively can get to the bottom of what’s been happening, as she has done so many times before, but in this case, it may take 3 of them to solve this crime!

I enjoyed reading this new debut crime novel by author Katy Watson and am pleased to see that this is the first in this new series, with (at least) 2 more in the pipeline. With a brilliant country house setting and an array of different characters all, it seems, with something to hide, there were plenty of twists and red herrings to get stuck into. I loved the chapter headings, taken from the ‘fictional’ original Dahlia Lively novels, which each set the tone for what was to happen next. It really helped to cement the story of this golden age author and made me want to read her books too!!! Except obviously, I can’t!

If you enjoy ‘cosy crime’ type novels and country house murders then this new series will be sure to please.

Quick shout out to the person who created the cover art. It’s really striking!

Many thanks to the publishers for my digital ARC via NetGalley. The Three Dahlias is released July 21st. Do follow the author on her social media accounts too! Plus check out her newsletter which include some great book recommendations.

#bookreview A Stranger On Board by Cameron Ward @AuthorCamWard @MichaelJBooks @penguinrandom @ellamwatkins

Previously published under the name Adam Southward, this new novel by Cameron Ward was published June 23rd and I would like to thank the publishers for kindly sending me a proof copy. This is a high action locked room type mystery with a strong female lead.

proof copy


When ex-marine Sarah French joins a luxury superyacht as on-board security, it seems like the perfect place to start over.

But as they head into open water, someone goes missing.

There’s a murderer on board.

And everyone is a suspect.

If Sarah is to keep everyone safe, she’ll need to find the killer.

But there’s a storm on the horizon . . .


Following Sarah French, an ex-marine, still suffering from the trauma of her last assignment, she is offered a new job by her now boss, Mitch, who runs a security company providing military-trained personnel. Mitch, also ex-marine, knows Sarah’s situation and past and offers her a simple security job, on board a luxury super yacht called The Escape, hoping that it will give her some time to reflect and start to come to terms with what happened.

A planned journey to get the yacht to Antiga for final stages of it’s refurbishment, it appears Sarah’s presence is for insurance purposes only and along with a skeleton crew they soon set off.

Sarah soon notices a strange atmosphere within the crew, but she’s not here to make friends, although she knows she really should work on that side of her life, try and be a bit more approachable, but what she really wants is some time to get her head together and do a good job for Mitch. However when parts of the yacht occur problems and start to malfunction mid journey, and the captain chooses not to return but carry on, Sarah’s role on board soon become anything but simple!

Narrated entirely by Sarah we get a great sense of her personality and the panic attacks she’s experiencing. We are introduced to the others on board as she meets them and there are a good mix of characters. As things start to go wrong on The Escape, there is a real sense of panic and fear, coupled with the crews knowledge and experience of what they should all do in such circumstances. They really should turn back but with big incentives for both owners and crew to get the super yacht to it’s destination quickly, means that the captain chooses to carry on and to make matters even more worse, they are heading for a storm!!

Drama in the middle of the Atlantic and a locked room mystery on board a super yacht are a real mix for a tense and inescapable situation, and the author uses his characters, the workings of the yacht and a strong female lead to there advantage and creates a fast-paced and tense summer thriller. The action really picks up towards the end and Sarah’s military training is brought to the fore.

A solid summer quick read thriller.

#bookreview The Colour Storm by @DamianDibben Published 23rd June by @MichaelJBooks #TheColourStorm @janeacton_pr #newrelease

Huge thanks to Jane of Jane Acton PR for contacting me with the opportunity to read and review this gorgeous new novel by Damian Dibben. Set in 1510 Venice, it is a wonderous mix of historical fiction, Renaissance art, love and the joy of colour.



n Renaissance Venice, artist Giorgione ‘Zorzo’ Barbarelli’s career hangs in the balance. Competition is fierce, and his debts are piling up. So when Zorzo hears a rumour of a mysterious new pigment brought to Venice by the richest man in Europe, he sets out to acquire the colour and secure his name in history.

Winning a commission to paint a portrait of the man’s wife, Sybille, Zorzo thinks he has found a way into the merchant’s favour. Instead he finds himself caught up in a conspiracy that stretches across Europe and a marriage coming apart inside one of the city’s most illustrious palazzos.

As the water levels rise and the plague creeps ever closer, an increasingly desperate Zorzo isn’t sure whom he can trust . . .

Will Sybille prove to be the key to Zorzo’s success, or the reason for his downfall?


This fictional story centres around the ‘real life’ Renaissance painter, Giorgio Barbarelli, known as and called Zorzo throughout the book. The year is 1510 and we find Zorzo in need of a commission. Debts are owed and current competition within the art world in Venice at this time is fierce. Ever conscious of his responsibility to his ‘garzoni’, (young apprentices), Zorzo is desperate for a new commission.

On a regular rendezvous with his colourman on the small island of Poveglia, he hears gossip of the existence of a new colour called Prince Orient. Colour is everything to Zorzo, not just his craft and livelihood, but his absolute passion. (The descriptions and imagines of different colours throughout the book are vivid and wonderfully explained) so for him he must know more about it. Plus if he could be the first artist to use it, it could mean riches and fame. He learns that the person in possession of this new colour is one Jakob Fugger, who happens to be arriving in Venice within days. Desperate to find a reason to introduce himself to the rich and power man, Zorzo finds out that Fugger is looking for an artist to paint an altarpiece for the new St Peters Basilica and Zorzo immediately sets out to find who is in the running for this and if he can get his name on the list. Here the book mentions a number of real life, famous artists of the time and bringing them to life, within this story, gives the novel a wonderfully rich and real feel to it.

In his quest for this commission Zorzo become acquainted with Fugger’s wife, Sybille, and it is here the story takes a turn and Zorzo becomes involved in something much more dangerous.

With wonderful insights into the everyday workings of an artists studio and the vivid descriptions of Venice, colour and life at this time, this is a rich and evocative read. The character of Zorzo is delightful and his fondness and care of his garzoni is very touching. Part love story, thriller and art history novel, this story has it all, and I found myself engaged throughout. The drama Zorzo finds himself involved in is wonderfully paced with some brilliant twists and turn and wonderful characters throughout. The ever present danger of Plague at the end of the book adds wonderfully to the plot and give the story a very touching and emotional ending. A super read.