Book reviews, Crime thriller

Virgin & Child by Maggie Hamand – Book Review


Literary Thriller ‘merges Crime with Catholicism’

Patrick, the first Irish Pope, discovers he is intersex and finds himself pregnant. 

Maggie Hamand’s Virgin & Child grips onto this wild premise and runs from there.

This isn’t a book about miracles. Maggie is a journalist, has a science degree, and what happens in the novel is within the realm of the possible. Virgin & Child is alternate history, that lets the reader expand their sense of what is credible.

What gives this novel true bite is how real it feels. Maggie grew up as what her era called a tomboy, and gave birth to three sons. She worked and campaigned for women’s fertility rights. She has also studied theology and this book began as a PhD in that subject, before she changed to creative writing.

‘I found the theology PhD too constricting, and felt that only by writing fiction could I fully explore the issues I wanted to tackle,’ says Hamand. ‘I felt that only through an imagined direct and bodily experience could a celibate Pope understand a

woman’s experience. I hope that by reading the novel others will identify with the character and be shocked into a new understanding.”

Like works by Brian Moore, Graham Greene, Robert Harris and Piers Paul Reed, the novel reads as a gripping thriller while at the same time tackling questions of religion, faith and gender. What makes Virgin & Child different is that it’s not written by a man. Did a mother conceive the notion of a virgin birth? Probably not. Mothers know the act of creation is all too human and messy.

This novel takes a Pope, God’s elect on Earth who tradition says has to be a man, and feminizes the whole concept. How would that alter a male worldview? Virgin & Child gives an answer as an act of searing storytelling.


‘Strangely touching… written with great elegance and authority. It tackles “head on” some of the most challenging issues for the Roman Catholic Church around gender and sexuality’ Sara Maitland


‘Cleverly merges crime with Catholicism and piety with a dangerous love… wonderfully original and absorbing.’ Mary Flanagan


Virgin & Child tied in with Maggie Hamand’s earlier fiction as a dangerous play on the Christian story. Praise for The Resurrection of the Body:


‘This extraordinary little book is thoughtful, perceptive, and subtle…’ Laura Wilson, The Guardian


‘Maggie Hamand is a writer possessed of that rare gift: an utterly individual voice’ Barry Forshaw, The Independent


‘A compelling, impressive tale’ The Times


‘An assured tone and decidedly bold denouement – a talent to watch’ Financial Times

‘More than a tricksy re-telling of an old tale… miracle and science, truth and myth, clash and interweave in the raw glare of modernity’ Catholic Herald


‘Exquisitely well-constructed… an extraordinary achievement.’ Brighton Argus

‘Ingenious and provocative’ Hampstead & Highgate Express


‘This is just one of those books you don’t want to put down’ Lancashire Evening Telegraph



Pope Patrick, the first Irish born Pope is already upsetting the apple art that is the Roman Catholic Church. 

He feels there should be a discussion about the souls of lost, unborn foetus’, they should have meaning and others vehemently disagree.

Patrick is attacked and after medical checks he is found to be pregnant…….he now has a choice to make! 

While this is a crime thriller. It also deals with issues of gender, sexuality and faith. It’s not about sensationalism but of real life in is messy, complicated glory,

Beautifully written, it’s articulate and compassionate. It is only a relatively short novel at 280 pages but it packs a punch. Thought provoking and unputdownable.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.




Maggie Hamand is a journalist, novelist, and creative writing lecturer. She was the first winner of the World One-Day Novel Cup and her novel, The Resurrection of the Body, was published by Penguin and has been optioned for film and television. She was founder and director of the award-winning independent publisher Maia Press. Maggie has a degree in biochemistry, a Masters in theology, and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Hull. She has taught in a range of institutions including Holloway Prison and is author of the best-selling Creative Writing For Dummies. She lives in East London. 

Book reviews, Crime thriller, Thriller

30 Days In June by Chris Westlake – Book Review


On the 1st day of June 1988, the residents of south Wales were thrown into a state of panic when a married couple were brutally murdered in their own home. The killer, nicknamed Spartacus by the media, did not flee the scene immediately; instead, he stayed to carve Roman Numerals onto his victims’ chests.

This was the beginning of a month-long killing spree, each murder taking a step closer to home.

Seventeen-year-old Jeffrey Allen was to be the final victim, on the final day of the month. Instead, he became the only survivor, and the only real witness. The killings ended as suddenly as they began. Jeffrey relocated to London, changing his name, and his identity, to Marcus Clancy. His past life became merely a dark secret.

On 1st June 2018, 30 years to the day since the first killing, a mysterious figure refers to Marcus by his old name, through closing lift doors.

Is Spartacus back? If so, has he returned to finish what he failed to do thirty years ago?

And so begins 30 days of terror for Marcus Clancy, culminating in dramatic fashion on the final day of June.

30 DAYS IN JUNE is Chris Westlake’s third novel, and his first crime thriller. He is currently writing his second crime thriller and is on schedule to have it completed in 2020.



This is the tale of Spartacus, a serial killer at his height of notoriety in 1988.

Now, 30 years later, the sole survivor of this reign of terror, Marcus, has heard someone call his old name. He’d changed it to protect himself and had a life and family using his new name. Has Spartacus found him?

Told in the two timelines, it really concentrates on Marcus, his state of mind, his previous trauma and subsequent therapy. 

This is incredibly tense at times as Marcus starts to unravel under the pressure, this tension continues to build making this a truly compelling thriller, a real nail biter.

Thank you to Damppebbles Blog Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the ebook. This is my honest, unbiased review. 




After completing a Creative Writing course in 2010, Chris Westlake’s short story, Welsh Lessons, was awarded 1st place in the Global Short Story Award (not bad for the first writing competition he had entered). He followed this up with 1st place in the Stringybark Erotic Fiction Award and 2nd place in the HASSRA Literary Award.

Chris has written three novels. 30 DAYS IN JUNE is his first crime thriller. He is currently writing his second thriller, on schedule to be completed in 2020. He is determined to write many, many more – his main regret is that he didn’t start writing earlier.

Chris considers himself to be a developing author. He is always looking to improve, to make his next novel even better than the last. He is continuously experimenting with different styles, different genres.


You can contact Chris at . He would love to hear from you.



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Purchase Links:


Amazon UK: ebook/dp/B08283SZBZ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0_encoding=UTF8&qid=1584367251&sr=8-1


Amazon US:




Book reviews, Historical fiction

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – Book Review


Drawing on Maggie O’Farrell’s long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play, HAMNET is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child. 

Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet. 

Award-winning author Maggie O’Farrell’s new novel breathes full-blooded life into the story of a loss usually consigned to literary footnotes, and provides an unforgettable vindication of Agnes, a woman intriguingly absent from history.



Set in 1580’s Warwickshire and tells the tale of Agnes.

Agnes is a bit of a unique woman, she kept a Kestrel when she was young, she uses herbs for health, keeps bees and knows things about people, just by touching their hands. She has three children. Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet. Her husband works in London, so he is as far away from his brutal father as he can be.

Young Hamnet tragically dies at only 11 years old in the time of plague.

Four years later his father writes a play, Hamlet.

Oh my, this is a beautifully written tale of loss, of grief, the heartbreak at the loss of a child. The language used is gentle and flows perfectly, giving a real sense of time and place, the emotion is palpable.

This really is historical fiction at its finest and is sure to be a classic in the making and Book clubs everywhere will adore it. A truly stunning read.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour,  for the promotional materials and a free copy of the book. This is my honest, unbiased review.




Maggie O’Farrell (born 1972, Coleraine Northern Ireland) is a British author of contemporary fiction, who features in Waterstones’ 25 Authors for the Future. It is possible to identify several common themes in her novels – the relationship between sisters is one, another is loss and the psychological impact of those losses on the lives of her characters.