Tag Archives: books

Review: All Our Secrets by Jennifer Lane

Clan Destine Press’s new release, All Our Secrets, is set in the fictional small town of Coongahoola in NSW.

Set in 1984, the town is steeped in the consequences of a wild party on the banks of the Bagooli River in 1975 and the rush of children born nine months later. The fathers of the River Children are not necessarily the men married to their mothers.

Nine years later, one of the River Children goes missing, his body turning up a few days later by the river. He is the first of a string of murders. One of the children who may be the next target is Elijah Barrett.

His 11 year old sister, Gracie, is our guide to Coongahoola. Through her eyes we meet her chaotic family, her town, the shock of the murders and her beloved brother.

Lane imbues Gracie with a realism that makes the young girl sympathetic and irritating in turns, though her innate kindness is her saving grace (as it were) even when she’s not always making the kindest decisions in her attempts to fit in to the town’s narrow social expectations. She is struggling with the estrangement of her parents, her sometimes embarrassingly religious grandmother, her crush on the boy next door and her anxiety from the usual array of schoolground bullying and snooty cliques.

Through this thoroughly believable child, Lane captures the personalities and quirks of the people of Coongahoola. As each child disappears, only to be found murdered, the net of suspicion is cast wide – from townspeople to the group of religious devotees who have recently set up camp by the river.  The parallels between the personal chaos of Gracie’s world and that of the whole town is clear: all the rivalries and jealousies, the in and out groups, the unfounded rumours and blame games.

All Our Secrets is a gripping and perfectly paced story, balanced splendidly between Gracie’s  distress and concern for her family ad the fear experienced by the wider community as their children become victims.

It’s no surprise to learn that All Our Secrets won the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel in New Zealand. Clan Destine Press has brought this fantastic book, with it’s unusual and powerful point of view, to a new audience. Get it now to read a fresh new voice in Australian crime.

Buy All Our Secrets

Quintette of Questions: K. Caine

Today I ask five questions of Holmesian romance writer, K. Caine:

K. Caine

1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how did you choose the title?

The title is A Study in Velvet and Leather– and surprisingly, this is one of the titles that I agonised over the least! The perfect title, for me, is evocative and visual, preferably has more than one meaning, and fits the style of the piece.

Because I was writing canon-era Sherlock for this work, I wanted a title that would evoke that genre. I was re-reading A Study in Scarlet at the time, trying to sink back into the wonder that is moving in with Sherlock Holmes—so that solidified the first half of the title. From there, it was mostly about picking words that were symbolic of the story.

Velvet and leather are two fabrics that represent the two prominent female characters in the book, so A Study in Velvet and Leather it was!

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?

I didn’t need to think hard about the answers for this one—I already had my reference images downloaded! It’s definitely Tom Hardy for John Watson, with the same quiet feminism that he displayed in Mad Max: Fury Road. He’s got the right build for John, and it’s all too easy to imagine him with the moustache and the period clothing just quietly listening, watching Sherlock and trying to keep up.

And then Tilda Swinton would be my Sherlock Holmes—she’s got the sharp cheekbones, the piercing eyes, and the tendency to menswear that Sherlock shares, and there’s something about the intensity of her presence that’s both really unusual for women, and also very, very fitting for Sherlock as a character.

3. What five words best describe your story?

“Man in love, doesn’t realize.”

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple or team?

The gang from Leverage are everything that a team should be—the entire series is a showcase of exactly how good a found family can be, right from the very first episode. Throughout the series, we get to witness a group of different people with different interests—and sometimes, entirely different plans as to how to go about something—figure out how to work with each other instead of against each other, and how to support each other through tough jobs and the stresses and traumas from life having not been that particularly kind.

That’s the kind of thing I look for in my team or couple dynamics—mutual support, snark and wit, and the gradual developing belief that your team is always going to do their best to have your back, no matter what you’re going through, and even if you aren’t your best self at the time.

5. What song always makes you cry?

Hands down, it’s La Dispute’s Woman (reading). The song is evocative of the wistfulness that marks the majority of the book—that sense that you can be physically close to someone (even, dare I say it, roommates) and still feel as though you are continents apart, and the other person is forever out of your reach.

See the lyrics here.

About A Study in Velvet and Leather

Sharing a flat with Sherlock Holmes should not have posed a problem for John Watson–after all, Watson is gay, Holmes is a woman, and the arrangement is financially convenient. But when Holmes takes a complex case involving Irene Adler and a scandalous photograph, she turns to Watson for assistance.

The case leads them everywhere from the opera to a secret Victorian BDSM club, and Watson soon finds himself questioning his partnership with Holmes, his sexuality, and his understanding of himself.

About K. Caine

K. Caine is a queer writer from the Canadian prairies whose work encompasses multiple genres, including romance, erotica, horror, and speculative fiction. After having taken a decade-long break from writing entirely, K. Caine is back, and is completely engrossed in creating stories characterized by deep points of view, high emotional stakes, and layered foreshadowing.

Armed with a psychology degree, and more stories about glitter in strange places than are really necessary, K. Caine brings themes of feminism, sexuality, gender, non-traditional relationships, and mental illness into stories. A Study in Velvet and Leather is K. Caine’s first published book.

Caine has wild and varied ideas about what comes next, but is currently procrastinating on Twitter.

Buy A Study in Velvet and Leather

Add A Study in Velvet and Leather to your Goodreads list!

Now out: Grant Me the Carving of My Name

This collection of short stories is now available, raising money for the Scoliosis Association UK and full of wonderful tales of King Richard III.

Yes, that King Richard.

Among the many fantastic stories, Grant Me the Carving of My Name (the title used with permission of the poet who first wrote them, Carole Ann Duffy), are two stories by me – ‘Long Live the King’, a flash fiction about a possible alternative history, and ‘Myth and Man’, where Shakespeare’s Richard meets history’s Richard, at the moment of their making and undoing.

RIII on the radio!

I’m delighted to announce that I will be talking to Lucille Hughes on her Readings and Writings show on Inner FM on Wednesday 5 December.

Listen to 96.5 Inner FM live here.

Grant Me the Carving of My Name

I’m very proud to be included in this collection of stories about Richard III. The subject gives scope to a lot of storytelling approaches – ghost stories and the metaphysical; slices of history from Richard’s first battle or his happier years as Duke of Gloucester; even a little science fiction slips into the mix.

The book’s proceeds go to the excellent cause of Scoliosis Association UK, but it stands on its own merits too, as a series of glimpses into Richard’s true history, the history that was written for him by the victors of Bosworth and the new, kinder histories being invented for him by those trying to create a balance between the two.

Buy Grant Me the Carving of My Name

Review: A Study in Velvet and Leather by K. Caine

The second volume in Improbable Press’s 221b Series (the first was my own A Dream to Build A Kiss On) is the splended A Study in Velvet and Leather, due for release on 1 December 2018. An advance review copy was coaxed into my greedy little fingers, though, and promptly gobbled up.

K. Caine may have written a female Sherlock and male John in a canon-era setting, but  her tale departs wonderfully far from a traditional telling of thie enduring pair.

John Watson, invalided war doctor, is gay. It’s a surprise to find Stamford’s flat-hunting friend is a woman, but she’s an unusual one. Sherlock is a consulting detective, dressing most often in men’s attire and (we later learn) a reader of Sappho. They move into Baker Street together.

John narrates their life together: his increasing involvement in Sherlock’s cases and John recovers his health, along with his fascination for Sherlock’s methods and curiosity about so much that remains secret and unsaid about Sherlock’s life. John also records his bemused yet growing devotion to his astonishing flatmate, recording but not always understanding Sherlock’s response to him.

But as John develops his surprised and secret feelings for this remarkable woman, an undercurrent from Sherlock’s unspoken private life breaks the surface. The case involves “the well known adventuress” Irene Adler, a compromising photograph, and a private club. The meaning of velvet, leather and many of Sherlock’s mysteries will come to light.

One of the many glories of this book – which include engaging characters, the gorgeous flow of the writing and an exploration of the fluidity than can exist in gender and sexuality – is how seamlessly K. Caine uses the 221b ficlet format to tell a single story.

The 16 chapters of the book are subtly separated into 221-word sections, the last word of each section beginning with ‘b’.  This meets the rules of a 221b ficlet, yet is so smoothly done that the reader may not notice it, as the story’s rhythm moves so gracefully.

A Study in Velvet and Leather is one of those delicious books where you can’t decide whether to gulp it down in one go, or sip it slowly to make it last.

I’ve never been a sipper, though – and I was so involved in Sherlock and John’s adventures and feelings, so invested in them too – that I gulped that story down in a few hours one Saturday. The conclusion was both fantastically satisfying and left me yearning for more of these incarnations of Holmes and Watson.

A fabulous bonus to the whole story is the series of Appendices, in the form of notes between the two. I seriuosly can’t get enough of this fluid John and Sherlock. Additionally, the artwork by Avid Branks is sparing and elegant, and contains little clues of its own .

Which makes it doubly awesome that K. Caine is now writing another Improbable Press book with them, Conductivity.

I can’t wait.

Add A Study in Velvet and Leather to your Goodreads list!

Pre-order A Study in Velvet and Leather: