Indie Author Book Reviews

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Four very different books by indie authors:

Overdrawn by N J Crosskey; Lost for Words by Roddy Phillips; Retribution by Beverley Elphick; and The Love Detective – Next Level, by Angela Dyson

Overdrawn by N J Crosskey

Is the world created in Overdrawn a kind of utopia, where people have aspirations and hard work brings rewards? Or is it a dystopian society where choices are few and life is no longer sacred? It all depends on one’s point of view.

Henry Morris is watching his wife slip away from him. In an ageist society where euthanasia is encouraged as a patriotic act, dementia is no longer tolerated. For Henry, a cynical 60-year-old who knew what life was like before the revolution, the rigid unfairness of the system fuels his growing rage and fear for the future.

For Kaitlyn, a young waitress brought up in a regimented society in which one’s life is predestined, there is security, trust in the system. But she is desperate for the funds to keep her brother’s life support machine switched on.

When a chance encounter brings the two together, they embark on an unconventional business arrangement that will force them to confront their prejudices, as well as their deepest, darkest secrets.

With its ‘computer says no’ climate there is an unsettling familiarity in this society. It is as though Crosskey has taken our 21st century world and stripped out all the social veneer. Only elements such as the Roll-Back rule, which forbids the personal use of computers and the Moving On Corporation, which peddles euthanasia, denote its fiction. Pockets of kindness and humanity can still be found within the crevices however, a testament to the enduring survival potential of humankind.

Fearlessly written, with a keen and incisive eye for human strengths and frailties – even the minor characters are three dimensional – and a plot that drives relentlessly towards its unexpected denouement, Overdrawn is a compelling read. With all its twists and turns it took me through the emotional wringer but I couldn’t put it down. I was captivated. I protested – out loud – at a sudden shocking turn of events and smiled at heartwarming moments of serendipity.

After many years of yearning to be an author N J Crosskey finally took the plunge to chase that dream, with a stunning debut novel, Poster Boy, published in 2019. Poignant, gutsy and uncompromising, Overdrawn is a fitting successor, matching Poster Boy in its edginess, and establishes Crosskey as a writer to be reckoned with.

Overdrawn is available in paperback, ebook and audio book from Amazon, and in paperback from most major book retailers (Waterstones, WHSmith, Foyles etc). For more information about the author go to www.njcrosskey.com and @NJCrosskey.


Retribution by Beverley Elphick

Imagine if your beloved child was snatched away almost from under your very nose. What would you do? To what lengths would you go to recover her? That was the dilemma facing Esther Coad in Elphick’s ‘Retribution’, the second in a trilogy which began with ‘Three Round Towers’.

With factual snippets from local newspapers of the time and historical documents lending context, Retribution takes us once more to 18th century Lewes. The country is suffering the ravages of the war with France and Spain. Unscrupulous press gangs leave women unsupported, struggling with food shortages and rampant disease as their menfolk are forced onto the King’s ships. In the midst of this we find Esther and the child Beth safely and happily settled with her patrons, gentleman farmer John Elwood and his young wife Cecilia, and looking forward to her imminent wedding with Wilf. This idyll, however, is short-lived.

Under the guidance of well-respected local physician Dr Grieve, Esther hones her nursing skills and continues her training as a midwife. Unconscious of the fact that these abilities will almost certainly save her life in a sinister turn of fate, Esther is determined to master them so as to help poorer women in the neighbourhood who cannot afford the doctor’s ministrations.

But when her vicious aunt, a notorious smuggler, reappears seeking vengeance having escaped from prison, Esther’s dreams are shattered. She is catapulted into a nightmare world in which everything she holds dear has been wrested from her and in which her resilience and resourcefulness are stretched to the absolute limit. Will she regain the security of home she has worked so hard to achieve or will she be cast adrift to an uncertain future?

Beverley Elphick has captured a fragment of history and embellished it with a spirited heroine and a lively storyline. A real page-turner that had me drawn in right to the end.

Retribution is available from Sussex Stationers in Lewes, by order from your local bookstore, from www.troubador.co.uk or from Amazon. For more details visit www.beverleyelphick.com where future book signing events will be posted as the covid situation eases.


Lost for Words by Roddy Phillips

Another smorgasbord of entertaining snippets from the Roddy Phillips archive.

“Since the late 1980s I’ve written about my family life and times in humorous columns… Like all the best career moves the idea of writing a ‘living autobiography’ happened by accident. The first column was written to fill an unexpected hole in a newspaper. The deadline was tight so I used what was to hand, namely my family’s move to the country. Before I knew it one column had turned into a thousand. Most writers would have something better to do, but the truth is, when you get paid to air your dirty linen in public, it becomes addictive.”

Phillips has the enviable talent of finding the humour in the most mundane everyday situations – I defy you not to identify with many of the scrapes he gets into – recounted with a skill that spawns a giggle deep in the solar plexus and bubbles irresistibly to the surface.

Lost for Words is a book you can dip into any time, anywhere – on a train, in a cafe, in the bath, while waiting for the kettle to boil. Replete with awkwardly comic situations it is a delight – I spent most of my time chuckling out loud, much to the bemusement of fellow cafe-goers.

Available from www.roddyphillips.com and Amazon, Lost for Words will make a great Christmas gift, along with his latest book just out, The Familiar.


The Love Detective – Next Level by Angela Dyson

Clarry Penhaligan’s first outing as a rookie private detective had left her with a unmistakeable taste for adventure. 

That was all behind her now and when her attempt to get a ‘proper job’ came to nothing she reverted to her old ad hoc lifestyle as a part-time waitress. But word had got out about her investigative exploits and before long she had a new case to solve.

Her new client was a very well-to-do woman worried about the company her daughter was keeping. What seemed at first to be a simple surveillance job turned into something much more sinister, and Clarry soon found herself out of her depth. She had to use all her ingenuity and draw on reserves she didn’t realise she had to get out of some truly

dangerous situations, including a desperate flight from a menacing adversary – Hitchcock style – and a brush with the occult. Although she has support from the glamorous septuagenarian Flan, her honorary aunt and close confidante – an unlikely but effective sidekick – will this all prove too much for Clarry or will she rise to the challenge and beat the odds?

Set in and around Wimbledon, with a map of the key landmarks in the story charmingly illustrated by Jemima Ashton-Harris, ‘Next Level’ is redolent of the author’s familiarity and affinity for the area. With well fleshed out characters and a plot that keeps you guessing, she has achieved something notoriously difficult to do – a sequel that is just as enjoyable that the first, if not more so.

The Love Detective, Next Level is available at most Waterstones branches, some independent bookshops, including The Bookshop in East Grinstead, at WH Smith on-line and from Amazon. The ebook is available on all platforms.

For more information about Angela Dyson and her writing, including news of the continuation of her book tour, go to https://angeladyson.com.

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