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Scottish culture inspires edgy, modern tales of womanhood


The original ‘Four Marys’ were ladies-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots. According to legend, one was executed for murdering her own baby. In Jean Rafferty’s new quartet of novellas, four modern Marys – Mhairi, Mara, Mercedes and Mariana – have their own dark tales to tell…

Is motherhood every woman’s destiny?

‘A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world.’ So said Agatha Christie, ambiguously; for the bond between mother and child is deep, but sometimes, motherhood does not come naturally.

Obsession, longing, deceit and even murder feature in Jean Rafferty’s The Four Marys, published on 5 June 2014. This collection of provocative novellas gives a modern twist to tales of women for whom all is not necessarily as it seems, or as each woman would want her life to be. The four stories included are:

The Sealwoman On ‘wishing night’ seals can become human for a few short hours. When Mhairi comes ashore that night, she is about to find out whether being human really is as wonderful as it appears.

A Faerie Child When a woman suffers nine miscarriages she becomes desperate to have a healthy baby. Desperate enough to try anything…

The Diva A world-famous opera star becomes pregnant and experiences the pain and the passion that she sings about in her beloved arias.

The Four Marys A student is having an affair whilst researching the legend of ‘The Four Marys’ – which tells of a lady-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots being executed for killing her own child. Her love is real, but is history repeating itself?

Drawing on universal themes of womanhood and on history, culture and lore, The Four Marys is a riveting exploration of the complexities of motherhood: edgy and engrossing, moving, yet at times, disturbing.

Chris Packham's praise for The Dragonfly Diaries

TV's Chris Packham is full of praise for author Ruary Mackenzie Dodds and his new book The Dragonfly Diaries, published on May 22. He says: “Ruary Mackenzie Dodds is not only a notable dragonfly expert but perhaps more importantly the greatest ambassador these insects have had in the UK. This lovely book is testament to the power of a passion, and cements his status as one of Britain's greatest living naturalists.” 

Back in 1985, a dragonfly landed on Ruary’s shirt. It was the catalyst for a life-long obsession with protecting these remarkable insects and passing on his passion to the public.

In his own idiosyncratic way, Ruary achieved all that and more. Over the next 30-odd years he would:

  • Muster an army of volunteers to create the first public dragonfly sanctuary.
  • Become a leading dragonfly expert and advocate, regularly appearing on the BBC with the likes of Chris Packham, Bill Oddie and Kate Humble.
  • … And cause a minor security alert at Highgrove with an exploding inflatable boat.

In The Dragonfly Diaries, Ruary Mackenzie Dodds shares his quirky fascination for these striking creatures over the decades he has been photographing and working with them. The diaries combine fascinating description of dragonflies – their primeval beauty, their aerobatic grace, their importance to our water eco-systems – with a chronicle of the ups and downs of establishing Britain’s first public dragonfly sanctuary.

Often humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always inspiring, The Dragonfly Diaries is a must for nature buffs and for anyone who wants an insight into the resolve and dedication of a man on a mission to save these critically important insects.

Crime thriller Falling Fast is 'the real deal'


Falling Fast, published on 8 May, is a visceral, brutal crime thriller; the first in a trilogy by debut author, Dundee International Book Prize finalist and Bristol CrimeFest panellist Neil Broadfoot. 

From its shock opening to the final jaw-dropping twist, Falling Fast draws the reader into the world of Doug McGregor, a crime reporter juggling two stories: the hunt for a convicted rapist and the grisly death of a prominent politician’s daughter. Working off the record with insider contact and sometime sparring partner DS Susie Drummond, Doug uncovers secrets, brutal violence, drug abuse, murder – and the ultimate taboo. 

Neil says: “I’ve always loved crime fiction, from Rankin, McBride and Banks to Conan Doyle, so I suppose it was only natural that, after so many years as a fan, I’d turn my hand to writing my own. Edinburgh’s my home, and I’ve worked in the media for more than a decade, so it was inevitable I would write about what I know, not just in Falling Fast, but my future novels as well.  

“I’ve been told I’ve got a flair for describing the more visceral, violent side of life, and I hope that shows through in Falling Fast. I’ve tried to write the type of novel I like to read – fast paced, with plenty of twists and turns and, most importantly, a strong story and characters to keep the reader gripped. 

“Scotland has a vibrant, thriving group of hugely talented crime writers, and it’s a huge honour for me to join them under the Contraband imprint.”

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