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recent review of An Alchemist's Tale, posted on Amazon by a reader:

This is the fifth book in Calman's series and it is probably the best (so far). The plot is very carefully constructed and the characters have developed well. In this story, the driving force comes from a threat to the global economy which is well-explained, although I'm not sure I understood all of the implications. Kelso, Ferdinand and Dunn's response to the threat is excellent. They work together effectively, as ever, but this time there is uncertainty, a sense in which they are feeling their way which adds both to the tension and to their humanity. I really care what happens to these people. I suspect Calman does too - he spends time allowing the characters to be affected by physical and psychological assaults and to recover. No rushing on to the next action twist in the plot without acknowledgement that injuries hurt!

The author clearly has a deep knowledge of how the oil industry and, indeed, international organised crime works but never descends into glib, cliched formulae. Each step is carefully thought through, with even the worst villains having some kind of internal motivation for their deeds. Similarly, the good guys also have dark sides. All this makes for a satisfying, thought-provoking read and sets Calman above many other thriller writers.

I am delighted to be attending the 2023 Tunbridge Wells Literary Festival, 11 – 17 May 2023, my first as a contributor rather than an attendee. I will be part of the Local Writer’s Fair and will be promoting my novel Viktor (written in collaboration with my friend Casey J Smith) as well as participating as a panellist in a discussion on Thrillers. This happens on Friday 12th May.

The Tunbridge Wells Literary Festival is a wonderful series of events with some great guests. You can check it out at The Amelia

Hope to see you there!


Thanks to Alice Smales at Community Ad for publishing this interview, conducted before the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

Many thanks to the lovely people at Slough Writer's who welcomed me on 28 February. They are a lively and interested bunch. Here's me with Elaine Simminds and Terry Adlam after the talk:

















Check out this article on 'Viktor' in my local newspaper, the Hastings Observer:

Rye Harbour author offers Cold War tale | Hastings and St. Leonards Observer (

Just thought I'd share some recent comments and reviews from readers about the last two books, "An Undeclared Contest" and "Viktor". All of these have come from the site and are from verified purchasers. My humble thanks to all contributors:

On 'Viktor':


“Viktor is a Russian academic in a specialised field who is recruited to the KGB by order of the Politburo of the Communist Party headed by Leonid Brezhnev. He has a specific task to carry out and we meet him as he travels with his small family to Washington to take up a cover post at the Soviet Embassy. We are introduced to a range of characters, most under deep cover, who help Viktor with his task, but as he and the family become accustomed to the American way of life, priorities change and doubts creep in.

This is such a good story. Viktor is a sympathetic character, even though his assignment was pretty dastardly, and the ways the author shows us the strong relationships in Viktor's family reinforce the perception that he is a principled, honourable man. As other reviewers have said, a great strength of Jo Calman's writing is his vast knowledge of international intelligence and agents' tradecraft. This expertise enriches the story and gives fascinating insights into the mind of a spy and the motivation that drives them in their lonely, often despicable activities.

With this book, Calman has grown as a writer and this new direction is intriguing. Well done, Jo!”


“I read Viktor in two sittings as I couldn't put it down. Had I had the time I would have read it in one go. Excellent story and all the more interesting that it is based on a true story. The fact that both authors knew the real Viktor adds an extra element too. I liked the insight it gave me into the psyche of the Soviets at that time and how close they came to doing enormous damage to the western world. Highly recommended.”


“Loved the ‘Kelso Series’ but, ‘Victor’ takes the author Jo Calman into a different game. As ever, its the detail of the ‘Agency Tradecraft’ that the author details so well. If you ever wanted to know how spies operate in the ‘Real World’ this is the book for you. Enjoy!”


“the story is gripping from the very first page and is all the more compelling given its authentic settings and background”


“This book is an unexpected pleasure. Things start slowly as the characters are introduced but within a short time the tension starts building as was the case between the US and USSR during the period it covers. You will be on the edge of your seat and find it difficult to put this down. The writing is excellent and the details are quite accurate as I can attest both from earlier research on Soviet spycraft as well as from living in the Washington DC area and having visited other locations. Jo Calman really knocks this one out of the park.”

On 'An Undeclared Contest':

“Kelso, Dunn and Ferdinand never fail to thrill. This time with only two out of the three having to do most of the work... It would seem that an arch-criminal might have their way but all is turned upside down and the door has been left very slightly ajar for the possible return of said criminal. Maybe.

“Kelso, Dunn and Ferdinand never fail to thrill. This time with only two out of the three having to do most of the work... It would seem that an arch-criminal might have their way but all is turned upside down and the door has been left very slightly ajar for the possible return of said criminal. Maybe.
Bring on the next one Jo! I read this in two sittings and would recommend it highly.”


“Another great page-turner that once you start you can't put down. I read this 4th book in the series over Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt it had a slightly different vibe from the previous 3; maybe because it was set in mainly in one location in France, with most of the "action" involving only 2 of the 3 main characters, but I loved it all the same. The undercurrents of change in the relationship between the 3 main characters is interesting - especially the last chapter! . Don't make us wait too long for the next instalment Jo - can't wait to find out what happens next!”


“Excellent Installment in the Kelso series! I was engrossed from the first chapter! As always, the story is fast paced and exciting.”

On ‘An Inner Circle’:

“This is the third book in the series featuring, Kelso Dunn and Ferdinand and is another fast-paced but plausible account of the trio's fight against corruption in law and security agencies. The story moves at a cracking pace and the author clearly knows his territory very well.

The focus this time is on human trafficking and exploitation of women and while Calman spares the reader much of the detail of the horror and violence experienced by the trafficked women, we are left in no doubt about the dark nature of the trade and the cruelty of those involved in its execution. The female antagonist is a monster!

Without revealing too much of the plot, the story ends with a clear indication of the direction of the next book in the series and I'm looking forward to it very much.”


“Jo has raised the bar to new heights with his latest novel, An Inner Circle. So much so it is torturous waiting for the next novel. Perhaps Jake, Mel and Alf should investigate the quiet periods between novels.
Please hurry with the next book”


“A real page turner with the dynamic trio pooling their particular and well-honed skills to deal with a very nasty ring trafficking girls into the UK and all the horror surrounding such things. I really couldn't put this book down and it is to blame for a couple of short nights! I am not complaining however and can't wait for the next one in the series which was hinted at in this one. Don't make your readers wait too long Jo Calman..”


“The Inner Circle is a fantastic addition to the Kelso, Dunn, and Ferdinand series! I love the relationship between the 3 main characters and the action packed events of the story. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!”

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What people are saying about A Transfer of Power

Bettie 5

Alan Ferdinand is a senior officer who is incensed to find an informant has disappeared in suspicious circumstances. Worse, he is suspected of involvement and finds himself suspended from duty, which gives him plenty of time to investigate the circumstances of the disappearance. It wasn't him, so who was it who betrayed the informant? With the help of two of the most interesting female protagonists I have found in recent thrillers, he embarks on a thrilling quest to discover the locus of corruption in the service in which he is involved. The methods Ferdinand uses and his obvious integrity, along with the sheer nastiness of the gangster family make for a riveting read.

I found this to be an exciting and compelling first novel and I look forward to the sequel. I have given it four stars, not because of any lack of excitement or drive in the narrative, but because I found the dialogue a little stilted in the first few chapters. This was resolved later in the book and I heartily recommend it.



Calman writes with the authority of someone who has worked across law enforcement. Characters with depth and accurate locations brought the book to life. It’s a long time since I read a book in one sitting, but once I started, I wanted more.

A great first novel Jo. Well done indeed.


Interesting characters, story and all fast-paced. Would well recommend this book to lovers of crime thrillers. Thanks Jo Calman!


Joseph F

Rarely have I been so captivated by book that I couldn’t put it down. Intriguing story line rich in detail and a compelling read. Can’t wait for part two.


Anna C

Great story full of twists and fast paced. Lots of insider knowledge of the criminal justice system and strong characters



Just bought A Transfer of Power by Jo Calman. I had seen it in draft as I know the author, and I loved it. The finished article is excellent - gripping, high-speed plot, great characters and a few good twists.


Sophie B

Loved it, liked the characters and the investigation story. Not too sure about the sex scenes. Could make the Mel character seem a bit one-dimensional.

Would like to read the next one.

Kate B

My kind of story! I found the story engaging and enjoyed reading it. I particularly liked the pace of the story line.  I never felt I wanted to skip a few lines... which can happen with me if I think the author is going on a bit! It took me a bit of time to get familiar with the abbreviation of positions and departments at the beginning. Easier if you are in the know. I did think it was set in the present day but looking at birth dates and Alf’s age I assumed it is early 2000’s.  I found all the characters easy to visualise. I liked how each of the three main characters were developed. Their parts in the case were well balanced and lead to a good ending and the prospect of the next book. I felt the language was relative. I also think the more explicit chapters gave a better understanding of the characters. I liked that Mel was in control of every aspect of her life! 

It’s been a while since I read a detective novel and this reminded me of all the different departments and how they interact or not! The favours and who you know. And big brother is watching! As a person who likes crime/law novels this is very readable. I would feel very happy to recommend it. 

Elizabeth T

I think the book is fantastic, the only thing that I initially found to be a problem was all the abbreviations, which you did explain immediately, I had to mentally check that I was getting them correct because I hadn't heard of all of them, this from a person who can't tell left from right usually. Apart from that it was a compelling read. The other thing that I liked was the fact that it didn't just fizzle out having had all the problems sorted out in half a paragraph which to me leads to an unsatisfactory ending. I liked that he had to be tracked down and was given an option to help, albeit slightly dodgy. The violence that was meted out was just right, not overdone and the "rude" bits were also just enough, too much gets a bit tedious. The other thing which is worth considering, if I had bought the book at a motorway services for instance I would consider I'd had a good buy.


Jane B

Loved the book. It took me a while to decide if Ferdinand was straight or double-bluffing. Definitely like to read more to see the characters grow. I loved it.

Jo C

Excellent book really enjoyed it! I cannot wait for the second and third .

Joe H

Brilliant and very captivating. Started late last night and couldn’t put it down till the end just now. Looking forward to part two and hopefully a three and four. Well done Jo, really enjoyed it


Hi Jo, I just finished your book and I am amazed that you knocked that out during lockdown.  I cannot believe you only started it in March.  I also can’t believe that you have not written a novel before so please confess!  Great yarn, fast paced, lots of clear insider knowledge of law enforcement and page-turningly written. You could have used … sometimes in the erotic bits and kept most of your female readers just as entertained in my view, but I appreciate you have probably done your market research and know your target readership.  Good luck and bring on the sequels!

AG, Buckinghamshire

For a first novel, this was great story-telling which gripped my attention from page 1. The characters were very well developed; I cared about what happened to them, so really pleased there is a plan for further books. Having a good plot is one thing but being able to transcribe it into a good, coherent story, that makes the reader want to keep turning the pages is quite another. But this book achieves that. It also had a really good ending. I loved it.

Webster 2010

A real gripping read from start to finish, A Transfer of Power covers an amazing level of detail on Police and surveillance operations which had me hooked. Really looking forward to the characters developing in the next few books.

Zingo (US)

Overall I enjoyed the book very much. t's apparent the author is writing from his own experience and he translates it well into the story for readers without a law enforcement or intelligence background. You'll read this book quickly, as the author keeps the pace moving throughout the entire plot. It's got a bit of Frederick Forsyth edge to it as well in some parts so if you like that famous author's work you'll find yourself enjoying this one. This is the first in the series and I look forward to the next instalment.

Willie M

I am finding book 1 captivating! It's up there with the best in my view! 

What people are saying about A Price for Mercy
Brian C

I read this one as well, almost in one sitting.  Great book again - I like the pace of the plot, the characters, and the plot itself. I hope sales are coming along for you.  You certainly have a talent for this. 

Bettie 5   'A fast paced, complex thriller'

The story opens with the moving, tragic and unnecessary deaths of two young women. The cause of these deaths is quickly revealed, along with the particularly unpleasant characters who set plans in motion to 'clean up' the cocaine market. Julia Kelso is troubled by the rising number of deaths linked to very pure cocaine and turns to Mel Dunn for her help with analysing the problem and setting the context. Their friend, Thomas Donahue, introduced in the first book, brings his particular expertise to bear on the situation and events quickly gallop away before reaching a dramatic, satisfying conclusion.

The author has an immense knowledge and deep understanding of all kinds of dark arts, criminal trades and political nuances. As a reader, you feel in safe hands if a little breathless at the pace of the plot.

A Price for Mercy is the second in the Ferdinand, Dunn and Kelso series, and although you don't need to have read the first it helps to understand the relationships and to appreciate how they are developing. I really enjoyed this outing and look forward to reading future books in the series.

Joseph F ‘Totally hooked’


Amazing start and a great script, you never know where you are ‘factual or fiction’. The action sequences are masterfully penned and nothing about it feels impossible.
Again, a very compelling read.



Donna ‘My heart is still racing’


Thoroughly enjoyed Jo Calman's latest book and can highly recommend it. There's no waffle, just action, excitement and a chance to re-connect with Kelso, Dunn and Ferdinand. Awaiting the next one with bated breath. Thank you Jo!


Just finish the 2nd book and really enjoyed it- you have a real talent for storytelling,
Love the fact it takes a different perspective from usual "crime" novels. The characters are already well developed and loving the relationship between the main 3 although I sense troubled times ahead. Love triangles never end well!
Despite the disclaimer, I also sense much of it probably reflects reality -decided you must have lived a very dangerous past! Can't wait for next instalment.


What a great story teller you are! I would highly recommend and look forward to book 3. The books are great - pleased to hear its going well. 

Kevin M Simmons

What a brilliant read, couldn't put it down.
This book is very well written and the story is totally gripping!
Can't wait for the next book.
The author is one to watch.

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