First published in The Malta Independent on 17 April 2018.

The Sheriff’s Catch earns rave advance reviews

Maltese author James Vella-Bardon’s debut novel, The Sheriff’s Catch, has been published by UK award-winning publisher Unbound. It tells the story of a Maltese-born man forced to join the Spanish Armada who must flee fatal capture in 16th century Ireland.

The novel is also the first instalment of a five-part series called The Sassana Stone Pentalogy, a five-novel historical fiction series which is the product of nine years of rewriting and research.

On 8 January 2018 the novel was also accepted for a pre-release serialisation by London-based online book club The Pigeonhole. High profile bestselling author Ken Follett has also used this literary platform to serialise A Column of Fire, a sequel to his widely popular The Pillars of the Earth. Novels serialised by The Pigeonhole are accessible to its online book club for one month through a digital application.

Two hundred free slots offered by The Pigeonhole to its international reading public were quickly snatched up, so that another fifty free slots were subsequently issued and taken up by The Pigeonhole’s readers prior to serialisation which commenced on 8 January 2018. Following publication, over a score of five star reviews were subsequently posted on Goodreads from readers around the world.

Finland’s Jeanette Heidenberg wrote that, “This is an excellent piece of historical fiction. I have not been this excited about a book series since Game of Thrones…I loved it and I’m eagerly awaiting the next instalment of The Sassana Stone series.”

South Africa’s Di Paterson noted that, “James Vella-Bardon’s style is wonderful, his language era-appropriate“, with her co-national Douglas Laing observing that “the writing maintains an absolutely breathtaking pace in this well researched historical thriller“.

India’s Devaki Khanna described the novel as “fast-paced, gripping and brutally honest” whereas Guatemala’s Maria Rivas commented that “the book is obviously the result of immense research on the period“.

Encouraging feedback was also obtained from Australia, with Gail Wylde remarking upon “a real roller coaster of a read and left me quite breathless at times“, and her co-national Paul Rubens stating: “A super story that never stops. The excitement just goes on and on.

Feedback from UK readers was also positive, with Alison Cook describing the book as “an extraordinarily riveting fast paced historical genre story“, and Shelagh Wadman observing that “James Vella-Bardon is a brilliant writer bringing to life the terrible reality of war, despair and revenge.” English reader Jules Burnett observed, “this was so good I had to read it twice!” and Alison Risely remarked that the novel was “impossible to put down“.

Local enthusiasm for the debut novel was also evident on Goodreads, with veteran Pigeonhole reader Claire Busuttil writing that “It is an emotional journey, dynamic and adventurous”, while fellow Maltese reader Corinne Apap-Bologna observed that “the pace is fast with lots of action, keeps you turning the pages”.

The novel is currently available from all leading UK online booksellers and will also be on sale in paperback copy from Waterstones’ retail outlets in the UK and Ireland. James Vella-Bardon’s debut novel is also being stocked by a number of independent bookstores internationally.

The Sheriff’s Catch can also be found in Malta at Agenda Bookshop and at Merlin Library.

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