Featured

The Invisible by Peter Papathanasiou

Blog tour/social media splash: 5 September 2022

Synopsis

Burnt-out from policework, Detective Sergeant George Manolis flies from Australia to Greece for a holiday. Recently divorced and mourning the death of his father, who emigrated from the turbulent Prespes region which straddles the borders of Greece, Albania and North Macedonia, Manolis hopes to reconnect with his roots and heritage.

On arrival, Manolis learns of the disappearance of an ‘invisible’ – a local man who lives without a scrap of paperwork. The police and some locals believe the man’s disappearance was pre-planned, while others suspect foul play. Reluctantly, Manolis agrees to work undercover to find the invisible, and must navigate the complicated relationships of a tiny village where grudges run deep.

It soon becomes clear to Manolis that he may never locate a man who, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist. And with the clock ticking, the ghosts of the past continue to haunt the events of today as Manolis’s investigation leads him to uncover a dark and long-forgotten practice.

My review

After reading The Stoning, the author’s first book about DS George Manolis, last year, I was keen to read the next book in the series and I sped through it in a couple of days last week!

It was published on Thursday 1 September by MacLehose Press and is available in eBook, hardback and audiobook formats.

Look out for my blog tour review later!

Buy the book

The Invisible by Peter Papathanasiou can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Peter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His writing has been published internationally by The New York Times, Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times, Daily Telegraph, The ABC, SBS, Huffington Post. He also holds an MA in Creative Writing from City University, London, and a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the Australian National University. His first book, a memoir, Son of Mine, was published in 2019 by Salt.

Twitter: @peteplastic
Facebook: @PeterPapathanasiouWriter
Instagram: @petepapathanasiou
Website: https://fromtheplasticpen.wordpress.com/about/

Blog tour

Thanks to Corinna Zifko at MacLehose Press (Quercus Books) for my copy of The Invisible and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

Featured

Once a Killer by Murray Bailey

Blog tour: 31 August to 16 September 2022

Synopsis

He changed his identity.
He moved to Hong Kong.
He changed his life.
But can he change who he really is?

Charles Balcombe, sophisticated, risk-taking lothario was a special investigator. He thinks that taking a PI job to find a missing boy will distract him from is urges. But once a killer …

My review

In this new series from Murray Bailey, set in Hong Kong in mid-December 1953, we meet Charles Balcombe (not his real name!) also known as the mysterious BlackJack, who has featured in the Ash Carter thriller series. It’s fascinating to get to know Balcombe, especially having read other books in which he played an intriguing role!

He moved to Hong Kong three months ago to escape his past, change his name and his life. He’s only 24 and a bit of a player and thinks nothing of seducing the local, older, married women and having regular liaisons with them in various locations! He enjoys gambling on the horses, is addicted to taking risks and has murderous urges that he struggles to control.

Balcombe tells his special ladies that he’s working undercover for the British government and also used to be a detective but pretends to others that he’s a successful investor on the stock market. In fact, he was a member of the elite Special Investigations Branch of the Royal Military Police and when he’s approached by Grace Toogood, who asks him to find her missing 20-year-old stepson, Roger, he reluctantly agrees to help search for the banker.

Balcombe is a nasty violent killer but also has a more caring side, as shown by his actions when confronted with a business selling young women, and he becomes friendly with a rickshaw driver called Albert, who he enlists to ferry him around.

Alongside Balcombe’s story, we also follow 40-year-old recently promoted Detective Inspector ‘Babyface’ Munro, who faces a tough start to his new role with lots of paperwork after some very suspicious deaths: a woman who was found dead in a pig cold-store room and a body in a laundry with the victim experiencing an unusual method of killing.

These two strands are separate but as various clues and elements are revealed, with red herrings and some clever misdirection along the way, we learn exactly how everything is linked as we come to the conclusion of the story. With a Murray Bailey book, you know it’s going to be a cleverly plotted ending that catches you by surprise!

Overall, Once a Killer is a well-written, action-packed and gripping read! It’s fast paced with lots of action, lots of tension and some terrifying twists and turns. There are startling revelations and some shocking and disturbing scenes, but all in keeping with the story. The characters are well drawn and both main protagonists are intelligent but also rather reckless at times, which adds to the excitement as you never know what they’re going to do next!

I enjoyed meeting Balcombe, in particular, and seeing the other side to his BlackJack character. There was definitely more to him than meets the eye!

As with other books from the author, the story is set in a rather tense and volatile time period and area. Various gangs add a sense of menace and danger and there are also military and police tensions and elements of corruption and abuse. It’s a clear case of trust no one and I was suspicious of all as I was reading – everyone seems to have their own agenda and is looking out for themselves and can’t be trusted.

Hong Kong, its culture and its various suburbs and areas are richly described and I could really picture the location and the contrast between the richer and poorer areas.

I really enjoyed the original Ash Carter thrillers and this follow-on series is gripping and entertaining but also a slightly different style to the others. It’s an excellent addition to the author’s list and I look forward to another book soon!

Buy the book

Once a Killer by Murray Bailey is available on Kindle and can also be bought in paperback and hardback from Amazon. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Murray Bailey got his first taste of success when he was published in The Times at 18 and in his local newspaper. Although he went on to pursue a different career, he continued to write and edit and became the editor of an international magazine and editor of four technical books.

I Dare You was the first of his books to be published in 2016. It was followed by Map of the Dead, the first of the series based on his interest in Egyptology. His main series, however, is the Ash Carter thrillers, inspired by his father’s experience in the Royal Military Police in Singapore in the early 1950s.

Murray was born in Greater Manchester, England and has being moving south ever since. He now lives on the beautiful Dorset coast with his wife and family.

Twitter: @MurrayBaileybks
Facebook: @MurrayBaileyAuthor
Instagram: @murraybaileyauthor
Website: https://murraybaileybooks.com/

Blog tour

Thanks to Murray Bailey for my digital copy of Once a Killer and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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The It Girl by Ruth Ware

Blog tour: 4 to 19 August 2022

Synopsis

Everyone wanted her life
Someone wanted her dead

It was Hannah who found April’s body ten years ago.
It was Hannah who didn’t question what she saw that day.
Did her testimony put an innocent man in prison?

She needs to know the truth.

Even if it means questioning her own friends.
Even if it means putting her own life at risk.

Because if the killer wasn’t a stranger, it’s someone she knows …

My review

The It Girl tells the story of Hannah Jones and April Clarke-Cliveden, who met at Pelham College at Oxford University where they shared a sitting room (‘set’). Despite being complete opposites from vastly different backgrounds, the pair become firm friends.

In a horrific turn of events, Hannah discovers her roommate dead in their room one evening in the last week of term. April has been murdered and Hannah is a key witness in the subsequent murder trial.

The story is told in ‘Before’ chapters as Hannah starts at university in Oxford and meets the people (April, Emily, Hugh, Ryan and Will) who become her close friends. And ‘After’ chapters, set around 10 years later, in which Hannah is now married to Will de Chastaigne, living in Edinburgh, working in a bookshop, and expecting their first child. She has just discovered that the university porter, John Neville, who was convicted of April’s murder, has died of a heart attack in hospital.

Over the years, various reporters and investigators have approached Hannah to ask her to comment about April’s death but she has ignored them all. It’s only when a friend of Ryan’s, a reporter called Geraint Williams, gets in touch that Hannah starts to contemplate what happened and begins to wonder whether someone other than Neville was responsible for April’s death and a murderer is still walking free.

As long-repressed memories start to return and Hannah gets in touch with friends from the past, her husband, Will, gets more and more upset and concerned for their baby.

Overall, this was a well-written and gripping read and I was frantically turning the pages as the conclusion reached its dramatic end! There are lots of twists and turns and I hadn’t predicted how it would finish at all, despite the various clues scattered throughout the novel!

The story unfolded well and the setting of Oxford University was atmospheric and richly described and I could really feel its history and picture the fictitious Pelham College with its various quirks and traditions. I really enjoy a thriller in an academic setting and this was certainly an absorbing and intriguing tale.

The characters were well described and a good mix of personalities and flaws, which made for fascinating reading. The build up to the conclusion was steady but intense and the pacing worked well to keep me invested and unable to put the book down!

I’ve already enjoyed several of Ruth Ware’s books and she’s definitely a favourite author of mine. I haven’t read One by One yet so I must remedy that soon!

Buy the book

The It Girl by Ruth Ware can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Ruth Ware is an international number one bestseller. Her thrillers, In a Dark, Dark WoodThe Woman in Cabin 10The Lying Game, The Death of Mrs Westaway, The Turn of the Key and One by One, have appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including The Sunday Times and The New York Times. Her books have been optioned for both film and TV, and she is published in more than 40 languages. Ruth lives near Brighton with her family.

Twitter: @RuthWareWriter
Facebook: @ruthwarewriter
Instagram: @ruthwarewriter
Website: ruthware.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Tracy Fenton for my digital copy of The It Girl and for my place on Anne Cater‘s Random Things Tours blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

Featured

Murder by the Sea by David Howard and Robin Jarossi

Blog tour: 11 to 22 July 2022

Synopsis

A beach read like no other.

Be prepared for a journey from where the land meets the sea, to where life meets death.

There is something sinister about a British seaside town. On the surface, they’re all funfairs and breezy promenades. Yet dig a little deeper in the sand and you soon uncover an underworld of murder, madness and mayhem …

This official companion book to the long-running true-crime documentary series on CBS Reality dives into some of the most extraordinary murder cases in Britain’s seaside towns.

Featuring 10 of the series’ most powerful and shocking cases, including extensive interviews with detectives, forensic psychologists, witnesses and relatives, as well as exclusive additional material and insights that could not be included in the original TV episodes.

My review

Based on the CBS Reality series, Murder by the Sea, this official companion book of the same name is an intriguing insight into a selection of the TV documentary episodes. It’s a fascinating read about 10 real-life murder cases in seaside resorts around England and Wales. The book contains additional information that wasn’t included in the original episodes of the series.

Murder by the Sea is well written and engaging and I found the cases very interesting and varied. They’re from 1953 to 2014 and the majority of the killers are male. The murders took place in Anglesey, Barry, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Isle of Man, Pembrokeshire, Southport and St Brides.

All the cases make for harrowing and disturbing reading but they’re also rather perplexing at times and it was interesting to read exclusive insights and analysis from detectives, forensic psychologists, witnesses and relatives, as they tried to figure out the motives behind the killings, some of which seemed incredibly senseless and tragic.

Real-life true-crime books can often be rather dry and dull but Murder by the Sea kept my interest throughout, with its variety of shocking murders, and I was gripped and couldn’t put it down, reading it in a couple of days. I do wish I hadn’t been reading case six, about the murder of poor 90-year-old Mabel Leyshon, while eating my lunch though! So awful.

I liked the format of the book with a map of the murders at the front and then each chapter/case had an image of the murderer with details of who they killed, when and where. There were also smaller images throughout the book of key people involved in the cases. It would have been good to see images of the victims though, as these weren’t always included.

I hadn’t heard of the true crime documentary series on which this book is based but will definitely be checking it out now! It sounds like I’ve got lots of catching up to do as the series was launched in 2018 and has been commissioned twice a year since then. The brand new series 7 launches in September 2022 with another in January 2023.

I thoroughly enjoyed (if that’s the right word!) Murder by the Sea and found it gripping and very compelling reading. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of true crime stories. I hope there will be a volume two of this book very soon!

Buy the book

Murder by the Sea by David Howard and Robin Jarossi can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle, in paperback and audiobook. See also Bookshop.org, Hive, Waterstones and Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Robin Jarossi

David Howard is a documentary film maker and founder of the television production company Monster Films. A recipient of the Royal Television Society Award for journalism, his award-winning films include Interview with a Murderer (Channel 4) and Dark Son (BBC). He is the creator and director of the series Murder by the Sea. This is his first book.

Robin Jarossi is a freelance journalist and the author of The Hunt for the 60s’ Ripper. He is also an on-air contributor to true-crime documentaries on the BBC and CBS Reality, including Murder by the Sea.

Twitter: @RobinJarossi
Website: jarossi.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Mel Sambells at Mardle Books for my paperback copy of Murder by the Sea and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

Featured

Cold Grave by Jenny O’Brien

Blog tour: 16 to 20 May 2022

Synopsis

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare …

Seventeen-year-old Bryony Lloyd’s father drops her off at a friend’s house to study – but when he returns to pick her up there’s no sign of her, and the woman who lives in the house swears she lives alone. Bryony has vanished into thin air, and her ‘friend’ doesn’t seem to exist.

DI Gaby Darin immediately sees similarities with another missing-persons case: seventeen-year-old Christy Taylor, who vanished without warning several months earlier. There’s nothing in the girls’ personal lives to suggest trouble at home – could someone have taken them both?

After a third case is linked, Gaby knows time is running out if she’s going to find Bryony and Christy alive. After going missing over a year ago, this girl’s just been found dead.

When a tragic accident means Gaby loses a vital member of her team, she distracts herself from her grief by throwing herself into finding the missing girls. Even if it means putting her whole career on the line …

My review

Cold Grave is the sixth book in the Detective Gaby Darin series and after enjoying others in the series (I haven’t got to the third one yet!), I was really keen to read this for the blog tour.

When Dr Lewis Lloyd goes to collect his 17-year-old daughter, Bryony, from her friend’s house in Mold, he’s horrified to discover that she was never there, especially as he’d dropped her off at the house for a study session only a few hours earlier. The homeowner phones the police after Dr Lloyd forces his way in, not believing her protestations that his daughter isn’t in the house and has never been inside.

DI Gaby Darin is put in charge of the case and she immediately sees similarities with another missing persons case; that of A-level student Christy Taylor, who went missing from a café in Llandudno five months before. The girls are studious and come from similar backgrounds and their disappearances are unexplained and totally out of character.

When a third missing woman is linked, Darin has her work cut out as there appear to be no direct similarities between the cases and no clues that could help solve the cases or locate all the teenagers, dead or alive.

Gaby Darin’s senior pathologist boyfriend, Rusty Mulholland, and his 12-year-old son, Conor, have recently moved into her house and things have become rather strained between them as they try to get used to living together. The couple also seem to have different views on a few issues within their relationship and this causes much friction.

Everything seems to be conspiring against Gaby in this book and she lurches from one traumatic event to another as she desperately tries to concentrate on the missing women and focus on her job.

I really enjoy this police procedural series – it’s well-written and cleverly plotted, with a good pace, and I raced through it in a couple of days, desperate to find out what happened next. The book was tense and emotional at times and the scenes involving the missing women were chilling and disturbing.

Cold Grave is a gripping and intriguing read and I was really shocked by some of the plot twists and unexpected events that the author had woven into this compelling novel. I even gasped out loud in disbelief a couple of times at the twists and turns!

The Detective Gaby Darin books can be read as standalones but there are a few passing mentions of previous cases and events so it’s probably best to read the series in order to get the full experience and learn more about Gaby and her life.

This was another entertaining and engaging read from Jenny O’Brien and I’m already looking forward to her next book!

Buy the book

Cold Grave by Jenny O’Brien can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now (and is released on 21 July 2022 in paperback), and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Born in Dublin, Jenny O’Brien moved to Wales and then Guernsey, where she tries to find time to write in between working as a nurse and ferrying around three teenagers.

She’s an avid reader and book blogger, in addition to being a previous Romantic Novel Awards (RoNA) judge.

In her spare time, she can be found frowning at her wonky cakes and even wonkier breads. You’ll be pleased to note she won’t be entering The Great British Bake Off. She’s also an all-year-round sea swimmer.

Twitter: @ScribblerJB
Facebook: @JennyOBrienWriter
Instagram: @scribblerjb
Website: https://jennyobrienwriter.wordpress.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Alliya Bouyis at HQ Stories for my digital copy of Cold Grave and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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The Last to Disappear by Jo Spain

Blog blast: Thursday 12 May 2022

Synopsis

A luxury resort. Three missing women. One body.

When young London professional Alex Evans is informed that his sister’s body has been pulled from an icy lake in Northern Lapland, he assumes his irresponsible sister accidentally drowned. He travels to the wealthy winter resort where Vicky worked as a tour-guide and meets Agatha Koskinen, the detective in charge. Agatha is a no-nonsense single mother of three who already thinks there’s more to Vicky’s case than meets the eye.

As the two form an unlikely alliance, Alex also begins to suspect the small town where his sister lived and died is harbouring secrets. It’s not long before he learns that three other women have gone missing from the area in the past and that his sister may have left him a message.

On the surface, Koppe, Lapland is a winter wonderland. But in this remote, frozen place, death seems only ever a heartbeat away.

Buy the book

The Last to Disappear by Jo Spain can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Jo Spain is the author of the bestselling Tom Reynolds detective series and several number one bestselling standalone thrillers. She began writing full-time when her first book, top 10 bestseller With Our Blessing, was chosen as one of seven finalists in the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition.

Jo is a full-time screenwriter. Her first show, critically-acclaimed crime series ‘Taken Down’, aired in 2018. In 2021, she co-wrote ‘Harry Wild’, starring Jane Seymour, with its creator, Emmy-award winning David Logan (to air 2022). She is currently working on several international productions, including adaptations of her own novels.

A graduate of Trinity College, Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and four children.

Twitter: @SpainJoanne
Facebook: @JoSpainAuthor

Blog tour

Thanks to Milly Reid at Quercus Books for my place on the blog blast.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Last Seen Alive by Jane Bettany

Blog tour: 15 to 19 April 2022

Synopsis

When Anna Matheson fails to collect her son from the babysitter after a works party, the police are swiftly called. Anna is a stickler for time and a good mother – she would never abandon her baby. Her disappearance is totally out of character and DI Isabel Blood and her team soon suspect foul play.

CCTV footage shows Anna was last seen at precisely 11.11pm, as she collected her coat to leave the party. But the cameras outside the venue have failed to pick up her exit from the car park – how could she have vanished in plain sight?

Rumour has it that Anna was set to make big changes in the workplace, and Isabel can’t help but think someone wanted her out of the way.

Everyone at the party is a suspect, and all the clues point to murder…

My review

Last Seen Alive is the third instalment in the Detective Inspector (DI) Isabel Blood series and, after really enjoying the other two books, I couldn’t wait to get started on this one!

The series is set in the fictional Derbyshire town of Bainbridge and the novel’s main protagonist is DI Isabel Blood, wife of Nathan and mum to Kate (who lives in nearby Wirksworth), Ellie and son, Bailey.

When marketing manager, Anna Matheson, 36, is late to collect her five-month-old son, Benedict, after attending a 60th anniversary party at the sweet factory, Allwood Confectionary, where she works, her best friend and babysitter, Lauren Talbot, is very concerned and phones the police at 1am.

Anna is a single mum and drove to the work do as she doesn’t drink. She’s reliable and never late. She was due home at half 11 but there’s no sign of her anywhere and she hasn’t called and her mobile phone is switched off.

As the police investigate Anna’s private life and question her mum, friends and work colleagues, there’s still no sign of her and it’s beginning to look like the worst has happened. There are some interesting connections amongst the work force at Allwood and Anna is hiding some secrets herself.

This was another gripping and well-paced police procedural from the author and I really enjoyed the way the cleverly plotted investigation slowly unfolded, with its dead ends and confusing elements, before things eventually came together and the case was solved. It’s an engaging and satisfying read and I raced through it in a few hours.

The story was very entertaining, with some intriguing revelations and surprising twists and turns. I had several theories about what had happened, as we met various suspects and learnt more about their relationships to others, but didn’t predict how it would all turn out.

I really like Isabel Blood – she’s dedicated to her job, methodical and thorough, and seems quite normal for a police detective, with a lovely husband and children. She has an interesting past, which adds another dimension to her character’s story.

Overall, I’m really enjoying this series with its good old-fashioned police work and I hope it won’t be too long before there’s another case in Bainbridge to solve! I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next and how things develop with the main characters.

Buy the book

Last Seen Alive by Jane Bettany can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now and in paperback on 23 June 2022, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Jane Bettany is the author of In Cold Blood, a crime novel featuring DI Isabel Blood and set in the fictional Derbyshire town of Bainbridge. The book won the 2019 Gransnet and HQ writing competition, which was for women writers over the age of 40 who had written a novel with a protagonist in the same age range.

In Cold Blood and Without a Trace were her first two novels, but she has been writing short stories and non-fiction articles for over 20 years, many of which have appeared in women’s magazines, literary magazines, newspapers and online.

She lives in Derby and has an MA in Creative Writing.

Twitter: @JaneBettany
Facebook: @JaneBettanyAuthor
Instagram: @bettanyjane
Website: http://www.janebettany.co.uk

Blog tour

Thanks to Alliya Bouyis at HQ Stories for my digital copy of Last Seen Alive and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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The Other Side of Fear by Eoghan Egan

Blog tour: 29 March to 5 April 2022

Synopsis

Nothing will ever be the same again.

Sharona Waters is determined to dig into loan shark Dessie Dolan’s business and see him brought to justice. But when a young woman she’s only briefly met goes missing, a much darker story emerges.

Pulled into the ruthless world of people trafficking – a world built on violent brutality and sudden death – Sharona finds herself caught between crime and conscience, pursued by powerful and ruthless criminals, and just one bad decision away from having her whole world crash down.

Sometimes, the only way forward is to risk everything, no matter the cost.

My review

This is the second book in the Ganestown trilogy and I haven’t read the first book, Hiding in Plain Sight, yet but will be remedying this soon! It’s currently only 99p on Kindle.

Right from the start, The Other Side of Fear is a powerful, shocking read and we’re thrown straight into a violent scene featuring loan shark, Dessie Dolan, and his minions as they torture and dispatch a man called Tommy Mellon.

Set in the Irish Midlands, in the fictional Ganestown, there are several threads to the story and it’s fascinating to try and work out how they all link together.

We meet 23-year-old Sharona Waters and her boyfriend, Ronan Lambe, who are trying to figure out why Dolan is running modelling competitions at his nightclub, Whispers. While there, Sharona meets a young woman called Rebecca Greenfield, who plays a key part in the story later on.

Investigative reporter Sharona is recovering after a recent incident in the previous book in which a man called Adam Styne, general manager of Hattinger’s Furniture, Fine Art and Antiques, abducted her after she uncovered his multi-million Euro art scam. Hugh Fallon and Ruth Lamero, a nurse, came to her rescue and Styne was sent to a local mental health hospital for assessment.

Boxing enthusiast Ferdia Hardiman, a sales manager and former colleague of Fallon, is brother-in-law to Charlie McGuire, owner of a local hardware store, who is mourning the death of his daughter, Ciara. She was murdered and Charlie suffered a minor stroke afterwards. Her brother, Malcolm, a gambler, is also in Dolan’s debt.

Hugh was made redundant from his regional manager job at Pharma-Continental and Hardiman helped him get a part-time job at the hardware store. Hugh is a carer for his mum, Kathleen, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s and he’s struggling to cope as her condition is rapidly changing and he feels helpless, resentful, guilty and irritable.

We’re introduced to lots of different people and I had to concentrate to remember who they all were but things became clearer quickly. There are some really intriguing, strong and nasty characters, who are all well drawn, and it was fascinating as the story unfolded and we learnt more about them all. I particularly liked Sharona and Rebecca who are both brave and courageous women.

Overall, I really enjoyed this gripping, disturbing and well-plotted novel, which was uncomfortable and difficult reading at times, with its themes of gang violence, loan sharks, drugs, human trafficking, dementia and more. It was a tense, terrifying and fast-paced read and I was frantically turning the pages and really rooting for various characters and hoping they’d survive as their lives flashed before their eyes! It’s a chilling and engaging read – I was thoroughly immersed in the story and could vividly picture some of the more horrible scenes.

There are lots of twists and turns and startling revelations, as well as some clever subplots that really added to the story too. I was desperately trying to put all the strands together to try and figure out how it would all be resolved and was shocked by what transpired at times!

When writing this review, I was surprised to look back and see that the story was set over the course of nine days as so much happened and it was all very intense and action packed! I’d definitely recommend this entertaining crime thriller if you’re looking for something a bit grittier and darker than your average read.

Buy the book

The Other Side of Fear by Eoghan Egan can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback and paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and Google Books. Purchase the hardback, paperback and eBook directly from the Red Dog Press online shop.

About the author

A native of Co. Roscommon, Ireland, Eoghan wrote his first story aged nine. At college, he studied computer programming, and he now works in sales management and marketing, but his passion for reading and writing remain.

Eoghan’s stories were shortlisted for the 2018 Bridport Short Story Prize, and Listowel’s 2019 Bryan McMahon Short Story Award Competition. Others have been published in various anthologies. He has also completed two crime fiction novels in a planned trilogy set in the Irish Midlands, and has started work on the third.

A graduate of Maynooth University’s creative writing curriculum and Curtis Brown’s Edit and Pitch Your Novel course, Eoghan divides his time between Roscommon and Dublin.

Eoghan constantly explores ways to increase his knowledge in the art of writing. He enjoys attending literary festivals and is excited about the prospect of getting back to face-to-face discussions with readers and writers. He’s also a heavy metal fan and, post Covid, can’t wait to headbang at a rock gig.

Twitter: @eoghanegan
Facebook: @eoghaneganwriter
Instagram: @eoghanegan
Website: https://eoghanegan.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Sean Coleman for my digital copy of The Other Side of Fear and for my place on the blog tour.

Featured

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Blog tour: 3 to 25 March 2022

Synopsis

Welcome to No.12 Rue des Amants: a beautiful old apartment block, far from the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower and the bustling banks of the Seine.

Where nothing goes unseen, and everyone has a story to unlock.

The watchful concierge
The scorned lover
The prying journalist
The naïve student
The unwanted guest

Something terrible happened here last night. A mystery lies behind the door of apartment three. Only you – and the killer – hold the key …

My review

It’s the end of October and, after losing her job at a bar in Brighton, Jess decides to visit her half-brother, Ben Daniels, in Paris, but she’s surprised to find no sign of him when she arrives. The block of apartments is located in the back streets of Montmartre and Ben has been living in a third floor apartment after an old friend from university offered him a place to stay. She’d only spoken to Ben the previous day to sort arrangements so he was expecting her but now he seems to have completely disappeared, leaving all his belongings behind.

The apartment building is very mysterious and contains a right mix of occupants. There’s Sophie and Jacques Meunier who live in the penthouse, flatmates Mimi and Camille (4th floor), Nick (2nd floor), Antoine and Dominique (ground floor), and a curious concierge who lives in the loge and spies on everyone and seems to knows everything that’s going on.

The characters are all hiding lots of secrets, even Jess and Ben. The story is told from the viewpoints of several of them and we get to know more about who they are and what’s going on. They’re a rather dysfunctional and flawed group of people.

The old apartment block itself is very atmospheric and creepy and seems to have a life of its own and be watching its residents – it’s old and has many hidden levels and areas. I was particularly fascinated by the dumbwaiter, a concept that always rather freaks me out as you never know what you’re going to be greeted with when you open it!

Jess is determined to discover what’s happened to Ben, who is an investigative journalist, but struggles with the language barrier and isn’t sure who she can trust. At times, I was really worried for her safety as she found herself in tight spots and had no idea what she was getting herself involved in!

The Paris Apartment is a gripping and tense read and there are some intriguing scenes as we discover what the occupants of 12 Rue des Amants are hiding. I had no idea what the connections between the characters were going to be and was shocked by the twists and turns and the various revelations.

The short and snappy chapters really help to move the story along and I was frantically turning the pages, desperate to find out how it was all going to reach its compelling conclusion and learn more about what happened to Ben.

This is the third thriller from the author that I’ve read and it was another entertaining and intriguing read. I must check out her other books now!

Buy the book

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

© Philippa Gedge

Lucy Foley is a number one Sunday Times bestselling author. Her contemporary murder mystery thrillers, The Hunting Party and The Guest List, have sold over a million copies worldwide and also hit the New York Times and Irish Times bestseller lists. The Guest List was a Waterstones Thriller of the Month selection, a Reese’s Book Club pick, it was chosen as one of The Times and Sunday Times Crime Books of the Year, and it won the Goodreads Choice Award for best mystery/thriller.

Lucy’s novels have been translated into multiple languages and her journalism has appeared in publications such as Sunday Times Style, Grazia, ES Magazine, Vogue US, Elle, Tatler and Marie Claire. Lucy lives in Brussels with her husband and their baby son.

Twitter: @lucyfoleytweets
Facebook: @LucyFoleyAuthor
Instagram: @lucyfoleyauthor

Blog tour

Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my lovely hardback copy of The Paris Apartment and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian

Blog tour: 21 February to 8 March 2022

Synopsis

Erik Amdahl and his spirited daughter, Sofia, have embarked on a long-promised cross-country ski trip deep into Norway’s arctic circle. For Erik, it’s the chance to bond properly with his remaining daughter following a tragic accident. For Sofia, it’s the proof she needs that her father does care.

Then, far from home in this snowbound wilderness, with night falling and the mercury plummeting, an accident sends them in search of help – and shelter. Nearby is the home of a couple – members of Norway’s indigenous Sami people – who they’ve met before, and who welcome them in. Erik is relieved. He believes the worst is over. He thinks that Sofia is now safe. He could not be more wrong. He and Sofia are not the old couple’s only visitors that night – and soon he and Sofia will be running for their lives …

… and beneath the swirling light show of the Northern Lights, a desperate fight ensues – of man against man, of man against nature – a fight for survival that plays out across the snow and ice.

A story of endurance and of the desperate, instinctive will to survive, of a father’s love for his child, of knowing when to let go – and of a daughter’s determination to prove herself worthy of that love, Where Blood Runs Cold is a pulse-racing thriller from a master storyteller.

My review

After the sudden death of their older daughter 10 months ago, Erik and Elise Amdahl and their younger daughter, Sofia, are still devastated and struggling with their grief and decide to move to the Lyngen Alps to try and help them recover. Elise’s employer, Friends of the Earth Norwich, has helped her to get this posting, in which she will help the local Sami campaigners to fight the Novotroitsk Nickel mining company and stop them from destroying ancient reindeer grazing land. Erik is a carpenter but hasn’t worked recently.

Erik promised Sofia that he would take her on a cross-country ski trip across the mountainous Norwegian arctic circle when she turned 13 and that time has now come. After what happened with Emilie, he wants to postpone the trek and keep Sofia safe but she is desperate to go so he reluctantly agrees. The pair pack thoroughly for the journey and ensure that they have everything on their inventory in the pulk.

Sofia and her father have a lovely relationship and understand each other well. The trip is a great bonding experience for them. They make good progress and are skiing skilfully but, a few hours after they start their trip, Sofia has an accident and injures her hand. This sets off an unfortunate chain of events and leaves the pair digging deep in their battle to survive the harsh landscape.

Overall, I thought Where Blood Runs Cold was brilliant! It was action packed, gripping and terrifying and had me holding my breath at certain points, desperate for Erik and Sofia to escape and return to Elise. This gruelling adventure is filled with highs, lows, twists and turns and I loved every minute of it!

Just when you think the pair are safe, something else awful happens! I was on the edge of my seat! I think it would make a great film as I could really picture the scenery and the location was vividly described. It’s so remote and seems very dangerous; it’s very easy to make a fatal mistake and get into trouble, without any hope of being rescued.

This survival thriller is well written and fast paced and I was frantically turning the pages as the nightmare unfolded. Erik and Sofia are so courageous and try to keep going, even when things seem dire. It’s such a chilling read and very engaging – I was thoroughly immersed in the story.

I haven’t read any of Giles Kristian’s other books as they’re not my usual genre but I’m tempted now after enjoying this one so much.

Buy the book

Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Giles Kristian has sold over a million copies of his critically acclaimed Sunday Times bestselling historical novels, which have been translated into more than 20 languages and seen him dubbed the heir to Bernard Cornwell. He co-wrote the international no. 1 bestseller Golden Lion with Wilbur Smith and his Viking novel, God of Vengeance, was a Times Book of the Year. Having staked his claim in the historical fiction charts for over a decade, Where Blood Runs Cold is Giles’s first contemporary thriller.

Giles, who is half-Norwegian on his mother’s side, has himself skied and camped in the Norwegian mountains as Erik and Sofia do in the novel. In 2003 Giles went on a cross-country ski trip with his brother and a bunch of hardened Norwegians, skiing and building igloos to spend the night in. Despite being incredibly fit and having all the right gear, Giles and his brother realized they had bitten off more than they could chew and, halfway through the trip, they made a bid for civilization. But the expedition had sown the seeds of an idea for the story that would become Where Blood Runs Cold.

Twitter: @GilesKristian
Facebook: @GilesKristian
Instagram: @gileskristian
Website: https://www.gileskristian.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Fiona Wong at Midas PR for my copy of Where Blood Runs Cold and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Man Down by Mark Pepper

Blog tour: 22 to 26 February 2022

Synopsis

All he has to do is step up.

Matt Spiller drives a souped-up taxi, suffers from SAD, and has a troublesome past.

It’s Christmas Eve, and one of his fares is about to become extremely problematic.

Helen Spiller still loves her husband, but can no longer live with his moods.

She’s a wonderful mum, with a screw quietly working loose in her head.

Now, their eldest daughter has hooked up with a very bad boyfriend.

Spiller thinks he has the skillset to handle all these problems.

He’s dead wrong.

My review

Man Down tells the story of 43-year-old taxi driver, Matt Spiller, who is rather struggling in life. He’s estranged from his wife, Helen, and misses his children, Samantha (17) and Sophie (6). He’s depressed, suffers from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and is an insomniac.

It’s a snowy Christmas eve and Spiller picks up a fare who he later finds out is called Emma. He has a rather unconventional car as his taxi – an Audi S5 Sportback! He drops Emma off at a local park just before midnight and then has to intervene when she is approached by two youths wearing dark clothes, with their hoods up. He ends up teaching them a lesson!

The following morning, after a bad night’s sleep, as usual, Spiller heads to the former family home to see his children for a few hours on Christmas Day. He’s late and his wife isn’t amused, especially as their daughter, Sammy, is missing. She has a new, older boyfriend (of two weeks!) and hasn’t been home since the previous day.

When a tearful Sammy finally turns up a few days later, the police have already been informed and they tell Spiller that his daughter’s 28-year-old boyfriend, Callum Ward, is well known to them and big trouble.

And that’s all I’m going to say about the plot because you really need to read the book yourself to experience this action-packed story, which doesn’t let up! There are certainly some weird and wonderful moments, as well as some rather gory scenes!

I loved the main character, Matt Spiller, who has a great wry sense of humour and, despite the grittiness and violence, the book contains some very funny lines and comments! His wife, Helen, is an intriguing character with ‘a screw quietly working loose in her head’ and Sammy is brave and resilient despite experiencing a torrid time at the hands of her boyfriend.

Overall, I really enjoyed Man Down – it was entertaining, gripping and crazy, in a good way! The story was well written and cleverly plotted with some brilliant twists and turns and a few red herrings. It was unpredictable and fast paced, with lots of action and tension, and I never knew what was going to happen next! I was holding my breath at certain points, willing Spiller and his family to be safe!

When I began reading the book, I had no idea how it was all going to pan out and I could never have guessed the chain of events that would occur! There were a few strands to the story and it was interesting how they all intertwined, with Matt flitting between several groups of menacing and disturbing characters, trying to avoid getting harmed! Little does he know exactly what he’s involved in – there were definitely some startling revelations throughout the book!

Man Down was an excellent read and I’ve already purchased the author’s other novel, Veteran Avenue, which was republished by Red Dog Press in September 2021.

Buy the book

Man Down by Mark Pepper can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback and paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and Google Books. Purchase the hardback, paperback and eBook directly from the Red Dog Press online shop.

About the author

Mark lives in Manchester with his wife of 30 years, Jeannifer, and his daughter, Jade.

In his day job, Mark is an intelligence analyst for a financial regulator in Washington DC. He is a qualified secondary school drama teacher, and worked as an actor for 15 years, having graduated from RADA in 1990. 

His first two novels, The Short Cut and Man on a Murder Cycle, were published by Hodder & Stoughton, and his third, Veteran Avenue, originally published by Urbane and now by Red Dog Press. Veteran Avenue, is mainly set in LA, and is currently being developed as a TV series by the actor Warren Brown. 

Twitter: @PepSixSix
Facebook: Mark Pepper
Website: https://www.markpepper.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Sean Coleman at Red Dog Press for my digital copy of Man Down and for my place on the blog tour.

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All at Sea by Chris McDonald

Blog tour: 17 to 21 February 2022

Synopsis

All aboard!

Adam and Colin are aboard The Elysian, cruising towards Italy to see Adam get hitched, and are determined to stay out of trouble …

On the first night, a priceless piece of art is stolen from an eccentric old lady. Adam and Colin offer to help recover it, and are convince the thief was one of their fellow dinner guests from earlier in the evening.

Can the amateur sleuths reunite the painting with its owner before they dock in Venice? And, with danger lurking around every porthole, will Adam even make it to the altar?

All at Sea is the sixth in the Stonebridge Mysteries series of cosy crime novellas.

About the series

Stonebridge is a small town on the north coast of Northern Ireland. Most of its inhabitants are friendly, happy people. Most of them … Because bad things happen even in the happiest of places. It’s a good thing, then, that Adam Whyte and Colin McLaughlin call Stonebridge home.

Armed with an encyclopaedic knowledge of detective shows, a misplaced sense of confidence and a keen desire to see justice done, these two are the closest thing the town has to saviours. Which isn’t that reassuring …

My review

Set nearly six months after Mistletoe and Crime, All at Sea is the sixth book in the brilliant Stonebridge Mysteries series. It’s nearly time for Adam and Helena’s wedding in Lake Garda and his mum has kindly paid for the couple to take a European cruise on The Elysian in the week leading up to the wedding. Unfortunately, Helena’s dress needs alterations and she insists on staying behind to sort things out. This is good news for best man, Colin, who gets invited on the eight-night first class trip to Venice instead!

Neither Adam nor Colin has been on an ocean liner before and their packing leaves something to be desired with neither selecting clothes suitable for the opulent settings! The pair are shown to their quarters for the duration – the bridal suite, which sounds amazing!

On their first evening on the ship, they attend a tasting menu meal in the Augustine Lounge and there are some interesting guests at their table: an actor called Vaughn McClusky, an American art dealer called Tex Rivera, Henry Carver-Clark, Isiah Lookman, an Irish businessman called Sean O’Connell and an old lady called Maggie, who is carrying a framed painting named Grachten, which is worth around £4 million!

When Maggie is attacked in her room and her painting is stolen, Adam and Colin can’t ignore the crime – despite promising Helena they’d stay out of trouble – and they swing into action and subtly interview the men they met the previous night and have a few intriguing and dangerous encounters as they try to solve the case.

As usual, there were some good twists, turns and red herrings in this locked room type mystery, which has only a handful of potential suspects. I was suspicious of a few dodgy characters and had fun trying to guess (unsuccessfully) who was responsible for the theft!

Adam and Colin are a great amateur sleuthing duo and always work well together to solve some puzzling crimes. The twosome get rather a lot of luck along the way but that’s all part of the fun!

I always love the amusing chapter titles in these novellas – they’re a brilliant device to give the reader a little insight into what’s to come!

All at Sea is another well-plotted and entertaining novella from the author and I’m a big fan of this fab series! The book is a quick read, at around 100 pages, but it’s engaging, action packed and full of intrigue and suspense. The story develops satisfyingly and there are some witty lines.

I really enjoy this engaging, well-written crime mystery series and spending time with Adam and Colin and I’m already looking forward to the next instalment!

Buy the book

All at Sea by Chris McDonald can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle, in hardback and paperback, or from Kobo or Google Books. Purchase the hardback, paperback and eBook directly from the Red Dog Press online shop.

About the author

Originally hailing from the north coast of Northern Ireland and now residing in south Manchester, Chris McDonald has always been a reader. At primary school, the Hardy Boys inspired his love of adventure before his reading world was opened up by Chuck Palahniuk and the gritty world of crime.

A Wash of Black was his first attempt at writing a book. He came up with the initial idea whilst feeding his baby in the middle of the night, which may not be the best thing to admit, considering the content. Whispers in the Dark and Roses for the Dead are the other two books in the DI Erika Piper series. The Stonebridge Mysteries series consists of six cosy crime novellas.

He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs.

Twitter: @cmacwritescrime
Facebook: @cmacwritescrime
Website: https://macsbookreview.wordpress.com
Instagram: @cmacwritescrime

Blog tour

Thanks to Sean Coleman at Red Dog Press for my digital copy of All at Sea and for my place on the blog tour.

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The Killing Crew by Murray Bailey

Blog tour: 15 to 28 February 2022

Synopsis

Ash Carter and Bill Wolfe are in Israel hunting a group of British Army deserters known as the Killing Crew. Some people think they were a myth, others believe they were the most hated of British soldiers.

In the newly formed state that’s at war with the Arab nations, hated by Jews and despised by Arabs, the two SIB officers think they face an uncomfortable task.

But when they become targets they realise this is more than just a job. It’s life or death.

My review

Set in the new state of Israel in the late 1940s, The Killing Crew is the second book in the Ash Carter Near East crime thriller series. The series is a prequel to the brilliant Ash Carter mystery thrillers, which are set in 1950s Singapore.

It’s June 1948 and Captain Ash Carter, who is in the British Army’s Royal Military Police (in the Special Investigations Branch), has been tasked with locating and arresting the group of pro-Arab British deserters known as the Killing Crew.

Ash Carter and Major Bill Wolfe are on official business and have authority from the Israeli government to search for the Killing Crew but they still need to be careful as the new state of Israel is at war and it’s a very dangerous place to be, especially as the British are now ‘despised and unwelcome’ and ‘seen by many as the enemy’.

After an encounter with a Hungarian refugee and Slovakian debt collectors, Carter finds himself in trouble straightaway and is lucky to escape with his life! It’s a thrilling and terrifying start and the pace of the book doesn’t let up from then on!

With the help of Bert Finney, an inexperienced but enthusiastic 20-year-old recruit, and a 19-year-old Jewish secretary called Sylvia Rom, Carter and Wolfe make some progress and investigate various leads and work their way through paperwork to try and pinpoint exactly who the deserters are. They are able to strike some people off the list, for various reasons, but aren’t really getting anywhere until a local informant helps them out. They then get a spot of good luck when Carter makes a connection after showing a photo to someone. It’s a difficult mission and there are lots of dead ends and twists and the team often find themselves in danger. Time is running out and they need to solve the case.

Carter has an interesting relationship with his German Jewish landlady, Erika Arnold. She’s not keen on the English after her husband was killed by a British bullet shortly after the war ended, but she has a begrudging friendship with Ash and they enjoy playing cards together in the evenings, and there seems to be a bit of a spark between them.

Overall, The Killing Crew is a well-researched, action-packed and gripping read! It’s well plotted and fast paced with lots of action, lots of tension and some terrifying twists and turns. There are startling revelations and some shocking and violent scenes, but all in keeping with the story. The characters are well drawn and the main protagonist is intelligent but also rather reckless at times, which adds to the excitement as you never know what he’s going to do next!

There are lots of military and political tensions in the period and area in which the book is set and it’s all very tense and volatile. I could really picture the location and found it well described. There’s such a sense of menace and danger and no one can be trusted, even those close to Carter. While reading, I was on edge the whole time, waiting for someone to be threatened or attacked!

I really enjoyed the original Ash Carter thrillers and this prequel series is intense and absorbing and an excellent addition to the author’s list.

Buy the book

The Killing Crew by Murray Bailey is released on 1 March and can be preordered from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback and hardback.

About the author

Murray Bailey got his first taste of success when he was published in The Times at 18 and in his local newspaper. Although he went on to pursue a different career, he continued to write and edit and became the editor of an international magazine and editor of four technical books.

I Dare You was the first of his books to be published in 2016. It was followed by Map of the Dead, the first of the series based on his interest in Egyptology. His main series, however, is the Ash Carter thrillers, inspired by his father’s experience in the Royal Military Police in Singapore in the early 1950s.

Murray was born in Greater Manchester, England and has being moving south ever since. He now lives on the beautiful Dorset coast with his wife and family.

Twitter: @MurrayBaileybks
Facebook: @MurrayBaileyAuthor
Instagram: @murraybaileyauthor
Website: https://murraybaileybooks.com/

Blog tour

Thanks to Murray Bailey for my digital copy of The Killing Crew and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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One Bad Thing by M.K. Hill

Blog tour: 31 January to 10 February 2022

Synopsis

She thought she’d got away with it. She was wrong.

Hannah Godley is an agony aunt on a London radio show Queen of Hearts. She’s warm and empathetic; a good listener. Her catchphrase is: Be kind, always. But when a stranger phones in to tell a tragic story about her brother who killed himself after he was the victim of a terrible prank by two people, Hannah goes cold. Because she remembers Diane’s brother well. In fact, all these years later, he still haunts her dreams. All because of that one bad thing she did when she was young …

Is Diane just a sad, lonely woman looking for a friend, or does she know what Hannah did, and is looking for revenge? Because as Diane insinuates herself into her life and family, Hannah is going to discover that you can never truly escape that One Bad Thing you did – sooner or later, you’re going to have to pay the price …

My review

Psychologist Hannah Godley is an agony aunt on a Saturday afternoon radio show in London and, on her last day before making the move to TV broadcasting and the Morning Brew daytime TV show, she answers a call from a woman called Diane who talks about her brother, Martin. He was bullied and treated badly by two strangers and then later killed himself.

Hannah is shocked – she recognises the incident as she was one of the people involved! She’s felt guilty ever since and has tried to put it behind her. She makes contact with Diane after the show and they meet up, and from then on we’re taken on a wild, twisty ride as Hannah’s life starts falling apart and Diane appears to be following Hannah – popping up in the same places and lurking around waiting for her. She seems totally harmless but also so menacing, disturbing and suffocating at the same time!

Hannah starts questioning everything – her relationship with husband Sean and with her friends, even closest friend Izzy and her husband, Ollie.

This was such a tense and gripping read with so many red flags and I had no idea who to trust! Diane is so creepy and pushy and made me feel really uncomfortable and nanny Siobhan (Shiv) is rather suspicious as well and I couldn’t really work her out. I didn’t trust her with Hannah and Sean’s 18-month-old daughter, Amber. Sean seems rather unreliable as well – too many liquid business lunches and drinking sessions with his mates!

Hannah has a very difficult relationship with her parents, especially after the sudden death of her sister, and she hasn’t treated people well in the past and has had several turbulent relationships. You can see that these experiences have really affected her and left her with a rather reckless streak.

Overall, this was a well-written and cleverly plotted read, with great suspense, and I was turning the pages frantically to see how it was all going to play out – there were so many shocking moments, especially one fairly nearly the beginning that I definitely did not see coming and had me messaging a friend who had already finished the book!!

It was fast paced and very entertaining, with lots of brilliant twists! When I wasn’t reading the book, I was trying to work out which of the characters was really behind everything and had several theories, mostly wrong!

This was the first book by the author that I’ve read but I’ll definitely be checking out his Sasha Dawson series now!

Buy the book

One Bad Thing by M.K. Hill can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Mark Hill was born and brought up in Essex and went on to become a journalist and an award-winning music radio producer for Radio 2 before becoming a full-time writer.

The first novel in the Sasha Dawson series, The Bad Place, was described as ‘everything a police procedural should be’ by The Times, who also named it as their crime book of the month.

One Bad Thing is his latest standalone thriller, again using the fast moving world of broadcast and TV as background for this compelling psychological thriller.

He is married with a son and lives in London. 

Twitter: @markhillwriter
Facebook: @MarkHillAuthor
Instagram: @markhillwriter
Website: https://mkhill.uk

Blog tour

Thanks to Sophie Ransom at Ransom PR for my proof and hardback copies of One Bad Thing and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Love the Way They Lie by Linda Smolkin

Blog tour: 26 January to 9 February 2022

Synopsis

In a matter of minutes, a speeding ticket turns her life upside down.

Thirty-eight-year-old Maggie Simmons has another reason to hate the Department of Motor Vehicles – other than the long lines. A visit to the DMV reveals a photo from a speeding ticket with her husband in the arms of a mystery woman. Maggie’s happy marriage to Nate shatters, but he refuses to leave her alone. In her attempts to move forward, remnants of her old life tear apart.

After separating, she fills the void with her dog, Chili, and a string of unexpected relationships. She finds herself with multiple people vying for her attention – and she enjoys the distraction. However, Maggie soon realizes they may have ulterior motives.

One by one, more betrayal weaves its way into Maggie’s life, leaving her devastated by the idea of being heartbroken and alone. In order to escape her reality, she flirts with the unthinkable – the one thing that triggered her suffering in the first place. A lie.

My review

When Maggie Simmons (38) has to renew her driving licence at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Miami, she’s annoyed to discover there’s an outstanding speeding ticket on her car, which she knew nothing about. She’s even angrier when she’s shown the photographic evidence and sees her husband of three years with a blonde woman nuzzling his neck!

She has to keep it together while she goes to collect her stepchildren, Max (10) and Emily (13), from school and then she confronts Nate while the kids are watching TV. He denies everything and says the woman is just a friend from work. Nate first cheated on Maggie before they were married so this is the final straw and she tells him to leave and asks for a divorce. He’s reluctant for them to part and keeps asking her to try again but she refuses.

As Maggie begins to find herself and enjoy life as a single woman with her dog, Chili, a Golden Lab, by her side, she leans on her best friend, Rachel, for support and begins to date again, meeting someone at a work conference in San Diego and another man at a bar while out with Rachel. Things don’t go smoothly though and Maggie must make some difficult decisions.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel – it’s well written and a nice easy read. It kept me entertained and I was keen to find out what happened and read it over the course of a couple of days. We get to know Maggie and follow her journey as she extricates herself from her husband and their life together and she learns more about herself and grows in confidence and enjoys life a bit more.

Maggie is quite frustrating at times and should probably have remained single for a while so that she could grieve her husband’s actions and the loss of their relationship rather than moving on too quickly and jumping straight into new romances. She has her difficulties along the way and things are not plain sailing in her love life but it’s all character building and makes her realise what she actually wants.

I liked the way the story developed and I enjoyed Maggie and Chili’s friendship with the couple from the retirement home, Betty and Al, who were both great characters! Maggie learnt a lot from their experiences and she was a great comfort and friend to them too.

This was an engaging read and I’d definitely check out another book by this author.

Buy the book

Love the Way They Lie by Linda Smolkin can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

About the author

Linda Smolkin always wanted to be a writer – ever since she saw her first TV commercial and wondered how to pen those clever ads. She got her degree in journalism and became a copywriter. Linda landed a job at an ad agency, where she worked for several years before joining the non-profit world.

Love the Way They Lie is the third novel by the author whose debut, Among the Branded, was called ‘a beautiful and fascinating novel that will keep readers hooked’ by San Francisco Book Review.

When not in front of the computer, she’s behind the drums (slightly) annoying her husband, son, and their 70-pound dog.

Twitter: @lindasmolkin
Facebook: @AuthorLindaSmolkin
Instagram: @lindasmolkin
Website: https://lindasmolkin.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my digital copy of Love the Way They Lie and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

Blog tour: 17 January to 19 February 2022

Synopsis

In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. Only I know the truth of her disappearance.
I’m no Hercule Poirot.
I’m her husband’s mistress.

Agatha Christie’s world is one of glamorous society parties, country house weekends, and growing literary fame.

Nan O’Dea’s world is something very different. Her attempts to escape a tough London upbringing during the Great War led to a life in Ireland marred by a hidden tragedy.

After fighting her way back to England, she’s set her sights on Agatha. Because Agatha Christie has something Nan wants. And it’s not just her husband.

Despite their differences, the two women will become the most unlikely of allies. And during the mysterious eleven days that Agatha goes missing, they will unravel a dark secret that only Nan holds the key to …

The Christie Affair is a stunning novel which reimagines the unexplained eleven-day disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926 that captivated the world.

My review

The Christie Affair is the fictional account of a true-life event – the disappearance of Agatha Christie (36) for 11 days on Friday 3 December 1926, which is thought to have occurred after her husband, Archie, left her for another woman. Her mother, Clarissa, had also recently died and she was still in mourning. The couple lived in Sunningdale in Berkshire with their daughter and Agatha’s car was discovered abandoned on the edge of a chalk pit in Guildford. Agatha Christie has never discussed her disappearance and claims she can’t remember what happened.

The fascinating story is told solely from the viewpoint of Nan O’Dea, who is Colonel Archie Christie’s mistress in the novel (she was Nancy Neele in real life). She admits to embellishing events that she wasn’t actually privy to and filling in the gaps about various encounters of the other people.

Nan is a fascinating character but I was surprised that the story was focused more on her than Agatha Christie. We learn about her difficult upbringing as one of four sisters (Colleen, Megs and Louisa), the summer spent in Ballycotton in Ireland with her Uncle Jack, Auntie Rosie and family, and what happened to her around the time of the First World War and afterwards.

It’s an intriguing, twisty and eventful tale with some dark and disturbing scenes. The story is cleverly written and the strands are well woven together, with it not being clear exactly what’s going on until the end, when everything is finally revealed! Very compelling and cleverly done!

I really liked Nan – she was quite a feisty character! Nan’s Irish boyfriend and fisherman’s son, Finbarr Mahoney, and the policeman who is sent to Leeds to search for Mrs Christie, Inspector Frank Chilton, were also fascinating protagonists.

Overall, I really enjoyed this excellent novel, which has elements of everything from mystery and intrigue to romance, heart break and distress. It’s a gripping read and very thought provoking and poignant at times and I raced through it, keen to see how it would all be resolved. As befitting a novel about Agatha Christie, there’s the odd dead body and a possible murder inquiry too!

Buy the book

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Nina de Gramont (also known as Marina Gessner) lives in coastal North Carolina with her husband, the writer David Gessner. She teaches at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and is almost always in the company of her two dogs, Missy and Isabelle.

She’s the author of the acclaimed Meet Me at the River, Every Little Thing in the World, Gossip of the Starlings, The Last September, as well as The Distance from Me to You, which has recently been optioned for a movie.

Twitter: @NinadeGramont
Instagram: @ninadegramont
Website: https://ninadegramont.com/

Blog tour

Thanks to Amber Choudhary at Midas PR for my proof copy of The Christie Affair and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Wish You Were Here by Alyson Sheldrake

Blog tour: 20 January to 2 February 2022

Synopsis

‘I must send a postcard back home.’
‘Hang on a minute, I need to take a photograph of this.’

Favourite holidays and special travel memories are shared in this anthology featuring twenty award-winning and top travel memoir authors.

We all have that one holiday that stands out in our minds, that one break or vacation we will never forget. Whether it is a childhood ‘bucket and spade’ family holiday, the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ dream destination, your first trip abroad or the city where you first fell in love, the memories are still there today.

The authors in this anthology bring out their postcards and photo albums and invite you to join them as they reminisce about their travels.

Maybe they will inspire you to book your next holiday too.

My review

Wish You Were Here: Holiday memories is the third book in the Travel Stories series. It’s a lovely anthology of holiday accounts from places around the world, from the last 20 years to as far back as the sixties.

It contains some fascinating personal accounts and special memories as 20 travel memoir authors reminisce about their adventures. We visit places in this country, as well as Europe (France, Italy, Greece), the Americas and further afield.

The book includes some lovely descriptions, and I could really imagine being in the various locations and wanted to visit nearly all of them! Right from the first story, there were some mouth-watering descriptions of delicious-sounding foods. I could really smell the tasty food, envisage the fantastic sights and hear the array of sounds.

There’s an eclectic mix of locations with people experiencing a variety of life situations and memories – from one extreme to another, with some really unique adventures! What makes it particularly interesting is that we learn about the history of places and the authors have puzzles to solve, as well as intriguing tales to tell.

Wish You Were Here provides a real glimpse of the world; a snapshot of people’s lives with some magical moments and also some rather disturbing experiences. I was surprised that the book stirred up a mixture of emotions and it was definitely a thought-provoking read – it wasn’t all sun and sangria!

Overall, I really enjoyed this! It’s a really engaging and inspiring read and a lovely book to dip in and out of when you’re in need of a pick me up during these cold and dreary months.

The other books in the series are Chasing the Dream: A new life abroad and Itchy Feet: Tales of travel and adventure and I’ll definitely be checking those out too.

Buy the book

Wish You Were Here by Alyson Sheldrake can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

About the author

Alyson Sheldrake was born in Birmingham in 1968. She has always loved art and painting, although she found little time for such pleasures, working full time after graduation. She joined the police in 1992 and served for 13 years, before leaving to work in the field of education.

Once her husband Dave retired from the police, their long-held dream of living in the sun could become a reality. Alyson handed in her notice, and with her dusty easel and set of acrylic paints packed and ready to move, they started their new adventure living in the beautiful Algarve in Portugal in 2011.

She is now an accomplished and sought-after artist working alongside her husband, a professional photographer. She has published three books about their Algarve adventures, as well as her Travel Stories series. The first book, Chasing the Dream: A new life abroad, was released in June 2021. This was followed in September 2021 by Itchy Feet: Tales of travel and adventure. Wish You Were Here: Holiday memories, is the third book in the series.

When she is not painting or writing, you can find her walking their rescued Spanish water dog called Kat along the riverbank in Aljezur, Portugal.

Twitter: @AlysonSheldrake
Facebook: @AlysonSheldrakeAuthor
Instagram: @alysonsheldrake
Website: https://www.alysonsheldrake.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my digital copy of Wish You Were Here and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Unfaithful by J.L. Butler

Blog tour: 6 to 25 January 2022

Synopsis

A fatal attraction …
Rachel Reeves has it all. The perfect family, a rich husband, and a gorgeous home. But when her only child flies the nest, Rachel feels lost – and succumbs to a mind-blowing one-night stand.

With a deadly twist …
Instantly regretting her infidelity, Rachel cuts ties with Chris. But he won’t let her go that easily. She erases him from her life – until a text changes everything.

And an unforgettable end …
Someone knows what she did.
And they’re ready to destroy her entire life because of it.

My review

When Rachel Reeves’ daughter, Dylan, heads to university in Birmingham, she feels a bit lost. She’s 47 and, after being a stay-at-home mum for 18 years and a carer to their 90-something neighbours, Bill and Iris, it’s time for her to return to work as an editor, despite her husband’s disapproval. Robert is a property developer who mainly works in central London, finding and developing exclusive properties for wealthy clients with extravagant tastes.

When her friend and former colleague at Edelman, Serena, mentions that there might be a vacancy at the company and invites her to a party to celebrate the launch of a new imprint, Rachel hopes her life is about to change!

And it does, but not in the way she expected! After a chance encounter with a university boyfriend after the party, Rachel gets caught up thinking about old memories and the pair end up sleeping together.

She wakes up the next morning and regrets what happened and hopes that they can forget about it. But Chris Hannah has other ideas and Rachel soon finds that life is slipping out of her control – her husband is really distracted by work, her daughter is acting strangely, Rachel keeps receiving anonymous messages on her phone, as well as various gifts and incriminating photographs, and she begins to struggle at work too.

The intriguing story gathers pace and there are lots of twists and turns as more is revealed about Rachel, Robert and their lives. All is not as it seems and I found myself questioning things and suspicious of several of the rather flawed characters! There were some fascinating subplots that really added to the story too and I was desperately trying to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together and work out who was responsible for the stalking.

Overall, I really enjoyed Unfaithful – it was gripping and tense and, after a slightly slow start, the story developed well and I was fully immersed in the well-plotted and twisty storyline and desperate to discover how it would all pan out. There were several revelations along the way and I was shocked at times!

Over the years, I’ve read a few of the author’s books written as Tasmina Perry but I’m keen to read more, and try her other J.L. Butler book, Mine.

Buy the book

Unfaithful by J.L. Butler can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. (It’s currently 99p in eBook format.) See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

J.L. Butler trained as a lawyer and journalist. J.L. Butler is the pseudonym for international and The Sunday Times bestseller, Tasmina Perry. Her books have been translated into 17 languages and sold over two million copies worldwide.

Twitter: @tasminaperry
Facebook: @officialtasminaperry
Instagram: @tasminaperry
Website: https://www.tasminaperry.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my paperback copy of Unfaithful and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Mistletoe and Crime by Chris McDonald

Blog tour: 1 to 7 December 2021

Synopsis

It’s Christmas!

A year since their last case, and Adam and Colin are pulled out of semi-retirement when Stonebridge legend and regular town Santa, Gerald Agnew, is found dead in the snow.

The police believe his death to be a drunken accident, but evidence that our amateur detectives uncover points to something more sinister.

When DI Whitelaw dismisses their claims, Adam and Colin must navigate drug dealers, deception, and department store Santas to get to the truth.

Mistletoe and Crime is the fifth book in the Stonebridge Mysteries series of cosy crime novellas.

About the series

Stonebridge is a small town on the north coast of Northern Ireland. Most of its inhabitants are friendly, happy people. Most of them … Because bad things happen even in the happiest of places. It’s a good thing, then, that Adam Whyte and Colin McLaughlin call Stonebridge home.

Armed with an encyclopaedic knowledge of detective shows, a misplaced sense of confidence and a keen desire to see justice done, these two are the closest thing the town has to saviours. Which isn’t that reassuring …

My review

I love The Stonebridge Mysteries series and couldn’t wait to read this Christmas special novella! Set in the small Northern Irish town of Stonebridge, these short but perfectly formed cosy crime stories are great fun!

It’s been a year since Adam Whyte and Colin McLaughlin, childhood best friends and amateur sleuths, last investigated a murder case. They’ve matured since the first novella and established themselves in their jobs, bought property and, in Adam’s case, found a girlfriend!

When Gerald Agnew, a local homeless man, is found lying dead in the snow, police dismiss his death as a tragic accident, brought on by years of living on the streets and drinking alcohol.

Adam and Colin disagree and set out to find the truth. With rumours of drug deals in town and trouble concerning the Father Christmas at local department store, Baldwin’s, they’re going to have their work cut out solving this tricky case!

As usual, there were some good twists and turns and several potential suspects. I was suspicious of a few dodgy characters and had fun trying to guess who was responsible for Gerald’s murder!

I love the amusing chapter titles – they’re a brilliant device to give the reader a little insight into what’s to come!

Adam and Colin make a great amateur sleuthing duo and work well together to solve some puzzling murders, which the incompetent police always seem to dismiss as accidents. The twosome get rather a lot of luck along the way but that’s all part of the fun!

Mistletoe and Crime is another well-plotted and entertaining novella from the author and I’m a big fan of this fab series! The book is a quick read, at 100 pages, but it’s engaging, action packed and full of intrigue and suspense. The story develops satisfyingly and there are some witty lines.

I’m really enjoying this engaging, well-written crime mystery series and spending time with Adam and Colin and I’m hoping there’s going to be yet another instalment soon!

Buy the book

Mistletoe and Crime by Chris McDonald is released on 7 December and can be preordered from Amazon in hardback and paperback, or from Kobo or Google Books. Purchase the hardback, paperback and eBook directly from the Red Dog Press online shop.

About the author

Chris McDonald grew up in Northern Ireland before settling in Manchester via Lancaster and London.

He is the author the DI Erika Piper series: A Wash of Black, Whispers in the Dark and Roses for the Dead. He has also recently dabbled in writing cosy crimes, in the shape of The Stonebridge Mysteries, as a remedy for the darkness.

He is a full-time teacher, husband, father to two beautiful girls and a regular voice on The Blood Brothers Podcast. He is a fan of 5-a-side football, heavy metal and dogs.

Twitter: @cmacwritescrime
Facebook: @cmacwritescrime
Website: https://macsbookreview.wordpress.com
Instagram: @cmacwritescrime

Blog tour

Thanks to Sean Coleman at Red Dog Press for my digital copy of Mistletoe and Crime and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Don’t Speak by A.J. Park

Blog tour: 22 to 30 November 2021

Synopsis

The one man she thought she could trust …

When a teenage girl is found brutally murdered, DS Amelie Davis struggles to keep her own trauma from clouding the investigation. After suffering years of abuse at the hands of her father, Amelie has only ever trusted one man – her husband Edward.

But he might be the most dangerous of all.

In the middle of the night, she receives a phone call from an unknown number. The voice at the other end asks:

Do you think you know your husband?

Suddenly, Amelie fears Edward is not the man she thought she knew. In fact, he might just be the killer she’s been hunting …

My review

When a 16-year-old girl is found murdered in a wooded area on Hampstead Heath in mid-October, Detective Sergeant Amelie Davis is part of the Major Investigation Team responsible for finding the killer. The victim was drugged, sexually assaulted and strangled.

Amelie has demons of her own – a difficult childhood, which continues to haunt her, especially at night when she suffers from terrible nightmares. She also drinks heavily. She’s married to Edward, who she met at university. He’s the only man she can trust after her traumatic past.

The morning after the murder, Amelie receives a mysterious phone call at 4.15am from a woman who asks, ‘Do you think you know your husband?’. Amelie is confused and begins to question everything she knows about Edward, becoming suspicious of his business trips away, locked home office door and his movements – since when did he like jogging?

As the investigation intensifies, the team struggle to find any leads. There are clues and the killer left some evidence, but they need a lucky break to find a connection and crack the case. There are some links back to the past, especially for Amelie, and things start to get even more complicated and intriguing.

The main protagonist, Amelie, was an interesting character, though rather flawed, and I enjoyed getting to know her.

The investigation developed well and it definitely kept me enthralled. The book contained some vivid images of murder and included some difficult, sensitive topics but these were all well written.

Overall, I really enjoyed this gripping and tense read. It was well plotted, fast paced and engaging and I found myself frantically turning the pages to see what was going to happen next. There were some good twists and turns and great misdirection – I fell for a few of the red herrings and was surprised by the reveals at the end!

This is the first book of the author’s that I’ve read but I’ve got The First Lie on my shelf so I must read that soon and check out his other books, written as Karl Vadaszffy. I’m looking forward to seeing what he writes next!

Buy the book

Don’t Speak by A.J. Park can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

© Karen Scott Photography

A.J. Park is the author of The First Lie, published by Orion Fiction. His second psychological thriller, Don’t Speak, was published on 25 November 2021. The translation rights to The First Lie have been sold to publishers in Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

His real name is Karl Vadaszffy. Karl Vadaszffy is the author of three novels: The Missing, which was twice a Kindle top 10 bestseller in the UK, peaking at number 6, as well as a number one bestseller in Australia, Sins of the Father and Full of Sin. The Missing has now been repackaged and republished as an A.J. Park book.

He is also a freelance journalist and the head of English at a secondary school in Hertfordshire.

Twitter: @AJParkauthor
Twitter: @KarlVad
Facebook: @karl.vadaszffy
Instagram: @ajpark_author
Website: www.karlvad.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for my digital copy of Don’t Speak and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Buried Lies by Jenny O’Brien

Blog tour: 15 to 19 November 2021

Synopsis

Her partner. Her son. She’s next.

Hannah Thomas returns home one morning to every mother’s worst nightmare: a missing child and a dead fiancé. When DI Gaby Darin questions her, Hannah insists she can’t think of anyone who’d want to hurt her family – and yet it all feels disturbingly personal.

Mere hours into the investigation, a second body is found. As Gaby and her team dig into the victims’ lives, they hit dead ends at every turn – particularly when it comes to Hannah’s past. What is the grieving woman hiding?

But when Gaby stumbles upon Hannah’s tragic secret, it doesn’t bring her any closer to the truth. Can she connect the dots before the killer strikes again?

My review

Buried Lies is the fifth book in the Detective Gaby Darin series and after enjoying others in the series (I haven’t got to the third one yet!), I was really keen to read this for the blog tour.

The novel begins with work colleagues Hannah Thomas and Milly Buttle enjoying drinks at a spa hotel in Ruthin, but things take a sinister turn the following morning. Hannah returns home to discover her fiancé, Ian Strong, a police officer, dead in his car in the garage and her five-year-old son, Hunter, missing.

Gabriella (Gaby) Darin is now a detective inspector and heads up the Major Incident Team at St Asaph. After a spa weekend in Betws-y-Coed to celebrate family liaison officer (FLO) Amy Potter’s upcoming wedding, it’s back to work with a bang for the pair and their colleagues.

At first, the case seems clear cut but when a second body is found, the team have to pull out all the stops and investigate everyone involved to try and work out what happened. They follow several different lines of enquiries and put forward numerous theories but struggle to work out who is responsible for the deaths.

The puzzling investigation is set over the course of 10 days and, despite the numerous frustrations and dead ends, the storyline develops well and I found it a gripping and satisfying read with some surprising revelations. I flew through it in a few hours, frantically turning the pages to see how everything was going to be resolved!

Buried Lies is a well-written and cleverly plotted police procedural with some intriguing twists and turns and elements of misdirection and suspense. I had several theories but didn’t put everything together until close to the end!

I really enjoy this series – it’s very entertaining and engaging, with a good pace, and I like the main character, Gaby Darin, and her rather slow-moving relationship with resident pathologist, Rusty Mulholland. She’s a great protagonist and I really like her personality and the way her character is developing.

Gaby has a good working relationship with her colleagues and manages to support and encourage them while getting the best out of the team and successfully solving cases. She gets the job done and is firm but fair. She has her flaws and isn’t very good with the more sensitive side of her role, but FLO Amy Potter makes a good foil and covers that aspect well!

The Detective Gaby Darin books can be read as standalones but there are a few passing mentions of previous cases and events so it’s probably best to read the series in order to get the full experience and learn more about Gaby Darin and her life.

This was another excellent, compelling read from Jenny O’Brien and I’m already looking forward to the next book!

Buy the book

Buried Lies by Jenny O’Brien can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now (and is released on 20 January 2022 in paperback), and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Born in Dublin, Jenny O’Brien moved to Wales and then Guernsey, where she tries to find time to write in between working as a nurse and ferrying around three teenagers.

She’s an avid reader and book blogger, in addition to being a previous Romantic Novel Awards (RoNA) judge.

In her spare time, she can be found frowning at her wonky cakes and even wonkier breads. You’ll be pleased to note she won’t be entering The Great British Bake Off. She’s also an all-year-round sea swimmer.

Twitter: @ScribblerJB
Facebook: @JennyOBrienWriter
Instagram: @scribblerjb
Website: https://jennyobrienwriter.wordpress.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Alliya Bouyis at HQ Stories for my digital copy of Buried Lies and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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The Lost by Simon Beckett

Blog tour: 1 to 30 November 2021

Synopsis

A missing child

Ten years ago, the disappearance of firearms police officer Jonah Colley’s young son almost destroyed him.

A gruesome discovery

A plea for help from an old friend leads Jonah to Slaughter Quay, and the discovery of four bodies. Brutally attacked and left for dead, he is the only survivor.

A search for the truth

Under suspicion himself, he uncovers a network of secrets and lies about the people he thought he knew – forcing him to question what really happened all those years ago …

My review

After Sergeant Jonah Colley from the Metropolitan Police’s firearms unit receives a call for help from his former best friend and police colleague, Detective Sergeant Gavin McKinney, asking him to meet at midnight at a warehouse in Slaughter Quay on the South Bank, he decides to head there to find out what it’s all about. This is despite the pair not being in touch for nearly 10 years, after a serious falling out. After a tense and unsettling prowl around the derelict buildings, Colley is horrified to discover four bodies, wrapped in polythene, in the warehouse and is then attacked himself by an unknown assailant and left for dead with a badly injured knee and head wound.

The police are rather suspicious that Colley went willingly to the warehouse on the request of DS McKinney and that he was the only one who has managed to survive the incident. They quiz him about what happened and he soon realises that he’s actually a suspect and in rather a lot of trouble, especially as he can’t explain things and seems to be holding back key information.

In this first book of a new series, we learn that Colley’s four-year-old son, Theo, went missing 10 years ago from a local park and, sadly, he was never found and is presumed dead. Colley was obviously traumatised by this and it led to the breakdown of his marriage. At the time, he coped with the overwhelming guilt and grief by leaning on McKinney and later attending a local support group but Theo is never far from his thoughts.

Colley isn’t sure who can be trusted and he decides to conduct his own investigation to try and work out exactly what Gavin McKinney was involved in. As various connections from the past raise their ugly heads, Colley becomes more and more convinced that the tragic events from 10 years ago are the key to solving this complicated puzzle. He is putting himself and others in peril though and really isn’t sure what he’s getting into. He needs to watch his back as there seems to be danger on every corner!

Overall, I really enjoyed this tense and gripping read! It was cleverly plotted, well written and entertaining, with some dramatic and disturbing scenes that had me on the edge of my seat, frantically turning the pages to see how much blood would be shed and how it was all going to be resolved.

As the novel progressed, we gradually learned various revelations about Jonah Colley, Gavin McKinney and their pasts but I couldn’t see how everything tied together and what the missing links were! There were some good twists and turns, and just when I thought I’d worked it out, there would be another element of misdirection to confuse me! I didn’t know who could be trusted – I wasn’t even sure of how Colley fitted into the whole puzzle.

This is the first book of the author’s that I’ve read but I’ve got all of his Dr David Hunter series on my Kindle so I must start them soon! I’m also looking forward to reading the next book in this series and learning more about Jonah Colley.

Buy the book

The Lost by Simon Beckett is released on 25 November and can be preordered from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Simon Beckett taught English as a foreign language in Spain, installed cavity wall installation and played in various unsuccessful bands before becoming a freelance journalist and author.

In 2002, a commission to write a feature on highly realistic crime scene training for US police officers led him to the Body Farm in Tennessee. This provided an eye-opening glimpse into the work of forensic anthropologists and formed the inspiration behind his internationally bestselling David Hunter crime thrillers.

The series has been translated into 29 languages. Simon’s novels have appeared in The Sunday Times Top 10 bestseller list and become No.1 international bestsellers, selling 12 million copies worldwide.

As well as the David Hunter series, he is the author of five standalone thrillers: Fine Lines, Animals, Where There’s Smoke, Owning Jacob and, most recently, The Lost. The first in the Jonah Colley series, The Lost spent five weeks at number one in Germany’s Der Spiegel hardback fiction charts before its UK publication.

Twitter: @BeckettSimon
Facebook: @SimonBeckettCrime
Instagram: @simonbeckettauthor
Website: https://simonbeckett.com/

Blog tour

Thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for my digital copy of The Lost and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Without a Trace by Jane Bettany

Blog tour: 26 to 30 October 2021

Synopsis

You can cover up the truth, but every murder leaves a trail …

The rain was relentless. It stung Ruth Prendergast’s face as she dashed towards her house, desperate to escape the cold and settle down for an early night. But upon entering her bedroom, she finds a man, lying on her bed – a knife buried in his chest.

When Detective Isabel Blood and her sergeant arrive on the scene, Ruth claims she’s never laid eyes on the victim before. But with no sign of a break-in, how did the killer gain access to the house?

Then Ruth disappears, leaving Isabel and her team to fear the worst. Has their lead suspect escaped, or is Ruth in danger herself?

Forensic evidence at the crime scene is sparse, and it’s proving impossible for Isabel to make a breakthrough. With Ruth still missing, time is running out.

But how can you catch a killer that doesn’t leave a trace?

My review

I read the author’s debut, In Cold Blood, for the blog tour last year and really enjoyed it so was keen to read this book when I heard about it!

Without a Trace is set in the fictional Derbyshire town of Bainbridge and the novel’s main protagonist is Detective Inspector (DI) Isabel Blood (56), wife of Nathan and mum to Kate, who lives in nearby Wirksworth, Ellie (14) and son, Bailey (who’s not mentioned in this novel).

Ruth Prendergast has only recently moved to the area after a divorce and getting a new job as an HR manager at a telecommunications company and one January evening, after a hard day at work, she’s shocked to discover the dead body of an unknown man in her bed. She’s got no idea who he is and the police are confused about how he got into the house as there is no sign of forced entry.

The timing of the murder investigation is particularly difficult for DI Isabel Blood who is on her way to the airport – and due to start two-weeks’ leave – when she’s phoned by her colleague, Detective Sergeant (DS) Dan Fairfax. She’s back in touch with her father, Donald Corrington, who she hasn’t seen for over forty years, after he left when she was 14 years old, and he’s visiting from France for a couple of weeks.

The case gets off to a slow start as the murder took place in a quiet cul-de-sac of only five houses called Hollybrook Close in the north side of Bainbridge and there are few witnesses to question. The victim, who was stabbed with a kitchen knife, is eventually identified as a 47-year-old local car mechanic who has a criminal record and is an alcoholic with a difficult past but doesn’t appear to have any particular enemies who would want him dead.

DI Blood delegates all the various tasks of the case well to her colleagues but she struggles to give the investigation her full attention with her dad and half-brother, Fabien, visiting. They’re staying at a local hotel and she’s desperate to spend time together to get to know them both but can’t with a murder to solve. When Ruth Prendergast goes missing, the police are even more confused and desperately try to put all the pieces of the jigsaw together, but struggle with a complete lack of evidence all round.

This was another gripping and well-paced police procedural from the author and I really enjoyed the way the cleverly plotted investigation slowly unfolded, with its frustrations and dead ends, before things eventually came together and the case was solved. It’s a satisfying, engaging read and I raced through it in a few hours.

The story was very entertaining, with some intriguing and surprising revelations. I had several theories about the identity of the killer as we met various suspects and learnt more about their connections to others but didn’t predict how it would all turn out.

I really like Isabel Blood – she’s dedicated to her job, methodical and thorough, and seems quite normal for a police detective with a lovely husband and children but has an interesting past, which adds another dimension to her character’s story.

Overall, I’m really enjoying this series with its good old-fashioned police work and I hope it won’t be too long before there’s another case in Bainbridge to solve! I’m looking forward to seeing how Isabel’s relationships with her father and half-brother develop and it would be good to get to know her colleagues, DS Fairfax and DC Piper, better too.

Buy the book

Without a Trace by Jane Bettany can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now and in paperback on 6 January 2022, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Jane Bettany is the author of In Cold Blood, a crime novel featuring DI Isabel Blood and set in the fictional Derbyshire town of Bainbridge. The book won the 2019 Gransnet and HQ writing competition, which was for women writers over the age of 40 who had written a novel with a protagonist in the same age range.

In Cold Blood was her first novel, but she has been writing short stories and non-fiction articles for over 20 years, many of which have appeared in women’s magazines, literary magazines, newspapers and online.

She lives in Derby and has an MA in Creative Writing.

Twitter: @JaneBettany
Facebook: @JaneBettanyAuthor
Instagram: @bettanyjane
Website: http://www.janebettany.co.uk

Blog tour

Thanks to Sian Baldwin at HQ Stories for my digital copy of Without a Trace and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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The Woman in the Woods by Lisa Hall

Blog tour: 14 to 18 October 2021

Synopsis

Is her family in danger?

When Allie moves to a quaint old cottage with her husband, it’s their dream home. Nestled in the village of Pluckley, it seems a perfect haven in which to raise their two children. But Pluckley has a reputation. It’s known as England’s most haunted village. And not long after the birth of their new son, Allie begins to notice strange things …

What’s the flash of white she sees moving quickly through the woods to the back of their house? And what’s the strange scratching noise coming from the chimney?

As Allie discovers more about the history of their new home, she uncovers a story of witchcraft and superstition, which casts a long shadow into the present day. And not everything is as it seems. Her family might well be in danger, but it’s a danger none of them could have foreseen …

Bestseller Lisa Hall’s The Woman in the Woods is full of creeping unease and nerve-wracking tension, and will have readers on the edge of their seats …

My review

The Woman in the Woods tells the story of Rav and Allie Harper, who move to the village of Pluckley in Kent from Ebbsfleet with their daughter, two-year-old Mina. Their son, Leo, is born soon after they arrive in the place that’s referred to as England’s most haunted village!

Allie is a florist and manager of a shop called The Daisy Chain, which her friend, Naomi, is looking after while Allie is on maternity leave. Rav is a barrister or judge and works long hours, putting cases together and dealing with criminals in court. The couple met in Goa – Rav was visiting his aunts and uncles with his parents and brother and Allie was backpacking with two friends she’d met along the way.

Their house (Gowdie Cottage) in Pluckley is a 400-year-old Grade II listed cottage with an intriguing past. It hasn’t been lived in for years and needs lots of working doing still. With two young children, Allie is exhausted most of the time and getting little sleep as Leo is feeding regularly through the night. She is so tired that she starts seeing people in the woods near their house and she feels watched.

Strange things seem to be happening inside the cottage too. Allie discovers items that have been left by the previous owners and when she learns the cottage’s history, she becomes even more freaked out and feels that a ghostly presence is trying to make itself seen and heard, especially when she finds various symbols of witchcraft and superstition.

As the story progresses, I wasn’t sure if Allie was an unreliable narrator and was imaging things or if the family really was in danger from a supernatural being. Allie’s husband, Rav, was acting very strangely and her friend, Naomi, also seemed to be trying to get too close to the family, especially as she moved to the same village! The pair of them seemed to be gaslighting Allie and questioning her thoughts and actions constantly, and dismissing her worries about the house being haunted by a ghost.

Allie makes some mum friends in the village but they all seem rather cliquey and it often feels like they’re talking about her behind her back. They like to gossip and took great delight in telling her about the history of Gowdie Cottage. It’s difficult for Allie to know who to trust and her mum and Rav’s mum, Avó, also like to interfere too.

Overall, I really enjoyed this disturbing and gripping novel, which had me distrusting several of the main protagonists and wondering what on earth was going on! I had several theories but couldn’t put my finger on what was really happening. It’s a creepy and atmospheric story and I enjoyed the descriptions of the cottage and its grounds with the rather dangerous herb gardens and water feature!

The book is well paced and cleverly plotted and kept me intrigued throughout with its spooky goings on and Allie’s rather erratic behaviour. At times, there were tense moments and I was really worried for Mina and Leo’s safety as Allie was distracted and the ghostly happenings ramped up. An unsettling read with some good elements of misdirection and perfect Halloween reading!

I’ve read several of Lisa Hall’s books and this was another entertaining and compelling read. I look forward to her next novel and catching up on the two I haven’t read yet.

Buy the book

The Woman in the Woods by Lisa Hall can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle (currently 99p) and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Lisa Hall loves words, reading and everything there is to love about books. She has dreamed of being a writer since she was a little girl – either that or a librarian – and after years of talking about it, was finally brave enough to put pen to paper (and let people actually read it).

Lisa lives in a small village in Kent, surrounded by her towering TBR pile, a rather large brood of children, dogs, chickens and ponies and her long-suffering husband. She is also rather partial to eating cheese and drinking wine.

Twitter: @LisaHallAuthor
Facebook: @lisahallauthor
Instagram: @lisahallauthor
Website: https://www.lisahallauthor.co.uk

Blog tour

Thanks to Sian Baldwin at HQ Stories for my digital copy of The Woman in the Woods and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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You Need Me by Sharon Bairden

Blog tour: 12 to 19 October 2021

Synopsis

‘Your secret didn’t die with me.’

The mysterious note tucked inside the pages of a recently returned book leaves librarian, Morag McLaughlin, chilled to the bone. She knows it was meant for her.

Someone out there knows her darkest secrets and they could destroy everything.

Torn apart from her own family, she will stop at nothing to create a perfect new one.

Why are they all so ungrateful? She’s only looking after them …

Isn’t she?

My review

Set in a small town in the north east of Glasgow called Lennoxhill, You Need Me centres around the lives of five people and the story is told from their viewpoints. They are 55-year-old librarian, Morag McLaughlin; Ronnie Whiteside (26), who lives with his mum; Susan Bonner (25) and her daughter Lily, 4; Jess Wishart (24), who works at a café on the high street, and Alan Aitken, a thief and drug addict.

Each chapter is from a different character and we gradually build up a picture of their lives as we learn more about them. It makes for tough reading as we find out about the main protagonists and what they’ve experienced at the hands of their relatives, particularly their parents.

Right from the start, the book makes for chilling and uncomfortable reading. There’s something bubbling under the surface, something we’re not being told, and it’s all rather creepy and disturbing, rather like the characters themselves, who have strange ideas about friendships, relationships and family.

On the face of it, Morag, Susan and Jess seem nice but they’re all rather two faced, are hiding secrets and have specific agendas. I didn’t trust any of them and was worried about how things were going to play out in the story.

Morag runs a special group at the library and she encourages misfits to join her Tuesday morning session so that she can keep an eye on them. With her big handbag of memories, she’s clearly a complicated woman with ‘secrets nobody must ever find out’. I’m glad I don’t go to that library!

Jess works in the popular local Café Marianna’s, which is owned by her boss, Marion. She keeps an eye on the various goings on and befriends Ronnie and looks out for him. She’s similar to Morag in that she tries to be friendly to people who are less fortunate than her and who others shun. She even talks to Radio Joe, who can always be found sitting on a park bench with an old transistor radio pressed to his ear. He’s probably the happiest person in town!

As I was reading, I was wondering what the connection was between the characters and how the story was all going to be resolved. I had several theories but I couldn’t put it all together and was surprised by the ending!

Overall, I was gripped by this rather dark, chilling and twisted novel and couldn’t put it down as events raced along and things got more and more out of control. It was a fascinating read and very intense and the small town setting, with its unsavoury housing estates, felt claustrophobic and unsettling.

I felt so sorry for the main characters, who’d all had a tough life and been let down by their families and partners. Most seemed to have mental health issues and several of them were hearing voices and struggling to ignore their inner thoughts. They were all rather untrustworthy and secretive, with ulterior motives, and all up to something!

I’ve had the author’s debut novel, Sins of our Fathers, on my wanted list for a while and it sounds equally disturbing so I must buy a copy soon!

Buy the book

You Need Me by Sharon Bairden can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback and paperback. Or purchase a copy directly from the Red Dog Press online shop. There’s also a limited edition hardback. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

By day, Sharon Bairden is the services manager in a small, local independent advocacy service and has a passion for human rights; by night, she has a passion for all things criminal. She blogs about books at Chapterinmylife and is delighted to be crossing over to the other side of the fence to become a writer.

Sharon lives on the outskirts of Glasgow, has two grown up children, a grandson, a Golden Labrador and a cat. She spends most of her spare time doing all things bookish, from reading to attending as many book festivals and launches as she can. She has been known to step out of her comfort zone on the odd occasion and has walked over burning coals and broken glass – but not at the same time!

Twitter: @sbairden

Blog tour

Thanks to Sean Coleman at Red Dog Press for my digital copy of You Need Me and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou

Blog tour: 7 to 10 October 2021

Synopsis

A small town in outback Australia wakes to a crime of medieval savagery.

A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and Aboriginals, between immigrants and the townies.

Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant Giorgios ‘George’ Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.

Vivid, pacy and almost dangerously atmospheric, The Stoning is the first in a new series of outback noir featuring DS Manolis, himself an outsider, and a good man in a world gone to hell.

My review

Set in the small northern town of Cobb in outback Australia, The Stoning tells the story of the horrendous murder of local primary schoolteacher and widow, Molly Abbott, and the subsequent investigation by city cop, Detective Sergeant Giorgios ‘George’ Manolis, who has been sent to his former hometown to try and unravel this difficult, tension-rising case.

The victim was tied to a gum tree in the copse behind the local football/cricket oval scoreboard and stoned to death and her body was discovered by old Ida Jones, who was on her way to acquire her morning newspaper.

On arrival in Cobb, DS Manolis discovers a town very different from the one he left as an eight year old with his parents. It used to be home to 5000 people but now the permanent residents number around half that. It’s a place that has been in decline for years and there are lots of racial tensions within the town, especially after the new immigration detention centre (called the brown house by locals) was opened. There’s also an Aboriginal settlement on Cobb’s southern outskirts.

Manolis’ new colleagues are Sergeant Bill Fyfe, Constable Andrew Smith (Sparrow) and Constable Kate Kerr. Fyfe spends most of his time drunk and propping up the bar in the top pub (for ‘whitefellas’), rather than the bottom pub (for ‘blackfellas’). It seems like he’s already checked out and is just waiting to either retire or drop dead.

The local police officers were supposed to have contained the crime scene, collected evidence, analysed samples and made some progress in solving the murder but, much to Manolis’ dismay, they seem to have followed none of the expected and required protocol!

Manolis stays with a couple called Rex and Vera Boyd, in their spare cabin, and they remember George’s dad, Con. He recently died and Manolis is mourning his loss. Several other characters in the town are also grieving after the deaths of close family members in recent years.

Lots of the locals spend their time drinking, taking drugs and being aggressive towards each other and the Aborigines, and there are big tensions and reprisals against anyone connected with the immigration detention centre, which is run by a man called Frank Onions.

It all makes for a rather depressing and resigned feeling to the town. The men are prejudiced and misogynistic and the women aren’t much better. People spend their time fighting each other and everyone has given up hope.

As DS George Manolis calmly trawls through the evidence and makes pertinent enquiries, we learn more about the forty-something murder victim and discover that the locals are keeping things from him. Everyone assumes that one of the residents of the immigration centre is responsible for the murder but Manolis isn’t so sure. He’s frustrated that he can’t work out the pieces of the puzzle – there’s something not right about this whole case and various people aren’t being honest.

Overall, I really enjoyed this atmospheric and gritty outback noir novel, with its intense and claustrophobic setting in sweltering heat in a hellish small town. I was gripped as the unconventional investigation unfolded and we learned more about the secrets that the locals and others were hiding. It’s a compelling read and I couldn’t put it down!

This dark and disturbing book makes uncomfortable reading at times, with its descriptions of violence and racial tension, but it’s well written, intriguing and very thought provoking – I was still mulling things over after I’d finished it.

I especially liked the eye-catching and striking cover, which really sums up the story and location and shows the harsh and arid conditions.

I was pleased to see that this is the first in new series and will definitely be checking out the next book to read more about DS George Manolis and see where he ends up next.

Buy the book

The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Peter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His writing has been published internationally by The New York Times, Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times, Daily Telegraph, The ABC, SBS, Huffington Post. He also holds an MA in Creative Writing from City University, London, and a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the Australian National University. His first book, a memoir, Son of Mine, was published in 2019 by Salt.

Twitter: @peteplastic
Facebook: @PeterPapathanasiouWriter
Instagram: @petepapathanasiou
Website: https://fromtheplasticpen.wordpress.com/about/

Blog tour

Thanks to Katya Ellis at Quercus Books for my copy of The Stoning and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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The Beaten Track by Louise Mangos

Cover reveal

Today, I’m delighted to help reveal the cover for The Beaten Track by Louise Mangos.

Synopsis

She thinks she is safe now that she’s home from her travels … but her nightmare has only just begun.

After her stalker takes his life and she’s jilted by a holiday lover, Sandrine comes home from her round-the-world backpacking trip perturbed, penniless and pregnant. She meets handsome, rich Scott who offers her love, security and all she and her new baby could ever wish for.

But their dream is about to turn into a nightmare …

Buy the book

Published by Red Dog Press, The Beaten Track is released on 12 April 2022 in eBook, hardback and paperback. It can be preordered now from the Red Dog Press bookshop.

Limited special edition hardback

Order early to get one of 50 limited edition hardbacks of The Beaten Track. These are dedicated, signed and numbered by the author on bespoke bookplates and arrive giftwrapped and with a luxury bookmark a week before general release.

Link: The Beaten Track: limited edition

When they’re gone, they’re gone!

About the author

Louise Mangos grew up in the UK but has spent more than half her life in Switzerland.

Her debut psychological thriller, Strangers on a Bridge, was a finalist in the Exeter Novel Prize and long listed for the Bath Novel Award. Her second novel, Her Husband’s Secrets (previously titled The Art of Deception), was published in June 2019.

She lives on an Alp with her Kiwi husband and two sons, and when she’s not writing you can find her on the cross-country ski trails or wild swimming in the lake, depending on the season.

She also writes short stories and flash fiction which have won prizes and been published in various anthologies. She has recently completed her MA in crime writing at UEA.

Twitter: @LouiseMangos
Facebook: @LouiseMangosBooks
Instagram: @louisemangos
Website: https://louisemangos.com

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Safe at Home by Lauren North

Blog tour: 9 to 24 September 2021

Synopsis

What if you left your child alone, and something terrible happened?

Anna James is an anxious mother. So when she has to leave eleven-year-old Harrie home alone one evening, she can’t stop worrying about her daughter. But nothing bad ever happens in the sleepy village of Barton St Martin.

Except something goes wrong that night, and Anna returns to find Harrie with bruises she won’t explain. The next morning a local businessman is reported missing and the village is sparking with gossip.

Anna is convinced there’s a connection and that Harrie is in trouble. But how can she protect her daughter if she doesn’t know where the danger is coming from?

My review

Anna James is mum to 11-year-old twins, Harriet and Elise, and seven-year-old Molly. She has her own business developing websites. Her husband, Rob, an engineer, works at an oil rig off the coast of Nigeria and is away for three months at a time then home for two weeks. The family live in the small village of Barton St Martin.

Life for Anna is hectic and the girls regularly have activities to attend – football for Harrie and gymnastics classes for Elise. One evening, after strong persuasion from the twins and Rob during his weekly call, Anna decides to leave Harrie home alone for 20 minutes while her and Molly pick up Elise from gymnastics. Unfortunately, there’s an accident on the A12 and they end up being stuck in traffic for hours and Anna, panicking, phones but can’t get through to Harrie, their neighbour, June, or friend, Kat.

When they finally get home four hours later, just before midnight, Harrie is fine and fast asleep in bed but her behaviour in the weeks following is very erratic and it’s clear that something bad happened that night. She won’t open up to her mum or twin sister and she is very emotional and has problems at school too.

Told from the viewpoints of Anna and Harrie, it’s obvious that there’s lots going on with them and they’re both hiding secrets from each other. It made for compelling reading as I was desperate to find out what they were involved in.

There’s an intriguing range of characters in the village and they all seemed rather suspicious at times! The school mums were all a bit bitchy about each other and the secret group chat is really mean! They pretend they’re all friends then make sly digs at each other. The women are realistically written and so are the couples, who Anna makes rhymes up about so that she can remember who they are. This helps the reader to learn who everyone is too.

I wasn’t too keen on Rob either – he had form for lying to his wife and family and just doesn’t seem very trustworthy or particularly supportive of Anna, who is rather anxious and a bit of a worrier and still struggling after their difficulties of four years ago.

Overall, I really enjoyed this tense and twisty thriller. It’s well written and cleverly plotted and the entertaining story unfolded really well and I hadn’t guessed most of what was revealed! There are lots of twists and turns and I imagined all kinds of scenarios to explain Harrie’s role in events.

The ending came together with a bang and lots was revealed in the final pages. There were little clues littered throughout the book and it was fascinating to think back and relate those to what had happened. Some brilliant revelations and such an intense and gripping read.

This is the first book by the author that I’ve read but I’ll definitely be checking out her other books, The Perfect Betrayal and One Step Behind, which I already have on my Kindle!

Buy the book

Safe at Home by Lauren North can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now and in paperback on 30 September, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Lauren North writes psychological suspense novels that delve into the darker side of relationships and families. She has a lifelong passion for writing, reading, and all things books. Lauren’s love of psychological suspense has grown since childhood and from her dark imagination of always wondering what’s the worst thing that could happen in every situation.

Lauren studied psychology before moving to London where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside.

Twitter: @Lauren_C_North
Facebook: @LaurenNorthAuthor
Instagram: @lauren_c_north
Website: https://www.lauren-north.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Hayley Barnes at Transworld Books for my proof copy of Safe at Home and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Next of Kin by Kia Abdullah

Blog tour: 2 to 6 September 2021

Synopsis

On an ordinary working day …

Leila Syed receives a call that cleaves her life in two. Her brother-in-law’s voice is filled with panic. His son’s nursery has called to ask where little Max is.

Your worst nightmare …

Leila was supposed to drop Max off that morning. But she forgot.

Racing to the carpark, she grasps the horror of what she has done.

Is about to come true …

What follows is an explosive, high-profile trial that will tear the family apart. But as the case progresses it becomes clear there’s more to this incident than meets the eye …

A gripping, brave and tense courtroom drama, Next of Kin will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final, heart-stopping page.

My review

After reading and enjoying Kia Abdullah’s previous two books, Take It Back and Truth Be Told, I knew I wanted to read Next of Kin and I wasn’t disappointed with this excellent courtroom drama.

Leila and Yasmin Syed are sisters. Their parents died when the women were young so they are extremely close and, being nearly eight years older than Yasmin, Leila brought up her sister single handedly and did her best to provide for them both.

Yasmin is an executive personal assistant and married to Andrew Hansson and they have a three-year-old son, Max, and Leila runs her own architecture firm and is separated from her husband, Will Carmichael, and they don’t have any children. Over the years, the couples have been too close at times, living near each other, and the sisters have an intense if rather volatile and emotional relationship.

One Monday morning in July, Yasmin has already left for work when Andrew receives a page to say his company server has gone down, which he needs to attend to immediately. Panicking, he phones sister-in-law, Leila, to ask if she’ll drop off his son, Max, at nursery. She’s a bit annoyed, as the couple regularly ask her to look after her nephew, but she agrees and heads straight round.

After picking up Max, Leila receives a phone call from her assistant. There’s an emergency at her work too and she races to the office to solve the problem, completely forgetting that a sleeping Max is in the car.

It’s only when Leila gets a frantic call at half 11 from Andrew, who has been contacted by nursery, that she realises that Max has been in her car all morning. In shocking scenes, we experience the harrowing aftermath of Leila’s tragic mistake and the subsequent court case that follows as she is accused of deliberately leaving her nephew in the car while attending to her work issue.

Next of Kin was an emotional and thought-provoking read and my allegiance and sympathy for various characters changed as the story progressed and we learnt more about the main protagonists. Such a heart-breaking and traumatic scenario and I felt so sorry for all involved. It was such an intense and dramatic read and I was intrigued to see how everything would be resolved in this painful nightmare.

In his pursuit of a case, the police officer, Detective Sergeant Christopher Shepherd, was really horrible to Leila and I was frustrated and annoyed with him on her behalf. And during the court scenes, I felt so sorry for Leila as she was grilled by the prosecution and her words and actions were twisted to make her seem guilty and it felt like she didn’t have the chance to defend herself properly.

Overall, I really enjoyed this tense, disturbing and emotive novel. It was well written and cleverly plotted and had me gripped from beginning to end – an explosive start, a tense middle and a shocking finish! There were lots of twists and turns and, just when I thought I had everything figured out, the story produced some startling revelations.

Another powerful, compelling and sensitively written legal/courtroom thriller from the author. I’m definitely a big Kia Abdullah fan and looking forward to her next book already!

Buy the book

Next of Kin by Kia Abdullah can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer from London. Her novel, Take It Back, was named one of the best thrillers of the year by The Guardian and The Telegraph and was selected for an industry-first audio serialisation by HarperCollins and The Pigeonhole.

Kia has written for The New York TimesThe GuardianThe Telegraph and The Times, and is the founder of Asian Booklist, a non-profit organisation that advocates for diversity in publishing.

Born in Tower Hamlets in East London, Kia was raised in a family of eight children and has five sisters. She has a degree in computer science from the University of London.

In 2007, Kia left her job in tech to pursue a career as a writer and worked as sub-editor and later features editor at Asian Woman Magazine. She then went on to join global publisher Penguin Random House working on the digital Rough Guides. In 2014, she quit her day job to found Atlas & Boots, an outdoor travel blog.

Today, she splits her time between London and the Yorkshire Dales town of Richmond, and spends her time writing, hiking, mentoring pupils from Tower Hamlets and visiting far-flung destinations for Atlas & Boots.

Kia loves to travel, hates to cook and is a Star Trek fan.

Twitter: @KiaAbdullah
Facebook: @kiawriter
Instagram: @kiaabdullah
Website: https://kiaabdullah.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Sian Baldwin at HarperCollins UK for my digital copy of Next of Kin and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

Blog tour: 17 to 21 August 2021

Synopsis

Ten years of marriage.
Ten years of secrets.
An anniversary they’ll never forget.

Adam and Amelia are spending the weekend in the Scottish Highlands. The remote location is perfect for what they have planned.

But when their romantic trip takes a dark turn, they both start to wonder – can they trust the one they’re with?

Because every couple tells little white lies. Only for Adam and Amelia, the truth is far more dangerous.

My review

Adam and Amelia Wright are spending their wedding anniversary in a remote chapel in the Scottish Highlands. They’ve driven up from London and the journey has been rather scary as it’s snowing and Amelia’s Morris Minor Traveller is struggling to cope with the wintry conditions! Their giant black Labrador, Bob, is also with them.

The couple are both in their forties. Adam is a workaholic screenwriter and Amelia works for Battersea Dogs Home and she won the weekend away in the staff Christmas raffle. Their marriage is faltering and they’re hoping that some time away together will help them reconnect.

Adam suffers from a rare neurological condition called prosopagnosia (face blindness), which means that he doesn’t recognise faces, including his own or his wife’s, and can’t see their distinguishing features or facial expressions. He uses other strategies to recognise people like their smell, the sound of their voice or their touch.

When they arrive at the chapel after their long and arduous journey, the whole weekend already seems a disaster, especially when they see their accommodation for the next few days! As strange and dark things begin to happen, I felt very afraid for both of them and their dog, especially as we learn more about their pasts and what has been happening in their lives.

The story is told from the viewpoints of married couple, Adam and Amelia, with sections about a mysterious character called Robin, all interspersed with unsent letters to Adam, written on their anniversary each year, from his wife. I liked the little images at the beginning of each chapter, especially the ones for the anniversary milestones – paper, cotton, leather, linen, etc.

Both Adam and Amelia seem to be hiding some serious lies and secrets from each other and, as the story unfolds, it’s clear that there’s lots they haven’t been honest about during their marriage. We’re given a few hints but I still wasn’t sure how everything was going to reach its climax!

None of the main protagonists seemed very likeable and I wasn’t really sure who to trust, if any of them! We’re introduced to other characters and I was suspicious of several of them and their motives. Looking back, there are lots of clever little hints throughout the novel about what is to come.

The book has gothic vibes and is very creepy at times – the chapel appears haunted and it’s in an isolated setting with all but one of the surrounding houses/buildings being derelict and boarded up, with no signs of life. There’s a good sense of tension and the story builds well and I felt uneasy from the start.

Overall, I really enjoyed Rock Paper Scissors – it initially took me a little while to get into the book but, once I had, it was intriguing, gripping and entertaining. This twisty thriller is well written and cleverly plotted, with several red herrings and elements of misdirection. I had various theories but wasn’t sure how it was all going to be resolved and I found the ending fascinating and I didn’t see all that coming!

I’ve already read I Know Who You Are and His & Hers so I must get round to the author’s debut, Sometimes I Lie, which also sounds an intriguing novel!

Buy the book

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Alice Feeney is a writer and journalist. She spent 15 years at the BBC, where she worked as a reporter, news editor, arts and entertainment producer and One O’clock News producer.

Her debut novel, Sometimes I Lie, was a New York Times and international bestseller. It has been translated into over 20 languages and is being made into a TV series by Ellen DeGeneres and Warner Bros., starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. His & Hers is also being adapted for screen by Jessica Chastain’s Freckle Films. Her fourth novel, Rock Paper Scissors, is also being made into a TV series for Netflix by the producer of The Crown.

Alice has lived in London and Sydney and has now settled in the Surrey countryside. She writes in her shed with her dog; a giant black Labrador who is scared of feathers.

Twitter: @alicewriterland
Facebook: @AliceFeeneyAuthor
Instagram: @alicewriterland
Website: https://www.alicefeeney.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Sian Baldwin at HQ Stories for my proof and digital copies of Rock Paper Scissors and for my place on the blogger day.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Half-Past Tomorrow by Chris McGeorge

Blog tour: 9 to 20 August 2021

Synopsis

Shirley Steadman, a 70 year old living in a small town in the North East of England, loves her volunteer work at the local hospital radio. But she is still haunted by the death of her son.

One day, she finds a frequency that was never there before. It’s a pirate radio station reporting the news.

But there is one problem – the news being reported is a daily early.

Shirley first thinks it is a mere misunderstanding – a wrong date. But as everything reported comes true, she’s in shock.

Then the presenter starts reporting murders – murders that happen just the way they said.

And Shirley is the only one who can stop them.

My review

Half-Past Tomorrow tells the story of Shirley Steadman, 70, who is a volunteer for the radio station at the local hospital in Chester-Le-Street. She enjoys chatting to patients and taking their music requests for the radio show.

Shirley lives in a small bungalow, a mile from the hospital, with her cat, Moggins. She’s a widow after the death of her husband, Bob, and has a daughter called Deena, 32. Her son, Gabe, was in the Royal Navy but died nearly 10 years ago and she still misses and mourns him, and makes his favourite bacon and banana sandwiches.

Shirley has an active social life – as well as the hospital radio, she does embroidery with a group of friends, volunteers at the local RSPCA shop and looks after her grandchildren, Maisie (10) and Kenneth (6) – but is also a bit lonely and tired of life.

One evening, while playing with the ancient radio equipment at the hospital before her request show, Shirley tunes into a pirate radio station called Mallet AM. At first, she just hears music then the presenter reads the news but, strangely, it’s for the following day. The new bulletin usually contains three items: two general bits of news and then the third one tells of an accident. Shirley decides to follow this up the next day and see if the predictions come true. She’s shocked to discover that they do!

She keeps listening to the pirate broadcast when she can and is concerned to hear that a murder is going to take place next! Shirley decides she must try to stop the murder from happening but it’s not as easy as that and things escalate in this twisted and gripping tale!

Shirley was a great protagonist – she’s fearless and brave and, despite her failing body, her mind is sharp and she’s not afraid to get involved in things to try and stop the events predicted by the Mallet AM presenter. She has a good rapport with her younger friend, Callie, who tries to help her solve the puzzling murders.

Shirley has a rather strained relationship with her daughter, Deena, who is protective and worried about her mum and her various escapades! We learn that Shirley had an abusive marriage and her husband was very harsh on their son, Gabe.

Overall, I really enjoyed Half-Past Tomorrow – it was entertaining, cleverly plotted and had an intriguing storyline. It was unique, surprising and went in several directions that I wasn’t expecting! I was never really sure if some events were real or imagined!

This was a fascinating read and very unpredictable. I had suspicions about several characters but was completely wrong about most of them and didn’t see the ending coming at all! This quirky story was something a bit different and I liked the way it was written – it was action packed and kept me gripped throughout and was also humorous and shocking as well.

I’ve already got the author’s other books, Guess Who and Now You See Me, on my Kindle so I must read those soon.

Buy the book

Half-Past Tomorrow by Chris McGeorge can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Chris McGeorge studied MA Creative Writing (crime/thriller) at City University London where he wrote debut thriller, Guess Who, as his thesis.

His interests are broad, spanning film, books, theatre and video games. He is a member of the Northern Crime Syndicate, a supergroup of writers from Northern England.

He lives in County Durham with his partner and many, many animals.

Twitter: @crmcgeorge
Facebook: @chris.mcgeorge.1

Blog tour

Thanks to Alainna Hadjigeorgiou at Orion Publishing for my copy of Half-Past Tomorrow and to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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The Perfect Life by Nuala Ellwood

Blog tour: 28 July to 29 August 2021

Synopsis

Have you ever wanted to be someone else?

Vanessa has always found it easy to pretend to be somebody different, somebody better. When things get tough in her real life, all she has to do is throw on some nicer clothes, adopt a new accent and she can escape.

That’s how it started: looking round houses she couldn’t possibly afford. Harmless fun really. Until it wasn’t.

Because a man who lived in one of those houses is dead.

And everyone thinks Vanessa killed him

My review

After things start going wrong in her life, Vanessa Adams, 32, checks the listings at various high-end estate agents and becomes addicted to looking round beautiful, expensive houses that she can’t possibly afford. She likes pretending to be someone else and imagining living in a stunning house. She ends up moving in with her older sister, Georgie, 45, and brother-in-law, Jack, in Wimbledon after a relationship break up and the loss of her job.

One evening, the police knock on the door and accuse Vanessa of murdering the owner of one of the houses that she viewed. She denies everything but can’t remember what did happen that fateful day.

Told in two timelines, then (2017) and now (2018), we learn about the events that lead up to Vanessa being questioned for murder. She is a rather unreliable narrator and I wasn’t sure whether to believe her version of what happened or not, especially with some of the comments from her best friend, Lottie, her ex, Connor and her sister, Georgie. Interspersed between the two time periods are flashbacks (in italics) to Vanessa’s childhood and her various memories.

In 2017, Vanessa works in marketing for cosmetics company, Luna London, and she lives with her friend of 14 years, Lottie, a case manager at a children’s charity. They’re both single and get on well and have fun together and enjoy their girlie nights out. When Vanessa gets a new boyfriend and spends all her time with him, Lottie feels sidelined and, eventually, the two women fall out.

Things progress rather fast with Connor Dawkins, an art director, and the couple fall head over heels in love and, before long, Vanessa is moving into his flat. Life isn’t all rosy for the pair and the couple’s relationship is unhealthy and toxic. They’re both flawed in their own ways.

Vanessa’s behaviour becomes rather erratic and she gets carried away with her new relationship and forgets the important things in life like her family, friends and job. Connor is horrible and far too jealous and possessive and Vanessa is totally taken in by him and is blind to his bad points – the emotional abuse and manipulative and coercive behaviour.

By the time Vanessa is accused of murder, her life has descended into chaos and she’s not sure how she came to be in this position. Lots happens to her in the year after meeting Connor and she has to be strong to unravel the full story.

Overall, I enjoyed The Perfect Life – it was well paced, tense, gripping and even creepy in parts. Vanessa was a difficult character to suss out and there was certainly lots going on in her life. It was fascinating to discover more about her childhood and learn what happened to her mum. Her relationship with Connor was frustrating as he was very controlling and kept trying to gaslight Vanessa and convince her that she was doing things and behaving in certain ways. She couldn’t see what was happening most of the time or just ignored his behaviour and made excuses.

This was an engaging and absorbing book and rather dark and disturbing at times. It was an intriguing and easy read, with short chapters, and I flew through it in a few hours, desperate to learn more about how Vanessa came to be accused of murder. By the end, there certainly had been some shocking revelations and I was surprised by how it was all resolved. An entertaining read!

I’ve read the author’s third thriller, The House on the Lake, so will have to go back and read her first two books, which I’ve got on my shelves already!

Buy the book

The Perfect Life by Nuala Ellwood can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also the Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Nuala Ellwood is the author of three bestselling novels: My Sister’s Bones, for which she was selected as one of The Observer’s ‘New Faces of Fiction 2017’, Day of the Accident and The House on the Lake. The Perfect Life is her latest novel.

Nuala lives in York with her young son.

Twitter: @NualaWrites
Facebook: @NualaEllwoodAuthor
Instagram: @nualawrites

Blog tour

Thanks to Ellie Hudson at Penguin and Viking Books for my proof copy of The Perfect Life and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banners below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Scars by Dan Scottow

Blog tour: 4 to 11 August 2021

Synopsis

The wounds you can’t see take the longest to heal …

In an isolated cottage on the banks of a Scottish loch, a reclusive couple take on a new live-in carer.

As Lucy gets to know her employers, she realises the house and the people in it aren’t what they seem. Is the house haunted or is something far more sinister living within the walls?

As secrets and lies begin to unravel, Lucy starts to question what is real. But one thing seems certain, if scars cannot heal, people will never forgive …

My review

Scars begins in 2008 with a terrifying scene involving several women, then we skip forward in time and meet Lucy, who is starting a new job as a live-in carer for a reclusive couple, Diana and Richard Davenport, at Willow Cottage, which is located near a remote Scottish loch on the west coast of Scotland. Lucy will be looking after Richard and preparing meals and doing other household tasks.

Diana, an artist, is in her late sixties and her husband is a similar age and was an even more successful artist. The couple were both badly injured in a nasty car accident in London and Richard has been left in a wheelchair in a vegetative state and can’t communicate or respond and Diana has bad scarring on her face and suffers bad pain from her injuries.

We meet a local man called Mylo, who brings food supplies to the cottage, delivers mail and does other odd jobs like gardening. He shows Lucy around the area on his boat and seems friendly, if slightly troubled.

As Lucy gets to know her introverted and eccentric employer, Diana, she learns more about the couple’s pasts, their daughter and about the dreadful events that have happened recently in the house. Diana is addicted to painkillers and sleeping pills and drinks far too much alcohol. Her mental health deteriorates and she stops painting and she imagines things and becomes convinced that the house is haunted.

Diana’s behaviour gets more erratic and her drinking and pill popping get even worse and she doesn’t look after herself properly, let alone her husband. Lucy struggles to care for Diana as well as Richard and she has to call for help on several occasions as the situation worsens and she becomes concerned for her own safety.

The story is told from Lucy and Diana’s points of view, with the odd flashback to the past, and it’s fascinating to read how differently the women see the same events. Neither of them was very likeable. Diana, in particular, is cold and aloof and rather mean to Lucy, who is doing her best to look after the couple in rather difficult circumstances, in a remote and isolated location with no modern communications!

Overall, I really enjoyed this dark, tense and twisty thriller. It was chilling, disturbing and kept me gripped throughout and I was never quite sure which way it was going – all kinds of theories were running through my head and I had suspicions about several characters! Everyone seemed to be hiding things and they were all rather flawed characters, who were untrustworthy and unreliable narrators with lots of secrets.

I’m not usually a fan of ghostly supernatural stories but it worked well in this case and the creepy cottage and the beautiful but isolated rural setting combined well to create an eerie and unsettling gothic read.

The title of the novel is perfect – the main characters were all scarred, both physically and mentally, and it was intriguing to find out more about them as the cleverly plotted story progressed and elements were revealed.

This is the first book of the author’s that I’ve read but I’m now keen to read Damaged and Girl A.

Buy the book

Scars by Dan Scottow can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

Dan Scottow grew up in Hertfordshire before moving to London in his early twenties. After more than 10 years living there, he decided enough was enough, and packed his bags for Scotland in search of a more peaceful life.

Dan works as a graphic designer, but dreams of the day he can give it up and write full time.

Besides writing, he enjoys painting, watching a good scary film, travelling the world, good food, long walks on the beach with his dogs, and of course, reading a great book.

Dan’s psychological thrillers, Damaged and Girl A, are out now, and available to buy or download.

Twitter: @DanScottow
Facebook: @danscottowauthor

Thanks

Thanks to Dan Scottow for my digital copy of Scars and for my place on the blog tour.

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Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Blog tour: 29 July to 6 August 2021

Synopsis

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into a rambling Victorian estate called Baneberry Hall. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a memoir called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon.

Now, Maggie has inherited Baneberry Hall after her father’s death. She was too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist.

But when she returns to Baneberry Hall to prepare it for sale, her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the pages of her father’s book lurk in the shadows, and locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself – a place that hints of dark deeds and unexplained happenings.

As the days pass, Maggie begins to believe that what her father wrote was more fact than fiction. That, either way, someone – or something – doesn’t want her here.

And that she might be in danger all over again …

My review

Twenty-five years ago, Maggie Holt and her family fled from Baneberry Hall, near the village of Bartleby in Vermont, after living there for just 20 days. Maggie was only five and remembers nothing of her time in the house and why they left so suddenly, fearing for their lives. Her parents, Ewan and Jess, refuse to talk about it with her but her father wrote a bestselling book called House of Horrors, which is said to be the real-life true account of their terrifying experiences.

While some people believe the book is all true, others are convinced it is all fake and Maggie, herself, thinks the truth is somewhere in between the two. The book has made Maggie notorious and has affected her whole life – she was an outcast at school and still finds that everyone is curious about what happened and she regularly gets contacted by people wanting to know more.

Ewan Holt has now died and as his sole beneficiary, since her parents’ divorce 22 years ago, Maggie discovers that she has inherited the rambling Victorian estate of Baneberry Hall, which her father never sold. She is shocked by the news but, as an interior designer, she can’t resist going to visit the house to see what state it’s in and decides to spend the summer doing it up to sell, while also searching for clues to discover once and for all what actually happened there.

The story is told from Maggie’s point of view in the present day, alternated with chapters from Ewan’s book, which was written soon after the family escaped the house. This is cleverly done and works well as we follow Maggie’s investigations as the events (real or imagined) are recounted in the book. We learn how the family came to buy the house, as well as some of its past history and then find out about the frightening events that led up to the family leaving Baneberry Hall in the dead of night and never returning.

Maggie was a good protagonist and very brave at times – she seemed to face danger head on and was determined to be fearless and she questioned everything, including the local residents! It was also really interesting to see things from her father’s point of view and learn more about him, even though he was an unreliable narrator and we weren’t sure how true to life his account of events was.

Right from the start, this novel is really creepy and eerie and makes for uncomfortable reading – there’s a strong sense of foreboding and dread and I was just waiting for terrible things to happen! It’s definitely not a book to read late at night and all alone in the house!

Baneberry Hall has a disturbing past with several deaths over the decades and as I read Home Before Dark, I kept changing my mind about what was going on and who or what was responsible. I don’t really believe in ghosts but the evidence seems indisputable as strange and unexplained things keep happening.

Overall, I really enjoyed this twisted, addictive and creepy story. It’s well written and cleverly plotted with lots of suspense and so many freaky occurrences! It’s very atmospheric and gothic with some sinister characters (both real and ghostly). The setting is brilliant and I could just picture the house, its various rooms and the surroundings and the nearby village with a horrible motel.

At first, I thought this book was going to take me ages to read as it’s nearly 400 pages and the font is quite small but it’s a compelling read and I raced through it in a couple of days and was thoroughly gripped by this scary and chilling tale.

I’ve already read Lock Every Door but will definitely be checking out the author’s other books, Final Girls and Last Time I Lied, very soon! And I’m already looking forward to Survive the Night, which sounds brilliant!

Buy the book

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. See also Ethical Book Search.

About the author

© Michael Livio

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.

Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, Final Girls, was a national and international bestseller that has been sold in 25 languages. A film version is being developed by Universal Pictures and Anonymous Content.

A native of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Twitter: @riley_sager
Facebook: @rileysagerbooks
Instagram: @riley.sager
Website: https://www.rileysagerbooks.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Niamh Anderson at Hodder & Stoughton for my paperback copy of Home Before Dark and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams

Blog tour: 26 July to 4 August 2021

Synopsis

Once upon a time there was a red wolf. But this is no fairy tale. He was a killer.

A convicted murderer with a story to tell
Serial killer Michael Reave – known as The Red Wolf – has been locked in Belmarsh Prison for over 20 years for the brutal and ritualistic murders of countless women.

A grieving daughter with a secret to unearth
Ex-journalist Heather Evans returns to her childhood home after her mother’s inexplicable suicide and discovers something chilling – hundreds of letters between her mother and Reave, dating back decades.

A hunt for a killer ready to strike again
When the body of a woman is found decorated with flowers, just like his victims, Reave is the only person alive who could help. After years of silence, he will speak to Heather, and only Heather.

If she wants to unearth the truth and stop further bloodshed, she’ll have to confront a monster.

My review

After the unexpected death of her estranged mother, former journalist Heather Evans heads to her old family home in Balesford to sort out Colleen’s belongings and finalise the funeral arrangements. The pair haven’t been close for years, since her father’s death, but Heather is shocked by her mother’s suicide and the strange note that she left behind and hopes to discover some clues in the house that will give her an idea about Colleen’s mental state in the weeks before her death.

The house is eerie and it feels like there’s a presence inside with various strange things happening. Her mother’s friend, Lilian, from up the road is a bit odd, despite kindly popping in with a stew. Luckily, Heather has an old friend, Nikki Appiah, who gets in touch again and the pair meet up for a drink.

While sorting paperwork in the attic, Heather is surprised to discover an old biscuit tin containing two bundles of letters between her mother and a man called Michael Reave who was in prison. The letters go back decades, including the early years of her parents’ marriage. Heather searches on the internet and is horrified to discover that Reave is still in Belmarsh prison and is a convicted serial killer, nicknamed The Red Wolf, who was responsible for the murder of five women in Lancashire and Manchester, and possibly many others too.

When Heather confesses to her friend about the letters she’s found, Nikki tells her that, shockingly, there have been some similar murders recently and women have been found dead and laid out in the same intricate way as Reave used to, using flowers and plants. Either a copycat killer is at large or Reave wasn’t responsible for the original crimes. Or perhaps he had an accomplice?

Heather phones the police and talks to DI Ben Parker about the letters and he’s very interested in Colleen’s correspondence and connection with Reave, especially in light of recent events. The police speak to Reave, who is keen to meet up with Heather when he learns that she is Colleen’s daughter.

It doesn’t make sense that Colleen would have corresponded with such a man and Heather agrees to talk to Reave. The meetings between them are very tense and there’s a lot unsaid between the two of them. I felt scared for Heather, her safety and mental health. At times, the tension is unbearable as Michael appears to be on the brink of confessing secrets to Heather, before distracting her with creepy Grimm’s fairy tales and changing the subject. He seems to enjoy the attention and likes manipulating the conversation and teasing her. It feels like he is in control throughout and he’s toying with Heather.

As she continues to meet up with Reave and learns more about her mother’s past, Heather can’t resist using her journalism skills to dig deeper and try to discover what’s going on. Is she putting herself in real danger? Will she be the next victim of the serial killer?

Overall, I really enjoyed this dark, creepy and disturbing serial killer crime thriller, which was cleverly plotted, well written and had great tension. It kept me gripped throughout and I was fully absorbed in the storyline and desperate to find out what was going on! It was an unsettling and, at times, grisly read and I felt on edge throughout, just waiting for something awful to happen!

Heather is a rather intriguing character – she was brave but also foolhardy and was also hiding some secrets. I liked the way she was determined to speak to Reave and learn more about her mother’s past, even if she wasn’t really sure that she wanted to know the truth! Reave was also a compelling character – despite his obvious flaws and appalling crimes, I was curious to learn more about him and his childhood.

This was an excellent and well-crafted story, with lots of twists and turns, and some unusual elements that made it different from your usual thriller. Not being much of a fantasy fan, I haven’t read any of the author’s previous books but I’ll definitely look out for any other crime thrillers that she writes! It would be great if this was a series as I’d love to read more about Heather Evans and DI Ben Parker.

Buy the book

Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Jen Williams lives in London with her partner and their small ridiculous cat. Having been a fan of grisly fairy tales from a young age, these days Jen writes dark unsettling thrillers with strong female leads, as well as character-driven fantasy novels with plenty of adventure and magic. She has twice won the British Fantasy Award for her Winnowing Flame trilogy, and when she’s not writing books she works as a bookseller and a freelance copywriter.

Twitter: @sennydreadful
Instagram: @sennydreadful19
Website: https://www.sennydreadful.co.uk

Blog tour

Thanks to Jennifer Harlow at HarperCollins for my copy of Dog Rose Dirt and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Cyprus Kiss by Murray Bailey

Blog tour: 16 to 24 July 2021

Synopsis

Help Me!

Those were the words on the back of a woman’s photograph. And she vanished six months ago.

It’s 1948 and military investigator Ash Carter has arrived in Cyprus.

A gang has been operating for two years, leaving a mark known to police as the kiss of death. Is this something to do with them? And why ask him for help?

After a murder, Carter begins to realise this is personal. In a race against time, Carter must work out the connection between the gang, the missing woman and the murder before it’s too late.

My comments

Apologies, my review for this book will follow at the weekend as I’ve had a hectic time at work recently and fallen behind with my reading.

Set in 1940s Cyprus, Cyprus Kiss is a prequel to the Ash Carter mystery thrillers, and is the start of a series called the Ash Carter Near East crime thrillers.

I really enjoyed the original Ash Carter series – they’re well-plotted, gripping thrillers with lots of twists and turns, tense moments and some scenes of violence. The books are action-packed and fast-paced reads with some startling revelations! I’d definitely recommend them and I can’t wait to find out more about Ash Carter’s earlier life in this new series.

Buy the book

Cyprus Kiss by Murray Bailey is released on 24 July and can be preordered from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

About the author

Murray Bailey got his first taste of success when he was published in The Times at 18 and in his local newspaper. Although he went on to pursue a different career, he continued to write and edit and became the editor of an international magazine and editor of four technical books.

I Dare You was the first of his books to be published in 2016. It was followed by Map of the Dead, the first of the series based on his interest in Egyptology. His main series, however, is the Ash Carter thrillers, inspired by his father’s experience in the Royal Military Police in Singapore in the early 1950s.

Murray was born in Greater Manchester, England and has being moving south ever since. He now lives on the beautiful Dorset coast with his wife and family.

Twitter: @MurrayBaileybks
Facebook: @MurrayBaileyAuthor
Instagram: @murraybaileyauthor
Website: https://murraybaileybooks.com/

Thanks

Thanks to Murray Bailey for my digital copy of Cyprus Kiss and for my place on the blog tour.

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Woman of a Certain Rage by Georgie Hall

Blog tour: 19 to 25 July 2021

Synopsis

Eliza is angry. Very angry, and very, very hot.

Late for work and dodging traffic, she’s still reeling from the latest row with husband Paddy. Twenty-something years ago, their eyes met over the class divide in oh-so-cool Britpop London, but while Paddy now seems content filling his downtime with canal boats and cricket, Eliza craves the freedom and excitement of her youth. Fifty sounds dangerously close to pensionable: her woke children want to cancel her, a male motorist has just called her a ‘mad old bat’ and to cap it all her hormones are on the run. Who knew menopause was puberty’s evil older sister?

But then a moment of heroism draws an unexpected admirer, and Eliza sets out to discover whether the second half of life can be a glass half full after all. She might suffer mental fog and night sweats – and have temporarily mislaid her waist – but this is her renaissance.

My review

Set in Warwickshire, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Woman of a Certain Rage tells the story of Eliza Finch, 50, menopausal and frustrated by life in several ways! She is married to Paddy Hollander, a bespoke cabinet maker, and they have three children, Joe (19), Summer (17) and Edward (12).

When we first meet Eliza, the family’s dog, Artemis (Arty), has just died and she is still in mourning and has a big argument with Paddy after he suggests they get a new puppy.

She’s feeling misunderstood by her husband, who can’t empathise with her menopausal symptoms (hot flushes, crazy mood swings, forgetfulness, overactive bladder, loss of sex drive, insomnia), and is feeling unloved and unwanted by her children, who seem to dismiss her opinion and rather look down on Eliza and act embarrassed by her.

Eliza is stuck in a rut and frustrated by life, mourning her younger carefree days and her loss of identity, fed up with being overlooked and ignored. Paddy is more interested in his work, the family canal boat and cricket. Her children cause her lots of worries – from her youngest son, Ed, who is autistic and very fixed in his ways and anxious about his routine, to her teenage daughter, Summer, who is at a difficult, impressionable age, and her oldest son, Joe, who is in his first year at uni and struggled with depression when he was younger. She also has strained relationships with her elderly parents, Peter and Fiona, and with her younger brother, Miles, who has just come out as gay after three marriages to women and fathering two sons. Her older sister, Jules, and her control-freak husband, Reece, also drive her crazy!

Eliza always wanted to be an actor and studied drama at university but she wasn’t very successful and, being too tall, struggled to find suitable roles. She then did radio work and is now a voice artist, narrating non-fiction and fiction books, and also works part time for an all-female estate agency doing viewings.

She gets up to some great escapades – there’s a particularly funny one where she experiences road rage and ends up in a daring rescue mission! Eliza also has amusing encounters with an Italian man called Matteo, who runs the local restaurant, and she gains a Japanese tourist friend who keeps popping up when least expected.

Woman of Certain Rage is an honest, thoughtful and hilarious account of a menopausal, fifty-something woman who is struggling with her life, jobs, husband, marriage, children and her parents and siblings, while trying not to explode with rage or melt into a puddle due to her emotions and internal heating system going haywire!

The book is entertaining, amusing and poignant and has some great observations and witty one liners. I’m in my early forties, so not quite menopausal yet, but I still found Eliza’s turbulent emotions and frustrations very relatable and loved her wry sense of humour!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book – it was a great slice of humour and despite being a fairly chunky book, I zipped through it, chuckling away at Eliza’s antics! It’s not my usual type of read but I could identify with the main character well and was rooting for her to overcome her various challenges!

I’m not sure if I’ve read any of Fiona Walker’s other books but I’ll definitely be checking them out now.

Buy the book

Woman of a Certain Rage by Georgie Hall can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Georgie Hall is the alter-ego of best-selling author and woman of a certain (r)age, Fiona Walker. Stepping aside from her usual big-cast comedies to write as Georgie, she has her sharp-eyed wit firmly fixed on midlife, marriage, motherhood and menopause. Woman of a Certain Rage is for women everywhere who refuse to be told it’s too late to shake things up.

Twitter: @GeorgieHallUK
Facebook: @georgiehalluk
Instagram: @georgiehalluk
Website: https://georgie-hall.com/

Blog tour

Thanks to Avneet Bains at Head of Zeus for my copy of Woman of a Certain Rage and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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I Know What I Saw by Imran Mahmood

Blog tour: 5 to 25 July 2021

Synopsis

I saw it. He smothered her, pressing his hands on her face. The police don’t believe me, they say it’s impossible – but I know what I saw.

Xander Shute – once a wealthy banker, now living on the streets – shelters for the night in an empty Mayfair flat. When he hears the occupants returning home, he scrambles to hide. Trapped in his hiding place, he hears the couple argue, and he soon finds himself witnessing a vicious murder.

But who was the dead woman, who the police later tell him can’t have been there? And why is the man Xander saw her with evading justice?

As Xander searches for answers, his memory of the crime comes under scrutiny, forcing him to confront his long-buried past and the stories he’s told about himself.

How much he is willing to risk to understand the brutal truth?

My review

Set in London, I Know What I Saw, the author’s second novel, tells the story of former wealthy banker, Xander Shute, who has been living on the streets for the last 30 years.

One rainy evening, after an altercation with another homeless man in Hyde Park, Xander is injured and soaking wet and needs to find shelter to avoid becoming ill. He walks away, disorientated, and finds himself in Mayfair, where he notices the lower trade door to a house is ajar. He sneaks inside and falls asleep on the floor of the living room. He’s woken by the return of the residents and quickly hides behind a sofa. The couple are fractious and start arguing and Xander is horrified to hear the situation escalate and, powerless and afraid to help, he witnesses the woman being murdered in front of him.

When the man leaves, Xander makes his escape and decides he must report the woman’s murder to the police. They’re rather dismissive and say he’s mistaken and they keep telling him to stop wasting their time. He’s determined to find out exactly what happened to the woman and his own buried memories slowly emerge and become more regular and vivid as he gets nearer to discovering the truth.

Xander also gets back in touch with friends from his past, who are shocked to see him again after all this time, and this triggers the stirring of various fractured memories in his mind. He struggles to put all the pieces together and can’t work out what is real and what he’s imagining.

Xander is a complicated character – after so many years being homeless, he’s streetwise and self-sufficient but also very vulnerable and there is lots hidden away beneath the surface, which is slowly revealed as the story progresses. He used to have a privileged life – he was a Cambridge graduate and earnt lots of money as a city banker – but there are hints of trauma from his past in flashbacks to memories of his parents, brother, Rory, and former girlfriend.

Over the decades, Xander has learnt to follow various unwritten rules and keep his wits about him to stay safe on the streets and he divides London up into several zones (red, blue, green and purple) and tries to avoid venturing too far into the dangerous (red) and unpredictable (purple) areas. We learn about what life is like on the streets – how Xander tries to stay warm with plastic bags and newspaper, the places he visits to find food and the practicalities of living and sleeping on the streets and being unable to wash properly.

The main protagonist is an intriguing but also very unreliable narrator with memory problems and secrets, and I was never really sure if he was telling the truth as he’s rather confused a lot of the time and keeps getting flashbacks. Despite all this, I had sympathy for this troubled man and found myself hoping he would figure out what on earth was going on! I especially liked Xander’s friendship with a student, Amit, he meets in the local library, who keeps an eye out for him and helps him use the computer.

As the novel progresses, through fragments of memories and remembered events, we start to learn why Xander gave up his privileged existence and all the trappings of wealth for a simple but dangerous life on the streets, free from the constraints of a job, house, money, family and even friends. It’s a dramatic story but realistic and I could easily see how someone could descend to these depths of despair after a difficult past.

Overall, I really enjoyed this compelling and disconcerting murder mystery novel, which was cleverly written and made for tense and uncomfortable reading. The character-driven thriller is gripping, intense and engaging and its tormented protagonist is fascinating. The story is slow paced but well plotted with plenty of twists and turns, highs and lows, and just enough was revealed on each page to keep me thoroughly hooked.

I really must check out the author’s debut, You Don’t Know Me, which I’ve heard such good things about and it’s been on my Kindle for over three years!

Buy the book

I Know What I Saw by Imran Mahmood can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

© Bill Waters

Imran Mahmood is a practising barrister with almost 30 years’ experience fighting cases in court. He hails from Liverpool but now lives in London with his wife and daughters.

His debut novel, You Don’t Know Me, was chosen by Simon Mayo as a BBC Radio 2 Book Club Choice for 2017, longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and for the CWA Gold Dagger, and is currently being adapted for screen in three parts.

When not in court or writing novels, he can sometimes be found on the Red Hot Chilli Writers’ podcast as one of the regular contributors.

Twitter: @imranmahmood777
Instagram: @imranroundthecorner

Blog tour

Thanks to Raven Books for my hardback copy of I Know What I Saw and to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Far From the Tree by Rob Parker

Blog tour: 2 to 14 July 2021

Synopsis

Twenty-seven bodies, vacuum-packed, buried in a woodland trench – some have been there for years, some for just days.

DI Foley finds himself the Senior Investigating Officer on one of the largest murder cases the country has ever seen. This could make his career.

But as new discoveries unfold, this horrific gangland crime suddenly gets personal. Too personal.

Foley has a choice. Solve the crime and risk his family? Or leave well alone?

To a man like Brendan, that’s no choice at all …

My review

Far From the Tree is the first book in the Thirty Miles trilogy and was originally released in audio and became an Audible number one bestseller.

It’s Detective Inspector Brendan Foley’s son’s christening but he’s called away to a horrendous crime scene – 27 bodies, wrapped in plastic and in varying stages of decomposition, have been discovered in a large grave in Peel Hall forest park in Warrington. As the police and forensic team begin examining the bodies, DI Foley is horrified to discover that he recognises one of the victims.

Brendan is determined, for his family’s sake, to take charge of the investigation and find the killer and he manages to persuade Superintendent Monroe to let him stay on the case. At first, he seems to be doing a valiant job in trying circumstances but, when he’s involved in an embarrassing altercation at the police station, he’s told to take some compassionate leave and go home and look after his wife and sons.

As the team struggle to identify the victims and make a connection between them all, Brendan is carrying out his own investigations, with a little help from Detective Sergeant Iona Madison, and he realises that the key to the whole case may be a lot closer to home than he realised.

With Warrington being between Liverpool and Manchester, there are blurred lines amongst the local criminal gangs about whose patch it actually is and the police are baffled about who is responsible and why. Will they figure it out before things escalate and more people are killed?

This is a great book – engaging and action packed with lots of twists and turns and some shocking cliff hangers! I raced through it in a few days, frantically turning the pages and holding my breath at some particularly tense moments! It’s dark and disturbing, with some nasty characters and a few of the police officers weren’t very pleasant either! I’d definitely recommend Far From the Tree if you love police procedurals as much as I do!

I was fascinated by the setting of the Warrington police station, which was housed in the town’s old converted Victorian baths. I loved the descriptions of the different elements of the station, all based in and around the three former pools. It’s a shame this is all fiction as I’d love to see photos!

I liked the main protagonist, DI Brendan Foley, despite the fact he, understandably, became obsessed with the case and rather neglected his wife, Mim, 15-year-old son, Dan, and baby son, Mick. He also has a few secrets that he’s been desperately trying to keep under wraps for years, which added to the intrigue. DS Iona Madison is a fascinating character too and it’s great that she’s a tough amateur boxer and can handle herself!

Overall, I really enjoyed this cleverly plotted and gripping police procedural. It was entertaining and well paced and there were some startling revelations at various points throughout! There were vivid descriptions of cadavers and some nasty violent attacks on live victims, which also really added to the gruesomeness!

I recently read and enjoyed Blackstoke by the author and must check out his Ben Bracken series soon. I’m looking forward to the next book in the Thirty Miles trilogy and can’t wait to see how the characters develop and tackle their next investigation.

Buy the book

Far From the Tree by Rob Parker can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback and paperback. Or purchase all formats directly from the Red Dog Press online shop.

About the author

Rob Parker is a married father of three, who lives in Warrington, UK. The author of the Ben Bracken thrillers, Crook’s Hollow and the #1 Audible bestseller, Far From the Tree, he enjoys a rural life, writing horrible things between school runs. Rob writes full time, attends various author events across the UK, and boxes regularly for charity.

He spends a lot of time in schools across the north, encouraging literacy, storytelling and creative writing, and somehow squeezes in time to co-host the For Your Reconsideration film podcast, appear regularly on The Blood Brothers Crime Podcast, and is a member of the Northern Crime Syndicate.

Twitter: @robparkerauthor
Facebook: @robparkerauthor
Instagram: @robparkerauthor
Website: https://robparkerauthor.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Meggy Roussel at Red Dog Press for my digital copy of Far From the Tree and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Afraid of the Light by Douglas Kennedy

Blog tour: 8 to 14 July 2021

Synopsis

Brendan is an ordinary man; a married man and devoted father who has always tried to live his life well and do the right thing. Now, on the cusp of sixty and having lost his job after corporate downsizing, he is struggling to stay afloat in the only work on offer for a man his age – driving for Uber.

When one of his rides, a retired professor named Elise, asks to be dropped off outside an abortion clinic where she now volunteers, Brendan finds himself driving right into the explosive epicentre of one of the most polarised ethical issues of our time. As the religious and moral divisions deepen within his own family, everything about the life Brendan knew, starts to unravel. Will the unlikely friendship with Elise bring the possibility of a new life or does the ‘good guy’ never win?

The portrait of a man trying to navigate a world of division and anxiety, Afraid of the Light is a highly charged, plot-driven, deeply affecting social thriller that speaks to our troubled times.

My review

In Afraid of the Light, we meet Brendan, 56, who is married to Agnieska, 54, and they have a daughter called Klara, 24. After 27 years, Brendan was made redundant from his job as a regional sales director for a big electrical cable company called Auerbach and now works long hours as an Uber driver in Los Angeles, dealing with aggressive and rude customers, earning the minimum wage and living on the brink of losing his livelihood at any moment – if someone complains about his car or behaviour, he’s likely to be let go by Uber.

One day, Brendan picks up a woman called Elise Flouton, a retired UCLA professor and women’s rights activist, and drops her outside what turns out to be an abortion clinic, where she volunteers, and it’s from this point that his world quite literally explodes. He gets caught up in events that make him question his own beliefs and those of his family and friends and he learns things about them that shock him to the core. He becomes involved in tense and dangerous situations and the lives of several people are put at risk. Can Brendan help to resolve the situation before his close family members are hurt?

In between fascinating observations of his mainly unpleasant passengers, we learn more about Brendan and his life and family – his childhood, how his parents got together, how he met his wife, their religion and beliefs, their daughter, etc. It makes for intriguing reading and really helps to build a picture of our main protagonist, who often does what is expected of him and what he thinks he should do, rather than what he actually wants to do. He is struggling and regretful and quite literally ‘afraid of the light’ at times.

From a rather relaxed start, the pace speeds up rapidly and I was surprised by the direction that the book took and found it very dark, gripping and tense and I flew through it in less than a day and couldn’t put it down. It’s engagingly written, covers some very emotive topics and is very powerful and thought provoking.

I haven’t read any books by the author before but the synopsis for Afraid of the Light was intriguing and I was keen to read it. This compelling and emotional thriller includes some difficult issues including family relationships, grief, religion, abortion and a person’s choices in life, and made me question my own beliefs and thoughts.

I really enjoyed this provocative and enthralling novel; it was cleverly plotted and made a big impression on me and I was still thinking about it days later. I will definitely be checking out the author’s back catalogue and reading more of his books soon!

Buy the book

Afraid of the Light by Douglas Kennedy can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

© Paul Stuart, 2012

Douglas Kennedy is a masterful storyteller whose compelling and thought-provoking, moral and emotional page-turners have sold 15 million copies around the world.

Kennedy was born and raised in Manhattan and educated at Bowdoin College and Trinity College Dublin. He returned to Ireland in early 1977 and co-founded a theatre company, Dublin Stage One. Eighteen months later he was put in charge of the Abbey Theatre’s studio theatre, The Peacock. During his five-year tenure he began to write – selling his early radio plays to RTE and then to BBC Radio 4. He quit his post at The Abbey Theatre in 1983 to become a full-time writer and has lived by his pen since then.

Kennedy was a columnist for the Irish Times and, in addition to four plays for BBC Radio 4, had a stage play, Send Lawyers Guns and Money, staged by The Peacock Theatre in 1984. His first book, Beyond the Pyramids: Travels in Egypt was published in 1988, the same year he moved to London. Two further narrative travel books followed: In God’s Country: Travels in the Bible Belt USA (1989) and Chasing Mammon: Travels in Pursuit of Money (1992).

In 1994, Kennedy’s first novel, The Dead Heart, was published, followed by The Big Picture (1997) which was an international bestseller, selling over three million copies and publishing in 22 languages. His subsequent acclaimed novels include: The Job (1998), The Pursuit of Happiness (2001), A Special Relationship (2004), State of the Union (2006), The Woman in the Fifth (2007), Temptation (2008), Leaving the World (2009), The Moment (2011), Five Days (2014), The Heat of Betrayal (2016), The Great Wide Open (2019) and Isabelle in the Afternoon (2020). The Big Picture was filmed in France as ‘L’Homme Qui Voulait Vivre Sa Vie’, directed by Eric Lartigau and starring Romain Duris and Catherine Deneuve. The Woman in the Fifth was filmed by Pawel Pawlikowski, starring Ethan Hawke and Kristen Scott Thomas. He received a WH Smith Award for The Big Picture, the Prix Deaville for Temptation, and the first Grand Prix du Figaro for his body of work.

A celebrated writer in France, Douglas has sold over 8 million copies of his books there alone and is a fluent French speaker. In 2007, he was awarded the French decoration of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He has also published a book of philosophy, All the Big Questions … With No Answers and two children’s books.

Douglas divides his time between Maine, Manhattan, Paris, London and Berlin and is available for interview and events.

Twitter: @DKennedy_Novels
Facebook: @DouglasKennedyBooks
Instagram: @douglaslkennedy
Website: https://www.douglaskennedynovels.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Hutchinson Heinemann for my paperback copy of Afraid of the Light and to Megan Denholm at ED PR for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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A Cut for a Cut by Carol Wyer

Blog tour: 29 June to 8 July 2021

Synopsis

DI Kate Young can’t trust anybody. Not even herself.

In the bleak countryside around Blithfield Reservoir, a serial murderer and rapist is leaving a trail of bloodshed. His savage calling card: the word ‘MINE’ carved into each of his victims.

DI Kate Young struggles to get the case moving – even when one of the team’s own investigators is found dead in a dumpster. But Kate is battling her own demons. Obsessed with exposing Superintendent John Dickson and convinced there’s a conspiracy running deep in the force, she no longer knows who to trust. Kate’s crusade has already cost her dearly. What will she lose next?

When her stepsister spills a long-buried secret, Kate realises she’s found the missing link—now she must prove it before the killer strikes again. With enemies closing in on all sides, she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to bring them down. But time is running out, and Kate’s past has pushed her to the very edge. Can she stop herself from falling?

My review

A Cut for a Cut is the second book in the Detective Kate Young series and after enjoying the first book, An Eye for an Eye, and taking part in the blog tour earlier this year, I was keen to read this one!

This book is set in Staffordshire, about four months after the first novel, and Kate is still determined to investigate her boss, Superintendent John Dickson, after all she learnt about him and the corruption in the force in her previous investigation.

When a woman is found dead in a waste bin in a restaurant car park in Abbots Bromley, Detective Inspector Kate Young and her small team of Detective Sergeant (DS) Emma Donaldson, 23, DS Morgan Meredith, 24, and Detective Constable (DC) Jamie Webster, 27, are tasked with discovering what happened to the unfortunate victim, who has the word ‘MINE’ cut into the flesh on her back.

Kate is still struggling after recent events involving her husband, Chris, and the appearance of her stepsister, Tilly, and her five-year-old son, Daniel, newly arrived from Australia, causes more turmoil in her life. She has a rather difficult relationship with Tilly due to her stepsister’s former husband, Jordan.

When a second body is found and it’s someone known to Kate and her team, the pressure on them to find the murderer intensifies. The investigation seems to be stalling and they struggle to find any links between the victims or locate many possible suspects or any useful witnesses. Yet again, Kate’s boss, Dickson, seems to want her to fail and enjoys putting obstacles in her path and making her life difficult. She’s also still suspicious of Detective Chief Inspector William Chase who isn’t very encouraging either.

Tilly is planning to move to Staffordshire permanently after tying up her affairs in Australia and she gets back in touch with some old friends from school in Uttoxeter and arranges a few dates too. With a killer on the loose, Kate warns her to be careful but, despite being attacked in the past, her stepsister isn’t too worried and takes some self-defence classes.

The police hit dead end after dead end and can’t connect any of the victims or their families or acquaintances and, unbeknown to the team, the killer is starting to get even more agitated and it’s only a matter of time before he attacks more women. Will Kate be able to work out the culprit and his motive before it’s too late?

I really enjoy police procedurals and this was another brilliant read from the author! The story is engaging, well plotted and tense – at times, I was shouting at various characters as they did daft things and put themselves in danger!

Kate is a strong character and despite the traumatic events of the past year, she manages to stay focused and determined, and she works well with her small team, getting the best from them in trying circumstances.

The storyline is gripping and, although the investigation is frustrating at times as the police don’t seem to be getting anywhere, I imagine it’s very reminiscent of real-life cases where they just need that lucky break to solve the crime. The book was cleverly written and well paced and there were some vital breakthroughs at key moments.

Overall, this was a very entertaining read and I read it in a day and didn’t want to put it down! There were some good twists and turns and I enjoyed trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. I didn’t make some of the connections and was surprised by how things turned out.

This series is developing well and I’m enjoying getting to know Kate Young and her small team and can’t wait for the next instalment!

Buy the book

A Cut for a Cut by Carol Wyer can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

About the author

USA Today bestselling author and winner of The People’s Book Prize Award, Carol Wyer writes feel-good comedies and gripping crime fiction.

A move from humour to the ‘dark side’ in 2017, saw the introduction of popular DI Robyn Carter in Little Girl Lost and demonstrated that stand-up comedian Carol had found her true niche.

To date, her crime novels have sold over 750,000 copies and been translated for various overseas markets.

Carol has been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing irritable male syndrome and ageing disgracefully and on BBC Breakfast television. She has had articles published in national magazine, Woman’s Weekly, featured in Take A BreakChoiceYours and Woman’s Own magazines and the Huffington Post.

She currently lives on a windy hill in rural Staffordshire with her husband Mr Grumpy … who is very, very grumpy.

When she is not plotting devious murders, she can be found performing her comedy routine, Smile While You Still Have Teeth.

Twitter: @carolewyer
Facebook: @AuthorCarolEWyer
Instagram: @carolwyer
Website: www.carolwyer.co.uk
Blog: www.carolwyer.com
YouTube: @CarolEWyer

Blog tour

Thanks to Emma Welton at damppebbles blog tours for my digital copy of A Cut for a Cut and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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The Family Tree by Steph Mullin and Nicole Mabry

Blog tour: 10 to 22 June 2021

Synopsis

The DNA results are back. And there’s a serial killer in her family tree …

Liz Catalano is shocked when an ancestry kit reveals she’s adopted. But she could never have imagined connecting with her unknown family would plunge her into an FBI investigation of a notorious serial killer …

The Tri-State Killer has been abducting pairs of women for forty years, leaving no clues behind – only bodies.

Can Liz figure out who the killer in her new family is? And can she save his newest victims before it’s too late?

My review

It’s 2019 and Liz Catalano, 27, a social media associate, lives with her cousin Andrea (Andie) Catalano, 28, an X-ray technologist, in a two-bedroom ground floor apartment in a Greenpoint townhouse in New York. Andie buys Liz a 23andMe DNA ancestry test kit for her birthday and, when they compare their results, they discover that Liz is adopted. She’s shocked as she had no idea that her mum and dad weren’t her real parents as they’d never told her. She also learns that her birth mum was in prison when she had Liz.

Liz puts her details into various ancestry websites via one website, GEDMatch, in order to trace her relatives and also ticks the option to allow law enforcement to access her ancestry results. A couple of weeks later, she hears back from a grand uncle, Cristian (Cris) Dominio (65), and his wife, Rosie, in Connecticut. She arranges to meet up with them and finds out a bit more about her mum, Teresa, and discovers that there aren’t many of her close relatives left now.

Soon after, the FBI contact Liz as her DNA is a familial match to an ongoing multi-person homicide investigation. She’s horrified and quickly researches various active serial killers to try and work out who it could be. One that seems to match the timescales is the Tri-State Killer, who has evaded capture for decades and held captive, tortured and murdered numerous women over the years.

The Tri-State Killer’s first kill was in 1974 and he next struck 17 years later and from then on abducted and murdered pairs of women every two years to 2012. He’s been operating for over 40 years but the police only have vague details about his identity (grainy CCTV footage and a rough sketch) and a partial DNA sample taken from his first victim. After a gap of six years, it now seems that he’s back on the scene as two university students from Boston have been missing for nine months.

Liz is determined to investigate the case and work out what her links are to the serial killer, despite the danger she’s putting herself in. She’s feisty and determined – and rather reckless – but full of spirit. She’s in a unique position and the FBI agents tell her details of the cases in the hopes that she will discover some relevant evidence and links when talking to members of her newly found family.

Interspersed between scenes and dialogue from Liz and Andie are gruesome and disturbing chapters focusing on the Tri-State Killer’s numerous victims – how he approached the pairs of women or what happened afterwards. This works well and helps to ramp up the tension and it made me think about what must have happened to the women mentioned in the previous flashbacks.

Overall, this was a gripping and engaging read and kept me thoroughly entertained! It was over 400 pages long but it flew by and I couldn’t wait to find out if Liz would manage to work out who the Tri-State Killer was before she ended up as one of his victims!

The chilling story was cleverly plotted and well paced and I was never quite sure who was telling the truth. I suspected several different characters as they were all rather suspicious at times and there were a few hints and red herrings.

It was an intense read and I could sympathise with Liz’s feelings after discovering that she was adopted – she felt like her whole life had been a lie and that she’d been let down by everyone in her family, a lot of whom knew she was adopted. She almost rejects her parents in her desperation to discover the truth about her ancestry and she becomes obsessed with trying to work out which of her relatives is the Tri-State Killer. She’s lucky that Andie and her boyfriend, Travis, are so supportive. There were lots of tense moments as Liz kept putting herself in danger.

This was an intriguing and entertaining story and I find it fascinating that it was written by two authors! I understand they’re releasing another book in six months’ time so I’m already looking forward to that one!

Buy the book

The Family Tree by Steph Mullin and Nicole Mabry can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the authors

Steph Mullin and Nicole Mabry met as co-workers in New York City in 2012, discovering a shared passion for writing and true crime. After Steph relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2018, they continued to collaborate creatively. Separated by 5 states, they spend countless hours scheming via Facetime and editing each other’s typos in real time on live Google docs. The Family Tree is the writing duo’s first co-authored crime novel.

Steph Mullin works by day as Creative Director for a Media, Entertainment and Digital Marketing Solutions company, using early mornings, nights, and weekends to write fiction.

Steph’s dream of becoming a writer started at age 6, followed by winning scholastic writing awards and crafting articles for her university’s literary magazine. In her 20s, she became engrossed in true crime podcasts and literature, which later became the perfect source of inspiration to launch her second career writing dark and twisty thrillers.

In 2018, Steph relocated from NYC to Charlotte, North Carolina where she currently resides with her husband and her rescue puppy. Outside of reading, writing, and playing with her dog, you may find her sipping on a soy latte, watching a new movie, or trying out new recipes in the kitchen.

Twitter: @Steph_Mullin
Instagram: @stephmullin_author

Nicole Mabry works in television as Senior Manager of Post Production in the photography department. She is the author of Past This Point (2019, Red Adept Publishing), an award winning apocalyptic women’s fiction novel. Past This Point was chosen as Best Book of the Year by Indies Today and won first place in the Global Thriller division of the Chanticleer International Book Awards.

Twitter: @NicoleAMabry
Instagram: @nicolemabry_author

Blog tour

Thanks to Avon Books for my copy of The Family Tree and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

Featured

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox

Blog tour: 17 to 25 June 2021

Synopsis

‘What happens to those girls who go missing? What happens to the Zoe Nolans of the world?’

In the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011, Zoe Nolan, a 19-year-old Manchester University student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.

She was never seen again.

Seven years after her disappearance, struggling writer Evelyn Mitchell finds herself drawn into the mystery. Through interviews with Zoe’s closest friends and family, she begins piecing together what really happened in 2011. But where some versions of events overlap, aligning perfectly with one another, others stand in stark contrast, giving rise to troubling inconsistencies.

Shaken by revelations of Zoe’s secret life, and stalked by a figure from the shadows, Evelyn turns to crime writer Joseph Knox to help make sense of a case where everyone has something to hide.

Blending fact and fiction, this is a thrilling true crime story like no other. Weaving together a collection of fictional interviews, Joseph Knox creates a compulsively readable, dark and pacey thriller with a twist. This is the first stand-alone novel from the critically acclaimed author of the Aidan Waits series.

My review

True Crime Story is about the disappearance of Zoe Nolan, a 19-year-old Manchester University student who went missing during a party at her student accommodation block in the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011. The book tells the account of the events leading up to her disappearance as put together by a woman called Evelyn Mitchell who spent a year interviewing Zoe’s twin sister and parents, as well as her boyfriend, friends and acquaintances from that time.

Evelyn communicated with the author of the book, Joseph Knox, after meeting with him at the book signing event for his debut novel, Sirens, and she emailed him her interview transcripts and observations, which she’d compiled into chapters of key events. Joseph was busy and didn’t always respond promptly and it was only after something tragic happened that he put the rest of the material together and produced this second edition of the book, which includes some clarifications and apologies.

Zoe was only at the university for three months but it seems that a lot happened in that time, some of it quite disturbing and concerning. She was due to go to another university but didn’t get in and so ended up in Manchester with her twin sister, Kimberly. The women had a rather strange relationship. They weren’t very close and they had a difficult childhood with their dad, Robert, focusing his attention on singer Zoe. He’s rather controlling and dominated his daughters and wife, Sally.

Zoe and Kim were put in a tower block called Owens Park and it’s there that they met their flatmate Liu Wai. Zoe’s boyfriend was called Andrew Flowers and other friends were Jai Mahmood and Fintan Murphy (Zoe’s course mate).

As the story progresses, we learn more about the characters – they all seem to have lots of secrets and they don’t really know each other very well after only three months. There are some shocking revelations, which are carefully revealed in chapter format, and some curious and surprising links between various people! 

The novel is fictional but it seems real, especially with the way everything is set up initially with Evelyn discussing various elements of the case, which she assembles by piecing together the interview transcripts and pulling out common themes. The book also contains newspaper cutting and photos. And then there are emails and phone calls between Evelyn and Joseph in which they sum up and discuss specific findings and share their thoughts. Everything seems to spiral out of control and strange things start happening as Evelyn gets closer to finding out some truths.

The story was intense and gripping. It seemed true to life and I could really imagine the horrible tower block where the students live and it reminded me of one on my university campus! Most of the characters are horrible, with some awful behaviour, and they’re all rather unreliable witnesses. There are contradictory statements and everyone interprets and sees things differently, especially when trying to recount events seven years later.

It’s a fascinating and enthralling concept and reminds me a little of The Appeal by Janice Hallett, which is also set up as a series of communications between various people and you have to try and work out what on earth is going on!

I was rather rubbish at guessing what was happening in True Crime Story and feel like I need to read the book again and make notes! I’m sure there are various clues scattered throughout but I probably missed most of them. A friend said she would use sticky tabs to highlight key points!

Overall, it’s an innovative and intriguing read, definitely something a bit different! I found it absorbing and immersive and disturbing in parts. It’s dark and tense, with a great sense of foreboding, and it feels like we’re not being told everything and there are sinister undercurrents to the story. It makes for very uncomfortable reading.

It’s the first book of the author’s that I’ve read but I’ll definitely be checking out his Aidan Waits series soon!

Buy the book

True Crime Story by Joseph Knox can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Joseph Knox was born and raised in and around Stoke and Manchester, where he worked in bars and bookshops before moving to London. He runs, writes and reads compulsively. His debut novel Sirens was a bestseller and has been translated into 18 languages. The Smiling Man and The Sleepwalker are the second and third books in his bestselling and highly praised Aidan Waits series.

Twitter: @josephknox__
Facebook: @JosephKnoxAuthor
Instagram: @knobbth
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Blog tour

Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my copy of True Crime Story and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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Singapore Killer by Murray Bailey

Blog tour: 14 to 31 May 2020

Synopsis

A helicopter crash results in the pilot and a military policeman burned to death. It’s unclear what they were doing, but this was no accident and the name BlackJack is found at the scene.

Ash Carter knew that the Special Investigations Branch were tracking a killer, and when a faceless body is found in Perak, and he loses contact with the SIB, he races to north-east Malaya to help. There Carter discovers a mysterious town that the locals won’t talk about.

With no sign of his contact and a mounting body count, Carter is drawn into a dark case from which there seems no escape.

This is the fifth book of the series. The sixth and final book is called Singapore Fire and will be released in 2021.

My review

Set in Singapore in the 1950s, Singapore Killer continues the exciting Ash Carter series. The book begins with an explosive start: a helicopter dramatically crashes and catches fire, with the death of the pilot and a military policeman.

Ash Carter was in the British Army’s Royal Military Police and then worked for the internal security secretary of the Singapore government and a private protection force in Malaya. He’s now an independent investigator and is called in to help the Special Investigations Branch (SIB) look into the helicopter accident.

From the evidence, Carter discovers that the silvery grey Sikorsky S-51 didn’t crash as a result of the pilot losing control due to mechanical error and that the training helicopter was set on fire after it came down. The hunt is on for the killer after a metal dog tag with the word ‘BlackJack’ on it is discovered in the helicopter’s fuel pipe.

When Carter set up as an independent investigator, he recruited a Chinese lady, Madam Chau, as a secretary/receptionist. She sounds an amazing character – she’s described as being ‘as wily as a fox and as bad-tempered as a baited bear’ and with a ‘face that was so flat that it looked like she’d been struck with a frying pan’. She reminds Carter of ‘a basset hound – an ugly one’!

Madam Chau is great at helping him to weed out the timewasters – he receives lots of letters asking for assistance, often from women who are pregnant by soldiers who have now disappeared – and she is an excellent translator. Carter investigates the death of a greengrocer who was bitten by a snake and also looks into the disappearance of a dog! Rather different cases from his SIB days!

When Scott ‘Slugger’ Stevenson, head of the Perak Protection Force and Carter’s friend, phones up about a mutilated body, Ash takes on the case and drives to Batu Gajah in Perak, Malaya to investigate.

Two SIB men, Captain John Harwood and Lieutenant Joe Jenkins, are working on classified missions, and Carter checks their recent reports and begins to make connections between his various cases and realises there’s a serial killer on the loose who’s targeting military personnel. After one of the men doesn’t check in, Carter heads to the small town of Bandar Permaisuri, near Terengganu, where he was last seen and, after a tip off from a young waitress, Carter heads to a town called Bandar Putih (‘white town’), which was built by a white man called Jeremiah and has a big fence around it.

Carter joins the rather mysterious commune and cult, which the residents call Shangri-La, and meets the ex-military men who run the place and the women who look after them. As Carter realises that the men are involved in a gold pipeline (trading) and linked in with his hunt for BlackJack, he lays low and tried to work out exactly what’s going on, with help from another of his contacts. This is where things get even more exciting and there are numerous unexpected and disturbing events as Carter gets deeper into the weird cult and BlackJack taunts him and leaves more clues behind.

This was an action-packed, fast-paced read and I really enjoyed following Ash Carter as he attempted to track down BlackJack. There were several sections written from BlackJack’s point of view and it was intriguing to read his evil thoughts.

Singapore Killer was a well-plotted, gripping thriller with some rather gruesome descriptions of murder scenes, as well as several really tense moments that had me holding my breath and frantically turning the pages to see who was going to be taken out next! It had lots of great twists and turns!

There were several strands to the story and lots of characters – it was fun to try and guess the connections and how everything was going to come together. At times, I had to refer back to remember who the characters were and how they were linked but I do have a particularly bad memory for names!!

I haven’t read any of the other four books in the series but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on lots of back stories – there were a few mentions of past events but I didn’t feel confused.

Overall, I really enjoyed Singapore Killer – it was an intense and absorbing read with some fascinating descriptions of military investigations and 1950s Singapore and Malaya and I loved the character of Madam Chau. I’ll have to go back and read Singapore 52, Singapore Girl, Singapore Boxer and Singapore Ghost to get to know Ash Carter better before the final book, Singapore Fire, is released next year!

Buy the book

Singapore Killer (Ash Carter, book 5) by Murray Bailey is released on 1 June and can be preordered from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

About the author

Murray Bailey got his first taste of success when he was published in The Times at 18 and in his local newspaper. Although he went on to pursue a different career, he continued to write and edit and became the editor of an international magazine and editor of four technical books.

His first work of fiction, I Dare You, was published in 2016 and The Lost Pharaoh continues the ancient Egyptian story glimpsed in Map of the Dead and is his ninth title.

Murray was born in Greater Manchester, England and has being moving south ever since. He now lives on the beautiful Dorset coast with his wife and family.

Twitter: @MurrayBaileybks
Facebook: @MurrayBaileyAuthor
Website: https://murraybaileybooks.com/

Blog tour

Thanks to Murray Bailey for my digital copy of Singapore Killer and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.