Featured

Whispers in the Dark by Chris McDonald

Blog tour: 9 to 25 November 2020

Synopsis

Who will heed the call when Death comes whispering?

Small time drug dealer, Marcus Sharpe and DCI Clive Burston had never met until one night in August. By the end of that night, both had been shot dead in a small bedroom in the heart of gang territory. DI Erika Piper is called to the scene but is at a loss to explain what’s happened. How did these two even meet, let alone end up dead in what appears to be a strange murder-suicide?

As Erika leads the investigation, another two bodies are found, killed in a similar fashion. One murder, one suicide. But who is controlling this macabre puppet show? As Erika delves deeper into the lives of the dead, the pieces begin to fit together and a number of nefarious characters crawl out of the woodwork – one of whom is almost certainly pulling the strings.

A catastrophic event and a personal miracle threaten to derail the investigation. Erika must find the strength to continue, before the whispers catch up with her too …

My review

After really enjoying the first book in the Erika Piper series, A Wash of Black, I couldn’t wait to read the second instalment, Whispers in the Dark.

Set six months later, in August 2019, the story opens with Detective Inspector Erika Piper attending the wedding of her colleague, Detective Sergeant Liam Sutton. As most of their team are also at the reception, her boss, Detective Chief Inspector Bob Lovatt, has asked her to be on call in case there’s an emergency. Towards the end of the evening, just when she thinks she can relax, Erika receives a phone call requesting her help.

She heads a few miles down the road to a residential street where she discovers not one but two dead bodies waiting for her in the bedroom of a terraced house. The dead men are drug dealer and Bennett Street Rebels gang member, Marcus Sharpe, and, shockingly, DCI Clive Burston, who was on gardening leave after misplacing evidence, which lead to a suspect walking free.

Erika and the rest of the team investigate possible connections between the two men, coming up with all kinds of theories, and look into whether Sharpe’s dealing had got him into trouble with a rival gang called the Longsight Lunatics and their leader, Olly Pilkington.

While enjoying a meal at the Italian restaurant in Marple village in Manchester with her boyfriend, Tom, a former policeman and now security guard, she receives a call to say another two bodies have been found at St Peter and the Light Anglican church, which is next to the street where the other two men were discovered. One of the victims is another Bennett Street Rebels gang member, while the other is a woman this time.

The circumstances of the killings are bizarre and the police are now following a murder–suicide line of enquiry for both cases but are still completely confused about what’s going on, except for the fact that there is obviously a gang connection. Things are spiralling out of control! Will Erika and the team figure it all out before the killer or killers carry out more murders?

Whispers in the Dark is another superb read from the author and I flew through it in a few hours, frantically turning the pages to see how everything was going to be resolved! The pacing was good with lots of intrigue and tension to keep me entertained. There were several twists and turns and red herrings, as well as some shocking revelations, which I didn’t see coming at all.

Although the book is part of a series, I think it could be read as a standalone as events in the first book were mentioned in passing, to set the scene. I definitely recommend reading A Wash of Black first though as it helps you to get to know the characters and see the lovely rapport that Erika and Liam have.

I really enjoyed this gripping, action-packed and cleverly plotted police procedural. It was compelling, engaging and well put together, with great descriptions and attention to detail. I enjoyed spending more time with the main protagonist, DI Erika Piper, who yet again had an eventful time of it, and I hope we see her in another book soon!

Buy the book

Whispers in the Dark by Chris McDonald is released on 14 November and can be preordered from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback. Or purchase paperback and hardback editions 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 is the second instalment in the DI Erika Piper series, and Chris is currently working on his latest series, The Stonebridge Mysteries, to be published by Red Dog Press in 2021.

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 Meggy Roussel at Red Dog Press for my digital copy of Whispers in the Dark and for my place on the blog tour.

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

Featured

Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary

Publication day blitz

Synopsis

A quiet life for Aubrey?

After spending several months banged up in Sunny Banks rescue centre, Aubrey, a large tabby cat, has finally found his forever home with Molly and Jeremy Goodman, and life is looking good.

However, all that changes when a serial killer begins to target elderly victims in the neighbourhood.

Aubrey wasn’t particularly upset by the death of some of the previous victims, including Miss Jenkins whom Aubrey recalls as a vinegar-lipped bitch of an old woman who enjoyed throwing stones at cats, but Mr Telling was different.

Mr Telling was a mate …

Please note: this is a revised second edition, which is being re-released ahead of the rest of the series.

Competition

Do you have a cat? Do you love cats?

Tweet a picture of your little terror to @RedDogTweets with the hashtag #CatWithABite and you will be entered in the cat hat to win a signed paperback copy of Street Cat Blues!

The competition is UK only and ends at midnight on Wednesday 4 November.

Buy the book

Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and Google Books. Or purchase a copy directly from the Red Dog Press online shop.

About the author

Alison O’Leary was born in London and, during her teenage years in Hertfordshire, she spent large amounts of time reading novels, watching daytime television and avoiding school. Failing to gain any qualifications in science whatsoever, the dream of being a forensic scientist collided with reality when a careers teacher suggested that she might like to work in a shop. Alison doesn’t think she meant Harrods. Later studying law, she decided to teach rather than go into practice and has spent many years teaching mainly criminal law and criminology to young people and adults.

Alison enjoys reading crime novels, doing crosswords, and drinking wine. Not necessarily in that order.

Twitter: @alisonoleary81
Website: https://www.alisonoleary.co.uk

Thanks

Thanks to Meggy Roussel at Red Dog Press for the publicity materials for the Street Cat Blues publication day blitz.

Featured

Inside Out by Chris McGeorge

Blog tour: 26 to 30 October 2020

Synopsis

She was sent down …
Cara Lockhart has just commenced a life sentence in HMP North Fern – the newest maximum security women’s prison in the country. She was convicted of a crime she is adamant she didn’t commit.

She was set up …
One morning she wakes up to find her cellmate murdered – shot in the head with a gun that is missing. The door was locked all night, which makes Cara the only suspect.

But that was just the beginning.
Cara needs to clear her name, unravelling an impossible case, with an investigation governed by a prison timetable.

But as Cara starts to learn more about North Fern and the predicament she is in, she finds connections between the past and present that she never could have imagined.

Indeed it seems that her conviction and her current situation might be linked in very strange ways …

My review

When Cara-Jane Lockhart, a 23-year-old prisoner serving a life sentence, is transferred from New Hall prison in Wakefield to North Fern in Buckinghamshire, she’s rather surprised to find herself at a new, futuristic prison that has its own rules and regulations.

At North Fern, prisoners wear Cuffs, which are like ID cards with a built-in tracker and allow them access to some areas and restrict where they can go. If the prisoners stray somewhere they shouldn’t, they get an electric shock. The prison guards also wear Cuffs.

The prison has impressive, state-of-the-art facilities and, rather than actual windows, there are multiple screens on the ceiling that show images of the sky. There are no clocks or any indication of time passing. Rather than time outside, the women have periods of illumination where the natural light system is turned on. The exercise yard is actually indoors and like a sports hall with mats and equipment, a wooden floor and gym equipment. It all feels like a bizarre social experiment.

The women aren’t allowed to have visitors, due to the seriousness of their crimes, but they can receive letters and small parcels from their families and friends. Movie night on Saturdays is compulsory and a rather repetitive event.

Cara was nicknamed ‘The Butcher’ at New Hall and her reputation has followed her to North Fern. She’s very wary of the other women and has a few run ins but soon makes friends with her cellmate, Stephanie Barnard, and the two women get into a routine and support each other.

When she wakes up one morning to find her cellmate dead, with a bullet hole in her forehead, Cara is horrified and protests her innocence. It seems futile with the overwhelming evidence against her – the pair were in a locked cell together and, despite a 12-second blank period in the camera feed, the systems prove that no one else had any access to the room.

As Cara is marched into an isolation cell, she’s left alone with her thoughts and decides that she needs to be strong and work out exactly what’s going on. There’s something really off about the prison but she has to remain calm and not give up, and work out the whys and hows of the situation and find the murder weapon if she has any hope of proving her innocence.

At first, there seems to be no reason why Cara has been set up but, as we learn more about past events, everything becomes clearer and there were some good twists and turns and a few aha moments!

I’m a big fan of books set in prisons and this was certainly a bit different and even more claustrophobic than your average establishment. Cara seemed the ultimate unreliable narrator – I was never sure if she was imagining things, lying or telling the truth. I wanted to like her but the crime she was convicted of was horrific and she seemed strangely detached from reality at times.

Overall, I really enjoyed Inside Out – it was entertaining, cleverly plotted and had a gripping storyline. Once I’d got into the story, I was frantically turning the pages to see how the main protagonist was going to get out of her impossible predicament. There were some interesting characters and I was never really sure who could be trusted. I had to suspend belief at times but that was all part of the charm!

I’ve already got the author’s other books, Guess Who and Now You See Me, on my Kindle and I’ll be checking them out soon!

Buy the book

Inside Out by Chris McGeorge can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Chris McGeorge is a graduate of MA Creative Writing (crime/thriller) from City University London where he wrote debut thriller, Guess Who, as his thesis. He told stories from an early age, writing and drawing comics and then scripts and finally novels. He loves Golden Age crime and gets incredibly excited about anything a little out of the ordinary. In his spare time, he is an actor with Durham Dramatic Society.

He lives in Durham with his hamster, Agatha Christie.

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

Blog tour

Thanks to Alainna Hadjigeorgiou at Orion Publishing for my copy of Inside Out and for my place on the blog tour.

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

Featured

We Wait by Megan Taylor

Blog tour: 26 to 31 October 2020

Synopsis

The wealthy Crawleys can’t abide a scandal, so when fifteen-year-old Maddie’s behaviour causes concern, she’s packed off to the family’s country estate, along with her best friend, Ellie. But while Maddie is resentful, Ellie is secretly thrilled. A whole summer at Greywater House, which she’s heard so much about – and with Maddie, who she adores …

But from the moment the girls arrive, it’s clear there’s more to the house and the family than Ellie could ever have imagined. Maddie’s aunt, Natalie, and her bedridden grandmother are far from welcoming – and something has been waiting at Greywaters, something that flits among the shadows and whispers in the night.

As the July heat rises and the girls’ relationship intensifies, the house’s ghosts can’t be contained, and it isn’t just Ellie who has reason to be afraid. Three generations of the Crawley family must face their secrets when past and present violently collide.

‘Hill House for the 21st century: haunting, dark, and very, very real. Chilling and very sinister, but still rippled with the confusion of being a teenager, of first love, and of making impulsive mistakes. A masterpiece.’ – Anstey Harris

‘As poetic as it is unsettling, We Wait is an absolute triumph. The beautifully vivid prose is reminiscent of Du Maurier – both haunting and chilling at the same time. An eerie, clever, spine-tingling novel. This is Megan Taylor at her most thrillingly dark.’ – Kerry Hadley-Pryce

My review

From the chilling and rather disturbing prologue, I knew this coming-of-age novel set in an eerie country house was going to be a very creepy read and perfect for Halloween!

It’s 2016 and Sara Crawley is driving her 15-year-old daughter Madeleine (Maddie) and her friend, Eleanor (Ellie), to Greywater House where the teenagers are going to be spending the summer. Maddie has been involved in something scandalous at school and, as a result, her father, Hugo, wrote to his sister, Natalie, who lives at the house with their elderly mother, and asked if she could stay with them to give her parents a break.

Before they even get to Greywaters, strange things start happening and there’s sense of anticipation, fear and trepidation. It’s clear there’s something not right about the house; a feeling of evil and foreboding. Sara drops the girls off and talks to her sister-in-law but can’t wait to leave.

The story is told from the viewpoints of Maddie’s friend, Ellie, and her aunt, Natalie. Ellie’s mother is suffering from cancer and she’s looking forward to having some time to relax with her best friend after caring for her mum, who is going on a retreat. Natalie is also a carer for her elderly mother and resents looking after her while brother, Hugo, carries on with his life.

Natalie already seems to be dealing with enough without having two teenagers thrust on her as well! There are hints about something dark in her past, and a childhood friend called Jess often features in her memories.

Ellie has always had awful nightmares and she sleepwalks at the house. She’s upset about her mum but feels reckless and freer being there. She’s always had a bit of a crush on Maddie and looks up to her and the girls grow much closer in the claustrophobic and intense setting.

In the second part of the book, we’re whisked back to the summer of 1986 at Greywater House, where we learn about the events that brought us to where we are in the present day. Things are hinted at in the first part and all becomes clearer as we put the pieces of the puzzle together and work out exactly what’s happening. The story comes together in a dramatic, life-changing conclusion.

The house is old, dark, menacing and creepy and feels like it has a life of its own, with something lurking within the walls. Everything feels off and ominous, everyone begins to feel more and more and out of control and they’re all hiding secrets and waiting for something to happen. It’s like there’s a creeping, malignant force hiding in the house that taints all around it. It grabs hold of people and stops them from leaving.

Overall, I really enjoyed We Wait – it’s beautifully descriptive with lovely imagery. Megan Taylor creates an excellent sense of place in the dark, gloomy, disturbing and atmospheric location of Greywaters with its hostile grounds including various outbuildings, gardens and a deep, silver lake.

The novel is cleverly written, with an intriguing and compelling plot. There were some shocking moments and I was surprised by how the story unfolded, with its twists, turns and revelations. As the tension rose, the pace quickened and the walls started closing in, I wasn’t really quite sure what was real and what was a dream. The writing was excellent – tense, claustrophobic and it made me feel uncomfortable and uneasy.

I’m already looking forward to checking out the rest of the author’s novels and reading some of her short stories.

Buy the book

We Wait by Megan Taylor can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and directly from the Eyrie Press bookshop.

About the author

Megan Taylor is the author of three previous novels. Her first, How We Were Lost, a dark coming of age story, was published in 2007. Her second, The Dawning, a domestic thriller set over the course of a single night, was published in 2010. Megan’s third novel, The Lives of Ghosts (2012), is a mystery about repression, inheritance and motherhood.

Megan also writes short stories, some of which form her collection, The Woman Under the Ground (2014), beautifully illustrated by Nikki Pinder.

Megan lives in Nottingham, where she provides creative writing workshops and courses when she isn’t busy playing with her own fiction.

Twitter: @meganjstaylor
Website: https://www.megantaylor.info/

Blog tour

Thanks to Emily Powter-Robinson at Eyrie Press for my paperback copy of We Wait and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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Say Goodbye When I’m Gone by Stephen J. Golds

Blog tour: 21 to 27 October 2020

Synopsis

1949: Rudy, a Jewish New Yorker snatches a briefcase of cash from a dead man in Los Angeles and runs away from his old life, into the arms of the Boston mob.

1966: Hinako, a young Japanese girl runs away from what she thought was the suffocating conformity of a life in Japan. Aiming to make a fresh start in America, she falls into the grip of a Hawaiian gang dubbed ‘The Company’.

1967: Rudy and Hinako’s lives collide in the city of Honolulu, where there is nowhere left for either of them to run, and only blood to redeem them.

My review

Spanning nearly 20 years from 1950, Say Goodbye When I’m Gone skips back and forth in time and location as we follow the two main protagonists and their stories and eventually find out how they become associated.

Rudy is married to Maggie and they have six children. The family are Jewish and live in New York. The couple met aged 13 when they both lived in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan. One evening in July 1950, Rudy, Maggie and three of their children are at a restaurant for their oldest daughter Grace’s 16th birthday when Rudy’s past catches up with him and a shocking event occurs.

In Nagoya, Japan, it’s December 1966 and Hinako, aged 16, lives with her mother in a small one-bedroom apartment. Her father no longer lives with them. Hinako works in a ramen shop and is desperate to escape her claustrophobic, restricted and boring life and move to America in the next few years. When she sees a flyer on a pillar for maids and waitresses for new Japanese hotels in the United States, with flights and accommodation, she can’t believe her luck and naively thinks all her prayers will be answered if she gets the job. Sadly, she has no idea what she’s getting herself into.

We also learn more about another character who was a child in Seoul in 1951 during the Korean war and had to fend for himself after the deaths of his parents. He did what he had to do to survive and this time has a profound effect on the boy and turns him into a disturbed individual who is confused about right and wrong and carries out some dreadful acts.

At first, there seems to be no link between any of the three but all becomes clear as more of the story is revealed. It’s cleverly done and helps to build up a good picture of each of their lives, with lots of shocking and pertinent moments, which explain what was to follow.

With themes of torture, murder, sexual abuse and rape, among others, with graphic violent scenes, this book won’t be for everyone but I found the descriptions were in keeping with the novel and not at all gratuitous.

Overall, I really enjoyed this well-plotted, cleverly written and action-packed novel. It’s a bit different from the norm and the story is engaging and gripping as we move between different timelines and countries and learn more about Rudy and Hinako and how they come to meet in an antiques shop in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Despite the fact that he’s a criminal with a rather chequered history, I felt a lot of sympathy for Rudy. He’s a family man who desperately loves his wife and children and wants to support them and do his best for them. There’s good in him but he’s caught up in this line of work; it’s difficult for him to escape due to the constant fear of retaliation.

Hinako’s story is heart breaking – she doesn’t really relate to her mother and feels trapped and constrained by her life and the constant pressure to conform. She wants the freedom to find herself and experience individuality. What she actually experiences in America is one of the worst nightmares you can imagine and she has no life or even freedom. It’s terrifying and tragic.

Say Goodbye When I’m Gone is a gritty, shocking, dramatic and violent book but it’s also gripping, intense and poignant. I found myself caring for Rudy, Hinako and others, like Irishman Joey McCarthy, and hoping that they’d all survive and have happy futures. An entertaining read and one which definitely sticks in the mind! I’m looking forward to seeing what the author writes next. And I can’t finish this review without mentioning that gorgeous blood-splattered cover, which looks like a slightly worn postcard! I’m definitely going to order a copy of the book so I can see it in the flesh!

Buy the book

Say Goodbye When I’m Gone by Stephen J. Golds can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo. Or purchase a copy directly from the Red Dog Press online shop.

About the author

Stephen J. Golds was born in London, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life. He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, travelling, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His novel, Say Goodbye When I’m Gone, will be released by Red Dog Press in October 2020 and another novel, Always the Dead, will be released by Close to the Bone Press January 2021.

Twitter: @SteveGone58

Blog tour

Thanks to Meggy Roussel at Red Dog Press for my digital copy of Say Goodbye When I’m Gone and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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When You Were Mine by Kate Hewitt

Blog tour: 19 to 21 October 2020

Synopsis

‘Dylan …’ I croak, but my little boy doesn’t even look at me. ‘Dylan!’ My voice is louder now, and my gaze stays locked with my son’s as the car pulls away from the curb and drives away, taking my very life with her.

Single mother Beth loves her seven-year-old son Dylan with all her heart. He’s her world. So when a terrible series of events lead Dylan to be taken into foster care, she is determined to do whatever she can to get him back.

Mother of two, Ally has always dreamed of fostering – it feels like her chance to give back when she has been so lucky in life. But when Dylan joins their family, Ally finds herself struggling to balance his needs with those of her own children and husband – something Beth can’t help but witness when she visits.

Beth wants nothing more than to find a way to bring her beloved child home. But when she also sees Dylan bonding with Ally, she has to ask herself – where is the right home for Dylan? She wants to believe it is with her … But does a mother always know what’s best for her child?

A beautiful, powerful and ultimately hopeful story of the heartbreaking power of a mother’s love, for fans of Diane Chamberlain, Jodi Picoult and Jojo Moyes.

My review

With their children soon to fly the nest – Emma, 18, is headed to college and Josh, 16, is a junior in high school – Ally, 46, and Nick Fielding decide to look into fostering. They attend a 10-week course and, before they know, it have been allocated a child called Dylan.

Beth McBride is a single mum to seven-year-old Dylan. She has no family support, few friends and Dylan’s dad no longer sees him. Her son is selectively mute and has behavioural and anxiety issues. Beth loves Dylan desperately but their relationship is rather intense, obsessive and unhealthy and she’s terrified of him having tantrums and screaming in public. He often has meltdowns if he’s in an unfamiliar place so Beth restricts what they do and keeps to certain routines and places like the library, parks and the supermarket. He hasn’t attended preschool or kindergarten and doesn’t go to school either.

One particularly trying day, Dylan has a screaming episode in a shop over sweets and Beth shouts at him and grabs his arm. Someone phones the hotline for Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families (DCF), whose radar the family have been on since Dylan was two when his father, Marco, called them and asked for a ‘voluntary relinquishment’ of his son. Susan from DCF speaks to Beth about what has been happening over the past five years and decides that she needs help and Beth reluctantly agrees to give up her son for a fostering placement for three months.

When Ally and Nick take on Dylan’s care, life is going well for the family with Emma about to start at Harvard and Josh doing well at high school, especially at sports. They own a beautiful house and have good jobs – Nick is a financial analyst for a large insurance company and Ally works as a part-time bookkeeper. Before long, cracks start to appear and soon their perfect life is anything but. Looking after Dylan is challenging and hard work, and most of his care seems to fall to Ally, but it seems easy compared to the other problems that the family face.

Having some time away from her son is really distressing for Beth but gives her the chance to evaluate her relationship with Dylan and others. They’ve had an isolated existence, which hasn’t been healthy for either of them. Beth has sacrificed her own life, relationships and friendships to look after Dylan and something needed to give because it’s no existence for either mother or son.

The story is told in alternating chapters, from the viewpoints of Beth and Ally, and we really get to know both women and their innermost thoughts and feelings. I felt for Beth and later Ally as her own life imploded. They’re both trying to do their best but, for differing reasons, things don’t work out and the women are struggling to hold their lives together. They’ve been put on opposing sides as carers of Dylan and neither of them is sure how to react around the other – you can feel their tension and unease, and Beth’s hostility and hurt.

Beth wants her son back but feels completely disengaged from Dylan and like she’s not good enough to take care of him. Ally is worried about her own family and is shocked how things have deteriorated over a matter of months.

Overall, I really enjoyed When You Were Mine – it’s an emotional and heart-wrenching read and the story develops well, with some surprising revelations. It’s engaging and sensitively written and I really cared about all the characters, especially Beth and Ally. I was rooting for them both to have a happy ending but wasn’t sure if that would be possible for either. It’s a gripping and thought-provoking novel and I was keen to find out how it was all going to be resolved.

This is the first book of the author’s that I’ve read but I’ve got a few of her others on my Kindle and will definitely be checking them out soon.

Buy the book

When You Were Mine by Kate Hewitt can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from KoboiBooks and Google.

About the author

Kate Hewitt is the author of many romance and women’s fiction novels. A former New Yorker and now an American ex-pat, she lives in a small town on the Welsh border with her husband, five children and their overly affectionate Golden Retriever. Whatever the genre, she enjoys telling stories that tackle real issues and touch people’s lives.

Twitter: @author_kate
Facebook: @KateHewittAuthor
Instagram: @katehewitt1
Website: http://kate-hewitt.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Sarah Hardy at Bookouture for my digital copy of When You Were Mine and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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First Date by Sue Watson

Blog tour: 16 to 19 October 2020

Synopsis

She’s been waiting her whole life to meet a man like Alex. But he’s been waiting too. And once he has her, he’ll never let her go …

Hannah has done everything to make sure her life is safe and secure. A long way from her unstable childhood growing up in foster care, she’s content with her sweet, little, messy apartment and her satisfying job as a social worker. She quietly worries that, aged 36, she might never fall in love. But otherwise her life is where she wants it to be.

Until, encouraged by her best friend to join a dating app, she meets Alex. He’s irresistibly handsome. He loves the same music as her. The same food as well. They both dream of travelling the world but agree they’d be equally happy escaping to a cottage by the beach in Devon. Both of them would love to own a Labrador one day. It’s like he’s made for her. It’s like he’s too good to be true.

Hannah’s friends aren’t so sure about him. But Hannah thinks he’s perfect.

Which is good. Because Alex knows she’s perfect for him too. In fact, she’s exactly the girl he’s been looking for …

And nothing Hannah’s done to make her life safe will ever be enough.

A gripping and suspenseful psychological thriller about dark obsession and internet dating. Fans of The Wife Between Us, Friend Request and Gone Girl will adore this unputdownable twisted love story.

My review

When Hannah Weston, a 36-year-old social worker, meets Alex Higham, a solicitor, online via Meet your Match, she thinks she’s found the perfect man. They have so much in common and want the same things, right down to the number of children (three), the Labrador and the holidays in Devon.

Alex is handsome, charming and really keen on Hannah. Her friends at work aren’t so sure about him as she’s prone to falling in love easily and getting infatuated. They’re worried that history is being repeated and she doesn’t really know him at all. She’s clever but a bit naive and easily persuaded and distracted.

Things were tricky after she split up with her ex, Tom, as he didn’t take it very well, and as she begins a whirlwind romance with Alex, strange events happen, which Hannah is convinced Tom is responsible for.

Hannah had a difficult childhood and moved into a foster home aged nine when her mum couldn’t cope. Alex also had a unhappy time as a child and things were tough with his parents. The couple are both vulnerable after lacking this parental support and drawn to each other by all their similarities.

The story is tense and builds well as Hannah completely misses all the red flags that are waving and it’s like watching a car crash about to happen as she ignores the advice from her boss and best friend, Jasmine (Jas), 42, and constantly justifies all the overbearing and worrying things that Alex says and does. He’s creepy and dotes on her far too much and wants her to be with him all the time.

At times, I was shaking my head and felt like shouting at Hannah as she blindly ignored his obsessive, intense and controlling behaviour. Alex begins to alienate her from her friends and says that they don’t have her best interests at heart or they fancy her, in the case of a male colleague. The relationship gets more and more unhealthy as the story progresses and they both lose control of life and reality in different ways. Things have to come to a head in one way or another, and they certainly do!

Overall, I really enjoyed First Date – it was well written and cleverly plotted and kept me entertained throughout, just revealing enough of the story to leave me wanting more. The gripping story was claustrophobic and intense and had me frantically turning the pages in horror. There are some good twists and turns, red herrings and moments of misdirection and I was shocked by some of the reveals later in the book!

This is the first book by the author that I’ve read but I’ve got several of her other psychological thrillers on my Kindle and will definitely be checking out another one soon!

Buy the book

First Date by Sue Watson can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from KoboiBooks and Google.

About the author

Sue Watson was a TV producer at the BBC until she wrote her first book and was hooked.

Now a USA Today bestselling author, Sue has written 16 novels, and many have been translated into several languages. She is now exploring the darker side of life with her latest thrillers: Our Little Lies, The Woman Next Door, The Empty Nest and The Sister-in-Law.

Originally from Manchester, Sue now lives with her family in Worcestershire where much of her day is spent writing – okay, procrastinating, eating too much confectionery, and watching ‘My 600lb Life,’ on the sofa.

Twitter: @suewatsonwriter
Facebook: @suewatsonbooks
Instagram: @suewatsonbooks
Website: http://www.suewatsonbooks.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Sarah Hardy at Bookouture for my digital copy of First Date and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henley

Blog tour: 21 September to 3 October 2020

Synopsis

This is not a typical love story, but it’s our love story.

Anna wasn’t looking for love when Adam swept her off her feet but there was no denying their connection, and she believed they would be together forever.

Years later, cracks have appeared in their relationship. Anna is questioning whether their love can really be eternal when a cruel twist of fate delivers a crushing blow, and Anna and Adam are completely lost to one another. Now, Anna needs Adam more than ever, but the way back to him has life-changing consequences.

Is a second chance at first love really worth the sacrifice? Anna needs to decide and time is running out …

My review

The Life We Almost Had tells the unusual love story of Anna Addlington and Adam Curtis who meet on holiday on the Spanish island of Alircia. Anna is 24 and has just been dumped two weeks before her wedding and is there on what would have been her honeymoon with her best friend and bridesmaid, Nell. Adam has recently come out of a disastrous relationship and is on holiday with his best mate, Josh, who is keen to have as many holiday romances as possible!

At first, the couple resist their feelings due to the circumstances but, before long, they’re spending all their time together in Alircia. When they get home, they have a long-distance relationship for 10 months before moving in together and getting married six months later.

Seven years later, things are rather different – the couple are married and have been trying to conceive for five years. Life has become rather mundane and boring and they don’t talk properly and snipe at each other over the smallest of things.

Adam decides to treat Anna to a holiday in Alircia in a last-ditch attempt to revive their relationship and it’s here where things take an unusual turn after something shocking happens.

I really enjoyed this book but I don’t want to give too much away. It was an emotional read at times and I felt sympathy for Anna and Adam who’d just lost their way in their relationship and stopped talking to each other as a result of being unable to conceive. The plot was a bit different from the norm and had some good twists, which I wasn’t expecting. A tragic but heart-warming and touching read. Not a typical love story at all!

Buy the book

The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henley can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Amelia Henley is a hopeless romantic who has a penchant for exploring the intricacies of relationships through writing heart-breaking, high-concept love stories.

Amelia also writes psychological thrillers under her real name, Louise Jensen. As Louise Jensen, she has sold over a million copies of her global number one bestsellers. Her stories have been translated into 25 languages and optioned for TV as well as featuring on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestsellers list. Louise’s books have been nominated for multiple awards.

The Life We Almost Had is the first story she’s written as Amelia Henley and it’s out now.

Twitter: @MsAmeliaHenley
Facebook: @msameliahenley
Instagram: @msameliahenley
Website: http://www.ameliahenley.co.uk

Blog tour

Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my place on the blog tour for The Life We Almost Had.

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

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Mother Loves Me by Abby Davies

Blog tour: 17 September to 1 October 2020

Synopsis

One little girl.
Mirabelle’s mother loves her. She’s her ‘little doll’. Mother dresses her, paints her face, and plaits her hair. But as Mirabelle grows, the dresses no longer fit quite as well, the face paint no longer looks quite so pretty. And Mother isn’t happy.

Two little girls.
On Mirabelle’s 13th birthday, Mother arrives home with a present – a new sister, 5-year-old Clarabelle, who Mother has rescued from the outside world.

But Mother only needs one.
As it dawns on Mirabelle that there is a new ‘little doll’ in her house, she also realizes that her life isn’t what she thought it was. And that dolls often end up on the scrap heap …

Extract

I’m delighted to share an extract of Chapter 2 of Mother Loves Me with you today.

Chapter 2

Mother loves me. I listened to the sound of her locking and bolting the front door and bit a chunk out of my apple, careful not to let any juice spoil my face. After tidying up my little white desk, I ran downstairs into the living room.

Mother owned at least a thousand books. Every week she turned up with a couple more. Most of them were adult books that I wasn’t allowed to go near, but sometimes Mother let me read what she called the ‘not so corrupting’ ones. She also liked me to look at her big picture books from time to time – the ones that contained amazing glossy pictures of animals and buildings and cities – so that I knew more about the outside. She said it made me less boring to talk to. And next to the door connecting the living room to the hallway there was a small bookcase that was just for me.

The room was gloomy because of the wooden boards and blackout curtains, the red sofa a murky brown in the darkness. I flicked on the orange lamp beside the rocking chair then walked over to my little white bookcase. I saw the present immediately. There, at the end of the third row of books leaning against Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was a book-shaped object wrapped in scarlet paper. I smiled and plucked the present off the shelf.

In Mother’s slanted hand my name was spelled out in capital letters.

MIRABELLE

Underneath my name were the words:

For a beautiful little doll who works so hard and behaves so well. All my love, Mother. P.S. You may open this now!

I tore into the paper and stared excitedly at the book. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This was Mother’s way of giving me a piece of the outside world. I half-smiled and lifted up the front cover. The pages were yellow with age and a little rough. I had a sniff. The book smelled intensely booky; good and musty. It was perfect. I curled my legs beneath me in the rocking chair and lost myself in the story, escaping into another girl’s world.

I was at the part where Mary Lennox meets a chirpy little robin, a bird which I had only ever seen in Mother’s bird books, when I heard something. My heart seemed to jump into my throat. I held stock-still. The sound was coming from the back of the house, but Mother wasn’t home yet. I was home alone. No one else lived in the cottage. Just Mother and me. And, horrid as he was to think about, Deadly, the spider who lived in the bathroom.

Without moving, I trained my ears on the direction the sound was coming from. The sound was strange, unidentifiable. Uneven and raw. It was definitely not coming from the front door and it wasn’t coming from upstairs, so it couldn’t be the boiler having a tantrum.

I remained where I was for a while, my legs pinned under me, eyes wide. I listened. An idea crossed my mind. No, I told myself, you’re not imagining it. You’re not a little girl any more. You know what’s real and what’s not. But I thought about Polly and doubt crept around my mind like a sneaky rat. As a little girl I’d had an imaginary friend called Polly. Polly had looked exactly like me, but she’d been mute. I had played imaginary games with her whenever the opportunity arose and sometimes we just sat beside one another, keeping each other company. One day when I was six, Mother had said I was too old for her and told me I had to make Polly disappear from my head or she would. Worried about what Mother might do, I had ignored Polly until she had shaken her head sadly at me and vanished. I never saw her again, no matter how hard I tried to.

With a frown, I pushed myself up from the chair. The sound is real. It’s real.

I had to see where it was coming from.

I tiptoed across the living room and carefully opened the door to the dining room. The noise was slightly clearer here. The oak floorboards creaked underfoot and I cringed and leapt through the door into Mother’s kitchen. Again, the noise was louder in here – louder than before. My eyes fell on the Venetian blinds and I froze. The strange sound was coming from outside. Outside in the back garden. I was sure of it.

The blinds remained, as always, shut, drawn down over the wooden boards that had been nailed over the windows. Nailed firmly over the glass so no light could break in.

I had never heard anything like this sound from outside before. Outside sounds to me were the perfect twitter of busy birds, the mad onslaught of hail-beasts and the pitterpatter or hammer-attack of rain – depending on its mood – spooky wind wails, thunder roars and the grumbly engine of Mother’s car.

Just as I wasn’t allowed outside, there were certain places in the cottage that I was not allowed to go. I wasn’t allowed in Mother’s room and I had been banned from the spare room a few months ago. I thought about the spare room. Mother had carried boxes into that room and spent a lot of time in there recently, but she wouldn’t tell me why. I wanted to know but didn’t dare ask.

The strange sound from outside stopped. I stared at the blinds above the dark brown cabinet and listened. Nothing. I scanned the room. Mother had nailed her new pop art print to the wall next to the one she’d brought home last month, which was of a singer called Elvis Presley. The new silkscreen print was of a very pretty lady with curly blonde hair. Mother hadn’t told me who she was yet. Like the Elvis Presley picture, it was eye-poppingly bright and colourful. I liked it a lot. It made the kitchen less gloomy.

I glanced at the pop art calendar pinned to the wall above the Formica table. Mother had circled today’s date in red pen. In the Friday, 23 April box she had written the words LITTLE DOLL’S BIRTHDAY – collect second present. Guilt lifted its hot, prickly head.

I heard something else. Jumped as the front door slammed. Heard the locking and bolting of the door.

Mother’s back.

I grabbed a glass from the cupboard and turned on the cold tap.

A moment later Mother giggled and I turned around, my heart thumping hard. Mother stood in the entrance to the kitchen wearing opaque sunglasses and a floppy sun hat. She carried a large black holdall in her sinewy arms. She placed the holdall on the kitchen table and looked at me. A smile spread across her face as she took off the sunglasses and hat and dropped them on the table.

‘This is your surprise!’ she said, spreading her hands wide.

‘What is it?’ I said, mustering up as much excitement as I could to conceal the frantic pounding of my heart.

She grinned. ‘Open the bag and see.’

I put the glass of water on the counter and reached the table in two steps. Outside, in the other world, everything remained silent.

Mother leaned over the bag as I took hold of the silver zip and tugged, wondering why she had not wrapped the present. She’s probably too excited to, I thought. The zip caught on the black material. I struggled to loosen it and Mother pushed my hands away.

‘Let me do it,’ she snapped. She ripped the bag clean open and squealed excitedly, her hands balling into fists against her pale cheeks. ‘Look, Mirabelle, look! Isn’t she perfect?’

I stared, unable to speak. Inside the bag lay a little girl. She was curled up on her side, her tiny chest rising and falling steadily, her eyes closed. She had long, fair eyelashes that fluttered every now and then as if she was having a dream or a nightmare. Her hair was the same butter-blonde as mine, but curly rather than straight and no way near as long. Like me, her milky skin was freckle-free. She wore a pale blue dress, a white cardigan and sparkly, silver tights. There were no shoes on her feet.

‘Isn’t she perfect?’ Mother repeated, stroking the little girl’s cheek.

‘Who is she?’

‘Her name’s Clarabelle. Such a pretty name for such a pretty little doll, don’t you think?’

I swallowed with difficulty, my mind racing. ‘Where’s she from?’

‘Utopia,’ Mother said dreamily.

I hesitated. There was a fiction book in Mother’s bookcase called Utopia, which meant it couldn’t be real. My textbooks had taught me the difference between fiction and non-fiction, so I knew that much. I swallowed. ‘Where’s she really from, Mother?’

Mother’s head whipped around, her hair spraying out like sparks of fire. She glared at me, nostrils flaring. ‘Don’t you like her? Don’t you like your present?’

I took a step away from the table. ‘I think she’s perfect, Mother, I do. I just want to know more about her, that’s all.’

Mother’s eyes narrowed and she tilted her head to the side. ‘If I tell you she’s from Utopia, she’s from Utopia.’

I nodded and glanced at the sleeping child, a queer, sick feeling working its way up my throat like thick treacle.

‘Thank you for my book, Mother,’ I said.

‘That’s fine. Tell me what you think of her, of Clarabelle.’

Mother watched me intently. I looked at the child’s face, thought about how oddly similar our names were. Mirabelle and Clarabelle.

‘She’s beautiful and, er, really small. She must be quite young.’ I paused, telling myself to be brave, ‘How old is she?’

‘She’s five,’ she said. ‘I rescued her.’

The sick feeling eased a little, ‘You rescued her?’

Mother nodded. She bent down and lifted the little girl out of the bag. Kissing the girl’s forehead, she left the kitchen and walked through the dining room into the living room where she placed the child on the sofa and covered her with the crochet blanket. I watched Mother perch on the edge of the sofa and stroke the child’s face over and over again, a faint smile on her thin lips.

‘If I hadn’t saved her, she’d be dead right now,’ Mother said softly.

‘What do you mean, Mother?’

‘That’s enough, Mirabelle,’ she said, her tone sharpening. She picked up the little girl and I watched her carry her out of the room.

Buy the book

Mother Loves Me by Abby Davies can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Abby Davies studied English Literature at the University of Sheffield, then went on to teach English. She has taught at both state and independent schools, including Jilly Cooper’s and Minnette Walter’s old school in Salisbury.

She was shortlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition in 2018 and longlisted for the Blue Pencil Agency First Novel Award in 2019.

She lives in Wiltshire with her husband and daughter. Mother Loves Me is her first novel.

Twitter: @Abby13Richards
Facebook: @abby.richards
Instagram: @abbydaviesauthor

Blog tour

Thanks to Jennifer Harlow at HarperCollins UK for my copy of Mother Loves Me, the extract material and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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The Cottage of Curiosities by Celia Anderson

Blog tour: 17 to 23 September 2020

Synopsis

Tucked away amongst the winding, cobbled streets of Pengelly in Cornwall, the old stone cottage on Memory Lane is full of secrets. Brimming with trinkets and treasures, there are thousands of stories hidden within its walls.

Fifty-four-year-old Grace Clarke arrives in Pengelly determined to uncover the secrets of her past. Standing outside the little cottage, she feels sure that the answers she craves lie inside. The truth about her mysterious long-lost mother and the even more mysterious gifts she was born with …

Extract

This is the second book in the Pengelly series and follows 59 Memory Lane, which was released in 2019. I’m delighted to share an extract of Chapter 1 of The Cottage of Curiosities with you today.

Chapter One

April

Train travel has always been difficult for Grace Clarke, and today she’s stuck right inside one of her worst nightmares. When passengers stare out of the windows on public transport their minds often spiral out of control, flitting from thought to thought with breath-taking speed as their memories are jogged by the scenery flashing past, a snatch of overheard conversation or the happy rustle of a crisp packet being opened. Being forced to listen in to the memories all around her is something Grace lives with on a day-today basis, and has done as far back as she can remember, but speeding south on the overcrowded train to Penzance, she feels as if she’s drowning in them.

The girl in the next seat is clutching her phone like a lifeline. She snorts quietly to herself as she reads the latest message that’s landed with a loud ping. A sudden vivid picture flashes into Grace’s mind, and she blushes. The memory the text has sparked isn’t one she wants to share. Who knew golden syrup had so many uses?

‘My mother’s in that retirement home near the sock factory now,’ says a clear voice from the seat in front, ‘but she still refuses to be parted from her can of squirty cream. Always has one tucked away in her handbag, just in case somebody gives her a cake, or a dish of apple crumble. Then she whips it out, and Bob’s your uncle.’

The girl next to Grace looks up from her phone at last and raises her eyebrows. Then she begins typing out a new message at great speed.

Grace sighs and makes a huge effort to block out any more stray recollections that might come her way. This is a work in progress. Over the years she’s tried yoga, meditation and sheer bloody-mindedness, but the only sure-fire method of stopping other people’s random memories entering her brain is to instantly conjure up a more vivid one of her own as a kind of shield, and that’s not always possible if your energy levels are down. Sometimes chocolate is the only answer.

The travellers who drop asleep as soon as the station is behind them and snore gently until an announcement jolts them into life again are the easiest to handle. They’re no trouble at all. Their souls must be either full to the brim of good memories, or maybe it’s just that they won’t let the bad ones out. This morning, nearly everyone around Grace is wide awake. The spring sunshine is warm on her face and her coffee is hot and strong, but neither of these comforts is helping. There’s at least another hour to kill.

Desperate to distract herself, Grace pulls out the now-tattered letter to read yet again.

Dear Barbara,
This is the last time you’ll ever be addressed by that name. I’ve asked Audrey and Harry to give you this letter when you’re old enough to understand that your new life as Grace Clarke was chosen with care. The alternative would have been much, much worse, but you’ll have to trust me on that one. Motherhood isn’t one of my talents.

The meeting with Audrey in that grim Midlands hospital as she grieved for yet another miscarriage was nothing short of a miracle in my eyes. A lucky chance for both of us, and hopefully for you too. I discharged myself as soon as I was strong enough to escape that nasty place of rules, routines and disinfectant. I never could bear being told what to do. By then, our secret adoption pact was made.

I will think of you with every day that passes and wonder how you are, what you’re doing and what talents we share. It seems highly likely that you’ll have discovered what I mean for yourself by the time this letter gets to you. I’m fifty-seven years old now, and I thought I was long past the risk of an unplanned pregnancy. Foolishly, I hadn’t taken into account my unusual gift, if you can call it that. Of course, the other way of looking at the situation is that if I had been more aware, you wouldn’t exist, would you? There will be difficult questions you’ll want to ask me, I’m sure of it, and I’ll answer most of them if ever you decide to come and find me. A big part of me hopes you will, although I don’t deserve it.

I was never going to be a good mother. This way is best, but you will always be in my heart.

May Frances Rosevere,
Seagulls, 22 The Level, Pengelly, Cornwall

What talents we share. The words echo around Grace’s weary brain. Is she jumping to conclusions? The only thing she can think of as a talent is this ridiculous ability to experience other people’s memories the instant they have them, and it’s more of a curse than a gift. From an early age, Grace knew she was different from other children. Vague memories of playing on her own at school and feeling all at sea in company haunt her.

Grace grew to learn she had to be very careful and keep her thoughts to herself. People didn’t like different. Friendships were never easy, and it soon became a habit to be solitary. She tried to tell her father about all this once or twice but, although kind-hearted, Harry wasn’t one for what he called fanciful ideas, and so Grace resolved to make sure she was never in such a fragile position again. Self-preservation became the main aim of her childhood.

Was that what this May Frances Rosevere person meant in her letter, though? Could May have shared her difficulties? The shattering news that her mother was alive and in Cornwall all through her growing-up years has rocked Grace’s world. May was there, just waiting for her to get in touch, when she believed her birth mother to be long dead.

Grace glances at her watch and puts the letter away again, willing the time to pass more quickly. Her head is already pounding and she feels short of breath. Unable to bear sitting still any longer, she retrieves her travel bag from the rack and makes her unsteady way down the carriage to where she’s stowed her case. It might be easier to pass the time by the doors, where there’s a better view from the window.

The carriage makes a violent lurch and Grace is forced to pause and hang on to a seat for a moment. The man sitting there is white-faced, gripping his newspaper tightly. Before she can try to put up her usual thought block, his frantic memories flood her mind. In his head, he’s on another train and this time the jolt is much more drastic. People are screaming and reaching for their phones.

Grace puts a hand on his shoulder and he flinches. ‘It’s okay, we’re off again now,’ she says reassuringly.

The man looks up, and the fear in his eyes starts to fade away. ‘It just reminded me …’ he begins.

‘I know,’ says Grace, giving him a quick pat and moving on. She’s learnt to be strong in these situations. If she let people go into detail when they pick up on her sympathy, she’d never get anything done.

She moves on as swiftly as possible, feeling a tingle of second-hand excitement as she passes a young mother with a toddler on her knee. The woman is talking softly to the little boy, almost crooning. ‘Soon be with your Nana,’ she says softly, cuddling him close, ‘and then we’ll have one of her special stews and some lovely fluffy dumplings with it. You don’t know about dumplings yet, do you, sweetheart?’

The rush of happy childhood memories flowing from the woman goes some way to cancelling out the other man’s panic, but by the time Grace reaches the relative safety of the space near the doors, she’s grumpy and jaded.

It’s a good time to change places, as it happens. The train line has just started to follow the coast, and the sight of waves breaking on the shore takes Grace’s breath away. Although spring is well under way, the air is chilly. Weak sunshine illuminates an almost-empty beach. Grace itches to be out there, wrapped up warmly and making fresh footprints as she heads for the waterline. Brought up in the heart of the Midlands, she has always longed to spend more time by the sea, with flat, firm sands to walk on every day and sea breezes to blow the cobwebs away. Well, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t now.

It’s high time to take stock. The death of both of her adoptive parents and the decision to take early retirement mean Grace can travel wherever and whenever she likes. She’s saved hard and invested her money well over the years. Audrey and Harry don’t need her care any more. The bitterness when she remembers their years of deception about her start in life ebbs slightly. She is completely free. It’s an exhilarating thought.

The plan of coming to Cornwall to stay so near to the water in Pengelly has kept Grace sane over the past month, making funeral arrangements and finishing the clearing of her parents’ house. Audrey’s heart attack only six months previously was a shock, and it wasn’t long before Harry followed her. It’s taking Grace a while to handle the backlash. Her unwieldy thoughts flit again to those last moments with Harry, while his mind was still reasonably clear.

‘Dad?’ she said. ‘Can you hear me? Why on earth didn’t you give me this letter years ago? It’s mine. I should have had it.’

‘Your ma …’ He shook his head. A tear ran down his cheek and Grace automatically reached to wipe it away.

She leant closer. ‘Are you trying to say Mum didn’t want me to know?’

A nod this time, and a second tear.

‘But … why not? And who’s my real father? There’s no clue in the letter. I need to know, Dad. Please …’

Harry was clearly making a huge effort to speak now, and Grace held his hand more tightly, willing him to get the words out but flinching as his tortured memories crowded her brain.

‘I … we … we weren’t never told who your father was. He weren’t the man she were married to, love, I do know that.’

‘Really? You’re sure?’

‘We … didn’t want no details. It was best that way.’

As the train to Penzance rattles and sways, bringing Grace nearer and nearer to her only chance of finding out the truth about her start in life, exhaustion fights with alarm. An unaccustomed fear of the unknown hits her with a force that makes her pulse race.

‘I’m going to find her, Dad,’ she whispers, with her back to the rest of the carriage, ‘I’m going to track May Rosevere down. There’s just a tiny chance she might still be alive. People are living longer and longer these days. Whatever happens, at least I’ll have tried.’

Buy the book

The Cottage of Curiosities by Celia Anderson can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Celia Anderson lives with her husband and one handsome but antisocial cat in land-locked Derbyshire. She now writes full time, having been a teacher and assistant head in her previous life. Her finest hour was getting a post as a cycling proficiency tutor without mentioning that she couldn’t ride a bike.

An enthusiastic member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Celia currently organises the judging for the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards. Her first novel, 59 Memory Lane, sold over 50k copies in eBook and hit the top 10 in the Kindle bestseller chart.

Twitter: @CeliaAnderson1
Facebook: @CeliaAndersonAuthor
Instagram: @cejanderson
Website: http://celiaandersonauthor.co.uk

Blog tour

Thanks to Jennifer Harlow at HarperCollins UK for my digital copy of The Cottage of Curiosities, the extract material and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Blog tour: 1 September to 12 October 2020

Synopsis

In a peaceful retirement village off the A21 in Kent, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.

But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

My review

At the Coopers Chase Retirement Village in Kent, four of the residents meet up every Thursday night in the Jigsaw Room, booked under the guise of a Japanese opera discussion group, to talk about unsolved police crimes (cold cases).

Calling themselves The Thursday Murder Club, the group consists of Elizabeth, whose former occupation is mysteriously only alluded to, Joyce Meadowcroft (79), who was a nurse, Ibrahim Arif (80), a former psychiatrist, and Ron ‘Red Ron’ Ritchie (75), a famous ex-trade union leader who ‘never believes a single word anyone ever tells him’.

Joyce is the newest member, invited to join after Penny Gray, a former detective inspector in the Kent Police, has to move into the on-site nursing home, Willows. Penny used to supply the group with the unsolved murder case files that they study carefully – reading all the evidence and every witness statement and poring over photos, trying to find anything that might have been missed.

The retirement village sounds wonderful! It’s for over 65 year olds and currently has around 300 residents. It was built 10 years ago on the now-extended site, which used to be a convent and voluntary hospital (later a care home and now Willows). The village has numerous facilities: swimming pool, gym, exercise studio, bowling green, library, lounge and ‘contemporary upscale restaurant’. The development has a chapel, which is the original and unchanged, and it is set in 12 acres of woodland and hillside with two small lakes and there are sheep and llamas on the hills.

There are plans to carry out a new development at Coopers Chase, and this has caused a furore with the occupants. There’s talk of trees being felled, the graveyard being moved and wind turbines installed, so a consultation meeting between the owner, Ian Ventham, and the residents is held.

The following day, after a rather heated discussion between Ventham and his builder, Tony Curran, who has a shady past, one of the men is found dead in the kitchen by his wife – he’d been bludgeoned with a heavy object.

With a real-life crime to get their teeth into, The Thursday Murder Club investigates the murder with the help of PC Donna De Freitas, 26, who they first met when she visited Coopers Chase to do a talk about home security tips, which the group rather hijacked! Donna transferred from the Metropolitan Police in London to Fairhaven and is rather bored by the lack of action in the seaside town. The group cunningly persuade Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Chris Hudson (51) to allow Donna to join the squad investigating the murder and from then on manage to exchange information with the officers without them really realising what’s going on! The pensioners always seem to be a couple of steps ahead of the police by using their clever minds and some handy contacts!

This was an excellent cosy murder mystery with numerous twists and turns, secrets and startling revelations, as well as lots of wry humour and some amusing and witty observations, which really made me chuckle at times. The main protagonists of the murder club are brilliantly drawn: feisty and eccentric but enthusiastic characters who make funny little asides and carry out some impressive detecting work. Despite the subject matter, this is a heart-warming tale with some poignant and touching moments and I found it really delightful and intriguing.

The short chapters work well and definitely made me fly through the book, thinking ‘Just one more chapter …’! It’s written in an engaging conversational style and Joyce’s diary entries add another angle to the story and are a nice little interlude.

Overall, I really enjoyed this cleverly written book; it was entertaining, action packed and gripping. I had to suspend disbelief at times but that was all part of the fun! I’m excited to hear that there’s going to be a book two out in September 2021 – I can’t wait!

Buy the book

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. Or from these retailers.

About the author

Richard Osman is an author, producer and television presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first novel. He is well known for TV shows including Pointless and Richard Osman’s House of Games. As the creative director of Endemol UK, Richard has worked as an executive producer on numerous shows including Deal Or No Deal and 8 Out of 10 Cats. He is also a regular on panel and game shows such as Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You and Taskmaster.

Twitter: @richardosman
Facebook: @MrRichardOsman
Instagram: @misterosman

Blog tour

Thanks to Ellie Hudson at Penguin Books UK for my proof copy of The Thursday Murder Club and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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In Cold Blood by Jane Bettany

Blog tour: 4 to 8 September

Synopsis

No secret can stay buried forever …

As the Whitworth family begin renovations on their new home, their plans are brought to an abrupt end when they discover a body buried in the back garden.

DI Isabel Blood and her team are called to investigate, but as she approaches Ecclesdale Drive, a feeling of unease settles in her gut.

The property cordoned off is number 23. The house she used to live in as a child …

The forensic team estimate that the body has been in the ground for up to forty years – coinciding with the time Isabel’s family lived in the house.

Isabel’s father vanished without a trace when she was fourteen years old. And with her mother remaining tight-lipped about her father’s disappearance, Isabel can’t escape the unnerving sense of dread that it’s his body, buried in the garden.

My review

In Cold Blood 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, an illustrator and designer, and mother to Kate, a primary school teacher in Matlock, Bailey, who’s currently travelling with his girlfriend, and Ellie (14).

Amy and Paul Whitworth have recently purchased a 1960s house to renovate and sell. While digging out the foundations for a large extension, Paul is horrified to find a human skeleton at the bottom of the trench that he made. Although tempted to keep quiet and pretend they didn’t find the bones, the pair phone the police and tell them of their discovery.

DI Isabel Blood is attending a parents’ evening for daughter Ellie when she’s told about the body and has to rush off to the crime scene. She’s shocked to discover that the location is 23 Ecclesdale Drive, which is the house where she used to live with her mother and father, until he upped and left suddenly when she was only 14 years old.

When the crime scene investigator, Raveen Talwar, tells them that the body is of a male and it has been in the ground for 20 to 40 years, Isabel is concerned that it may be her missing father, Donald, as he hasn’t been in touch with her since he disappeared.

As the police make enquiries about previous residents of the house and talk to the current and past neighbours, we discover there’s a lot more to the murder than meets the eye and that a previous missing persons case was not investigate thoroughly enough. Investigating a historical crime brings its own problems and the team are limited by the availability of technology at that time and by the fact that several people connected with the victim are now long dead. It’s definitely not going to be straightforward case to solve and they’re going to need some lucky breakthroughs!

Isabel Blood is a great character and I really enjoyed getting to know her. She’s rather dedicated to her job – as most police officers are – often to the detriment of her husband and her youngest daughter but she’s also likeable, fair and very thorough, sharp-witted and shrewd at work. She’s never got over the abandonment by her father and it has affected her whole life and her relationship with her mother, Barbara, who now lives in Spain and has been keeping her own secrets.

Detective Sergeant (DS) Dan Fairfax (33) makes a good sidekick for Isabel and I’m curious to learn more about Detective Constable (DS) Zoe Piper (29), who seems to work far too hard and doesn’t have much of a home or social life.

I’m a great fan of police procedural novels and this was an excellent read! The case was a fascinating one and the story was cleverly plotted and well written and unfolded at a satisfying pace, keeping me intrigued with numerous twists and turns and some rather surprising revelations! There were several culprits, with various motives, and I must have suspected everyone at some point or another.

In Cold Blood was an engaging read with some good old-fashioned police work. I really hope this is the start of a new series as I thoroughly enjoyed this compelling and entertaining book and can’t wait to find out which case DI Isabel Blood investigates next!

Buy the book

In Cold Blood by Jane Bettany can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

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 is 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, UK 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 In Cold Blood and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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Truth Be Told by Kia Abdullah

Blog tour: 3 to 7 September 2020

Synopsis

Are you ready to start this conversation?

Kamran Hadid feels invincible. He attends Hampton school, an elite all-boys boarding school in London, he comes from a wealthy family, and he has a place at Oxford next year. The world is at his feet. And then a night of revelry leads to a drunken encounter and he must ask himself a horrific question.

With the help of assault counsellor, Zara Kaleel, Kamran reports the incident in the hopes that will be the end of it. But it’s only the beginning …

Powerful, explosive and important, Truth Be Told is a contemporary courtroom drama that vividly captures today’s society. You will not stop thinking about it for a long time to come.

My review

After reading and enjoying the author’s debut novel, Take It Back, I couldn’t wait to devour this one! I knew it was going to be a gripping and thought-provoking read.

Truth Be Told tells the story of Kamran Hadid (17), who, along with his brother, Adam (16), attends the elite all-boys boarding school, Hampton College, in London. All the pupils are privileged and from affluent families and great things are expected of them. Kamran himself has a place at the University of Oxford the following year and is expected to follow a similar path to his father with an MBA, high-ranking role at his father’s international medical supplies company, marriage and children. His mum’s family are also wealthy and her father ran a steelwork business.

The Hadid family live in a large townhouse in Belsize Park. Kamran’s parents, Mustaque (Mack) and Sofia, are very traditional and conservative Muslims and worried about what other people, especially extended family members, think. Their sons are always expected to do what’s right.

One evening, following a spring fundraiser party at school, Kamran is a bit the worse for wear after several drinks and heads back to his room. When he wakes up, he finds another pupil, Finn Andersen, in his bed and realises that the two of them had sexual relations while he was half asleep and drunk, which he didn’t consent to.

Kamran decides to speak to Zara Kaleel, a qualified lawyer, who is now an independent women’s sexual violence counsellor. He feels that he needs to do something to get over this incident, that it won’t just go away and he doesn’t want to have to pretend everything is ok for the rest of his life. Zara takes some time off from her job to help Kamran. She is a rather flawed protagonist and has her own problems but she’s dedicated, loyal, determined and compassionate.

The school wants to keep things quiet and investigate internally – in other words, sweep everything under the carpet, especially as Finn is an assistant to the housemaster. Despite his family’s misgivings (they’re concerned about the stigma of male rape and their son being accused of homosexuality) and the fact that he’s constantly reliving his ordeal and feeling ostracised by his peers, Kamran is determined to go to court and get justice for himself.

The rape trial is difficult for all concerned and brings with it the issues of consent and the blurred lines between saying no or not saying no – is that implied consent, does it mean yes?

This was a tense and dramatic read: there was a good sense of foreboding as we build up to the events after the party and the courtroom scenes were intense and emotional and evoked strong feelings of frustration and anger as I read them.

Overall, Truth Be Told is a powerful, compelling, thought-provoking read and the author writes sensitively and intelligently about some disturbing and emotive issues. This legal/courtroom thriller was multi-layered and well written with several great twists and turns and some rather startling revelations, which I didn’t see coming at all!

The author’s debut novel, Take It Back, was also a great read and I can’t wait to see what her next book is like! I’m looking forward to reading it again for The Motherload Book Club‘s readalong in December and discussing it with the rest of the group.

Buy the book

Truth Be Told by Kia Abdullah can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

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 Times, The Guardian, The 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 Truth Be Told and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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For When I’m Gone by Rebecca Ley

Blog tour: 1 to 16 September 2020

Synopsis

Because there’s never enough time to say goodbye …

Sylvia knows that she’s running out of time. Very soon, she will exist only in the memories of those who loved her most and the pieces of her life she’s left behind.

So she begins to write her husband a handbook for when she’s gone, somewhere to capture the small moments of ordinary, precious happiness in their married lives. From raising their wild, loving son, to what to give their gentle daughter on her eighteenth birthday – it’s everything she should have told him before it was too late.

But Sylvia also has a secret, one that she’s saved until the very last pages. And it’s a moment in her past that could change everything …

My review

For When I’m Gone tells the story of Sylvia Clarke, in her late thirties, who has terminal breast cancer. She’s married to Paul and they have two children, Jude (5) and Megan (8). She was an embryologist at a fertility clinic on Harley Street. Paul is a vet and the couple met 10 years ago when Sylvia brought in her injured pug, Ted, which had been attacked in the park.

Sylvia decides to write a manual for Paul for when she’s gone; a how-to guide to help him navigate the tricky times that will be ahead as the children grow up. She writes about all the little things that will be useful for him to know and the emotional load that comes with being a mother. She wants to pass this knowledge onto her husband and support him. Her comments are amusing and poignant – she tells Paul which school mums to avoid and suggests who will be keen to get closer to him when she dies. The manual is like a conversation from Sylvia to Paul, with little snippets and memories of their life together.

The book is written in the ‘Then’, with viewpoints from Sylvia and Paul, and the ‘Now’, as Paul and the children struggle to cope with what’s happened and try to move forward with their lives, interspersed with entries from Sylvia’s manual.

We learn all about the events that lead us up to the current day; Sylvia and Paul’s individual pasts and the various events that make up the couple’s relationship and their life together. It’s a fascinating insight into the elements that make them the people they are. It includes all their experiences over the years: the positive, happy moments, as well as the more challenging, difficult times.

The portrayal of Sylvia is very realistic and honest, and we get a full picture of her character and what she’s like. Sylvia seems so normal and she’s not perfect by any means. She had a bad falling out (the reasons for which are revealed later on) with her younger sister, Tess, has a difficult relationship with her mum, Barbara, who left both her children when they were very young (9 and 7), and is still mourning her dad, William, who died the previous year and brought the girls up by himself. The sisters are very competitive and Tess is a free spirit and rather different to Sylvia.

To add another dimension to this compelling and tragic story, Sylvia is hiding an awful secret and the truth is revealed to Paul as the story progresses.

Overall, I really enjoyed this touching novel and was thoroughly absorbed reading Sylvia’s personal and honest thoughts on life as she courageously faced what was to come and left a few bombshells along the way! It was poignant, moving and heartbreaking but also uplifting and full of hope. Sylvia’s strength of character shone through and, with her caring, thoughtful personality, she left her family in a strong position to get through the toughest of times, even though there’s never enough time to say goodbye. Such a fascinating and thought-provoking book and I look forward to reading more from the author.

Buy the book

For When I’m Gone by Rebecca Ley can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Rebecca Ley is a journalist who wrote a column for the Guardian called Doing it for Dad, about her father’s dementia. She has previously worked at The Times, The Sun and the Daily Mail. She also writes scripts for an animation company. For When I’m Gone is her debut novel.

She is a graduate of the Faber Academy and lives in London with her husband and three children.

Twitter: @rebeccahelenley
Instagram: @rebeccaley

Blog tour

Thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for my digital copy of For When I’m Gone and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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Bang Bang, You’re Dead by Evan Baldock

Blog tour: 19 to 31 August 2020

Synopsis

When it comes to vengeance, age is just a number.

Gloria Jones has had enough. She’s sixty-five, approaching retirement, and nearing the end of her tether. If she gets abused in the street by another toerag, someone’s going to swing.

When Gloria collects a gun she saw being thrown into her local park, her decision to turn it in is quickly scuppered after she’s attacked on her way to the police station. Using the gun to make her attackers back off, she accidentally pulls the trigger, and ends up killing them both. In that moment, her life changes forever.

As she struggles to come to terms with what she’s done, Gloria begins to realise there is injustice all around and finds herself transforming from a shy, peaceful woman into a confident and ruthless vigilante, determined to help victims of crime unable to defend themselves. And so begins a three-month campaign, taking revenge against violent criminals up and down the country, helping those who can’t help themselves.

After all, who’s going to question a little old lady just going about her business? Turns out, quite a few people, on both sides of the law, and one in particular seems to know exactly what she’s been up to.

My review

Set in 1998–1999, Bang Bang, You’re Dead tells the entertaining, action-packed story of Gloria Jones and her one-woman crusade to rid the country of some nasty criminals!

Gloria is nearly 65 and lives in a third-floor flat on New Compton Street in the West End of London. She’s widowed after the death of her husband, Graham, who passed away from liver failure less than 10 months after their son, Darren. He was a heroin addict and died 10 years ago from septicaemia after sharing a needle. She has a daughter, Sandra, who lives in Newcastle with her family.

Gloria works four days a week at the local Department of Social Security office but often does extra hours and covers for colleagues. She also works in local soup kitchens and drug treatment centres once a week to help street beggars, drug users and the homeless.

As she nears retirement, Gloria is getting fed up with the problems in the streets around her home – violent drug users are regularly shooting up in nearby doorways, in full view of everyone, and leaving their discarded paraphernalia behind. She’s been shouted at and threatened and was even attacked at a cashpoint a few weeks before.

One evening, while smoking at her open lounge window, Gloria hears a disturbance and watches two uniformed police officers chasing a man, who throws something over the fence into the local park, Phoenix Gardens. When she goes to investigate the following morning, Gloria discovers a black handgun in a thick patch of stinging nettles. She decides to put the gun in her handbag, take it home and contact the police.

She’s just reached her block of flats when she’s attacked by a couple of drug users who she’s had a run in with before. They smash her face into the door and punch her in the side to try and get her to release her grip on her handbag. But Gloria stands firm and is helped by a neighbour who hears the disturbance, opens the door and scares the couple off.

Later, after a visit to the hospital to check her injuries, Gloria tries unsuccessfully to contact the police to tell them about the gun so she decides to take it there in person. It’s now getting dark and as she makes her way to Holborn police station, she’s horrified to come across the woman who attacked her earlier. Again, she tries to steal her bag but Gloria is fed up of being frightened and she decides to wave the gun to scare her. When the woman takes out a knife, Gloria panics and shoots her and when the woman’s boyfriend appears after hearing the gunfire, she shoots him too!

At first, Gloria is horrified by what she’s done and feels awful but then she surmises that no one will miss these people and they got what they deserved. And there begins Gloria’s new role as a vigilante who rids the country of horrible criminals who are threatening others and ruining people’s lives. When her daughter’s family in Newcastle get caught up in their own problems with drug dealers, Gloria knows she has to help out.

The local police set up an incident room called Operation Chiddingstone and investigate the various murders and interview hundreds of suspects but struggle to find any leads, never suspecting for one moment that the killings are being carried out by a little old lady!

Gloria is a great protagonist – she’s fearless, reckless and brave and I was really rooting for her and hoping there would be a positive resolution in this crazy situation! She had some good friends who looked out for her, including a local police sergeant, Sean Aylen, and her old school friend, Lily, from Bristol.

I really enjoyed the police procedural parts and all the investigations, watching the police being clueless about what was going on. It was also fun to read about all the news headlines and see them hunting for the man who’d committed these awful serial killings!

Overall, I really enjoyed Bang Bang, You’re Dead! It’s amusing and great fun! It’s rather far fetched and I had to suspend disbelief at times but it’s all part of the story’s charm and its uniquely different premise. The novel is well written and cleverly plotted and flows well, with plenty of action. There were lots of twists and turns and I was imagining all kinds of conclusions. I was gripped and enjoyed seeing Gloria get more and more embroiled in things as the story progressed. I never knew what was going to happen next and the engaging storyline was tense at times and kept me on my toes! A great debut novel and I hope the author is already writing another book!

Buy the book

Bang Bang, You’re Dead by Evan Baldock can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback and, on 2 October, hardback. Or purchase paperback and hardback editions directly from the Red Dog Press online shop.

About the author

Evan Baldock was born in Pembury, Kent in 1956 and attended grammar school in Tunbridge Wells.

He left the Metropolitan Police after 30 years’ service in 2011, serving as one of the country’s first football intelligence officers until 1996, then transferring to West End Central, where for 15 years he worked in Soho.

For several years, Evan helped run the Soho Unit, specialising in combating drug dealing in the West End. During his career, he frequently ran test purchase and buy-bust operations against drug dealers, resulting in the seizure of large amounts of drugs, and the successful prosecution of over 200 dealers, many of whom received lengthy prison sentences.

After retiring from the Metropolitan police, Evan opened ‘Sweet Expectations’ in Rochester, Kent, the UK’s first vegetarian sweet shop.

In 2016, he sold the shop business and retired, before taking up writing in January 2019.

Twitter: @BaldockEvan

Blog tour

Thanks to Sean Coleman and Meggy Roussel at Red Dog Press for my digital copy of Bang Bang, You’re Dead and for my place on the blog tour.

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Blurred Lines by Hannah Begbie

Blog tour: 10 to 23 August 2020

Synopsis

There are two sides to every story.

When Becky accidentally sees her boss with a woman who isn’t his wife, she’s horrified but keeps her counsel. She owes Matthew so much for all he’s done for her career. But when the same woman accuses him of rape and asks for the witness to come forward, Becky is trapped in her lie.

Was what she saw rape? Or is this a young actress looking to get ahead. And can Becky separate her own traumatic past from the present?

As Becky attempts to untangle these blurred lines, she must risk everything to find the truth …

My review

When Rebecca (Becky) Shawcross, 32, visits her boss’ house in West London unannounced one evening and sees him in a compromising position on his kitchen floor with a woman who isn’t his wife, she makes a sharp exit. She isn’t really sure what she saw and it’s none of her business who Matthew Kingsman socialises or has an indiscretion with.

Becky’s career is on the up – she’s a development assistant to Matthew, who is a film producer and the owner of Kingfisher Films, and he’s keen on her film idea, which is a contemporary retelling of the Greek tragedy, Medea, and is helping her to pitch it to directors and actors at the Cannes Film Festival.

When the story breaks and the woman is forced into making a statement to the press, she accuses Matthew of raping her and mentions that someone saw it happening. She appeals to this witness to come forward and speak to the police.

Becky has a traumatic event in her past that regularly causes her anguish, especially if she drinks as she suffers from panic attacks, and she needs to protect herself and daughter, Maisie, 15. The event constantly plays on her mind and has deeply affected her over the years, leading to self-harm, periods of depression and dark thoughts. We see flashbacks to this period of her life. She’s still trying to make sense of what happened and the alleged rape is bringing all her trauma to the surface.

Becky is also reluctant to speak to the police as she feels loyalty to Matthew, her mentor, and is worried about the effect this could have on her career in the film industry. She’s aware that it could be make or break for herself and her film just by being associated with the awful alleged events, whether Matthew is guilty or innocent. There are various rumours about the woman involved and Becky is torn between telling the truth and emotionally exposing herself or keeping quiet to protect Matthew and hoping that things blow over quickly with some tactical public relations.

There were some good twists and turns in Blurred Lines and it was a thought-provoking read with a moral dilemma about a shocking event. It cleverly linked to the devastating events from Becky’s past and she was greatly influenced by what had happened to her. She had made some wrong decisions but so had others around her.

Despite being nearly 400 pages long, I sailed through this fast-paced book and couldn’t put it down; I was desperate to find out what happened in both situations. I had my suspicions and was partially right but was still shocked by the turn of events.

Overall, this was a thought-provoking, gripping and emotional read. There are definitely two sides to every story and lines do become blurred. Throughout the book, there were people making wrong decisions that had awful repercussions for all involved. It’s a compelling story with believable characters whose betrayal and heartache are vividly described. This is a relevant story about consent and power in this era of #MeToo and discusses some distressing topics in a sensitive manner.

I’m looking forward to checking out the author’s debut novel, Mother, which I already have waiting on my Kindle!

Buy the book

Blurred Lines by Hannah Begbie can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Hannah Begbie studied art history at the University of Cambridge. She went on to become a talent agent, representing BAFTA and Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning writers and comedians for 15 years. She also enrolled in The Novel Studio course at City University, winning that year’s new writing prize. The book she developed there became her debut novel, Mother, which later went on to win the Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers from the RNA. The TV rights were snapped up by Clerkenwell Films (Lovesick, Misfits) after a heated auction, with screenwriter Tom Edge (The Crown, Judy) attached.

She lives in north London with her husband and their two sons.

Twitter: @hannahbegbie
Facebook: @HannahBegbieAuthor
Instagram: @hannahbegbie

Blog tour

Thanks to Jen Harlow at HarperCollins UK and Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my copy of Blurred Lines and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Blog tour: 10 to 20 August 2020

Synopsis

Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation. But this particular open house in a small town in Sweden becomes just that when an unsuccessful bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage.

With the bank robber refusing to communicate demands to the police, fear quickly turns to irritation for those trapped inside. If this is going to be their last day on earth, shouldn’t it be a bit more … dramatic?

As they wait, the eight incredibly anxious strangers slowly begin opening up to one another, revealing long-hidden truths.

And as the minutes tick on, they begin to suspect that the criminal mastermind holding them hostage might be more in need of rescuing than they are …

A poignant, unpredictable locked-room comedy about a crime that never takes place, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they could ever have realised.

My review

Set in a small town in Sweden, on the day before New Year’s Eve, Anxious People tells the story of a 39-year-old pistol-wielding bank robber, who didn’t mean to be a bank robber, and the people who ended up being held hostage in a nearby apartment. They included seven prospective buyers and a real estate agent.

After the hostage situation ends, the two local policemen (father and son, Jim and Jack) interview the witnesses, starting with 20-year-old bank clerk, London. Next to be interrogated is 50-something Zara, who is wealthy and runs a bank, followed by all the other hostages from the apartment.

We slowly learn more about all the characters and their pasts and how they’re involved in the whole scenario. We follow things from various viewpoints so we build up the full picture of what’s been happening and which led us to this point in time. It’s all a lot more complex than it first appears!

The book is written in a social commentary style and includes discussions of rather dark themes, including suicide, mental health, poverty, relationship breakdowns, isolation, but these are interspersed with some comical moments from the eccentric potential apartment buyers and the incompetent bank robber/hostage taker!

This is an intriguing and quirky tale, written in an unusual style, and I wasn’t really sure where it was going at first. I soon got into the rhythm and enjoyed trying to piece all the clues together in this entertaining and unpredictable locked-room mystery.

Overall, this is a fascinating insight into human behaviour and amusingly written, with some witty observations. The character-driven storyline is well plotted and cleverly woven. Just when I thought I understood what was going on, there’d be another curveball or revelation! It’s a touching and emotional read and also rather thought provoking. The diverse cast of characters were realistically drawn and the various connections made between them were heart warming and poignant.

This is the first of the author’s books that I’ve read and I’m keen to read more of his work, especially A Man Called Ove and Beartown.

Buy the book

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Fredrik Backman made his literary debut in 2012 with the global sensation, A Man Called Ove. Wickedly funny, touching and wise, Fredrik Backman’s novels are odysseys of the ordinary man and woman, and stunningly moving tales of everyday courage. His books have sold more than 11 million copies in 46 languages and the film adaptation of A Man Called Ove was nominated for two Academy Awards. Tom Hanks is currently set to adapt and star in an English language version of the film.

Twitter: @Backmanland
Facebook: @Backmanland
Instagram: @backmansk
Website: https://fredrikbackmanbooks.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Laura Nicol at Michael Joseph Books for my copy of Anxious People and for my place on the blog tour.

Featured

The Witch House by Ann Rawson

Blog tour: 3 to 16 August 2020

Synopsis

Who can you trust, if you can’t trust yourself?

Alice Hunter, grieving and troubled after a breakdown, stumbles on the body of her friend and trustee, Harry Rook. The police determine he has been ritually murdered and suspicion falls on the vulnerable Alice, who inherited the place known locally as The Witch House from her grandmother, late High Priestess of the local coven.

When the investigations turn up more evidence, and it all seems to point to Alice, even she begins to doubt herself.

Can she find the courage to confront the secrets and lies at the heart of her family and community to uncover the truth, prove her sanity, and clear herself of murder?

My review

The Witch House tells the story of Alice Hunter, 22, who has recently been released from a mental health unit called Brookfields after suffering a breakdown when her grandmother died. She cared for Frances for three years after she had a stroke.

One autumnal morning, while looking for her friend, Harry Rook, who is the owner of the West Beach Café and Cuckmere Amusement Park, Alice is horrified to find him lying dead in his hut near the car park with various pagan symbols around his body. She touches Harry to see if he’s still alive and ends up catching herself on the murder weapon and her finger starts bleeding. She frantically phones 999 and awaits the arrival of the police and paramedics. As she found the body, the police want to take her witness statement. They seem to assume she must be guilty and DI Collingwood is rather harsh in his questioning of Alice.

Harry was the executor and trustee of Frances’ will, of which Alice is the main benefactor, but her inheritance money is tied up until she’s 30. Alice also owns half of a property company with Mrs Banerjee, as well as a cleaning and care company and a farm.

Alice is rather vulnerable and an unreliable narrator and suffers from panic attacks and has to do breathing exercises. She’s rather shy and paranoid and thinks she’s being watched. She does appear to have an artistic stalker who sends her pen and ink drawings though – or is it a figment of her imagination? The drugs she takes also play tricks with her mind: she suffers from night terrors and leaves the front door open and has had things stolen from the Witch House, which she inherited from her grandma.

Frances has a history of paganism and was High Priestess of the local pagan group, Cuckmere Coven. Several years ago, there was a scandal when the new vicar in the village disagreed with their old ways and banned followers from the church and the pagan meetings stopped or went underground. Frances also had a falling out with the Rook family, which Alice has never been able to get to the bottom of.

Alice isn’t very close with her mum, Helen, who gave up her daughter to Frances when she was younger, and they have a rather fraught and difficult relationship. She doesn’t have many friends apart from Tamsin, who runs the café and whose great uncle is Harry, and Kelly, who’s in her early thirties and is still in Brookfields where the two met.

Four years ago, Alice was due to go to the University of Oxford to study classical history and archaeology before she gives it all up to care for her grandma and then ended up in Brookfields. She decides to do a part-time course at the local university called Romans in Sussex, which is run by the TV presenter Professor Matthew Buckley, to build up her confidence. Alice has a keen interest in archaeology, after finding a Roman coin on the cliffs at Cuckmere Beacon, and she shares this passion with her grandma who had a collection of artefacts, which she discovered in the local area.

After Alice is questioned about Harry’s murder, everyone in Cuckmere already seems to think she’s guilty, due to her pagan connections, being the granddaughter of a supposed witch, and her recent stay in the mental hospital. As she struggles to prove she’s innocent, Alice learns some shocking secrets about her family, and isn’t sure who she can trust – everyone seems to think she’s responsible, including her own mother and Tamsin.

Overall, this was a well-plotted and gripping murder mystery with some intriguing characters and startling family revelations. There was lots of action, several twists and turns, and the archaeology and pagan scenes were fascinating. I was never quite sure whether Alice was telling the truth or not and was flummoxed about who had actually murdered Harry until the killer was revealed!

I really enjoyed this cleverly written, atmospheric and entertaining novel; it was something a bit different from the norm and I liked the way the rather dark story unfolded and all the different threads came together. I’m already looking forward to reading more from the author.

Buy the book

The Witch House by Ann Rawson can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback. Or purchase paperback and hardback editions directly from the Red Dog Press online shop.

About the author

Ann Rawson has long been addicted to story. As a child, she longed to learn to read because she knew there was magic in those pages, the inky squiggles that turned into words and became images in her head – the stories that could transport her away from the everyday. As she grew older, she divined there was truth in books too. They were a glimpse into other minds. Her reading became the foundation of a deep and abiding interest in what makes people tick – and so she soon became hooked on crime fiction.

Age ten, she wrote to Malcolm Saville, author of the Lone Pine Series, enclosing her first short story. He wrote back and encouraged her to continue writing – and she is heartbroken that the letter is long lost. His book, Lone Pine Five, sparked a lifelong interest in archaeology, as it mentions the Mildenhall Treasure which makes an appearance in The Witch House.

A lapsed witch with enduring pagan tendencies, she lives on the south coast. She still thinks of herself as a Northerner, although she’s been in exile for many years. Almost every day she walks on the Downs or the white cliffs with her husband, plotting her next novel while he designs computer systems.

Ann’s debut novel, A Savage Art, was published by Fahrenheit Press in 2016. She has published some short fiction, and in 2019 her memoir piece, If…, was shortlisted for the Fish Short Memoir Prize.

She is currently completing a memoir and working on her third novel.

Twitter: @AE_Rawson
Facebook: @aerawson
Website: www.strawintogold.co.uk

Blog tour

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

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The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone

Blog tour: 13 July to 14 August 2020

Synopsis

Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral that matriarch Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver’s shadowy life.

While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly.

But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves sucked into an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves?

Following three women as they deal with the dead, help the living and find out who they are in the process, The Big Chill follows A Dark Matter, book one in the Skelfs series. Fast-paced, darkly funny, yet touching and tender, the Skelf family series is a welcome reboot to the classic private investigator novel, whilst also asking deeper questions about family, society and grief.

My review

After reading and really enjoying the first book in the Skelfs series, A Dark Matter, I was keen to join the blog tour for the second book, The Big Chill, and I wasn’t disappointed. This book is even better!

The Big Chill can be read as a standalone as the background is explained but, as it follows on so soon after the other, I’d recommend that you read the first book in the series to get the full picture of the Skelf women and who they are and what they’ve endured.

Set six months after the first novel, in which the patriarch of the Skelf family, Jim, died suddenly from a heart attack, we once again delve into the lives of three generations of the women who have taken over the reins of the family funeral business and private investigator firm in Edinburgh. Dorothy, who’s from California originally, is 70, daughter, Jenny, is 45 and granddaughter, Hannah, is 20.

My attention was caught from the first few pages in this action-packed novel with that dramatic opening! While conducting a funeral at Edinburgh Eastern cemetery, Dorothy is nearly killed when a joyrider in a white Nissan, being chased by a police car, hurtles through the gates and pinballs through the graveyard, knocking over gravestones. When the car eventually comes to rest, in an unusual position, the driver dies after suffering a head injury.

The joyrider is thought to be homeless and the police don’t seem too bothered about identifying him. Dorothy adopts his dog, a border collie who she names Einstein, and is determined to discover who the man was, enlisting Jenny to do the private investigating work.

One of Dorothy’s drumming students, Abi, goes missing and her mum and stepdad don’t seem too bothered about finding her. Dorothy ends up watching Abi’s dad’s flat in an attempt to find her and discovers there’s a whole lot more to the situation than meets the eye.

Jenny also visits her ex-husband, Craig, in prison, where he’s on remand, and ends up having an altercation with him as he knows exactly which buttons to press and continues to try and hurt all three women with his actions and manipulative words.

Hannah is a physics student at the local university and gets close to one of the elderly professors, Hugh Fowler, who insists that the department should honour Hannah’s friend and flatmate, Melanie Cheng, who tragically died. Later on, things take a shocking turn and Hannah is left reeling by what happens with the professor.

With characters you really care about and relate to, The Big Chill is a touching and heartfelt read. All three women, Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah, are still trying to move on after the death of patriarch Jim and the events in the last book are continue to play deeply on everyone’s mind and affect them all.

Hannah is having counselling and trying not to take her lovely, supportive girlfriend, Indy, for granted. Her mum, Jenny, is still in turmoil after ex-husband, Craig’s, awful betrayal and wicked actions, and trying to enjoy spending time with new boyfriend, Liam.

Dorothy is trying to remain strong for the whole family and their colleague Archie, who suffers the bereavement of a close family member and has Cotard’s syndrome (a psychological condition that means he believe he’s dead). Dorothy’s professional relationship and private friendship with Detective Inspector Thomas Olsson continues to blossom and they seem a good match despite the 15-year age gap.

The women have great relationships – they all have a lot going on but are supportive of each other. I think Hannah should think about Indy more though – she can be a bit self-absorbed and self-sabotaging and not considerate of Indy’s feelings. Bearing in mind that Indy lost both her parents in a car crash only four years ago, Hannah leans on her too heavily at times and expects her to be strong and supportive all the time.

Again, there were some lovely detailed and evocative descriptions of Edinburgh and I even checked Google Maps so I could picture where various scenes had happened.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and the series – it’s well written, cleverly plotted and very engaging. There are lots of threads of stories in the book with some great cliffhangers at the ends of chapters. I never knew what was going to happen next and the storyline was very tense at times and kept me on my toes! Lots happens and the book is very entertaining and gripping with several themes but easy to follow and not far fetched. This dark story unfolds well at a good pace and with some dramatic conclusions!

The concept of three generations of women working as both family funeral directors and private investigators is certainly unique and very original and I enjoy finding out more about the various techniques involved in both businesses!

I hear there’s a third book in the series – I hope this is true! – and I’m already looking forward to reading more about the escapades of the Skelfs!

Buy the book

The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now and in paperback on 20 August, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Doug Johnstone is the author of more than 10 novels, most recently Breakers, which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year, and A Dark Matter, which launched the Skelfs series. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home, which he drew on to write
A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for 20 years.

Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

Twitter: @doug_johnstone
Instagram: @writerdougj
Website: https://dougjohnstone.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my digital copy of The Big Chill and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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Homecoming by Luan Goldie

Blog tour: 6 to 10 August 2020

Synopsis

For years, Yvonne has tried to keep her demons buried and focus on moving forward. But her guilt is always with her and weighs heavily on her heart.

Kiama has had to grow up without a mother, and while there is so much he remembers about her, there is still plenty he doesn’t know. And there’s only one person who can fill in the gaps.

Lewis wants nothing more than to keep Kiama, his son, safe, but the thought of Kiama dredging up the past worries Lewis deeply. And Lewis doesn’t know if he’s ready to let the only woman he’s ever loved back into his life.

When Kiama seeks Yvonne out and asks her to come with him to Kenya, the place that holds the answers to his questions, she knows she can’t refuse. And this one act sets in motion an unravelling of the past that no one is ready for.

Moving between London and Kenya, and spanning almost two decades, Homecoming is a profound and moving story of love, family and friendship. It’s about coming to terms with your past, opening yourself up to the exquisite pain and pleasure of love, and of what happens when three lost souls, all bound by one person, come together and finally share their truths.

My review

After recently finishing Luan Goldie’s debut novel, Nightingale Point, for The Motherload® Book Club group’s monthly readalong, I was excited to follow it up with Homecoming and I definitely wasn’t disappointed!

Covering nearly two decades and set in London and Kenya, it tells the story of Yvonne and Kiama (his name means ‘light of life’ in Kenyan). They’re connected through Kiama’s mum, Emma, who was Yvonne’s best friend and housemate at university. Emma died suddenly in Kenya when her son was only eight years old.

Ten years later, in September 2020, 18-year-old Kiama decides to return to Kenya to find out more about his mum’s death and try and come to terms with what happened. He remembers certain things about the past but his memories are patchy and mainly influenced by what others have told him over the last decade.

Kiama meets Yvonne (now 40), who he hasn’t seen since his mum passed away, at a coffee shop and asks her to accompany him on his trip as she knew Emma best out of anyone. After thinking about it for a week, Yvonne agrees to go to Kenya with Kiama but reluctantly as she’s hiding a few secrets and feels guilty about things that have happened since he was born and about the events leading up to Emma’s death. She was in Kenya visiting when Emma died in shocking circumstances.

Kiama plans to spend 10 days in Kenya and visit his maternal grandparents, Neil and Cynthia, in Nairobi, see his mum’s old nanny, Purity, who also looked after him for six months, and then head to Mombasa. Kiama’s dad, Lewis, is rather worried that he wants to revisit the past as there’s a lot that his son isn’t aware of; things that went on concerning his mum, dad and Yvonne.

At the start of their trip, Kiama and Yvonne are trying to suss each other out and are rather wary; they only have old memories to go on and Yvonne isn’t exactly sure what Kiama wants to know and wonders whether she should tell him everything about the past or not. He’s still mourning his mum and his nana, who died recently, and struggling to find his way in the world after being spoilt by his dad and nana too much. The trip is an emotional and tense time for Kiama and Yvonne, and brings all kinds of feelings to the surface and various flashbacks.

As the story unfolds, things become clearer and we realise why Yvonne lost touch with Kiama and his dad, we learn more about Yvonne and Emma’s university days and their friendship beyond this, and find out more about Emma’s family (her parents both work for an oil company in Kenya). It’s a rather sad tale: full of regrets, lies, love, complicated relationships and heartache.

I enjoyed the descriptions of Kenya and the difficult conditions in the orphanage in Lari, which was where Emma had worked. The Swahili phrases were also a nice touch.

Homecoming was an engaging and thought-provoking read with some shocking and emotional scenes. It was sad that Yvonne was forced to choose between her best friend and a man. She felt torn between the two and unsure who to remain loyal to. She seemed rather lonely, guilty and deeply affected by all that had happened.

Overall, I really enjoyed this captivating and poignant novel. It was well written and beautifully described and the story built up cleverly as we switched between the two timelines and the past and the truth were slowly revealed. I had sympathy for all the main protagonists, apart from Lewis who seemed a bit selfish, and it was fascinating to see how one wrong decision/omission had such repercussions for them all in the future.

After reading both of the author’s novels back to back, I’m already looking forward to her next book!

Buy the book

Homecoming by Luan Goldie can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Luan Goldie is a Glasgow-born author and primary school teacher who grew up in East London.

Her debut novel, Nightingale Point, was longlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize. It was also a BBC Radio 2 Jo Whiley Book Club Pick.

Her short stories have appeared in Resist: Stories of Uprising and The Good Journal. She is also the winner of the 2017 Costa Short Story Award.

Twitter: @LuanGoldie
Facebook: @luangoldie
Instagram: @luangoldie
Website: https://luangoldie.co.uk

Blog tour

Thanks to Sian Baldwin at HQ Stories for my digital copy of Homecoming and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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Eleven Lines to Somewhere by Alyson Rudd

Blog tour: 23 to 27 July 2020

Synopsis

In a world of what-ifs, a connection has been made …

When Ryan spots a young woman on the tube on his commute, he can’t take his eyes off her. Instantly attracted and intrigued, he’s keen to find out more about his mysterious fellow passenger.

The woman he thinks of as Millie spends all day travelling the Underground, unable to leave for reasons unbeknownst to Ryan. For some inexplicable reason, he just can’t shake the feeling he wants to help her escape her endless commute.

My review

Eleven Lines to Somewhere tells the story of Ryan Kennedy (33), a laboratory manager at a university, who commutes to work every day on the London Underground. One day, while people watching, he spots a young woman with ‘nearly red’ hair and, after seeing her several times, he’s smitten and tries to catch the same train as her every day and get on the front carriage, which is where she prefers to sit.

He names the woman ‘Millie’ and tries to ensure that his journey to work coincides with hers, checking the first carriage of each train as it arrives and waiting for the next one if he can’t see her. Millie appears to be in a world of her own, on a mission, and sits there reading her book, without acknowledging anyone around her.

Ryan begins to follow Millie on her daily journeys around the network and is confused by the routes she follows – there’s no pattern to her trips and she gets off at different stops every day, switches lines and, sometimes, waits for hours at a station, like she’s meeting someone. He can’t figure out what she does or where she works and assumes she’s based in several different offices and has meetings around London.

As the story unfolds, we learn more about Ryan, his lodger, Naomi, and the losses that he and his family have suffered. Ryan’s mum, Grace, and his sister, Hana, look after his grandpa (his father’s dad), who is still deeply mourning the death of his son.

We learn more about Millie’s story too – her real name is Sylvie and she has nowhere to be and is trapped travelling the tube for reasons that are revealed later on in the story. There’s a sadness about her and she isn’t sure how to move on and escape her current existence of endless travel.

When Ryan and Sylvie finally connect, we’re left hoping that they will be good for each other and be able to help each other heal and move on from the distressing events in their pasts.

The setting of the London Underground is like a cast of characters in itself as Millie/Sylvie and Ryan travel round the network taking different routes. People’s lives are intersecting like the tube trains: connections made and missed, lives criss-crossing and people passing by without seeing each other.

I liked Ryan but he is slightly stalkerish when he begins to follow Millie and his behaviour does seem rather obsessive at times! He would have been better off just plucking up the courage to speak to her, as opposed to trailing her around!

This is an engaging, absorbing book; one to be read carefully and savoured. It’s a rather meandering read at times – we’re introduced to new characters we haven’t met before and then other characters are discussed and I had to check to see if they had been mentioned before. The characters are strong and intelligently written though and I found them fascinating and relatable. I was curious to see how they’re all connected to the story and to each other.

Overall, this was an intriguing, poignant and thought-provoking novel about family, friendships, relationships, love, loss and grief. It was cleverly plotted and written in an unusual style and I liked the way we gradually built up a picture of each of the different characters and learnt how their past was affecting them from moving forward on their journeys.

I haven’t read the author’s debut novel yet and I look forward to The First Time Lauren Pailing Died, which I’ve heard good things about and sounds a fascinating read.

Buy the book

Eleven Lines to Somewhere by Alyson Rudd can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Alyson Rudd started out as a financial journalist but has been an award-winning sportswriter for 23 years, all of them with The Times, bar a two year stint at The Sunday Telegraph. She has written two non-fiction titles: Astroturf Blonde, about playing football with men and women’s teams, and a biography of Matthew Harding, the Chelsea director who was killed in a helicopter crash.

She is a something of a judging panel addict and decided to write fiction after assessing the entries for the Costa First Novel Award. Her first novel, The First Time Lauren Pailing Died, was published by HQ in 2019.

Alyson, born in Liverpool, is a qualified football coach and referee, married with two sons and lives in south-west London.

Twitter: @allyrudd_times

Blog tour

Thanks to Sian Baldwin at HQ Stories for my digital copy of Eleven Lines to Somewhere and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver

Blog tour: 13 July to 14 August 2020

Synopsis

It’s a small story. A small town with small lives that you would never have heard about if none of this had happened.

Hinton Hollow. Population 5,120.

Little Henry Wallace was eight years old and one hundred miles from home before anyone talked to him. His mother placed him on a train with a label around his neck, asking for him to be kept safe for a week, kept away from Hinton Hollow.

Because something was coming.

Narrated by Evil itself, Hinton Hollow Death Trip recounts five days in the history of this small rural town, when darkness paid a visit and infected its residents. A visit that made them act in unnatural ways. Prodding at their insecurities. Nudging at their secrets and desires. Coaxing out the malevolence suppressed within them. Showing their true selves.

Making them cheat.
Making them steal.
Making them kill.

Detective Sergeant Pace had returned to his childhood home. To escape the things he had done in the city. To go back to something simple. But he was not alone. Evil had a plan.

My review

This is the third book in the Detective Sergeant Pace series and follows straight on from the tragic events of the second book, Nothing Important Happened Today. Pace has decided to head home to Hinton Hollow, without telling his girlfriend, Maeve Beauman. He’s accompanied on the train journey back to the small town, which is situated between London and Oxford, by the narrator of the novel, Evil, who has decided to have some fun in the town, home to 5120 residents.

The main story is told over the course of five days and we follow Evil as it cunningly manipulates and persuades people, encouraging them to do things they wouldn’t normally do, leading them astray and dropping hints about the often unpleasant course of action they should take.

Hinton Hollow Death Trip is a difficult book to review and I really think it’s best to read it without knowing too much beforehand. The story is a unique and unusual concept, written in such an original way, unlike anything else I’ve read.

The book contains several plots and we switch between different characters and events, picking up the various threads. I was never sure what was going to happen next but, with Evil involved, you know it’s going to be bad!

The straight-talking social commentary and fascinating, wry observations of life in the book are often uncomfortably true and make you reflect. It’s a really gripping and disturbing read – at times, I felt like Evil would be after me next. The chilling thoughts just worm their way into your mind and really make you question things!

There’s so much tension and suspense in the novel – I constantly felt on edge and agitated. The book is chilling, dark and disturbing; not one for the faint hearted, with its unpleasant, harrowing scenes of animal cruelty and the death of children.

With a claustrophobic setting and twisted storyline, the town of Hinton Hollow is somewhere I’d hate to be – I’d definitely want to take the train out of there, probably screaming as I went!

Overall, I really enjoyed (is that the right word?) this well-woven and cleverly constructed novel and found it fascinating! There were some intriguing twists and it was very entertaining and thought provoking; I’ll definitely be thinking about it for some time to come. I’m just hoping I won’t have nightmares …!

I haven’t read the first book in the series, Good Samaritans, yet so that’s definitely on my list, to see where the story began.

Buy the book

Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now and in paperback on 13 August, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Will Carver is the international, bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age 11, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Good Samaritans was book of the year in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Express, and hit number one in the eBook charts.

Twitter: @will_carver
Facebook: @WillCarverAuthor

Blog tour

Thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my digital copy of Hinton Hollow Death Trip and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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Shed No Tears by Caz Frear

Blog tour: 20 July to 1 August 2020

Synopsis

Four victims.
Killer caught.
Case closed … Or is it?

Six years ago, notorious serial killer Christopher Masters murdered four women over a frenzied fortnight in South West London. His last victim, Holly Kemp, was never found – until now.

When Holly’s remains are unearthed in a Cambridgeshire field, DC Cat Kinsella is called in for what should be an open-and-shut case. But immediately she has questions: Why was Holly buried so far away from the other victims? And why was her manner of death different?

With Masters dead and few new leads, Cat has little to go on except her gut instinct, which is telling her that the real killer is still out there.

But if you’d got away with murder, how far would you go to keep the past where it belongs?

My review

Shed No Tears is the third book in the Detective Constable Cat Kinsella series and the first one I’ve read. I was a bit worried that I would be missing some key background information. There were a few mentions of Cat’s father but it works perfectly well as a standalone.

In February 2012, four women were abducted and murdered: Bryony Trent (24, pub manager), Stephanie König (29, German, events management) and Ling Chen (33), plus Holly Kemp (22, car showroom receptionist), whose body was never found. Serial killer, Christopher Masters, was charged with all four murders, despite never confessing to the final killing, as there was solid evidence from a reliable eyewitness that placed Holly at his house, 6 Valentine Street in Clapham, the scene of the murders.

Six years later, Holly’s remains have been found in a farmer’s field in Caxton near Cambridge and DC Cat Kinsella and her partner, Detective Sergeant (DS) Luigi Parnell, have been tasked with finally tying up the loose ends and reinterviewing various people connected with the case.

Cat’s boss, Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Kate Steele, has asked the lead investigator on the ‘Roommate’ case, DCI Tessa Dyer, to give the team some background so that they can get up to speed. As Cat and the rest of the team investigate, there are various loose ends that don’t want to be tied, evidence that doesn’t match the killer’s modus operandi and Cat is rather suspicious of key eyewitness, primary school teacher Serena Bailey, and her perfect and detailed recall of events.

This was a cleverly plotted and entertaining police procedural novel with some great characters and I really enjoyed following Cat’s investigation as she left no stone unturned to solve the case. There were lots of twists and turns, red herrings, many secrets and numerous characters who’d played a part in the events of 2012.

We also learnt a bit more about Cat Kinsella’s complicated private life: her boyfriend, Aiden Doyle, who she met 18 months ago while investigating the death of his older sister, Maryanne. Her gangster father, Michael McBride, is connected with that case and it sounds like I need to read Sweet Little Lies to discover exactly what happened!

Cat is hiding various secrets and is in the verge of being considered corrupt but, in spite of that, she’s an intelligent, dedicated police officer and knows exactly which questions to ask and how to investigate cases in a clever and thorough manner.

Overall, I really enjoyed this gripping and absorbing crime thriller – there were lots of fascinating and detailed elements to the case and I enjoyed trying to work out exactly who was responsible for Holly’s murder. The case unfolded well and I was rather surprised by the explosive ending!

I’ll definitely be going back to read the other books in the series, Sweet Little Lies and Stone Cold Heart, and keeping an eye out for the author’s next book.

Buy the book

Shed No Tears by Caz Frear can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

© Rebecca Knowles Photography

Caz Frear grew up in Coventry, England, and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry 13 years later that the second finally came true.

She has a degree in history and politics, and when she’s not agonizing over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at Arsenal football matches or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.

Her first novel, Sweet Little Lies, was published in 2017, and the second book in the DC Cat Kinsella series, Stone Cold Heart, was released in 2019.

Twitter: @CazziF
Instagram: @cazzifwrites

Blog tour

Thanks to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for my copy of Shed No Tears and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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The Storm by Amanda Jennings

Blog tour: 17 to 23 July 2020

Synopsis

To the outside world, Hannah married the perfect man. Behind the closed doors of their imposing home, it’s a very different story. Nathan controls everything Hannah does. He chooses her clothes, checks her receipts, and keeps her passport locked away. But why does she let him?

Years before, in the midst of a relentless storm, the tragic events of one night changed everything. And Hannah has been living with the consequences ever since. Keeping Nathan happy. Doing as she’s told.

But the past is about to catch up with them.

Set against the unforgiving backdrop of a Cornish fishing port in the ’90s, this is a devastating exploration of the power of coercive control in a marriage where nothing is quite as it seems …

My review

Set near Penzance in Cornwall, The Coast tells the story of Hannah and Nathan Cardew, their 15-year-old son, Alex, and dog, Cass. Nathan is a lawyer while Hannah doesn’t work and is a stay-at-home mum. The family live in New Mill in Trevose House, which was originally Nathan’s family home and used to be much larger but his father, Charles, was a gambler and ended up selling off parts of the estate to pay his debts. He died suddenly on Nathan’s 13th birthday.

Nathan is very controlling and won’t let Hannah do anything without his approval. He tells her what to wear, won’t let her have her own money, checks her receipts, she isn’t allowed to work or have her own car. He expects everything to be done to a schedule – from when meals are served to when they have sex. Their relationship is toxic: he twists her words, gaslights her and tries to convince her that he’s told her things when he hasn’t. He also enjoys putting her down at every opportunity and tries to make her feel grateful that he wants to be with her. Hannah makes excuses for Nathan to Alex and others and claims he’s just overprotective.

Hannah only has one friend, Vicky, who she’s known since they were at nursery together. Vicky is married to Phil and they have four-year-old twins. It’s coming up to her 40th birthday and she wants Hannah to go away for the night but they’re both expecting Nathan to refuse.

To try and retain a small amount of independence, Hannah meets Vicky every Tuesday in secret at a cafe in Penzance and she also sneaks out at night to smoke the pack of cigarettes that Vicky gives her every other week. Nathan has never liked Vicky – he thinks she’s a bad influence, common and a flirt – and he hates smoking. Hannah is also clever with money and uses the cash Nathan gives her carefully; buying cheaper products and pretending to lose receipts so that she can squirrel away a small amount to treat herself, her mum or Alex.

Hannah has routines that keep her going, like doing things on certain days. Her mum is in a care home after a bad fall and she visits her regularly and so does Alex. Her son is the most important thing in her life and the main reason why she hasn’t left Nathan. She can’t escape as she fears what will happen to Alex. She suffered postnatal depression when he was younger and ran away with him. Nathan said she was endangering their baby and took away her passport and bank card and he continues to uses her supposed instability as a threat to stop her from leaving him.

The story is told from the viewpoints of Hannah, Nathan and her ex-boyfriend, Cameron (Cam) Stewart, and switches between 1998 and the present day, which is 15 years later. We learn how Hannah met both men in Newlyn near Penzance when she was working in her dad’s bakery and Cam was a fisherman on The Annamae, and how things developed and the competition between the two men, who knew each other from primary school, as they vied for her affections.

When Alex disappears after an argument with his dad and Hannah’s mum falls ill, these two events are the catalyst for the truth about what happened in the past being revealed. There’s a brooding atmosphere, which is matched by the brewing storm, which is the focus of the key events of 1998 that have shaped the rest of Hannah’s life.

This compelling, well-layered story had me intrigued from the start as we know that something shattering happened 15 years previously that affected Hannah, Nathan and Cam and caused the change in direction of all their lives. Hannah still feels so guilty about what happened in the past and her punishment is her abusive life with Nathan. The coercive control of their relationship is very chilling and you can see how easy it is for someone to be in a situation like that and how difficult it would be to get away, with no money or means of escape, and the terrifying thought of uprooting your entire life.

This was a tense, dramatic and traumatic read at times – I was willing Hannah to fight back, stand up to Nathan and break free from his controlling ways. The scenes with Cam and the other fishermen as they faced the storm were also gripping and very nerve racking. There was a great sense of tension as the story unfolded and the truth was revealed. Nothing is as clear cut as it seems and there were several instances of misdirection and various twists and turns.

Being a fisherman sounds a tough life and it was interesting to get an insight into how difficult a job it is and how harsh and unforgiving the sea and weather conditions are. The men have some good banter though and enjoy their downtime in the pub!

Overall, I really enjoyed this dark, well-written and cleverly plotted novel. There was a great build up as we got to the climax of the story and realised why the main protagonists were behaving as they were. It’s a chilling and disturbing read and one I’m still thinking about days later. The storm scenes were very tense and atmospheric and conveyed the drama and trauma of the events well.

This is the first of Amanda Jennings’ books that I’ve read but I’ll definitely be checking out her others. I already have In Her Wake and The Cliff House on my Kindle.

Buy the book

The Storm by Amanda Jennings can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Amanda Jennings writes psychological suspense and is the author of Sworn Secret, which was published in the UK, US and Italy. It was an Amazon Kindle Top 5 Bestseller in the UK, a Top 100 Bestseller in the US, and reached the Number 1 spot in Italy.

Her second book, The Judas Scar, was published in 2014 and optioned shortly after by a UK film and television production company.

Her third novel, In Her Wake, is set in Cornwall, where her mother’s side of the family is from, and where she spent long and very happy childhood summers.

Her fourth book, The Cliff House, was published by Harper Collins imprint HQ in May 2018.

​Amanda is a regular guest on BBC Berkshire’s weekly Book Club and enjoys meeting readers at libraries, book clubs and literary festivals. She was born in London and lives just outside Henley-on-Thames with her husband, three daughters and an unruly menagerie of pets. She is currently writing her sixth book, which will be set on Bodmin Moor. When she isn’t writing she can generally be found walking the dog or dreaming of mountains or the sea.

Twitter: @MandaJJennings
Facebook: @amandajenningsauthor
Instagram: @amanda_jennings1
Website: https://www.amandajennings.co.uk

Blog tour

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

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

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Darkest Night by Jenny O’Brien

Blog tour: 16 to 20 July 2020

Synopsis

A dead woman. An impossible crime.

Christine de Bertrand wakes up to her worst nightmare: rather than the man she went to bed with, lying beside her is her housemate, Nikki – dead. With no memory of the night before, Christine can’t explain what happened, and the police are baffled.

For DC Gaby Darin, newly arrived from Swansea after her last case ended in tragedy, it’s a mystery she’s determined to solve. When another woman goes missing, Gaby faces a race against time to uncover the link between the two victims and find the man who vanished from Christine’s bedroom. But as Gaby gets close, the killer gets closer – and soon one of Gaby’s own team is in unimaginable danger …

My review

This is the second book in the Detective Gaby Darin series and I was keen to find out what happens next after reading and really enjoying Silent Cry.

The opening scene of Darkest Night introduces a 30-year-old woman called Christine de Bertrand, who lives in a top-floor flat along the West Shore in Llandudno. After a rare night out drinking with her friend, Kelly, she wakes up to find herself in bed with what she thinks is a man she brought home with her. After making him a coffee, Christine pulls back the duvet and is horrified to discover the blood-soaked dead body of her flatmate, Nicola (Nikki) Jones.

Detective Constable (DC) Gabriella (Gaby) Darin has recently moved to St Asaph police station from Swansea and it’s her first weekend off in three months but a knocking at the door of her cottage in Rhos-on-Sea and the appearance of her colleague, Welshman DC Owen Bates, mean her days off are cancelled, especially as half the force are ill with Norovirus! Gaby’s new boss, Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Henry Sherlock, has put her in charge of the murder case.

Christine is taken to Llandudno police station for questioning and interviewed by Gaby and DC Bates in the presence of a solicitor before being moved to the custodial suite at St Asalph’s police station. She protests her innocence, claiming she must have been drugged as she can’t remember anything, and the police can’t find a murder weapon either.

She is profoundly deaf after a riding accident as a child and wears hearing aids but her hearing loss has worsened over the years. Christine, a special needs teacher, divorced her husband, Paul, two years ago for reasons that seem to be unclear to all! He is the headmaster at St Gildas Independent Boarding School in Beddgelert. He is also asked some questions when he visits the police station to try and see his ex-wife.

The novel is mainly set over the course of six days in mid-May, with flashbacks to the University of Cambridge in 2008, where Nikki and Christine were studying classics at St Augusta’s College and Paul was one of their course lecturers.

When a person, Tracy Price, goes missing, police are convinced the two cases must be linked but can’t work out the connection between the women. Tracy, 34, is married to Barry and they have six-year-old twin boys. Police speak to various neighbours and learn that the couple’s marriage might have been in trouble but there appear to be no leads or clues.

Both investigations seem to be dragging on without any results and things take an even more sinister turn when one of the police officers goes missing and can’t be tracked down. It seems that things may be coming to a head in dramatic fashion – is the killer involved in this shocking development?

Gaby is a great protagonist and I really like her personality and the way her character is developing. It’s a shame that her love life is rather disastrous and the only man she has any feelings for is the grumpy and red-haired Irish pathologist, Dr Rusty Mulholland, who behaves very strangely towards her and is scathing of everything she does. He is rather abrupt and has bad manners.

Overall, I really enjoyed this excellent and well-written police procedural. As with Silent Cry, I liked the way we followed the investigation as it developed and were able to hear Gaby’s thought processes as she struggled to put together all the pieces of the jigsaw. The puzzling storyline was cleverly plotted and had some interesting twists and turns and the odd red herring and misdirection. There were some tense moments, lots of suspense, and I had no idea how it was all going to be resolved. I wasn’t sure who the killer was either!

The author has written another gripping, engaging and entertaining book and I’m already looking forward to the next one in the series!

Buy the book

Darkest Night by Jenny O’Brien can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

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 Sian Baldwin at HQ Stories for my digital copy of Darkest Night and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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The End of Her by Shari Lapena

Blog tour: 16 to 25 July 2020

Synopsis

It starts with a shocking accusation …

Stephanie and Patrick are recently married, with new-born twins. While Stephanie struggles with the disorienting effects of sleep deprivation, there’s one thing she knows for certain – she has everything she ever wanted.

Then a woman from his past arrives and makes a horrifying allegation about his first wife. He always claimed her death was an accident – but she says it was murder.

He insists he’s innocent, that this is nothing but a blackmail attempt. But is Patrick telling the truth? Or has Stephanie made a terrible mistake?

How will it end?

My review

I’ve enjoyed all Shari Lapena’s books: they’re entertaining and thrilling reads and her fifth novel is no exception!

Set in 2018, The End of Her tells the story of Stephanie, 30, and Patrick Kilgour, 32, who live in a suburb in Aylesford, New York, with their four-month-old twins, Emma and Jackie. The couple are finding it hard to cope and surviving on only a few hours’ disrupted sleep as their girls suffer from colic and fuss most of the night. Patrick is an architect and a partner in a small firm and is struggling to concentrate due to the sleep deprivation. His partner, Niall Foote, is concerned by his lack of focus at work.

When a woman from his past turns up for an interview for an admin role at the firm, Patrick is shocked. He hasn’t seen Erica Voss for over nine years, since he left Colorado, and she is a link to a tragic incident in his past. Why is she appearing in his life now? It can’t be a coincidence!

Erica emails and asks to meet Patrick and he reluctantly agrees to see her in a local bar, curious to find out what she wants. A few days later, they meet again and Erica warns him that she is going to ask the police to reinvestigate the death of his pregnant first wife, Lindsey, if him and Stephanie don’t pay her some money to keep quiet. Lindsey’s death was ruled accidental and never properly looked into.

Stephanie’s parents died in a car crash when she was a teenager and, as an only child, she was the sole recipient of their wealth of more than two million dollars. This money was put into a trust and she received it all on her 30th birthday, which was only a couple of months ago. Stephanie and Patrick decided not to make a prenup when they got married, as they were so in love.

Patrick confesses to Stephanie about what happened to his first wife and, at first, she completely believes her husband and is sure he’s innocent of any wrongdoing but then certain things are revealed that make her question whether she actually knows Patrick at all.

Stephanie and Patrick’s seemingly lovely life gets thrown into increasing turmoil as accusations are made, events get out of control and all that they know appears to be falling apart. Will the couple’s marriage be able to survive the strain or will everything be ruined forever?

Erica is cunning and intent on dragging everyone into her web of deceit so that she has as much of a hold over people as she can. She’s done her homework and knows the ins and outs of their lives – she has dirt on several people and knows how to blackmail them. She relies on them not talking to each other – as they feel guilty of their actions – to get away with her misdemeanours. She’s also good at keeping track of people without them being aware that she’s even there – she initially pretends to both Stephanie and neighbour, Hanna Bright, that she’s planning to move into the area and checks out a house that is for sale.

I really felt for poor Stephanie – the twins sounded exhausting and she was really struggling to stay sane due to the lack of sleep. She kept doing daft things as she was so tired and ended up not being able to think straight about anything. She grew closer to Hanna as the story progressed but lacked a good support network to help her through the early baby months.

There were lots of twists and turns in this novel and I wasn’t really sure who to trust – everyone seemed to be keeping secrets and lying about what they were up to. There were several red herrings and some misdirection that had me suspecting all kinds of things! I was trying to guess what was happening and kept changing my mind. This was definitely an intriguing and absorbing read.

Overall, I really enjoyed this dark, chilling, well-plotted story. It was intense and fast paced and I raced through this in a few hours, frantically turning the pages, desperate to find out how it was all going to be resolved. With that dramatic ending, I wasn’t disappointed! I’m already looking forward to the author’s next book.

Buy the book

The End of Her by Shari Lapena is published on 23 July and can be preordered from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller, the bestselling fiction title in the UK in 2017 and has been optioned for television. Her thrillers, A Stranger in the House, An Unwanted Guest and Someone We Know, were all The Sunday Times and The New York Times bestsellers.

Twitter: @sharilapena
Facebook: @ShariLapena
Instagram: @sharilapena
Website: https://sharilapena.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Thomas Hill at Transworld Books for my digital copy of The End of Her and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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Betray Her by Caroline England

Blog tour: 13 to 20 July 2020

Synopsis

Best friends for ever.

That’s the pact you made.

You’d do anything for her.

And you have.

But she’s always had it all.

If you could take it for yourself … would you?

My review

Betray Her tells the story of Jo and Kate, who met at a boarding school called St Luke’s when they were eight years old. Joanna Wragg is from Barnsley and the daughter of Joyce and Stan, a former butcher, who has built up his own business, Wragg’s Construction, which has enabled him to send his three children away to private school. Jo has two older brothers called Nigel and Ben.

Catherine (Kate) Bayden-Jones is from Barton in the Beans in Leicestershire. She has two older sisters, Clare and Annabelle, and they all have a pony each! Her family are a lot richer (the established wealth) than Jo’s nouveau riche family but the two girls become firm friends after being put in the same dormitory together.

The girls had a rather torrid time at school and were both bullied for different reasons: Kate for being chubby and Jo for being common. The ‘ragamuffin from Barnsley’ learns to adapt and transforms herself. Jo is tough and clever and knows she has to change to survive the harsh school life. The girls’ friendship is rather one sided in some ways and they were more like rivals at times; competitive and jealous of each other.

The novel is set in 1988–89, when the girls first met, and in the present day, 30 years later, when Kate is married to Tom Heath, with a six-year-old daughter, Alice, and they live in a converted farm called Petersfield in the village of Hope in the Peak District. Jo is widowed after her husband, Richard, died suddenly two years ago. She lives in a flat in central Manchester.

Kate and Tom’s relationship seems perfect to the outside world – the ‘golden couple’ – but when Jo goes to visit them one weekend, she discovers that things aren’t all they seem. Kate is drinking heavily and Tom seems distracted. He owns a construction business and has moved on from doing up houses to running several wine bars in the local area.

Jo, a popular-science writer, is still grieving her husband and she is desperate for a baby despite her situation. The couple hadn’t been able to conceive and Jo is afraid that there is something wrong with her. She’s quite a tough character – she always tries to have a stiff upper lip at all times and never shows her feelings or any weaknesses or even cry in front of anyone.

Jo and Kate are rather complex, flawed characters, who have both been shaped by their pasts. As the story progresses, little by little, we learn more about their time at school and some of the awful things they experienced. Their friendship is more fraught than it first appears – there are lots of niggles and things happened that have shaped how they behave towards each other in the present day.

Tom also holds a lot of anger and resentment; he’s upset by the way the women treated him when they first met 20 years ago when he was helping to build a garage extension for Jo’s dad. His relationship with Kate isn’t very healthy and the couple and Jo have lots of unresolved emotions and history from the past.

I was never really quite sure who to trust, if anyone! Both Kate and Jo seemed to have a dark side and Tom was rather menacing at times too. It all created a rather toxic mix with lots of secrets and, as things came to a head, I wasn’t sure which way it would go but I couldn’t see things ending well!

I liked the mention of Ladybower Reservoir and the village beneath the water – I read about this in another novel recently and it sounds fascinating! I also enjoyed the sections with Jo’s brothers, Ben and Nigel, which were eye opening and touching, respectively!

Overall, I really enjoyed this well-plotted, dark and intense read. The main characters were rather unpleasant and all felt envious of the others. There were several twists and turns and illicit affairs and this gripping book built well to a rather surprising ending!

I will have to read the author’s other books, The Wife’s Secret and My Husband’s Lies, soon!

Buy the book

Betray Her by Caroline England can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now and in paperback on 16 July, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Caroline England was born and brought up in Yorkshire and studied Law at the University of Manchester. She was a divorce and professional indemnity lawyer before leaving the law to bring up her three daughters and turning her hand to writing. Caroline is the author of The Wife’s Secret, previously called Beneath the Skin, and the top-10 eBook bestseller, My Husband’s Lies. Betray Her is her third novel. She lives in Manchester with her family.

Twitter: @CazEngland
Facebook: @CazEngland1
Instagram: @cazengland1
Website: http://carolineenglandauthor.co.uk

Blog tour

Thanks to Beth Wright at Little, Brown for my digital and proof copies of Betray Her and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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Sea Wife by Amity Gaige

Blog tour: 1 to 5 July 2020

Synopsis

When Michael informs his wife, Juliet, that he is leaving his job and buying a sailboat, she is taken aback. And when he proposes they and their two young children take a year-long voyage, she is deeply apprehensive. But Michael is persuasive, and eventually she agrees to his plan. The family set off for Panama, where their sailboat awaits them – a boat that Michael has named the Juliet.

Initially, the experience is transformative: their marriage is given a gust of energy, and each of them is affected by the beauty and wildness of the sea. But slowly, the voyage begins to unravel.

Juliet’s account of the life-changing events at sea is spliced with Michael’s captain’s log, which provides a riveting, slow-motion narration of those same inexorable events.

Sea Wife is a gripping novel about marriage, family and love in a time of unprecedented turmoil. It is unforgettable in its power and astonishingly perceptive in its portrayal of optimism, disillusionment and survival.

My review

Sea Wife tells the story of the Partlow family who decide to take a year out, buy a 44-foot sailboat and go on a sailing trip round the Caribbean. They plan a route from Panama to Cartagena in Colombia and then on to Caracas in Venezuela. In a hint of things to come, we learn that Michael has renamed the boat from Windy Monday to Juliet.

The couple met in their senior year at Kenyon College in Ohio. They now live in Connecticut. Juliet is studying for a PhD in American literature at Boston College and is a poet with no experience of sailing. Michael works for an insurance company. He has fond memories of sailing Lake Erie in North America on a boat with his father. Their daughter, Sybil, is seven years old and their son, George (Doodle), is two and a half.

The story is told from Julie’s viewpoint after they’ve returned home from the trip, interspersed with extracts from Michael’s captain’s log, which he wrote on their voyage.

They head to Panama in September, in the middle of the rainy season, to collect the yacht and it takes them several months before she is repaired and repainted, and they’re organised and ready to set sail. On their route across the ocean, they plan to hug the coast of Central and South America but also visit several small islands in the San Blas archipelago in Panama.

Their marriage is struggling but the trip breathes new life into it and the children are also much happier, especially when they make friends with the children of other sailors.

Throughout the novel, there’s a sense of foreboding and fear – being on a boat in the middle of the ocean sounds rather frightening, like you’re only one swell or storm away from things ending in disaster. Life at sea is carefree and beautiful but also filled with unexpected dangers. The solitude is lovely but the isolation and remoteness can also cause problems.

The novel includes the themes of depression, abuse and marriage: Juliet suffers from postnatal depression, which is triggered by thoughts of the sexual abuse from her childhood. Her marriage to Michael suffers at times as she struggles to overcome her ‘ugly angels’.

Sea Wife is a thoughtful and reflective novel, and also very emotional and poignant. It was an intense read at times – the nature of living on a boat is very claustrophobic and intimate, with no escape from each other.

It contained some nautical terms and it was interesting to search online and discover their meanings. I’m not normally a fan of maps but, in this case, I would have loved to have seen a map of the places they visited so that I could picture their route!

Overall, I really enjoyed this cleverly layered book; it’s written in an usual style, which builds up the story and what happened, a piece at a time. It’s beautifully descriptive and is a fascinating analysis of a marriage and ruminating about life, while sailing the harsh seas. There were also other elements like Michael’s acquaintance, Harry Borawski, and Juliet’s background, which helped to add a bit of intrigue and mystery to the storyline. I’m tempted to read it again at some point, just to pick out all the subtle hints to the future that I missed first time round. I’m also keen to read another of the author’s books – I’ll definitely be checking one out soon!

Buy the book

Sea Wife by Amity Gaige can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now and in hardback on 2 July, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Amity Gaige is the author of three novels, O My Darling, The Folded World and Schroder, which was shortlisted for the Folio Prize in 2014. Gaige is the recipient of many awards for her previous novels, including Foreword Book of the Year Award for 2007; and in 2006, she was named one of the ‘5 Under 35’ outstanding emerging writers by the National Book Foundation. She has a Fulbright and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and residencies at MacDowell and Yaddo. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times, Literary Review, The Yale Review and One Story. She lives in Connecticut with her family.

Facebook: @AmityGaige
Instagram: @amity_gaige
Website: http://www.amitygaige.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Grace Vincent at Little, Brown Book Group and Fleet for my lovely hardback copy of Sea Wife and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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The Curious Case of Faith and Grace by David B. Lyons

Blog tour: 28 June to 4 July 2020

Synopsis

Pretty or pretty twisted?

Almost two years ago, Faith and Grace Tiddle arrived home from their Saturday morning dance class to find both of their parents face down in pools of blood.

Five days later, the twins – only nine years old at the time – were arrested for the double homicide.

And now, 20 months on, the entire country awaits with bated breath as the jury are dismissed to deliberate their verdict on a case that has become a national phenomenon.

But if Lead Detective Denis Quayle – the man who knows the case better than anybody else – isn’t fully convinced of the twins’ guilt …

Can a 12-person jury be?

My review

Set in Dublin, The Curious Case of Faith and Grace tells the story of nine-year-old twins, Faith and Grace Tiddle, who are accused of the murder of their parents, Clive and Dorothy.

The twins were at their usual Saturday morning ballet and tap class and, when they returned home, were horrified to find their mother and father lying dead, from multiple stab wounds, in the kitchen of the family bungalow at the foothills of the Dublin mountains.

Clive, aged 52, and Dorothy, aged 50, run the church at the local community centre after the original St Benedict’s Church closed. The couple are old fashioned, very religious and rather strict with their girls, who were conceived via IVF after 17 years of trying. They said prayers over the girls’ cribs when they were born and, as they grew older, made them chant Hail Marys and Our Fathers and pray for forgiveness if they were naughty.

The story is told from several viewpoints. The first is from Detective Inspector Denis Quayle, the lead investigator on the case, who is based at Rathcoole Garda station, and is from the days immediately after the killings. The second is from Alice Sheridan, one of the 12 jurors from the trial, which takes place nearly two years later and is coming to a close after nearly two weeks, with deliberations due to start shortly. Interspersed with these viewpoints are descriptive sections that tell us more about the background of the rather strange Tiddle family. These are fascinating and rather eye opening and give us an interesting alternative view of the well-thought-of family!

Quayle is rather incompetent and out of his depth, struggling to keep hold of his investigation while the two detectives from Tallaght, Tunstead and Lowe, try to take control. He believed the girls were not guilty and battled hard to convince his colleagues that the case needed more investigating and they should look at other local people as suspects, rather than just the twins. Rathcoole station is only small with four police staff: Quayle, uniformed officers, Johnny Gibbons and Olivia Sully, and Detective Superintendent Brigit Fairweather, who is nearing retirement and spends all her time on the golf course rather than doing any work.

Juror Alice Sheridan is married to Noel and they have two children, Zoe (23) and Alfie (14). They also suffered from problems with conceiving and their youngest was born after IVF and four miscarriages. Alice tries not to get too close to the other jurors and has nicknames for them like Obese Guy, Red Head, Quiff Boy, Scarhead, etc!

We learn early on that a member of the jury is being blackmailed and must encourage the other jurors to vote not guilty to avoid their darkest secret being revealed to their family. It was really interesting to see the thought processes of the jury and how they deliberated everything. There were a lot of arguments and strong opinions as the group tried to remain objective and decide whether the girls (now 11 years old) were guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. The evidence certainly seemed lacking in parts.

This was a cleverly plotted and well-paced courtroom thriller; it was engaging and compelling and I felt like I was there with DI Quayle as he tried to get to the bottom of the dreadful killings. Later on, I imagined being in the jury rooms in Dublin’s Criminal Courts as the jury are deliberating and considering their verdict.

It was an absorbing, tense and thought-provoking read with some good twists and turns throughout – there was a lot more going on in the lives of the Tiddle family than the police realised and they definitely overlooked various clues and revealing events! The twins were rather creepy and disturbing and rather shocked me out with some of their actions and discussions but I still swayed between thinking they were guilty and not guilty as the story progressed. A really entertaining novel!

I’ve already read and enjoyed She Said, Three Said and I’m looking forward to the final book in the trial trilogy and will be checking out the author’s other books, Midday and Whatever Happened to Betsy Blake?, which I already have on my Kindle, and The Suicide Pact.

Buy the book

The Curious Case of Faith and Grace by David B. Lyons can be preordered from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback and is published on 3 July, and is available now as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

David B. Lyons is an international bestselling author – a writer of psychological thrillers. He has reached number one in charts in Ireland, the UK, Canada and Australia.

David grew up in Dublin – the city in which his novels are set – but currently spends his time between Birmingham in the UK and the Irish capital. David is married to a Brummie, Kerry, and they have one daughter, Lola.

He has lectured in creative writing in colleges and universities in both Ireland and in the UK and coaches people how to write with free tutorials at TheOpenAuthor.com.

Twitter: @TheOpenAuthor
Facebook: @AuthorDavidBLyons
Instagram: @theopenauthor
Website: http://theopenauthor.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Emma Welton at damppebbles blog tours for my digital copy of The Curious Case of Faith and Grace and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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Not the Deaths Imagined by Anne Pettigrew

Cover reveal

Today, I’m delighted to help reveal the cover for Not the Deaths Imagined by Anne Pettigrew.

Synopsis

In a leafy Glasgow suburb, Dr Beth Semple is busy juggling motherhood and full-time GP work in the 90’s NHS. But her life becomes even more problematic when she notices some odd deaths in her neighbourhood. Though Beth believes the stories don’t add up, the authorities remain stubbornly unconvinced.

Soon, Beth’s professional reputation is challenged. There follows a chilling campaign of harassment and she finds her professional reputation – and family – are put at risk.

Is a charming local GP actually a serial killer? Can Beth piece together the jigsaw of perplexing fatalities and perhaps save lives? And as events accelerate towards a dramatic conclusion, will the police intervene in time?

From the author of Not the Life Imagined, this slow-burning tartan noir novel from a Bloody Scotland Crime Spotlight author follows Beth on another quest for justice. Reflecting Pettigrew’s own medical expertise, Not The Deaths Imagined re-affirms the benefits of growing up in a loving family and the need for friends in hard times, while offering insight into the twisted development of a psychopathic mind.

Buy the book

Published by Ringwood Publishing, Not the Deaths Imagined is released on 1 August 2020 in eBook and paperback. It can be preordered now from Amazon on Kindle or from Ringwood Publishing.

About the author

Anne Pettigrew was born in Glasgow and was a Greenock GP for 31 years. She is a graduate of the University of Glasgow (Medicine, 1974) and the University of Oxford (MSc Medical Anthropology, 2004). She has also worked also in psychiatry, women’s health and journalism (The Herald, Pulse, Doctor, Channel 4).

In retirement, she took creative writing tuition at the University of Glasgow, aiming to pen novels about women doctors (rare in literature except as pathologists or in Mills & Boon).

She was a runner-up in the SAW Constable Award 2018 and was chosen as a 2019 Bloody Scotland Crime Spotlight Author ‘one to watch’. She is member of several writers’ groups and a short story competition winner.

She lives in Ayrshire and enjoys good books, good wine and good company.

Twitter: @pettigrew_anne
Facebook: @annepettigrewauthor
Instagram: @anne.pettigrew.author
Website: http://www.annepettigrew.co.uk

Featured

Cut to the Bone by Roz Watkins

Blog tour: 19 to 24 June 2020

Synopsis

A beautiful young social-media star goes missing.
But who took her?

When controversial internet celebrity Violet Armstrong vanishes in the middle of a scorching Peak District summer, the case sparks a media frenzy.

The clock is ticking for DI Meg Dalton and her team to find Violet before online threats explode into real-life violence. And then the blood and hair of a young woman are found in an empty pig trough at the local abattoir …

The more Meg finds out about this unnerving case, the more she becomes convinced that something very, very bad has happened to Violet. With temperatures rising and the press demanding answers, the case is about to take a terrifying turn …

My review

Cut to the Bone is the third book in the Detective Inspector (DI) Meg Dalton series but is fine to be read as a standalone.

The story is set in the village of Gritton in the Peak District, which is rather creepy and unwelcoming and no one seems to want to either visit or leave the place. The Derbyshire village has railings and cameras everywhere to keep the locals in check and sinister child-shaped bollards and painted fake sinkholes to scare off visitors!

When nearby Ladybower Reservoir was created in the 1940s, several villages were submerged by it and the residents were forced to move to Gritton. Over the last 30 years, there have been sightings of a mysterious girl, the Pale Child, who is rumoured to be the ghost of a murdered child who lived in the manor house in the former village.

Social media star, Violet Armstrong, aged 18, who barbecues burgers in a bikini, has gone missing from her summer job at Gritton Abattoir, where she works night shifts doing cleaning. DI Meg Dalton and Detective Sergeant (DS) Jai Sanghera are sent to investigate Violet’s disappearance and they speak to the owner of the abattoir, Anna Finchley, and her brother, Gary, and a man called Daniel Twigg, who also both work there.

With the help of Violet, Anna set up a website called The Great Meat Debate, with videos and posts on ethical meat producing and this has made them the target of an animal rights group called the Animal Vigilantes. The group wear horrible meat-patterned clothing and have made threats against Violet and the others involved in the website, including Kirsty Nightingale, who owns a pig farm. Her father, Tony, is also a pig farmer.

Set in two time periods, the book switches from Violet’s disappearance in the present day to August–October 1999, where we meet Bex who is visiting her dad, Tony Nightingale, and sister, Kirsty, in Gritton for a month. Their mum, Nina, left when Bex was three and headed back to her home country of Ukraine and Bex was sent to live with her Aunt Janet in Southampton.

Violet’s parents are on holiday in New Zealand and we learn that she was adopted and has headed to Gritton to find out more about her biological parents, who she believes have connections to the village.

When traces of human blood and hair are discovered in a pig trough at the abattoir, it appears that the worst has happened and Violet has been murdered and fed to the pigs.

As the police investigate further, it seems that there is more to the case than meets the eye and they discover that the whole village seems to be keeping secrets. DI Meg Dalton and DS Jai Sanghera struggle to crack the case and can’t get a break. Things take an even more sinister turn when the Justice for Violet group is formed and causes trouble and the police have to do battle with both activist groups which attack Meg online and in person.

Poor Meg is still struggling after the recent death of her gran and she has a lot to deal with, including a visit from her estranged father who seems to be acting suspiciously and being far too friendly. She has a good relationship and banter with her colleague, Jai, and I liked the way they work together, and I loved her cat, Hamlet!

This was a dark and engaging police procedural and I raced through it trying to work out who Violet’s killer was. There were several untrustworthy suspects but the plot actually turned out to be a lot more layered and complex than I expected and I hadn’t guessed how things were going to turn out at all! A gripping read and rather chilling, despite the intense, claustrophobic heat!

Overall, I really enjoyed this twisty and disturbing tale, which had a cleverly written storyline and kept me entertained throughout. There was lots of tension and some shocking moments.

I haven’t read the other books in the series, The Devil’s Dice and Dead Man’s Daughter, and although there were a few mentions of past events, I didn’t feel at a disadvantage. I have both books on my Kindle so will be checking them out to find out more about DI Meg Dalton’s history and discover what happened to her family members.

Buy the book

Cut to the Bone by Roz Watkins can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback on 25 June, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Roz Watkins is the author of the DI Meg Dalton crime series. She lives on the edge of the Peak District, where the series is set. (Meg lives just down the road in Belper, and the fictional town Eldercliffe was inspired by nearby Wirksworth.)

Her first book, The Devil’s Dice, was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award. It was The Times crime book of the month and has been optioned for TV. Her second book, Dead Man’s Daughter, was also a top pick in The Times.

Roz studied engineering at Cambridge University, before training in patent law. She was a partner in a firm of patent attorneys in Derby, but this has absolutely nothing to do with there being a dead one in her first novel.

In her spare time, Roz likes to walk in the Peak District, scouting out murder locations.

Twitter: @RozWatkins
Facebook: @RozWatkinsAuthor
Website: https://www.rozwatkins.co.uk

Blog tour

Thanks to Isabel Smith at HQ Stories for my digital copy of Cut to the Bone and for my place on the blog tour.

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

Featured

Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly

Blog tour: 18 June to 2 July 2020

Synopsis

What if you knew the truth but couldn’t remember?

Over a decade ago, Heidi was the victim of a brutal attack that left her hospitalised, her younger sister missing, and her best friend dead. But Heidi doesn’t remember any of that. She’s lived her life since then with little memory of her friends and family and no recollection of the crime.

Now, it’s all starting to come back.

As Heidi begins retracing the events that lead to the assault, she is forced to confront the pain and guilt she’s long kept buried. But Heidi isn’t the only one digging up the past, and the closer she gets to remembering the truth, the more danger she’s in.

When the truth is worse than fiction, is the past worth reliving?

My review

In 2001, when Heidi Bevan was 13, she was assaulted with a brick, her sister, Anna, aged 7, went missing and her best friend and next-door neighbour, Nina Carpenter, was murdered. The three girls had been playing in their den, a bunker in the park at the top of the hill, one summer evening and were late home. The police looked for them and the two older girls were eventually discovered lying side by side outside the entrance to the bunker. A fire had been started to try and destroy any evidence.

Due to her injuries, Heidi suffered from amnesia and was unable to tell police what happened and although they had suspicions about who the murderer was, no one was charged and no trace of Anna was ever found. Afterwards, the girls’ mum, Lynn, took an overdose and ended up in a psychiatric hospital, where she still remains. Heidi’s dad was killed in a motorbike accident when she was a baby.

In 2016, now a young woman, Heidi is beginning to remember things and have flashbacks about those dreadful childhood events – she sees Anna being taken and her new red shoes with straps. The family’s stuff is kept in a storage area at a warehouse and, for years, Heidi has been going to look at their things in the hope that something will come back to her. It has meant very little until recently, when she experienced a new connection to her past.

Heidi also looks at her suitcase from her time in residential care, which contains old photos of her mum, dad and sister, as well as her friend, Nina, and Danielle, who was Nina’s little sister and Anna’s best friend. She can’t really remember or visualise these memories but she begins to remember things; she knows that Nina was deeply unhappy but can’t remember why.

The awful events have drastically affected Heidi’s life and, as well as suffering from memory problems, she says, ‘I’m aware of my profound loneliness – I’m not just a stranger to myself, but to others, too. Getting too close is a risk.’

Set in the two time periods, the book switches between the build up to the awful events of 2001 and the current day, 2016, when Heidi starts to piece things together with the help of Detective Inspector Denise Gilzeen, who was part of the original investigating team, and the case is reopened. The original case was high profile with a massive police search but was unable to get any definitive results for some reason, despite what seemed like overwhelming evidence in various areas.

The book is a difficult read at times; chilling and disturbing. The girls are caught up in something awful but they feel helpless and on their own; they don’t know who to turn to and aren’t sure who they can trust or who will believe them. There seems to be no easy way out.

Heidi and Nina have a close, but slightly volatile at times, relationship and it seems typical of an early teenage friendship with all the fun, laughs and dramatic angst involved. As events get out of control, Heidi feels powerless to help her friend and unable to tell her mum what’s going on. Her family is quite close knit, despite the loss of her dad, but Nina’s family is more chaotic with her heavily-drinking mum, Carol, sinister stepfather, Ken Finch, younger sister, Danielle, and two older brothers, Scott and Jason.

The novel was gripping, absorbing and well layered, and I was frantically turning the pages when the pace ramped up and Heidi seemed to be in increasing danger as the past came back to haunt her. There were lots of secrets plus various shady and evil characters and everybody seemed to be doing their hardest to ensure that the past remained hidden.

It’s a raw and emotional read, without resorting to graphic descriptions. Poor Heidi feels such guilt about how things turned out and wishes she had been able to save her younger self as well as her friend and sister.

Overall, I really enjoyed this well-plotted and cleverly written police procedural/thriller. It was an engaging and gripping read with some rather dark and tense moments and surprising twists and turns. An excellent debut and I looked forward to reading more from the author. I’m hoping we’ll meet DI Denise Gilzeen again soon!

Buy the book

Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle on 25 June and in paperback on 23 July.

About the author

Rebecca Kelly was brought up with books but denied the pleasure of a television. Although she hated this at the time, she now considers it to have contributed to a life-long passion for reading and writing.

After a misspent education, Rebecca had a variety of jobs. She’s spent the last years raising her children but has lately returned to her first love – writing.

Rebecca lives in the UK with her husband and youngest son and an over-enthusiastic black Labrador, who gives her writing tips.

Facebook: @RKellyAuthor1
Instagram: @RebeccaKellyAuthor

Blog tour

Thanks to Peyton Stableford at Agora Books for my digital copy of Monstrous Souls and for my place on the blog tour.

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

Featured

Confessions by Caro Land

Review


Synopsis

Dig for the truth and you’ll get dirty …

Natalie Bach is facing personal turmoil, legal conundrums and challenges. While trying to make a difference, she walks the fine line between being a help and a hindrance.

Seconded to criminal law firm, Savage Solicitors, Nat finds herself out of her depth when she’s handed a complicated and tragic case of assisted suicide. Will she get to the bottom of what really happened?

With a heavy workload to juggle, can Nat untangle her own feelings from another very personal and troubling investigation?

My review

Confessions is the second book in the Natalie Bach legal suspense series. It can be read as a standalone, as the past is mentioned, but I’d recommend reading Convictions first so that you get the full background to Natalie’s story.

In the first book, Natalie returned home to Manchester after five years of running a bar in Mallorca with her boyfriend, Jose, when her mum, Anna, suffered a bad stroke. He broke up with Natalie soon after so she went back to her old job at Goldman Law.

Set shortly after Convictions, Natalie finds herself flung headlong into more complicated cases when a personal tragedy means Gavin Savage has to take time out to be with his family and she acts as a locum lawyer for his criminal law firm, Savage Solicitors. Feeling a bit out of her depth, Natalie tackles the cases with the help of his staff and tries her hardest to make the best decisions, often with unforeseen consequences.

Her new relationship with Wesley Hughes, partner of the firm she works for, is still rather complicated and rocky and his ex-wife, Andrea, and mother of his 18-year-old twin sons, continues to try and interfere in his life, causing him and Natalie much upset and arguments. Natalie is a bit hot headed at times and, where Wesley is concerned, doesn’t always think things through before acting.

There are some more colourful characters in this story: in Gavin’s firm, we get to know bubbly secretary, Chantelle, and meet paralegal, Robbie, who has a sad past, as well as Lawrence Lamb QC, who is rather a character and admits to being a functioning alcoholic.

One of Goldman Law’s most wealthy clients, Brian Selby, returns and, this time, him and his family need Natalie’s help in a rather more serious matter and she ends up representing him.

Natalie’s mum, Anna, becomes frightened of leaving the house after her friend, Barbara, has a bad fall and ends up in hospital with a fractured ankle. She makes a new male friend though and starts socialising a lot more.

Natalie is a great protagonist but she often gives out advice that seems to end up making life more difficult for people. We see a more vulnerable and emotional side to her in this story and she has a lot to deal with as things seem to go from bad to worse and her cases get more complicated and fraught. She does well to focus as carefully as she does with all that’s going on around her!

Overall, I really enjoyed this full-bodied story – lots of plotlines and cases to get your teeth into and I was never quite sure how things were going to pan out. There are a few shocks and surprises along the way, and the odd dubious professional practice as well! It was an engaging and intelligent read with great attention to detail. As well as being very entertaining, the story was also amusing, as well as sad, at times.

This is another well-plotted and cleverly layered novel starring Natalie Bach. I read the two books back to back and really enjoyed continuing the story about the feisty lawyer as she tackled tough cases head on! She may not always make the right decisions but she doesn’t hold back from investigating and trying to help her clients. The series is building nicely now and I hope there will be another book soon!

Buy the book

Confessions by Caro Land can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

About the author

Caro Land is the pen name of Caroline England. The first in the Natalie Bach legal suspense series, Convictions, was published by Bloodhound Books in January 2020.

Born in Sheffield, Caroline studied Law at the University of Manchester and stayed over the border. Caroline was a divorce and professional indemnity lawyer. She turned to writing when she deserted the law to bring up her three lovely daughters. Caroline has had short stories and poems published in a variety of literary publications and anthologies.

Caroline writes domestic psychological thrillers. Her debut novel, Beneath the Skin, known also as The Wife’s Secret in eBook, was published by Avon HarperCollins in October 2017. Her second novel, My Husband’s Lies, followed in May 2018 and became a Kindle top 10 bestseller. Her latest novel, Betray Her, published by Piatkus of Little, Brown Book Group, is now available as an eBook, audiobook and paperback.

Caroline also has two dark, twisty short story collections available on Amazon, both in eBook and paperback, Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses and Hanged by the Neck.

Twitter: @CazEngland
Facebook: @CazEngland1
Instagram: @cazengland1
Website: http://carolineenglandauthor.co.uk

Thanks

With thanks to Caroline England for providing me with an advance reader copy of her book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Featured

Survive by Tom Bale

Review

Synopsis

Paradise is about to become hell …

On a remote island in the Adriatic, an enigmatic billionaire hosts a twisted form of entertainment to satisfy the jaded appetites of his exclusive guests. And for one unsuspecting family, the holiday of a lifetime is about to become a desperate battle for survival.

As young parents, Sam and Jody have managed to defy the odds once before. But years of struggle have taken their toll, and Sam’s demons return to haunt him at the worst possible time.

Caught up in a sick game of cat and mouse, can they put their differences aside and work under intolerable pressure to save themselves and their children?

Live or die. It’s the only choice they have.

My review

Sam Berry and Jody Lamb, both 26, have two children, Grace (8) and Dylan (5). They’ve had some difficult times as they’re young parents and their daughter was conceived when Jody was only 17.

Sam is rather insecure and lacking in self-confidence, which comes from his background and being a young dad. The couple both feel judged for having children young, and are constantly worrying about what others think of them.

After saving for three years, they’re on their first family holiday abroad, all-inclusive, on the beautiful island of Sekliw in the Adriatic. They’re staying at the Adriana Beach, the number two hotel in the resort, and the holiday cost them a lot of money, nearly three thousand pounds.

At the welcome meeting, the couple are encouraged by their tour rep, Gabby, to enter a special prize draw to attend a VIP champagne reception at the Hotel Conchis, the most luxurious and exclusive accommodation on the island.

Sam and Jody are shocked and feel a bit uneasy when they discover that they’ve won the competition! They’re already out of their comfort zone and the reception sounds quite prestigious. They learn that the president’s son, Borko Radić, is expected to attend.

On the day of the reception, they’re driven for an hour in a stretch Hummer and then escorted into a function room, where there are a couple of hundred guests and a band, and offered drinks and canapés.

When the time comes for Borko Radić’s address, all the children are taken to another room to be entertained.

As the hours pass and after chatting for a while with another English couple, they’re tiring and Jody decides to check on the children. She’s shocked to discover all the kids are running riot in the playroom and things are getting rather raucous! 

The family decide to leave to get Grace and Dylan to bed and ask for a car to take them back to the Adriana Beach. Throughout this experience, they’ve felt a bit uncomfortable and uneasy at times and it seems their worst fears are realised when things take a sinister turn …

I don’t want to give away any more of the plot but have to say that I really enjoyed this book! After a slightly slow start, events really ramped up and things got rather exciting and disturbing.

Sam and Jody and the children have to dig deep in a real battle for their survival when things go in a shocking direction, with an unknown enemy!

Overall, this was a gripping and tense thriller and had me on the edge of my seat at times! I was frantically turning the pages to see who would survive! Cleverly plotted and well written, with great suspense, this was an absorbing read! Slightly far fetched at times but it kept me entertained and I’d love to see it turned into a film!

This was the first book of Tom Bale’s that I’d read but I’ve got most of his other novels on my Kindle and will definitely be checking out more from him soon! 

Buy the book

Survive by Tom Bale can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

About the author

Tom Bale was born in Brighton in 1966. While pursuing his lifelong ambition to be a writer he worked in a variety of jobs, but none was as exhausting – or as rewarding – as the several years he spent as a househusband with two pre-school children.

He is the author of nine thrillers, including the bestsellers See How They Run, All Fall Down and Skin and Bones, as well as a young adult sci-fi novel, The Stone Song.

When not writing, he’s usually reading (and eating chocolate). To mull over ideas (and offset the effect of the chocolate), he can often be found cycling the country lanes and coastal routes of Sussex. He is also a keen sea swimmer.

Twitter: @t0mbale
Facebook: @tombalewriter
Website: https://tombale.net

Thanks

With thanks to Heather Fitt at Bloodhound Books for providing me with an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Featured

The Bad Mother’s Virus by Suzy K. Quinn

Promotional post

Synopsis

Laughter is good for the immune system.

Single mother, Juliette Duffy, is getting married. Again. And this time, she is determined to make it all the way down the aisle. But you never know what’s around the corner, do you?

Follow Juliette through the trials and tribulations of home schooling, shopping in post-apocalytic supermarkets, trying to stop her 3-year old from licking car door handles and finally scoring a 9-pack of toilet roll.

And then someone goes into hospital …

Note from the author

My lovely readers, this book should have been called The Bad Mother’s Wedding. But after all of us plunging into a rather weird and, for some, very scary, global pandemic, I thought we all needed a bit of cheering up. There are so many real, human, funny and heart-warming stories in the midst of this pandemic, and that’s what I’m hoping to share in this book.

Thank you to everyone who donates to healthcare heroes by reading this book. You are contributing to many good causes and hopefully laughing and feeling good, even if things feel scary or uncertain.

We’ll get through this everyone!

Huge love,
Suzy xxx

Buy the book

The Bad Mother’s Virus by Suzy K. Quinn can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and is also available to read for free on Kindle Unlimited.

100% of profits donated to coronavirus vaccine and healthcare funds.*

* Sales profits currently donated to:
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in support of coronavirus vaccine development
NHS Charities Together

All net book sale profits will be donated. This does not include Kindle Unlimited borrows.

About the author

Suzy K. Quinn is a British fiction author, and writes in three different genres: psychological thriller, comedy and romance.

She was first published by Hachette in 2010 with her debut novel, Glass Geishas (now Night Girls), then self-published a romance series, the Ivy Lessons, which became an international bestseller and a #1 Kindle romance bestseller in the US and UK.

After her second daughter was born in 2013, she self-published the Bad Mother’s Diary series, which also went on to become a #1 Kindle romantic comedy bestseller.

Her novels have been translated into seven languages and have sold over ¾ million copies worldwide.

Suzy lives in Wivenhoe, Essex, with her husband, Demi, and two daughters, and travels to Mexico every year to write and study Mayan story telling. She loves her family, friends and readers, but when pushed to add more to the list, she also loves travelling, food and alcohol.

Twitter: @SuzyKQuinn
Facebook: @suzykquinnbooks
Instagram: @suzy_writes_bestsellers
Website: https://www.suzykquinn.com

Thanks

Thanks to Megan Denholm at ed public relations for my digital copy of The Bad Mother’s Virus and for the promotional materials for this blog post.

Featured

His and Hers by Alice Feeney

Blogger day: 28 May 2020

Synopsis

If there are two sides to every story, someone is always lying …

Jack: Three words to describe my wife: Beautiful. Ambitious. Unforgiving.
Anna: I only need one word to describe my husband: Liar.

When a woman is murdered in Blackdown village, newsreader Anna Andrews is reluctant to cover the case. Anna’s ex-husband, DCI Jack Harper, is suspicious of her involvement, until he becomes a suspect in his own murder investigation.

Someone is lying, and some secrets are worth killing to keep.

My review

Anna Andrews is 36 and a BBC TV news presenter in London but, after two years covering for Cat Jones who was on maternity leave after having two children, she’s relegated to news correspondent when her colleague returns to work.

When a woman is found murdered in the woods in a sleepy Surrey village called Blackdown, Anna is dispatched to the place she used to call home to report on the case. While there, she sees Detective Chief Inspector Jack Harper, head of the Major Crime Team, who is in charge of the investigation and also happens to be Anna’s ex-husband.

Over the course of five intense days, we learn more about ‘Him’ (Jack) and ‘Her’ (Anna), including some background history and the reasons for their split, in alternating chapters. These are interspersed with odd sections from the killer.

As the evidence builds up, both Anna and Jack seem as if they could have the motives and opportunity to have carried out the murder, and it’s obvious that they’re rather unreliable narrators and hiding numerous secrets from their pasts, which still haunt them. Anna drinks too much and Jack has unsuitable relationships.

This was such an intriguing and entertaining novel with lots of twists, turns, red herrings and misdirection. I was suspicious of all the main protagonists at some point and didn’t really trust any of them – there were various clues scattered throughout the book that pointed the finger at most of the characters! 

As this compelling story reached its climax and the pace increased, I was gripped and raced through the novel, desperate for the big reveal. I wasn’t disappointed – the ending was action packed and I held my breath at various points, completely unsure what was going to happen. Going into the final pages, I was trying to think outside the box and suspected two characters as the murderer but was wrong about both!

Overall, I really enjoyed this well-written and cleverly plotted murder mystery thriller – it was engaging and tense, with great characters and some shocking scenes. I’ve already read the author’s last book, I Know Who You Are, and look forward to reading her debut, Sometimes I Lie, which also sounds an intriguing read!

Buy the book

His and Hers by Alice Feeney can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

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.

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

Blogger day

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

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

Featured

The Babysitter by Phoebe Morgan

Blog tour: 27 to 31 May 2020

Synopsis

On the hottest day of the year, Caroline Harvey is found dead in Suffolk. Her body is left draped over a cot – but the baby she was looking after is missing.

Hundreds of miles away, Siobhan Dillon is on a luxurious family holiday in France when her husband, Callum, is arrested by French police on suspicion of murder.

As Siobhan’s perfect family is torn apart by the media in the nation’s frantic search for the missing baby, she desperately tries to piece together how Callum knew Caroline.

What happened that night? Was Caroline as innocent as she seemed – or was she hiding a secret of her own?

My review

It’s mid-August and Siobhan Dillon, 44, and her husband, Callum, their 16-year-old daughter, Emma, and Siobhan’s older sister, Maria Wilcox, are staying in Maria’s holiday villa in a tiny village called Saint Juillet on the north-west coast of France.

On the third morning of their holiday, French police arrive to arrest Callum, a TV executive and local celebrity in Ipswich, for the murder of a woman called Caroline Harvey. He denies murder but admits to having had an affair with Caroline for the last 18 months and claims they recently finished their relationship.

Caroline, 33, an illustrator, was stabbed to death in her own flat while looking after her university friend’s one-year-old daughter, Eve, who is still missing. Eve’s parents, Jenny and Rick Grant, are devastated by her disappearance, which occurred while they were visiting Rick’s mother in the Norfolk and Norwich hospital after a recent heart attack.

As the French and English police struggle to coordinate their investigations and put all the evidence together, we’re left wondering who did kill Caroline and if baby Eve is dead too.

Told from several viewpoints, including that of Siobhan, Caroline, Detective Sergeant Alex Wildy (Ipswich police), and junior French police officer, Adele, as well as others, we build up a picture of the characters and it’s fascinating to see how unpleasant and dysfunctional they are!

I liked that the book was set in Ipswich, a town that I’m very familiar with, and it was a good contrast to the hot and idyllic-sounding French location of Saint Juillet.

The storyline was tense, well paced and cleverly plotted and I kept changing my mind about who had committed Caroline’s murder and taken the baby and why! There were some good red herrings and misdirection as the pieces of the puzzle were slowly put together. I did guess nearer the end who was responsible but that was only through a process of elimination and from spotting a few clues!

Overall, I really enjoyed this brilliantly twisty and intriguing read; it was engaging and entertaining and a perfect summer thriller. I’ve already read and enjoyed The Girl Next Door and must read the author’s debut novel, The Doll House, which I already own.

Buy the book

The Babysitter by Phoebe Morgan is released on 28 May and can be preordered from Amazon now on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Phoebe Morgan studied English at Leeds University after growing up in the Suffolk countryside. She now lives in London.

She previously worked as a journalist and is now Editorial Director at HarperCollins and edits commercial fiction (crime, thrillers, women’s fiction and saga) during the day, and writes her own books in the evenings.

The Doll House was her debut novel. It became a #1 iBooks bestseller and spent over eight weeks in the Kindle top 100. Her second book, The Girl Next Door, published in February 2019 and reached #5 in The Bookseller Heatseekers chart. Her books have sold over 70,000 copies and been translated into eight languages. They are also on sale in the US and Canada.

Twitter: @Phoebe_A_Morgan
Facebook: @PhoebeMorganAuthor
Instagram: @phoebeannmorgan
Website: https://phoebemorganauthor.com

Blog tour

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

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

Featured

In Plain Sight by Marion Todd

Blog tour: 18 to 26 May 2020

Synopsis

A child’s life is at stake. Which of the residents of St Andrews is hiding something – and why?

When a baby girl is snatched from the crowd of spectators at a fun run, DI Clare Mackay and her team are in a race against time when they learn that the child has a potentially fatal heart condition.

As Clare investigates she realises this victim wasn’t selected at random. Someone knows who took the baby girl, and why. But will they reveal their secrets before it’s too late?

My review

It’s Sunday 22 September and at West Sands in St Andrews, Scotland, Detective Inspective Clare Mackay has recently returned from a holiday in France with her boyfriend, Geoffrey Dark, and is taking part in a charity fun run along with some of her colleagues.

As the 200 or so runners gather at the start, there’s disruption in the form of around 30 North-East Fife Environment Watch (NEFEW) members, who lay down on the ground in protest at fun run sponsor McIntosh Water’s plan to build a bottled water plant on the nearby Priory Marsh.

When everyone is distracted, a six-month-old girl called Abigail (Abi) Mitchell is taken from her pram and spirited away, through the crowds of spectators. Her parents, Kevin and Lisa, are devastated and can’t understand why anyone would want to take their baby. 

While being interviewed, the parents reveal their daughter has a congenital heart defect and needs regular doses of a medication called digoxin to stay alive. Without this drug, the baby’s doctor reveals she may only live for 48 hours before suffering heart failure and slipping into a coma.

DI Clare Mackay heads up the investigation and rapidly gathers resources from around the local area (Cupar, Dundee, Glenrothes) to focus on the case. Detective Chief Inspector Tony McAvettie is sent to help with the case, much to the dismay of Detective Sergeant Chris West who had a bust up with the DCI the year before. DI Mackay is doing a great job and competently and methodically working through all the evidence with her team but DCI McAvettie is more interested in a possible promotion to Superintendent than the missing baby and wants quicker results so he brings in a new detective inspector called Matt Fuller, much to Clare’s dismay.

It was good to learn a bit more about DI Mackay – after growing tired of renting in St Andrews, she’s recently bought a Victorian cottage and has an English Bull Terrier called Benjy. We also get to know a bit more about DS West and his relationship with PC Sara Stapleton. The book is set over the course of less than a week so it’s difficult to pack that much personal detail in.

Set over the course of six days, this is an action-packed and fast-paced read of a race against time to find a six-month-old baby with a serious heart condition. The case is a baffling one and the police explore every angle but struggle to work out motives for the abduction. The investigation is complicated and, although several people are linked in various ways, DI Clare Mackay and her team have difficulty putting the connections together to solve the case.

An excellently plotted police procedural with great attention to detail and I really felt like I was there, taking part in the investigation. It was a tense and engaging read, with plenty of twists, turns, misdirection and the odd red herring!

Overall, this was a great read and very well written with a good flow. I loved the way the compelling story unfolded and the clues were slowly revealed and various parts of the case were solved. The procedures seemed to be very realistic and true to life and I really wasn’t sure how the pieces of the puzzle were going to come together and how it was all going to be resolved.

I’ve read the author’s debut, See Them Run, and really enjoyed it and this one was even better. The series is developing well – I can’t wait to read Lies to Tell in June and will definitely be preordering!

Buy the book

In Plain Sight (DI Clare Mackay book 2) by Marion Todd can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Before becoming a full-time writer, Marion Todd worked as a college lecturer, plantswoman, candle-maker and hotel lounge pianist.

Early success saw her winning first prize in the Family Circle magazine short story for children national competition in 1987 and she followed this up by writing short stories and articles for her local newspaper.

As a keen reader of crime fiction, the lure of the genre was strong, and her debut crime novel, See Them Run, was published in 2019.

Marion grew up in Dundee and now lives in North-east Fife, overlooking the River Tay, and is a sometime babysitter for her daughter’s unruly but lovable dog.

Twitter: @MarionETodd
Facebook: @mariontoddwriter
Instagram: @mariondtoddwriter
Website: https://mariontodd.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Sophie Eminson at Canelo for my proof copy of In Plain Sight 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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I Made a Mistake by Jane Corry

Blog tour: 15 to 28 May 2020

Synopsis

It started with a kiss.
And ended with murder,

In Poppy Page’s mind, there are two types of women in this world: those who are faithful to their husbands, and those who are not. Until now, Poppy has never questioned which she was.

But when handsome, charming Matthew Gordon walks back into her life after almost two decades, that changes. Poppy makes a single mistake – and that mistake will be far more dangerous than she could imagine.

Someone is going to pay for it with their life

My review

My first-ever blog tour post was for Jane Corry’s book, I Looked Away, and I started my blog after winning a copy of the book on Twitter, so it’s great to be reviewing her next book, I Made a Mistake, just under a year later!

I Made a Mistake begins with the tragic incident of a person falling under a train at Waterloo Underground Station one January evening in rush hour. Then we jump back to six weeks earlier and meet Poppy Page, who runs a casting agency that provides extras for TV programmes and films. She’s married to Stuart, a dentist, and they have two children, Melissa, aged 17, and 14-year-old Daisy.

While at the Association of Supporting Artistes and Agents’ Christmas party, Poppy is approached by the handsome 50-something Matthew Gordon, her first boyfriend who she hasn’t seen for over 20 years! He still has the same effect he had on her when they were students at drama school and Poppy struggles to resist his charms, especially when they’re both forced to stay overnight at the hotel where the party is being held due to snow.

Poppy and her family live with Stuart’s mum, Betty, 70, who moved in with them after the death of her husband, Jock, when Daisy was two. She is a great help to the family and has always been around to look after the girls while their parents were busy with work. We discover more about Betty in a series of letters that she’s written to Poppy and find out that her relationship with Jock, who she married in 1970 aged 20, wasn’t as idyllic as their son, Stuart, believed.

Poppy’s father lives in a bungalow in Worthing, but her mother left them when she was young and now lives in Australia with her second husband. Poppy hasn’t had anything to do with her since, ignoring all the letters and cards that she’s sent over the years. Her dad is suffering from forgetfulness and Poppy becomes more and more concerned about him as he has falls, looks rather unkempt and seems bewildered. He drives off without paying for petrol, his fridge is too full of milk, he buys lots of cans of beans and leaves food to burn in the oven. It’s difficult for Poppy to keep an eye on him when she lives so far away and her dad is stubborn and refuses to see the doctor for a check-up.

Early on in the book, we learn that Poppy is being questioned at the Central Criminal Court in London about her relationship with the deceased, Matthew Gordon, so we know that something dreadful has happened to him and assume that he must be the person who was hit by an underground train at Waterloo. How does the story all fit together?

This is a fascinating novel and it was intriguing to see all the various strands of the story come together and discover how everything was connected. There were several dysfunctional relationships and it was interesting to learn more about Betty and see the secrets that she’d been hiding for decades. Poppy was also not being true to herself and had been hiding various feelings for years – she still hadn’t really recovered from the disappointment of not making it as an actress when she was younger.

I Made a Mistake is a well-written and cleverly plotted tale! Just when I thought I had things sussed out, there would be another twist that I hadn’t expected! The book had a great pace and tension to it and it kept my attention throughout, with never a dull moment. It cleverly switched between Poppy and Betty’s stories, interspersed with the odd courtroom scene, and it was an interesting look at relationships and made me really care about both women, especially Betty who’d had a tough life. I also felt anger at the rather unpleasant Matthew who appears in Poppy’s life after several decades and starts disrupting everything that she’s built up and coercing her in various ways.

Overall, I really enjoyed this gripping and entertaining thriller and raced through it in a couple of days. I’ve read three of Jane Corry’s books and enjoyed them all but I think this one is my new favourite! I’ve got the others on my Kindle so I’ll have to check them out soon!

Buy the book

I Made a Mistake by Jane Corry can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now and in paperback on 28 May, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

© Justine Stoddart

Jane Corry is a former magazine journalist who spent three years working as the writer-in-residence of a high-security prison for men. This often hair-raising experience helped inspire her The Sunday Times-bestselling psychological thrillers, My Husband’s WifeBlood SistersThe Dead Ex and I Looked Away, which have been published in more than 35 countries.

Jane was a tutor in creative writing at Oxford University and is a regular contributor to The Daily Telegraph and My Weekly magazine.

Twitter: @JaneCorryAuthor
Facebook: @authorjanecorry
Instagram: @janecorry
Website: https://www.janecorryauthor.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Ellie Hudson from Penguin Books UK for my proof, digital and finished copies of I Made a Mistake and for inviting me to join the blog tour.

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

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Just My Luck by Adele Parks

Blog tour: 14 to 18 May 2020

Synopsis

It’s the stuff dreams are made of – a lottery win so big, it changes everything.

For fifteen years, Lexi and Jake have played the same six numbers with their friends, the Pearsons and the Heathcotes. Over dinner parties, fish & chip suppers and summer barbecues, they’ve discussed the important stuff – the kids, marriages, jobs and houses – and they’ve laughed off their disappointment when they failed to win anything more than a tenner.

But then, one Saturday night, the unthinkable happens. There’s a rift in the group. Someone doesn’t tell the truth. And soon after, six numbers come up which change everything forever.

Lexi and Jake have a ticket worth £18 million. And their friends are determined to claim a share of it.

My review

One Saturday night in April 2019, Lexi and Jake Greenwood are excited to discover that they’re the sole winners of the National Lottery jackpot of £17.8 million! At first, they try and keep calm and don’t even plan to tell their children, 15-year-old Emily and 13-year-old Logan, but before long they’re making splashing the cash: making wild purchases, booking expensive holidays to New York and, in the case of Jake, hiring a yellow Ferrari and purchasing a new red convertible one, costing £230,000!

There’s just one problem – their friends, Carla and Patrick Pearson and Jennifer and Fred Heathcote, who they’ve known since they met at antenatal classes for their first-born children over 15 years ago and were part of a lottery syndicate with, until the week before the win!

At the ceremony to hand over their enormous cheque at a local country house, Camberwell Manor, the Pearsons and Heathcotes storm the room proclaiming they were all part of a syndicate. Things get rather unpleasant all round with scuffles and the odd punch being thrown and lawyers are called in to interview the couples the following week to try and resolve the issue.

Logan’s school friends are quite calm and accepting of his win but Emily’s best friend, Megan Pearson, and boyfriend, Ridley Heathcote, are the children of the other couples and, as they’re missing out on the money, don’t take things so well and are cruel to Emily.

Lexi is a nice and kind person and works in the local Citizens Advice Bureau offices. She’s currently helping a man called Tomu Alba, from Moldova, whose wife and two-year-old son were found dead from carbon-monoxide poisoning in their rented flat, just before Christmas in 2014. She’s keen to donate some money to charity rather than blowing the lot on extravagances.

Just My Luck had some great twists and turns and I was shocked by how unpleasant, greedy and toxic several of the characters were, with some rather flawed relationships. They were hiding some dramatic secrets and there were a few incidents that had shocking repercussions for all the families!

A fascinating read and one that shows you that money definitely doesn’t buy you happiness! A big lottery win is life changing and comes with a lot of conflict and negatives, not least begging letters and requests from all and sundry, including family and friends, and it makes you the target of unscrupulous people who are jealous of your good fortune. It affects how others see you and, if you’re not careful, it also changes you as a person.

Overall, I really enjoyed this gripping and entertaining read, which was tense and uncomfortable at times, and I flew through it in a day, desperate to see what happened! I’ve been reading Adele Parks’ books for years and I’m impressed she’s written 20 in 20 years! I must check to see if I’ve read them all!

Buy the book

Just My Luck by Adele Parks can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Adele Parks was born in Teesside in the north east of England. After studying English language and literature at Leicester University, she worked in advertising and as a management consultant.

Her first novel, Playing Away, was published in 2000. Three and a half million copies of her UK editions have been sold and her books are translated into 26 different languages. Adele has published 19 novels in 19 years, and they’ve all hit the bestseller lists. She’s written 16 contemporary novels and two historical ones, Spare Brides and If You Go Away, which are set during and after World War One.

During her career, Adele has lived in Italy, Botswana and London. She now lives in Guildford, Surrey with her husband, teenage son and cat.

Twitter: @adeleparks
Facebook: @OfficialAdeleParks
Instagram: @adele_parks
Website: https://www.adeleparks.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Sian Baldwin at HQ Stories for my proof copy of Just My Luck and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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The Catch by T.M. Logan

Blog tour: 8 to 21 May 2020

Synopsis

She says he’s perfect. I know he’s lying …

He caught me watching, and our eyes met. That was when it hit me.
There was something not quite right about my daughter’s new boyfriend …

The doting father

Ed finally meets his daughter’s boyfriend for the first time. Smart, successful and handsome, Ryan appears to be a real catch. Then Abbie announces their plan to get married.

The perfect fiancé

There’s just one problem. Ed thinks Ryan is lying to them.

Who would you believe?

All of Ed’s instincts tell him his daughter is in terrible danger – but no-one else can see it. With the wedding date approaching fast, Ed sets out to uncover Ryan’s secrets, before it’s too late …

My review

When Abbie Collier, 24, brings home new boyfriend of seven months, Ryan Wilson, 33, to meet her parents, her dad, Edward, takes an instant dislike to Ryan after seeing something dark in his eyes. Abbie’s mum, Claire, and nana, Joyce, are smitten though and think he’s wonderful.

Ryan seems a great catch – tall, handsome, caring, kind (charity fundraiser), athletic (marathon runner), intelligent (with a first-class degree in psychology from the University of Manchester), responsible (he was a former lieutenant in the British Army and did two tours of Afghanistan, receiving the Military Cross) and successful (he currently works as a partner at an international recruiting firm) – but, is he too perfect? Ed seems to think so!

After dinner and a game of badminton, Abbie and Ryan announce their engagement, much to Ed’s dismay and he struggles to hide his true feelings, especially when they reveal that the wedding will be taking place in less than six weeks, to ensure that Joyce, who is suffering from cancer, will be able to attend. Abbie will also be moving out of the family home in Nottingham to Ryan’s house in Beeston,

Ed decides to look into Ryan’s background and he goes completely over the top in his investigations and ends up getting into all kinds of bother, not least from his family who think he’s behaving erratically and are concerned for his mental health and try to persuade him to just accept Ryan. Ed is determined to uncover the truth about Ryan and discover exactly what he’s hiding.

Ed is an overprotective father and Abbie feels rather stifled at times but her dad has a good reason to behave the way he does, as we find out later in the story.

But is Ed right about Ryan or is he having a nervous breakdown? His obsession with Ryan grows and begins to affect all areas of his life. Ryan seems a lovely bloke – he even volunteers at the local hospice, where he chats to residents and plays his guitar, and is a special constable with the police!

This book had some great twists and turns and my heart was in my mouth as Ed did one crazy thing after another and put himself in danger! The main protagonists were all hiding various secrets, and I spent a lot of time wondering if any of them were unreliable narrators or not and trying to work out who was telling the truth.

Overall, this was a fascinating and gripping read and I raced through it, desperate to discover how the whole situation was going to end. With plenty of red herrings and misdirection, I was never really sure if I’d sussed things out or not. The book had a great pace and tension to it and it kept my attention throughout, with never a dull moment. Just when you thought things were calming down, something else dramatic would happen!

This is the third of T.M. Logan’s books that I’ve read and I’ve really enjoyed them all. I must read his debut, Lies, soon!

Buy the book

The Catch by T.M. Logan can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now and in paperback on 11 June, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

The bestselling author, T.M. Logan, was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel writing full time. His thrillers have sold more than 750,000 copies in the UK and are published in 15 countries around the world, including the USA, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Greece, Romania and the Netherlands.

His debut thriller, Lies, was one of Amazon UK’s biggest ebooks of 2017, winning a Silver Award at the Nielsen Bestseller Awards, and was followed by his second standalone, 29 Seconds (2018). His third novel, The Holiday, was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and spent 10 weeks in The Sunday Times paperback top 10, as well as hitting the number one spots on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks and Kobo.

Tim lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children, and writes in a cabin at the bottom of his garden.

Twitter: @TMLoganAuthor
Facebook: @TMLoganAuthor
Instagram: @tmloganauthor
Website: https://www.tmlogan.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Zaffre Books and Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for my proof and digital copies of The Catch and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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Strangers by C.L. Taylor

Blog tour: 2 April to 14 June 2020

Synopsis

Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.
Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.
And Alice is being stalked.

None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.

Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.

My review

Strangers tells the story of three people whose lives shockingly collide in a frightening event one evening.

Alice Fletcher is 46 and the manager of a ladies’ fashion boutique called Mirage Fashions, which is in the Meads shopping centre in Bristol. She is divorced and a single mum of a 20-year-old daughter called Emily.

Gareth Filer is 48 and a security officer at the shopping centre. He lives with his mum, Joan, who is 79 and suffers from dementia.

Ursula Andrews is 32 and a courier. She used to be a primary school teacher. After a falling out with her friend, Charlotte and boyfriend, Matt, she moves into a house share with a live-in landlord, Edward. She is a regular visitor to the shopping centre.

The main protagonists aware of each other but don’t know each other personally and they all have their own difficulties and traumas in life including failed relationships, a missing father and bereavement. They were all likeable and relatable but I did wonder if any of them was an unreliable narrator and hiding more than they were letting on.

As the novel progresses, we learn more about the characters and it’s fascinating to build up this picture of their lives. Strange things happen and various events occur that had me frantically trying to put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together to try and work out exactly what was happening! Throughout the book, I had a strong sense of foreboding and was suspecting various people but still wasn’t sure what the climax would be.

Overall, I really enjoyed this cleverly plotted and well put together novel. It was intriguing to see all the threads of the stories come together and to discover how actions can have unexpected consequences. It was very entertaining and tense with several twists and red herrings to keep me on my toes! It’s a gripping and absorbing read and I sailed through it in a couple of days.

Surprisingly enough, despite owning all of Cally Taylor’s back library, this is the first book of hers that I’ve actually read! I’ll have to rectify that and start reading all the rest soon. I’m already looking forward to her next novel, which is due out in 2021.

Buy the book

Strangers by C.L. Taylor can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

C.L. Taylor is the six-times The Sunday Times bestselling author of seven gripping stand-alone psychological thrillers: The Accident, The Lie, The Missing, The Escape, The Fear, Sleep and Strangers. She has also written a young adult thriller, The Treatment.

Her books have sold in excess of a million copies and hit the number one spots on Amazon Kindle, Audible, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play. They have been translated into over 25 languages, selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club, and optioned for television.

Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on to forge a career in instructional design and e-learning before leaving to write full time in 2014. She lives in Bristol with her partner and young son.

Twitter: @callytaylor
Facebook: @CallyTaylorAuthor
Instagram: @cltaylorauthor
Website: https://cltaylorauthor.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Sanjana Cunniah at Avon Books and Harper Collins for my digital copy of Strangers and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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What’s Left of Me is Yours by Stephanie Scott

Blog tour: 20 April to 8 May 2020

Synopsis

In Japan, a covert industry has grown up around the wakaresaseya (literally ‘breaker-upper’), a person hired by one spouse to seduce the other in order to gain the advantage in divorce proceedings.

When Satō hires Kaitarō, a wakaresaseya agent, to have an affair with his wife, Rina, he assumes it will be an easy case. But Satō has never truly understood Rina or her desires and Kaitarō’s job is to do exactly that – until he does it too well.

While Rina remains ignorant of the circumstances that brought them together, she and Kaitarō fall in a desperate, singular love, setting in motion a series of violent acts that will forever haunt her daughter’s life.

Told from alternating points of view and across the breathtaking landscapes of Japan, What’s Left of Me is Yours explores the thorny psychological and moral grounds of the actions we take in the name of love, asking where we draw the line between passion and possession.

My review

Set in modern-day Japan, What’s Left of Me is Yours is inspired by a real trial in Tokyo in 2010 and tells the fascinating fictional account of the crime that occurred.

Told from the alternating viewpoints of Rina Satō; her daughter, Sumiko Satō; wakaresaseya agent, Kaitarō Nakamura, as well as Rina’s father and Sumiko’s grandfather, Yoshitake (Yoshi) Sarashima, we learn more about the family’s past and the events leading up to Rina’s death.

Sumiko’s father, Osamu Satō, isn’t a very pleasant man and was often absent and working long hours. He hired breaker-upper, Kaitarō, to seduce Rina in order to escape their marriage and use her adultery to get a divorce, which he knew she wouldn’t grant him.

With a mutual interest in photography, Rina and Kaitarō quickly fell in love after meeting in Atami and their relationship quickly became passionate and obsessive. It made unsettling reading as the affair progressed and events spiralled out of control to the ultimate tragic end.

Sumiko always believed that her mother, Rina, died in a car crash driving home from Shinagawa in March 1994, when Sumiko was seven, and it’s only after she receives a phone call from the prison service, 20 years later, that she begins her quest for the truth and, through evidence and photos, eventually discovers what actually happened.

Sumiko’s grandfather, a lawyer, has shielded her from the truth about her death for all these years. They have always had a lovely close relationship – he used to take her to the temple every week when she was younger – and he cared for Sumiko while her parents were divorcing, as well as after her mother’s death.

I was immediately drawn to this book by the stunning cover and I’m also a fan of Japanese crime thriller and mystery books. I’d never heard of the Japanese marriage-breakup industry and I enjoyed finding out more about this rather unpleasant business!

The scenic descriptions of the various parts of Tokyo, like Meguro and the family’s holiday home in Shimoda, were very well written and really brought the setting to life.

Overall, I really enjoyed this beautifully atmospheric and descriptive book and it was a captivating and emotional read. The story was cleverly layered and built up as we switched between the viewpoints of the characters. It gave a fascinating insight into Japanese culture and the legal system and it was very intriguing to put together the pieces of the puzzle and discover the tragic truth about Rina’s life and death. This thought-provoking and absorbing novel will stay with me for a long time and I look forward to reading more from the author.

Buy the book

What’s Left of Me is Yours by Stephanie Scott can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle, in hardback and audiobook, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks. The hardback is also available online from Waterstones and Blackwell’s.

About the author

Stephanie Scott is a Singaporean-British writer who was born and raised in South East Asia. She read English Literature at the Universities of York and Cambridge and holds an M.St in Creative Writing from Oxford University.

She was awarded a British Association of Japanese Studies Toshiba Studentship for her anthropological work on What’s Left of Me is Yours and has been made a member of the British Japanese Law Association as a result of her research.

She has won the A.M. Heath Prize, the Jerwood Arvon Prize for Prose Fiction, and runner up in the Bridport Prize Peggy Chapman-Andrews First Novel Award for an early draft of the manuscript. What’s Left of Me is Yours is her first novel.

Twitter: @stephaniewscott
Facebook: @stephaniewscottauthor
Instagram: @stephaniewscott
Website: https://stephaniescottauthor.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my beautiful hardback copy of What’s Left of Me is Yours and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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Silent Cry by Jenny O’Brien

Blog tour: 17 to 21 April 2020

Synopsis

A missing baby. A mother’s nightmare.

When Izzy Grant’s newborn daughter Alys disappears, her world shatters around her. Despite an extensive search, the police find no trace of the missing girl, but Izzy refuses to give up hope that her daughter will be found.

Then a note is pushed through her letterbox, warning her off.

For Izzy, it’s a ray of hope, another lead for the police to follow. For DC Gaby Darin, it’s another piece of the puzzle that just won’t fit. But as a long-lost friend returns to Izzy’s life with a shocking secret, Gaby realises the truth of who took Izzy’s daughter from her might lie in the past – and far closer to home than anyone could have imagined …

My review

Five years ago, in Abereiddy in south-west Wales, Isabelle (Izzy) Grant’s boyfriend, Charlie Dawson, took their week old baby, Alys, out for a drive to the shops to give her a break. Izzy falls asleep and when she wakes up a few hours later, there’s no sign of them. She discovers a plain white postcard on her door mat, with wording that says: ‘I’ve got Alys. Don’t try to find us, Charlie’. Despite a lengthy and expensive police investigation, they were never seen again and the car was never found.

After several awful years, culminating in a cry for help, Izzy decides she needs to try and move on and throws herself into her work making handmade knits and enjoys being an aunt to her nephews, Dylan and Gareth, who are the children of her sister, Bethan, and brother-in-law, Oscar.

One afternoon, while Christmas shopping in Swansea, Izzy spots her former best friend, Grace Madden, who she met while they were both heavily pregnant and attending antenatal classes. Grace left town around the time of Charlie and Alys’ disappearance and cut all contact with Izzy, who has her suspicions she was involved somehow. Grace hinted that her and Charlie were having an affair.

Later on that day, when she bumps into local policeman, Detective Inspector Rhys Walker, who is the brother of an old schoolfriend, Rebecca, she mentions to him about seeing Grace. He was involved in the original case and he investigates again, with the help of Detective Constable Gabriella (Gaby) Darin, who has recently transferred from Cardiff after a few difficult incidents in her work and personal life. The pair visit Izzy’s cottage a few days later, after Christmas, and discover a postcard has been delivered. It’s of the Eiffel Tower, with a French postmark and is another message from Charlie.

The police investigate the case again and DC Gaby Darin studies all the paperwork to see if she can spot anything that was missed. As new evidence is brought to light, Izzy is hopeful that she may finally discover what happened to her boyfriend and daughter but, as the police move nearer to the truth and Izzy makes her own enquiries, someone seems determined to ensure that she won’t be around much longer.

Poor Izzy has had a terrible time of things over the years, with one trauma after another, and it’s only her family and white cat, Bucket, who keep her going. DC Gaby Darin is an interesting protagonist, with a good instinct for police work, and I’m keen to see how her character is developed in the next novel.

Silent Cry was a compelling and engaging story and well put together, with great details and descriptions. I liked the setting of the novel, in Wales; it was fascinating to check a map and see that these places actually exist! The Blue Lagoon sounds beautiful.

In this well-written and cleverly plotted police procedural, we’re treated to a great storyline with some intriguing twists, turns, red herrings and misdirection! The investigation developed well and I hadn’t guessed in which direction it was going to go; there were some surprising revelations. I had a few theories but was still surprised by a lot that happened!

Overall, I really enjoyed this gripping, engaging and entertaining read and I flew through it in a few hours, frantically turning the pages to see how everything was going to be resolved! I’m already looking forward to the next book in the Detective Gaby Darin series.

Buy the book

Silent Cry by Jenny O’Brien can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now and in paperback on 25 June, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

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 Sian Baldwin at HQ Digital for my digital copy of Silent Cry and for my place on the blog tour.

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

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One Step Behind by Lauren North

Cover reveal

Today, I’m delighted to help reveal the cover for One Step Behind by Lauren North.

Synopsis

Jenna is a wife, a mother, a doctor. She’s also the victim of a stalker.

Every time she leaves her house, she sees him. Disturbing gifts are left at her door. Cruel emails are sent to her colleagues. She has no idea who this man is but she feels powerless against him.

Until the day he is brought into her hospital after a serious accident, and Jenna is given the chance to find out once and for all why this man is tormenting her. Now, the power is all hers.

But how many lines is she willing to cross to take back control of her life?

Buy the book

Published by Transworld Books, One Step Behind by Lauren North is released on 16 July 2020 in eBook and 3 September 2020 in paperback. It can be preordered now from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

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 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. Her debut novel, The Perfect Betrayal, was released last year.

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

Featured

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle

Blog tour: 13 to 17 April 2020

Synopsis

Beth Murphy is on the run …

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning – one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing …

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she’s taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine’s carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that’s certain is that someone is lying and the truth won’t stay buried for long.

My review

Beth Murphy from Pine Bluff in Arkansas is on the run, escaping an abusive husband who she’s been planning to escape from for a long time. She’s finally finished planning her departure and saved enough money and she lays down a trail of false leads for her husband and the local police force. She’s clever and brave but will it be enough to stop anyone finding her and can she have her freedom and new beginning?

When Jeffrey Hardison returns after a four-day sales conference in Florida, he discovers that his wife, Sabine, a very successful real estate broker, is missing. There’s no sign of her at their house on Arkansas River and she didn’t attend a work training session at which she was supposed to present and missed a late showing at a new development. Her twin sister, Ingrid Stanfield, who doesn’t get on very well with Jeffrey, doesn’t know where she is either, despite the fact the women talk several times a day and tell each other just about everything.

Detective Marcus Durand of Pine Bluff police department is investigating the disappearance of Sabine and he uses all his years of experience and various contacts to try and determine where she is. He doesn’t trust husband Jeffrey, who is an account executive at a company that makes human resources management software, and soon discovers that he has been lying about this whereabouts.

As we follow Beth’s journey, we see how resourceful she is and, despite being a bit naive, she manages to get fake ID and a job, and meets some interesting characters along the way. There’s still no sign of Sabine and there are no firm leads, even though lots of surprising new information comes to light.

As the story progresses, we’re left wondering who the women are and if they know each other or whether, in fact, they’re actually the same person. I had various ideas and came up with several difference scenarios as we got to know the women and other characters more.

The author writes well about an abusive relationship – the voice in her head that Beth hears constantly, the fear that she experiences and the awful violence that her husband has inflicted upon her. To the outside world and their families, their relationship is great but others don’t realise the emotional, physical, psychological and sexual abuse that Beth is suffering.

Dear Wife was cleverly plotted, compelling and switched well between the viewpoints of Beth, Sabine’s husband, Jeffrey, and the policeman, Marcus. There were lots of twists and turns, red herrings and misdirection, and I was never completely sure who was telling the truth and what was going to happen next. Beth’s road trip and escape made gripping reading and, throughout the novel, we were taken on an intriguing and intense journey!

Overall, I really enjoyed this absorbing, action-packed story and flew through it in a couple of hours, desperate to find out what happened to Beth and Sabine. I’ve got a couple of the author’s books (The Marriage Lie and Three Days Missing) on my Kindle already and will definitely be checking them out soon.

Buy the book

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle can be purchased on 16 April from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of five novels. Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semi-finalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery and Thriller, and her work has been translated into a dozen languages. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, she divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Twitter: @KimberlySBelle
Facebook: @KimberlyBelleBooks
Instagram: @kimberlysbelle
Website: https://www.kimberlybellebooks.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Sian Baldwin at HQ Digital for my digital copy of Dear Wife and for my place on the blog tour.

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