Featured

When They Find Her by Lia Middleton

Blog tour: 25 March to 21 April 2021

Synopsis

Naomi always wanted to be a mother.

But three years ago, her husband left, taking their child with him.

Now, her daughter has come to stay, and Naomi knows it’s her one chance to re-build her family. But the night ends in a terrible accident. And Naomi tells a lie she can never take back.

Naomi reports her daughter missing.

Within hours, her home is invaded. Journalists crowd the driveway. Police search the woods at the foot of the garden. Her ex-husband paces the hall.

And Naomi can’t look away. Because the only thing worse than her lie is the truth.

Naomi has no memory of what really happened that night.

My review

Naomi Williams thought she had the perfect life with an adoring husband, Aiden, a group of lovely friends and a beautiful baby daughter, Freya. But, three years ago, her world fell apart and Aiden left, taking Freya with him.

When Naomi is finally trusted to have four-year-old Freya overnight, one November evening, she can’t wait to spend some time with her and be a mum and do the things that she’s missed out on, like giving her a bath and showing Freya her redecorated room.

Sadly, the sleepover ends tragically when Naomi wakes up in the morning and is horrified to discover there’s been a terrible accident. Rather than telling the truth about what has happened, she lies and reports Freya missing to ex-husband, Aiden, her boyfriend, Rupert, and to the police.

The police arrive, and so do Aiden and his wife, and everyone springs into action in the frantic rush to find Freya before it’s too late. Naomi is thrown into a nightmare and she loses her chance to confess about what has actually happened, and becomes embroiled in more and more lies as she tries to hide the truth.

The story is action packed and goes at a fast and compelling pace. In flashbacks to previous years, we begin to learn what took place in the past and discover why Naomi and Aiden’s relationship broke down and why Aiden ended up looking after Freya.

Naomi is a complex and flawed character and I wondered how reliable she was as a narrator. I was shocked by her actions and disapproved of things she’d done in the past but was also sympathetic to her and felt that she’d had a tough time with her mental health, even before the shocking incident at her house, and hadn’t been supported enough by her family, friends and professionals. I really went through the full range of emotions with Naomi and felt frustrated and upset for her, and with her, as events progressed.

The setting for the novel is very atmospheric and chilling – the large farmhouse was Naomi’s childhood home, and it backs onto the woods and is surrounded by fields and has barns and an orchard. Plenty of land (50 acres) in which a small child can disappear. When snow starts to fall, it seems even more bleak and frightening.

Overall, I really enjoyed When They Find Her – it was cleverly plotted, well written and gripping. I couldn’t put it down and read it in two sittings, totally absorbed by the story. There were lots of twists and turns and some clever misdirection, and I was very surprised by some of the revelations as the novel progressed! It was certainly a tense and traumatic read at times! I liked the way the flashbacks to the past were woven into the story – they enabled the reader to put all the pieces of the jigsaw together and learn how things had worked out so badly for Naomi.

This was a great read and I’m already looking forward to the author’s next book, which appears to be out the day before my birthday in August!

Buy the book

When They Find Her by Lia Middleton can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle now for 99p in the monthly deals and in hardback on 13 May, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Lia Middleton is a barrister who specialises in crime and offender management. She graduated in drama and theatre studies before transferring to a legal career, which she practises alongside her lifelong love for writing.

When she isn’t writing, Lia enjoys reading, travelling, and discovering new food markets and festivals. She lives with her husband and two young children in Buckinghamshire.

Twitter: @liamiddlet0n
Instagram: @liamiddletonauthor

Blog tour

Thanks to Chrissie Antoniou at Michael Joseph Books for my proof copy of When They Find Her and for my place on the blog tour.

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

Featured

Trust Me by T.M. Logan

Blog tour: 15 March to 10 April 2021

Synopsis

Two strangers, a child, and a split second choice that will change everything …

Ellen was just trying to help a stranger. That was how it started: giving a few minutes respite to a flustered young mother sitting opposite her on the train. A few minutes holding her baby while the mother makes an urgent call. The weight of the child in her arms making Ellen’s heart ache for what she can never have.

Five minutes pass.
Ten.

The train pulls into a station and Ellen is stunned to see the mother hurrying away down the platform, without looking back. Leaving her baby behind. Ellen is about to raise the alarm when she discovers a note in the baby’s bag, three desperate lines scrawled hastily on a piece of paper:

Please protect Mia
Don’t trust the police
Don’t trust anyone

Why would a mother abandon her child to a stranger? Ellen is about to discover that the baby in her arms might hold the key to an unspeakable crime. And doing the right thing might just cost her everything …

My review

I’m a big fan of T.M. Logan since reading 29 Seconds and have enjoyed all his subsequent books, so I was excited to join the blog tour for Trust Me.

Ellen Devlin, 41, a project manager for an aerospace company, is travelling home to South Greenford on the train after an appointment at a fertility clinic when she learns via Instagram that her ex-husband, Richard, is expecting a baby with his new partner. Ellen received more upsetting news at the clinic and is devastated that he’s going to be a father after they tried for a baby, with numerous cycles of IVF, for several years without success. They’ve only been separated for three months.

A woman with a young baby gets on the train – the last thing that Ellen wants to see. She ends up sitting opposite Ellen and introduces herself as Kathryn and her three-month-old baby as Mia. The baby is very sweet and smiley and Ellen can’t help but smile back.

When Kathryn’s mobile phone rings, she asks Ellen to hold Mia while she takes the call and walks to the area between the two carriages, by the doors. A few minutes later, the train stops at the small station of Seer Green and Jordans, the last stop before Marylebone, and Ellen, who is still holding baby Mia, is shocked to see Kathryn outside the train and hurrying past her window!

Ellen is confused but tries to stay calm and checks Mia’s change bag, where she discovers a hastily scrawled note, addressed to her, which says ‘Please protect Mia. Don’t trust the police. Don’t trust anyone.’ She isn’t sure what to do but, straightaway, she’s suspicious of everyone on the train!

When the train arrives at Marylebone, Ellen makes a decision that ends up embroiling her in some scary incidents! She has no idea what she’s getting herself involved in but she soon learns that no one can be trusted.

This book had some great twists and turns and I was frantically turning the pages as Ellen did one crazy thing after another and put herself in danger! She was involved to such an extent that it seemed like things could only end in an awful way.

Ellen was a great character and seemed very brave and determined, and also a bit reckless! She was pretty fearless when faced with some frightening men in very dangerous situations, but knew exactly how to handle things.

Overall, I really enjoyed this exciting and gripping read and I raced through it in a few hours, desperate to learn how everything was going to be resolved. It was cleverly plotted, with plenty of red herrings and misdirection.

The story was told from several different points of view and I was never really sure if I’d sussed things out or not, but I did guess who was the baddie towards the end!

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!

T.M. Logan gets better with each book and I can’t wait to read his next one! I must also go back and read his debut, Lies, which I still haven’t read! If you haven’t read any books from this author before, I’d definitely recommend his action-packed and tense thrillers! Great stuff!

Buy the book

Trust Me by T.M. Logan can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

T.M. Logan‘s thrillers have sold more than 900,000 copies in the UK and are published in 18 countries around the world. His novel, The Holiday, was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and became a Sunday Times bestseller in paperback. Formerly a national newspaper journalist, he now writes full time and lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children.

Twitter: @TMLoganAuthor
Facebook: @TMLoganAuthor
Instagram: @tmloganauthor
Website: https://www.tmlogan.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Zaffre Books for my proof copy of Trust Me and to Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for my place on the blog tour.

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

Featured

Blackstoke by Rob Parker

Blog tour: 23 March to 4 April 2021

Synopsis

Wealth. Security. Prosperity. None of it matters in the dark.

In a quiet cul-de-sac on the newly opened, much-sought-after Blackstoke housing development, the first handful of families are moving in. These neighbours, thrown together for the first time, are looking forward to settling into their bright new lives – with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The estate couldn’t be nicer, but it’s a big change for everyone.

Then things start to happen. Bad things. As if something doesn’t want them there.

As the new residents try to make sense of events, the buried history of the area makes itself suddenly, deeply apparent – with a series of shocking, violent escalations.

Soon, no one is safe, as the original powers of Blackstoke return to reclaim their territory and birth right in a final night of dark revelations, gore and bloodshed.

My review

The new housing development of the Blackstoke Estate near Warrington is the setting for this action-packed and chilling horror story! Five families are the first residents of the exclusive estate with its impressive houses: Peter West (42), his wife, Pam (41), and their children, Alice (15) and Jacob; David and Christian Lyon and their adopted baby daughter, Olivia; Fletcher and Joyce Adams and their teenage twin boys, Boyd and Burnett; Grace Milligan and her Irish wolfhound, Dewey; and retired couple, Quint and Wendy Fenchurch.

The northeast corner of the estate is the first to be finished, with 200 properties to eventually be built, but for now there are just five houses in a quiet cul-de-sac. As the neighbours slowly become acquainted, there are a few fractious moments as they try to suss each other out and decide their pecking order of importance!

Retired policeman, Quint, husband of former head nurse, Wendy, is rather dismissive of young lawyer Grace – how has she afforded her smart new house? – and everyone is unimpressed with sleazy MP Fletcher, who is a dirty stopout and spends his evenings at The Sin Bin strip club. Peter works for a PR firm and has rather overstretched himself to buy their Blackstoke house after a promotion at work, which left his wife hinting they needed to upgrade their property. David works in sales and Christian in marketing and the couple met at university.

Right from the start, the gated estate seems rather creepy and isolated and there’s been no sightings of the round-the-clock security guard who’s supposed to be patrolling the site. An unpleasant smell and the lack of a mobile phone mast also adds to the general disappointment with the swanky new estate, which promised luxury at affordable prices, and it feels like corners have been cut in the haste to start building and now the developers (COMUDEV) have probably run out money!

When worrying, unexplained things start happening, the residents begin to feel uneasy and wonder what’s going on. Events go from bad to worse with a shocking incident that took me by surprise and everything ramps up from then on, culminating in a night of terror and a wild ride involving all the residents.

Overall, this was a chilling and creepy read, which developed at a cleverly unsettling pace, with lots of suspense. Things didn’t seem right on the estate at the beginning and I was waiting, full of anticipation, for things to kick off, but wasn’t sure exactly how it was all going to play out. There was a great sense of foreboding and menacing hints that someone was after the families and I couldn’t work out if it was one of the new residents or an unknown culprit. The frightening, gruesome events that followed, with some awful, gory scenes, made me rather regret reading the book so late at night!

There was an interesting mix of characters in the story and they all had their part to play. Some were definitely more likeable than others! I particularly liked the fearless and courageous Grace and her huge, hairy and adorable hound, Dewey! Several of the other women, as well as the teenagers, also showed their bravery when faced with adversity.

The setting of the estate was well described and I could really picture it in my mind and all the action that took place there. I hope I don’t have nightmares tonight after some of those vivid images and graphic violent scenes!

I don’t read many horrors but I’m glad I picked this one up – it was disturbing but engaging and gripping! I haven’t read any of Rob Parker’s books before so I look forward to checking out his Ben Bracken series.

Buy the book

Blackstoke by Rob Parker can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback and paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo. Or purchase the hardback or paperback directly from the Red Dog Press online shop.

About the author

Rob Parker is a married father of three, who lives in Warrington, UK. The author of the Ben Bracken thrillers, Crook’s Hollow and the #1 Audible bestseller, Far From the Tree, he enjoys a rural life, writing horrible things between school runs. Rob writes full time, attends various author events across the UK, and boxes regularly for charity. He spends a lot of time in schools across the north, encouraging literacy, storytelling and creative writing, and somehow squeezes in time to co-host the For Your Reconsideration film podcast, appear regularly on The Blood Brothers Crime Podcast, and is a member of the Northern Crime Syndicate.

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

Blog tour

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

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

Featured

Dead in the Water by Chris McDonald

Blog tour: 27 March to 4 April 2021

Synopsis

The Stonebridge Regatta is looming. The town’s annual face-off against neighbouring Meadowfield is usually a weekend filled with sunshine, laughter and camaraderie.

This year is different.

A week before the race, the body of Stonebridge team captain Matthew Henderson is found dead in the water. The police file his passing as a tragic accident however, his grieving widow disagrees and suspects foul play is involved. She enlists the help of Adam and Colin, the town’s amateur (self-proclaimed) private detectives to unearth the truth.

Did Matthew simply slip and fall into the water, or is there more to his death below the surface?

My review

I really enjoyed the first novella in The Stonebridge Mysteries series, The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello, and was excited to read this one and keen to join the blog tour!

Set in Stonebridge, a small town on the north coast of Northern Ireland, and following on a month after the previous book, we catch up with best friends Colin McLaughlin, who works at the local retirement home, and Adam Whyte, who’s now set up his own garden maintenance business.

When Elena Henderson’s husband, Matthew, is found drowned on rocks at the bottom of a cliff near the golf club, two days after a rather fractious rowing team practice session, she enlists the help of Adam and Colin to investigate his death, which the police presume is a tragic accident.

The men carry out their own unofficial investigation and speak to some of the other residents of the town, including members of the rival Stonebridge and Meadowfield rowing teams. Matthew Henderson was the captain of the Stonebridge team and they were weeks away from the annual Stonebridge Regatta weekend, the winners of which take home £5000.

As Adam and Colin work undercover and infiltrate various areas, they put themselves in danger and seem to be no closer to discovering what happened to Matthew. What they need is a lucky break so they can put all the pieces of the puzzle together!

Dead in the Water is a quick read, at around 100 pages, but it’s entertaining, action packed and full of intrigue and suspense. The story is well paced and cleverly plotted and there are some witty lines. I especially liked the amusing chapter titles, which gave a little insight into what was to come!

The plot develops well and there are lots of twists and turns and several potential suspects. I had fun trying to guess how the story was going to unfold and who could be the murderer.

I like both main characters and their amateur sleuthing and they seem to be growing up a bit in this story, with Colin buying a house and Adam running his own business. I’m really enjoying this engaging, well-written series and I’m curious to see what happens in the next instalment!

Buy the book

Dead in the Water by Chris McDonald can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback. Or purchase the paperback 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. The Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello is the first book in the Stonebridge Mysteries series of cosy crime novellas.

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

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

Blog tour

Thanks to Meggy Roussel at Red Dog Press for my digital copy of Dead in the Water and for my place on the blog tour.

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

Featured

The Passenger by Daniel Hurst

Blog tour: 25 to 31 March 2021

Synopsis

She takes the same train every day. But this is a journey she’ll never forget.

Amanda is a hardworking single mum, completely focused on her job and her daughter, Louise. She’s been saving for years and now, finally, she can afford to give up work and chase her dream.

But then, on her commute home from London to Brighton, she meets a charming stranger – who seems to know everything about her.

He delivers an ultimatum. She needs to give him the code for the safe where she keeps her savings before the train reaches Brighton – or she’ll never see Louise again.

Convinced that the threat is real, Amanda is stunned, horrified. She knows she should give him the code, but she can’t. Because she also knows there is a terrible secret in that safe which will destroy her life and Louise’s too …

The Passenger – the stunning psychological thriller with a nerve-shredding climax. Perfect for fans of Mark Edwards, K.L. Slater, Miranda Rijks.

My review

I’ve been a fan of Daniel Hurst’s writing since his debut novella, 20 Minutes on the Tube, which I found a fascinating read, and I was hooked by his books and have been keeping an eye out for this prolific writer ever since! I love the 20 Minute series and his psychological thrillers, and the Influencing trilogy is great too. When I found out he’d signed with Inkubator Books, I was keen to read The Passenger and take part in the damppebbles blog tour.

With a dramatic prologue involving a gruesome death, you’re flung straight into the action in this tense and gripping book, and I couldn’t wait to discover what on earth was happening!

Amanda Abbott is 37 years old and a single mum to 17-year-old daughter, Louise. They live in a small two-bedroom flat in Brighton. Amanda is bored of her life and the routine of her daily hour-long commute into London and back. Every day is the same and she has no love life or social life. She’s saved a good amount of money and decides to quit her job as a purchasing administrator and follow her dreams and become a writer. She hands in her notice and is just seeing out the last few days of work before her new life as an author begins.

What Amanda doesn’t realise is that she’s being watched and has been targeted by a handsome stranger, who knows that her money is kept in a safe at her flat, rather than being deposited at the bank. One evening, when her train home is delayed, the man decides to make his move and put his plan into action and threaten Louise (and her daughter) to get his hands on her savings.

Amanda is hard working whereas her daughter is rather lazy and refuses to get a job and expects her mum to provide for her. They’re both hiding secrets from each other and, from the beginning, there are intriguing hints that there’s more to the story and there are some surprises ahead for all concerned!

The story is told from the viewpoints of Amanda, Louise and the stranger and this works well as we switch between them and the tension rises as the deadline nears and the train approaches Brighton!

Overall, I really enjoyed this well-plotted and tense thriller. There were lots of twists and turns and just when I thought I’d sussed things out, there’d be another revelation and then another one! The story is fast paced and gripping and I sped through it in a couple of sittings, desperate to find out if Amanda and Louise would survive.

As ever, I’m keen to see what Daniel Hurst writes next. He’s a very speedy writer and I’m still working my way through the 20 Minute series and have a couple of his other thrillers to read too!

Buy the book

The Passenger by Daniel Hurst is released on 28 March and can be preordered from Amazon on Kindle.

About the author

Daniel Hurst writes psychological thrillers and loves to tell tales about unusual things happening to normal people. He has written all his life, making the progression from handing scribbled stories to his parents as a boy to writing full-length novels in his thirties. He lives in the north west of England and when he isn’t writing, he is usually watching a game of football in a pub where his wife can’t find him.

Twitter: @dhurstbooks
Facebook: @danielhurstbooks
Instagram: @danielhurstbooks
Website: https://www.danielhurstbooks.com

Blog tour

Thanks to Inkubator Books for my digital copy of The Passenger and to Emma Welton at damppebbles blog tours for my place on the blog tour.

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

Featured

Backstories by Simon Van der Velde

Review: 25 March 2021

Blurb

Dreamers, singers, heroes and killers, they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, yet inside themselves, they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth?

These are people you know, but not as you know them. Peel back the mask and see.

Can you find the famous person hidden in every story?

Synopsis

Backstories is a unique collection of stories each told from the point of view of a famous (or notorious) person at a pivotal moment in their lives. The writing is literary but accessible and the voices vividly real. The settings are mostly 60’s and 70’s UK and USA, and the driving themes are inclusion, social justice and of course, nostalgia – but the real key to these stories is that the protagonists’ identities are withheld. This means that your job is to find them, leading to that Eureka moment when you realise whose mind you’ve been inhabiting for the last 20 minutes.

My review

Happy publication day to Simon Van der Velde for Backstories!

When I was approached by the author to review his book, I thought it sounded a fascinating and intriguing concept – 14 short narratives described as ‘intimate stories about people you think you know’.

We meet various ‘dreamers, singers, heroes and killers’ at key moments in their lives and the book makes for addictive reading as you try and work out who is being described. Often, the person isn’t revealed till the end of the story or you’re left to guess who it is, which I was rubbish at!

There’s an intriguing cast of famous, infamous, villainous and unpleasant characters, a real mixed bag, including musicians, actors, politicians and criminals, and it makes for compelling and – when you can’t work out who it is – frustrating reading!

There are subtle little clues scattered throughout each story but, sometimes, they only become obvious on a second read through when you know who the person is!

The stories are shocking, powerful and hard hitting in parts and make you think. The author doesn’t sugercoat the people’s experiences or shy away from telling things how they were.

I read through all the stories once in a couple of sittings but I plan on reading them again now that I know who most of the people are. There are a few that I’m still unsure about and I need to do a bit more research … or plead with the author for the answers!

It’s the type of book that would be good as a buddy or book club read – it would be fun to discuss it with other people and bounce ideas off each other and think about things from different angles. Sometimes, there’s that little clue you might miss initially that, when checked on Google or with someone else, confirms who the story is about.

Overall, I really enjoyed this short story collection, with its vivid, colourful and eye-catching cover! It’s cleverly written, well researched and thought provoking. I’ve definitely learnt a few things about the past that I wasn’t aware of. It’s also something a bit different and I was pleased to hear that there’s going to be another volume soon!

Buy the book

Backstories by Simon Van der Velde can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle, in paperback and on audio.

About the author

Simon Van der Velde has worked variously as a barman, labourer, teacher, caterer and lawyer, as well as travelling throughout Europe and South America collecting characters and insights for his award-winning stories. Since completing a creative writing MA (with distinction) in 2010, Simon’s work has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards including The Yeovil Literary Prize (twice), The Wasafiri New Writing Prize, The Luke Bitmead Bursary, The Frome Shortstory Prize, The Harry Bowling Prize, The Henshaw Press Short Story Competition and The National Association of Writers’ Groups Open Competition – establishing him as one of the UK’s foremost short-story writers.

Simon now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, with his wife, Nicola, their labradoodle, Barney, and two tyrannical children.

Twitter: @SimonVdVwriter
Facebook: @simonvdvelde
Instagram: @simonvdvwriter
Website: simonvandervelde.com

Thanks

Thanks very much to the author for my digital copy of Backstories.

Featured

Bound by Vanda Symon

Blog tour: 1 to 31 March 2021

Synopsis

The passionate, young police officer Sam Shephard returns in a taut, atmospheric and compelling police procedural, which sees her take matters into her own hands when the official investigation into the murder of a local businessman fails to add up …

The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation. And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.

My review

After reading the third book in the Sam Shephard series, Containment, last year for the blog tour, I was very keen to read this next instalment! I love a good police procedural and this is certainly an addictive series!

The story begins with 17-year-old Declan Henderson returning home one evening after band practice with friends to the shocking and gruesome discovery that his dad, John, has been horrifically murdered and his mum, Jill, who was bound, gagged and injured, was forced to watch the whole distressing event.

Detective Sam Shephard, Detective Paul Frost (her boyfriend) and several other members of their team are first on the rather remote scene, which is close to the eerie site of the former Seacliff Mental Hospital, where 37 women were killed in a fire in the 1940s. The wealthy Henderson family’s house is large and secluded with a long driveway and expensive-looking gates and there’s no sign of forced entry.

When Sam speaks to Mrs Henderson at the hospital, she is distraught and traumatised and says that her husband opened the door to two masked men who rushed their way into the property, shot him at point-blank range and then tied her to a chair.

John Henderson was thought to be a respectable businessman at a company called Eros Global, selling and distributing vitamin-type supplements and sexual enhancers, but it turns out that he’s involved in some rather dodgy stuff on the side and has several rather unsavoury characters as close business acquaintances.

When evidence is found that links two of these dubious characters to the crime scene, all the pieces of the jigsaw seem to be fitting together remarkably easily! Sam isn’t so sure and despite her colleagues’ misgivings – they’re convinced it’s an open-and-shut case – she is determined to get to the bottom of the investigation and discover who killed John Henderson.

In her private life, Sam’s dad is terminally ill and she has a rather fractious relationship with her mum and they’ve never really got on. She hates seeing her strong farmer father deteriorating and would rather throw herself into work than watch him slowly die.

Overall, I really enjoyed this well-crafted and cleverly plotted novel. The storyline was gripping with plenty of action, lots of misdirection and some surprising revelations and the short, snappy chapters encouraged me to read on so I flew through the book in less than a day!

Despite being a police procedural, Bound contained some great humour and, throughout the book, there were several lines and observations that made me chuckle. It was amusing as well as being entertaining, tense and intriguing!

I love the main character, Sam Shephard, as she’s feisty, clever, has a no-nonsense attitude, confidence, good sense of humour and she doesn’t give up easily, even when her boss, Detective Inspector ‘Dickhead’ Johns, is being his usual nasty self and hauling her over the coals for no apparent reason!

Sam’s flatmate, Maggie, is great and it’s a shame she didn’t feature more in this book as the pair have a great rapport. I enjoyed the developments in Sam’s relationship with Paul – they seem to be getting on really well and are much closer now!

Bound has a great sense of place – I loved all the descriptions of Dunedin and the surrounding areas, especially as I visited the city when I was travelling round the South Island of New Zealand over 10 years ago.

I understand that this is the fourth book in a series that was originally written in New Zealand between 2007 and 2011 so I hope that’s not the end and we get to meet Sam Shephard again soon! I do have the first two books, Overkill and The Ringmaster, still to read so I’ll definitely be getting round to them very soon!

Buy the book

Bound by Vanda Symon can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

Twitter: @vandasymon
Facebook: @vandasymonauthor
Instagram: @vandasymon
Website: http://www.vandasymon.com

Blog tour

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

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

Featured

Safe and Sound by Philippa East

Blog tour: 18 to 22 February 2021

Synopsis

Home can be the most dangerous place …

In a small London bedsit, a radio is playing. A small dining table is set for three, and curled up on the sofa is a body …

Jenn is the one who discovers the woman, along with the bailiffs. All indications suggest that the tenant – Sarah Jones – was pretty, charismatic and full of life.

So how is it possible that her body has lain undiscovered for ten whole months?

My review

Jennifer (Jenn) Arden, 31, is a housing manager at the housing authority in Brixton, south London, and single mum to Charlie, aged eight. Jenn is rather protective of her son, always fearing that he is ill or suffering from some disorder or disability, and we learn that there was an incident last year at school that she’s still getting over. Jenn also has a distant and difficult relationship with her parents, especially her mum, and something has happened in the past to create this rift.

A tenant has fallen three months behind with their rent and has completely ignored all attempts at communication, so Jenn has booked the bailiffs to help speak to the woman and try to arrange a payment plan. When they all arrive at the flat, which is tiny and hidden under the stairs, Jenn peers through the letterbox and is concerned when she spots piles of mail blocking the front door. There’s also an unusual odour. She decides to call the police and when they finally arrive, everyone is shocked when they find the body of a woman, Sarah Jones, and she has obviously been dead for a few months, despite the fact the radio is still playing Capital FM.

Jenn feels guilty about what’s happened as she was having difficulties with her mental health the previous year and she cut corners at work and ticked off annual inspections when they hadn’t been done.

She becomes deeply affected by Sarah Jones’ death and can’t understand how someone can just pass away without anyone else noticing. She’s determined to uncover the truth and becomes obsessed with finding out about Sarah and her family and friends.

It begins to affect her life and she loses weight and becomes more paranoid and worried about her son and his health. It was disturbing to read as Jenn got more and more obsessed with looking into Sarah’s past and she was behaving rather erratically in all areas of her life but, being a single mum and not having any close friends, no one seemed to be really picking up on what was going on. In some ways, Jenn was rather similar to Sarah and she found this quite disturbing to consider.

The story is told mainly from Jenn’s viewpoint in the current day but sometime in the past (‘back then’), we also hear from a nine-year-old girl called Prin whose seven-year-old cousin, Jane, comes to live with her and her parents during the summer holidays. Prin’s mum and dad don’t explain why Jane is staying with them and Jane doesn’t discuss things either. Something awful has obviously happened as she keeps having flashbacks and nightmares.

Safe and Sound is very intriguing and full of suspense. It was fascinating as Jenn met people connected with Sarah Jones and little bits of information and clues were slowly revealed. I was also very curious to see how cousins Prin and Jane tied into the story and I had several theories, which were all wrong!

I really enjoyed this gripping and tense psychological thriller. It was well plotted and cleverly written and I was never quite sure whether Jenn and Prin were reliable narrators or not. I had numerous thoughts about whether they were telling the truth as the story progressed and was also suspicious of many of the other characters in the book, who all seemed to be acting strangely at various points!

Overall, this was a really enjoyable and compelling read and I consumed it in a couple of sittings, frantically turning the pages, desperate to see how it was all going to be resolved. I’m keen to read the author’s other book, Little White Lies, now and will definitely be checking out her next book!

Buy the book

Safe and Sound by Philippa East can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Philippa East is a fiction writer with HQ/HarperCollins and she also works as a clinical psychologist.

Philippa grew up in Scotland before moving to Oxford and then London to complete her clinical psychology training. A few years ago, she left the NHS to set up her own part-time practice and dedicate more hours to writing. The result was her debut novel, Little White Lies, which was longlisted for The Guardian’s Not-The-Booker Prize and shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Award 2020.

Philippa now lives in the beautiful Lincolnshire countryside with her husband and cat. She loves reading (of course!) and long country walks, and she also performs in a local folk duo called The Miracle Cure. Alongside her writing, Philippa continues to work as a psychologist and therapist.

Twitter: @philippa_east
Facebook: @philippa.east
Instagram: @philippa_east_author

Blog tour

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

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

Featured

Singapore Fire by Murray Bailey

Blog tour: 17 February to 1 March 2021

Synopsis

She wants to escape
He wants to save her
But nothing is what it seems

Singapore 1954 and once again, private investigator, Ash Carter is caught between the government and the criminal gangs. It’s time for Carter to choose.

Escape now or stand and fight?

My review

Set in Singapore in the 1950s, Singapore Fire is the sixth and final book in the mystery-thriller Ash Carter series. After reading and enjoying the fifth book, Singapore Killer, last year, I was excited to see how the series would reach its conclusion, and I wasn’t disappointed!

It’s February 1954 and the story begins with a dramatic and shocking scene in an old factory where we meet businessman and head of a Chinese secret society, Andrew Yipp, 64, and three of his henchmen, including Wang, his lieutenant, who thinks nothing of killing a man they’ve been torturing for information. The dead man told them that Yipp’s assistant and mistress, Su Ling Yong, had visited the head of the second-largest secret society, Christian Chen. Yipp is not impressed by this supposed betrayal and tells Wang to find her and then mentions Ash Carter’s name …

Captain Ash Carter was in the British Army’s Royal Military Police (in the Special Investigations Branch) and then worked for the internal security secretary of the Singapore government and a private protection force in Malaya. He’s now been an independent investigator for six months (alongside providing support to the military police, 200 Provost) and a Chinese lady called Madam Chau, who we met in the previous book, is still his secretary/receptionist.

Madam Chau is a great character: hard working and very loyal to Ash but he’s rather rude and describes her as ‘extremely unattractive, with a flat face that was permanently fixed with a sour expression.’ He comments, ‘With so many beautiful girls on the island, I’d deliberately chosen one who wouldn’t appeal to me.’

Ash has had several liaisons with Su Ling during his time in Singapore. We learn, through flashbacks, that Andrew Yipp is Su Ling’s uncle and he has been abusing her since she was a young teenager. She is now Yipp’s assistant and mistress, roles that her mother used to carry out until she went missing when Su Ling was 11, which meant that Yipp and his wife adopted their niece. It turns out that Ash Carter has been having an affair with Su Ling and, as a result, he’s on very dangerous ground with Yipp!

Ash and Su Ling decide that in order for them to both keep safe, they need to escape to the Philippines during the New Year’s parade and pageant via a boat, with the help of Arthur Pope, a wealthy businessman who deals in Japanese goods and artefacts. Unfortunately, Secretary for Internal Security Philip Norris is aware of Carter and Su Ling’s relationship and he tells Carter that Yipp is funding a political group called the People’s Action Party and orders him to investigate Yipp and find some way for him to be arrested or he threatens that he will arrest Su Ling.

Yipp is definitely up to something and involved in various dodgy dealings but Ash is struggling to work out what and can’t pin anything illegal on him. There are several different strands to the story, from a Chinese gold case that Ash Carter was investigating with Chief Inspector George McNaughton of the Kuala Lumpur police around the time of the BlackJack murders (from the previous book), to a case involving the Housing Planning and Development department’s programme of renewal (re-appropriation), which is being overseen by Major Rupert Lamb and consists of people being removed from their homes as they are living in crumbling old buildings. I found it really interesting to try and work out how these elements of the story were all linked, if at all, to Yipp and his business and political interests. There were lots of different characters and, at times, I had to look back to remember who was who.

Singapore Killer is a well-plotted, gripping thriller with lots of twists and turns, tense moments and some scenes of violence. It’s an action-packed and fast-paced read with some startling revelations! Over the eight days in which the story is set, Ash Carter covers many miles in his quest to keep Su Ling safe while trying to discover what Yipp is up to and resolve all the other cases he’s working on, with the help of various acquaintances.

There are lots of political tensions in Singapore in the period in which the book is set and it seems a very volatile and tense situation, and one that’s fraught with danger; you’re never quite sure who you can trust and who’s lurking round the corner ready to attack and dispatch you, without asking any questions first! Even the police and respected government officials seem to be corrupt. Ash Carter is brave but also rather reckless at times as he dashes into situations without really being sure of what’s facing him on the other side of the door!

Overall, I really enjoyed Singapore Fire – it was an intense and absorbing story, with great descriptions of 1950s Singapore and the culture, as well as the elements of corruption and abuse. It was good to get to know Ash Carter in more urban settings and learn a bit more about him. Although I’ve read Singapore Killer, I haven’t read any of the first four books in the series but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on lots of earlier back stories. The book works fine as a standalone but I’d recommend reading the rest first. Now that the series has reached its conclusion, I’ll have to go back and read Singapore 52, Singapore Girl, Singapore Boxer and Singapore Ghost to see what I’ve missed out on!

Buy the book

Singapore Fire (Ash Carter, book 6) by Murray Bailey is released on 1 March and can be preordered from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

About the author

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

His first work of fiction, I Dare You, was published in 2016 and The Lost Pharaoh continues the ancient Egyptian story glimpsed in Map of the Dead and is his ninth title.

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

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

Blog tour

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

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

Featured

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

Blog tour: 18 to 28 February 2021

Synopsis

An extraordinary friendship. A lifetime of stories. Their last one begins here.

Life is short. No-one knows that better than seventeen-year-old Lenni living on the terminal ward. But as she is about to learn, it’s not only what you make of life that matters, but who you share it with.

Dodging doctor’s orders, she joins an art class where she bumps into fellow patient Margot, a rebel-hearted eight-three-year-old from the next ward. Their bond is instant as they realize that together they have lived an astonishing one hundred years.

To celebrate their shared century, they decide to paint their life stories: of growing old and staying young, of giving joy, of receiving kindness, of losing love, of finding the person who is everything.

As their extraordinary friendship deepens, it becomes vividly clear that life is not done with Lenni and Margot yet.

Fiercely alive, disarmingly funny and brimming with tenderness, The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot unwraps the extraordinary gift of life even when it is about to be taken away, and revels in our infinite capacity for friendship and love when we need them most.

My review

Lenni Pettersson is 17 and suffering from a life-limiting condition. She’s on the terminal ward at the Glasgow Princess Royal Hospital. She’s not sure how long she’s got left but she’s determined to make the most of it.

Lenni attends an art therapy class in the Rose Room at the hospital after bumping into the lady who set it up and it’s there that she meets another patient, 83-year-old Margot Macrae, who is from a nearby ward. The pair realise that together they have lived 100 years and decide to celebrate this by painting their memories of their years alive and sharing their stories with each other. It’s a brilliant idea and the pair enthusiastically get to work!

Lenni also becomes friendly with the priest at the hospital chapel, Father Arthur, and shares some lovely moments with him as she tries to work out the meaning of life and what it’s all about. At first, he’s not sure quite what to make of her as she’s quite opinionated and says what she thinks!

Margot’s story is intriguing and we build up a picture of her past from the little snippets of time that she shares with Lenni. It’s fascinating to put the pieces of the jigsaw together and discover that she’s had a full life with great moments of happiness, joy and love but there have also been dark, sad times of loss too.

Lenni is amazing! Despite her awful predicament, she tries to stay positive and has a very refreshing and humorous approach to life. I loved her little quips and observations. She was often funny in her youthful and innocent way without really meaning to be.

Lenni has such a profound effect on everyone she meets and, despite the big age gaps, it’s moving to see her friendships with Margot and Father Arthur develop. She doesn’t have any family support and she could be depressed and maudlin but she’s actually the opposite and tries to see the beauty in life and keep busy.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! It was poignant, thought-provoking and sad but also amusing with a positive message about life. It was fascinating to learn more about Lenni and Margot’s pasts and see how they’d got to their current point in life. Although Lenni’s life was tragically cut short, she’d filled her life and had many special memories to look back on. She had a great impact on others at the hospital in the short amount of time they spent with her.

In spite of the sad topic, the book isn’t mawkish or depressing; the opposite in fact! In the beautiful friendship between Lenni and Margot, we see a celebration of life – the good and the bad – and the story shows us not to fear the future, even if it is uncertain.

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is a beautiful, heart-wrenching read and one that I’m still thinking about several days later. This is a special read and all of the characters, even the supporting ones, are memorable and inspiring in their own way. I’ll definitely be buying a hard copy – with that gorgeous, colourful and simple but eye-catching cover – to keep and reread.

Buy the book

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the author

Marianne Cronin was born in 1990. She studied English and Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning a PhD in applied linguistics from the University of Birmingham. She now spends most of her time writing, with her newly-adopted rescue cat sleeping under her desk. When she’s not writing, Marianne can be found performing improv and stand up in the West Midlands, where she lives.

Her debut novel, The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot, is to be published around the world and is being adapted into a feature film by Sony/Columbia Pictures. It has been sold in 25 territories to date.

Twitter: @itsmcronin
Instagram: @itsmariannecronin

Blog tour

Thanks to Hana Sparkes at Transworld Books for my digital copy of The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my place on the blog tour.

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