Last Seen Alive by Jane Bettany

Blog tour: 15 to 19 April 2022

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the book

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

About the author

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

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

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

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

Blog tour

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

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

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The Other Side of Fear by Eoghan Egan

Blog tour: 29 March to 5 April 2022

Synopsis

Nothing will ever be the same again.

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

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

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

My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the book

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

About the author

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

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

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

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

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

Blog tour

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

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Blog tour: 3 to 25 March 2022

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the book

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

About the author

© Philippa Gedge

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

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

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

Blog tour

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

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

Where Blood Runs Cold by Giles Kristian

Blog tour: 21 February to 8 March 2022

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the book

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

About the author

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

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

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

Blog tour

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

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

Man Down by Mark Pepper

Blog tour: 22 to 26 February 2022

Synopsis

All he has to do is step up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s dead wrong.

My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the book

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

About the author

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

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

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

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

Blog tour

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

All at Sea by Chris McDonald

Blog tour: 17 to 21 February 2022

Synopsis

All aboard!

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

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

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

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

About the series

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

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

My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the book

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

About the author

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

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

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

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

Blog tour

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

The Killing Crew by Murray Bailey

Blog tour: 15 to 28 February 2022

Synopsis

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

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

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

My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the book

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

About the author

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

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

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

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

Blog tour

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

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

One Bad Thing by M.K. Hill

Blog tour: 31 January to 10 February 2022

Synopsis

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

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

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

My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the book

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

About the author

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

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

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

He is married with a son and lives in London. 

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

Blog tour

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

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

Love the Way They Lie by Linda Smolkin

Blog tour: 26 January to 9 February 2022

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the book

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

About the author

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

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

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

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

Blog tour

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

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

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

Blog tour: 17 January to 19 February 2022

Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

My review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the book

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

About the author

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

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

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

Blog tour

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

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