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Monday, August 31, 2020

Bang Bang, You're Dead by Evan Baldock

Bang Bang, You're Dead by Evan Baldock.

Published 18th August 2020 by Red Dog Press.
Read August 2020.

From the cover of the book:

WHEN IT COMES TO VENGEANCE, AGE IS JUST A NUMBER

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

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

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

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

****************************************

This book is so much fun! Are you annoyed with alluring assassins and tired with tempting terminators? Then you need to glorious geriatric Gloria in your lives, ladies and gentlemen!

Gloria Jones is nearing retirement and looking forward to taking things easy, but she is fed up with the violent, drug addicted low-lives who seem to ever more prevalent of the streets around her London flat. She has always been a law abiding citizen, but it seems that the police are unable to tackle the problem, and she has to bear daily witness to the misery being caused to ordinary people going about their daily lives.

When Gloria is threatened and assaulted on her own doorstep, she knows she is close to breaking point. Some thing has to be done! And that something turns out to be the actions of Gloria herself when she comes across a discarded gun in a local park. It may happen by accident, but Gloria actually makes makes a rather good, if unlikely, vigilante, drawing on an inner strength and a set of skills that she didn't know she possessed.

Gloria is all set to take the fight right to the scumbags and, boy, does she get good at it. In fact her success gets her the attention of, not only the police, but some very unpleasant characters along the way - but no spoilers now.

I really enjoyed Evan Baldock's portrayal of Gloria as a gun-toting saviour on the streets. She comes across well as a normal grandmother, driven to extraordinary lengths by what she sees going on around her, and it was very refreshing to read about an older woman, with intelligence and skills, for a change - and she is not the only strong female character here either. Bravo, Evan!

Interestingly, this book also asks some very thought provoking questions in the telling, about modern policing; the problem of persistent low-level crime (especially drug related crime); the rise in gun-related violence; and the opinions of the general public in relation to people who find themselves taking the law into their own hands.

There is plenty of suspense, a sprinkling of dark humour, and the ending goes with a suitably big bang. Or is it a bang bang? There is scope here for more of Gloria Jones in the future, and I really hope Evan finds himself wanting to write more about her, because I am certainly up for reading it.

Bang Bang, You're Dead is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer, or direct from Red Dog Press HERE.

Thank you to Red Dog Press for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

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

He left the Metropolitan Police after 30 years service in 2011, serving as one of the countries first Football Intelligence Officers until 1996, then transferring to West End Central, where for 15 years he worked in Soho.

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

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

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




Friday, August 28, 2020

Gilding The Lily by Justine John

Gilding The Lily by Justine John.

Self-published in November 2016.

From the cover of the book:

A gripping mystery of jealousy, murder and lies. An invitation to her estranged, wealthy father’s surprise 75th birthday party in New York sees Amelia and her husband, Jack, set off across the pond to meet a whole new world of family politics.

Amelia, now a successful businesswoman, feels guilty about never liking her father’s women, so does her upmost to give his new socialite partner, Evelyn, the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just all get along? But there’s something very dark, determined and dangerous about her… 

When Amelia’s father, Roger, becomes ill, Jack grows suspicious that there is more to it. Amelia understands why, but no one else will believe them. They travel back to America to piece together the puzzle, but when Roger goes missing, the couple are driven to their wits' end. 

It takes a DEA officer and a secret assassin to bring them answers, but the ruthless truth is something no one expected…

***************************************

So, what was the inspiration behind this thrilling story? Here's what our author, Justine Johnson, has to say about what made her decide to write Gilding The Lily:

Much of the story is based on some things that happened to me during my father’s death,  which was very sudden.
That process of his illness and death, seemed to put me in a set of circumstances that
challenged me greatly. Organising a funeral in a foreign country is challenging, but because I wasn’t expecting it, I felt as though I was in a dream and the things that happened around me were almost fictional. It was a coping mechanism I suppose.
I came out of that process with a story.
I tried to begin the book too soon – I knew I had to get something out, and I wrote Chapter 1, but couldn’t go any further. I just didn’t know what to put next.
It wasn’t until I came through the grieving completely, about three years later, that I began to write again.
In 2013, a health issue took over, and a major operation loomed. I was advised that I would not be able to work for a minimum of eight weeks – probably more like sixteen. I had begun to resent some of my work projects (life was too short), and I was feeling almost shackled; only a sense of duty, not ‘earning’ a living stopped me from giving up. But now I was being forced to stop for a while – so stop I did. In my tracks. Here it was – my chance to get that story in my head on paper. So the day I was home from hospital, I began Chapter 2. And I never looked back.
Amelia, the main character, and I have much in common. We both come from a divorced parentage, and experienced difficulty and abnormality in our upbringing. And we both have a massive internal need to please our fathers.
As all good writers do, I took some personal experience and whipped it up with a lot of fiction and made it into what is hopefully a good story. Now I’ve started I very much want to continue. I have already begun my second novel which is called Beneath the Ceiba Tree. It’s also a psycho-thriller, but very different and hopefully won’t take
me so long.

It's always interesting to see into the mind of an author, so thank you very much to Justine Johnson for sharing her thoughts about what made her want to write this story.

I would also like to thank Kelly Lacey at Love Books Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

Gilding The Lily is available to but now from your favourite book retailer.





About the author:

After thirty years in corporate life in London, half of which was running a successful events company, Justine decided to take a chance to write the novel that was ‘in her’ since she was a child. Gilding the Lily is the result of this and is a domestic noir, psychological suspense story which will keep you on the edge of your chair/sofa/bed/train/plane-seat.

While she's not writing she loves spending time with her family, riding three horses (not at the same time!) or walking her two dogs. She lives in the alluring and inspiring Surrey Hills and likes chocolate, keeping fit and deep hot bubble baths. She dislike spiders, olives and bad news.

Find out more about Justine on Twitter




Monday, August 24, 2020

The Naseby Horses by Dominic Brownlow

The Naseby Horses by Dominic Brownlow.

Published in paperback, hardcover, digital and audio formats on 24th August 2020 by Louise Walters Books.
Read August 2020.

From the cover of the book:

Seventeen-year-old Simon’s sister Charlotte is missing. The lonely Fenland village the family recently moved to from London is odd, silent, and mysterious. Simon is epileptic and his seizures are increasing in severity, but when he is told of the local curse of the Naseby Horses, he is convinced it has something to do with Charlotte’s disappearance.   

Despite resistance from the villagers, the police, and his own family, Simon is determined to uncover the truth, and save his sister.

Under the oppressive Fenland skies and in the heat of a relentless June, Simon’s bond with Charlotte is fierce, all-consuming, and unbreakable; but can he find her? And does she even want to be found?

Drawing on philosophy, science, and the natural world, The Naseby Horses is a moving exploration
of the bond between a brother and his sister; of love; and of the meaning of life itself.

******************************************************

There is something about The Fenlands that make them the quintessential backdrop for an eerie story, loaded with supernatural undertones and lashings of folklore, so Dominic Brownlow has chosen perfectly by basing his mesmerising story, The Naseby Horses, here.

This is the story of a missing girl, so it would be easy to think that this is a novel based on the hard facts and rigid lines of a police investigation, but you would be wrong. Instead, we are treated to somewhat of a genre busting, creepy and portentous tale, and it is all the better for it.

Charlotte is missing, but her twin brother Simon is sure that she is still alive and somewhere close by, and the special bond of twins that he shares with her tells him this is true. He is convinced that there is something rotten at the heart of the Fenland village their parents have moved them to, related to the curse of The Naseby Horses - a tragic folklore tale connected to a carriage transporting gold sent from Charles I to bribe members of Cromwell's army prior to the fateful Battle of Naseby, during the English Civil War - and the cult that subsequently grew up around the village. It seems that the villagers who took part in the rebellious act that led to the tragedy marked both themselves and their descendants for misfortune, although no one in the village wants to talk about it. Whatever the truth, children have gone missing, never to be found. Something is going on here, and Simon is determined to break through the web of secrets and lies and save his sister.

There is something so beautifully lyrical in Dominic Brownlow's writing that draws you in completely to this tale and although the rhythm of the writing is languorous and dreamlike, switching seamlessly back and forth from the present to the past, as Simon recalls pivotal moments he has shared with his family members, I found myself racing through the pages of the book. I loved how our author used Simon's epilepsy to explore the idea of a kind of "otherness" associated with the condition, drawing on superstition and the unreliable nature of Simon's narrative and memories, and twisting this with the paranormal aspects. Does Simon actually see ghosts and feel the resonance of the past? We are never quite sure.

And although this is a novel that sets up the reader to think of horses, it is, in fact, birds that are the major theme of the book. Simon is obsessed with birds, and they are constantly referred to - from the presence and characteristics of different species, especially the beauty of swans, the hypnotic dance of a murmuration of starlings, the sharp-eyes of birds of prey and the brooding omnipresence of corvids; to the passages from  Bewick's Swan that he uses as a kind of mantra to anchor himself to the present when he feels himself falling into the blackness of his condition. It is often the birds that tell us how we should be feeling and I found this rather clever.

This is an impressive book, which is heavy with supernatural suspense, and delicious little nods to The Wicker Man, and naturally The Birds. It enthralled me from the start and completely broke my heart by the end. This is a fine example of the wonderful books available to buy from small, independent publishers and I can't recommend it highly enough.

The Naseby Horses is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer, or via the links below - although in the spirit of supporting independent publishing, I recommend buying direct from Louise Walters Books.




Thank you to Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Blog Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Dominic Brownlow lives near Peterborough with his two children. 

He lived in London and worked in the music industry as a manager before setting up his own independent label. 

He now enjoys life in the Fens and has an office that looks out over water. 

The Naseby Horses is his first novel. It was long listed for the Bath Novel Award 2016.

Find out more about Dominic Brownlow below:

Friday, August 21, 2020

Love, On The Rocks by Elsie McArthur

Love, On The Rocks by Elsie McArthur.

Independently published on 20th August 2020.
Read August 2020.

Having escaped and difficult and lonely childhood, a less than perfect marriage and an unfulfilling job, Rachel McIntyre has found a home on the tiny Hebridean Island of Inniscreag, where she hopes to make a new start.

After taking a job managing the local distillery, she finds herself accepted by the local community as one of them, but when she unexpectedly finds herself the new owner of the plant after the death of its eccentric former proprietor, Edith, she wonders if she is up to the job.

Against the backdrop of a beautiful and rugged landscape, Rachel must find a way to keep this long established, but struggling,  business going and fight off the takeover bid of a multi-national company at the same time - and the appearances of one or two rather unwelcome visitors - which especially hard since the attractive, young lawyer in charge of the bid is really rather distracting.

Welcome to Inniscreag, with it's quirky but caring community, in this tale of love, loss and having the courage to start over.

************************************

What a lovely, heartwarming hug of a book this is and it is all so beautifully written by Elsie McArthur!

When Rachel leaves her difficult life behind and heads to Inniscreag little does she now how important this little island and its tight-knit community will become to her - but this is the place where she is born to be.

I can't really say too much about this one without giving away spoilers, which would be wrong, but can say that this is an absolutely enchanting book with an ending that will fill your heart to the brim and probably, your eyes too - think Hallmark movie and you will get the picture.

The little community of Inniscreag was one of my favourite things about Love, On The Rocks - and of course, the heart-throb Duncan was rather special too - but this is not just a story that concentrates on the main players to the detriment of the rest of the book, as this is full of great characters who you get to know, and care about too.

There is so much in these pages to tug on the heartstrings - love, loss and grief, but also plenty of friendship, understanding, and forgiveness too - and the overriding theme of determination and the courage to take the plunge and start again is delightful.

We all need a little bit of a hug right now, so make yourself feel better and get yourself a copy of 
Love, on the Rocks - available to buy now from your favourite book retailer, of via the links below:


Thank you to Elsie McArthur for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel's Random Resources Tours for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

Escaping a difficult childhood, unhappy marriage and dead-end job, Rachel McIntyre has escaped to the tiny Hebridean island of Inniscreag in search of a new beginning.

Taking a job as the manager of the local distillery, she's just settling into her new life when the elderly, eccentric owner dies, unexpectedly leaving her two hundred year old family legacy in Rachel's inexperienced hands.

Can she keep the small, community business alive in the face of a takeover attempt from a major multinational corporation? And can she resist the charms of the flirtatious, attractive company lawyer who arrives on the island to persuade her to sell up?

Join Rachel and the quirky inhabitants of Inniscreag - along with a couple of unexpected arrivals - in this funny, heartwarming tale about love, loss and having the courage to start over.


About the author:

Elsie McArthur is an independent author of women's fiction. After studying law at university, and then re-training as a primary school teacher, she now lives in the Highlands of Scotland with her husband, two kids, a couple of badly behaved dogs and a cat with a superiority complex.

As well as continuing to work part time as a teacher, she is now indulging in her first love of writing. Her first book, 'The Back Up Plan, was released in January 2020. Her second novel, Love, on the Rocks - a tale of love, loss and starting over, set on the remote Scottish island of Inniscreag - is due for release in Summer 2020.


Find out more about Elsie here:

Twitter     Instagram     Facebook     Goodreads






Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Sound Mirror by Heidi James

The Sound Mirror by Heidi James.

Published 20th August 2020 by Bluemoose Books.
Read August 2020.

Tamara is on the way to kill her mother, but things are not all they seem. Tamara is not the monster here, and as she looks back on her traumatic childhood and her difficult relationship with her mother, we can see how things have come to this point.

But this is not just Tamara's story. In this book, we will get to know the life stories of Claire, with her poor working class background and Italian immigrant parents, and Ada, taken from her childhood home of India and struggling to find a new place for herself in cold, grey England - both their lives marked by war, family and the expectations placed on them.

How are these women linked and how do the reverberations of the past affect the future?


*****************************************************


The Sound Mirror is the second book published by Bluemoose Books in 2020, as part of the year of publishing books exclusively from women writers - after the mesmerising Saving Lucia by Anna Vaught in April 2020 (see my review here).

I went into this book cold, without reading the blurb, which I am wont to do, and for me, this is definitely the best way to read this book, as it makes it the most wonderful voyage of discovery.

Here we have the story of three women:

Claire, the child of Italian immigrants, growing up as part of a poor, working class family in Kent. The course of Claire's life is laid out for her and shaped by her childhood in the 1940s/50s, in which looking after her numerous younger siblings and working hard in her father's fruit and vegetable business are the only options available until marriage. She longs to live a different life from her worn out mother, adamant that hers will be a different fate.

Ada, newly transplanted from India to an unwelcoming post-war Britain, finding it hard to adjust to ordinary life after the pampered existence she has always known, and coming to rely on the pale features inherited from her Irish grandfather and half-truths about her heritage to carve a future in this new world - one she hopes will be free of restraint.

And Tamara, a young woman of the modern age, and yet indelibly marked by a difficult relationship with her mother, and the heritage of the blood that runs in her veins.

Who are these women, and what is their relationship to one another? As the life stories of Claire and Ada play out in the present tense, and we simultaneously follow Tamara on her journey to see her dying mother whilst reminiscing on her traumatic past, it's hard to see how their lives touch. But as a reader, you get so absorbed in their separate stories and the rhythm of their lives, cutting back and forth between them throughout, that it ceases to even be a question in your mind after a while.

So, when the connection is revealed in the most delicious fait accompli by our author Heid James it hits you with shocking force, bringing everything into focus with sharp clarity as all the myriad pieces fall into place.

This books is quite simply outstanding. The writing is superb and fully transports you into the lives of all three women - their frustrations, jealousies, yearnings, shame, and their secret rebellions against the weight of the expectation forced upon them by family, class and the drudgery of ordinary life. As the echoes of the past are collected and concentrated to be bounced forward into the future, like some monstrous titular sound mirror, it somehow proves impossible for these women to break away from the haunting legacy of their blood, no matter how hard they try, and their experiences cut you to the quick.

The Sound Mirror is one of my favourite reads this year, and it is a book that begs to be read over again as soon as you have finished, so you can extract every subtlety and shade to the absolute max. This is a book you will not want to miss and it is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer, or from Bluemoose Books direct here.

Thank you to Heidi James and Bluemoose Books for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

From the cover of the book:

Tamara is going to kill her mother, but she isn't the villain.
Tamara just has to finish what began at her birth and put an end to the damage encoded in her blood. Quitting her job in Communications, Tamara dresses carefully and hires a car, making the trip from London to her hometown in Kent, to visit her mother for the last time. 

Accompanied by a chorus of ancestors, Tamara is harried by voices from the past and the future that reveal the struggles, joys and secrets of these women's lives that continue to echo through and impact her own.' 

The Sound Mirror spans three familial generations from British Occupied India to Southern England, through intimately rendered characters, Heidi James has crafted a haunting and moving examination of class, war, violence, family and shame from the rich details of ordinary lives.

About the author:

Heidi James lives in London and lectures at Kingston University. Her poetry, essays and short stories have appeared in numerous publications including, Mslexia, Galley Beggar Press and Dazed & Confused.


Monday, August 17, 2020

Echo Hall by Virginia Moffatt

Echo Hall by Virginia Moffatt.

Published 28th November 2017 by Unbound Digital.
Read August 2020.

In 2014, Phoebe Flint visits Echo Hall, where she muses on the fate of the unhappy Flint women of the past and the angry, bitter Flint men in their lives.  

This sweeping tale, set against the backdrop of three different wars, starts with the arrival of pregnant newly-wed Ruth Flint at Echo Hall in 1990. Unsure of her marriage to her new husband Adam, who she barely knows, and bewildered by the distant attitude of his grandfather, Jack, Ruth starts to look into the unspoken history of the family.

Through Ruth's eyes, we meet Elsie Flint, who was forced to move into Echo Hall with her cold in-laws in 1942, when husband Jack was away at war, and then even further back to the portentous meeting of 1911 of sisters Rachel and Leah Walters with the stern and religious Jacob Flint.

As Ruth uncovers the secrets of Echo Hall, can she finally bring peace to the Flint family?

*******************************************************

Echo Hall is a most ambitious novel that takes down through the layers of history surrounding the less than happy fortunes of the Flint family.

When Ruth begins to delve into the history of Echo Hall, we go back in time and learn about the various women whose fates have been tied to the men connected to Echo Hall - Ruth herself, Elsie, Rachel and Leah - and there are a lot of secrets to be uncovered.

The story jumps backwards through time as we meet the different women and get to know their stories, which are all linked rather cleverly by love, longing, misunderstanding, jealousy and recrimination. It soon becomes apparent that the weight of history hangs very heavily at Echo Hall, but it is not until you understand the importance of the meeting of Jacob Flint with the sisters Leah and Rachel and the reverberations of what followed that you truly comprehend why such an air of bitterness and sorrow has seeped into the very bricks and mortar of the place. 

As a reader, you become completely submerged in the bygone eras of Echo Hall and the memories the house holds. Each seam of the past is rich with the sorrow and essence of the women we come to know - and moving down and then back upwards to the present is almost like travelling into the depths of the very quarry that is so significant to the Flint family, and then thankfully back up into the fresh air.

There are some compelling themes in this story that recur throughout the separate threads of history, and the name Echo Hall is certainly rather fitting as the central focus of them all. Each era in time plays intriguingly with the ideas of war and pacifism, in a way befitting each period, and I found this quite interesting.

I enjoyed how Virginia Moffatt worked her story to play out the fates of the women of Echo Hall against different, but essentially similar backdrops, to reflect the circular nature of the winds of war and thought this worked particularly well with the World War I and II parts of the book. However, I did find the Gulf War element rather contrived for the sake of introducing a theatre of war to Ruth's story - although I understand why Virgina Moffatt wanted to find a link for Ruth with the women of the past.

There is a lot going here to keep you occupied and for the most part it is completely captivating - and tales of family secrets will always get my attention. There is also a rather haunting feel of underlying ghost story in facets of the novel that I found very enjoyable indeed. 

If you like your historical fiction immersive and with complex themes of the trials and tribulations of a family weighed down with the legacy of the past, then Echo Hall is going to be a book for you. It is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer, or via the links below:

Amazon UK     Amazon US     Blackwells     Waterstones     Hive

Thank you to Virginia Moffatt and Unbound Digital for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review and to Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

Phoebe Flint visits Echo Hall in 2014, where she follows in her mother’s footsteps 
to uncover the stories of a house ‘full of unhappy women, and bitter, angry men’.

Ruth Flint arrives at Echo Hall in 1990 – newlywed, pregnant, 
and uncertain of her relationship with her husband, Adam. Ghostly encounters, a locked door, 
and a set of photographs pique her curiosity. But Adam and his grandfather refuse to 
let her investigate. And her marriage is further strained, when Adam, a reservist, 
is called up to fight in the Gulf War.

In 1942, Elsie Flint is already living at Echo Hall with her children, 
the guest of her unsympathetic in-laws, whilst her husband Jack is away with the RAF. 
Her only friend is Jack’s cousin Daniel, but Daniel is hiding secrets, 
which when revealed could destroy their friendship for good.

Rachel and Leah Walters meet Jacob Flint at a dinner party in 1911. 
Whilst Leah is drawn to Jacob, Rachel rejects him leading to conflict with her sister that will reverberate through the generations.

As Ruth discovers the secrets of Echo Hall, she is able to finally bring peace to the Flint family, 
and in doing so, discover what she really needs and wants.

Echo Hall is a novel about the past, but it is very much a novel of the now. 
Does history always have to repeat itself, or can we find another way?


About the author:

Virginia Moffatt was born in London, one of eight children, several of whom are writers.

She has written two novels, Echo Hall and The Wave, and she has also published a flash fiction collection called Rapture And What Comes After. She also write non-fiction.

Virginia is married to Chris Cole, Director of Drone Wars UK. They have two daughters at University and a son still living with them in Oxford.


Find out more about Virginia here:





Friday, August 14, 2020

Hinton Hollow Death Trip (DS Pace Book Three) by Will Carver

Hinton Hollow Death Trip (DS Pace Book Three) by Will Carver.

Published in ebook 12th June 2020 and 13th August in paperback from Orenda Books.
Read August 2020.

Things in the small town of Hinton Hollow, population 5,120, are about to go seriously awry...

It all starts with a boy put on a train by his mother, in an attempt to keep him safe from the something that is about to visit this small town.

That something is Evil, who is travelling in the wake of DS Pace as he returns to his childhood home in search refuge from the terrible events that haunt him.

Unfortunately, Evil has a plan to occupy the attentions of DS Pace and the next five days are about to have very little to do with rest and relaxation.

Hinton Hollow is abut to become famous for the worst of reasons....

**********************************************

This is the kind of book that is very difficult to review, because it follows the darkest of paths and it quite simply, is not going to be for everyone - although to be fair Will Carver goes to great lengths to let us know this is not going to be a hearts and flowers, happy ending kind of story from the start.

DS Pace is a troubled man, who is bogged down with the weight of his past deeds... and misdeeds. He seems to have been chosen by the personification of Evil to follow a dark and tortured star, and you know from the outset that very bad things are going to happen in Hinton Hollow on his return.... and happen they do. Events in this small town take on a wicked momentum with the arrival of Pace and his shadowy companion, and as Evil's plan unfolds the inhabitants are forced to dance to his dastardly tune.

The action plays out in an unusual and rather original way, as a series of vignettes interspersed with the sardonic and philosophical narration of Evil himself, and we actually get to know him and his way of thinking pretty well over the course of the book. In fact, he is rather likeable in a strange way, unlike the inhabitants of Hinton Hollow, and you almost find yourself agreeing that they had it coming simply because they could have chosen to live good lives if they had really wanted to.

Coming in cold to the trials and tribulations of DS Pace, as I have by not having read the first two books (yet!), I am still not sure what to make of this unsettling tale. It is as disjointed and shocking as the twitching corpse of an RTA casualty - and yet, it is also a darkly compelling exercise in human frailty. Our tale may be narrated and the action directed by Evil himself, and yet it only takes for him to nudge the characters, sometimes with the very lightest of touches, to awaken their basest instincts and force them off the straight and narrow onto a course of action that leads to a downward spiral into depravity, murder and mayhem - it's strangely voyeuristic.

There is also something quite unnerving about the implication that the bar of what is now considered "good" in this day and age has been set so low that it does not take much to nudge even so called upstanding citizens towards the dark side, that will stay with me for a long time.

Be in no doubt, this is a chiller of a book, and parts of it are so disturbing that they are hard to read - think the combination of the insidious menace and violent happenings of a Stephen King tale and you will get the picture.  If this is not your bag, then you should pass this one by, but if you are up for something quite original and discomfiting that will challenge your view of what can be done with a crime fiction tale then Will Carver's Hinton Hollow Death Trip should definitely be on your to-be-read pile.

Hinton Hollow Death Trip is now available to buy from your favourite book retailer in paperback, ebook and audio formats.

Thank you to Will Carver and Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

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

Hinton Hollow. Population 5,120.

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

Because something was coming.

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

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

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

Evil had a plan.

About the author:

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series.

He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. 

He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. 

Good Samaritans (DS Pace Book One) was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.





Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Silence by Susan Allott

The Silence by Susan Allott.

Published 30th April 2020 by The Borough Press in ebook format. The hardback will be published in August 2020.
Read April 2020.

London, 1997: Isla is awakened in the middle of the night by a call from her father Joe, in Sydney.
The police have reason to believe that Joe is the last person to have seen their next door neighbour Mandy, who disappeared thirty years ago. It was thought that Mandy had moved house with her husband Steve, as they tried to revive their troubled marriage, but it now seems no one has seen her since the day she left, and this puts Joe under suspicion of murder.
Isla knows she must reluctantly return to Sydney, for the first time in many years, to try to help her father prove his innocence, but once she is there, she is flooded with memories of Mandy, the kindly woman who used to look after her as a child. Other, less pleasant memories bubble to the surface too, as the strained relationship between her parents causes Isla to confront the truth about her parents and her own shortcomings.
As Isla delves into the past, she discovers that there are long buried secrets about the relationship between her parents and the couple next door. What really happened between Mandy, Steve and her own parents, and how is this related to the conspiracy of silence that surrounds the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families?

*****************************************************************

What an absolute cracker of a debut novel! In turns, The Silence, is an outstanding domestic drama full of raw emotion, about the consequences that arise when there are secrets between partners; a tense and beautifully paced murder-mystery cum thriller, full of suspense; and a fascinating historical fiction work that brings to light the terrible truth about a shockingly arrogant social policy that had tragic consequences.
The Silence follows a dual timeline format that takes the reader back and forth between the scorching summer of 1967, and the stormy days of a 1997 autumn. 
The 1967 storyline sees Joe and his pregnant wife,  Louisa, having apparently insurmountable marital problems, which they are trying to keep away from their young daughter, Isla. Both Joe and Louisa are from England, and although Joe loves the Australian way of life, Louisa is miserable and lonely - her only friend is her next door neighbour Mandy, who she confides in about her unhappiness and desire to return to England. Joe adores Isla, but seems bewildered by his wife's attitude, and thinks her ungrateful - it doesn't help their relationship any that he is a heavy drinker, a habit he seems to have inherited from his alcoholic father....a habit that is prone to unleash his temper and his fists.
Meanwhile, Mandy is having relationship problems of her own. Her husband Steve is a policeman, who has been given the task of removing Aboriginal children from their homes and placing them in foster care or bleak children's homes. Steve desperately wants a child of his own and believes Mandy would like the same, but she is not so sure, and is convinced she is not cut our for motherhood - like her own mother. Mandy feels herself falling out of love with Steve, lying about trying for a baby, and becoming more and more frustrated with her life. She is doing her best to ignore that Steve's job is becoming increasingly difficult for him to carry out and breaking him up inside.
Things come to a head when Louisa empties the joint savings account Joe has been building up to buy a car, and takes Isla back to England, leaving Joe a note which simply says "Sorry..". Joe is desperate and drinking heavily, Mandy is unhappy and feels sorry for Joe - and the inevitable affair ensues.
The 1997 strand of our story, finds Isla back in her childhood home in Sydney, after an absence of ten years. She knows her father is a person of interest in the mysterious disappearance of Mandy thirty years ago - a woman she remembers as being kind and generous - who seems to have disappeared during the time she and her mother were back in England. She also remembers that she and the other local children were always afraid that the unstable Steve would take them away in his truck - a part of the past that is brought into clear focus by the current political climate in the Australia she has returned to.
Isla remembers little about the few months she and her mother were in England, other than that she hated it and wanted nothing more than to return to Sydney. She only knows that her mother did not leave again, even tough the relationship between her parents continued to be a volatile one. Isla is convinced that her father had nothing to do with Mandy's disappearance, but her mother clearly thinks otherwise. As Isla starts to dig into the past, and secrets that have been long buried come to light, she is not so sure about her father. Could he really have done what her mother believes him more than capable of?
Isla is struggling with demons of her own. Unlike her younger brother, she has inherited her father's penchant for alcohol, which has caused her life to get terribly out of control. Her relationship has fallen apart because of her drinking and tendency to resort to violence, just like the father she idolised. But she has been on the wagon for some months now, determined to make a positive change. Isla will not rest until she knows the truth - something that she and the local police appear to have differing ideas about.
This story is wonderfully involved, with deliciously complex characters. It seems like everyone here has something in their life that they are not proud of, secrets they are keen to hide. There are two sides to every story and this comes across so well in our cast of players. I really enjoyed the skillful way Susan Allott achieved this, playing out the tension of the murder mystery alongside the ups and downs of the human relationships - characters driven to breaking point by very real situations - although it is hard to justify some of the actions our characters resort to.
In addition, Susan Allott calls attention to how the balance of power has shifted somewhat between men and women in the way the relationships change between the characters over time - something which ultimately has a crucial outcome on the outcome of the investigation into the disappearance of Mandy. Things have changed over the thirty years between 1967 and 1997, and our author handles this with a deft touch.
I was also very impressed with the way our author turns one of the more cliched tropes on its head in this book, by exploring the idea that the alcoholic/violent strain does not necessarily have to pass down the male line of a family. Instead, although Joe has certainly inherited his volatile and addictive ways from his father, it is his daughter who has been fated to continue in this vein rather than his son - moreover, a son who sees his father for what he is and despises him for it. I found this rather refreshing.
Although this is a story about how lies and secrets in relationships can lead to tragic outcomes, the most shocking part of Susan Allott's incredible book is the way she brings to light the factual story of the Aboriginal children removed by force from their parents - the Stolen Generations. No one knows how may children were removed from their homes, but official government estimates put the figure at anything between one in three and one in ten indigenous children having been forcibly taken from their families and communities between 1910 and 1970. To say this is abominable is to put it mildly, but it becomes even worse when you consider where the children were taken and the tragedy of the abuse they experienced as a result. This is something I knew nothing about until reading this book. 
Interestingly, Susan Allott makes a good case for British school children to learn a lot more about Australian history than they currently do, and I have to agree with her there - especially after recently reading Alison Booth's fabulous book The Philosopher's Daughters, which also highlights some pretty despicable goings on in Australia's past.

Wonderful title too....The Silence....the heavy silence between people, full of secrets....the weight of  a silence intended to cover up for past misdeeds....a conspiracy of silence. Outstanding!
You can't fail to have gathered by now that I found this book pretty impressive, especially for a debut, and I can't wait to see what Susan Allott produces next. Highly recommended!

The Silence is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer!

Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney Isla Green is awakened by a call 
in the middle of the night: her father, phoning from Sydney.

30 years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Greens’ 
next-door neighbour Mandy disappeared. 
At the time, it was thought she had gone to start a new life; 
but now Mandy’s family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. 
Isla’s father Joe was allegedly the last person to see her alive, 
and now he’s under suspicion of murder. 

Reluctantly, Isla goes back to Australia for the first time in a decade. 
The return to Sydney will plunge her deep into the past, to a quiet street 
by the sea where two couples live side by side. Isla’s parents, Louisa and Joe, 
have recently emigrated from England — a move that has left Louisa 
miserably homesick while Joe embraces this new life. 
Next door, Steve and Mandy are equally troubled. Mandy doesn’t want a baby, 
even though Steve — a cop trying to hold it together under the pressures of the job 
— is desperate to become a father. 

The more Isla asks about the past, the more she learns: about both young couples 
and the secrets each marriage bore. 
Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? 
How much does her mother know? 
And is there another secret in this community, 
one which goes deeper into Australia’s colonial past, 
which has held them in a conspiracy of silence?

Deftly exploring the deterioration of relationships 
and the devastating truths we keep from those we love, 
The Silence is a stunning debut from a rising literary star.


About the author:

Susan Allott is from the UK but spent part of her twenties in Australia, desperately homesick, but trying to make Sydney her home. 

In 2016 she completed the Faber Academy course, during which she started writing this novel. 

She now lives in south London with her two children and her very Australian husband.




Monday, August 10, 2020

The Big Chill (The Skelfs Book Two) by Doug Johnstone

The Big Chill (The Skelfs Book Two) by Doug Johnstone.

Published by Orenda Books as an ebook on 20th June 2020 and in paperback on 20th August 2020.
Read August 2020.

After the events of A Dark Matter, Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah Skelf find themselves trying to regain some semblance of normality in their lives, but the violence visited on them by Jenny's ex-husband Craig has left its mark - not to mention that trying to run a funeral directors' and a private investigation  business from home does tend to bring misery and mayhem to your own door.

When a car crashes into an open grave at a funeral that Dorothy is conducting, ending the life of the driver and almost killing her in the process, she finds herself on an obsessive hunt for the identity of the young man at the wheel - a hunt that draws in both Jenny and Hannah too.

Dorothy also becomes involved in the search for one of her music students, a teenage girl called Abi, who has mysteriously gone missing - although her parents don't seem all that concerned.

Meanwhile, Jenny and Hannah have issues of their own, and the spectre of Craig hangs over them all as his trial approaches...

**********************************************

The first Skelf book, A Dark Matter, introduced us the the three amazing Skelf women - the matriarch Dorothy, her daughter Jenny, and Jenny's daughter Hannah - who found themselves in charge of both a funeral directors' and a private investigation business. following the death of Dorothy's husband - and what an absolute corker of a book it was!

This time around, our three women are still reeling from the chilling truth about the part Jenny's ex-husband Craig played in the dark misdeeds visited upon them, and the orgy of violence that brought matters to a shocking head. Still battered and bruised, although seemingly healed on the surface, Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah are each looking for a way to deal with the scars they are hiding deep inside. 

Dorothy throws herself into her work, on both the funeral and investigation fronts, which leads to her becoming emotionally involved in more than one case - that of the dead driver of the car that nearly ran her down, and the missing teenager Abi - and through these she uncovers some heartbreaking truths, while making a kind of peace with her situation, and possibly introducing a new member to the Skelf family of waifs and strays.

Jenny finds solace in her burgeoning relationship with the much younger Liam, who she met during a case of marital strife in  A Dark Matter, but Craig is playing games from behind bars that seem to deny her the chance of happiness once again - there are still scores to be settled on that front.

Hannah is struggling most of all with the horrific truth about her father, and the part he played in the death of her friend. She is drowning and can't seem to find anything firm to cling to, despite the best efforts her her girlfriend Indy. When the new found friendship she has made with an elderly professor ends in tragedy too, she can't help but question the apparent meaningless of existence.

In this second installment of the story of the three generations of Skelf women, Doug Johnston really pulls out all the stops and plays mercilessly with our emotions. Coming as we do, from the standpoint of knowing bags about our lovely Skelf women, and their inner strength, the groundwork has already been laid for us to be tipped straight into the action from page one - and boy, does he put them all through the wringer.

There is a real sense of sadness in the story line following Dorothy's need to know the identity of the young homeless man that dies in the car accident right at the start of the book, and it allows Doug Johnstone to shine a poignant light on the social problems that dictate the fate of those that find themselves on the streets of a city like Edinburgh. The combination of this thread of the story with Dorothy's search for the missing Abi really brings to the fore our matriarch's need to mother and protect.

Hannah's story line is also rather interesting, and much more philosophical than that in Dark Matter. She is at a complete loss, being carried along by the tide of events, and facing a deep existential crisis, that cleverly gives us the most wonderful and thought provoking of book titles for this second Skelf book, but she is much stronger than she realises. 

However, it is in Jenny's part of the big picture where our author's talents in playing with a sense of insidious darkness come to the fore. Jenny is so close to finding happiness, but Craig cannot let matters lie, and she really does not seem to think she deserves it either. Craig is even more of a monster in these pages, manipulating the women around him, like a spider sitting in the middle of a rather unpleasant web of lies and intrigue, spinning his threads and tugging with just the right amount of pressure to get them to play his macabre game - all the while, his intimidating shadow hangs over them like some sort of dreadful puppet master....and it's thoroughly delicious! 

I also loved that the Skelf women do seem to be finding their feet running both a funeral and investigation business in this book and there was just the right amount of mix of each, with them feeding nicely into each other to make a satisfying whole, with a core of pitch black humour - and it made me chuckle each time someone brought up the fact that mixing and funerals and investigations was more than a little odd!

This gripping book thoroughly engrossed me from start to unsettling finish and I cannot wait to find out what happens next!

The Big Chill is available to buy an ebook from your favourite book retailer now and will be available in paperback from 20th August 2020.

Thank you to Doug Johnstone and Orenda Books for proving me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

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

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

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


About the author:

Doug Johnstone is the author of more ten novels, most recently Breakers (2019), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and A Dark Matter (2020), which launched the Skelfs series.

Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home, which he drew on to write A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. 

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





Friday, August 7, 2020

The Light At the End Of The Day by Eleanor Wasserberg


The Light At The End Of The Day by Eleanor Wasserberg.

Published 6th August 2020 by 4th Estate.

Read August 2020.

Kraków, 1937: Painter, Jozef is commissioned to paint the portrait of the pampered younger daughter of a well-to-do Jewish family, and although he is reluctant, the dire straits he finds himself in mean that he is forced to accept the job.

When Jozef meets the Oderfeldt family, he has little liking for the parents,  the spoiled Alicia, or her bookish older sister, Karolina. But as work on the painting progresses, his destiny becomes irrevocably entwined with the Oderfeldt family, as he develops an understanding of Alicia and falls in love with the quiet Karolina - and it is the magic of the painting that binds them.

But then war comes to Poland and the Odefeldts are forced to flee their home. The family become scattered, the lovers are divided, and the painting is lost, as they become caught up in the fortunes of war.

This is a story of love, survival and remembrance....

*******************************************

The Light At The End Of The Day is a heartbreaking tale of a Jewish family torn apart by war, that draws heavily on the experiences of Eleanor Wasserberg's own family.

The book begins at the point where the Oderfeldt family are forced to flee Kraków in 1939, when it becomes clear that the German invasion is inevitable. Unfortunately, they have left their escape attempt too late, having decided to wait until the last minute to see whether the rumoured approaching war would come their way, and events sadly go awry.

The story then jumps back in time to 1937, when Jozef is commissioned to undertake the painting of Alicia. This seems a bit disorienting at first, but actually proves a skillful way for us to get to know the family, their foibles and secrets, and to establish the importance of Jozef's painting - before moving back to 1939 and continuing with what happens next.

Jozef's painting of Alicia is central to the novel and proves a rather original way to establish the relationships between the characters and tie all the strands together in the most magical of ways. The commissioning of the painting lays bare the inner workings of the Oderfeldt family; its creation forms the bond between Alicia, Jozef and Karolina; the mere idea of it proves a talisman; and its providence brings the threads of the story back together many years in the future.

I was very impressed how Eleanor Wasserberg brilliantly plays out the narrative on both the German and Russian sides of occupied Europe, so we learn about the lesser known fates of Jewish refugees in the Russian work camps. I was also very struck by how the beginning of her tale plays upon the fact that the Oderfeldts were busy keeping up appearances and entertaining their wealthy and influential friends while the events of Kristallnacht played out in Berlin, and how this shapes the reader's opinion of them as a dysfunctional family.

This is an epic tale of love, loss, suffering, survival and the bonds of family. It is an important and poignant account of a period of history we should never be allowed to forget. I found myself completely engrossed by both the story and the writing, and brokenhearted by the tragic nature of events, but they also show us that there can be hope even in the darkest of times - and it can be the strangest of things that give us solace and bring us back together.

The Light At The End Of The Day is available to buy in hardback, ebook and audio versions from your favourite book retailer now.

Thank you to Matt Clacher at 4th Estate for sending me a copy of this outstanding book, in return for an honest review.

From the cover of the book:

A family scattered. 
Lovers torn apart.
A painting that unites them all.


When Jozef is commissioned to paint a portrait of the younger daughter of Kraków’s grand Oderfeldt family, it is only his desperate need for money that drives him to accept. He has no wish to indulge a pampered child-princess or her haughty, condescending parents – and almost doesn’t notice Alicia’s bookish older sister, Karolina. 

But when he is ushered by a servant into their house on Kraków’s fashionable Bernadyńska street in the winter of 1937, he has no inkling of the way his life will become entangled with the Oderfeldts'. Or of the impact that the German invasion will have upon them all.

As Poland is engulfed by war, and Jozef’s painting is caught up in the tides of history, Alicia, Karolina and their parents are forced to flee – their Jewish identity transformed into something dangerous, and their comfortable lives overturned …


Spanning countries and decades The Light at the End of the Day is a heart-breaking novel of exile, survival and how we remember what is lost.


About the author:

Eleanor Wasserberg is a graduate of the Creative Writing Programme at the
University of East Anglia. Originally from Staffordshire, she now lives in Norwich.

Her first novel, Foxlowe, was longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and
shortlisted for the 2016 East Anglian Book Awards and The Shirley Jackson Novel Prize. Her
second novel, The Light At The End Of The Day, out in August 2020, is a story of exile,
survival and how we remember what is lost.


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas

SPOTLGHT ON

You Beneath Your Skin
By Damyanti Biswas

Lies. Ambition. Family.

It’s a dark, smog-choked New Delhi winter. 
Indian American single mother Anjali Morgan juggles her job as a psychiatrist with caring for her autistic teenage son. 

She is in a long-standing affair with ambitious Police Commissioner Jatin Bhatt–an irresistible attraction that could destroy both their lives.

Jatin’s home life is falling apart: his handsome and charming son is not all he appears to be,and his wife has too much on her plate to pay attention to either husband or son. But Jatin refuses to listen to anyone, not even the sister to whom he is deeply attached.

Across the city there is a crime spree: slum women found stuffed in trash bags, faces and bodies disfigured by acid. And as events spiral out of control Anjali is horrifyingly at thecentre of it all.

In a sordid world of poverty, misogyny, and political corruption, Jatin must make some hard choices. But what he unearths is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Together with Anjali he must confront old wounds and uncover long-held secrets before it is too late.

You Beneath Your Skin is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer, 
or via the link HERE.

Details can also be found on Goodreads.

PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster IN 
SPECIAL PROMOTION: Free on Amazon Kindle in all markets from the 7th -11th August




You Beneath Your Skin is a crime novel about the investigation of an acid attack on a woman from Delhi’s upper class, set against the backdrop of crimes against underprivileged women. 

They are assaulted, disfigured with acid, and murdered.

It is a whodunit, but also a whydunit, because violent crime unravels those affected: the people, the relationships, the very fabric of society, and we get a glimpse of what lies beneath. That’s why the title, You Beneath YourSkin.

All the author proceeds from You Beneath Your Skin will support the education and empowerment of women at Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.

You Beneath Your Skin has been optioned for TV screens by Endemol Shine, as announced by Hollywood Deadline.






About the author:

 Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore, and supports Delhi's underprivileged women and children, volunteering with organisations who work for this cause. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. You can find her on her blog.

She also sends out monthly newsletters with book recommendations and writing resources, which you can grab here.