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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Of Necessity And Wanting by Sascha A. Akhtar

 

Of Necessity And Wanting by Sascha A. Akhtar.

Published 11th October 2020 by The 87 Press.

From the cover of the book:

Of Necessity & Wanting is a collection of lyrical, atmospheric stories of varying lengths set in urban Pakistan.

At its forefront are the concerns of people who are lower down on the metaphorical ‘chain’ of status and power, especially in the context of their symbiotic relationship with 
those they see as 'other', 'privileged' or 'fair'.

Akhtar’s breath taking prose, which combines social realism with complex and intricate plots, desires, and psycho-geographies—represents a ground breaking exploration of women’s rights, such as independence and emancipation, in South Asia.

Sharply observed and tightly spun. Sascha has the eye of a poet and the ear of a wanderer. She writes precisely and lyrically. It’s a thing of beauty. Mohammad Hanif. Author of A Case Of Exploding Mangoes, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti and Bhutto: The Musical.

There is a familiarity in Akhtar’s characters that reminds us that, whomever or wherever we are, we share the same truths. Deliciously written, always entertaining and filled with striking imagery, Akhtar’s stories do the most magical thing - they show us who we are. Nik Perring. Author of Beautiful Words, Beautiful Trees, and Not So Perfect.

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

What a fabulous, and eye-opening collection of short stories from Sascha Akhtar about life in urban Pakistan. 

Of Necessity and Wanting gives us a fascinating, detailed, and often shocking glimpse into the lives of some very different characters who are seen as 'lower down' in the context of their own social circles, but who are nonetheless alike in their shared requirement for the things that they need to live, and the things they desire in order to fulfil their aspirations.

The first story is The White Cage. This is about Rumina, known as Guddi, a young girl from a middle class family whose mother has high ideas about climbing the social ladder and ensuring her daughter marries well. This was such an interesting look at the whole marriage market business in Pakistan and the booming beauty industry that fuels the obsession with being fair of complexion. This was my favourite and ends with the most wonderful 'punching the air' moment.

The second story, Paani: Water, is told from the point of view of a country boy made good, Akram, who finds himself running the household of a wealthy family in Karachi. This is the most shocking of the three, as it examines the water politics of Pakistan.

The third story, Janat Ki Huwa: The Air In Paradise, is the story of Javed and Zainab and is essentially a love story about two young people trying to make a living in Karachi, highlighting the reality of life at the lower end of the social scale. For me, this was the most heart-warming of the three tales, despite the difficulties they face in their lives.

This collection, when taken as a whole, highlights many aspects of life in Pakistan that may seem strange to the sensibilities of those of us brought up in a country like Britain, but Sascha Akhtar writes  so beautifully that she carries us along with her lyrical prose and immerses us completely in another world. She expertly shows us what it means to be human, which makes these tales relatable to all. Alongside the more distressing and absurd parts, there are moments of joy, heartache, frustration and longing, and a desire to better ourselves, that we can all recognise, whatever our background. There are certain truths that link us all, and this is where the magic lies.

There is such much in these pages that will set you thinking long after you have finished reading this book, especially about women's rights in south Asia; the huge gulf between rich and poor; social mobility; and the complex relationships between people who are reliant on each other, even though their lives may seem worlds apart. For me, this makes it a book that has the power to educate as well as entertain, and is one which I hope will be read widely.

Of Necessity And Wanting is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Isabelle Kenyon for sending me a copy of this book on behalf of Sascha A. Akhtar and The 87 Press in return for an honest review, and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Born in Chaklala, Rawalpindi in 1976, Sascha Akhtar has led a life less ordinary. Her ancestral roots are Baluchi, Kashmiri, Pathan and English, and she has lived in Peshawar, Karachi, Islamabad, Murree, U.S.A and the U.K.

She grew up in a mixed-race literary family in Pakistan. Her maternal grandfather, Haq Nawaz Akhtar who was the closest thing to a father to her, was a Government servant dedicated to real change in Pakistan, in addition to all his charitable works, including an organization that worked to free the poor fishermen falsely imprisoned in Indian and Pakistani jailed for accidentally crossing over international waters. In his lifetime, they managed to free over 1500 poverty-stricken fishermen. He was also the author of 9 + books of poetry and fiction in Urdu and works of non-fiction including the important If Truth Be Told: An Alternate History of Pakistan and India. ( Sang-i-Meel Publications, 2007 Lahore).

In 1995, Sascha went to attend Bennington College, Vermont, U.S.A. She left for America on a scholarship at 18 with $1000 U.S. Dollars, that she had earned herself as a teenager doing a T.V.  commercial for Nestle Cerelac. At that time, she was a fashion model in Pakistan doing catwalk and print shoots while being a youth empowerment advocate with KZR.

When she reached college, her first job was as a food server in the dining hall. She lived in America for nine years, in which time her jobs included waitressing and house painting.

Her love of stories and storytelling began at home. Her love for Pakistan came from her grandfather, who loved his country terribly and helped it and the poor throughout his lifetime.

She dedicates this collection to him —a poor, young poet who was given the takhallus (pen-name) Akhtar in his village in Sargodha and was to keep the name throughout his life. Above all, he transcended the circumstances of his own birth.
“The characters in Of Necessity And Wanting are all reflections of my beloved Grandad Haq Nawaz Akhtar. Long may he live on.”
Her debut fiction comes after an 18 year career in writing, during which time she has had six collections of poetry in English published in the U.K. Sascha Akhtar also wrote for almost a decade for Libas Magazine - interviewing Nadeem Aslam, William Dalrymple, Mohammad Hanif, Kamila Shamsie and Aamer Hussein to name a few. 

Her literary criticism, film reviews, op-eds and features can also be found in the archives of Herald, The Express Tribune, Blue Chip and Himal. Currently, Sascha is a Poetry School London Tutor and judge for the Streetcake Prize for Experimental Writing. Her course ‘Breaking Through Writer's Block,’ has been published by The Literary Consultancy, London as part of their ground-breaking #BeingAWriter online programme.

She is dedicated to the promotion of the Urdu language. In this regard, she is working with The Stephen Spender Trust as an Urdu translator, taking Creative Translation methods to schools in the U.K. She has taught at the Poetry Translation Centre, London, working with poems by Kishwar Naheed.

Upcoming is a book of translations from the Urdu of pioneering feminist fiction writer Hijab Imtiaz from the Indian Subcontinent is due in 2021 with Oxford University Press, India. Hijab Imtiaz was also the Subcontinent’s first female pilot in 1936.



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Lady Colombia by Stacy Christopher Zaghloul

 

Lady Colombia by Stacy Christopher Zaghoul.

Published 19th July 2020 by SCZ Publishing.

From the cover of the book:

Laidy is a young woman living outside Bogotá, Colombia. She applies herself in school, works a part-time job, and helps to look after her aging father.

Her exertions begin to take an emotional toll. An estrangement with her sister is particularly painful, leading her to investigate unanswered questions about her past. 

To resolve these doubts, she must traverse the world of narco-traffickers, a task she is loath to do. Along the way, she travels to parts of Colombia she has never seen and learns that her family history is much more complicated than she ever imagined. 

A genre-bending novel which incorporates elements of the women's literature, Latina, coming-of-age, mystery, contemporary romance, historical fiction, family life and multicultural genres, Lady Colombia is a moving tale that guides readers through the splendid cultural weave of the land, whilst delivering on the promise of the unputdownable. 

This stunning debut work will resonate with readers for years to come.

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

Lady Colombia is a book that takes you under the skin of modern day Colombia by cleverly using the compelling story of our young protagonist, Laidy, to weave in details of how Colombians are dealing with the legacy of the violence that has torn their country apart.

Laidy is a smart and ambitious young woman, living a quiet life, studying hard and doing her best to keep clear of the temptations that have drawn her sister into a life embroiled with the men exploiting the darker side of the Colombian economy. 

But when a twist of fate brings violence close to home and throws up a question about her past, she finds herself undertaking a quest to find out about her heritage - unexpectedly aided by a dangerous cartel boss who she has fallen for, despite all her efforts to keep away from the dark underbelly of Colombian life.

Laidy's present, her fascinating exploration into her past, and the fate of her mother allows Stacy Christopher Zaghloul to give us a glimpse into the recent history of Colombia in such an engaging and informative way that belies the relatively short length of this novel. This may be only 192 pages long, but our author packs in a lot of shocking detail, and there is such an interesting range of characters in the mix - rogues who revel in crime, reluctant monsters trapped in a life they cannot escape, those who carry the guilt of secret misdeeds, and innocents caught up in the consequences of their behaviour. Inevitably, there are lots of hard edges given the violent context and the horrifying truth of the "disappeared", but our author blends the facts with the fiction in such a way that it makes it a very human story about love, family and trying to make amends for the acts you are not proud of too. There are also some lovely surprises to discover along the way.

It is very easy to think of Colombia from the perspective of what we see in our television screens in programmes like Narcos, but this book gives much more depth to the lives of the people who live there. I found it interesting that Stacy Christopher Zaghloul originally intended to show the softer side of the people of Colombia, but found it impossible to write about their lives without reference to the violence too.

It's clear from this fascinating book that the past has shaped these people, but it does not define them, and as such it serves as a fitting tribute to the love that our author so clearly holds for Colombia.

Lady Colombia is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer or from Amazon UK HERE.

Thank you to Stacy Christopher Zaghloul for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Kelly Lacey of Love Books Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Stacy Christopher Zaghloul is a proud graduate of Texas A&M University and SMU's Dedman School of Law. She is now a happily inactive member of the District of Columbia's bar association. A native Houstonian, she has also lived in Dallas, Beijing, and Bogota.


She has taught special education students and English language learners in Texas, and spent some years in the administration of special education services. She also had the privilege to advocate for students with disabilities in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Stacy recently published her first novel, Lady Colombia, for Amazon. She is currently writing her third book, loosely based on the life of her Palestinian Venezuelan mother-in-law.

When not writing, Stacy is reading, gardening, listening to music, painting, and attempting to cook. She has been blessed with two lovely daughters, the eldest of whom is attending university in Florida, the younger completing secondary school in Texas. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband Jose and her dog Jet.






Tuesday, November 24, 2020

In The Sweep Of The Bay by Cath Barton

 

In The Sweep Of The Bay by Cath Barton.

Published 23rd November 2020 by Louise Walters Books.

From the cover of the book:

This warm-hearted tale explores marriage, love, and longing, set against the majestic backdrop of  Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, and the faded splendour of the Midland Hotel.

Ted Marshall meets Rene in the dance halls of Morecambe and they marry during the frail optimism of the 1950s. They adopt the roles expected of man and wife at the time: he the breadwinner at the family ceramics firm, and she the loyal housewife. 

But as the years go by, they find themselves wishing for more…

After Ted survives a heart attack, both see it as a new beginning… but can a faded love like theirs ever be rekindled?

A tender and moving study of a marriage” Alison Moore, author of the Booker short listed The Lighthouse.

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

What an absolute little gem of a novella! 

This is primarily the story of Ted and Rene, from the time of their meeting in the 1950's, all the way through their lives... and beyond to the reflections of their children and grandchild. It's heavy with the all too fleeting pleasures, the weight of expectation and duty, the grind of everyday drudgery, and the secret disappointments held inside from of a long marriage that follows an emotional ebb and flow through the years, that is so typical of many couples from this era. A couple who were bound to each other for better or for worse in a partnership that is not without enduring love, but who have forgotten how to be happy together - no matter how devoted they appear to outside eyes.

Through the years, we get a glimpse of the changing times in the way Cath Barton compares the relationship of Ted and Rene with the experiences of their own daughters and granddaughter - and interestingly also with the experiences, and observations, of an eclectic cast of walk-on parts from other characters that find themselves washed up in the sweep of Morecombe Bay. Every interaction, every innermost thought has a part to play as the threads of the story spin out over the years - lives touching in seemingly casual ways, but with undertones that have significance later down the line. 

"I look at them for quite a time, thinking and wondering, just wondering.
Realising how little we know of other people's lives, even our own parents. 
Perhaps especially our own parents."

As a child of parents who married in the 1950's there was a lot in this book that resonated with me - the feeling that so much was going on under the surface that was never spoken out loud was a big part of this, and the quirky way Eric Morecombe was worked into the story brought back so many happy childhood memories of Saturday night family TV viewing. If you are also of a certain age then you will find 'Bring Me Sunshine' is on a constant loop in your head for days after reading this!

Quite how Cath Barton manages to pack so much deep emotion into a novella that is only a smidge over 100 pages is a feat of beautiful writing, especially since this book covers such a wide time frame, but she chooses her words with such care that she wrings every ounce of feeling out of them - and trust me, you will feel every twang of the heartstrings with profound force. 

This is another winner from the fabulous indie publisher Louise Walters Books, and one that I can particularly recommend to fans of the wonderful Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers, as it evokes many of the same poignant feelings. It's simply brilliant.

In The Sweep Of The Bay is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer or via the links below:

Louise Walters Books     Amazon UK     Amazon US     Foyles     Book Depository     Kobo     


Thank you to Cath Barton and Louise Walters for sending me a copy of this book, and to Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Cath Barton lives in Abergavenny. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella in 2017 for The Plankton Collector, which was published in September 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. She also writes short stories and flash fiction and, with her critical writing, is a regular contributor to Wales Arts Review. 

In the Sweep of the Bay is her second novella.

Find out more about Cath Barton here:

LWB Books     Author's Twitter Page     Author's Website




Monday, November 23, 2020

Double Deceit by Julienne Brouwers

Double Deceit by Julienne Brouwers.

Published 23rd November 2020 in association with Aria, an imprint of Head of Zeus.

From the cover of the book:

What if you were framed for a murder you didn’t commit? A gripping, addictive thriller for fans of Angela Clarke, Mel Sherratt and Rachel Lynch.

Jennifer Smits is a young mother, married to a hotshot lawyer and living in Amsterdam. Her world explodes when her husband is found dead at a holiday park during a weekend getaway. 

Convinced that the police have failed in their investigation, she embarks on a desperate quest for the truth - but the deeper she digs, the more she gets enmeshed in a tangled web of lies, spun by a ruthless law firm.

As Jennifer's search for answers intensifies, her grip on reality weakens. Barely able to manage her patients at the health clinic, or take care of her young son, Jennifer is at risk of losing it all – even her closest friends begin to desert her. 

And then a chance encounter with a charming stranger sparks a new chain of events that plunges her deeper into a world of threats and corruption. Soon, she begins to fear for her life - but who can she trust, and how far will she go in pursuit of the truth?

This is a gripping, addictive thriller that will make you question everything, including the flaws of forensics. Could we all be framed for a murder we didn’t commit? 

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

Double Deceit is an intriguing thriller set in Amsterdam about a young doctor, Jennifer Smits, coping with the fallout from the unexpected death of her successful lawyer husband- and it certainly keeps you on your toes from start to finish.

This one starts with a great hook, as the make or break weekend getaway planned by Jennifer and her husband, Oliver, in the company of their young son, goes horribly awry and sets Jennifer on an unexpected and dangerous path. The police do not seem overly concerned that Oliver has turned up dead, but his wife is sure there is more to it than a simple accident... and she is right!

Once Jennifer returns to Amsterdam to try to pick up the threads of her life as a single parent, we are off and running into a thrilling tale full of menacing suspense as she uncovers some unexpected secrets about the life Oliver was leading - both on the personal and professional fronts. No one seems to believe that Jennifer's doubts might have some substance, even her own friends who put it down to the imagination of a grieving widow, and instead she has to rely on her own wits and some unexpected allies to confirm her suspicions and get to the bottom of what has been going on.

I really enjoyed the way Julienne Brouwers builds the suspense in this novel, throwing in little twists here and there, and ramping up the danger nicely until Jennifer finds herself in a position from which there seems no escape, and the way this plays out as a cat and mouse game against the backdrop of Amsterdam was done beautifully - my heart was in my mouth whenever she left the safety of her own home as you were never quite sure who to trust and who meant her harm. Well played, Julienne!

I did think it was a bit of a shame that the threads tied up a rather too quickly in the finale, as I would have enjoyed a little bit more stringing along before the final masterstroke was played, but this is actually a total compliment to the wonderful build up beforehand, as I was enjoying it all so much.

This book is well plotted and has the bones of an excellent thriller. I relished putting together all the clues that were uncovered until the uncomfortable truth about the danger Jennifer was facing became clear. It is also evident that the scientific background of the author has a big part to play in how she has crafted this novel by the way she examines the role played by forensics in modern criminal investigations. And, I must say that there are some cracking female characters in this book, which always makes me smile.

This one is definitely worth your time if you enjoy a thriller with intelligent twists and plenty of heart-stopping moments - and it is available now from your favourite book retailer in ebook and paperback formats, or via Amazon UK HERE.

Thank you to Chris Nijs, marketing manager, JB Publishing,in association with Aria, an imprint of Head of Zeus, and Julienne Brouwers 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:

Julienne Brouwers worked as a pharmaceutical scientist and medical physicist before becoming a writer. She lives in the Netherlands, with her husband and three children, where she has published two successful thrillers, and lived in the UK and US for a total of four years.

Find out more about Double Deceit and Julienne Brouwers below:








Friday, November 20, 2020

The Road To Cromer Pier (audio book) by Martin Gore

 

The Road To Cromer Pier (audio book) by Martin Gore.
Narrated by Penny Scott-Andrews.

Released August 2020 by Martin Gore Publishing. Unabridged, 7 hours and 55 minutes.

Originally released in paperback and ebook April 2019.

From the cover of the book:

Janet’s first love arrives out of the blue after 30 years. Those were simpler times for them both. Sunny childhood beach holidays, fish and chips and big copper pennies clunking into one armed bandits.

The Wells family has run the Cromer Pier Summertime Special Show for generations. But it’s now 2009 and the recession is biting hard. Owner Janet Wells and daughter Karen are facing an uncertain future. 

The show must go on, and Janet gambles on a fading talent show star. But both the star and the other cast members have their demons. 

This is a story of love, loyalty, and luvvies. The road to Cromer Pier might be the end of their careers, or it might just be a new beginning.

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

What a charming tale of love, friendship, and new beginnings! 

Easy on the ear and heart-warmingly nostalgic, this is a tale of a good old fashioned end-of-the-pier theatre, in a good old fashioned sea-side town, that takes you right back to the sunny summer days of childhood, but mixes in more than a few interesting modern twists along the way.

Set a year after the banking crises of 2008, this is a seaside town struggling with survival in a recession - especially the hotel and entertainment sectors - and Martin Gore gives us a pretty realistic glimpse of the struggles a little town like Cromer was dealing with at this time. 

Forced to make some pretty drastic cutbacks, our theatre gang is made up of a slightly different blend than normal this year, and this introduces some fun characters to the mix - veteran luvvies have to brush shoulders with down on their luck former stars, faded dancing girls, keen young wannabes and haphazard magical performers to try to make ends meet, and keep the wolf from the door. And the wolf in question proves to be of a particularly nasty businessman variety, intent on expanding his empire and shortening the odds to his advantage by less than honest means. 

I enjoyed every single character here, and they all had their part to play in the overall scheme of things - whether they be a good, bad, or a very realistic mix of the two - and I loved getting to know them all. I was also very impressed with the way Penny Scott-Andrews handled narrating all the different accents, especially since there was such a range of characters of disparate ages and from so many different locations around the country!

The threads of the tale played out well, for the most part, and the ending and accompanying little twists were completely charming and warmed the cockles of my heart nicely. There are more than a few laughs in this story too, especially from the antics of the hapless Polish magician.

The Road To Cromer Pier is a lovely little tale of pulling together in adversity, helping each other through the hard times and finding a way to move on, which is absolutely perfect listening for the current topsy-turvy times - and it is available to buy now HERE.

Thank you to Martin Gore for gifting me a copy of this audio book in return for an honest review and to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.





Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Chalet by Catherine Cooper

The Chalet by Catherine Cooper.

Published 12th November 2020 by Harper Collins.

From the cover of the book:

Four friends. One luxury getaway.
The perfect murder.

French Alps, 1998...

Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns.

20 years later...

Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting.

Someone knows what really happened that day.

And somebody will pay...

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

The Chalet is my favourite kind of thriller - one that grabs you by the throat and does not put you down until it has nearly wrung the life out of you!

As is fitting for a book that takes place in a ski resort, this review is going to be ripe with skiing analogies - so buckle up your ski boots dear reader, and make sure your salopettes are securely fastened.

Right from the off, you know you are going to be in for a quite a ride with this debut - no slow snowploughing on the nursery slopes here - as it starts with a bang and leads you on an off-piste adventure towards the delicious dark side of the crime genre that races across the finish line to a medal worthy ending.

But this is no straight down-hill run... in fact, we have more than a little of the slaloms about it with the twists and turns Catherine Cooper drops in along the way - some of which will have you tumbling into the powder with some force as the truth hits you like a well-aimed snowball.

Ok, a little rest from the snowy references for a while, but don't settle into the Apres-Ski just yet, because they will be back...

I love a thriller that is told from the different points of view of the characters, especially one that splits between the past and present, but this is not always easy for an author to get right, as all the pieces have to slip seamlessly into place with perfect timing to pull it off. Delightfully, Catherine Cooper gets this spot on here, as the threads of the story are cleverly contrived and her plotting is slick- she leads you beautifully in the wrong direction more than once before just enough of the truth is revealed to bring about those delicious lightbulb moments... and the twists are suburb and somewhat chilling (back to the snowy puns again, I am afraid)!

For a debut novel, this is accomplished stuff and I can't wait to see what Catherine Cooper comes up with next. If you like your thrillers twisty, as relentless as an avalanche and as breath taking as the Black Run side of the slopes then The Chalet should be next on your to be read list - you won't be sorry!

The Chalet is available to buy from your favourite book retailer now in paperback, ebook and audio formats, and from Bookshop.org HERE.

Thank you to Catherine Cooper and Harper Collins for gifting me 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.

About the author:

Catherine Cooper is a freelance journalist writing for many national newspapers and magazines, specialising in travel. 

Most recently she has written several ski pieces for the Guardian and is currently compiling a 50 best family holidays round up for the Telegraph. She also makes regular appearances as a talking head on daytime TV. 

She lives in France with her husband and two teenage children, and is a keen skier.





Monday, November 16, 2020

Fortune Favours The Dead by Stephen Spotswood

 

Fortune Favours The Dead (Pentecost and Parker) by Stephen Spotswood.

Published 12th November 2020 by Wildfire Books.

From the cover of the book:

New York, 1946. Lillian Pentecost is the most successful private detective in the city, but her health is failing. She hires an assistant to help with the investigative legwork. Willowjean Parker is a circus runaway. Quick-witted and street-smart, she's a jack-of-all-trades with a unique skill-set. She can pick locks blindfolded, wrestle men twice her size, and throw knives with deadly precision - all of which come in handy working for Ms P.

When wealthy young widow Abigail Collins is murdered and the police are making no progress, Pentecost and Parker are hired by the family to track down the culprit. 

On Halloween night, there was a costume party at the Collins' mansion, where a fortune teller performed a séance which greatly disturbed Abigail. Several hours later her body was discovered bludgeoned to death in her late husband's office. Problem is, the door to the office was locked from the inside. There was no-one else in the room, and the murder weapon was beside the victim; the fortune teller's crystal ball.

It looks like an impossible crime, but Pentecost and Parker know there is no such thing...

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

Fortune Favours The Dead is the first book in a brilliant new series by Stephen Spotswood that mixes all the nostalgic charm of the best classic books of the genre into a seemingly traditional murder mystery with some surprisingly modern features.

Pentecost and Parker are our unconventional feminist, crime-solving duo succeeding in a post-World War II male-dominated world. Pentecost is a force to be reckoned with in her own right, but failing health and a chance encounter with the extra capable Parker while on a case forges a partnership that has everything you want and more in a detective novel of the period.

This tale is beautifully crafted into an outstanding murder-mystery that brings in elements of some of my absolute favourite detectives and their authors. The story is narrated in an enchanting 'case-book' style by Parker, as sort of a Watson to Pentecost's Holmes, that takes us through the nitty-gritty of the Collins case from the intriguing locked-room murder, all the way through to a thought-provoking encounter with a criminal mastermind Moriarty type figure - but Parker is certainly no Watson! Instead her tale is spun in the way of a hard-boiled gumshoe in the Raymond Chandler mould, and it works perfectly. Throw in more than a little Golden Age murder mystery in the style of the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, and a hint of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown (especially in the form of the splendid housekeeper Mrs Campbell) and you have a winning combination that had me glued to the pages from start to finish.

The story plays out in the slickest and most entertaining of ways, against a New York full of a marvellous mix of characters from the so-called cream of society, down to the inhabitants of the dark underbelly of the city, and everyone in between - with dangerous dames and gorgeous guys, violent villains and cunning con-artists, everyone seems to have secrets that they would prefer stayed hidden, including our crime fighting duo. And it is on this front that the more modern elements of the story present themselves, especially in terms of the sexual predilections of some of the characters and the stark reality of the existence of the poorer residents of the city.

This really is a cracking book that leads you on a merry dance, and delights you when the pieces finally fall into place - with more than a few nicely contrived surprises. I loved every minute spent with Pentecost and Parker and cannot wait for the next book in the series!

Fortune Favours The Dead is available to buy from your favourite book retailer in hardback, ebook and audio formats now, or from Bookshop.org HERE.

Thank you to Caitlin Raynor of Headline Publishing Group for gifting me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

About the author:

Stephen Spotswood is an award-winning playwright, journalist and theatre educator. He makes his home in Washington, DC with his wife, young adult author Jessica Spotswood, their cat, and an ever-growing collection of books.


Friday, November 13, 2020

The Last Resort by Susi Holliday

 

The Last Resort by Susi Holliday.

Published 1st December by Thomas and Mercer.
Available now as an Amazon First Reads title.

From the cover of the book:

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One perfect crime.

When Amelia is invited to an all-expenses-paid retreat on a private island, the mysterious offer is too good to refuse. Along with six other strangers, she’s told they’re here to test a brand-new product for Timeo Technologies. But the guests’ excitement soon turns to terror when the real reason for their summons becomes clear.

Each guest has a guilty secret. And when they’re all forced to wear a memory-tracking device that reveals their dark and shameful deeds to their fellow guests, there’s no hiding from the past. This is no luxury retreat—it’s a trap they can’t get out of.

As the clock counts down to the lavish end-of-day party they’ve been promised, injuries and in-fighting split the group. But with no escape from the island—or the other guests’ most shocking secrets—Amelia begins to suspect that her only hope for survival is to be the last one standing. Can she confront her own dark past to uncover the truth—before it’s too late to get out?

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

What a lot of fun this book is! 

Seven strangers are lured to a luxury retreat on a private island, for the weekend of their lives, with false promises of riches in return for their 'expertise'? How very Agatha Christie you may exclaim... and yes, there are definitely echoes of the Queen of Crime herself in the set-up, but dear readers, there is so much more.... 

Imagine if you will, what would happen if someone had access to all your dirty little secrets and indiscretions? Perhaps, if your sins are small, you would not be too worried, but what if they were whoppers that would bring your downfall should they become public knowledge? And some of the secrets that come to light in this story are whoppers indeed.

Susi Holliday takes this idea and then ramps it up a notch by bringing in some technological advances that allow someone's memories to be tapped into and displayed for all to see - not to mention by also allowing us to see first hand the rather dodgy extra features associated with these new gismos. Pretty scary stuff!

The beauty of this book is that we know each of our seven strangers are heading for their own individually designed nightmare endings and as the tension mounts they begin to drop like the proverbial flies.... all for a single purpose that serves to force Amelia to confront an uncomfortable truth from her own past.

So, shades of Agatha Christie, with her scene setting and unveiling of secrets from our cast of players, but they are also players in another sense too - because this is not your usual Christie weekend house party. There is a wonderful feeling that these seven people are being played from the very start and that they are engaging in some sort of dangerous game, and as the first metaphorical die is cast the bloodletting begins in earnest. It put me in mind of a cross between Jumanji, The Crystal Maze and a honest to goodness slasher movie, and the pace is fast and furious all the way through to the intriguing denouement.

This is certainly one for the lovers of a thrill ride, but this book also asks some interesting questions about some meaty (pardon the fleshy pun)  themes. It will leave you mulling over deep thoughts about the nature of memory, the role of technology and social media in out lives, and how we deal with guilt.

I must admit that the ending of this book did side swipe me a little, and that perhaps some aspects were tied up a little too quickly, but there is scope for more from these deliciously dark themes, as they could be teased out for more gory, dystopian technological fun - and judging by the way Susi Halliday weaves her menacing storytelling skills here, I would definitely be up for reading it!

Thank you to Susi Holliday for gifting me an ebook copy of this book in return for an honest review.

About the author:

Susi (S.J.I.) Holliday grew up in East Lothian, Scotland. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize. She lives in London (except when she's in Edinburgh) and she loves to travel the world.

Her serial killer thriller The Deaths of December, featuring Detective Sergeant Eddie Carmine and Detective Constable Becky Greene was a festive hit in 2017.

Her next two releases, The Last Resort and Substitute are due out from Thomas & Mercer late 2020 and summer 2021 - both of these books are suspense thrillers with a technological element (a blend of Black Mirror, Tales of the Unexpected and The Twilight Zone).

Writing as SJI Holliday, she also has three crime novels set in the fictional Scottish town of Banktoun, which are a mix of police procedural and psychological thriller. They are: Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly - all featuring the much loved character, Sergeant Davie Gray.

Also as SJI Holliday, her spooky mystery The Lingering was released in September 2018, followed by Violet - a psychological thriller set on the Trans-Siberian Express - in September 2019. Violet has been optioned for film.



The Snow Song by Sally Gardner

 

The Snow Song by Sally Gardner.

Published 12th November 2020 by HQ Stories.

From the cover of the book:

A heartbreaking novel for adults, from the award-winning Sally Gardner.

Women imprisoned by superstition, chained by guilt.

Perched on a mountain in a land of ancient forests is a village, rife with secrets. Cut off from the outside world it is run by the elders, men to whom tradition is all.

Edith lives alone with her alcoholic father who is forcing her to marry the village butcher. But she is in love with a shepherd who promised to return to her.

As the village becomes isolated in a sea of snow, Edith loses her power of speech. And it is this enchantment that will have far-reaching consequences, not only for Edith but for the whole village.


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

The Snow Song is the most gorgeous of dark fairy tales, set in an isolated village where the word of the male elders and the weight of age-old superstitions keeps the people in check, especially the womenfolk.

Edith, in common with her fellow women, has fallen prey to the whims of the village butcher - a man who wields both his fortune and the pursuit of his desires at the expense of his neighbours and even his own family. He wants Edith... and therefore he must have her at all costs.

But Edith has fallen in love with an outsider - a man who appears to be a simple shepherd - and he promises to return for her before the first snows fall. And the consequences of their doomed love will come to affect the whole village.

This is the most magical tale about the importance of listening to others, of finding your own voice and making yourself heard. Sally Gardner weaves these themes beautifully throughout this novel by using the love story of Edith and her shepherd, which draws in all the villagers who have suffered at the hands of the butcher and his fellow elders, and proves the catalyst they need to bring about positive change in their lives.

Although the setting for this tale is one that takes us back in time, to a place far removed from the world we know, this is nonetheless, at heart, a tale of oppression, control, finding yourself and gathering the courage to take a stand against evil. There is a lot to take from this book about the modern world, which I found rather clever.

There is plenty of sadness to be endured in these pages, much of it quite difficult to read as the women of the village finally have to courage to share the truth about their experiences, but there is also much to make your heart soar too. The power of love, friendship, stories and music shines through and lead us to the most wonderful of endings, which made me shed more than a few tears - and the way Sally Gardner uses both the snow and the whispers of underlying magic to underpin this beautiful fable is simply wonderful. I loved it.

The Snow Song is available to buy from our favourite book retailer now, of via Bookshop.org HERE.

About the author:

Sally Gardner grew up and still lives in London. Being dyslexic, she did not learn to read or write until she was fourteen and had been thrown out of several schools, labelled unteachable, and sent to a school for maladjusted children. Despite this, she gained a degree with highest honours at a leading London art college, followed by a scholarship to a theatre school, and then went on to become a very successful costume designer, working on some notable productions.

After the births of twin daughters and a son, she started first to illustrate and then to write picture books and chapter books, usually with fairytale- or otherwise magical subject matter. She has been called 'an idiosyncratic genius' by London’s Sunday Times




Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Coyote Fork by James Wilson

 

Coyote Fork by James Wilson.

Published 1st September 2020 by Slant Books.

From the cover of the book:

British journalist Robert Lovelace travels to California to report on the social media giant Global Village. He’s horrified by what he finds: a company—guided by the ruthless vision of its founder, Evan Bone—that seems to be making journalism itself redundant. Appalled, he decides to abandon the project and return home.

But as he leaves he has a disconcerting encounter that sends him off in a totally different direction. Soon he finds himself embarking on an increasingly fraught and dangerous mission. The aim: to uncover the murky truth about Evan Bone’s past and his pathological disregard for the human cost of the behemoth he has created.

Robert’s quest takes him from San Francisco to a small college town in the Midwest, to the site of a former hippie commune in northern California, introducing us to a range of vivid characters and confronting us with the price we pay—online trolling, the loss of privacy, 
professional ruin—for living in an “interconnected” world. Finally, he makes a startling discovery—and is thrown into a completely unforeseen existential dilemma.

A timely, stylishly written, and brilliantly conceived metaphysical thriller, Coyote Fork carries us on an unforgettable journey, before bringing us face to face with the darkness at the heart of Silicon Valley itself.

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Coyote Fork is the kind of thriller that takes you to unexpected places, and as such, it makes it very difficult to review without giving away too much... but here goes!

When journalist Robert Lovelace travels to California he intends to write a piece on the mysterious head of the media giant Global Village, Evan Bone, who has cost him his job, but what he encounters there sends him in quite a different direction.

What starts out as a journalistic investigation into possible corporate cover-ups, turns into an altogether different metaphysical beast, by way of gum shoe noir, road trip adventure, conspiracy chronicle, and menacing small town Wicker Man-esque yarn, with supernatural undertones. It's twisty, unpredictable and completely addictive.

This genre busting novel builds into a story that has fascinating characters leading us into mind boggling and far-reaching themes. There is a lot to get your teeth into - the role of social media and the responsibility of the corporations that own them; on-line communities, internet trolling and the toll they take on mental health; environmental issues; cybernetics; and the rights of indigenous peoples - not to mention the human elements of the story, which are ripe with love, loss, jealousy, betrayal and revenge.

And the whole entertaining, weirdly circular shebang will leave you pondering some of the biggest existential questions about the fate of human kind too!

I like to think of it as David Cronenberg does Michael Crichton... and if that doesn't make you want to read it, then I don't know what will!

Coyote Fork is available to buy from your favourite book retailer now, or from Bookshop.org HERE.

Thank you to James Wilson and Slant Books for gifting me 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.

About the author:

James Wilson is a London-based writer. His previous novels include The Dark Clue, The Bastard Boy, The Woman in the Picture, Consolation, and The Summer of Broken Stories

He has written BBC TV and radio documentaries, and is the author of a work of narrative nonfiction, The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America, which won a Myers Outstanding Book Award.







Monday, November 9, 2020

Number 10 by C. J. Daugherty (Spotlight)

 

 Spotlight On

Number 10

By C.J. Daugherty



Published 10th November 2020

from Moonflower Books

From the cover of the book:

One of the UK’s most critically acclaimed teen authors returns with a new novel set in the world of her hugely popular Night School series.

Number 10 tells the spinetingling story of 16-year-old Gray Langtry, the daughter of the UK’s female prime minister, who is about to get in way over her head. After a wild night with friends is splashed across the tabloids, Gray is grounded for two weeks at Number 10 Downing Street, no ifs no buts.

Left alone one night, with her mother at an important meeting, Gray discovers a secret network of government tunnels leading from 10 Downing Street to the Houses of Parliament and beyond. What starts as a bit of fun, suddenly gets serious, when Gray stumbles across a secret late night cabinet meeting and overhears what sounds like a Russian-led plot to kill her mother.

Wasting no time, she rushes back to inform her mother’s security detail, but with no proof of what she heard, no-one will believe a wayward teenager. Now, it’s up to Gray to break out of Number 10 and warn her mother before it’s too late. With the help of her best friend Chloe and love interest Jake McIntyre – who just happens to be the son of the leader of the opposition – will she make it in time to save her mother?

And what will she have to sacrifice in the process?

Number 10 is a Night School spin off series that sees CJ Daugherty back at her spine tingling best. Gripping, thrilling, and filled with intrigue, Number 10 explores the nexus of power in the UK from a teenager’s point of view.

Number 10 is available to order now from your favourite book retailer, or from Amazon UK HERE.

About the author:

A former crime reporter and accidental civil servant, C.J. Daugherty began writing the Night School series while working as a communications consultant for the Home Office. The young adult series was published by Little Brown and went on to sell over a million and a half copies worldwide. A web series
inspired by the books clocked up well over a million views. In 2020, the books were optioned for television. 

She later wrote The Echo Killing series, published by St Martin's Press, and co-wrote the fantasy series, The Secret Fire, with French author Carina Rosenfeld.

While working as a civil servant, she had meetings at Number 10 Downing Street, and saw people disappearing through a small door leading to a staircase heading below ground level. This visit became the inspiration for Number 10. FYI: She still doesn’t know if there are tunnels below Number 10. But she hopes there are.

Her books have been translated into 25 languages and been bestsellers in multiple countries. She lives with her husband, the BAFTA nominated filmmaker, Jack Jewers.






The Becket List by Henry Becket

 

The Becket List by Henry Becket.

Published 1st October 2020 by Red Door Press.

From the cover of the book:

The Becket List is a not entirely serious compendium of 'First World Problems' - the sort of stuff that drives us round the bend on a daily basis. 

How is it that atonal music, bus stations, cling-film and coat-hangers can bugger us up so comprehensively? Or passport control people, modern poetry, or just about anything you'll find in a typical hotel bedroom? 

Embracing both the inanimate - from allen keys to rawlplugs - and the animated (well, in some cases) - from your fellow-travellers to every third-rate waiter who ever walked the earth - this book is essential for your sanity. 

As such, this comprehensive A to Z provides a signal service to humanity.

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

Welcome to the world of Henry Becket, and the A to Z guide of all the things that drive him round the bend - and there are hundreds of them! 

Most people have pet hates, I know I do, however it is rare for someone to feel the compulsion to write a whole book listing all those pesky things that drive them to despair... every... single... day.. but to be honest, Henry has such a lot of things that drive him mad, from Absurd Beards all the way to Zeitgeist, I can see why this has come about - as his wife says, he is "so angry, about so many things. ALL the time".

But have no fear! Although this is a book full of pet peeves, Henry Becket 'rants' about them in such a humorous, sardonic and tongue-firmly-in-cheek kind of way that this book is actually very entertaining to read. You will probably find yourself nodding along and agreeing with his views on many of these annoying things about modern life, and chuckling at the way he talks about them. but you would have to be a serious grump to agree with them all, I think! Sorry, Henry...

This is exactly the kind of book that makes the ideal present for the whingers in your life (the festive season is approaching after all), and it can easily be read in a single sitting or dipped into at leisure - or indeed, with the use of the helpfully supplied alphabetical list of contents at the front, be perused by going straight to the very pages talking about those favourite irritating subjects/people. 

Lots of fun, with amusing illustrations by Tony Husband to enjoy alongside Henry Becket's words, and not to be taken too seriously, I hope, but them I am the kind of person who rearranges the dishwasher after it has been (helpfully) loaded by someone else! See: Reloading the dishwasher for no good reason, page 180, for more!

The Becket List is available to buy from your favourite book retailer now, or from Bookshop.org HERE.

Thank you to Henry Becket and Red Door Press for gifting me 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:

Henry Becket was one of that curious breed, a Choral Exhibitioner at Cambridge, where he read... books. And magazines. He then spent decades nurturing what a head hunter once described as an iffy CV - as a Westminster speechwriter, lobbyist, wine merchant, copywriter, ad agency supremo (industry-speak for MD), and writer/director of innumerable eminently forgettable TV commercials in an awful lot of languages. 

He is lucky enough to have an impressively large family, and is also pretty obsessed with sailing, skiing, claret, churches and hillwalking, among other things. Oh, and the foibles of the world around him. Obvs.





Friday, November 6, 2020

Freedom Is A Land I Cannot See by Peter Cunningham

 

Freedom Is A Land I Cannot See by Peter Cunningham.

Published 25th June 2020 by Sandstone Press.

From the cover of the book:

1924. In the dangerous first years of the Irish Free State, beautiful Rose Raven, having lost her sight and her first love, is living quietly with her brother. But Ultan is involved in anti-government propaganda. 

As the net tightens, Rose is the only person who knows where the shameful truth is hidden – a truth so incendiary, it threatens the new Ireland itself.


'A superbly crafted novel... It conveys with great skill - probably better than any history book could - the conflicting, crisscrossing, complex loyalties of so many families caught up in those high-octane, dangerous times.' --The Irish Times

'A pacy plot, lyrical writing and compelling characters.' --Sunday Independent

'Timeless... A tragic story, but with enough warmth to ultimately feel life-affirming.' --Irish Independent


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

What a cracking slow burner of a novel this turned out to be!

In this book, Peter Cunningham takes us right back to the dangerous and politically complex days before and after the Irish Free State was established in 1922.

The first part of the novel, which is set in 1924, introduces us to the lives of Rose Raven and her brother Ultan, who are living alone in a small house in Dublin, following the death of their parents. Rose has lost her sight and first love to the conflict that has raged through their homeland for the past few years, under circumstances that are only hinted at and Ultan, a journalist, is caught up in an anti-government campaign, compelled by what has happened in their recent past, which comes to be dangerous for them both.

This first part of the novel does take some getting into, as you do feel that you are missing quite a lot of the history behind the current predicament of the two siblings - which you are. Past goings on are hinted at in the conversations that take place between the siblings and their friends and neighbours, in a way that does not really tell you the details you need to know to piece everything together, but strangely this starts to matter less and less as Rose, Ultan and their friend Rudy get caught up in a plot to expose the truth about the impending famine in the West of Ireland. 

The second part of the novel takes us back to 1920, when the political and religious troubles are increasing. Rose, prior to the incident that took her sight, is living in her family home with both parents and her brother. This part of the novel serves to fill in all the gaps in your knowledge from the first part of the book, and as it does so, it imbues you with a sense of impending doom about the circumstances that must befall Rose, Ultan and Rudy to bring them where we know their story goes. It also fully explains why Rose and Ultan's family fall into a particularly difficult situation as the troubles culminate in brutal reprisals from both sides of the political divide.

As the missing pieces of the puzzle fall into place, it dawns on you how clever this unconventional story structure actually is. It is unusual to use the chronology of a novel in this way, as it's the kind of story that would normally be told in a dual timeline that moves back and forth throughout the book, but it works beautifully, and it certainly makes for an entertaining read that keeps you turning the pages to the very end.

But our author is not done with messing with our heads just yet... because there is also a final part to this novel, which casts everything is a different and intriguing light. It put me very much in mind of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and the way she uses her epilogue to put what we thought we knew into a historical perspective.

It's fair to say that this is a challenging read, and one which you really do need to have some knowledge of the complex political situation in Ireland around this time to understand fully. However, having said that it is also an intelligent, powerful and brilliantly written story of politics, betrayal, violence, fierce love, family, courage, and the compulsion to do what is right, that will leave you breathless and with lots to mull over in the wee small hours of the morning. Fabulous title too! Very impressive Mr Cunningham!

Freedom Is A Land I Cannot See is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer, or via Bookshop.org HERE.

Thank you to Peter Cunningham and Sandstone Press for gifting 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:

Peter Cunningham is from Waterford in the south east of Ireland. 

He is the author of the Monument series, widely acclaimed novels set in a fictional version of his home town. His novel, The Taoiseach was a controversial best seller; The Sea and the Silence won the prestigious Prix de l’Europe. 

He is a member of Aosdána, the Irish academy of arts and letters, and lives with his wife, not far from Dublin.





Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Pretenders by Agatha Zaza

 

The Pretenders by Agatha Zaza.

Published in ebook 5th November 2020, and paperback 3rd December 2020, by Agora Books.

From the cover of the book:

‘I’m perfectly happy lying to myself...If it means getting to stay with you.’

Jasper is ready to surprise his brother; Holly is ready to celebrate their engagement.

Anne tags along for fear of missing out, and John might just be going for another drink. But Edmund and Ovidia had other plans for their Saturday.

Over the course of one day, these couples must own up to the secrets they’ve been hiding from one another and the lies they’ve been telling themselves. 
And face the devastating consequences.

Three couples. Two exes. One day. One reckoning.

In her debut novel, Agatha Zaza crafts a modern domestic tragedy simmering with betrayal and deceit.

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

I was completely unprepared for the way this book would monopolise my day, but it was such compulsive reading that I was unable to tear my eyes away from the page once I had started reading it!

The story takes place over the course of one day, when the private tragedy of one couple is intruded on by friends and family intent on celebrating a new engagement. What ensues is a powder keg of a social gathering, stoked by the gradual uncovering of secrets, in which the three couples are forced to confront the reality of their relationships with their partners and each other, and acknowledge that they cannot pretend everything is ok any more.

This is the most claustrophobic and unrelenting family drama that draws you in, as the history, the innermost thoughts and the feelings of the players are slowly revealed. As the action plays out, their carefully crafted cover stories and deceits are dashed to pieces, and devastating truths are laid bare.

Of course, I am not going to reveal what these are, because it would deprive you of the delicious pleasure of finding them out yourselves, but some heavy themes are cleverly woven into the fabric of this story with a deft hand by our author.

Interestingly, I was stuck by echoes of Mike Leigh in these pages, especially since it is easy to imagine this novel playing out in a theatrical setting, but it's certainly not like any sort of party I would like to attend!

This is an incredible debut novel and easily one of the best family dramas I have read all year - be prepared to clear your calendar for the day, because I promise that you will not want to put it down. 

Watch out Sally Rooney and co. there is a new kid on the block. Agatha Zaza is definitely one to watch!

The Pretenders is available to order now from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Agatha Zaza and Agora Books for gifting me a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Peyton Stableford of Agora Books for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Agatha Zaza is a Zambian and Finn at present living in Auckland, New Zealand. Her writing is a
departure from her work in fundraising and international development.

The Pretenders
was born in Singapore, where she spent three years as a trailing spouse, where she rekindled a long-dormant love of writing. Aside from Singapore, Agatha has worked and lived several countries, among them Uganda and the then Soviet Union. While in Ireland, she earned a Master’s in
Equality Studies from University College Dublin and worked in a genuine Irish pub.

Agatha’s work can be seen in the Johannesburg Review of Books and in a PEN International special
edition on African writers. She has also published three short books on Amazon. 

She’s been a passionate slow runner for two and half decades and has recently taken up composting and staring at her new sewing machine.




Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Casino Chiseler (Alex Cohen Book Four) by Leopold Borstinski

 

Casino Chiseler (Alex Cohen Book Four) by Leopold Borstinski.

Published 30th September 2020 by Sobriety Press.

From the cover of the book:

Would you gamble everything you possess to win more than you can imagine?

Jewish gangster, Alex Cohen leaves jail to find salvation from the 1940s mob in the hotels of Las Vegas. When Bugsy Siegel invites him to take over sports betting in Nevada, Alex must figure out how to get back to the top table in New York without attracting the Feds' attention.

If he succeeds then he will regain his self respect, but if he fails then the last members of the national crime syndicate will cut him dead and he will be left a nobody or wind up a corpse. And after he bumps into his childhood sweetheart, he has a once in a lifetime opportunity to win her heart. 

But Alex knows the criminal underworld has the habit of spilling over into his personal life and when Meyer Lansky asks him to murder Siegel, Alex must choose what is truly important to him.

The fourth book in the Alex Cohen series is an historical thriller novel, which rips open the Jewish 
mob's involvement in the birth of modern Vegas. 

Leopold Borstinski's shattering crime fiction deals a royal flush to each reader.

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

Welcome to the fourth book in the Alex Cohen saga, Casino Chiseler
If you want to catch up, then take a peek at my reviews for the previous three books - The Bowery SluggerEast Side Hustler and Midtown Huckster.

Alex is out of prison, after being caught up in the Feds' concerted efforts to take down some high profile mobsters on tax evasion charges. He is feeling a little abandoned by the syndicate, but soon comes to realise that he still has friends in high places - friends who continue to have need for his singular talents.

So, Alex finds himself heading west to Vegas, baby! Times they are a changing for Alex and his mobster friends and the betting game is where it's at now. Alex is given the job of taking over sports betting in Nevada, and he goes at it with his usual verve - wheeling, dealing (pardon the pun) and with his special brand of violence to get his syndicate buddies exactly what they want and ruffling some rather important feathers along the way.

Of course, Alex's personal life gets in the way of business, as always, friendships are put under enormous strain and there are some important decision for Alex to make if he really wants to get back in with his mob bosses. Romance-wise a name from the past puts in an appearance, but things get complicated and we see him heading in quite an unexpected direction at the end of the book, which promises interesting things to come. It was very pleasing to see some more interesting storylines for the females in the book too, which have been a bit lacking in the past - more than the usual bit parts for gangsters' molls. Hurray!

It was a refreshing change to find Alex on different ground in this fourth book, as it was nice to move away from the well trodden turf of New York and Chicago. This time, Leopold Borstinski gives us a fascinating glimpse of the early days of mob involvement in the growth of the gamblers' playgrounds in Nevada - not just the mobster machinations involved to get ahead of the competitors, but also the intriguing part played by Hollywood royalty in the establishment of Vegas as a glittering jewel in the gangsters' crown. There are familiar names from the gangster scene that still make an appearance (one at least in rather less glamorous circumstances than we normally picture them), and also those from stage and screen - some to be expected, such as George Raft and a young Sinatra, but also some rather more surprising ones which made me raise an eyebrow or two.

Casino Chiseler was an all round entertaining read, full of gangster noir and echoes of the best books and films in the genre . I thought this one was a bit more sophisticated than the previous three books in terms of plot, as it takes us into some less travelled mobster territory and gives a bit more depth to Alex's character, and this drives the story along nicely.  

I am really looking forward to the next book in the Alex Cohen series, Cuban Heel, coming 2021!

Casino Chiseler is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer in paperback or ebook formats, or via the links below:


Thank you to Leopold Borstinski for gifting me 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.

About the author:

Leopold Borstinski is an independent author whose past careers have included financial journalism, business management of financial software companies, consulting and product sales and marketing, as well as teaching.

There is nothing he likes better so he does as much nothing as he possibly can. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the US and has visited Asia on several occasions. Leopold holds a Philosophy degree and tries not to drop it too often.

He lives near London and is married with one wife, one child and no pets.

Social media links: