Search This Blog

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sons Of Rome (Rise Of Emperors Book One) by Gordon Doherty and Simon Turney

 

Sons Of Rome (Rise Of Emperors Book One) by Gordon Doherty and Simon Turney.

Published 10th December 2020 by Head of Zeus.

From the cover of the book:

Four Emperors. Two Friends. One Destiny.

As twilight descends on the 3rd century AD, the Roman Empire is but a shadow of its former self. Decades of usurping emperors, splinter kingdoms and savage wars have left the people beleaguered, the armies weary and the future uncertain. And into this chaos Emperor Diocletian steps, reforming the succession to allow for not one emperor to rule the world, but four.

Meanwhile, two boys share a chance meeting in the great city of Treverorum as Diocletian's dream is announced to the imperial court. 

Throughout the years that follow, they share heartbreak and glory as that dream sours and the empire endures an era of tyranny and dread. Their lives are inextricably linked, their destinies ever-converging as they rise through Rome's savage stations, to the zenith of empire. 

For Constantine and Maxentius, the purple robes beckon...

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

Having a son who is a big fan of anything Ancient Greek and Roman definitely whets the appetite when it comes to reading stories set in these worlds, especially when they are written by two such respected authors who know how to handle an epic series... and epic this first instalment of the new Rise of Emperors series certainly is.

Welcome to the Roman Empire of the end of the third century AD, when political manoeuvring and often quite literal backstabbing has brought the once great empire to its knees. In an attempt to see Rome rise again, Emperor Diocletian ushers in a new era whereby four Emperors will rule instead of one. At the dawn of this new era, we meet two boys who are destined to do great things - Constantine and Maxentius.

In the years that follow, Constantine and Maxentius become close friends, sharing everything that life throws at them, until ambition and political infighting find them at odds with each other - and on wrong sides in a war for power over the whole empire.

I found this book absolutely fascinating. Doherty and Turney, although necessarily taking a little liberty here and there with history to fill in the gaps and keep the story flowing, manage to bring the world of the Roman Empire alive in a way that keeps you absolutely enthralled. This is a world of friends and enemies, loyalties and treachery, and it's not always easy to tell who is who in this game of thrones where you have to watch your back at all times.

This is historical fiction at its very best, and quite how Doherty and Turney have produced such a seamless piece of writing between them is admirable. This is a sizeable tome and yet the story flows beautifully, even with some considerable jumps in time, and the characters are all so well drawn and convincing that you find yourself really caught up in their lives, loves and losses - and divided loyalties. The pacing is just right and leads you all the way to a delicious ending that leaves you on the brink of more legendary events to come.

I am so looking forward to picking up with the story again in the next book, Masters of Rome, which is next on my reading pile... so watch this space for more!

Sons of Rome is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer in hardback, e-book and audio formats and is coming in paperback on 1st April 2021.


Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Domestic Revolution by Ruth Goodman

 

The Domestic Revolution by Ruth Goodman.

Published 16th April 2020 by Michael O'Mara Books.

From the cover of the book:

A large black cast iron range glowing hot, the kettle steaming on top, provider of everything from bath water and clean socks to morning tea: it's a nostalgic icon of a Victorian way of life. But it is far more than that. In this book, social historian and TV presenter Ruth Goodman tells the story of how the development of the coal-fired domestic range fundamentally changed not just our domestic comforts, but our world.

The revolution began as far back as the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when London began the switch from wood to coal as its domestic fuel - a full 200 years before any other city. It would be this domestic demand for more coal that would lead to the expansion of mining, engineering, construction and industry: the Domestic Revolution kick-started, pushed and fuelled the Industrial Revolution.

There were other radical shifts. Coal cooking was to change not just how we cooked but what we cooked (causing major swings in diet), how we washed (first our laundry and then our bodies) and how we decorated (spurring the wallpaper industry). It also defined the nature of women's and men's working lives, pushing women more firmly into the domestic sphere. It transformed our landscape and environment (by the time of Elizabeth's death in 1603, London's air was as polluted as that of modern Beijing). Even tea drinking can be brought back to coal in the home, with all its ramifications for the shape of the empire and modern world economics.

Taken together, these shifts in our day-to-day practices started something big, something unprecedented, something that was exported across the globe and helped create the world we live in today.

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

I am a huge fan of Ruth Goodman's books. Every single one that I have read has proved to be interesting and educational, while being hugely entertaining at the same time - not an easy feat, dear reader. If you have not come across her books before, I can highly recommend them all, although How to be a Tudor is my favourite, being more than a little obsessed with the Tudors as I am. So I was really looking forward to diving into The Domestic Revolution and seeing what Ruth could teach me once more.

This time, Ruth sets her sights on examining how the introduction of coal into our homes sparked a complete revolution in the way we live, bringing about unprecedented changes that have helped create the world we know today.

She starts by looking at the former reliance on wood as a fuel, including going into detailed explanations of how woodland was managed to supply the demand for heating our homes, cooking our food and a variety of industrial uses for hundreds of years.

Around 1570, London's households began to change to burning coal instead of wood, as it was becoming increasingly more difficult and expensive to proved enough wood for the rising population. In just 30 years, London became a coal-fired city, and this brought about a complete change in not only the way people lived, but also the rural and urban landscapes. 

What seems a simple domestic change in terms of the fuel people used brought about enormous social change, and as is Ruth Goodman's forte she guides the reader through what came next in a way that keeps you glued to the page. Coal not only served to become a new way of heating, but influenced structural home design; the way people interacted with each other within the home; the furnishings and furniture they used; the kind of food they ate and the way they cooked it; and even the way they cleaned their homes and did their laundry. There were also much wider ramifications leading to changes in the rural landscape as the demand for wood decreased; the development of a better transport network to get coal from mining areas to where it was needed; a whole different look and feel to the urban skyline as building design transformed; and even an improved Naval force (bizarre, but true)!

Parts of this book are necessarily information heavy, especially in the first couple of chapters, but they serve a useful purpose in providing a foundation for what comes later, and what comes later is utterly fascinating. Yet again, Ruth Goodman takes a subject and transforms what could be a boring litany of facts into an informative and engrossing account of something that could be considered a trivial domestic alteration by some, but was actually a catalyst for real social change for everyone.

The Domestic Revolution is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer or from Amazon UK here.

Thank you to Michael O'Mara Books for providing me with 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:

For the first time, Ruth Goodman shows how the Industrial Revolution truly began in the kitchen - a revolution run by women.|Told with Ruth's inimitable wit, passion and commitment to revealing the nitty-gritty of life across three centuries of extraordinary change, from the Elizabethan to the Victorian age. 

A TV regular, Ruth has appeared on some of BBC 2's most successful shows, including, Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Wartime Farm, Tudor Monastery Farm, Inside the Food Factory and most recently Full Steam Ahead, as well as being a regular expert presenter on The One Show.

Ruth is also the critically acclaimed author of How to Be a Victorian, How to be a Tudor and How to Behave Badly in Renaissance Britain.




Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Old Bones by Helen Kitson

 

Old Bones by Helen Kitson.

Published 16th January 2021 by Louise Walters Books.

From the cover of the book:

Diana and her sister Antonia are house-sharing spinsters who have never got over their respective first loves. Diana owns a gift shop, but rarely works there. Antonia is unemployed, having lost her teaching job at an all girls’ school following a shocking outburst in the classroom after enduring years of torment. Diana is a regular at the local library, Antonia enjoys her “nice” magazines, and they treat themselves to coffee and cake once a week in the village café.

Naomi lives alone, haunted by the failure of her two marriages. She works in the library, doesn’t get on with her younger colleagues, and rarely cooks herself a proper meal. Secretly she longs for a Boden frock.

When a body is discovered in the local quarry, all three women’s lives are turned upside down. And when Diana’s old flame Gill turns up unexpectedly, tensions finally spill over and threaten to destroy the outwardly peaceful lives all three women have carefully constructed around themselves.

Helen takes us back to the fictional Shropshire village of Morevale in this, her brilliant second novel which exposes the fragilities and strengths of three remarkably unremarkable elderly women.

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

Welcome to the Shropshire village of Morevale, a quiet, but growing little village, where nothing exciting seems to happen. Until, that is, a body is found in the local quarry. Gossip is rife about the possible identity of these remains, and the resulting hullabaloo causes ripples in the outwardly calm lives of three of the village's residents - staid librarian, Naomi, and the spinster sisters Diana and Antonia. What could this body possibly have to do with three such stalwarts of village life? Well, it seems that even the most respectable looking women can hide deep, dark secrets that they would prefer remain hidden...

The discovery of the human remains, and the unexpected arrival of Diana's old flame, Gillian, set in motion a series of events that bring matters to a head for all three of our women. It is soon clear that they have been living in the past for most of their lives, unable to break free of the legacy of the unfulfilled relationships with their first loves. The time has come for them to rake over the old bones of their own past deeds and misdeeds, and finally find a way to move on. 

This is a reflective kind of book, told in three separate accounts from each of our main characters, and it has an interesting narrative structure. Diana's side of the story is told with the immediacy and intensity of a first person account, which puts her right at the centre of the book, while Naomi and Antonia's accounts are both in the third person. I found this quite intriguing, since Naomi seems the obvious choice as the central character, given her storyline. However, it is actually Diana that links the threads together, and her developing friendship with Naomi plays nicely against her irritation with Antonia. It is Diana's head we need to be in for this tale to work, as it is through her that we see the truth, and we are right there beside her as it gradually dawns on her that the past might not have happened quite as she remembers it.

Coming to this book from a couple of fast-paced thrillers did make it difficult for me to get into the rhythm of this novel at first, but by the time I had got to about a quarter of the way in, I was so enmeshed with the relationships between the women and their past history that I was completely hooked. Even so, I could have easily dispensed with the new vicar who I found rather distracting and at odds with the compelling triad of the three women, there were some threads that I felt did not really reach a resolution, and I am not sure that I would describe these women as 'elderly'. Perhaps there was a little too much left unsaid for me too, which I found a tad frustrating, but I leave you to make up your own minds on that one.

There is a lot to recommend about this book, but my favourite thing is the wonderful timeless atmosphere of the story. I felt that these women could easily have lived at any time in the last hundred years and, with just a few minor tweaks, the tale would still have worked just as well. Their focus on the past, and the way their experiences have aged them, are themes that repeat throughout history, and Helen Kitson writes them so well here that their relationships would ring true against any time period. 

This is another enchanting and many layered read from the LWB stable, and I can highly recommend it to those who like their books on the quiet side, but with lots of deep emotion under the surface.

Old Bones is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer, or via the links below:


Thank you to Helen Kitson and Louise Walters Books for sending e 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:

Helen lives in Worcester with her husband, two teenaged children and two rescue cats. Her first
poetry collection was nominated for the Forward Best First Collection Prize. She has published three
other poetry collections and her short fiction has appeared in magazines including Ambit, Feminist
Review and Stand. She holds a BA (Hons) in Humanities.

Helen's debut novel The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson was published in March 2019. Her
second novel, Old Bones, was published on 16 January 2021.

Find out more about Helen on Twitter.




Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Cover Reveal: Blackstoke by Rob Parker

 Cover Reveal

Blackstoke

By Rob Parker



Coming 23rd March 2021 from Red Dog Press


WEALTH. SECURITY. PROSPERITY. NONE OF IT MATTERS IN THE DARK.

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

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

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

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


Blackstoke is available to re-order now using the links below:


About the author:

Rob Parker is a married father of three, who lives in Warrington, UK. The author of the Ben Bracken thrillers, Crook’s Hollow and the #1 Audible bestseller Far From The Tree, he enjoys a rural life, writing horrible things between school runs. 

Rob writes full time, attends various author events across the UK, and boxes regularly for charity. He spends a lot of time in schools across the North, encouraging literacy, story-telling and creative-writing, and somehow squeezes in time to co-host the For Your Reconsideration film podcast, appear regularly on The Blood Brothers Crime Podcast, and is a member of the Northern Crime Syndicate.


Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker

 

Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker.

Published 25th February 2021 by Viper Books.

From the cover of the book:

THIS MOTHER'S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY.

Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim - heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop - she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy's attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a 'scummy mummy', who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media's rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle...

CALL ME MUMMY. IT'LL BE BETTER IF YOU DO.

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

Mummy longs for a child, but it has not been her lot in life to be blessed with the patter of tiny human feet. So when she sees a little girl she is sure is being neglected by her 'slattern' of a mother, she has no compunction about stealing her away to live in her beautiful home, where she plans to give her a wonderful childhood.

But Tonya is not quite the little princess Mummy thought she would be, and despite her efforts to mould her into her idea of the perfect child, Tonya remains stubbornly foul mouthed, feisty and frantic. What is a mother to do? Well, unfortunately Mummy has no idea how to even begin to deal with a real child - the parenting skills she has learned from her own ma and pa are far from ideal, and, dear reader, you should be prepared for some very difficult scenes to play out in this little corner of suburbia before the tale is done.

Meanwhile, the woman Mummy has branded a 'slattern' is going through hell. Although Kim may not be anyone's idea of the perfect mother either, she loves her daughter fiercely and is distraught that the police are unable to find out what has happened to her. Kim has demons of her own that she is battling from her traumatic childhood too, and her angry response to the situation does little to garner sympathy from the media, or the public. Her torment causes her to spiral downwards into a pit of despair that she is not sure she can ever rise from again.

As the story flows back and forth between the increasingly horrifying scenes in Mummy's home, and Kim's disintegrating household, it seems unlikely that there can ever be a happy ending to this story - and caught in the middle is the bewildered Tonya. 

I really enjoyed the way the story plays out between the two 'mothers' of the piece as they both fall prey to the legacy of their distressing childhoods. Tina Baker gradually ekes out the traumatic details of the past, dropping in hints and flashbacks from them both as the story progresses, until the horrific truth of both their stories hits you like a punch to the gut. The discomfort is ramped up to the max in the clever way she periodically interjects with the outpouring of vitriol on social media directed at Kim the so called 'Scummy Mummy'; the views of some of the bit players and bystanders; some of the 'witness' calls to the police hotline; and heartbreakingly, sometimes from Tonya herself. And if this wasn't enough, there are a couple of shocking little twists and a very unsettling ending...

I was struck with how similar the stories of our two 'mothers' actually are, although neither would be willing to admit to this truth, and the awareness that despite their similarities, you can bet that they would be judged very differently by the media and public opinion. Tina Baker also rather brilliantly throws a lot of meaty themes at you in the telling of the tale - infertility, motherhood, abusive childhoods, unresolved trauma, addiction, the discomfort of being under the public spotlight, and the hateful side of social media are all brought to the fore here.

Call Me Mummy is one of those books that grabs you right at the start and ties you up in the kind of twisty tale that does not let you go for a single heart-pounding second. I suggest setting aside a chunk of time for this one, because I promise you will unable to look away until the whole disturbing tale is done. I should warn you that there are many upsetting moments in this book, but there are also surprising flashes of the darkest humour. It's an exhilarating, visceral ride and one which will have you holding your babies very close after reading it - should you be lucky to have them. Mummy is watching...

Call Me Mummy is available to but now from your favourite book retailer in hardback, e-book and audio formats.

Thank you to Sahina Bibi at Viper Books for sending me an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Tina Baker, the daughter of a window cleaner and fairground traveller, worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years and is probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. 

After so many hours watching soaps gave her a widescreen bum, she got off it and won Celebrity Fit Club. She now avoids writing-induced DVT by working as a Fitness Instructor.

Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel, inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to become a mother. Despite the grief of that, she’s not stolen a child – so far. But she does rescue cats, whether they want to be rescued or not.




Monday, February 22, 2021

Last One At The Party by Bethany Clift

Last One At The Party by Bethany Clift.

Published 4th February 2021 by Hodder and Stoughton.

From the cover of the book:

THE END OF EVERYTHING WAS HER BEGINNING

It's December 2023 and the world as we know it has ended.

The human race has been wiped out by a virus called 6DM ('Six Days Maximum' - the longest you've got before your body destroys itself).

But somehow, in London, one woman is still alive. A woman who has spent her whole life compromising what she wants, hiding how she feels and desperately trying to fit in. A woman who is entirely unprepared to face a future on her own.

Now, with only an abandoned golden retriever for company, she must travel through burning cities, avoiding rotting corpses and ravenous rats on a final journey to discover if she really is the last surviving person on earth.

And with no one else to live for, who will she become now that she's completely alone?

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

You might think a book about an apocalyptic pandemic might not be the best choice of reading material bearing in mind the current state of the world, but have no fear, this wonderful debut from Bethany Clift is such an original take on the hackneyed disaster tale that you will definitely find it quite a tonic - I know I did!

Our thirty-something narrator is apparently the only survivor of a terrible pandemic, for reasons she is unable to fathom. She has found the going a bit tough for most of her life, despite trying to convince herself that her life, job and relationship were rosy, and has no idea how she is going to cope now she is all alone in the world. Cue massive breakdown... and who can blame her. But it also seems that the collapse of civilisation might just be the making of her.

The tale plays out beautifully in the near future, with scenes cut in from her pre-lone survivor days and, as we follow her journey through the new normal, this serves to builds the complete picture of how she has come to be where she is, and why she the does what she does. Bethany Clift's irreverent style carries you along with ease in both timelines, and with a massive sprinkling of the best gallows humour I have read for a very long time. 

Ok, so it's hard to ignore that an apocalypse is quite central to this story - there are a lot of gruesome scenes described in the telling of this tale, but they go with the territory and a pandemic of this scale is going to leave quite a mark on the landscape. However, it is the humour, and the emphasis on life rather than death, that make everything work so well, and save the dark and very emotional elements of the story from overwhelming you. I wiped away a tear at many points while reading this book, but my word, I had a jolly good laugh too!

I hesitate to use the phrase 'life affirming' in a book that contains so many corpses, but essentially this is what Last One At The Party is all about. It's about finding your way when things seem hopeless... finding your inner strength... coming to terms with who you are... and being happy with what you discover about yourself. Even if dystopian nightmares are not your usual bookish fodder, there is a lot in this book that will be for you, and I guarantee it will make you think about how you are living your life now as well as what you would do in the same circumstances.

I absolutely loved everything about this book, and cannot wait to read more from Bethany Clift - by the way Bethany, I really, really need to know what happens next!

The Last One At The Party is available to buy from your favourite book retailer now.

Thank you to Steven Cooper of Hodder Books for sending 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:

Bethany Clift is an graduate of the Northern Film School and has had projects in development with Eon and Film 4, as well as being a director of her own production company.

Last One At The Party is her debut novel.



Thursday, February 18, 2021

Nightshift by Kiare Ladner

 

Nightshift by Kiare Ladner.

Published 18th February 2021 by Picador Books.

From the cover of the book:

Nightshift is a story of obsession set in London’s liminal world of nightshift workers.

When twenty-three-year-old Meggie meets distant and enigmatic Sabine, she recognizes in her the person she would like to be. Giving up her daytime existence, her reliable boyfriend, and the trappings of a normal life in favour of working the same nightshifts as Sabine could be the perfect escape for Meggie. She finds a liberating sense of freedom in indulging her growing preoccupation with Sabine and plunges herself into another existence, gradually immersing herself in the transient and uncertain world of the nightshift worker.

Dark, sexy, frightening, Nightshift explores ambivalent female friendship, sexual attraction and lives that defy easy categorization. London’s stark urban reality is rendered other-worldly and strange as Meggie’s sleep deprivation, drinking and fixation with Sabine gain a momentum all of their own. Can Meggie really lose herself in her trying to become someone else?

A novel of obsession and desire, Kiare Ladner’s Nightshift is a beautiful and moving debut which asks profound questions about who we are and if we can truly escape ourselves.

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

Meggie, at twenty-three, is at a crossroads in her life. Dissatisfied and bored with where the world has brought her, she longs to be free of the drudgery of her job and the expected course of the relationship with her boyfriend. Then, into her life walks the mysterious and sultry Sabine. Sabine is everything Meggie wishes she could be, and their unpredictable relationship quickly turns into obsession on Meggie's side.

When Meggie's fixation encourages her to follow Sabine into the underworld of the nightshift worker, the very process of working such unusual hours means letting go of everything she is used to. She becomes enmeshed in the chaos of life on the fringe that she and her fellow band of night workers inhabit, which gives her a feeling of camaraderie that she has never experienced before, and it also brings the permission to follow Sabine down other, more dangerous, paths - pushing her boundaries, and exploring her sexuality, in her quest to become someone else.

But their relationship is not an easy one. Meggie never really knows where she stands with Sabine, and their repeating cycle of intimacy and distance is disorienting to say the least. When Meggie's journey into the chaotic hedonism that is Sabine's reality takes a shocking turn, she begins to think differently about their friendship and look for a way to escape from the self-destructive path she is on. Taking stock, she begins to see that she doesn't really know anything about the woman who has taken hold of her every waking thought - and that others do not see her the way she does. Who is Sabine really?

This dark, absorbing and unsettling novel is told in a retrospective narrative by Meggie, as she reflects on her relationship with Sabine some twenty years before. As Meggie lays out the history of their twisted friendship you are pulled into a parallel world where normal boundaries and connections do not exist. Caught under the spell of Sabine, Meggie loses sight of her own identity and purpose - in this surreal world, this underworld, this space outside the daylight hours, she can be whoever she wants, and she wants to be Sabine... or does she simply want to be with Sabine? Whatever this is, it is not the path to happiness, and eventually she needs to free herself of the influence of Sabine before it is too late... but can she ever truly be free again?

Telling the tale in this way allows Kiare Ladner to expose the dark course that obsession and desire can take, but also allow the truth about Sabine and how meeting her has affected the direction of Meggie's life to be revealed after the event, which was rather clever - and it adds an air of poignancy to the whole story.

I absolutely loved this novel about identity, infatuation, loneliness and yearning for connection. It's impressive work for a debut author, and cannot wait to read more from Kiare Ladner.

Nightshift is available to buy from your favourite book retailer now in hardcover, e-book and audio formats.

Thank you to Grace Harrison at Picador books for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

About the author:

As a child, Kiare Ladner wanted to live on a farm, run an orphanage and be on stage. As an adult, she found herself working for academics, with prisoners and on nightshifts. Her short stories have been published in South Africa, where she grew up, and the UK, where she lives now.

Nightshift is her debut novel.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

American Dirt (paperback release) by Jeanine Cummins

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.

Published in paperback 18th February 2021. Originally published in hardback 21st January 2020. From Tinder Press.

From the cover of the book:

FEAR KEEPS THEM RUNNING. 

HOPE KEEPS THEM ALIVE.

Yesterday, Lydia had a bookshop.

Yesterday, Lydia was married to a journalist.

Yesterday, she was with everyone she loved most in the world.

Today, her eight-year-old son Luca is all she has left.

For him, she will carry a machete strapped to her leg. For him, she will leap onto the roof of a high speed train. For him, she will find the strength to keep running.
 

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

American Dirt is a book that I was very eager to read last year, when it was published in hardback, and I absolutely consumed it! Since it is now coming out in paperback, I thought it might be a good time to share some of my thoughts with you again about this incredible tale of a mother's fight to give her son a future.

Lydia lives in Acapulco, Mexico, a dangerous city since the rise of the cartels, but nevertheless the city that is both her home and that of her beloved family, and they do their best to live normal lives. She runs a small bookstore, and lives in an apartment with her journalist husband, Sebastian and her eight-year-old son, Luca. Her family are her world.

Sebastian's job has brought him to the attention of the cartels, and he has been warned to stop writing stories about them, or else... but he is compelled to report the truth about the violence wrought as part of the power struggles between the gangs in his home city - especially about the cartel on the rise, Los Jardineros (The Gardeners), and its new jefe, La Lechuzza (The Owl). His latest article focuses heavily on the new jefe and what he seems to be trying to achieve with his campaign of violence. While the article is heavily critical of the bloody crusade underway, Sebastian does recognise that some sort of peace may be reached if this take-over succeeds.

When Sebastian eventually shares details of the article he has been working on with Lydia, she is appalled to discover that La Lechuzza is actually a man she knows well - or thought she did - but she cannot relate the softly spoken, poet Javier, with the man her husband describes in his report. Can this be true? What will happen to their family if Sebastian publishes this article? After much discussion, Sebastian decides to go ahead as planned, convinced that La Lachuzza will actually be pleased by the attention given to his violent campaign for peace within Acapulco. But, unfortunately, the article leads to tragic consequences. 

When Lydia finds herself and Luca the only survivors at her niece's birthday party, after sixteen members of her family are gunned down, including her darling husband, she knows that their only hope for survival is to leave Acapulco...leave Mexico...and head to El Norte.

What follows is the account of Lydia and Luca's arduous quest to find safety and security in the North, encompassing the desperate stories of the people that touch their lives on the way, and many of the violent scenes described are difficult to read. It is a tale that lays bare the extremes of human nature - showing the heart-breaking cruelties inflicted by the powerful on the powerless, side by side with the selfless acts of the kindness of strangers. 

Although this book has been seen as controversial by some, even though it is a fictional tale, it is one that shines a light on the plight of the migrants who attempt the trip to El Norte. It will help you to understand that this faceless tide of humanity is actually made up of individuals, each with their own story, and it is desperation that drives them to make this dangerous journey. 

American Dirt
is an all consuming, emotional roller-coaster of a novel, full of determination, love of family, coming to terms with loss, and the strength of the human spirit. It will keep you on the edge of your seat all the way through - and leave you with much to mull over.

I will simply finish by saying you must read this book and quoting the graffiti that adorns the border wall in Tijuana, which cut straight to my heart:
"También de este lado hay sueños."

"On this side, too, there are dreams."


American Dirt is available to buy now in hardback, e-book and audio formats, and in paperback from 18th February 2021.

Thank you to Louise Swannell from Headline for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review. 

About the author:

Jeanine Cummins s the author of The Outside Boy, The Crooked Branch, the true crime work A Rip in Heaven, and American Dirt, all of which are published by Tinder Press. She lives in New York with her husband and two children. 

Singapore Fire (Ash Carter Book 6) by Murray Bailey

 

Singapore Fire (Ash Carter Book 6) by Murray Bailey.

Published 1st March 2021.

From the cover of the book:

The Endgame...

January 1954:

It's a new year and a potential new beginning.

Ash Carter is in love, but Su Ling is inextricably linked to Andrew Yipp, the head of the biggest Chinese Secret Society in Singapore.

Political tensions are high and the Secretary for Internal Security tasks Cater to find evidence against Yipp. Fail to do so and Su Ling will be arrested and charged.

Once again, caught between the government and the criminal gang, it's time for Carter to choose. Escape now or stand and fight?

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

I first met Ash Carter in Murray Baily's exciting Singapore Killer (review here), which is book five in the series, and was really looking forward to finding out what was in store for him in this final book, Singapore Fire.

This time, we find ex-British army officer, Ash Carter, six months into his new career as a private investigator in 1950s Singapore. His reputation has spread after the 'BlackJack' case, which means he finally has some more interesting mysteries to work on, and with the irascible Madam Chau, his quirky receptionist, at his side, things seem to be going well.

Well, that is, until he find himself romantically entangled once more with a face from the past - Su Ling, the beautiful mistress and protégé of the very dangerous Andrew Yipp, head of the biggest Chinese Secret Society in Singapore. Their passionate liaisons are not going to stay secret from Yipp for long, so if they are serious about being together, fleeing Singapore will be the only answer.

To complicate matters, Carter has been given the almost impossible job of bringing Yipp down by the Secretary for Internal Security, and if he is going to keep Su Ling from being arrested then he had better do something about it - after all, this could work to both their advantages.

Add into the mix an unexpected lead that offers the chance to tie up some loose ends in the 'BlackJack' case, political manoeuvring, civil unrest, an impending gang war, and a distraction in the form of feisty reporter Linda Wu on the trail of currency counterfeiters, and there is plenty to get your teeth into here.

This book takes you right into the heart of the cultural melting pot of 1954 Singapore, and Murray Bailey regales the reader with an abundance of historical detail, slickly working into the tale many of the facets of life that impact on the people living here. As Carter goes about getting the job done, we get a glimpse of the wide gulf between the poorest of the poor and the high society crowd, the political tensions between the government and those who want to end British rule, and the power of the Chinese Secret Societies. We come across corruption and abuse of power in its many forms, dirty secrets, loathsome lies, love, loss and the kindness of strangers - and a lot of delicious double dealing too! The characters are rich and varied, with plenty of strong female players, and the twisty plot is extremely engaging.

It can be read as a stand-alone, but to get the best out of it I would suggest you should try to read at least the previous book, Singapore Killer, to give depth and meaning to the relationships, story setting, and more especially the 'BlackJack' references - and it's a cracking story, so why wouldn't you?

There are enjoyable echoes of James Bond in the action sequences here (with a crafty little reference to 007 in the text), and Philip Marlowe in the gumshoe vs gangster elements, but Carter also shows us more of his softer side in this book - something which neither early James Bond, or Mr Marlowe, are overly familiar with. This softer side strangely reminded me of Indiana Jones, especially with the nice vein of sardonic humour, but I leave you to choose your own poison.

I ended up reading this book in a single entertaining sitting, desperate for the threads to work themselves out - and I was not prepared for the hair raising ending that Murray Bailey had in store for me! Well played, Mr Bailey!  I am a bit sad to see the end of the series here and rather hope our author may be tempted to pick up the story again where this book finishes, because I need to know what happens next - time will tell!

Singapore Fire is coming in e-book and paperback formats on 1st March 2021 and is available to pre-order now!

Thank you to Murray Bailey for sending me an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Murray Bailey got his first taste of success when he was published in the Times at 18 and in his local newspaper.

Although he went on to pursue a different career, he continued to write and edit and became the editor of an international magazine and editor of 4 technical books.

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

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



Monday, February 15, 2021

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

 

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse.

Published 18th February 2021 by Penguin UK.

From the cover of the book:

EVERYONE'S IN DANGER. ANYONE COULD BE NEXT.

An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she's taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother's recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it's beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous - as does her brother, Isaac.

And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin's unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she's the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they're all in...

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

How I love a wintery thriller, and The Sanatorium is my absolute favourite kind. Who can resist the lure of a remote, creepy sanatorium with a murky past, high in the Swiss Alps, given new lease of life as a swish hotel? Not me!

Detective Elin Warner, newly arrived at the hotel in the company of her boyfriend, is nervous about meeting up with her estranged brother Isaac, who has invited them to celebrate his recent engagement here. Her levels of anxiety are high, as she is on an extended break from work after becoming involved in a difficult case that did not end well, but the offer of a free holiday from Isaac and the opportunity to address some of their issues is too good to refuse. Things have always been awkward between them, especially since the death of their younger brother Sam, and Elin is not sure how this little holiday is going to go.

When Isaac's fiancée Laure goes missing without a trace, Elin's suspicions that something is very wrong here bring her detective skills to the fore - skills which become vital when a massive avalanche cuts them off from civilisation and any hope of the Swiss police being able to get there. Can Elin discover what is going on before it is too late?

The whole premise of this book is a winner for me. The setting is perfect - isolated, with a dodgy past, and with more than a little of Stephen King's Overlook Hotel about it - you quite simply cannot ask for a better backdrop for a chilling, mystery tale. The atmosphere is taut and claustrophobic and the tension builds beautifully as things start to go very badly wrong, on both the weather and safety fronts, and your suspicion that this is not going to be a cosy little family reunion is rewarded in spades... but no spoilers from me folks!

There are some wonderful themes introduced in the telling of this tale especially around the subject of unresolved trauma, as well as gory details to delight lovers of the macabre, and the way Sarah Pearse uses water as a thread throughout really impressed me. The characters are more than a little unreliable on the witness front, which brings in a few delicious red herrings, ones that distract both the reader and our plucky detective Elin from getting to the truth of the matter until well into the story, and the end of the tale plays out with twist upon twist that sets you reeling. I did wonder if perhaps this was a bit too much at first, but then Pearse hits you with an unsettling epilogue that makes you rethink what has gone before and puts an intriguing spin on the whole piece. This was beautifully done and completely won me over. Will there be a sequel? I sincerely hope so!

The Sanatorium is a cracking debut thriller and is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer!

Thank you to Netgalley for my advance copy, in return for an honest  review.

About the author:

Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands. After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel. 

Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy - remote spaces and abandoned places - so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium

Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes. 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper

 

The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper.

Published 4th February 2021 by Manilla Press/Bonnier Books.

From the cover of the book:

Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .”

It's the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes wilt under the California sun.

At some point during the long, long afternoon Joyce Haney, a seemingly happy housewife and mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind only two terrified young children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.

While the Haney's neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family's 'help', who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes' starched curtains than anyone, and it isn't long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved?

In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole 'perfect' world to set alight . . .

A beguiling, deeply atmospheric debut novel from the cracked heart of the American Dream, The Long, Long Afternoon is at once a page-turning mystery and an intoxicating vision of the ways in which women everywhere are diminished, silenced and ultimately under-estimated.

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

1959: Welcome to Sunnylakes, Santa Monica, a picture perfect, white middle-class neighbourhood, filled with pretty houses behind white picket fences, where happy smiling housewives care for their shiny-faced children and strong, manly husbands - the epitome of the American Dream. But appearances can be deceptive.

Under the stifling heat of the California sun, something is rotten at the heart of Sunnylakes and this hidden darkness is about to be exposed by the disappearance of one Joyce Hanley - a seemingly happy wife and mother, who vanishes from her home one afternoon, leaving behind two distressed children... and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor. Where did she go, and why?

The story plays out in, after the event, third person perspectives from Ruby, the young black 'help', and Mike, the police detective investigating the mysterious disappearance - and also in the first person, from Joyce herself. These three accounts, when combined, will take you to some deep and thought provoking places.

Joyce's narrative is where we start. Her voice hooks you from the very beginning, and Inga Vesper quite brilliantly breaks up the flow of the story, which primarily runs back and forth between Ruby and Mike, with interjecting chapters that come to show us the truth behind her life - and her account contrasts quite starkly with the picture of the woman we hear from family, friends and neighbours after her disappearance.

The smart, feisty Ruby brings a different perspective on life behind the scenes in Sunnylakes, exposing many of the dark little secrets that lie beneath the brittle surface of respectability, although she is loathe to share what she knows with the police for fear of getting embroiled in a situation that could backfire on her - after all, this is a world where ingrained racism is still rife, even though segregation has been abolished, and the black person in the room will always be seen as the guilty party. She also shows us the reality of the other side of the tracks for the poor back and Latino families living in the city. 

Mike has relocated to Santa Monica under a cloud and is desperate to prove himself. His fish-out-of-water situation hampers his progress both within the police department, and within the environs of Sunnylakes - especially amongst its female contingent - but it also brings him an outsider's perspective. Interestingly, it is this perspective that allows him to connect with Ruby, and their combined efforts are key in solving the mystery of Joyce's disappearance - and I loved the way they worked together!

There are myriad themes running through the piece, all tied up in a story that not only sucks you into the taut and oppressive atmosphere of 1950s suburbia, but also shines a light on the burgeoning civil and women's rights movements. There are moments when you will laugh out loud, often at the absurdity of the idealised picture of 1950s feminine perfection that will have you thinking of the Stepford wives, but also be prepared to experience indignant rage and heart-rending sadness too - and I promise you that the thrilling conclusion will have you sitting on the very edge of your seat in tense excitement.

This is a beautifully written, compelling and emotive story, with a gripping mystery at its heart, and as an examination of the false icon of the 'American Dream' it is most impressive for a debut. 

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

Thank you to Inga Vesper and Manilla Press for sending me a proof copy of this book in return for an honest review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Inga Vesper is a journalist and editor. She moved to the UK from Germany to work as a carer, before the urge to write and explore brought her to journalism. As a reporter, she covered the coroner's court and was able to observe how family, neighbours and police react to a suspicious death. 

Inga has worked and lived in Syria and Tanzania, but always returned to London, because there's no better place to find a good story than the top deck of a bus.




Friday, February 12, 2021

Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake

 

Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake.

Published 18th February 2021 by Head of Zeus.

From the cover of the book:

Ruthless Women takes readers on a wild ride behind the scenes of beloved TV drama Falcon Bay, beamed globally to millions three days a week from its picturesque location in the Channel Islands. But even in this beautiful coastal spot, tensions swirl. 

Once one of the world's most popular soap operas, but now with ratings and syndication at an all-time low, the production has been sold to an American business woman, beautiful and malevolent Madeline Kane, the new network owner who arrives on the tiny island just off Jersey, determined to do whatever it takes to get the show back to number one.

Writer Farrah, star Catherine and producer Amanda are the driven, ambitious women who keep the show on the road. But Farrah is losing episodes to the network's lead male rival, Catherine is terrified of the public falling out of love with her and Amanda's evil husband Jake, vice president of the network, is plotting to get his own wife kicked off the show.

As the dawn of a new era begins, cast and crew turn against each other with loyalty, decency, and trust, replaced by scandal, betrayal, and an outrageous ambition to survive.

In a true battle of the sexes, these women will do anything to stay on top. But can they team up to bring down their male rivals? Or will jealousy, betrayal and revenge tear their long held friendships apart?

As the story reaches a climax so shocking readers will be talking about it for decades, one thing is certain: only the most ruthless woman will survive...

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

Welcome to Falcon Bay!

Before we start, I need to set the scene a bit. Falcon Bay is a TV spectacular in the old style - there is nothing of the grey and tawdry about this baby. Instead we are talking the full on glamour and pzazz of the 80s style soap opera... sorry, continuing drama... here - the wonderful, over-the-top Dallas and Dynasty days, with big characters and salacious storylines.

Falcon Bay, set on a tiny, picturesque island in the balmy Channel Islands, was once the world's most popular soap opera, but is now fighting to stay on top in the dog eat dog sphere of television productions, where money talks and the viewing figures are everything. Now under the control of the beautiful and malevolent Madeline Kane, there are changes afoot to try to get Falcon Bay back to the number one spot - and not everyone on the show is happy about it. Heads are rolling, power is shifting and our driven, ambitious female characters writer Farrah, star Catherine and producer Amanda are fighting for their professional lives. 

Madeline is also determined to spice things up by introducing a new 'bitch' to the cast - one who will be chosen by the audience from a line-up of once famous older actresses, in an unconventional 'behind the scenes' reality show contest.... oh, and she also plans to kill off one of the main characters during a live screened extravaganza episode on Christmas Day in the most extraordinary of ways. Feelings are running high, everyone is under pressure to perform and all bets are off in this game of last man, or woman, standing. Only the most ruthless will survive... on both sides of the camera.

Prepare for a thrill ride of Machiavellian machinations, devious designs and raunchy ruses that will keep you hooked, as all the gloriously twisty threads play out... 

I cannot tell you how much fun I had reading this book! As someone who grew up watching the glamorous soaps of the 80s - the glitz, the power dressing, the Alexis vs Crystal cat-fights, the drama of trying to work out who actually shot JR - this book was like a walk down nostalgia lane, with an intriguing glimpse behind the scenes too. Add in the kind of sexy interludes reminiscent of the well-read paperback copies of Jilly Cooper, Jackie Collins and Shirley Conran books that used to be passed between friends during my youth and you have yourself a winning combination. For anyone of more tender years, just picture beautiful locations filled with beautiful people, steamy sexual encounters, affairs galore, back-biting, power plays, recriminations and revenge and you get the picture.

But as entertaining as all this is, there is so much more than 'Sex, Drugs and Cameras Roll' here, and these are the things that bring this book right up to date. Look behind the storylines and there is a lot to reflect on - modern sexual politics, female ambition and the glass ceiling; the pressure on women to look good, at all costs; the lack of acting roles for older women; the cut-throat nature of the acting profession and the fragility of many of those who work within it; the ongoing effects of the #MeToo movement; the power of social media; and the nature of female friendship and support networks. It was such a refreshing change to read a book filled with strong, older women too! 

Melanie Blake also brings a lovely vein of humour to the whole piece, and shows us her cynical side at the same time, by the way she pokes fun at the way soaps feel the need to come up with ever more bizarre story lines to get the edge over the competition.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole glorious book and was gripped from page one all the way to the spectacular ending - which will have you punching the air, by the way. Move over Alexis Carrington... the era of the bitch is back, and long may she reign!

Ruthless Women is available to buy in e-book, hard cover and audio formats from 18th February 2021.

Melanie will be launching the book alongside two of TVs leading ladies Coleen Nolan and Beverly Callard who will be spilling the beans on their own personal lives for a digital book launch “Melanie Blake’s Girls Night in” that members of the public can buy tickets to for £10 including a copy of the book. Find out more here: A Girls Night In With Melanie Blake.

Thank you to Head of Zeus for providing me with an e-book copy of this book in return for an honest review and to Bei Guo of Midas Public Relations for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

MELANIE BLAKE IS BACK!
AND ONCE AGAIN SHE’S WRITING ABOUT A WORLD SHE KNOWS WELL.

As one as the UK’s most successful agents, managers and publicists for music stars and TV actresses, Melanie Blake has represented some of the most famous faces on British television and international screens.

Where her debut novel, the No. 1 bestseller The Thunder Girls, was inspired by the early years of her career spent working in the music industry, her follow up novel Ruthless Women is heavily influenced by the last 15 years Melanie has spent representing more female actresses than any other agent in her genre. Nicknamed The Queen Of Soaps, there is no one better placed to write a novel based around a continuing drama and its leading ladies.

With no formal education herself, Melanie is a true champion for working class women who are so often overlooked in our society.... and she might also just be the world's biggest Jackie Collins fan! 




 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Smoke Screen (Blix and Ramm Book Two) by Thomas Enger & Jørn Lier Horst

 

Smoke Screen (Blix and Ramm Book Two) by Thomas Enger & Jørn Lier Horst. Translated by Megan Turney.

Published in e-book format 18th December 2020 and paperback 18th February 2021 by Orenda Books.

From the cover of the book: 

When the mother of a missing two-year-old girl is seriously injured in a suspected terrorist attack in Oslo, crime-fighting duo Blix and Ramm join forces to investigate the case, and things aren't adding up...
 The second instalment in an addictive, atmospheric, award-winning series.

Oslo, New Year's Eve. The annual firework celebration is rocked by an explosion, and the city is put on terrorist alert.

Police officer Alexander Blix and blogger Emma Ramm are on the scene, and when a severely injured survivor is pulled from the icy harbour, she is identified as the mother of two-year-old Patricia Smeplass, who was kidnapped on her way home from kindergarten ten years earlier... and never found.

Blix and Ramm join forces to investigate the unsolved case, as public interest heightens, the terror threat is raised, and it becomes clear that Patricia's disappearance is not all that it seems...

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

I really enjoyed the first part of this new Nordic Noir crime series, Death Deserved, when I read it at the beginning of 2020 (review here), so I was looking forward to reading what Thomas Enger & Jørn Lier Horst had in store for detective Alexander Blix and blogger Emma Ramm in their second adventure, Smoke Screen.

The incredible Death Deserved cliff-hanger ending, with a huge explosion during the New Year's Eve firework celebration in Oslo, is exactly where this second instalment begins, dropping us seamlessly right into the action - and Blix and Ramm are both there at the scene, having been unable to rid themselves of the feeling that something was afoot. 

In the aftermath of the explosion, Blix pulls a horribly disfigured survivor from the icy waters of the harbour: one who appears to be the mother of the missing child, Patricia Smeplass, snatched ten years ago - a case he remembers all too well, and one which has co-incidentally been brought back to his attention very recently. At the same time, Ramm wanders through the wreckage, trying to record the events for the news site she works for, and discovers the explosion has touched her own life in a very shocking way - one which makes tracking down the perpetrator of this crime a personal mission.

It's time for Blix and Ramm to team up again in pursuit of the identity of the bomber who is not content to stop at only one explosion and has Oslo gripped in a state of fear. As the investigation gets underway it gradually becomes clear that terrorism may not be the real motive here - instead, the bombings may actually be related to the unsolved case of the missing Patricia Smeplass in some way. Can they discover the truth before anyone else comes to a violent end?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and became totally caught up in the story. The storyline here revolves more around the sins of the past than in the first book, but our authors cleverly create pace and tension in the present as Blix and Ramm put together all the pieces of the puzzle. There is plenty of excitement and chilly atmosphere to be enjoyed as the case progresses, and the truth is uncovered, but there is also an interesting thread about the different kinds of relationships between parents and their children, and how they show their love, that is quite intriguing. 

The characters of Blix and Ramm are more developed in this second book, and they know where they stand with each other. Blix is more more settled in his personal life, with a better relationship with his own daughter, which helps him bring an air of calm to the piece, which plays nicely against Ramm's more impulsive style. I love the way they touch base with each other, swapping subtle hints and ideas back and forth in the cagey, but co-operative, way they have of working together, and their evolving father-daughter like relationship is very touching.

This is another cracking tale from the combined penmanship of the best selling authors Thomas Enger & Jørn Lier Horst, and fine work by the translator Megan Turney. It's the kind of book that will have you reading long into the night to get to the end of the story, as it is as impossible to put down as the first book. You can almost feel yourself at the side of the both Blix and Ramm as the story moves between their independent investigations, until their threads collide at the moment of the heart-in-your-mouth ending - this is Nordic Noir at its very best and another winner from Orenda Books!

Smoke Screen is available to buy now in e-book from your favourite book retailer, and in paperback from 18th February 2021.

Thank you to Orenda Books for sending me an e-book 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 authors:

Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger are the internationally bestselling Norwegian authors of the
William Wisting and Henning Juul series respectively. 



Jørn Lier Horst first rose to literary fame with his No. 1 internationally bestselling William Wisting series. A former investigator in the Norwegian police, Horst imbues all his works with an unparalleled realism and suspense. 


Thomas Enger is the journalist-turned-author behind the internationally acclaimed and bestselling Henning Juul series. Enger’s trademark has become a darkly gritty voice paired with key social messages and tight plotting. Besides writing fiction for both adults and young adults, Enger also works as a music composer. 


Death Deserved was Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger’s first co-written thriller. They are currently working on the third book in the Blix and Ramm series.




Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Invisible Case: A Sussex Crime Book (Book Three) Audio Book by Isabella Muir

 

The Invisible Case (Sussex Crime Book Three) Audio Book by Isabella Muir.

Narrated by Bridget Eaton.

Released 20th November 2020.

From the cover:

Heart-breaking tragedy or cold-blooded murder...?

An Italian stranger arrives in Tamarisk Bay and brings with him mystery and intrigue....

It's Easter 1970 in the seaside town of Tamarisk Bay. Amateur sleuth and professional librarian, Janie Juke, is settling into motherhood and some quality time with her family. When her Aunt Jessica is due back from Rome after nine years travelling around Europe, she arrives back in town with a new Italian friend, Luigi, and the whole family soon get embroiled in a tangle of mystery and suspicion, with death and passion at the heart of the story.

As time runs out on Luigi as prime suspect for murder, Janie has to use all of her powers of deduction in the footsteps of her hero, Hercule Poirot, to uncover the facts. Why did Luigi come to Tamarisk Bay? What is the truth about his family?

As Luigi's story unfolds, tragedy seems to haunt the past, present and unless Janie acts fast, possibly what is yet to come.

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

The Invisible Case, despite the appearance of a dead body, is actually a gentle, cosy kind of crime story. It is set in Tamarisk Bay, a quiet Sussex sea-side town, and although the story starts in 1970 the characters are still very much set in the 1960s - very nostalgic!

The story revolves around new mother, professional librarian and amateur sleuth, Janie Juke. At the start of the tale, Janie is eagerly awaiting the return of her Aunt Jessica, who has been away in Italy for a number of years, and who is now returning to British shores. When Jessica arrives, she is in the company of a mysterious young Italian man, called Luigi. Luigi's motives for coming to Tamarisk Bay are somewhat hazy, and he is very upset about the loss of his briefcase on the journey to England, which he believes to have been stolen - although he is very reluctant to divulge why he is so concerned about the loss of the contents.

Unfortunately for the whole family, Luigi has a habit of sneaking around and when he is connected to the case of the suspicious death of another strange visitor to their quiet town, his truculent attitude and secrecy about the contents of his briefcase make him a person of great interest to the local police. Janie is called upon to emulate her hero Hercule Poirot in trying to extricate Luigi from the tangled mess he finds himself in, and what follows is a tale rich in themes of family, lost love and the legacy of secrets of the past.

I must admit that I did struggle with the narrator of this audible book, but the nature of the story itself is really rather charming. There are some nice twists and turns in the Christie style, especially the lovely opening with Jessica and Luigi's train journey, and many opportunities for Janie to channel her hero Hercule Poirot. There's lots of nice 1960s nostalgia to be found here too, but also hints of the 1970s to come, and a rich undernote of romance from the Italian side of the story which adds an exotic feel to the piece.

Much of this tale is very touching, and there are times when the bitter-sweet air of grief and lost love is quite overwhelming, but there are some lovely notes of pulling together in a crisis and reconciliation that are very heart-warming too.

This is definitely mystery on the cosy scale and one that will appeal very much to the lovers of stories like Call The Midwife and The George Gently series - so if you like your crime on the gentle, nostalgic side then this will be one for you.

The Invisible Case is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer, or via the links below:


Thank you to Isabella Muir for providing me with a copy of this audio book in return for an honest review and to Rachel Gilby of Rachel's Random Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Isabella is never happier than when she is immersing herself in the sights, sounds and experiences ofthe 1960s. Researching all aspects of family life back then formed the perfect launch pad for her works of fiction. 

Isabella rediscovered her love of writing fiction during two happy years working on and completing her MA in Professional Writing and since then has gone to publish five novels, two novellas and a short story collection. The Invisible Case is the third book in her Sussex Crime Mystery series, featuring young librarian and amateur sleuth, Janie Juke. Set in the late 1960s, in the fictional seaside town of Tamarisk Bay, we meet Janie, who looks after the mobile library. She is an avid lover of Agatha Christie stories–in particular Hercule Poirot–using all she has learned from the Queen of Crime to help solve crimes and mysteries. All three novels are now available as audio books. As well as three novels, there are three novellas in the series, which explore some of the back story to the Tamarisk Bay characters. 

Her latest novel, Crossing the Line, is the first of a new series of SussexCrimes, featuring retired Italian detective, Giuseppe Bianchi who arrives in the quiet seaside town of Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, to find a dead body on the beach and so the story begins..

Isabella’s standalone novel, The Forgotten Children, deals with the emotive subject of the child migrants who were sent to Australia–again focusing on family life in the 1960s, when the child migrant policy was still in force.

Find out more at: