Blog – First Steps

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Family Drama

4* #Review – Dead Guilty – Helen H.Durrant @JoffeBooks @hhdurrant #crime #thriller #CalladineandBayliss

Detective Calladine and Bayliss hunt for a missing child in a mystery with a shocking ending. Sophie Alder is the three-year-old daughter of local factory owner, Richard Alder. Richard and his wife Annie are locals from the rough housing estate who’ve made it big. Plus, there’s a crime wave in Leesworth and the police can’t cope. One thief even dares to break into Calladine’s house. A number of local men have formed a vigilante group. On one of their patrols, they catch the burglar and he ends up dead. The investigation is complicated and the detectives keep hearing about a shadowy figure called “Street,” the mastermind behind the increase in drugs and theft. With two more murders and Calladine’s personal life in turmoil, the detectives’ race against time to find “Street” and the missing child. In an ending with a huge twist, the detectives find everything they believed is turned upside down.

DEAD GUILTY is book nine of a new series of detective thrillers featuring D.S. Ruth Bayliss and D.I. Tom Calladine.

THE DETECTIVES Tom Calladine is a detective inspector who is devoted to his job. His personal life, however, is not so successful. Having been married and divorced before the age of twenty-one has set a pattern that he finds difficult to escape. Ruth Bayliss is in her mid-thirties, plain-speaking but loyal. She is balancing her professional life with looking after a small child.

THE SETTING: The fictional village of Leesdon on the outskirts of an industrial northern English city. There is little work and a lot of crime. The bane of Calladine’s life is the Hobfield housing estate, breeding ground to all that is wrong with the area that he calls home. DISCOVER YOUR NEXT FAVOURITE MYSTERY SERIES NOW THE CALLADINE & BAYLISS MYSTERY SERIES Book 1: DEAD WRONG Book 2: DEAD SILENT Book 3: DEAD LIST Book 4: DEAD LOST Book 5: DEAD & BURIED Book 6: DEAD NASTY Book 7: DEAD JEALOUS Book 8: DEAD BAD Book 9: DEAD GUILTY THE DCI GRECO BOOKS Book 1: DARK MURDER Book 2: DARK HOUSES Book 3: DARK TRADE Book 4: DARK ANGEL 

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

So, I’ve found this crime thriller late on into the series. ‘Dead Guilty’, is book nine in the Calladine and Bayliss set of novels, but it reads well as a standalone. The crime and detection are completed within this book, and the necessary backstory for the main characters is carefully woven into the story.

Calladine and Bayliss are a likeable detective team, Believable characters they both have flaws and personal lives that cause them problems, but they are clever, dedicated professionals and work well together with a small team of interesting characters. This story covers a wide range of topics; child abduction, drug trafficking, corruption and murder. The plot is easy to follow, but complex, with many suspects, lots of false leads and an authentic, menacing ethos, as crime escalates to unmanageable proportions.

Did I identify the antagonist? Yes, I did, but not immediately. Although this story deals with gritty crimes, it is an enjoyable easy read, something for a lazy afternoon in the garden or the beach.



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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Noir, Psychological Thriller

Have You Seen Her – Lisa Hall #BlogTour @HQStories @LisaHallAuthor 5* #Review #Extract #PsychologicalThriller

Bonfire Night. A missing girl.

Anna only takes her eyes off Laurel for a second. She thought Laurel was following her mum through the crowds. But in a heartbeat, Laurel is gone.

Laurel’s parents are frantic. As is Anna, their nanny. But as the hours pass, and Laurel isn’t found, suspicion grows.

Someone knows what happened to Laurel. And they’re not telling.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Everyone has secrets, in this fast-paced psychological thriller. Easy to read, it has a compelling plot, with many twists, and whilst there are clues, many of these just lead the reader astray, rather than focusing on the true antagonist.

A child abduction, has a profound effect on the parents, the child’s nanny and the community as a whole. This story is authentically written, with believable police procedures, and community involvement.

Against this setting, the story reveals two parents, who are riddled with guilt and secrets. A nanny, who is not what she seems to be, and three strangers whose behaviour is suspect.

Suspense is built up slowly and intertwined with an omnipresent sense of menace. There are no graphic descriptions in this, but the inference is there, and the reader fears for the child’s safety.

Anna is a well-written unreliable protagonist, she is hiding and keeping secrets, but she appears devoted to the child, so can her point of view be trusted? Fran and Dominic, the parents are career-driven and self-absorbed.

The final chapters have many revelations, and the ending is both, a moral dilemma and a triumph.

Extract from ‘Have You Seen Her’ – Lisa Hall

PROLOGUE

The fire crackles as the flames leap into the frigid November air, sending out showers of sparks. The wooden pallets that have been piled high by volunteering parents, eagerly giving up their Saturday afternoon, crumple and sag as they burn. The guy – the star of this cold, clear Bonfire Night – is long gone now, his newspaper-stuffed belly and papier mâché head only lasting a matter of seconds, the crowd cheering as his features catch alight, feeding the frenzy of the flames.

My breath steams out in front of me, thick plumes of white that match the smoke that rises from the bonfire, but I am not cold, my hands are warm and my cheeks flushed pink. The crowd of parents, teachers and children, five or six deep in some places, that gathers in the muddy field behind the school are transfixed as the first of the fireworks shoots into the sky, before sending a spectacular display of colours raining down through the night air. I watch as she keeps her gaze fixed onto the display, the heat of the bonfire casting an orange glow across her features, her hat pushed back on her head, so her view isn’t obstructed.

For a moment I feel a tiny twinge of guilt – after all, none of this is really her fault – before I remember why I’m doing this, and I bat it away impatiently. All I need to do now is wait. Wait for the realisation to dawn on her face, for the fear to grip her heart and make her stomach flip over as she realises what has happened. For her to realise that Laurel is gone.

CHAPTER 1

‘Here.’ Fran thrusts a polystyrene cup of mulled wine into my hand, fragrant steam curling into the cold November air. I don’t drink – not even cheap mulled wine with the alcohol boiled out of it – something I’ve told her repeatedly for the past three years that I’ve worked for her as a nanny, but she never takes any notice.

‘Thanks.’ I cup my hands around the warm plastic and let the feeble heat attempt to thaw out my cold fingers. Another firework shoots into the air, blue and white sparks showering across the sky, and a gasp rises from the crowd. Fran sips at her wine, grimacing slightly, before pushing her hat back on her head so she can see properly. She fumbles in her pocket, drawing out a slightly melted chocolate bar. ‘I got this for Laurel,’ she says, the foil wrapper glinting in the reflected glow from the giant bonfire behind the cordon in front of us.

‘Laurel?’ I say, frowning slightly. Laurel is a nightmare to get to bed if she has sweets this late in the evening, Fran knows that. Although, it’ll be my job to tussle Laurel into bed all hyped up on sugar, not Fran’s. I glance down, expecting to see her tiny frame in front of us, in the position she’s held all evening. She dragged us to the very edge of the cordon as soon as we arrived at the field behind the school, determined that we wouldn’t miss a second of the Oxbury Primary School bonfire and fireworks display.

‘Yes, for Laurel – you know, my daughter,’ Fran says impatiently, thrusting the chocolate towards me. She follows my gaze, and frowns slightly, biting down on her lip, before she opens her mouth to speak. ‘Where is she?’

I turn, anxiously scanning the crowds behind us, the faces of parents, family members and teachers that have all come out in their droves to watch the display. Laurel isn’t there. She isn’t in front of me, in the tiny pocket of space she carved out for herself, and she isn’t behind me either. I turn back to Fran, trying to ignore the tiny flutter in my chest.

‘I thought she went with you?’ I say, the cup of mulled wine now cooling quickly in the chilly night air, a waft of cinnamon rising from the cup and making my stomach heave. ‘With me?’ Fran’s eyes are wide as she glances past me, searching for Laurel.

‘Yes, with you.’ I have to stop myself from snapping at her, worry nipping at my insides. ‘You said you were going to get us a drink and pop to the loo, and Laurel said, “Hang on, Mummy, I’m coming with you.”’

‘She did? Are you sure?’

‘Well, reasonably sure,’ I say, a delicate twinge of frustration whispering at my breastbone. ‘I mean, I saw her follow after you because I shouted out to her to keep hold of your hand.’ There are hundreds, if not thousands of people here tonight, the display well known in the small patch of Surrey that we live in. It’s a regular annual event arranged by the PTA, and it’s well attended every year.

‘She didn’t,’ Fran whispers, her eyes meeting mine as the blood drains from her face. ‘She didn’t hold my hand. She didn’t catch up with me at all.’

Posted in Book Review, Murder Mystery

The Oxford Mystery-Faith Martin @JoffeBooks @FaithMartin_Nov #MurderMystery #JennyStarling #5

Jenny Starling has a summer job cooking at a prestigious Oxford college. But she’s not expecting murder on the menu.

Then womanising taxidermy society president, Maurice Raines, is found with a knife in his neck in the dining hall. Everyone is in classes at the time of his death. So, frustratingly it seems they all have an alibi. However, there are many suspects, including Maurice’s wife and his lover. The college and police need Jenny’s help to solve this perplexing case. But can Jenny keep her concentration with a budding romance on the cards?


JENNY STARLING In her late twenties, Jenny Starling is an impressive woman. Physically, she stands at 6ft 1inch and has shoulder-length black hair and blue eyes. Curvaceous and sexy, she’s a modern single woman, living the lifestyle that suits her – that of a travelling cook. Her famous (and now very rich) father, is a ‘celebrity’ cook, divorced from Jenny’s mother. Jenny drives a disreputable cherry-red van and is happy travelling the country catering events and cooking great food. She is on a one-woman crusade to bring back ‘real’ food. And definitely doesn’t like having to divert her attention from achieving the perfect Dundee cake or creating a new sauce recipe by having to solve a murder. She finds crime very distracting, especially when there is chocolate to temper or pike to poach. Nevertheless, she is very good at reading people, and with a quick and agile brain, becomes very good at unmasking killers. And her always-undaunted sense of humour goes a long way in keeping her sane when all around her people are dropping like flies.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A murder mystery in Oxford, and you automatically think of ‘Inspector Morse’, neither detective, in Faith Martin’s Oxford Mystery, are of this calibre, but thankfully for them, Jenny Starling, Cook, people watcher and amateur sleuth is.

The strange world of taxidermy is the theme for this mystery, a conference at Oxford during the Summer break, with a cast of quirky characters and a sinister crime ready to unfold.

Clues and misinformation are plentiful, and despite the gravity of the crime, there is a strong humorous streak in this story. Although the plot has the appearance of simplicity, it isn’t, and the actual murderer, although in plain sight is not easy to spot.

Jenny Starling remains an enigmatic presence and there is even a touch of romance for her in Oxford, but this is hinted act rather than explored.

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Mystery, Thriller

The Body in the Mist #BlogTour – Nick Louth @canelo_co @NickLouthAuthor #AuthorInterview #DCICraigGillard #crime

A brutal murder hints at a terrifying mystery, and this time it’s personal.

A body is found on a quiet lane in Exmoor, the victim of a hit and run. He has no ID, no wallet, no phone, and – after being dragged along the road – no recognisable face.

Meanwhile, fresh from his last case, DCI Craig Gillard is unexpectedly called away to Devon on family business.

Gillard is soon embroiled when the car in question is traced to his aunt. As he delves deeper, a dark mystery reveals itself, haunted by family secrets, with repercussions Gillard could never have imagined. 

The past has never been deadlier.

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Q&A with Nick Louth – #DCICraigGillard series

What are the inspirations behind this series, and this story in particular?

The DCI Gillard book series started as these things so often do, almost by accident. I had an idea for a detective story, which was quite different from the suspense thrillers I had been writing previously. It was a particular plot involving an extremely clever female murderer, who managed to conceal her crimes. I wanted to show in the book how each and every step that she took was actually possible, which is something that very few crime writers actually do. My publishers, Canelo, then thought that this should make the start of a good series. The inspiration for the Body in the Mist, number three in the series, was to make the story very close to home for the protagonist. Two aunts, by turns endearing, eccentric and later chilling, cause huge conflicts between his role as a detective and as a nephew. I also wanted to have a wild and stormy setting for this particular book and chose Exmoor in Devon. It becomes a very dark tale indeed.

Do you think creating a likeable and memorable detective is important in books of this genre? Why do think this is?

In crime fiction, everything hinges on your protagonist: DCI Craig Gillard doesn’t suffer the alcoholism or marital difficulties which have become such a cliche in the genre, but he has his weaknesses. He is, of course, rugged and capable; I suppose one could create a male detective who isn’t – like TVs Ironside or  Columbo – but then you get different kinds of difficulties, much harder to solve on the page unless you want to pursue a purely cerebral enquiry. Likeability is an interesting one – your protagonist must be reliable, someone that can be trusted, even if they are perhaps a little cold or distant, in the mould of Jack Reacher for example. They can even be love rats, but if so they must be lovable rogues. It’s a hard balancing act to get right. The crux of this is that the reader will be looking over the detective’s shoulder at scenes often too grisly to experience in a first-person narrative. That’s where the trust and reliability come in.

Do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

My characters are a mixture, often with particular minor traits that I have observed, but overall they are led by my imagination. Making them realistic is often done by show-don’t- tell. The male foot, resting territorially on the edge of the airport baggage carousel – we’ve all seen it – or the imposing black car driven by a short but aggressive man, all hint at something we have seen and understood. Quite often I use third per person viewpoints to hold a mirror to a particular character. In the Body in the Mist, Gillard’s wife Sam plays a major role in giving us a perspective on her husband’s internal conflicts.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read a selection of current bestsellers in my own genres, just to see what the competition is like, but I don’t get as much time as I would like to read for pleasure.

 What are you currently writing?

The Body in the Snow, my current project, is the story of the murder of an Indian businesswoman, bludgeoned to death on a snowy March morning in an English park. She is a celebrity chef, as well as the matriarch of £1 billion business called the Empire of Spice Ltd. There is a seething undercurrent of rivalry and hostility within her family, driven by money, envy, and hate. My deadline is the end of October!

What are the best and the worst things about being a writer?

The best thing about being a writer is that each and every part of my work is enjoyable. I just love it! The worst part is an element of isolation. I used to be a foreign correspondent for Reuters, which was far more stressful of course but had an enjoyable camaraderie which I sometimes miss.  

Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992 while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies and been translated into six languages.

The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror Mirror, subtitled  ‘When evil and beauty collide’ was published in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, is being published by Canelo in September 2017. 

Freelance since 1998, he has been a regular contributor to the Financial Times, Investors Chronicle and Money Observer, and has published seven other books. Nick Louth is married and lives in Lincolnshire.

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I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

There is a very dark start to this crime thriller, a body is found on a road in Exmoor, seemingly the victim of a hit and run, but the injuries make identification tortuous. DCI Gillard finds that a family member may have connections to the incident. What follows is an in-depth look at Gillard’s family and the revelation of long-hidden family secrets that put him in an unenviable position.

This chapter in his life, we meet part of his family, they are not what they first appear to be, and the hidden personality traits that are eventually exposed are written convincingly.

His wife is an important character in this story, and her trust and support, despite her own fears and misgivings, help him to keep a perspective on the situation, as he faces up to, and accepts the dark side of his family.

The plot is varied, with a murder, a cold case to solve and a court case that makes compelling reading. ‘A Body in the Mist’, is a dark, driven, dramatic crime thriller, which puts the protagonist through the mill but demonstrates his strength and integrity.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Suspense, Thriller

The Never Game – Jeffery Deaver -5* #Review @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK @JefferyDeaver #ColterShaw #1 #Thriller #Suspense #Survivalist #Investigator

A student kidnapped from the park.
Nineteen-year-old Sophie disappears one summer afternoon. She wakes up to find herself locked inside a derelict warehouse, surrounded by five objects. If she uses them wisely, she will escape her prison. Otherwise, she will die.

An investigator running out of time.
Sophie’s distraught father calls in the one man who can help find his daughter: unique investigator Colter Shaw. Raised in the wilderness by survivalist parents, he is an expert tracker with a forensic mind trained to solve the most challenging cases. But this will be a test even for him.

A killer playing a dangerous game.
Soon a blogger called Henry is abducted – left to die in the dark heart of a remote forest – and the whole case gets turned on its head. Because this killer isn’t following the rules; he’s changing them. One murder at a time…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction – Harper Collins UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Gaming is a major theme of this detailed, fast-paced thriller. The book corresponds to levels in a video game, starting at level three, with a tense, action-filled, seemingly desperate rescue, and then moving back two days to level one, and the first disappearance. The story progresses through each level in the two days preceding the rescue, with pertinent flashbacks to level three, and historical interludes, to give the reader insight in Colter Shaw, his upbringing, and what motivates his constant restlessness.

Colter Shaw, a man of many talents, who sometimes searches for missing people, good or bad for the reward offered. He had a unique upbringing, off the grid, by loving parents. His parents choice of lifestyle to bring up their children is odd, given that they lived mainstream, and were respected academics, but as the story progresses you realise that they had their reasons.

Colter is searching for answers to his own personal dilemmas, and these are part of this first story, but although some clues are given, the mystery and questions remain, for the next books in the series. Colter is an intelligent investigator, who lives by a set of rules, drilled into him by his father. He is complex, compassionate, clever and easy to like.

The plot is pacy and has plenty of twists, there are political undertones to the story and a detailed understanding of the popularity of gaming and its impact on twenty-first-century society. Don’t be put off, if you are not a devotee of gaming, I’m not, but whilst it is integral to the story, it doesn’t take over, the mystery and the suspense are front and centre and these are addictive and engaging.

‘The Never Game’, is easy to read, with an enigmatic protagonist, and an exciting plot.

Posted in Book Review, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

No One Home -5*#Review-Tim Weaver #DavidRaker10 @MichaelJBooks @TimWeaverBooks #Mystery#Thriller#Suspense

At Halloween, the residents of Black Gale gather for a dinner party. As the only nine people living there, they’ve become close friends as well as neighbours.

They eat, drink and laugh. They play games and take photographs. But those photographs will be the last record of any of them.

Because by the next morning, the whole village has vanished.

With no bodies, no evidence and no clues, the mystery of what happened at Black Gale remains unsolved two and a half years on. But then the families of the missing turn to investigator David Raker – and their obsession becomes his.

What secrets were the neighbours keeping from their families – and from each other?

Were they really everything they seemed to be?

And is Raker looking for nine missing people – or nine dead bodies?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK – Michael Joseph Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Investigator David Raker, who specialises in finding missing people is a driven, complex man, who seems to make both enemies and friends wherever he goes. Haunted by his past actions and losses, he is always looking over his shoulder. Empathetic, intelligent, and a risk taker, he is the person you want in your corner if you need to find the truth.

Nine people disappeared without a trace two and a half years ago, and now the son of one of the missing people wants Raker to investigate their disappearance. Over thirty years previously in Los Angeles, a female detective is hunting for a murderer, storylines seem unconnected, but as they both progress they converge and the historical illuminates the present.

Both stories are complex, full of details and vividly written characters. There are many similarities between Raker and Jo, both are dedicated, intelligent detectives, who work in hostile environments. The late 1980s setting portrays the lawless ethos and prejudices of the era perfectly, which makes the retro chapters both atmospheric and authentic.

The present-day, chapters are no less absorbing. The Black Gale hamlet is a contemporary ‘Mary Celeste’, nothing seems out of place, but everything is wrong. As the suspense level increases, even the ordinary events Raker witnesses are menacing.

The final chapters are so vivid, as Raker finally realises the truth, but this is not the end, just the beginning of the most intense, adrenaline-fueled action and despair. Even the ending leaves you wondering, it seems that everything is resolved, but then you go back and begin to wonder if the worst is yet to come.

Clever plot twists, complex characters and a pervading air of despair and menace make this thriller one of the best of 2019.

Posted in Cover Reveal, Psychological Thriller

#CoverReveal – The First Lie – A.J Park @OrionBooks @AJParkauthor @rararesources

The First Lie

We’ve all had sleepless nights thinking about it.
You’re home alone. Someone breaks in.
In defending yourself, you end up killing the intruder.
Now you’re the one the police want.

That is the situation that criminal barrister Paul Reeve arrives home to find.
His wife Alice stands in the bedroom, clutching a bloodied letter opener in her shaking hand.

“What have you done, Alice?”
“I didn’t have a choice…”

We would all believe the person we love most.
But would we all make the same choice Paul and Alice make next…?

Pre-order Links

UK – Amazon

US Amazon

Waterstones

After studying literature, linguistics and Spanish at university, AJ Park trained as an English teacher and actor. He has edited magazines and taught English, Media Studies and Drama in secondary schools in England. He was also a competitive fencer for seven years.

Social Media Links –

Twitter @AJParkauthor

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Website www.karlvad.com

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Revenge Fiction, Horror Fiction, International Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

The Family -P.R.Black – 4* #Review @Aria_Fiction @PatBlack9 #Thriller #Horror #Guest Post #BlogTour

The best way to catch a killer? Offer yourself as bait.

Becky Morgan’s family were the victims of the ‘crimes of the decade’.

The lone survivor of a ritualistic killing, Becky’s been forever haunted by the memories of that night.

Twenty years later, with the killer never found, Becky is ready to hunt them down and exact revenge. But the path to find the murderer is a slippery slope and she finds herself opening up some old wounds that should have been left sealed.

Will Becky avenge her family or join them?

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iBooks

I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This is a deep and dark novel, with noir themes, and graphically described violence. The written imagery is vivid, and the suspense, and level of menace, this story engenders is intense.

Becky is the sole survivor of a horrific, ritualistic murder that robbed her of her close family, and left her, unsurprisingly, traumatised and emotionally damaged. Twenty years on, she is still suffering, despite therapy, and the comfort, sought from the bottom of a bottle. She needs closure and revenge. Spurred on by a cold case investigation, she is determined to find the person who destroyed her family and her chance of a happy life.

So many contemporary themes are covered in this detailed thriller, the dark web, hacking, institutional conspiracy, abuse and murder. Becky is a well-constructed protagonist, flawed because of her emotional damage and reliance on alcohol. She is unreliable but if you accept her faults, you have to admire her determination and strength, to find the killer and expose those who have allowed the killer to remain at large.

The first chapter sets the scene and tone of the book exquisitely. What follows is a detailed investigation to find out the players in the murderous game, and then the pursuit, which is adrenaline-fueled, fast-paced and violent. There are parts of this story that seem unrealistic, but it is fiction, and as such the author is allowed to bend reality a little.

Merging the horror and thriller genres, with a suspenseful mystery, this story will make you think, keep you turning the pages, and lock your doors.

Author and journalist PR Black lives in Yorkshire, although he was born and brought up in Glasgow. When he’s not driving his wife and two children to distraction with all the typing, he enjoys hillwalking, fresh air and the natural world, and can often be found asking the way to the nearest pub in the Lake District. His short stories have been published in several books including the Daily Telegraph’s Ghost Stories and the Northern Crime One anthology. His Glasgow detective, Inspector Lomond, is appearing in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. He took the runner-up spot in the 2014 Bloody Scotland crime-writing competition with “Ghostie Men”. His work has also been performed on stage in London by Liars’ League. He has also been shortlisted for the Red Cross International Prize, the William Hazlitt essay prize and the Bridport Prize. Twitter Facebook

Avenging Angels – Pat Black

In The Family, we meet an avenger in the journalist Becky Morgan. She’s hell-bent on finding the maniac who killed her mother, father, sister and brother and left her for dead when she was just a girl.

Becky’s tenacious, she’s smarter than the average bear, and she can kick you in the face from a standing position.

She follows on from a proud literary tradition of avenging – and revenging – angels. Let’s take a look at a few ruthless ladies you don’t want to mess with…  

Lisbeth Salander

Stieg Larsson’s Salander is the ground zero for modern tough women. The star of the Millennium Trilogy will almost certainly help to define our times for future generations.

She’s slightly built and looks like an insecure teenager hiding behind piercings and outlandish haircuts. This assessment would be a mistake, and making it to her face might be a painful one for you.

Salander has been the victim of some terrible crimes, but she never lets this define her. She’s constantly moving forward, and whatever damage she’s suffered has not interfered with a strong sense of justice. In order to attain that, she will cut any corner necessary.

She’s no blunt instrument, though – Salander is a genius, a computer hacker who can break into anything, the equivalent of an ultra-creepy sleight of hand trickster who has your purse in his pocket before you can finish shuffling the pack.

The end justifies the means for Salander, whether that’s using her skills to expose the most intimate details of some sleazebag’s life and stripping them of all their money, or employing eye-watering levels of violence. You might not exactly warm to Salander or her methods, but you’re always rooting for the girl with the dragon tattoo.

Salander has a whole double album’s worth of greatest hits, but the punishment she metes out to her repellent legal guardian, Bjurman, is perhaps the most memorable.

“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”

“…Squeak!

The stranger, “Charles Augustus Milverton”

Adultery and its consequences are the drivers of several plots in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes tales, and this is particularly true of “Charles Augustus Milverton”.

The guy in the title is a blackmailer, and he loves his job. He doesn’t make idle threats – if people can’t pay up, he will expose their sins, both great and small. Perhaps even more than Moriarty, Holmes despises this villain.

That’s why he doesn’t lift a finger to stop one woman who – spoilers – enters stage left and turns Charles Augustus Milverton into Swiss cheese with a revolver… then stamps on his face for good measure. The old goat had hustled her husband into an early grave after exposing her secrets.

“Take that!” this sister yells, unloading on the fool again and again. “And that!”  

I never forgot that savagery after first reading the story as a kid. The woman goes nameless, with Watson being a gentleman to the last following an injunction by Holmes, who places natural justice above written laws.

But what an impact she had. Several of them, in fact, at point blank range.

“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?”

No, he definitely will not.  

Carrie

Goodness me, everyone gets it in this novel. People who only half-deserve it get it. Even one or two who maybe only smirked a little bit get it. This isn’t payback. It’s a biblical disaster, visited upon an entire town through one odd girl’s unique psychic abilities.

Like the surgical scenes in The Exorcist movie, the most harrowing parts of Stephen King’s debut novel for me aren’t so much the supernatural elements or the gore, but the heartless abuse poor Carrie receives from her teenage peers. It strikes home for most readers, even before Carrie lashes out.

Telekinesis aside, the dark plot which ensnares Carrie is believably put together and executed. King, who taught in a high school, imbues his tragic heroine with believable qualities – so too for the bullies, both male and female. Hauntingly, King revealed in On Writing that there were true-life individuals who inspired Carrie White, with their own tragic fates. 

Worst of all, Carrie is almost redeemed. It’s so agonisingly close to a fairytale ending. There’s a sign of the woman she might have become, free of the small town shackles, paroled from her evil mother’s closet. The ugly duckling, become a gorgeous swan. There’s even a heartbreaking hint that against all odds, she might just have found her prince. But one jealous, bitter, angry person simply cannot allow that.

And then… Blood and fire.

“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?” No. No-one will.

But, you notice something here? These were all written by men. So…

The She-Devil

Fay Weldon wrote one of the most horrifying short stories I’ve ever read. “Weekend” looks at a hard-working wife and mother, keeping all the plates spinning for her unappreciative family. Her husband has invited a friend to stay for the weekend. This guy has dumped his own loyal, loving wife for a younger woman. The writing appears on the wall.

There’s no catharsis in this story. That might be the worst thing about it. No verbal explosions, not one slapped cheek, no soup tureens upended. The wife and mother in “Weekend” simply accept her deal, the tiredness, the sarcasm, the appalling imbalances and injustices of her marriage. She is a doormat. No-one respects her. It’s a hard read, but a necessary one.

There is plenty of catharsis in Weldon’s The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil. Ruth is cut from the same cloth as the main character in “Weekend”, but she strikes back, taking a full English breakfast of revenge on her cheating husband Bobbo and his mistress, Mary Fisher.

In Ruth’s journey from dumped and dumpy wife to glamourous usurper and emasculator, she must surrender her identity and take on new ones, physically as well as mentally, in order to destroy her rival and get even with Bobbo.

There is no bill left unpaid by the end of this book.

Weldon has stated that She-Devil is not about revenge, but envy. You could have fooled me.

“Now, you won’t be doing that again, will you?” (Terrified silence)

Susie Salmon

Is Susie Salmon an avenger? Not in the sense that she’s out for blood. She certainly hopes to expose the man who killed her – her creepy serial killer neighbour, Harvey. There’s just that slight inconvenience of being dead.

The main character in Alice Sebold’s troubling The Lovely Bones is a ghostly presence after Harvey kills her, more of an observer than an actor, but she does her best to guide her family towards where her remains are being kept.

Harvey does get his comeuppance – a strange, unspectacular, unmarked fate. But Susie’s heavenly mission is one of healing rather than destruction, as she tries to bring her family back together after the trauma of her disappearance. Maybe this act of repair, much more than one of violence, is the best revenge.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

#BlogTour – Alice Feeney- I Know Who You Are – @HQStories @alicewriterland 5*#Review #Extract #Thriller

Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from. But I know exactly who you are. I know what you’ve done. And I am watching you.

When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is – but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

What a fabulously chilling ending this story has, I thought I’d worked it out but I didn’t see that coming.

‘I Know Who You Are’ is told from Aimee’s point of view, in the present day, with flashbacks thirty years previously to her childhood. The story is menacing and you experience everything Aimee feels.

Aimee is an unreliable protagonist because of the trauma she suffered in her past life, but she is easy to empathise, and I believed in her throughout the twists and turns of the story.

Abuse and control are the major themes of this story and shape Aimee into the person she is, preferring to act and assume a character rather than face the reality of her life.

Putting aside the suspense, mystery and plot twists, which are well-written, and have a powerful impact, there is also an ethos of sadness, loss and powerlessness that defines Aimee, and her story. It is this that resonates and makes her story believable.

Extract from: ‘I Know Who you Are’ – Alice Feeney

One

London, 2017

I’m that girl you think you know, but you can’t remember where

from.

Lying is what I do for a living. It’s what I’m best at becoming

somebody else. The eyes are the only part of me I still recognise

in the mirror, staring out beneath the made-up face of a made-up

person. Another character, another story, another lie. I look away,

ready to leave her behind for the night, stopping briefly to stare at

what is written on the dressing-room door:

AIMEE SINCLAIR

My name, not his. I never changed it.

Perhaps because, deep down, I always knew that our marriage

would only last until life did us part. I remind myself that my name

only defines me if I allow it to. It is merely a collection of letters,

arranged in a certain order; little more than a parent’s wish, a label, a

lie. Sometimes I long to rearrange those letters into something else.

Someone else. A new name for a new me. The me I became when

nobody else was looking.

Knowing a person’s name is not the same as knowing a person.

I think we broke us last night.

Sometimes it’s the people who love us the most that hurt us the

hardest, because they can.

He hurt me.

We’ve made a bad habit of hurting each other; things have to be

broken in order to fix them.

I hurt him back.

I check that I’ve remembered to put my latest book in my bag,

the way other people check for a purse or keys. Time is precious,

never spare, and I kill mine by reading on set between filming. Ever

since I was a child, I have preferred to inhabit the fictional lives of

others, hiding in stories that have happier endings than my own;

we are what we read. When I’m sure I haven’t forgotten anything,

I walk away, back to who and what and where I came from.

Something very bad happened last night.

I’ve tried so hard to pretend that it didn’t, struggled to rearrange

the memories, but I can still hear his hate-filled words, still, feel his

hands around my neck, and still see the expression I’ve never seen

his face wear before.

I can still fix this. I can fix us.

The lies we tell ourselves are always the most dangerous.

It was a fight, that’s all. Everybody who has ever loved has also

fought.

I walk down the familiar corridors of Pinewood Studios, leaving

my dressing room, but not my thoughts or fears too far behind.

My steps seem slow and uncertain, as though they are deliberately

delaying the act of going home; afraid of what will be waiting there.

I did love him, I still do.

I think it’s important to remember that. We weren’t always the

version of us that we became. Life remodels relationships like these reshapes the sand; eroding dunes of love, building banks of hate.

Last night, I told him it was over. I told him I wanted a divorce and

I told him that I meant it this time.

I didn’t. Mean it.

I climb into my Range Rover and drive towards the iconic studio

gates, steering towards the inevitable. I fold in on myself a little,

hiding the corners of me I’d rather others didn’t see, bending my

sharp edges out of view. The man in the booth at the exit waves,

his face dressed in kindness. I force my face to smile back, before

pulling away.

For me, acting has never been about attracting attention or

wanting to be seen. I do what I do because I don’t know how to do

anything else, and because it’s the only thing that makes me feel

happy. The shy actress is an oxymoron in most people’s dictionaries,

but that is who and what I am. Not everybody wants to be somebody.

Some people just want to be somebody else. Acting is easy, it’s being

me that I find difficult. I throw up before almost every interview

and event. I get physically ill and am crippled with nerves when I

have to meet people as myself. But when I step out onto a stage,

or in front of a camera as somebody different, it feels like I can fly.

Nobody understands who I really am, except him.

My husband fell in love with the version of me I was before. My

success is relatively recent, and my dreams coming true signalled

the start of his nightmares. He tried to be supportive at first, but I

was never something he wanted to share. That said, each time my

anxiety tore me apart, he stitched me back together again. Which

was kind, if also self-serving. In order to get satisfaction from fixing

something, you either have to leave it broken for a while first, or

break it again yourself.

I drive slowly along the fast London streets, silently rehearsing

for real life, catching unwelcome glimpses of my made-up self in

the mirror. The thirty-six-year-old woman I see looks angry about

being forced to wear a disguise. I am not beautiful, but I’m told

I have an interesting face. My eyes are too big for the rest of my

features, as though all the things they have seen made them swell

out of proportion. My long dark hair has been straightened by expert

fingers, not my own, and I’m thin now, because the part I’m playing

requires me to be so, and because I frequently forget to eat. I forget

to eat because a journalist once called me ‘plump but pretty.’ I can’t

remember what she said about my performance.

It was a review of my first film role last year. A part that changed

my life, and my husband’s, forever. It certainly changed our bank

balance, but our love was already overdrawn. He resented my newfound

success – it took me away from him – and I think he needed

to make me feel small in order to make himself feel big again. I’m

not who he married. I’m more than her now, and I think he wanted

less. He’s a journalist, successful in his own right, but it’s not the

same. He thought he was losing me, so he started to hold on too

tight, so tight that it hurt.

I think part of me liked it.

I park on the street and allow my feet to lead me up the garden

path. I bought the Notting Hill townhouse because I thought it

might fix us while we continued to remortgage our marriage. But

money is a band-aid, not a cure for broken hearts and promises. I’ve

never felt so trapped by my own wrong turns. I built my prison in

the way that people often do, with solid walls made from bricks of

guilt and obligation. Walls that seemed to have no doors, but the

way out was always there. I just couldn’t see it.

I let myself in, turning on the lights in each of the cold, dark,

vacant rooms.

‘Ben,’ I call, taking off my coat.

Even the sound of my voice calling his name sounds wrong,

fake, foreign.

‘I’m home,’ I say to another empty space. It feels like a lie to

describe this as my home; it has never felt like one. A bird never

chooses its own cage.

When I can’t find my husband downstairs, I head up to our

bedroom, every step heavy with dread and doubt. The memories of

the night before are a little too loud now that I’m back on the set of

our lives. I call his name again, but he still doesn’t reply. When I’ve

checked every room, I return to the kitchen, noticing the elaborate

bouquet of flowers on the table for the first time. I read the small

card attached to them; there’s just one word:

Sorry.

Sorry is easier to say than it is to feel. Even easier to write.

I want to rub out what happened to us and go back to the beginning.

I want to forget what he did to me and what he made me do. I

want to start again, but time is something we ran out of long before

we started running from each other. Perhaps if he’d let me have the

children I so badly wanted to love, things might have been different.

I retrace my steps back to the lounge and stare at Ben’s things on

the coffee table: his wallet, keys and phone. He never goes anywhere

without his phone. I pick it up, carefully, as though it might either

explode or disintegrate in my fingers. The screen comes to life and

reveals a missed call from a number I don’t recognise. I want to see

more, but when I press the button again the phone demands Ben’s

passcode. I try and fail to guess several times until it locks me out

completely.

I search the house again, but he isn’t here. He isn’t hiding. This

isn’t a game.

Back out in the hall, I notice that the coat he always wears is where

he left it, and his shoes are still by the front door. I call his name one

last time, so loud that the neighbours on the other side of the wall

must hear me, but there’s still no answer. Maybe he just popped out.

Without his wallet, phone, keys, coat or shoes?

Denial is the most destructive form of self-harm.

A series of words whisper themselves repeatedly inside my ears:

Vanished. Fled. Departed. Left. Missing. Disappeared.

Then the carousel of words stops spinning, finally settling on the

one that fits best. Short and simple, it slots into place, like a piece of

a puzzle I didn’t know I’d have to solve.

My husband is gone.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Crime Fiction

Death and the Harlot – Georgina Clarke 5*#Review @canelo_co @clarkegeorgina1 #Crime #HistoricalFiction #ALizzieHardwickeNovel

It’s strange, the way fortune deals her hand.’

The year is 1759 and London is shrouded in a cloak of fear. With the constables at the mercy of highwaymen, it’s a perilous time to work the already dangerous streets of Soho. Lizzie Hardwicke makes her living as a prostitute, somewhat protected from the fray as one of Mrs Farley’s girls. But then one of her wealthy customers is found brutally murdered… and Lizzie was the last person to see him alive.

Constable William Davenport has no hard evidence against Lizzie but his presence and questions make life increasingly difficult. Desperate to be rid of him and prove her innocence Lizzie turns amateur detective, determined to find the true killer, whatever the cost.

Yet as the body count rises Lizzie realises that, just like her, everyone has a secret they will do almost anything to keep buried…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Murder mystery in the eighteenth-century with a likeable female detective and a well-researched setting.

Atmospheric and authentic ‘Death and the Harlot’, features Lizzie Hardwicke, a harlot who becomes embroiled in a murder hunt, and turns detective. Despite her tragic family history, she remains humorous and kind, using her intelligence and knowledge of people, and the area, to help solve a complex crime.

The plot is full of suspects and twists, the tone is pitched correctly for the time period. William Davenport, a Bow Street Runner is determined to find the culprit and discover more about Lizzie’s past life. He has many secrets too, and the relationship between them is interesting and promises to be an integral part of future stories.

This is lighthearted despite the gravity of the crime, the characters are complex and fit with the time period, although the tale is written in a contemporary style. A clever, entertaining story, I look forward to the next book in the series.