Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Guest post, Thriller

The Mark – Heather Burnside – #BlogTour – @Aria_Fiction @heatherbwriter @HoZ_Books #GuestPost #Crime #Thriller #Extract TheWorkingGirls 4*#Review

A TRIP TO THE DARK SIDE

When respected journalist, Maddy, goes to interview prostitutes in a rundown Manchester pub, she doesn’t reckon on attracting the attention of their ruthless pimp, Gilly. He quickly decides to use Maddy for his own gains; he just needs to work out how.

A TOXIC AFFAIR

In the weeks that follow, Maddy is oblivious to Gilly’s growing obsession with her, particularly when she begins a romance with a successful businessman, Aaron. Their passionate love affair starts to dominate her life, and she finds herself losing control and alienating the people around her.

A TARGET ON HER BACK

As Maddy’s safe and successful life starts to crumble around her, she must quickly work out who has it in for her, before it’s too late…

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

My Thoughts…

Journalist Maddy’s latest assignment takes her to interview working girls. Their pimp sees something in Maddy, a lifestyle that used to be his, and could be again. Maddy lives with her young daughter, she has a good life, all of which her pursuit by the pimp and her new man could jeopardise.

This story is dark and menacing. Maddy, despite her professionalism, is naive and this makes her vulnerable to manipulation. All the girls have a story, why they ended up as working girls, as Maddy’s life unravels she realises how fine the line between safety and danger is.

The story is slow paced, to begin with, as the characters are introduced, and the ease with which different worlds can collide is explored. As the book progresses the adrenaline increases. An interesting start to this new series, with a contemporary, realistic edge.

How ‘The Mark’ Developed – Heather Burnside

I first found my inspiration for The Mark when watching a TV detective series many years ago. I tend to jot down ideas as they occur to me then revisit them years later when I’m deciding which novel I should write next. This particular TV scene featured a senior female detective who was sitting in a rundown pub talking to prostitutes and trying to get information from them.

She was refined, well-dressed and well-spoken and looked totally out of place surrounded by street girls with their provocative clothing and garish makeup. I remember thinking how brave she was to venture into the pub alone and that she was leaving herself open to all sorts of risks.

That gave me the seed of an idea. The police detective became my protagonist, Maddy, who is followed home from the pub by a seedy pimp, Gilly. She appeals to him because she is so different from the women he is used to dealing with and initially he sees her as a challenge. Gilly is attracted not only to Maddy but to her lifestyle too.

During the course of the novel, we find out that Gilly’s background is far different from the life he now leads. As a young man he came from an affluent middle-class home but he was thrown out of university for dealing in drugs and his parents subsequently disowned him and left him to find his own way in the world. In Maddy he sees the life he should have had and he soon becomes obsessed with her. I won’t tell you any more than that as I don’t want to give the story away.

Once I decided to write ‘The Mark’, I carried out a lot of research by reading books about the life of a prostitute and watching online videos. The videos, in particular, were a real eye-opener. They featured several street girls who discussed what they did and what led them to a life of prostitution. Most of the girls were hooked on drugs and were prostituting themselves to feed their drug habit. Many had difficult upbringings or had spent time in care and living on the streets.

Watching the videos made me think that each of the girls had their own story to tell, which made me decide to expand ‘The Mark’, into a series of books with each subsequent book featuring the story of one of the girls. So, that initial idea many years ago has led to a series of possibly four or more books.

One of the girls, in particular, stuck in my mind when I was watching the videos. She was an ageing prostitute with a bad chest problem who couldn’t afford to take time off work because she needed the money for drugs. She was therefore still plying her trade in all weathers despite her considerable health problems. That particular girl provided the inspiration for a character that appears in a later book in the series.

It’s interesting how one small idea can take root in an author’s mind and develop into the basis for a whole series of books. I suppose that’s why authors do what we do because we have such active imaginations.

Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children.

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Extract from ‘The Mark’ – Heather Burnside.

Maddy was behind the wheel of her Audi. Sapphire blue and polished until it was gleaming, the vehicle was just as easy on the eye as its driver. She turned into the tree-lined road in Flixton where she lived. She owned a three-bedroomed detached house, which she shared with her eight-year-old daughter, Rebecca.

As Maddy sped into the drive, she glanced again at the clock on the dashboard. 19:58. She’d just made it. Maddy was surprised that her first interview with the prostitutes had taken so long but at least she’d gleaned some good information from them and had managed to arrange another meeting before the girls had all become nervous of someone at the bar.

Maddy’s ex-husband, Andy, was bringing Rebecca back at eight o’clock and, although he was fairly easy-going, Maddy always liked to be on time. Thank God his working hours were flexible. It meant he could pick Rebecca up from school whenever Maddy had to work late. As she parked the car, Maddy put thoughts of her working day out of her mind. It was time to concentrate on family now and, in her line of business, it wasn’t always a good idea to mix the two.

As soon as Maddy stepped inside her hallway she had that familiar comforting feeling she always got when she returned home. Like everything else surrounding Maddy, her home was immaculate and tastefully furnished. But it was more than that; it was a cosy home that felt lived in. She quickly switched on the hall lamp, which bathed the interior with a subtle amber glow, highlighting the polished wooden flooring, expensive rug, and stunning artwork that hung on the walls.

Maddy walked through the house, switching on the lights in the main rooms and plumping up cushions before flicking the switch on the kettle. She had no sooner pulled a mug from the cupboard than she heard the doorbell ring. Maddy dashed to answer the door, delighted to find her daughter Rebecca standing there with Andy by her side.

Rebecca gave her mother an affectionate hug. ‘I scored a goal, Mum,’ she gushed before rushing indoors.

‘Everything OK?’ Maddy asked once Rebecca was inside.

‘Yeah, she’s fine,’ said Andy. ‘She’s been to netball club after school. They had a practice match and apparently, she was the hero of the hour.’

Maddy smiled. ‘Great,’ she said. ‘I must go and congratulate her.’

‘OK. See you next weekend,’ he said.

‘Yeah, see you then,’ said Maddy.

Then she shut the front door straight away and went through to the lounge to find Rebecca. That was how it was with Andy now. After being divorced for four years, emotion didn’t come into it as far as she was concerned. They were just two adults sharing joint responsibility for their daughter.

Maddy was well over those early days when their separation had torn at her heart. It had been difficult to walk away but Andy’s infidelity had left her with no choice. She was too proud to carry on with the marriage after that and knew that she’d never be able to trust him again.

Nowadays they maintained a united front when it came to anything involving Rebecca whilst getting on with their own lives. Maddy preferred it that way and she knew that it was the best way to deal with the situation.

Rebecca had already switched on the TV and Maddy sat down beside her, stroking Rebecca’s hair as she held her close.

‘So, you scored a goal, did you?’

‘Yes, and all the girls were cheering. And Jade Coulson said after the match that I’d saved our side from getting beat. Jade Coulson doesn’t normally bother with me much. She’s, like, so-o-o cool. I can’t believe she likes me now.’

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Guest post, Historical Crime Fiction, Mystery, Suspense

The Playground Murders – Lesley Thomson -5* #Review @HoZ_Books @LesleyjmThomson #CrimeFiction #ThePlayGroundMurders #TheDetectivesDaughter #BlogTour

Forty years ago, in the dark of the playground, two children’s lives were changed forever.

Stella Darnell is a cleaner. But when she isn’t tackling dust and dirt and restoring order to chaos, Stella solves murders. Her latest case concerns a man convicted of killing his mistress. His daughter thinks he’s innocent and needs Stella to prove it.

As Stella sifts through piles of evidence and interview suspects, she discovers a link between the recent murder and a famous case from forty years ago: the shocking death of six-year-old Sarah Ferris, killed in the shadows of an empty playground.

Stella knows that dredging up the past can be dangerous. But as she pieces together the tragedy of what happened to Sarah, she is drawn into a story of jealousy, betrayal and the end of innocence. A story that has not yet reached its end…

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

My Thoughts…

I didn’t discover,’The Detective’s Daughter Series, until Book 6 The Death Chamber. That story, and this one, ‘The Playground Murders’, reads well as a standalone. There is sufficient background, especially about Stella’s enigmatic father to let you understand what motivates the main protagonists. However, for the full experience read the older books too.

Original characters and complex cold cases to solve are the hallmarks of this detective series. The characters are quirky and realistic, they all have believable flaws, neuroses and aspiration.

Stella, the detective’s daughter, has two main focuses, cleaning and solving previously unsolved crimes. She runs a cleaning company and a detective agency, with her partner Jack and a cast of unique individuals. They are a family, look out for each other, criticise each other, and share a bond that resists any outside interference.

This story connects a recent murder, with a past child killing, investigated by Terry, Stella’s father. Present day action is complemented by flashback chapters in 1980 when Terry was involved in the child-killing case. The ethos of the historical part of the story is chilling, the contrast of innocence and evil disturbing.

Aside from the detective case, there are snapshots of Stella and Jack’s lives outside work. Stella and her mother Suzie, have the usual mother-daughter issues and Jack a father of twins, has to come to terms with only seeing them periodically, and the spectre of a new father figure in their lives.

This story has a clever, twisty plot, and a menacing undertone. Slow-paced it lets you absorb the action, and atmosphere, as you try to solve the crime. Another exciting chapter in ‘The Detective’s Daughter’, series.

Guest Post – Lesley Thomson – The Playground Murders

With the exception of The Death Chamber (#6), there are children in my stories. As victims of crime or adults who go on to commit a crime. I hope that meeting them as a child gives readers insight into their later actions. Until The Playground Murders, I’d never created a child killer who is a child. No surprise, it’s a disturbing subject. Traditionally childhood is a time of happy innocence. If, for whatever reason, it’s not this is usually down to the transgressions of adults. That a child might deliberately end the life of another child is terrible to contemplate. That photo of James Bulger being led away from his mother by two ten-year-old boys shattered our life-view.

Can a child be evil? Can we forgive the adult a child becomes for a crime they committed long ago? As children did we do bad stuff? Do we write off those misdemeanours because, hey, we were kids? What if punching a kid in the dinner queue caused their death? Do children even understand what death is? The Playground Murders explores these questions.

The playground setting was a no-brainer. Archetypal, it’s in the bones of many of us as kids and as parents. Typically a locus of excitement and fun, joyful shouts, urgent cries and the gales of laughter of children deep in their game carries over municipal lawns, rotundas where Sunday brass bands are long gone. Playgrounds were developed from observing children playing on bombsites after the war. Bounded by railings within a landscaped park or in a school, they offer the change for kids’ imaginations to be free. Girls and boys are heroes of their make-believe. Or villains.  

These days playgrounds are populated with jolly coloured climbing walls, slides, swings and roped walkways but when I was young, and until the nineteen-eighties, the playground was a relatively dangerous place. Heavy iron equipment, the witch’s hat and juggernaut roundabout trapped limbs and crushed fingers and feet. Swings without restraining bars could fly high until chains twisted or snapped propelling occupants onto unforgiving concrete.

There were fatalities. It’s not plot spoiling to tell you that in The Playground Murders one child falls from a tower slide (equivalent to plummeting from a first-floor window), the death ruled an accident because it wasn’t unusual. I feel lucky to have got away with only breaking my arm by crashing pell-mell into my friend Tina when we were eight. Actually, I recently read that kids colliding with each other is a thing. Not just us then.

The Playground Murders, a tale of mired ambitions, of deceit and betrayal and ruined childhoods is also about hope and regeneration. Here’s hoping you enjoy it.

Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a number 1 bestseller and sold over 500,000 copies.

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Extract From The Playground Murders – Lesley Thomson

The group considered the furry mass. The cat was large with a collapsed tummy.

‘I think it’s old,’ Sarah decided. ‘Is it dead like Robbie’s dead?’

‘Yes,’ Nicola snapped at her.

‘Robbie didn’t get runned down,’ Sarah said.

‘No one said he did, darlin’.’ Danielle imitated her older sister Maxine being nice to Jason. ‘Best you go to bed. No nightmares.’ She yanked Sarah to her.

‘You can’t chop it up,’ Jason said. ‘It’s not yours.’

‘I’m a detective,’ Danielle repeated.

‘Can we play Doctors and Nurses with it?’ Sarah enquired.

‘It’s dead so it doesn’t need nursing or… doctoring.’ Danielle forgot to be nice.

‘Let’s pretend it’s alive. Like you did with Robbie,’ Sarah said.

‘Sarah!’ Lee snatched her hand. ‘We’re going. And don’t tell your Dad about this, OK?’

‘Ouch.’ Sarah squirmed crossly. ‘I want to stay for the chopping.’

‘We should tell the owner. They’ll be waiting to give it its tea,’ Nicola said. ‘When Spiderman didn’t come back, Robbie cried. I did too. He’d got stuck in next door’s shed. He was starving. Robbie was allowed to give him Whiskas with a fork.’

‘Robbie’s dead,’ Danielle said.

‘He wasn’t then. Spiderman is alive,’ Nicola mumbled.

‘Has this cat got a collar?’ Danielle wished Nicky would shove off. She folded her arms.

Kevin felt under the cat’s chin. Revolted, Jason sniggered. In his doctor’s voice, Kevin reported, ‘She doesn’t have no collar.’

‘A collar. Not no collar,’ Danielle barked. ‘You don’t know it’s a lady.’

‘It’s had babies, that’s why it’s all flabby like that.’ Kevin did sound like a doctor.

‘I know.’ Danielle tapped her front tooth. Her notion of a detective was derived mainly from Scooby-Doo. ‘We’ll call on everyone in the street and detect the owner. Kevin, you’re my sergeant.’

Kevin scrambled to his feet and stood next to Danielle, hands behind his back like a policeman.

‘There’s hundreds of houses in this street,’ Sarah said.

Everyone went quiet as they digested this.

‘Spiderman crosses the road as soon as he comes out,’ Nicola said at last. ‘He goes in a straight line. If this cat does that, it lives there.’ She waved a hand at the house behind them. A decorated Christmas tree sparkled in the window.

‘No. It’s down there,’ Danielle stated firmly.

‘How can you be sure?’ Nicola asked.

‘I keep saying because I’m a detective. I’ll sling it behind there and people can work it out for themselves.’ Tiring of the operation, Danielle pointed at the memorial for the three dead policemen. She hauled up the cat in both hands. More blood spewed from its mouth. The children scattered like birds.

‘Dead! Dead! Dead!’ Jason did a war dance.

‘We should tell the owner since you know it’s them in that house,’ Lee stepped in.

‘I’ll do it.’ Nicola went along the pavement to the house where Danielle had said that the cat had lived.

Sarah dragged on her brother’s Harrington jacket. ‘Lee, I got to tell you a secret.’

‘Not now,’ Lee hissed.

‘There’s no one in,’ Nicola said.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Literary Fiction

10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World – Elif Shafak #BlogTour @PenguinUKBooks @VikingBooksUK @Elif_Shafak #Turkey #LiteraryFiction #PoliticalFiction #Extract 5* #Review

‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away…’

For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .

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

My Thoughts…

There are so many facets and layers to this absorbing and inspiring story, it’s breathtaking. Family, friendship, abuse, religion, politics, corruption, culture, custom, mysticism, prejudice, history and equality are the ones that resonate. The idea that even when the body dies, the mind lives on, recalling memories, sensory experiences and emotions, is lovely. It forms the basis for a literary and political adventure, instilled with humanity, faith, poignancy and humour.

Leila is dead, but her mind refuses to die and in the 10 minutes and 38 seconds it has it recalls her early life, her friendships, choices, tragedies and eventual demise. Even though her life was hard, it was vital and enriched by friendships. Her five true friends have all faced their own battles, but together they survive and it is this connectivity that allows Leila, freedom in death that was never hers in life.

The fluidity of Istanbul is at the heart of this story, its gateway to both the east and west and its vibrant and violent historic past, makes it unique and this storyteller knows it in intimate details, which is fascinating.

The pacing is perfect, the characters engaging and believable, you hate the injustice they encounter, and cheer on their seemingly insignificant victories because they matter to you. The writing is full of vivid imagery, sometimes uncomfortably so, but this story holds your interest and is an addictive read.

An emotional, vibrant story that makes you think.

Extract from 10 Minutes 38 Seconds This Strange World – Elif Shafak

Her name was Leila.

Tequila Leila, as she was known to her friends and her clients. Tequila Leila as she was called at home and at work, in that rosewood-coloured house on a cobblestoned cul-de-sac down by the wharf, nestled between a church and a synagogue, among lamp shops and kebab shops – the street that harboured the oldest licensed brothels in Istanbul.

Still, if she were to hear you put it like that, she might take offence and playfully hurl a shoe – one of her high-heeled stilettos.

Is, darling not was . . . My name is Tequila Leila.

Never in a thousand years would she agree to be spoken of in the past tense. The very thought of it would make her feel small and defeated, and the last thing she wanted in this world was to feel that way. No, she would insist on the present tense – even though she now realized with a sinking feeling that her heart had just stopped beating, and her breathing had abruptly ceased, and whichever way she looked at her situation there was no denying that she was dead.

None of her friends knew it yet. This early in the morning they would be fast asleep, each trying to find the way out of their own labyrinth of dreams. Leila wished she were at home too, enveloped in the warmth of bed covers with her cat curled at her feet, purring in drowsy contentment. Her cat was stone deaf and black – except for a patch of snow on one paw. She had named him Mr Chaplin, after Charlie Chaplin, for, just like the heroes of early cinema, he lived in a silent world of his own.

Tequila Leila would have given anything to be in her apartment now. Instead, she was here, somewhere on the outskirts of Istanbul, across from a dark, damp football field, inside a metal rubbish bin with rusty handles and flaking paint. It was a wheelie bin; at least four feet high and half as wide. Leila herself was five foot seven – plus the eight inches of her purple slingback stilettos, still on her feet.

There was so much she wanted to know. In her mind she kept replaying the last moments of her life, asking herself where things had gone wrong – a futile exercise since time could not be unravelled as though it were a ball of yarn. Her skin was already turning greyish-white, even though her cells were still abuzz with activity.

She could not help but notice that there was a great deal happening inside her organs and limbs. People always assumed that a corpse was no more alive than a fallen tree or a hollow stump, devoid of consciousness. But given half a chance, Leila would have testified that, on the contrary, a corpse was brimming with life.

She could not believe that her mortal existence was over and done with. Only the day before she had crossed the neighbourhood of Pera, her shadow gliding along streets named after military leaders and national heroes, streets named after men. Just that week her laughter had echoed in the low-ceilinged taverns of Galata and Kurtulush, and the small, stuffy dens of Tophane, none of which ever appeared in travel guides or on tourist maps. The Istanbul that Leila had known was not the Istanbul that the Ministry of Tourism would have wanted foreigners to see.

Last night she had left her fingerprints on a whisky glass, and a trace of her perfume – Paloma Picasso, a birthday present from her friends – on the silk scarf she had tossed aside on the bed of a stranger, in the top-floor suite of a luxury hotel. In the sky high above, a sliver of yesterday’s moon was visible, bright and unreachable, like the vestige of a happy memory. She was still part of this world, and there was still life inside her, so how could she be gone? How could she be no more, as though she were a dream that fades at the first hint of daylight? Only a few hours ago she was singing, smoking, swearing, thinking . . . well, even now she was thinking.

It was remarkable that her mind was working at full tilt – though who knew for how long. She wished she could go back and tell everyone that the dead did not die instantly, that they could, in fact, continue to reflect on things, including their own demise. People would be scared if they learned this, she reckoned. She certainly would have been when she was alive. But she felt it was important that they knew.

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels. Her work has been translated into fifty languages. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow. She is a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). An advocate for women’s rights, LGBT rights and freedom of speech, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice a TED Global speaker, each time receiving a standing ovation. Shafak contributes to major publications around the world and she has been awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people who would make the world better. She has judged numerous literary prizes and is chairing the Wellcome Prize 2019.  

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Saga

The Path to the Sea – Liz Fenwick -5* #Review @HQStories @liz_fenwick #Cornwall #Extract #BlogTour #HistoricalFiction #Saga #Family

Sometimes going home is just the beginning…

Boskenna, the beautiful, imposing house standing on the Cornish cliffs, means something different to each of the Trewin women.

For Joan, as a glamorous young wife in the 1960s, it was a paradise where she and her husband could entertain and escape a world where no one was quite what they seemed – a world that would ultimately cost their marriage and end in tragedy.

Diana, her daughter, still dreams of her childhood there – the endless blue skies and wide lawns, book-filled rooms and parties, the sound of the sea at the end of the coastal path – even the family she adored was shattered there.

And for the youngest, broken-hearted Lottie, heading home in the August traffic, returning to Boskenna is a welcome escape from a life gone wrong in London, but will mean facing a past she’d hoped to forget.

As the three women gather in Boskenna for a final time, the secrets hidden within the beautiful old house will be revealed in a summer that will leave them changed forever.

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

My Thoughts…

Set in the rugged beauty of Cornwall, a family drama, that is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, unfolds through the eyes of a dying grandmother, a driven daughter and a dutiful granddaughter. Each woman loves the house on the Cornish cliff, even though it is the scene of tragic events that have marred their lives.

Joan has a secret, kept hidden for most of her adult life, but now she is dying, she wants forgiveness and understanding. Told from her point of view as a young, mother in 1962, her secret life and the terrible events of the last family holiday at the house are revealed.

Diana has never forgiven her mother for taking her away from the house she loved, and leaving her to a soulless boarding school when as a grieving child all she needed was her mother’s love and presence. In her mother’s final days, she returns to her childhood holiday home, wanting answers, but most of all wanting to make sense of her life. We learn her story in 1962, as she discovers the answers she seeks in 2018.

Lottie lurches from crisis to crisis, seeking something that only her mother could give her, but never did. She doesn’t understand her mother’s coldness, and is grateful for the love and support her grandmother gives her. Returning to the house where she spent many happy childhood days, she finds more questions than answers, and is determined to confront her mother, about the father she refuses to discuss.

The plot moves effortlessly between 2018, 2008 and 1962, as the love, pain and secrets are uncovered and revealed. The three outwardly successful women, all hide emotional pain, that has damaged the part of their lives that should be the most precious.

The parts of the plot set in 1962 are rich in historical detail and are notably atmospheric, the fear surrounding the escalation of the cold war is tangible, and adds to the family drama that unfolds. The plot has many twists and the complex characters are authentic. You become engrossed in their lives and as the truth reveals itself, the true poignancy of the situation is breathtaking.

‘ The Path to the Sea is enthralling to read, it takes you back to another world, but lets you see how the problems and fears are just as relevant today. The family dysfunction, and the events that precipitated it is very sad, it perfectly illustrates how personal sacrifice can facilitate a greater good. The ending is hopeful, speaking of forgiveness, and lessons learned.

The perfect Summer read.

I Love All Things Coastal
Extract from The Path to The Sea – Liz Fenwick
1
Lottie

3 August 2008, 11.30 p.m.

All was silent except for the sound of the waves reaching the beach. ‘Happy anniversary,’ he said.

Lottie frowned. ‘Anniversary?’ Turning, she tried to see his expression. ‘Are you taking the piss?’

He traced her mouth with his finger. ‘Would I do that?’ ‘Yes.’

She felt rather than heard his laugh as his body was stretched out next to hers, thigh to thigh, hip to hip.

‘We’ve been together for a month and a half.’

‘So, we’re celebrating half months as well as months?’

He kissed her long and slow and she wasn’t sure what they had been talking about as his hand ran across the skin of her back, just above her jeans.

‘I celebrate every day, every minute, every second that you are mine.’

Her breath caught and held, and she looked up to the sky. The milky way stretched above, vast and mystical. She was captivated. The universe and all its glory filled her. Here on this beach, wrapped in his arms, was where she wanted to be always.

It could happen if they wanted it enough and she believed they did.

‘Alex?’

‘Yes?’ His arm tightened around her.

‘Will . . . ’ Just then a shooting star sped across the sky and seemed to fall into the sea. She wished with all her heart that she could be in Alex’s arms for the rest of her life. She rolled onto him. ‘Did you see it too?’

‘The shooting star?’ ‘Yes.’ He kissed her. ‘Did you make a wish?’

He nodded and pushed her hair back, tucking it behind her ears. ‘I did.’

‘I wonder if it was the same thing?’

‘I hope so,’ he whispered against her ear.

She brought her mouth to his, praying that he would be hers forever. ‘Tell me.’

‘No, because if I do it won’t come true.’ He pulled her even closer to him.

‘You are all my dreams come true,’ she said, wrapping her arms around him.

He hummed Gramps’ favourite song, ‘A Kiss to Build a Dream On’, and she knew then they would make it happen . . . Alex and her and Cornwall forever.

Back Cover

I was born in Massachusetts and after nine international moves – the final one lasting eight years in Dubai- I now live in Cornwall and London with my husband and a cat. I made my first trip to Cornwall in 1989, bought my home there seven years later. My heart is forever in Cornwall, creating new stories.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Thriller

#BlogTour- Bold Lies-Rachel Lynch – 5* #Review @canelo_co @r_lynchcrime #extract #DIKellyPorter #Crime #Thriller #BoldLies #FridayReads

An investigation leads Kelly back to her former command… and the ex who betrayed her

A brutal murder in the Lake District.

A double assassination in a secret lab in London’s west end.

Seemingly unconnected, unexpected links between the gruesome crimes emerge and it’s up to DI Kelly Porter to follow the trail – all the way to the capital.

Back amongst old colleagues and forced to work alongside her calculating ex, DCI Matt Carter, Kelly must untangle a web of deceit that stretches into the highest echelons of power. A place where secrets and lies are currency and no obstacle is insurmountable.

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

My Thoughts…

Two locations, Three murders and an unwelcome trip back, to her troubled past for DI Kelly Porter, in this, book five of the Cumbrian based detective series. The murders, appear professional, but are the Lake district and London killings connected?

It is symbolic that as Kelly’s personal life improves, her past has to be faced, on both a personal and professional level. Even though much of the investigation takes place in London, the Lake District references are welcome to all who love the region.

Suspense, clever plot twists and unexpected connections, are all found in ‘Bold Lies’, the true perpetrators of the crimes, think they are above the law, but DI Kelly Porter and DCI Matt Carter, need to prove they aren’t. The crimes are savage, premeditated and carried out with ruthless intent. This is a different crime for Porter to investigate, but every bit as deadly, and menacing as her previous cases.

The characters both old and new, antagonist and protagonist are believable and complex. The psychopathic isolation of the main antagonist is truly chilling, and makes solving the crimes much harder, as little or no emotion is involved. DI Kelly Porter is a true professional, but someone who values her personal life, and lets it balance her. Her humanity is what makes her easy to empathise.

A riveting read, and I eagerly anticipate the next case for DI Kelly Porter.

Read my review
Extract From Bold Lies -Rachel Lynch

Detective Inspector Kelly Porter stared at her computer screen. The office was undergoing a quasi-refurbishment: a few new chairs, a new carpet and a paint job. HR had ruled the old stiff chairs ergonomically unsound, and the whole force was getting replacements that could be set at the user’s preferred angle. Kelly had to admit they were comfortable. Some of her colleagues had spent the morning racing up and down the corridor on them. DC Rob Shawcross had just beaten DC Emma Hide three to two, and she was refusing to shake his hand. As a responsible senior officer, Kelly should have admonished them, but it was highly entertaining to watch. No blood or coffee had been spilled and it had taken mere minutes out of their day. On top of that, it had lifted the spirits of everyone who’d worked on the Tombday case three years ago. David Crawley had appealed his sentence, and the Old Bailey had delivered its verdict this morning.

Tombday had been a complex web of money-laundering and trafficking, run by businessmen in the Lakes and reaching way beyond the UK borders. David Crawley had only been one cog in the wheel, but he was a childhood friend of Kelly’s and an ex-boyfriend. It was a touchy subject. The Court of Appeal had argued that it was never proved that he had obtained material benefit from the people he’d carried in his lorries and that he was unaware of the transactions made in order to get them there. It was also ruled that the persons had come willingly rather than being coerced, and it was questionable that he had ever intentionally planned to exploit them. In fact, there were so many sections of the Trafficking Act that the original case failed to satisfy that Crawley’s offences were reduced to aiding and abetting, carrying a five-year sentence. On account of his impeccable record sheet in prison, and the fact that he’d served almost three years already, he had been freed this morning.

It was a huge blow.

DC Emma Hide brought Kelly a coffee and placed it on her desk. Kelly looked up and smiled at her junior. Her iPad pinged and she flipped it open to notifications from HQ. A 999 call had been transferred to the serious crime unit for North Lakes, and Kelly was expected to move on it straight away. She toyed with sending Emma along but decided against it because she wanted some fresh air. Try as she might, she couldn’t keep herself tied to her chair, and this was a serious crime scene. She’d handed out plenty of domestics, illegal hunting and burglaries to her team. But this was different. A body had been found at Derwent Marina. As yet, it was unidentified. The only information she had was that it was male, and had been found by Graeme Millar, who ran the marina. If Graeme hadn’t recognised the victim, then chances were he wasn’t local. That raised a flag for Kelly. It meant that he was either a tourist or a traveller. A forensic officer was already at the scene.

‘Emma, I’ve got to go out. Are you working on the burglary at Allerdale House?’

‘Yes, guv. I think Kate said she was in between paperwork, though.’

‘How’s it going?’

A local call early this morning had alerted police to something suspicious at Allerdale House’s boatshed. People knew one another round the lake, and apparently, a kayaker had spotted that the doors were open and passed the information on to the police. Upon inspection, the first uniforms on the scene discovered that a crime had occurred.

Old Lord Allerdale was dead, but his grandson and heir, Sebastian Montague-Roland, had been tracked down in London and had supplied a list of items stored in the shed. The house had been standing empty for the last six months, but there were rumours that building work was due to start there to renovate the place and turn it into a luxury leisure complex.

At first glance, the robbery looked like an opportunist break-in. An old pile like that with no one living in it was tempting for the criminal-minded, but apparently, some of the equipment taken from the boathouse was valuable. This raised Kelly’s interest, as it meant that the place could have been targeted.

‘The site is still being processed, guv.’ Emma was dressed in casual gear and could have been planning to sprint out of the door for a run at any moment: but then she always looked like that, and carried it off. Kelly glanced down at her feet, and sure enough, she was wearing trainers. Kelly was relaxed about dress, up to a point. If they were driving round Cumbria, in and out of sheds and boat huts, then formal gear just wasn’t practical.

‘Can you ask Kate to come in here?’ she asked. Emma nodded and disappeared. Kelly sipped her coffee and scanned the few details she’d been given about the body found at the marina. Male, over fifty, Caucasian and naked. That was it. She knew Graeme Millar through Johnny; they drank in the same watering holes after a fell race or a lake swim. The Keswick area was extensive to an outsider, but the fell-racing world was an exclusive and tiny club, one that Johnny had only recently become part of. He and Graeme had much in common, in that Graeme had spent five years as an infantry officer around the same time as Johnny had been serving. They had an instant connection. It was the beginning of weekends of sailing lessons, and the inspiration behind Johnny’s boat purchase. Wendy had been transferred to Derwent Marina from Pooley Bridge in the spring, and Graeme turned a blind eye to the mooring fee.

DS Kate Umshaw came into Kelly’s office and sat down. ‘I do like these chairs.’

‘I know. I think they’re a bit too comfortable, though. We need to take a drive to Keswick.’

Kate raised an eyebrow. Everybody knew she preferred paperwork. This was one of the reasons Kelly wanted to get her out of the office for a change.

‘What’s happened?’ she asked.

‘Body. Derwent Marina.’ Kelly shared the sparse details she had so far and grabbed her coat. Kate did the same.

‘Forensics are there. Let’s hope it’s just a drunk who found somewhere to shelter and stripped off.’

‘Did he die of exposure? In June?’

‘Might be a suicide. How are the nicotine patches going?’ Kelly asked.

‘Dull. It’s the worst decision of my life,’ Kate said. Kelly shook her head. Kate was one of those smokers who would choose a fag over a life jacket.

They checked in with the rest of the team before they left, then headed to the lift. Eden House had several floors, and their office was at the top. Uniforms manned the lower floors, and the two women acknowledged nods as they filed out of the building towards Kelly’s car.

They’d only gone a few hundred yards when Kelly began to feel the benefits of being out of the office. The thought of bumping into Dave Crawley was pushed to the back of her mind, and she concentrated on the drive. With a bit of luck, the body would keep them busy all day. There might be a perfectly innocent explanation, but the Murder Investigation Manual dictated that the first rule of inquiry into a deceased body without an obvious cause of death was to treat it suspiciously.

Derwent Marina was past the town of Keswick, at the end of a tiny road just beyond the village of Portinscale. Kelly had spent many school trips learning to kayak down there, and memories flashed back as she parked up outside the main office. Business had been suspended for the day, and uniforms were on the scene interviewing various groups and individuals. She spotted Graeme, and he waved. Kate got a bag out of the boot that contained all they needed to oversee the processing of a crime scene, and they walked over to him.

‘Hi, Kelly. I hoped it would be you they called.’

Graeme looked ashen, and Kelly realised that it was easy to forget what the sight of a dead body did to people, even an ex-army man. Graeme hadn’t seen active service, though, not like Johnny, and so it was possible that he’d never encountered a corpse before, at least not one that had expired outdoors with no clothes on.

‘You all right?’ she asked. He was sitting on an upturned canoe.

‘It was the smell.’

‘Ah, I get it. That’s not something you’ll forget in a hurry.’

He ran his fingers through his hair.

‘I understand you’ve given a statement?’

He nodded.

‘Thanks, you can go then. Maybe go home and distract yourself with something else.’

He hesitated. ‘When do you think they’ll take him away?’

Kelly looked towards the boatshed, which was now cordoned off with police tape. She felt Graeme’s anxiety. This was a cash business and his livelihood depended upon it.

‘I won’t know that until I’ve seen him. I’m sorry.’ It was all she could say. There were no guarantees. His brow knitted and he got up slowly.

Kelly and Kate walked through the trees towards the large shed. A uniformed officer standing outside moved aside for them. The tape extended around the back and down to the shoreline, but already campers from the neighbouring site were gathered, taking pictures with mobile phones. At least the cover of the shed meant the body was protected from exposure on social media.

As soon as they stepped inside, Kelly appreciated what Graeme had said about the smell. Kate handed her a bottle of perfume and she rubbed some under her nose. She also heard flies. She climbed a ladder and made her way to the stern of the launch. Another smell caught her attention: recently varnished wood. It was in stark contrast and was rather beautiful. The forensic officer, in full kit, was clicking away with a camera.

The dead man was slumped over the captain’s chair. Kelly reckoned he was in his late fifties, and apart from a huge wound to his temple, he looked as though he was asleep. It was an undignified way to go. His skin hung off his body in saggy rolls. He wasn’t fat, just not used to exercise. He was pale, almost white, apart from his arms and face, which were tanned from outdoor life. Kelly wondered if he was on holiday. He wasn’t malnourished or prematurely aged, which indicated a certain amount of prosperity; that ruled out vagrancy or homelessness. There was a watch mark on his wrist and an indentation on his wedding finger: the body had been stripped of every piece of clothing and jewellery.

‘Gunshot wound?’ she asked the forensic officer. He nodded. Kelly raised her eyebrows. It wasn’t what she’d expected to find on a Monday morning on the shores of Derwent Water. It would be difficult to keep this one out of the press, that was for sure.

‘We’ve got two entry wounds, but, so far all I can find is one exit unless they came through the same mess. That’s one for the Coroner.’

She didn’t need to get too close to recognise the wound pattern. On his left temple, two entry wounds had crusted over, and she could see that flies had laid their eggs already. On the other side, a massive exit wound had ripped his skull apart. It was something Kelly had witnessed a few times before, but never here in the Lakes. What was less obvious was why somebody had gone to all the trouble of removing clothes and jewellery to conceal the identity, but left the body in an obvious place. A cursory glance confirmed the absence of blood splatter or matter adhering to the surrounding panels of the cabin: he hadn’t been shot here.

The man had been shot through the brain, execution style. If he’d done it himself, the gun would have fallen from his dead hand and would still be on site. He also probably wouldn’t be naked. And it would be messy.

‘Weapon?’ she asked.

‘Feel free to look around. I haven’t found anything.’

With no weapon and no crime scene, just a dump site, and no name, Kelly knew that today would indeed be a busy day. Happy Monday, she thought.

Rachel Lynch grew up in Cumbria and the lakes and fells are never far away from her. London pulled her away to teach History and marry an Army Officer, whom she followed around the globe for thirteen years. A change of career after children led to personal training and sports therapy, but the writing was always the overwhelming force driving the future. The human capacity for compassion as well as its descent into the brutal and murky world of crime are fundamental to her work.

Twitter: @r_lynchcrime

Posted in Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction, Romance, Sampler

#Postscript – Cecelia Ahern – #ARCSample 5*#Review @HarperFiction #PSILoveYou2 @HarperCollinsUK @Cecelia_Ahern @fictionpubteam #Preorder 19 September 19

It’s been seven years since Holly Kennedy’s husband died – six since she read his final letter, urging Holly to find the courage to forge a new life.

She’s proud of all the ways in which she has grown and evolved. But when a group inspired by Gerry’s letters, calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, approaches Holly asking for help, she finds herself drawn back into a world that she worked so hard to leave behind.

Reluctantly, Holly beings a relationship with the club, even as their friendship threatens to destroy the peace she believes she has achieved. As each of these people calls upon Holly to help them leave something meaningful behind for their loved ones, Holly will embark on a remarkable journey – one that will challenge her to ask whether embracing the future means betraying the past, and what it means to love someone forever…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

The arc sample for Postscript draws you back into Holly’s world as if you never left. It is now seven years after Gerry’s death and Holly is feeling more confident that life can go on as Holly, and maybe even Holly and Gerald. It is in this mindset that she agrees to her sister’s request, to take part in a podcast sharing her grief experience, and particularly Gerry’s letters, and what they meant for her.

Facing her grief again, even seven years on is difficult and you feel her pain and the real fear that she may slip back into the dark abyss if she examines her grief journey too closely. Nevertheless, she delivers and the response is positive, but someone seems too involved and Holly’s reaction is avoidance, and this has consequences, but I need the rest of the book to find out what they are.

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.’