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.

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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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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.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction

Lost Daughter – Ali Mercer -5* #Review @bookouture @AlisonLMercer #LiteraryFiction #Family #Secrets #MentalHealth

If you think photos aren’t important… wait until they’re all you have left of your child.

Your life isn’t perfect, but you’re still happy. Your husband has stuck by you and he’s a good dad. Your daughter Becca makes your heart explode with love. And then, in the time it takes to say ‘bad mother’, there’s no longer a place for you in your own family. Your right to see your child has disappeared.

Life goes on in your house – family dinners, missing socks and evening baths – but you aren’t there anymore. Becca may be tucked up in bed in Rose Cottage, but she is as lost to you as if she had been snatched from under your nose.

Everyone knows you deserve this, for what you did. Except you’re starting to realise that things maybe aren’t how you thought they were, and your husband isn’t who you thought he was either. That the truths you’ve been so diligently punishing yourself for are built on sand, and the daughter you have lost has been unfairly taken from you. Wouldn’t that be more than any mother could bear?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Losing your child is every parents’ nightmare, losing your child because of something you did, leaves you with a lethal cocktail of grief and guilt, and makes you wonder if you can carry on.

Lost Daughter’, follows Rachel’s tragic tale of being cut out of her teenage daughter’s life, because of one lapse of judgement. Written in a multi-point of view format, with flashbacks to the past, and more recent past, the story follows Rachel, and later Leona and Viv, as they try to live with themselves after being estranged from their children.

All three stories are unique, the women are from different generations, but they share a bond of guilt and loss. Two of the three main female characters in this story, Rachel and Viv are easy to empathise, they do have flaws, but that makes them believable. Leona is the hardest character of the three to empathise, but she does have redeeming features. The story has some surprising twists as the women’s lives’ become woven together.


Complex and poignant the plot engages you. This story is an emotional rollercoaster, you feel anger at the women’s acceptance of their fate, frustrated that they seem in a cycle of despair and guilt, and hopeful that through sheer determination, they are able to move forward and live rather than exist.

As a footnote, the only thing I found hard to believe is Rachel’s forgiving attitude to her self-absorbed, judgemental husband, but clearly, he is an authentic character because I disliked him so much.

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

Death By Dark Waters – Jo Allen #BlogTour @Aria_Fiction @JoAllenAuthor #Crime #LakeDistrict #Cumbria #Detective #Guest Post -4 * #Review

The charred remains of a child are discovered – a child no one seems to have missed…

It’s high summer, and the lakes are in the midst of an unrelenting heat wave. Uncontrollable fell fires are breaking out across the moors faster than they can be extinguished. When firefighters uncover the body of a dead child at the heart of the latest blaze, Detective Chief Inspector Jude Satterthwaite’s arson investigation turns to one of murder.

Jude was born and bred in the Lake District. He knows everyone…and everyone knows him. Except his intriguing new Detective Sergeant, Ashleigh O’Halloran, who is running from a dangerous past and has secrets of her own to hide…

Temperatures – and tension – in the village are rising, and with the body, count rising Jude and his team race against the clock to catch the killer before it’s too late…

The first in the gripping, Lake District set, DCI Jude Satterthwaite series.

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Guest Post – Jo Allen – Death By Dark Waters – Turning to Crime

I used to be a romantic novelist. I suppose I still am. But I’ve always loved reading crime.

When I was younger I read Agatha Christie (possibly not that well-characterised but fantastic, page-turning plots); Dorothy Sayers (wonderful characters, superb writing but possibly a little dense); Ngaio Marsh (so dated now, but I did become engaged with her detective). I marvelled at the complicated plots and the twists in the tale. I really, really wanted to write that sort of thing, but it was just…too difficult.

I fell into a trap, I think, of believing that some genres were easier than others — romance was “easy” because it doesn’t need so many fiendish red herrings, for example — but I was wrong. Romance is just as difficult because although it appears formulaic you still have to create characters who keep the reader interested and you have a plot that depends not on what happens in the end (spoiler: it’s happy) but on how you get there.

My first novels, if you can call them that, were ‘crime’. There was a mystery about a stolen ruby and a less-than-probable tale about a Cold War plot in the skiing world cup. (There was also a one-act play about match-fixing in international cricket which eventually proved prescient.)

But these were all rubbish, truly poor, no research, terrible plotting…every mistake in the book. I moved on to things that didn’t really require research, or not in the same way. In 2014, after many rejections, I finally had my first novel, a romance, published. But even as I practised writing I was still reading crime and thrillers.

It was in 2017, in September as I recall, that I was wandering about in the Lake District musing on what to write next when it suddenly dawned on me. The tools for a successful book are the same whatever genre you write in. You need to be able to structure a plot, create a location and (probably most importantly) develop your characters. And on that walk, Death in Dark Waters was born, and I realised that, after all, I could write crime…

So now I can introduce you to DCI Jude Satterthwaite and his cases. The first of them, in Death by Dark Waters, begins with an unidentified dead body in a burning barn. Whodunnit? Read the book to find out…

Jo Allen was born in Wolverhampton and is a graduate of Edinburgh, Strathclyde and the Open University. After a career in economic consultancy, she took up writing and was first published under the name Jennifer Young in genres of short stories, romance and romantic suspense. In 2017 she took the plunge and began writing the genre she most likes to read – crime. Now living in Edinburgh, she spends as much time as possible in the English Lakes. In common with all her favourite characters, she loves football (she’s a season ticket holder with her beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers) and cats. Twitter Facebook

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


My Thoughts…

Set in the Cumbrian Lake District ‘Death By Dark Waters’ features a troubled Detective Chief Inspector – Jude Satterthwaite and his team as they investigate a death on the hills close to Haweswater. Forensically there is little to go on and the team have to rely on their detection skills to solve the crime.

Jude’s personal life is challenging, he is driven and seeks the control he needs, through his career, which is so lacking in his emotional life. Ashleigh O’Halloran, newly transferred from Cheshire, presents as a confident professional, not afraid to challenge her colleagues. She is a distraction for Jude who shies away from emotional ties.

There is a considerable amount of introspection and emotional angst, in this story, it is an unusual style for a crime novel but does give the story an original angle. The police procedural is believable and, the plot has enough suspects and twists to hold your attention. The pacing is slow but this is to be expected in a new series when characters have to be introduced and their motivations and flaws explored. The crime is grizzly but the descriptions aren’t overly explicit. Instead, the reader is allowed to imagine the scene.

The action really takes off halfway through the story, when a significant plot twist occurs. I thought I’d solved it, and I did guess who, but the motivation for the crime is sinister and twisted and not revealed until the end.

On balance, I empathise with the troubled detective and look forward to more crime solving.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Suspense, Thriller

The Secrets – Jane Adams – 4* #Review @JoffeBooks @janeadamsauthor #Crime #Detective

WHAT DOES HE KNOW? Threatening phone calls, smashed windows, physical intimidation. Eric Pearson and his family have only just moved into a new home in a sleepy cul-de-sac, but they already have dangerous enemies.

How could a respectable family become the focus of such hatred? Detective Inspector Mike Croft knows the Pearson family well. Eric Pearson claims to own a journal which gives evidence of a horrifying ring of abusers. If true, it would be a high stakes case for DI Croft and expose awful secrets that the town has buried deep. But no one wants to believe the dark conspiracies of this friendless and bitter man. Then a body is found on the edge of Bright’s Wood, wrapped in a black bag. DI Croft must confront evil which threatens to rip apart everyone in the community.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

DI Mike Croft is a dedicated, likeable detective, with a tragic past, which makes him empathise with the crime victims he comes into contact with. Croft works with the other characters in his unofficial team to solve his latest investigation into a child abuse ring. This is a sensitive subject but handled well by the author. Corruption and a cover-up are suspected, but difficult to prove.

The plot is well written, with suspense and police procedural details. Set in the late 1990s, the retro element gives it another layer of authenticity and interest. There are many strands to the investigation, which all become connected as the story progresses, It deals with issues prevalent in the nineties, as they are today. The pacing is good and the story flows well, making it easy to read.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

A Summer to Remember – Sue Moorcroft – 5* #Review @AvonBooksUK @SueMoorcroft #Romance #Family #Coastal #Friendship

COME AND SPEND SUMMER BY THE SEA!

WANTED! A caretaker for Roundhouse Row holiday cottages.

WHERE? Nelson’s Bar is the perfect little village. Nestled away on the Norfolk coast we can offer you no signal, no Wi-Fi and – most importantly – no problems!

WHO? The ideal candidate will be looking for an escape from their cheating scumbag ex-fiancé, a diversion from their entitled cousin, and a break from their traitorous friends.

WHAT YOU’LL GET! Accommodation in a chocolate-box cottage, plus a summer filled with blue skies and beachside walks. Oh, and a reunion with the man of your dreams.

PLEASE NOTE: We take no responsibility for any of the above scumbags, passengers and/or traitors walking back into your life…

GET IN TOUCH NOW TO MAKE THIS A SUMMER TO REMEMBER!

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

‘A Summer to Remember’ is romantic, full of angst with conflicts galore and a clever plot. It starts with a tragic event and this compounds six years later when Clancy finds her life and career in tatters, at the hands of those she trusted most. Serendipity draws her back to Norfolk, her only chance of sanctuary, but she is unsure of her welcome and once again is at the mercy of others for her happiness.

Clancy and Aaron are almost lovers, and so the tension between them is sizzling when they meet again, but it’s a slow burn, as events, the past, and most of the villagers get in the way of their chance of love. I like both characters, their only flaw is that they are so busy helping those closest to them they forget each other and their right to be happy.

There are lots of characters who I don’t like, because of their lack of insight into the needs of others. Having more than one antagonist character increases the opportunity for conflict and this a major theme of this story.

The village life is authentic and interesting and Harry and Rory’s story is particularly poignant and well written.

This story engages the reader from the first page and keeps your interest. An enjoyable read with refreshing originality.

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Romance

The House at Hope Corner – Emma Davies @bookouture @EmDaviesAuthor #Romance #Farming #RuralLife #PublicationDay-5* #Review

The view across the valley takes her breath away; everywhere she looks tiny patches of colour – ochre, chestnut, lime and purple. The farmhouse behind her glows pink in the morning sun. It’s like stepping into a postcard, except that this magical place is real. It’s her new home.

With her beloved shop in danger of shutting down, meeting Ned, a gorgeous farmer with an irresistible twinkle in his eye, couldn’t have come at a better moment for a free-spirited florist, Flora Dunbar. But no one is more surprised than her when their whirlwind romance leads to the offer of a new life on Ned’s farm.

Arriving at Hope Corner, Flora sets about becoming the perfect farmer’s wife, but her creative, alternative thinking falls flat in a household built on tradition and strict routine. Even Ned is becoming more distant by the day…

Pulling up her signature striped socks and throwing herself into her chores, little by little Flora learns to love the order and patterns of life on the land. But the more she learns about her new home, the more she suspects it’s under threat, and worse, that Ned is hiding a heartbreaking secret from her.

But this time, Flora’s not going to run from her problems. Do Ned and his family trust her enough to let her stay and fight for love and the first house she’s ever truly called home? Does she trust herself?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Romance in a rural setting is always a pleasure to read, and the ‘House at Hope Corner’ is unashamedly poignant and romantic. It has a sentimental, old fashioned quality to it, that I love. A new beginning on a farm in beautiful Shropshire is just what Flora needs.

It turns out that it’s not quite the rural idyll it appears, and Flora has to learn to fit in but fight to retain her individuality. Her whirlwind romance with Ned didn’t prepare her for the battle ahead, but she is independent, optimistic and tenacious and determined her new life will succeed.

The setting is authentic and full of farming facts that give the story depth and interest. The romance between Ned and Flora is full of good intentions and conflicts. Secrets and lies threaten Flora’s new start but you want her to succeed and find her happily ever after with Ned.

Great characters that you believe in, numerous seemingly insurmountable conflicts, a villainous antagonist in designer clothes, all in a rural setting to die for, what’s not to love?

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Humour

The Trouble with Rose – Amita Murray -4* #Review @HarperFiction @AmitaMurray #Family #Romance #Secrets

A missing sister. A broken heart. 
A whole lot of trouble…

Rilla is getting married. Except she isn’t. She’s running away – from her confused fiancé Simon, her big mad family, and the memories nipping at her heels.

Her sister Rose would know what to do in such times of crisis.

But the trouble is, Rose is the crisis. She disappeared years ago, and Rilla’s heart went missing too.

Where is Rose? And who is Rilla without Rose?

If she’s to rescue some happiness out of all this chaos, she needs to find out.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

A charming story of culture, family, forgiveness and love, written with wonderful vivid imagery, and an insightful balance of humour and poignancy.

Rilla is in trouble, something that has plagued her throughout her young life. It’s as if she doesn’t believe she has a right to be happy, loved and successful. Her wedding day is the perfect example of this. She hides her insecurity and vulnerability behind a rebellious mask, always making fun of herself and her family. Failing at life, she finally confronts the root cause, her sister Rose, or rather her absence.

Rilla is a lovely character, complex, flawed and challenged by her family who always wants to know everything, constantly interfere and comment on her life. Well meant, or not she is frustrated by it and is forced on a journey of self-discovery to salvage her sanity. To stop being the one in the family, everyone has an opinion about. Rilla discovers a web of secrets and lies. but when she finds the truth, can she live with it?

The family are an intrinsic part of this book. their characters are believable, and so vividly written, you can see and hear them in your mind. They bring this story to life and make it such an enjoyable read. Easy to empathise you follow Rilla’s emotional journey with interest, wanting her to find the answers, but hoping she is strong enough to accept them.

The ending is satisfying, it brings resolution, love and hope for the future.

Paperback out 16th May 2019