Posted in Cover Reveal, Crime, saga, Suspense, Thriller

The Final Trail AA Abbott Cover Reveal @AAAbbottstories #LoveBooksTours #BookLaunch #28October19 #TheTrailSeries #Birmingham #publicationday

#TheTrailSeries

Family feuds just got bloodier… A gripping thriller, and a great story of death, revenge and vodka.

To save glamorous Kat White’s life, Ben Halloran killed his gangster father. Now his brother wants to even the score.

The gripping Trail series of British crime thrillers reaches its dramatic conclusion in this compelling page-turner. 

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THE LAST EDITION OF TENSE CRIME THRILLER SERIES SET IN BIRMINGHAM
RECEIVES CITY CENTRE LAUNCH

Birmingham has well and truly been put on the crime thriller map with the success of the TV series Peaky Blinders but for bookworms amongst us, the popular Trail Series has long brought readers into the modern-day 21st century with its tense storylines, murder and intrigue set in and around the city.

The Trail series features a vodka business, a cancer cure and obsessive killers. Every book is a good read in its own right – each is a great crime story with terrific twists to keep the tension mounting – but together, they follow the same characters over several years.

The Trail series author AA Abbott also known as Helen Blenkinsop has been compared with the likes of Ruth Rendell, John Grisham and Jeffrey Archer.  She lived and studied in Birmingham for nearly 20 years and her passion and love for the city became the inspiration for the Trail series.

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Now, after four successful editions, the last storyline will be revealed in the publication of THE FINAL TRAIL which will be launched in Birmingham on 28th October.

In the last book …”Glamorous Kat White has built a successful craft vodka brand in Birmingham, but she has an uneasy relationship with her business partner, Marty Bridges. Her mother had previously supplied with poisonous vodka. Marty doesn’t trust Kat, resents having to depend on her for commercial success, and isn’t thrilled that his eldest son wants to marry her. That’s not his biggest problem, though. He’s trying to develop a cancer drug with Kat’s brother, Erik, and it’s draining money he doesn’t have. Just as he finds an investor with pockets deep enough to fund their research, Erik is lured to the former Soviet Union and thrown into jail. Meanwhile, Ben Halloran, who killed his father to save Kat’s life, is faced with the twin risks of a murder charge and his brother’s deep-seated desire for revenge. Can Ben escape with his life and liberty? And can Marty save both Erik and his business – and learn to trust Kat?”

Helen said “I’ve been writing about these amazing characters for over 5 years, so you can imagine, they have become a part of my life. It’s been a great journey and they have come through so many storylines that it feels right for them to achieve their dreams at last.”

Most of the action in THE FINAL TRAIL takes place across the city and features the famous Rose Villa Tavern and 1,000 Trades in the Jewellery Quarter; The Mailbox, home to the BBC in Birmingham, Holloway Head by the famous Pagoda Island and locations in Harborne and Edgbaston.

Helen added, “It’s going to be very sad to launch the last book as the stories and characters have built up such a following but it will give me the opportunity to weave new and exciting tales – I have so many ideas buzzing in my head.”

THE FINAL TRAIL is a perfect read for those who like a fast-paced crime thriller combined with suspense, humour and plot twists.  It’s ideal to take away on holiday and provides a great read during the autumn/winter nights.

THE FINAL TRAIL will be available to order from Amazon in e-book, paperback and dyslexia-friendly format from Monday 28th October 2019.

Amazon UK

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Gangland Crime, Historical Crime Fiction, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

Silent Money G.D.Harper 4*#Review @harper_author @rararesources #Thriller #PsychologicalThriller #noir #crime #Glasgow #1970s

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#SilentMoney

Glasgow, 1972. Michael Mitchell is ambitious, talented and determined to succeed. But he learns the hard way that he will never achieve his goals in life – unless he plays by a different set of rules.

He partners with a small-time crook to help the Glasgow underworld launder the proceeds of their crimes. As the operation grows, Michael is forced to become more and more ruthless to protect what he has built.

Shocked by who he has become, he vows to leave the criminal world behind and start a new life. But the past has a way of catching up. Finally, he gambles everything on one last desperate attempt to break free.

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#SilentMoney

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

My Thoughts…

Set in Glasgow in the 1970s, this story’s ethos is gritty and full of moral dilemmas. Michael is a hard worker and he wants to succeed, but his efforts are overlooked, and soon he uses his powerful intelligence to become successful in a less orthodox way.

Like the author’s previous book set in 1970s Glasgow and London, Love’s Long Road, this story has excellent characters, a clever plot and you constantly question Michael’s choices, there are so many grey areas,

The pacing is fast, and there is a good balance of action, dialogue and introspection. The setting once again steals the show for me, it encompasses the desperation of the 1970s, a time of high unemployment, and the demise of British industry like coal, shipbuilding and steel. When for many crime was the only way out of poverty.

A good, thought-provoking thriller.

#SilentMoney #Blogtour

I was placed third in the 2015 Lightship Prize for first-time authors, won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, been shortlisted at the UK Festival of Writing for Best First Chapter, longlisted in the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition.

In 2017, I was one of twelve authors selected for Authors in the Spotlight at the Bloody Scotland book festival in Stirling, showcasing who they considered to be the best emerging talent in crime fiction, and was the only self-published author to be chosen. I have spoken at numerous other book events, including Blackwells’ Writers at the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; a stand-alone slot at the Byres Road Book Festival in Glasgow, and the Aye Write! Book Festival, also in Glasgow.

I went to Glasgow University in 1975 and lived in the city’s West End, the time and place for the setting of the majority of Love’s Long Road.


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Read my #review of Love’s Long Road
Posted in Crime, Gangland Crime, ganglit, Thriller

Risking It All – Stephanie Harte Cover Reveal @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @StephanieHarte3 #ganglit #crimefiction #thriller #London #EastEnd #organisedcrime

I’m happy to share the cover for a new #ganglit novel due out on 23 January 2020. Look out for my #review and a Q&A with Stephanie Harte on Publication Day, here when I kick off the blog tour in the new year.

#RiskingItAll

Gemma is about to risk it all for the man she loves. Will she survive entering into a life of crime?

Gemma has always been there for Nathan. He’s the love of her life and she made a commitment to him, one she’d never consider breaking… until smooth-talking gangster Alfie Watson comes into their lives and changes everything.

Alfie doesn’t care about true love – he wants Gemma, and the gangster always gets what he wants. When Nathan ends up owing him money, Alfie gets payback by recruiting Gemma to carry out a jewellery heist. To everyone’s surprise, she’s a natural. Until Alfie forgives Nathan’s debt, she has no choice but to accompany the gangster on more and more daring heists – even though one slip-up could cost her everything.

Nathan might have fallen under Alfie’s spell, but it doesn’t take long for him to realise that he needs to save Gemma from his own mistakes if their marriage is to have any chance of surviving. But when that means taking on the East End’s most notorious gangster at his own game, will he find himself up to the challenge?

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Stephanie Hart is a debut author writing in the ganglit genre. She lives in London with her family. Twitter

#23January2020
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Gangland Crime, Guest post, Historical Crime Fiction, saga, Thriller

Rivals Sam Michaels 4*#Review @Aria_Fiction @SamMichaelsGG #BlogTour #CrimeFiction #HistoricalCrimeFiction #OrganisedCrime #GeorginaGarrett #BookReview #GuestPost

#Rivals

Georgina Garrett is back and more daring than ever!

Follow Georgina as she builds up her own empire in the second thrilling instalment of the Georgina Garrett series.

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

My Thoughts…

What appeals about this story is its commitment and honesty. Georgina is a relatable, remarkable, yet ruthless character, who you would want on your side. Her love for her family and friends shines through, even though she commits and sanctions unspeakable acts as the head of a south London crime gang in the 1930s.

When her newly acquired gangland empire is under threat from men who think she should know her place, she only has one response; be better than them, and fight back. She symbolises the female fight for equality. The crimes are gritty, but the story is one of family, and this is why the protagonists are likeable.

A clever plot with plenty of depth and hidden twists complements the complex characters well and makes this a page-turning chapter of a compelling crime series.

Guest Post – Sam Michaels- The Birth of a Ruthless Woman

I was born and bred in London and then lived in Surrey, Kent and Hampshire before moving to Spain four years ago. It was here that I found I had the time to take up writing. So, after lots of encouragement from my husband and mum, I sat on my sofa and penned my first novel, Trickster.

You probably imagine that living in a sunny climate is inspirational and blissful for a writer but I doubt it’s anything like you might picture. There’s no sitting in the sun, sipping sangria and dipping in the pool. It’s impossible to use my laptop outside because I can’t see the screen. So instead, I sit at my new desk in my spare bedroom with a ceiling fan on and the shutters closed. It’s so peaceful and this is where I wrote my second novel, Rivals, the follow up to Trickster.

Writing a series of five books has been such an interesting journey. Normally, after a novel is completed and published, the author will leave the characters behind and move on to the next story. But with mine, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to delve deep into Georgina’s Garrett’s life from birth, growing up and into adulthood. When I’d finished Trickster and started writing Rivals, I was so excited to meet Georgina again and couldn’t wait to move her character on through her complex life.

Georgina came about as I was driving with my hubby. I remember turning to him and saying, ‘Georgina Garrett, the birth of a ruthless woman.’ She started off as just a short single scene in my head – A young woman, beautiful, tough and on the wrong side of the law. I could see her eyes, hair and the shape of her body. I knew when she was born and that she’d had many struggles to overcome. In the scene, Georgina was dressed as a boy and was thieving with her father. For the rest of the drive with hubby, I blurted out the whole story, from the day WW1 was declared and the birth of Georgina until she came to rule the streets of Battersea.

My hubby was flabbergasted and so was I – Trickster just needed to be written now.

As I began typing, I found Georgina’s character changed slightly. I gave her more of a heart and made her more caring. After all, I wanted my potential readers to love her as much as I did! And I found that once the book was finished, I missed her. So I was keen to get on with writing Rivals and now I’m almost finished writing the third in the series.

There’s so much more for Georgina to yet experience – and I can’t wait to share it with you in the coming books!

#SamMichaels

Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel. Facebook Twitter

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Gangland Crime, Thriller

Where The Dead Fall – M.J.Lee @canelo_co @WriterMJLee #Crime #PoliceProcedural #Thriller #DIRidpath 5* #Review

One chance encounter, one street side murder, will change everything…

The extraordinary new Ridpath crime thriller Manchester has been at peace for twenty years. Not any more.

DI Ridpath is in the process of getting his life back together when everything goes wrong.

Driving to meet his daughter, he is caught in a horrific motorway accident, in which a near-naked man is run down by a lorry while fleeing from a lone gunman. As Ridpath closes Manchester’s road network in search of the assailant, one question remains: why did nobody else see him?

Ridpath’s investigations, which at first seem to follow protocol, soon unearth a number of inconsistencies, which pulls the police force itself into question and hint at something sinister to come…

For Manchester is on the brink of a fresh surge of violence, unlike anything it has seen in decades. As Ridpath battles this unprecedented conflict, he must battle his own demons. One thing is for sure. There will be blood on the streets…

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

My Thoughts…

Fast-paced, believable, complex characters, an authentic, recognisable setting and a likeable detective; four of the reasons, the DI Ridpath series is a favourite of mine.

Ridpath is a conflicted man, driven by his role in the Murder Investigation Team (MIT), he neglects his wife and daughter who he loves dearly, the situation implodes when he becomes dangerously ill. In remission and reassigned, he finds his detective skills are in constant demand, and maybe he can rebuild his family life too, as a policeman attached to the Coroner’s office.

The first chapter of this second story in the series is adrenaline-fueled and suspenseful, the writing is full of visual imagery, and it’s easy to imagine what’s happening. It would make a great TV series.

The plot is layered, with new surprises and dramatic irony, where the reader learns information that the main protagonist doesn’t know.

Ridpath’s work life balance is a constant source of conflict as he tries to rebuild both his career and his family life, this doesn’t impair his detection skill, which is insightful and tenacious.

This is an intelligent thriller, not relying on graphic images to draw the reader in. You turn the pages because you want to know if he will outsmart the criminals, his doubting colleagues and still manage to salvage his personal life.

I can’t wait for the next one.

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

Born Bad -Heather Burnside – 4* #Review #BlogTour @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @heatherbwriter #crime #thriller #paperback

Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.

Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.

But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there’s only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. After all, blood is thicker than water…

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


My Thoughts…

Born Bad’ is the first book in the ‘Manchester Trilogy’ series, a gritty gangland crime story set in Manchester. I have read this book after reading the other two later books, and so I knew what to expect. It was good to meet Adele and Peter in the early stages of their life, the abuse and lack of care they receive make the people they become in later life.

It’s interesting that different personalities react in diverse ways to their nurturing, or lack of it and the events in this book pave the way for the further books in the series with some surprising twists.

This is a harrowing story. Domestic abuse, neglect and violence are prominent, this is hard to read, but an essential component of this genre. The story is good and well-paced. The characters are complex, flawed and realistic.

If you are looking for a British based, organised crime series, focused on the family, this is a book and series worth reading.

Guest Post – Heather Burnside

One of the themes that feature in Born Bad is mental health. The topic of nature vs nurture interests me and I, therefore, decided to reflect this in the book. Currently, there is a lot of focus in the media on looking after our mental health so I thought it would be an opportune time to explore this issue in Born Bad.

My protagonist, Adele, is affected by mental health in many ways. To start with we hear Adele’s grandmother, Joyce, talking about Adele’s father, Tommy’s, side of the family and their mental health issues. She tells Adele’s mother that Tommy comes from bad blood (hence the title Born Bad) and that he had a mad great-uncle who was always fighting and who ended up in an asylum.

Joyce also worries that Adele’s brother, Peter, might take after Tommy’s side of the family. Joyce is quite insensitive when she refers to the issue of mental health but, when you bear in mind that this was the seventies, her view was typical at that time. Fortunately, the perception of mental health issues has changed a lot since then.

Adele and Peter have a very traumatic childhood and, as the novel progresses, they both behave in a way that wouldn’t be considered normal or rational. Peter’s odd behaviour is first displayed when he is lining up caterpillars and thrashing them with a whip, taking great delight in seeing their damaged bodies.

As he gets older Peter becomes involved in criminal activities in which he doesn’t appear to have a conscience where his victims are concerned. Is this because of his troubled upbringing, because of genetic mental health issues or perhaps a combination of the two?

Adele, on the other hand, does have a conscience and she tries to do the right thing but she is affected by forces that seem to be beyond her control. Again, she could have been driven by an inherent condition or she could be so severely affected by her troubled childhood that she reaches breaking point. Research has shown that both genetics and upbringing can affect a person’s mental health.

Adele’s mother, Shirley, also has her own problems and relies on a diet of pills to get her through each day. However, rather than being seen as a hereditary illness, her mental health issues stem from the stress of being married to a drunken, violent and unfeeling man. Adele sees her as weak but, like her grandmother, her point of view could be the result of poor awareness in the 1970s regarding mental health issues.

Mental health covers a wide spectrum of illnesses with varying levels of severity. The UK mental health charity, Mind, estimates that one in four people in the UK each year experiences a mental health problem. Anxiety and depression are amongst the most common mental health conditions, and while some of these conditions are manageable, they also vary in severity. There are some very serious and debilitating mental health conditions too which can greatly affect a person’s quality of life.

I think we have come a long way in highlighting mental health issues and breaking down the taboos which have previously surrounded the subject. However, we still have some way to go both in educating people about mental health and in providing greater levels of care to those affected.

Extract From Born Bad – Heather Burnside

Oblivious to Deborah’s agonised screams, Adele continued to kick as rage overtook her. It was only the sight of the dinner lady running towards her that brought her to her senses.

Now, as she thought about the incident, she felt remorseful. If only Debby hadn’t decided to do something so daft. If only she could have persuaded her to stop without losing her temper. But Debby hadn’t stopped. She shouted at her a few times, and she still didn’t stop. That’s what she would say in her defence. She had to pull her legs away; it was her only chance.

But did she have to kick her?

Adele was feeling desperate. Oh God, it’s no good, she thought, I’m gonna be in trouble no matter what.

She thought about what her father’s reaction would be if he found out. She dreaded that even more than she dreaded being summoned to see the head teacher.

The sound of the bell interrupted her thoughts. It was the end of the lunch period and Adele entered the school building in a state of trepidation, to the sound of taunting.

‘You’re gonna be in trouble, Adele Robinson, for what you did to Debby.’

‘Yeah,’ added another girl, ‘Miss Goody Two Shoes is gonna get done, haha.’

When Mr Parry announced that she and Debby were to see the head teacher straightaway, Adele felt her stomach sink.

Mr Parry led the two girls down the long corridor towards the head teacher’s office and told them to wait outside while he knocked on the door. After he had been inside for a few minutes, he came back out and asked Debby to go inside. He then lowered his eyes towards Adele and told her to wait there until she was called for. She noticed the look of disappointment on his face and felt ashamed. Then, with nothing further to say, he left her standing outside the head teacher’s office, trembling with fear.

After what seemed like an endless wait, Debby came out of the office and looked away from Adele as she walked past her.

‘Next!’ shouted Miss Marchant.

Adele was already in tears by the time she entered the office and presented herself at the other side of the head teacher’s large desk.

‘Now then, what have you been up to?’ asked Miss Marchant.

‘I… I… I didn’t mean it,’ muttered Adele.

‘Didn’t mean what? And for heaven’s sake, speak up, young lady.’

‘I didn’t mean to hurt Debby,’ Adele sobbed.

‘Well, from what I’ve been told, you’ve got a bit of a temper, haven’t you young lady?’

Adele, by now very tearful, nodded in response.

‘I can’t hear you!’ thundered Miss Marchant.

‘Yes,’ Adele replied.

‘Yes, what?’

‘Yes, Miss Marchant.’

Adele was so worked up that she thought she would vomit at any minute. To her surprise, just when she reached the point where she felt she might faint, the head teacher seemed to relent.

‘Well, Miss Robinson, although I don’t condone your behaviour in the playground, I have received glowing reports from your class teacher. So, I’m going to let the matter rest on this occasion. However, I would suggest that in future you keep that temper of yours well under wraps.’

‘Yes Miss,’ answered Adele.

‘You may go.’

Adele quickly made for the door, feeling a mixture of relief and shame, but before she could get to the other side, she was stopped by Miss Marchant’s stern tones.

‘And if I ever hear of any repeat of this behaviour, you will be punished severely!’

‘Yes Miss,’ Adele replied as she dashed from the office.

Anxious to be away from the head teacher’s office as soon as possible, Adele rushed down the corridor and into her classroom.

Mr Parry raised his eyes from the papers on his desk and abruptly ordered Adele to sit down in the vacant seat next to Tony Lord, who had a reputation for being the best fighter in the school.

As Adele felt everyone’s eyes on her, a tear escaped from her eye. She was greeted by a barrage of questions from the other children sitting at the table. Adele’s feelings of guilt and shame made her shy away from their questions, even though she could tell they were impressed that she’d beaten Debby up.

‘Why are you crying if you won the fight?’ asked Tony, puzzled.

‘Don’t know,’ muttered Adele, dipping her head.

Read my reviews of Blood Ties and Vendetta, the other books in the series.

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. Twitter Facebook

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Excerpt, Family Drama, Gangland Crime, Historical Crime Fiction, saga

Trickster -Sam Michaels – 4* #Review #Author #Interview @Aria_Fiction @SamMichaelsGG #BlogTour #Extract #Historical #Crime #Fiction #Saga

To be ruthless is to be powerful, at least it is on the Battersea streets…

Georgina Garrett was born to be ruthless and she’s about to earn her reputation.

As World War One is announced a baby girl is born. Little do people know that she’s going to grow up to rule the streets of Battersea. From a family steeped in poverty the only way to survive is with street smarts.

With a father who steals for a living, a grandmother who’s a woman of the night and a mother long dead, Georgina was never in for an easy life. But after a tragic event left her father shaken he makes a decision that will change the course of all their lives – to raise Georgina as George, ensuring her safety but marking the start of her life of crime…

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

My Thoughts…

Set in the early 20th-century ‘Trickster’ follows the fortunes of Georgina Garrett from her birth in 1914 when England declared war on Germany. Georgina knows tragedy from her first breath, she is no stranger to loss and falls foul of the depravity she is born into, despite the love and protection of her family.

This historical crime saga is characterised by well-researched historical detail, which brings the story to life. It’s easy to imagine the poverty, depravity and violence of the London slums. The writing is full of vivid imagery and dialogue which gives it an authentic feel.

The characters are believable and even though many of them are criminals, they are easy to empathise. Many are victims of circumstance, they commit crimes and act violently to survive. The strong family bond essential for gangland crime fiction is evident in this story, and it is this that makes it such an absorbing read.

The abuse, language and violence are graphic, but not gratuitous. They make this story an authentic reading experience, but there will be times when you will cringe or want to look away.

The plot is well- written and has many twists, that shape Georgina Garrett and her future self. The underlying theme of the story is based on a misnomer, which gives this story a refreshing uniqueness. This is an accomplished debut story and I look forward to reading book two.

Q&A with Sam Michaels – TricksterI

Sagas are popular in romantic fiction, but your story is a crime-based saga, what inspired you to write this? Are all the stories historically based?

I’ve always enjoyed sagas, been interested in early 20th- century history and fascinated with the criminal underworld. So, it made sense for me to combine the three, hence, Trickster was born. It’s been a good outlet for my ghastly imagination!

The stories in the Georgina Garrett series of books are historically based, though as they progress, the last one will end in the ’60s and ’70s.

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

My main character always comes first, along with a small scenario which sets the scene for the rest of the book. I think the character comes first as I believe this is the most important part of the story. Good, strong characters make good stories!

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

My characters are mostly from my imagination although I do bring in aspects of real-life people I know. To make them realistic, I find myself acting out each character’s point of view – their voices, facial expressions and sometimes even their body movements. Obviously, I do all this in my head as I don’t want my husband to think I’m a lunatic!

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I’m a fan of true stories, especially tales of triumph over hardship or really gory crime. I’ve recently discovered Bill Bryson books which are not my normal ilk but I’m finding them very amusing and interesting.

 When did you start writing? What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

I’ve been writing for the past few years since I moved from the UK to Spain. The best thing about being a writer is knowing that your work is bringing pleasure to someone, and that could be anywhere in the world. The worst thing is being sat indoors in front of my computer when the sun is shining outside.

What are you currently writing?

I’m nearing the end of writing the first draft of the next book in the Georgina Garrett series. It’s been wonderful to dip back into the first book and bring out some of the lesser characters and give them a more prominent role in this story.

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Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel.

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Extract from Trickster – Book 1 – Georgina Garrett series – Sam Michaels

‘I dunno what to do, Mum. She needs a feed…’

Dulcie chewed her lower lip as her mind turned but then struck by an idea she said, ‘Don’t worry, Jack, I know someone who might be able to help. There’s a jug of ale in the kitchen. Go and pour yourself a glass. I’ll be back as soon as I can.’

Dulcie left her house and hurried along the narrow street with the wailing baby in her arms. She could ill afford to feed Percy and herself, let alone this poor little mite, and a wet nurse didn’t come cheap. However, if her idea panned out, she wouldn’t have to part with a penny.

Fifteen minutes later Dulcie was in the roughest part of town. This was an area where no person of good virtue would dare to frequent. Women hung out of windows with their bosoms on display, vying for business, while others were drunk, vomiting openly in the filthy streets. In a dark corner behind a cart, Dulcie glimpsed a woman bent over with her skirt up, a punter behind her, trousers round his ankles as he pounded hard for his pleasure.

This wasn’t the sort of place where Dulcie felt comfortable carrying a small baby. She held her granddaughter protectively close to her and tried to muffle the child’s screams in the hope of avoiding any unwanted attention.

The sun was still high in the sky. Dulcie was grateful, as she would have been worried if it had been dark. A short, skinny man with bare feet and a bent back walked towards her. His leering eyes unnerved Dulcie and she could see he was trying to peer at the child she held. He stood ominously in front of her, blocking her path. If she hadn’t had been carrying Georgina, she wouldn’t have given a second thought to kneeing him in the crotch.

With an evil sneer, he licked his lips, nodded towards the baby and then asked, ‘How much?’

‘This child is not for sale,’ Dulcie said firmly, then sidestepped the man and marched on. It was no secret that in these streets, any desire could be bought for the right price, but it turned Dulcie’s stomach. It wasn’t unusual for a prostitute to fall with an unwanted pregnancy, then sell the child on, no questions asked. Dulcie didn’t believe it was something any woman wanted to do, but the desperation of poverty forced them into it. Gawd knows where those helpless babies ended up, or what they went through, Dulcie thought and shuddered. She reckoned the women would be better off killing their babies – something she suspected her friend Ruby had recently resorted to.

She had seen many young women turn to drugs or booze to numb the pain and block out the memories of what they’d done. Some went out of their minds and ended up in institutions, a fate worse than death, and it was something she didn’t want to see happen to Ruby. The girl was only sixteen, with bright ginger hair and a sprinkling of freckles across her nose. Her fair skin was the colour of porcelain, so when she’d turned up on the streets one day her purple and yellow bruises had really stood out.

Dulcie had taken her under her wing and learned that Ruby was homeless after running away from her abusive father. Her mother had died when Ruby was seven, and her father had forced her into his bed to fulfil the role of his wife. When he’d filled her belly with a child, he’d beaten her until she miscarried, then thrown her out to fend for herself.

Dulcie did her best to protect the girl and would steer her away from the customers she knew had a liking for wanting to rough up the women, but it hadn’t been long before she’d noticed that Ruby was trying to hide a growing bump in her stomach. She’d had a quiet word with her and found that Ruby was distraught, fearing her secret would be discovered and she’d be sent to the workhouse. Dulcie felt sorry for the girl but, struggling herself to make enough money to live on, she could only offer a shoulder to cry on.

Less than a week ago and well into her pregnancy, Ruby disappeared, but then she’d turned up again two days ago, her stomach flat. She refused to discuss the fate of the baby, but Dulcie noticed her demeanour had changed. Where once she’d been a chatty young woman with a wicked sense of humour, she was now mostly silent, her eyes veiled in a darkness that Dulcie couldn’t penetrate.

Ruby lived in the basement of a shared house at the end of the street. It was decrepit, with the roof caved in and the stairs to the upper level broken. Dulcie thought the whole house looked unsound and had never been inside, but she had to speak to Ruby and hoped to find her in. She took a deep breath and braced herself for what she may find, then slowly walked down the stairs that led to the basement door. It was open, so with trepidation, she stepped inside.