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…
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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.
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…
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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.
Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel.
Extract from Trickster – Book 1 – Georgina Garrett series – Sam Michaels
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.
an evil sneer, he licked his lips, nodded towards the baby and then asked, ‘How
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A dying billionaire. Nine would-be heirs. But only one will take the prize…
At the lush Villa Calypso on the French Riviera, a dying billionaire launches a devious plan: at midnight each day, he appoints a new heir to his vast fortune. If he dies within 24 hours, that person takes it all. If not, their chance is gone forever.
Yet these are no ordinary beneficiaries, these men who crossed him, women who deceived him, and distant relations intent on reclaiming the family fortune. All are determined to lend death a hand and outwit their rivals in pursuit of the prize.
As tensions mount with every passing second retired Scotland Yard investigator Jasper must stay two steps ahead of every player if he hopes to prevent the billionaire’s devious game from becoming a testament to murder…
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I looked forward to reading this story, as I love murder mystery and especially those written in a similar style to Agatha Christie’s stories. This book delivers in every way.
The plot is clever, fast-paced, full of twists and has numerous suspects, all with motive and opportunity to commit murder. The setting on the French Riveria is ultra glamorous and epitomises the era, the story is set in.
The detective, Jasper, is charismatic, yet mysterious. When you look back at the story you learn very little about him, other than he is excellent at his job. The ending is well-orchestrated and the cryptic thoughts from one of the characters in the final lines, makes you wonder about Jasper and his motivations.
The cast of characters are not particularly likeable, but this is a requirement of this type of mystery. The reader has to suspect everyone at some point in the story for it to be enjoyable, and complex to solve. The narrative and dialogue are easy to read and realistic. The story has wonderful imagery that allows the reader to play it out in their mind as if they are watching it in real life.
An entertaining, compulsive read, I look forward to Jasper’s next case.
Patty really didn’t understand why
the mood had been so bleak after Uncle Malcolm’s grand revelation. Wasn’t it a
marvellous idea that they all had a chance to become sole heir to his entire
Of course, it would have been better if he had just made her sole heir, to begin with, but if he wanted to do it this way, he was entitled to. Hugh was just a spoilsport to have no stomach for this game. He didn’t like risks and he certainly didn’t like the idea he could lose out to somebody else.
Patty listened to her husband’s
heavy breathing as he lay, face down, beside her in the double bed. He had
gulped down several glasses of whiskey and was now completely oblivious to the
world. While she normally wouldn’t encourage his drinking, it was now very
convenient to her that he wouldn’t notice a thing when she crawled out of bed.
Lightning put the room in a bright
white glare for a second, then died down. Moments passed before thunder rolled
in the distance. The storm hadn’t yet reached the villa. Despite the reassurances
that there were higher points it could strike, Patty’s heartbeat fluttered and
she rubbed gooseflesh off her arms. She pushed away the sheet and swung her
legs over the edge of the bed. Feeling her way through the room, she picked up
her dressing gown and slipped it on over her silk nightdress.
At the door she listened carefully, first to determine Hugh was still asleep, then whether there was anyone in the corridor outside the room. With the storm brewing, it was possible people couldn’t sleep and went out of their rooms to get some milk or a book to read, from Malcolm’s library.
Yes, needing a book to read would be
the perfect excuse to hang around, and catch a glimpse of the signing of the
will. It was happening in his study, he had said, and the study was adjacent to
the library. Wouldn’t it be easy to make a small mistake and enter the wrong
In the corridor little lamps burned
along the wall, shedding just enough light to be able to move around. Malcolm
seemed to dislike the dark. Or perhaps it had been arranged for by the nurse
who had to rush to Malcolm’s bedside at any hour? Anna Cane had struck Patty as
a young lady who liked to make demands, just to see how far she could get with
Still, it was a good thing the nurse hadn’t left. The more suspects, the better.
Downstairs in the hallway, the grandfather clock struck twelve.
That’s my cue.
Patty tiptoed down the corridor,
making sure to stay on the carpet so nothing thudded or creaked. Thunder rolled
again sounding like a stack of cans collapsing. Her heart beat so fast she
could barely breathe.
In front of the door leading into
the study she halted. Malcolm was a man of his word, a man who liked
punctuality. He’d be signing his document now.
She opened the door a crack and
Behind a huge desk, Malcolm sat leaning over a sheet of paper. His trembling right hand held a pen, and he was just scribbling something. The name?
Patty’s stomach tightened at the
idea it could be Patricia Bryce-Rutherford he was writing. It was quite a long
name. But then Hugh Desmond Bryce-Rutherford was about as long. And Theodora
Cummings wasn’t exactly short either. Anna Cane was, but Malcolm wouldn’t make
the nurse his heir. Not on the first day anyway.
Maybe as he ran out of heirs to use.
After all, he had said everybody
would only get one turn.
How unfair. To think that if he
lived long enough, some unimportant person like that nurse or the butler would
get it all.
He’d better not live that long then.
Malcolm looked up, and for a moment
Patty could have sworn he looked straight at her. She didn’t make the mistake
to move. She stood firmly, holding her hand on the knob so the door didn’t move
either. She had stood just as firmly as she had made her wedding vows to Hugh.
Knowing this was something she had to go through to reach something better.
Something she deserved.
Malcolm shoved the document away
from him, and Koning looked it over. He then gestured to the two other men
present to sign it. The skeletal butler and the rugged, probably French,
Patty’s breath caught. Would they
know the name that was filled in? Could she bribe them, entice them somehow to
tell her what name the document held on that particular day?
They were but servants with meagre
pay. They might be open to the promise of a rich reward. After all, once she
had inherited the fortune, she could fulfil their every dream.
Patty suppressed a satisfied smile
as she watched the men do their duty. Then Koning picked up the document and
folded it in halves. He slipped it into an envelope and sealed it. He handed
the envelope to Malcolm, who had pushed himself up behind the desk.
Careful, swaying, the old man walked to the side wall and pulled at a painting. It swung away to reveal the gleaming metal of a safe. Malcolm looked at the men to see if they were watching him. They were all keeping their eyes on the floor. Still, Malcolm covered the combination lock with the envelope as he turned it to the right combination to unlock it.
Careful bastard, Patty thought.
The door of the safe opened, and
Malcolm placed the envelope in it and closed it again. He spun the combination
“It has begun,” he said to the men,
a strange satisfaction in his voice.
Armed with cheese and chocolate, Vivian Conroy sits down to create the aspirational settings, characters with secrets up their sleeves, and clever plots which took several of her mysteries to #1 bestseller in multiple categories on Amazon US and Canada. Away from the keyboard, Vivian likes to hike (especially in the Swiss mountains), hunt for the perfect cheesecake and experience the joy in every-day life, be it a fiery sunset, a gorgeous full moon or that errant butterfly descending on the windowsill.