Posted in Cover Reveal, Crime, Family Drama, New Books, Suspense, Thriller

A Chance Encounter Rae Shaw #CoverReveal @RaeShawauthor @rararesources #JuliannaBaptiste #CrimeFiction

Julianna Baptiste, a feisty bodyguard, finds her new job tedious, that is until her boss, the evasive Jackson Haynes, spikes her curiosity. Who is behind the vicious threats to his beautiful wife and why is he interested in two estranged siblings?

Mark works for Haynes’s vast company. He’s hiding from ruthless money launderers.

His teenage sister Ellen has an online friend whom she has never met. Ellen guards a terrible secret.

For eight years their duplicitous father has languished in prison, claiming he is innocent of murder. The evidence against him is overwhelming, so why does Mark persist with an appeal?

Keen to prove her potential as an investigator, Julianna forces Mark to confront his mistakes. The consequences will put all their lives in danger.

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Publication Date: 24th March

Rae Shaw is a pen name for the author Rachel Walkley.

Rachel is based in the North West of England. She read her first grown-up detective novel at the age of eleven, which proved to be a catalyst for filling many shelves with crime books, which still occupy her home and grow in number whenever she visits a book shop.

As well as crime, Rachel likes to unplug from the real world and writes mysteries that have a touch of magic woven into family secrets.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Thriller

Death at Rainbow Cottage Jo Allen 4*#Review #DCI Jude Satterthwaite @JoAllenAuthor #CrimeFiction #PoliceProcedural #Thriller #BlogTour #BookReview #Cumbria #EdenValley @rararesources #LakeDistrict

At the end of the rainbow, a man lies dead.

The apparently motiveless murder of a man outside the home of controversial equalities activist Claud Blackwell and his neurotic wife, Natalie, is shocking enough for a peaceful local community. When it’s followed by another apparently random killing immediately outside Claud’s office, DCI Jude Satterthwaite has his work cut out. Is Claud the killer, or the intended victim?

To add to Jude’s problems, the arrival of a hostile new boss causes complications at work, and when a threatening note arrives at the police headquarters, he has real cause to fear for the safety of his friends and colleagues…

A traditional British detective novel set in Cumbria.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This police procedural set in Cumbria has relatable characters, explores contemporary issues using clever plotting and features an immersive writing style. It’s worth reading the entire series.

This story has multiple murders with no discernible motive. The investigation team are diverse, and they have a believable team dynamic. The author creates a fictional world with a realistic balance of personal and professional relationships. The investigation process is relatable and allows the reader their interpretation of the evidence too.

This is classic detecting, with a twenty-first-century edge that makes it addictive and absorbing read.

Jo Allen

Jo Allen is the author of the successful DCI Satterthwaite series of detective novels set in and around the English Lake District, where she lives. 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. In common with all her favourite characters, she loves football (she’s a season ticket holder with her beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers) and cats.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Noir, Romance, Travel

The Good Wife Eleanor Porter 4*#Review @Elporterauthor @BoldwoodBooks #boldwoodbloggers #BookReview #BlogTour @rararesources #HistFic #HistoricalFiction #TheGoodWife #MondayBlogs #Elizabethan #England

Where will her loyalty lead her?

Once accused of witchcraft Martha Spicer is now free from the shadow of the gallows and lives a safe and happy life with her husband, Jacob. But when Jacob heads north to accompany his master, he warns Martha to keep her healing gifts a secret, to keep herself safe, to be a good wife.

Martha loves Jacob but without him there to protect her, she soon comes under the suspicious eye of the wicked Steward Boult, who’s heard of her talent and forces her to attend to him. If she refuses, he promises to destroy the good life she has built for herself with Jacob.

Desperate and alone, Martha faces a terrible decision: stay and be beholden to Boult or journey north to find Jacob who is reported to have been killed.. The road ahead is filled with danger, but also the promise of a brighter future. And where her gifts once threatened to be her downfall, might they now be the very thing that sets Martha free…?

The brilliant follow-up to Eleanor Porter’s first novel of love, betrayal, superstition and fear in Elizabethan England. A story of female courage, ingenuity and determination.

Amazon UK

I received copies of these books from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for honest reviews.

My Thoughts…

The Good Wife is the sequel to The Wheelwright’s Daughter but readable as a standalone. Martha is married to Jacob and happy. He is her world, but it starts to crumble when he follows his master north. Jacob is worried about leaving Martha, who attracts attention for her healing skills. She is intelligent and wise in natural healing but naive when facing the world’s evils. When Jacob doesn’t return, her world implodes. Forced to flee her long journey is one of danger and self-discovery. She matures with each encounter and every problem she faces.

The historical details make the journey atmospheric and immersive. The characters are vibrant, with intriguing relationship dynamics. I love the understanding she has with her horse. The evil she faces is difficult to read but necessary to the story. There are many poignant and tragic moments, but ultimately the journey is a positive experience for Martha.

Eleanor Porter

Eleanor Porter has lectured at Universities in England and Hong Kong and her poetry and short fiction has been published in magazines. The Wheelwright’s Daughter was her first novel.


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My Review of The Wheelwright’s Daugther – Eleanor Porter

This story is set in Elizabethan England in the late sixteenth century when religious persecution was rife and witchhunts common. Martha is a young woman raised by her grandmother and father. Educated, intelligent with independent ways that make the villagers’ distrustful of her. After her grandmother’s death, there is no one to protect Martha from her father’s drinking, and she is vulnerable to the dangerous, pious priest and the villagers’ superstitions.

Martha experiences coming of age in a dangerous world with little sympathetic support and much superstition. The story is claustrophobic and immersive, as the reader experiences the danger, superstitions and treachery of this historical period from Martha’s point of view.

Authentic, often unlikeable characters draw the reader into this story. Martha is easy to empathise with, and you want her to survive.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Domestic Thriller, Family Drama, Noir, Scandinavian Crime

Where Ravens Roost Karin Nordin 4*#Review @KNordinAuthor @HQStories #Detective #ScandiCrime #Noir #Sweden #Domestic #suspense #CrimeFiction #BlogTour #BookReview #WhereRavensRoost

The raven cawed at him, craning its neck unnaturally. As it dug its hooked beak into the mess of dried grass and twigs that made up its nest, a shiny glimmer reflected off a low-hanging bulb. Kjeld edged closer to get a better look. It was a human tooth. With a silver filling.

Detective Kjeld Nygaard wants nothing more than to forget his family and Varsund, the small mining town he once called home, even exist. But while on suspension after his last case went disastrously wrong, his estranged father Stenar leaves a message on Kjeld’s phone claiming he’s seen a murder.

But with no evidence and Stenar suffering from Alzheimer’s, the local police think he must have imagined it. Kjeld can’t stop himself from investigating what actually happened, and soon discovers a body. But when the police start to suspect Stenar, it’s a race against time to discover the truth before it’s lost forever.

But will uncovering the truth expose family secrets that are best left buried?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Atmospheric, claustrophobic and noir, this story set in Northern Sweden brings Detective Kjeld Nygaard home after more than a decade. Finding his father, in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, and his sister furious is not what he wants with his career is imploding, estranged from his family, and his relationship in tatters.

This is an intense story with some noir elements, both in terms of crime and relationships. The Ravens provide excellent visual imagery that gives the story an eerie ethos. The plot is pure Scandi noir with complex characters, dysfunctional relationships and a forbidding and oppressive setting that immerses the reader into Nygaard’s world.

The plot unfolds with several twists and poignant moments. Backstories, weaved into the text, illuminate the main protagonists’ motivations and keep the reader interested.

This is a story that fulfils its potential.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Revenge Fiction, Friendship, Suspense, Thriller

Ruthless Women Melanie Blake 5*#Review @MelanieBlakeUK @HoZ_Books #BlogTour #BookReview @MidasPR #SoapOpera #Thriller #Relationships #Friendship #Revenge #suspense #RuthlessWomen

Ambition can be deadly…

Ruthless Women takes readers on a wild ride behind the scenes of beloved TV drama Falcon Bay, beamed globally to millions three days a week from its picturesque location in the Channel Islands. But even in this beautiful coastal spot, tensions swirl. Once one of the world’s most popular soap operas, but now with ratings and syndication at an all-time low, the production has been sold to an American business woman, beautiful and malevolent Madeline Kane, the new network owner who arrives on the tiny island just off Jersey, determined to do whatever it takes to get the show back to number one.  

Writer Farrah, star Catherine and producer Amanda are the driven, ambitious women who keep the show on the road. But Farrah is losing episodes to the network’s lead male rival, Catherine is terrified of the public falling out of love with her and Amanda’s evil husband Jake, vice president of the network, is plotting to get his own wife kicked off the show.

As the dawn of a new era begins, cast and crew turn against each other with loyalty, decency, and trust, replaced by scandal, betrayal, and an outrageous ambition to survive.

In a true battle of the sexes, these women will do anything to stay on top. But can they team up to bring down their male rivals? Or will jealousy, betrayal and revenge tear their long held friendships apart?

As the story reaches a climax so shocking readers will be talking about it for decades, one thing is certain: only the most ruthless woman will survive… 

Amazon UK

18th February 2021

The Genre…

Over 25 million people in the UK watch soaps a week and now they’ll get a true glimpse of what really goes on behind the scenes of TV’s most  popular shows, and examples of the desperate trade off’s their beloved leading ladies go through to survive the very game they are in. Ruthless Women shows that what takes place behind the cameras is way more juicy than on….

Even the actresses, who Melanie was worried would be angry about what she’s written, are raving about Ruthless Women too.  Well, some of them are….

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

My Thoughts…

Scandalous, sexy thrillers based on real experiences and personalities are always addictive. Ruthless Women’s vibrant characters and vivid scenarios make guessing the inspiration behind them a must. The abuse of authority and prejudice are relatable, and the intelligent way the women fight against them believable. The female characters are flawed but easy to empathise. Hidden agendas and twists make this an intriguing read.

Scandal, secrets and sex underpin the story of a ruthless boss determined to make a once top-rated show great again. The dynamic between Farrah, Catherine, Amanda and Sheena is insightful and the force behind the story. It is both their strength and weakness, which Madeline exploits to her advantage.

This story has a poignant side which gives it depth and immerses the reader into the characters lives. The noir world simmering below the surface of television’s glamorous facade is the perfect setting for this story of ambition, friendship, revenge and scandal.

The suspense builds coupled with striking sensory imagery, as the story develops and the final chapters are full of twists, with a climactic ending.

I can’t wait for the next book.

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

Melanie Blake

As one as the UK’s most successful agents, managers and publicists for music stars and TV actresses, Melanie Blake has represented some of the most famous faces on British television and international screens.

Where her debut novel, the No. 1 bestseller The Thunder Girls, was inspired by the early years of her career  spent working in the music industry, her follow up novel Ruthless Women is heavily influenced by the last 15 years Melanie has spent representing more female actresses than any other agent in her genre. Nicknamed The Queen Of Soaps, there is no one better placed to write a novel based around a continuing drama and its leading ladies.

As one of the UK’s most successful female entrepreneurs, over the years Melanie has had two careers at the top tier of the entertainment industry. Her first 10 years were as a music manager with a roster of award-winning artists and the second decade as one of the UK’s leading acting agents representing some of the most famous faces on British television. The Thunder Girls is inspired by her time in the music business and Ruthless Women which is out in 2021 is inspired by her years in the world of soap opera and drama.

With no formal education herself, Melanie is a true champion for working class women who are so often overlooked in our society. The Thunder Girls is a celebration of women from diverse demographics and all the lead characters in the novel are over 40 and working class. As well as having written the book, Melanie has penned The Thunder Girls the play which embarks on a nationwide tour in 2021. 

Melanie Blake might just be the world’s biggest Jackie Collins fan. She first read Rock Star aged 9, after smuggling the copy out of the library by telling the librarian it was for her mum!  Melanie was dazzled by Jackie Collin’s world where women clawed themselves from poverty into glamorous, moneyed lives. In Jackie Collins’ novels, women were bosses and winners who achieved everything they wanted and it was these novels that inspired Melanie to become her own boss and a lady entrepreneur.  In 2017 Melanie’s connection with Jackie Collins came full circle, when after Jackie’s sad death she bought five pieces of Jackie’s jewellery at auction – two rings and three necklaces inlayed with morganite, citrines and diamonds – which she wears every day.

For the first time, Melanie reveals her biggest secret – that her career actually started as an ‘extra’ on the set of Coronation Street and EastEnders. It was there she began clawing her way from the bottom of the ‘Soap Opera ladder’ to the very top, going on to represent the leading ladies of the very shows she was hired to stand in the background of. It’s a one in a million story, by a uniquely determined woman. From extra to celebrity agent, she’s seen it all and that journey enabled her to write ‘the must read book of 2021’.

18 February 2021

Melanie will be launching the book alongside two of TVs leading ladies Coleen Nolan and Beverly Callard who will be spilling the beans on their own personal lives for a digital book launch “Melanie Blake’s Girls Night in” that members of the public can buy tickets to for £10 including a copy of the book.  

A Girls Night In With Melanie Blake | Projects | Fane

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Family Drama, Mystery, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

Dark Memories Liz Mistry 5*#Review @LizMistryAuthor @HQStories @rararesources #CrimeFiction #DSNikkiParekh #Detective #BlogTour #BookReview #noir #psychological #suspense #DarkMemories

Three letters. Three murders. The clock is ticking…When the body of a homeless woman is found under Bradford’s railway arches, DS Nikki Parekh and her trusty partner DC Sajid Malik are on the case.

With little evidence, it’s impossible to make a breakthrough, and when Nikki receives a newspaper clipping taunting her about her lack of progress in catching the killer, she wonders if she has a personal link to the case.

When another seemingly unrelated body is discovered, Nikki receives another note. Someone is clearly trying to send her clues… but who?

And then a third body is found.

This time on Nikki’s old street, opposite the house she used to live in as a child. And there’s another message… underneath the victim’s body.

With nothing but the notes to connect the murders, Nikki must revisit the traumatic events of her childhood to work out her connection to the investigation.

But some memories are best left forgotten, and it’s going to take all Nikki’s inner strength to catch the killer…

Before they strike again.

The heart-stopping and totally addictive new crime thriller from Liz Mistry will keep you reading long into the night! 

Amazon UK Amazon

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

My Thoughts…

This is a gritty, noir crime series which immerses the reader in a dangerous urban world. D.S. Nikki Parekh is believable and easy to like. The distinction between personal and professional events is an important theme. The characters are relatable and vibrant and bring the twisty plot to life.

This is a poignant story highlighting the future damage of abuse and social deprivation for people. The setting is authentically urban and vividly described. Despite disturbing issues, there is a balance of good and evil which makes this absorbing reading.

Liz Mistry

Born in Scotland, Made in Bradford sums up Liz Mistry’s life. Over thirty years ago she moved from a small village in West Lothian to Yorkshire to get her teaching degree. Once here, Liz fell in love with three things; curries, the rich cultural diversity of the city … and her Indian husband (not necessarily in this order). Now thirty years, three children, two cats (Winky and Scumpy) and a huge extended family later, Liz uses her experiences of living and working in the inner city to flavour her writing. Her gritty crime fiction police procedural novels set in Bradford embrace the city she describes as ‘Warm, Rich and Fearless’ whilst exploring the darkness that lurks beneath.

Struggling with severe clinical depression and anxiety for a large number of years, Liz often includes mental health themes in her writing. She credits the MA in Creative Writing she took at Leeds Trinity University with helping her find a way of using her writing to navigate her ongoing mental health struggles. Being a debut novelist in her fifties was something Liz had only dreamed of and she counts herself lucky, whilst pinching herself regularly to make sure it’s all real. One of the nicest things about being a published author is chatting with and responding to readers’ feedback and Liz regularly does events at local libraries, universities, literature festivals and open mics. She also teaches creative writing too. Now, having nearly completed a PhD in Creative Writing focussing on ‘the absence of the teen voice in adult crime fiction’ and ‘why expansive narratives matter’, Liz is chock full of ideas to continue writing.

In her spare time, Liz loves pub quizzes (although she admits to being rubbish at them), dancing (she does a mean jig to Proud Mary – her opinion, not ratified by her family), visiting the varied Yorkshire landscape, with Robin Hoods Bay being one of her favourite coastal destinations, listening to music, reading and blogging about all things crime fiction on her blog, The Crime Warp. 

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Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Crime, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Find You First Linwood Barclay 5*#Review @linwood_barclay @HQStories #BloggerDay #BookReview #suspense #mystery #thriller #CrimeFiction #FindYouFirst

Tech billionaire Miles has more money than he can ever spend, and everything he could dream of – except time. Now facing a terminal illness, Miles knows he must seize every minute to put his life in order. And that means taking a long hard look at his past.  

Somewhere out there, Miles has children. And they might be about to inherit both the good and bad from him – possibly his fortune, or possibly something more sinister. So Miles decides to track down his missing children.  

But a vicious killer is one step ahead of him. One by one, people are vanishing. Not just disappearing, every trace of them is wiped. 

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This is an immersive, intense and intricate psychological suspense. Miles, a successful app developer, discovers he has a degenerative inherited condition. Time is running out he wants to find his possible children, warn them and let them share in his wealth. There are numerous conflicts to this aim, but some surmounted with money, but why are his heirs disappearing?

This story has multiple characters, and points of view, which gives the reader an omnipotent view of events but no not every point of view is trustworthy, and this story has plenty of false leads. The suspense builds throughout, and the ending delivers shocks and surprises. The answers are in the story but well disguised by clever plotting, and fast pace. It’s a story that draws on contemporary themes and resonates.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Family Drama, Noir, Suspense

The Silent Victims Alex Coombs 5*#Review @AlexHowardCrime @BoldwoodBooks #CrimeFiction #DIHanlon #TheSilentVictims #noircrime #BlogTour #BookReview #MondayBlogs @rararesources #Extract #boldwoodbloggers

DCI Hanlon faces the toughest decision of her career as a string of political murders lead to a deadly confrontation.
A controversial, right-wing German politician is due to speak at the Oxford Union. Following a series of murders linked to a violent anarchist group, the city is on high alert. DCI Hanlon has been partnered with DI Huss to ensure the speech goes smoothly and that there will be no more killing.

Meanwhile, as Hanlon traces the person behind the murders, she soon realises that the chilling truth has a terrible price. Is Hanlon willing to meet the cost?

The final gripping case for DCI Hanlon.

This book was previously published as An Incidental Death by Alex Howard.

Amazon UK Amazon

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

My Thoughts…

The final book in the DCI Hanlon series moves firmly into the realm of politics. Hanlon is on protection duty for a controversial foreign politician. Unsurprisingly this means danger for the enigmatic detective.

The settings are numerous and vividly brought to life. The characters are believable, and some the personification of evil. The story has many twists which make it addictive reading.

This is a topical urban thriller with a memorable detective team, a unique leader and provides a suitably exciting and poignant end to this series.

Extract from The Silent Victims – Alex Coombs

Melinda Huss was dying. She wasn’t in any pain, the local anaesthetic in her side had taken care of that, all she could feel as the blood trickled out from her right side was a faint tickling sensation as it flowed down her skin and a spreading warmth as it pooled underneath her body. 

She was lying on her back on a massage table in the spa and treatment centre of the luxury hotel’s lodge. The room was small and clinical, its only decoration three severe black and white Robert Mapplethorpe photographs of flowers, their curled foliage like organs from a human body. They had an ethereal, fleshy, beauty all of their own. 

There was a table with a laptop on it and two charts on the wall – one featuring traditional Chinese medicine meridian lines where chi was said to flow, another, brightly coloured, indeed almost the only other colour in the room, showed the main chakra positions from Indian yoga. 

The other source of colour in the room was the enormous red stain that spread out across the white sheet covering Huss’s torso. 

She was quite calm, tranquil almost, but she could feel herself becoming light-headed. She wondered how much blood she had actually lost. She felt another warm trickle down her body. It seemed to be leaving her body in irregular bursts. It wasn’t unpleasant. In fact, if you had to choose a way to die, bleeding out like this was not a bad way to go at all. 

She lifted her head and looked down at the Velcro straps that secured her arms and legs. She had tried before to break her bonds or wriggle free. She had been unsuccessful. She wasn’t going to try again. 

She could feel her will, and her strength, draining away. She thought of Enver Demirel, her fiancé. She thought of Hanlon. Her fierce, attractive face, and she thought of the long road that had led here. 

To this place. To this death. 

Kriminalkommissar Claudia Meyer of the Baden Württemberg Landeskriminalamt strode out of the foyer of the baroque building just off Karlplatz in the historic Alt centre of Heidelberg. 

It was incredibly noisy. Horns were beeping in the narrow mediaeval streets where traffic had backed up. Sirens wailed, police were shouting commands at a vociferous crowd that had gathered. 

The red sandstone castle on the hill above looked down on the small, picturesque town below. The scene that she had just witnessed in the first floor drawing room was as gruesome as any the castle had seen in its long history. There had been an eye-opening amount of blood. 

There were a couple of blue and silver VW squad cars from the cop shop on Eppelheimer Strasse parked on the narrow cobbled street outside, and the front door of the large, detached town house had been sealed off. The blue uniformed police on the door watched her as she passed. She nodded at the driver of the van that she recognized as belonging to Forensics which was pulled up on the pavement. 

The street where all this commotion was occurring was in one of Heidelberg’s most fashionable quarters. It was university land, but the house she had just left was startlingly expensive, even by Stuttgart standards. Prices had risen steeply in latter times. It was the kind of place that only fairly recently had become gentrified and was now increasingly being colonized by non-German investors. It lay in the heart of the city, near the exclusive Hauptstrasse. It wasn’t the kind of place you associated with violent death; more expensive shopping and a Kaffee and a slice of Sachertorte

Alex Coombs

Alex Coombs studied Arabic at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities and went on to work in adult education and then retrained to be a chef. He has written four well reviewed crime novels as Alex Howard.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Family Drama, Noir, Suspense

The Missing Husband Alex Coombs 4*#Review @AlexHowardCrime @BoldwoodBooks #CrimeFiction #DIHanlon #TheMissingHusband #noircrime #BlogTour #BookReview @rararesources #Extract #boldwoodbloggers

A security officer is assassinated. 

A small child grieves for his father. 

A psychopath commits their first crime…
A frightened Russian woman seeks DCI Hanlon’s help in finding her missing husband. Hanlon’s not keen on the case. Until she hears a name she recognises only too well. Arkady Belanov, sadistic owner of an exclusive brothel in Oxford is involved.

And when DCI Enver Demirel, her former partner and friend, disappears, Hanlon is determined to solve the case.

Forced into an uneasy alliance with the London underworld, the race to him from the blood-stained hands of the Russian mafia is underway…

Amazon UK Amazon

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

My Thoughts…

This is an edgy and exciting series. Hanlon sidelined from the vibrant Metropolitan police arena, still attracts danger and responds with gritty determination. Best read chronologically this is a memorable series.

Working in a missing persons’ unit Hanlon conflicts violently with the Russian mafia. Whilst not having the team dynamic of the first two books, it retains its contemporary focus, strong characters and suspense.

Hanlon edges closer to self destruct yet manages to be an effective investigator. I am looking forward to the final book in this series.

Extract from The Missing Husband – Alex Coombs

Claudia Liebig looked at the young boy’s picture. Serg was frowning hard in concentration as he drew. In five years of teaching Claudia had never met such an intense child. Everything Serg did was coloured with the same remorseless focus. 

Claudia had rebelled against the tenets of her art school, which was ultra-liberal, focused on the idea that theory was as important, or maybe more so, as technique. Claudia disagreed and here at the small, international private school near Alexanderplatz in central Berlin where she was the art teacher, figurative work featured highly. By all means, she said, be abstract, but before you do me a series of coloured rectangles or Cubist faces, or before you display an everyday object as art, show me you can paint like Mondrian, Picasso or Duchamp could. 

Today her pupils were drawing their parents at work. Desks and rudimentary offices were the main themes – most of the parents worked in offices and some of the children’s parents were in TV, so there was a smattering of cameras and monitors depicted in the paintings. 

Serg was drawing some tanks; they looked scarily real. She admired them. 

‘T-80s,’ said Serg. He spoke flawless German even though Russian was his mother tongue.

He had an amazing vocabulary too, thought Claudia. Teachers shouldn’t have favourites, but they do. Serg was hers. Despite being Russian. Not a popular thing to be in Nineties Berlin. 

‘That’s nice,’ said Claudia. Serg bowed his head over his painting, colouring in the tanks battleship-grey. ‘Are they good tanks?’ Serg lifted his head and looked steadily at her with his startlingly green eyes. He was a child of almost unearthly beauty, thought Claudia, like his mother. 

‘My father says that remains to be seen.’ 

‘Is that your father in the tank?’ Claudia pointed to the picture. 

Serg shook his head and indicated a figure in a jeep. It was astonishingly well drawn. Claudia had met Serg’s dad once, rumoured to be head of the FSB, the former KGB, at the Russian Berlin embassy, the Stalinist-style palace in the Unter den Linden, in the heart of the city. She could recognize his powerful bull-like neck and physique, the angry energy that the hunched figure seemed to radiate. 

‘That’s him,’ Serg said. 

Alex Coombs

Alex Coombs studied Arabic at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities and went on to work in adult education and then retrained to be a chef. He has written four well reviewed crime novels as Alex Howard.

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