Posted in Author Interview, Blog Blitz, Book Review, Crime, Family Drama

The Fourth Victim John Mead 4*#Review @BookGuild @JohnMeadAuthor @rararesources #PoliceProcedural #CrimeFiction #EastEnd #London #BookBirthdayBlitz #BookReview #BookBloggers

Whitechapel is being gentrified. The many green spaces of the area, which typify London as a capital city, give the illusion of tranquillity and clean air but are also places to find drug dealers, sexual encounters and murder…

Detective Sergeant Julie Lukula doesn’t dislike Inspector Matthew Merry but he has hardly set the world of the Murder Investigation Team East alight.  And, it looks as if the inspector is already putting the death of the young female jogger, found in the park with fatal head injuries, down to a mugging gone wrong.  The victim deserves more.  However, the inspector isn’t ruling anything out – the evidence will, eventually, lead him to an answer.

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Author Interview – John Mead – The Fourth Victim

Is this story inspired by a real event? If not, what are the inspirations behind this story?

Most of the ideas I have are sparked by incidents I’ve heard about or been involved in. However, they do get greatly adapted to fit the plot.  For example, the idea to set the main narrative of The Fourth Victim in Whitechapel came from walking past Lehman Street police station and wondering what a modern-day Jack the Ripper might be like. It didn’t take me long to decide that the events if enacted today, would be more mundane – less sensational in this jaded age – and  Jack would be psychoanalysed to death. Though he or she would, no doubt, be a Twitter celeb – at least for a day!

Given that I wanted to write something about how the police deal with mental health issues, and how this impacts on the nature of criminality and victimhood; then that ‘Whitechapel Ripper’ setting seemed to put everything into place.

Is it important to create memorable detectives in this genre? Why do think this is?

In general, I would say it is important to create a memorable team of detectives. Even if it is mainly a partnership – Morse had Lewis but also Dr Max DeBryn and Strange, while Poirot had Hastings and Japp.  Although neither Morse nor Poirot could function in a modern police force. A better example would be Vera or Montalbano, both of whom have their teams and sidekicks.   It is the people around the central character and their relationships which define them and make them memorable.

It is, therefore, necessary to create characters which are relatable, well-rounded humans with flaws and inconsistencies. The interactions of these characters are what creates interest and bring the story alive. I tend to find ‘lone wolf’ characters unrealistic, especially in the police as these are organisations based on teamwork. If you consider some of the more modern ‘classic’ detectives, like Martin Beck or Wallander, they may not be the best team players but they are still part of a team and interact with them.  This is as true of the criminals – no one is all good or all bad – and the victims. Both of which are often used as mere plot devices and quickly forgotten, while in reality, they are central to the crime.

Do your detectives have to be likeable? Why is this?

No, not essentially, in reality, how many of the detectives you read about would you want to spend an evening with (Holmes would be insufferable and Jimmy Perez would be maudlin)? I would say it is more important to make them understandable, to show their weaknesses and vulnerabilities as well as their strengths – this is what makes a character interesting and, hopefully, why people want to read about them. 

Take Maigret or Elise Wassermann, these characters only become likeable once you start to understand their backgrounds and relationships. Both these characters might seem to be the typical ‘lone wolf’ detective but neither would be anything more than a cypher until you realise that Maigret needs his wife to give him a strong anchor in life and Wassermann, who is autistic, is really doing her utmost to fit in. Otherwise, neither of them would be particularly likeable.

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

Sometimes, someone, I come across sparks an idea for a character and, at other times, I realise a character I have written reminds me of someone I know.  But, on the whole, I find the characters develop a life of their own – once you have a few basic characteristics defined for a character it is surprising how complex they can become.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I enjoy books that teach me something: whether it is about writing technique, a moment in history or life in general.

Treasure Island is technically the best book ever written. Not a word is wasted, the plot is fast-paced, the characters are well rounded and every scene comes to life.  Which is quite a feat?

Though I like anything by PG Woodhouse for his wordplay, and CJ Sansom and C Hibbert for their impeccable research.

These days I generally read crime fiction – usually, police procedurals – and the masters of this genre are Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö who wrote the Martin Beck series.

What are you currently writing?

Having decided to write a trilogy based on the Metropolitan Police’s Major Investigation Team East – who deal with murders in modern-day East End of London – I have discovered this is actually a ‘trilogy’ in four parts. And I am currently working on the final two parts of this series, the second book in the series – Geraldine – is being published at the end of September. 

However, I am also working on the plot of another book, an allegorical story of modern life.  It’s about a paranoid white suprematist who befriends a homeless Muslim woman – now if I can pull that off who knows what will come next …

What are the best and the worst things about being a writer?

I absolutely love the act of writing, editing and all aspects of the process – I become totally absorbed by it. Unfortunately, because I am naturally lazy, I completely hate the thought of having to start writing, editing or anything else connected with the process, and do all I can to put it off.

Life is full of contradictions.

#TheFourthVictim

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

My Thoughts…

The iconic setting of Whitechapel for this book puts you in the correct frame of mind for murder. Although this part of the EastEnd of London, is much changed, it seems the possibility of a serial killer is an uncomfortable echo of its gruesome past.

Detective Inspector Merry, who on the surface is anything but, and Detective Sergeant Lukula make an interesting an investigating duo. The other members of the murder investigating team are also distinctive, and despite their personality differences, the team functions well.

This is a character-driven police procedural, with well-drawn realistic characters whose multiple human frailties make them authentic. The plot gives heavier emphasis on the police team’s personal lives than is usual in a police procedural. This adds interest to the more routine parts of the story, but for some will detract from the main storyline.

The investigation of the crimes is detailed and well researched. There is also a mental health theme in this story, which is contemporary, and again, shows copious research.

The plot has twists and false information, and the ending draws everything together in a satisfying way.

John was born in the mid-fifties in East London, on part of the largest council estate ever built, and was the first pupil from his local secondary modern school to attend university. He has now taken early retirement to write, having spent the first part of his life working in education and the public sector. He was the director of a college, a senior school inspector for a local authority, and was head of a unit for young people with physical and mental health needs.

He has travelled extensively, from America to Tibet, and he enjoys visiting the theatre, reading and going to the pub. It is, perhaps, no surprise that he is an avid ‘people watcher’ and loves to find out about people, their lives, culture and history. When he is not travelling, going to the theatre or the pub; he writes.

Many of the occurrences recounted and the characters found in his novels are based on real incidents and people he has come across. Although he has allowed himself a wide degree of poetic licence in writing about the main characters, their motivations and the killings that are depicted.

John is currently working on a series of novels set in modern-day London. These police procedurals examine the darker side of modern life in the East End of the city.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Travel

Villa of Sun and Secrets Jennifer Bohnet 5* #Review @jenniewriter @BoldwoodBooks #boldwoodblogtour #multigenerational #familydrama #AuthorInterview #SouthofFrance #VillaofSunandSecrets

It’s never too late to live the dream…

Carla Sullivan’s 50th birthday is fast approaching when her whole world is turned upside down. Discovering her feckless husband is having yet another affair and following her mother’s death, she is in need of an escape. Finding an envelope addressed to her mother’s estranged sister Josette in the South of France gives Carla the perfect plan.

Seizing the moment, she packs her bags and heads to Antibes to seek out the enigma known as Tante Josette. But as the two women begin to forge a tentative relationship, family secrets start to unravel, forcing Carla to question her life as she has always known it.

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

My Thoughts…

The author’s knowledge and love of France come through clearly in this story. The setting is vivid, beautiful, and sometimes in sharp contrast to the revelations at the villa.

This is a multi-generational story, a family drama, which unfolds in Tante Josette’s villa in Antibes. Carla’s life has not been easy, an unfaithful husband, looking after her sick mother, and now an empty nest, something needs to change. Finding something in her mother’s possessions gives her the opportunity of a break from her life and uncharacteristically she takes it.

This is a story of love, lies and secrets, new relationships and forgiveness. The chance to see an ending as a new beginning. The issues explored are emotionally draining, but the outcome is hopeful and makes the angst worthwhile.

The characters are flawed, sometimes they lack the courage to take the first step to something better, but they are easy to empathise and believable. The setting is a lovely contrast to the drama and emotions and the story’s ending is heartwarming.

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Author Interview – Jennifer Bohnet – Villa of Sun and Secrets

What are the inspirations behind your story?

Villa of Sun and Secrets was inspired by the french word for memories – souvenir. Everyone has memories, some good, some bad, some unforgettable and some pushed into the deepest recess of the mind until something, somehow, draws them to the front. Some souvenirs are shared with other people, others are private to the individual and yet sometimes when other people’s private memories begin to be shared it can affect everything you’ve ever known.

What made you choose France for your setting?

I’ve lived in France for twenty years now – for a lot of the time down on the Cote d’Azur, which is a place I realised people love reading about. I’m probably more familiar with the way things are over here than I am with life in the UK these days.

Your story focuses on older women, do you find older or younger women easier to write? Why is this?

A character is a character and you have to get to know them whatever age they are and sometimes they are easier to understand and write than others. But basically, I have to admit I prefer writing about characters who have had some life experience.

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

It’s usually the setting for me – swiftly followed by the characters I place there, then they help me to work out the storyline and the plot.

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

It’s a mixture of both but probably 85% imagination. And I really don’t know the answer to the last part of the question although I do try and ensure that they have flaws which hopefully makes them realistic in the reader’s eyes.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

There are so many authors out there I enjoy reading, but there are a few whose new books I look forward to and buy without hesitation. Veronica Henry, Erica James, Marcia Willett, Jill Mansell are four writers I admire hugely. They draw you in from the first page, their characters are superbly drawn and their stories just flow.

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

It feels as though I’ve never, not written to be honest, but it was coming to France that really gave me the time and the space to start writing short stories, serials and finally novels. Before that, I wrote features and lifestyle pieces for various papers. I love finally being able to write full-time. The worst?  Social media to be honest – so much promo has to be done and it takes away from writing time.

 
What are you currently writing?

My next book which is again set in France, tells the story of 4 women, strangers to each other, on holiday on the Riviera, is currently with my editor and I’m awaiting edits. In the meantime, I’m starting to re-edit my backlist which Boldwood Books will be re-issuing soon.

Jennifer’s bio – Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 10 women’s fiction titles, including Rosie’s Little Cafe on the Riviera and The Little Kiosk By The Sea. She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Honeymoon for One – Frankie Collins 5* #Review @BoldwoodBooks @frankiecollins @PortiaMacIntosh #RomCom #Italy #honeymoonforone #BlogTour #AuthorInterview

When disaster strikes, paradise calls…

As a published novelist, Lila Rose has been writing about fictional weddings all her life. But disaster strikes on her own big day when she hears her philandering fiancé, Daniel whispering sweet nothings to someone else.

With her dream day shattered, all Lila wants to do is run and hide, so she decides to fly solo on her own honeymoon.

When Daniel arrives in the resort with his new squeeze, Lila strikes up a ‘showmance’ with hot new movie star, Freddie Bianchi. Freddie is perfect for the part and Lila soon relaxes into her leading lady role.

But as truth starts to merge with fiction, could real love be in the air?

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

My Thoughts…

This story has me smiling from the beginning. Lila is funny, self-critical and a planner, she likes to be in control, believing that things will only go to plan if she organises it. I can relate to her, and that makes her realistic. The overheard conversation, is not in the plan for an ideal wedding, neither is going on a honeymoon alone, but if you’re running, might as well make it somewhere hot and luxurious?

The honeymoon setting is vividly described and lovely, but it’s the characters that make this romantic comedy an enchanting, hilarious, and sometimes poignant read. Lila is brave but vulnerable, I love her first meeting with Freddie, full of dramatic irony and so visual you can see the scenes playing in your mind as you read.

There are so many comic moments in this story, and also some, where you want to protect Lila, especially from Daniel. The conflicts are real, but the chance for real romance is always there.

I love the ending, very ‘Hollywood’, and the perfect completion for this charmingly humorous, romantic story.

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Interview Questions – Frankie Collins – Honeymoon for One

What inspired you to write ‘Honeymoon for One’? 

I love writing about weddings. They have so much potential to be absolutely incredible or a complete disaster. As a rom-com writer, I feel like I’ve written the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to weddings. I wondered if that might make a person especially good at planning a real one – they might even be able to pre-empt the drama. I wanted to write about a wedding expert who plans for everything… apart from the thing that ends up going wrong. How would she cope with it, when all the clichés she writes about come to life?

How did you decide on the holiday destination for your story? 

I’ve spent a lot of time in southern Italy and I absolutely adore it. The weather, the scenery, the food. Italian food is my absolute favourite. 

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

I get an idea first – usually in the form of a question. ‘What would happen if…?’ So I’ll think of an interesting scenario and question how it could play out. The answer to the question is the plot. ‘What would happen if you called off your wedding and went on your honeymoon alone?’ The answer is Honeymoon For One.

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

I think it’s impossible for writers not to take from real life in some way, no matter what genre they write. I’ll usually take a real type, or sometimes a real person from a real encounter, before creating an almost caricature of them. It’s a bit of real-life with a lot of imagination. 

How do you ensure that your dialogue is natural, and your humorous scenes are funny? 

With dialogue, I think it helps to imagine the person who is speaking and think about how they might say something. I’ll sometimes say things out loud, or make the face I imagine my character are making when they say particular things. As for the humour… you just see if you can make yourself laugh and hope other people find you funny too.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I’ve always read a lot of romcoms – I would race through a few a week growing up. These days, the more I’ve written, the more I tend to keep clear of my own genre. If I want a break, I’ll read a thriller.

What are you currently writing? 

I am editing my next Portia MacIntosh book, Make or Break at the Lighthouse B&B, as well as writing my next Boldwood release. I’ll keep you posted.

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Frankie Collins – Honeymoon for One

Frankie Collins is the pseudonym of Portia MacIntosh, bestselling romantic comedy author of 12 novels, including It’s Not You, It’s Them and The Accidental Honeymoon. Previously a music journalist, Frankie writes hilarious stories, drawing on her real-life experiences.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Psychological Thriller

The Daughter-In-Law Nina Manning #BlogTour @ninamanning78 @BoldwoodBooks #PsychologicalThriller #AuthorInterview #PublicationDay

No one is good enough for her son…
As a single mother, Annie has an especially close relationship with her son, Ben. They have always been together. Just the two of them. So, when Ben brings home his mysterious beautiful new wife, Daisy, immediately Annie doesn’t trust her. Who is this woman who has taken her son away from her? And what is she hiding?
She’ll protect him with her life…
When Ben disappears, suddenly Annie and Daisy are all the other one has. Alone in Annie’s big, remote house, just the two of them, the tension is rising. And like any protective mother, Annie will stop at nothing to expose her new daughter in law, and the secrets she is hiding…

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

My Thoughts…

Claustrophobic, menacing and yet so believable, ‘The Daughter In Law’, is a riveting read.

It was always Annie and Ben until it wasn’t. Annie can’t understand why her only child has left her and married in secret. Now he is bringing her daughter in law to visit, and she has to be prepared.
Daisy’s has secrets, her whirlwind romance with Ben offers her a new life, but still, she dreads meeting her mother in law.

Told from Annie and Daisy’s point of view, the story begins to unfold, and each chapter brings a new revelation making you uneasy as you read on. The characters are complex, emotionally damaged, but believable. Annie seems extreme in her dominance of Ben, but the bond between a mother and her child is strong, and not always easy to share.

The plot twists begin early on, and gradually you start to realise there is something sinister going on, but who is the true victim. The suspense building is excellent, making this a genuine page-turner.

The last few chapters are so atmospheric, creepy and visual. You can see the action unfolding in your mind, even though you are metaphorically watching through your fingers.

A classy psychological novel, with many unique elements, vivid imagery and characters that resonate.

Author Interview with Nina Manning – The Daughter in Law

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 What are the inspirations behind this story?

I was interested in the relationship between a mother and son and how it is different from a mother and daughter relationship. I was fascinated by how some mothers find it difficult to let go of their sons and how they can even feel threatened by their son’s partner. I wanted to explore that idea on a deeper and darker level.

What characteristics does your story have that makes it unique, in the popular psychological thriller genre?

The Daughter in law has many themes running through it, such as grief and love and friendships. It also tackles covert narcissistic abuse and the one thing that binds, Annie, Daisy and Ben are that they were all emotional neglected as children. My book also has book club questions!

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

It’s inevitable that a characters foibles, or the way they gesticulate have been drawn from observations of the thousands of people I have encountered during my varied and interesting life so far. But all the characters in the book are purely a figment of my imagination.

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

When I wrote The Daughter in Law, it was the ending that came first. I had in my mind, a dramatic climax to the story as well as a big reveal so I wrote the story towards that ending.

The second psychological thriller that I am writing at the moment is purely plot-driven. I have added characters in as and when I need them and then seeing where it takes me. But I have an overall plot in mind and again, that dramatic ending.

What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?

Writing has been part of my life since I was a small child. I have always had an innate desire to write. I have tried working for other people but I was always drawn back to my writing. I have never been able to conform and I have never been any good at being told when to be a desk/place of work and when I can leave. I am now thankful writing is my job and I can fit all my work around my family life.  

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I enjoy reading any kind of book as long as it has great prose, interesting characters and an engaging plot. I read a lot of books for my podcast, Sniffing The Pages which goes out every two weeks, so as well as reading books for leisure, I also review books. I have just read a women’s fiction book by Holly Bourne and now I am reading Circe by Madeline Miller. 

What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

There are many best things but I would say being able to completely create an entire world, characters and scenarios from nothing, put them on to paper for the world to read and enjoy.

The worst bit so far is the painful part of getting that first draft done when you know what you need to do but it’s a struggle to get there. However, once the first draft is done, it’s an enjoyable experience moulding and shaping the novel to the finished piece.

Nina Manning

Nina Manning studied psychology and was a restaurant-owner and private chef (including to members of the royal family). She is the founder and co-host of Sniffing The Pages, a book review podcast. She lives in Dorset.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Espionage - Spy - Thriller, Political Thriller, Suspense

The Kompromat Kill – Michael Jenkins -5* #Review @FailsafeQuery @rararesources #spythriller #politicalthriller #BlogTour #AuthorInterview #geopolitics

They were preparing for decades – now it’s time to take them down.

When a British Diplomat is kidnapped in the heart of London, followed by a brutal double-assassination in Chelsea, MI5 braces for the threat of deep sleeper cells coming alive.

Hiding overseas with a price on his head, Sean Richardson is tasked to lead a deniable operation to hunt down and recruit an international model and spy. Moving across Asia Minor and Europe, Sean embarks on a dangerous journey tracking an Iranian spy ring who hold the keys to a set of consequences the British Intelligence Services would rather not entertain.

As Sean investigates deeper, he uncovers dark secrets from his past and a complex web of espionage spun from the hand of a global master spy. As he inches closer to the truth, the rules of the game change – and the nerve-wracking fate of many lives sits in his hands…….……..

Tense, absorbing, and insightful, The Kompromat Kill is a gripping thriller leaving you breathless at the pace of intrigue, cleverly unravelled in a dramatic finale.

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Author Interview – Michael Jenkins

This is the second book in your Sean Richardson Series. What inspired you to write this series, and this book in particular?

I was keen to follow up from my first novel, and provide a high-octane novel incorporating some of the same characters, but taking the storyline from the failsafe query, on a new journey but keeping the golden threads of the agencies, politics, and ground operators. Hopefully, it will be seen as an insightful step forward. The novel can be read as a stand-alone, or as a follow on from the failsafe query. Well, the golden thread of the series is all about fusing the geo-politick, espionage, and treachery taking place amongst the mysterious geographic locations and settings that the novel takes place in.  It’s really all about fusing the inner sanctums of government and British secret intelligence taking place in London, with the overseas ground operations that Sean and the other characters undertake, and witnessing the conflicts that occur from a national and personal perspective.

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

Yes, they are all drawn from real-life characters, but a blend of numerous people I served with. Sean, the main character, for example, is based upon three individuals I served with as an intelligence and bomb disposal officer – It was great fun blending in some of the raw character of my friends, their foibles, and their rough edges. It was important to me that Sean did not become the tired ‘lone wolf’ superspy that you usually find in spy thrillers, but I wanted him to use his charisma and flair to lead a team of highly skilled forensics operators.  Sean is a highly skilled professional, who pulls off his missions by selecting and leading the right team of people for the job. He is flawed, he makes mistakes, pays his dues and has to find ways to live with the extensive trauma his profession has caused him.

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

The first element I think of is the geopolitics of the day. For example, Then ‘Kompromat Kill’, is based on the ever-rising tensions of the US and Iran situation. ‘The Failsafe Query’, was based upon the ever-increasing influence that the Russians are having on western society, but both gave a nod back to the cold war too, and some underlying subplots that affect the main characters personal lives. I then look at the angle that provides real conflict and a mission to be achieved against skilled antagonists within the world of espionage. Then, I fit the characters as a team, to set out on the journey to achieve the mission, most often as deniable operations that cannot be attributed to the government of the day. It’s fun putting the plots and subplots together but takes months to get them right before I even start writing!

What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?

The genre appeals because I can draw upon my own experiences in the military to craft a story that is perhaps authentic and insightful, making use of modern-day cyber technology and spy tradecraft that utilises a range of technologies including geo-forensics. I was getting too old to keep climbing mountains as a hobby, so my wife encouraged me to finish off a novel I wrote some years ago – and make my journey as an author into retirement taking different risks in life!

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I very much like thrillers and spy thrillers in particular – I love the intrigue and can often relate to the missions, the conflict, the tensions and the stories.

What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

The best thing is simply telling a story! I enjoy telling stories socially over a wine, relaying past experiences and fun, and my children love when I tell them stories too. To use your imagination and draw upon your own past experiences to make up dramatic new stories is the best – it really is great fun.  The worst part for me is getting into a set rhythm once I start writing the story – and actually find the time when I have a busy life, a family, and jobs that need doing at work and at home!

What are you currently writing?

I haven’t started writing the third yet, but I have the framework of a plot that involves the resurgence of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and how they will target Europe. Sean and the gang will undertake deniable operations as weapons runners, linking in with the middlemen who are supplying the terrorists across the Sahel, Mali, and sub-Sahara – The conflict will be the Russians involvement, and Sean will have to be sharp to stop devastation on home soil.

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

My Thoughts…

Spy thrillers are always intriguing, and especially ones written with insider insight and contemporary relevance. ‘The Kompromat Kill’, the second in the Sean Richardson series is a good example of everything that draws me to this genre.

The story is complex, but clearly written and has many twists, throwing up more questions than answers as it progresses, until the adrenaline-fuelled climax which ties up all the loose ends, and reveals all.

All the characters are believable, even if you have never encountered similar individuals, and Sean is a valid hero, because of his flaws and humanity. The author’s knowledge of the organisations and hierarchy means that this story avoids being cliched and remains relevant and realistic.

Even though this is part of a series, it reads well as a standalone, with the necessary backstory available for the new reader. This is my first Michael Jenkins novel but I eagerly look forward to number 3.

I started climbing at 13, survived being lost in Snowdonia at 14, nearly drowned at 15, and then joined the Army at 16. Risk and adventure were built into my DNA and I feel very fortunate to have served the majority of my working career as an intelligence officer within Defence Intelligence, and as an explosive ordnance disposal officer and military surveyor within the Corps of Royal Engineers. 

I was privileged to serve for twenty-eight years in the British Army as a soldier and officer, rising through the ranks to complete my service as a major. I served across the globe on numerous military operations as well as extensive travel and adventure on many major mountaineering and exploration expeditions that I led or was involved in.

I was awarded the Geographic Medal by the Royal Geographical Society for mountain exploration in 2003 and served on the screening committee of the Mount Everest Foundation charity for many years. It was humbling after so many years of service when I was awarded the MBE for services to counter-terrorism in 2007.

The Failsafe Query is my debut novel, with The Kompromat Kill, my second.  

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Giveaway to Win 5 copies of The Kompromat Kill (Open INT)

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Saga

The Girl from the Corner Shop – Alrene Hughes @HoZ_Books @alrenehughes #WW2 #Manchester #BlogTour 5* #Review #AuthorInterview #WomenInWar

WW2 Manchester: Newlyweds Helen and Jim Harrison have big plans – to leave the family shop where Helen works and set up home together. But when Jim is tragically killed in an air raid, Helen is heartbroken, her life in ruins.

Battling grief and despair, Helen resolves to escape her domineering mother and rebuild her shattered world. Wartime Manchester is a dangerous place, besieged by crime and poverty. So when Helen joins the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps, working with evacuees, the destitute and the vulnerable, she finds a renewed sense of purpose. She’s come a long way from her place behind the counter in the corner shop.

But there’s still something missing in her heart. Is Helen able to accept love and happiness and find the courage to change her life?

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Alrene Hughes – Author Interview

What are the inspirations behind this story?

I wanted to create a character – a young woman working in a corner shop – who has little belief in herself. When her circumstances change dramatically with the death of her husband, she is at her lowest ebb. The story twists when she joins the police, finding strength in helping others, especially women and children, and courage when she places herself in danger.

When you write what comes first the characters, the plot, or the setting?

I always know the wider setting, to begin with. In my first three novels, it was Belfast and my last two books have been set in Manchester. I’ve lived in both cities and I know the geography well but, more importantly, I have a sense of the atmosphere of the place and the character of the people. Almost at the same time, I focus on the main character, but it’s important as the story develops that she grows and changes with the events she experiences. As far as the plot is concerned, I don’t have a detailed story, just an idea to set it going and a possible ending with a few ideas in between. The detail comes when I’m immersed in the story. It’s almost as though the characters suggest what’s going to happen as it’s being written.

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

They’re all bound up together, I think, but I never transfer a real person into a novel. It’s more like a Rubik’s cube, twisting a complex character into being. You aim for an authentic, believable person who is memorable, even if they only play a small part in the novel. Overall, I think dialogue is one of the best ways to make characters realistic.     

If you could live in any time period which would it be? Why?

As a writer of WW2 sagas/romances, I would love to spend a day or two in Belfast during the war, just to see the city as it was when my family lived through that period. I would have no desire to stay any longer because, through my research, I know full well the hardships they endured.

What made you decide to become a writer and why this does this genre appeal to you?

I began to write in my thirties and for over twenty years I wrote poetry and short stories. I didn’t have the time to write anything longer because I had children and I worked as an English teacher and Assistant Head. Eventually, I decided I would write a family saga set in WW2 based on the story of my mother and her sisters who were singers, like the Andrews Sisters, entertaining the troops. That novel ‘Martha’s Girls’ was a success and I went on to write a trilogy.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I like books that are well written. If I’ve read 3-4 chapters and it hasn’t grabbed me, I don’t persevere.  I like historical novels, with elements of romance, and the occasional crime novel.

What are you currently writing?

I’m working on a third Manchester novel set in WW2. It’s the story of two sisters and their completely different experiences of war. The youngest is conscripted into the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, where she is part of the exciting Parachute Training School. The older sister stays at home looking after their invalid mother, enduring the hardships of the home front.    

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

My Thoughts…

This story focuses on women in WW2, how their lives changed, and how many were exposed to deprivation, uncertainty and violence. The writing is full of vivid historical details and believable characters, some you dislike passionately, but most you admire, and can empathise.

Helen is newly married, living and working at her mother’s corner shop in Manchester. After a tragedy, leaves her widowed, and she finally rebels against her controlling mother in the midst of her grief, she finds herself jobless and in a home, she can’t afford.

Offered a lifeline by her godmother, she finds that not everything is as it first appears. Her brush with the seedier side of life, makes her rethink, can she give something to society and fill her lonely hours? Joining the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps seems an opportunity too good to miss.

Helen naivety is shortlived, and her compassion and courage make her an excellent police auxiliary. The story is interesting and full of emotion and historical insight that make this wartime saga a page-turner. The challenges for Helen and women in war are realistic and give this story its authenticity.

This is a compelling story with great characters and a lovely hesitant love story that gives the story its hope for the future.

Alrene Hughes grew up in Belfast and has lived in Manchester for most of her adult life. She worked for British Telecom and the BBC before training as an English teacher. After teaching for twenty years, she retired and now writes full-time. Facebook Twitter

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship

The Dog Walking Club – Liz Hinds 4* #Review @Liz_Hinds99 @rararesources #Friendship #Humour #Relationships #Dogs #DogWalkers #BlogTour #AuthorInterview

Every dog walk brings new drama into the lives of these dogs and their people. A supermarket shelf-stacker, a stay-at-home dad, an elderly widow and a freelance photographer sound an unlikely bunch of friends but they have one thing in common: they all walk their dogs in Beauville Park at roughly the same time each morning.

And that’s enough for Angela, bored organiser without a cause, to get them together to form the Dog-walking Club. For Jock, the Scottie, Benji the spaniel, Pixie the boxer, Mitzi the poodle and Bassett the … all sorts, walking each day with their friends is a dream come true. And it changes the lives of widowed Sybil who’s spent a lifetime hiding her secret sorrow, hopeless-with-women Jon who’s wandering almost unwittingly into an affair, freelance photographer Jemma who is at every wedding but her own, and Maggi who is frantically trying to save money to visit her family in Australia.

And for long-suffering Angela, a nasty shock turns into a new start in disguise for her and her husband – and their love life.

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Author Interview – Liz Hinds – The Dog-walking Club

What inspired you to write a story about a dog walking club?

The idea came from my husband. At the time we were taking it in turns to walk George, our dog, and he’d always come back telling me gossip he’d heard from other dog-walkers. This was unusual because he isn’t a chatterer normally – and I go out of my way to avoid people. It’s not what we do! But telling me about various walkers he always saw together gave him the idea that it would make a theme for a book.

There are many different characters in your story, do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

A bit of both. I think they often start off as real-life characters but they develop their own personalities, especially as I tend to use people who have a particular look but whom I don’t know very well – if at all – so they’re blank canvasses.

I think dialogue is key to realism. Although sometimes I suspect I write as I talk – including the ums and ers – and get a bit waffly. (I hope I edit most of this out.) I ‘hear’ my characters speaking and I try to capture that.

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

Nothing as definite as a plot but more of a vague idea. The idea for my first novel, This Time Next Year, the diary of a middle-aged woman, came to me when I was nearly fifty and struggling with life as a middle-aged woman, and I’ve explained where The Dog-walking Club originated. Characters and the stories within the novels come later but, honestly, I don’t really know where any of it comes from.

What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?

I took the science route in school and only started writing when I was in my thirties and the church I was part of began its own newspaper. In a peculiar twist, as a result of that, I ended up ghost-writing the autobiography of a NYPD cop. I then started writing short stories, did a Master’s degree in Creative Writing and eventually made my way into novel writing.

My collection of short stories for my dissertation could have been entitled Madness and Death because I do enjoy that sort of disturbed writing, but as my tutor said, ‘You build up a wonderful tragic moment – and then you put in a joke.’ I love the novels of Janet Evanovich for their humour and I think being able to make people laugh is such a wonderful thing. The Dog-walking Club doesn’t contain direct humour but I hope there is a lightness to it.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

Many sorts. I usually read last thing at night so it has to be fairly easy to read. I read fiction especially, what might be termed quirky. I’m thinking of Fredrik Backman’s My Grandmother Sends Her Regrets and Apologises. That sort of thing. The Reader on the 6.27 and The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. That said, I also loved Backman’s Beartown, which was very different. I love Simon Brett mysteries, Jacqueline Winspear; do you want me to go on?

What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

The worst is easy: trying to find a publisher/agent. I was going to say, ‘having hope’ is the worst but that sounds too depressing! And the best thing is the dreaming, thinking, creating. The actual writing’s quite hard as it’s never as good on screen as it sounded in my head.

What are you currently writing?

A sequel to This Time Next Year. Several people said they wanted to know what the heroine did next. Looking back I realise that I expected my book to sell with no marketing or promotion so I’m trying to change things this time, hence the albeit belated blog tour for The Dog-walking Club, and at the moment my plan is to make a serialised podcast of the original This Time Next Year before the publication of the sequel.

So many great plans. So little time!

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

My Thoughts…

Any book that features animal characters, always has my attention and this one is certainly worthy of my interest. The characters are varied and realistic, and the antics of the dog characters are amusing and relatable for anyone who shares their life with a dog.

‘The Dog- Walking Club’ is created by Angela, someone who likes to organise. She notices that a group of individuals walk their dogs at the same time each day, after a while, she suggests formalising their meeting and the after much discussion, and qualms the club is born.

There is plenty of variety and background information in this story, which is told from several points of view. The reasons people have their dog companions, and what is wrong, and right in their lives are all revealed in an easy, chatty writing style that draws you into the group.

There is a lovely balance of sad and happy, and of course, the dogs are the stars of the book.
A lovely, mostly lighthearted look at dog owners and their dogs.

I’m a golden-retriever-loving granny, who enjoys walking by the sea or in the woods, who eats too much chocolate and gets over-excited when the Welsh team plays rugby.

Writing-wise, I am an experienced freelance writer – published in The Guardian, Christian Herald and various other magazines and newspapers – with an MA in Creative Writing (Trinity College, University of Wales). My short stories have been published in Cambrensis (the now sadly-defunct short story magazine of Wales) as well as in several anthologies including Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe (Parthian) and Catwomen from Hell (Honno). I am also the author of several non-fiction books published by Hodder & Stoughton, Scripture Union and Kevin Mayhew.

I have self-published two novels, This Time Last Year, and The Dog-walking Club.

I enjoy speaking about my writing to various gatherings and the media and I am an active blogger, facebooker and tweeter.

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